I read a pretty good post sent to me last week on 36 SEO myths on Search Engine Land by Stephan Spencer at Covario. It’s a good list that anyone learning SEO should read, there’s good data in here and I agree a lot of false, ill-contrived, or dated information still gets tossed around as facts when they’re generally not.
Most of these were correct but thought I’d highlight a few of them I had some extra thoughts on or where my experiences have contradicted or supplemented these points:
Having an XML Sitemap will boost your Google rankings
In any case, this only takes minutes to set up for most sites with all of the tools out there, and what does it hurt to get all of your pages crawled more frequently? I don’t always add them, I see the point it won’t boost rankings directly, but a little extra crawling never hurts for a few minutes of work, especially for large sites with lots of products. It’s worth it.
Since the advent of personalization, there is no such thing as being ranked #1 anymore because everyone sees different results.
The real point here I think is that bickering over a few position slots is more of a time waster than its ever been. This is the only time I’ve told people this, when I’m getting questions like: “How come I’m in number 3 and not number 2 anymore?” Even my Grandma has a Google account, and any user who searches frequently is going to see results in a different order. There is no myth here, it is a fact that personalized results change the position of the results. There are times you may always be first but often you’ll have traffic from the first 3 pages of Google. Personally, I look at frequency I find my sites in the top 5, top 10, and top 30 and ignore exact positioning. It’s a waste of time.
Meta tags will boost your rankings.
Meta Keywords hasn’t helped in years, but I still use it to provide helpful context for that page, like common misspellings or non-exact phrases that you probably don’t want to have exactly on the page or in its title. For ranking useful terms it won’t really do much. Google puts most weight on Title tags, content and its context and of course the links going to that page.
Googlebot doesn’t read CSS.
Google doesn’t care about how you style your sites, unless you’re spamming. It’s likely they just look for things like spacing elements off the page or hiding portions of content so its not accessible by users. So as long as you’re not spamming it’s a moot point, really.
You should end your URLs in .html – Since when has that made a difference?
Pre-2005 before search engines became more proficient at indexing in my experiences it was far easier to rank static pages or root directories on a domain. It was especially easier for SEOs to develop and post content on dynamic sites that didn’t have optimized URLs, something that definitely helps rank your pages better. Back then, I’d say it was better practice to make your content static and static content was favored. SE’s used to be horrible at properly indexing and ranking dynamic content. Today it doesn’t matter much anymore as long as you use Canonicals or dynamic strings that make sense. Googlebot crawls through it all with ease, platforms are better designed for it, and most have optimized URLs built in. We have much better tools today to help the spiders navigate the site how we want them to. This belief about static pages still sticks around today even though nobody really uses .html anymore to build Websites, nor is it necessary. So, it is a myth now, but it did make a difference at one time.
You can boost the Google rankings of your home page for a targeted term by including that term in the anchor text of internal links.
I would debate that in some cases it probably still does. Internal links always seems to help. But it certainly isn’t very important, and from a user experience most people expect a “Home” link or at least a static link on the logo to go back to the homepage.
If you define a meta description, Google uses it in the snippet.
But it’s not a waste of time and in fact it’s damn useful. I change META Descriptions for my sites and my client’s sites and 90% of the time they will pick it up, in fact its an improvement over the non-meta description content that Google displays, which is sometimes the most irrelevant parts they can find. For instance “Your Cart is Empty Balance: $0.00” and such. If you write a good one that represents your page content and uses your Title keywords, I’ll place my bet Google will use it. Almost every domain I own has its homepage META Description in the Google snippet which is far more ideal. What is the myth here?
H1 tags are a crucial element for SEO
H1 tags are useful and you should have one on every page of your site for usability and SEO. Anything you write likely has a “header”, whether its an article, a post, a product, etc. Not having H1’s won’t prevent you from ranking, but then the question is why would you not want to use proper headers on your page to show Google exactly what that page is about? I just don’t see any myth here. Ideally match them with your titles and content.
The Disallow directive in robots.txt can get pages de-indexed from Google.
I’ve never had this happen, Google always killed the sites eventually. And even if they do just strip it and add to Omitted results, you’re not going to rank for anything anyway. Still good practice to do a meta noindex,nofollow if you have sensitive information, and it probably works faster. If I ever post sensitive content I just keep them out multiple ways including Robots.txt and metas.
Automated SEO is black-hat or spammy
I wholeheartedly agree with this one. It’s not spam, it’s automating processes that would normally take me a week so I can do it within an hour or two or without hiring 10 monkies to do it incorrectly for minimum wage. That’s called Progress, baby, with a capital P, and I will rank circles around anyone who isn’t using some level of automation in their promotions. I think often the illusion of “work” doing this manually is promoted by some businesses because they can bloast bills for their clients. If it feels like work there must be progress, right?
Placing links in teeny-tiny size font at the bottom of your homepage is an effective tactic to raise the rankings of deep pages in your site.
This is really scrapping the bottom of the barrel. I haven’t heard anyone talk about doing this in the past 12 years unless they are building their first Website. There were a few more in the list like this but I won’t bother to mention them.
Homepage PageRank on a domain means something
It means little if your site sucks or isn’t optimized but it does mean something for links. So, it does mean something. Given the option of every page on a relevant PR2 site or a single homepage link on a relevant PR6 domain, I would take the single PR6 link any day.
Hyphenated domain names are best for SEO
Hyphenated domain names are usually ugly anyway but if you can’t get the non-hyphenated version you can use hyphens and it won’t matter. My online store is hyphenated since its non-hyphenated form wasn’t available and it ranks number 1 for its keyword. It doesn’t really matter though, unless your domain name creates unintended words. Just think “PenIsMightier.com”
Great Content = Great Rankings.Just like great policies equals successful politicians, right?
“Good” content doesn’t explain anything, since “good” is so arbitrary this myth makes no sense. Well written, keyword optimized content will rank as long as its optimized for keywords and found through pings and links. Spammy content will sometimes rank but its not likely to perform well for good keywords. Every domain I own where I’ve put solid work into the content always perform better, even if I promote them less than the spammier test sites I’ve built. It takes more than that, especially links, but…. it’s a myth that good content will get you good rankings????? Hardly… I would argue that every Webmaster who wants to rank for something goes into Google, reads the existing content, and constructs something better than anyone else has written. Why not strive to be better? It doesn’t hurt your chances.
The rest of the points made are accurate, overall it’s a very good list. Newbies who are soaking up all of their tips from “experts” should have a read before they take these things too seriously: http://searchengineland.com/36-seo-myths-that-wont-die-but-need-to-40076