Understanding the basics of search engine optimization is an important skill for many individuals – even many outside the search engine optimization industry. Web designers, content writers, journalists, webmasters, bloggers, and others need to be familiar with the factors search engines use to rank websites and content.
The search engine optimization field can be a very complex and confusing field, though. This is largely because the only 100% authoritative, 100% comprehensive source for information about how search engines rank content is the search engines themselves. The problem is, search engines only reveal a very little bit of this information, in an attempt to keep spammers from polluting the search results. This leaves much of room for speculation, misinformation, and myths.
In this article, I hope to debunk five of the most prominent SEO myths, and provide you factual information you can use to optimize webpages.
Myth #1: Google PageRank is a good way to measure SEO results
If you install the Google toolbar in your browser, you will get to see each webpage rated on a scale from 0 to 10 – this is called Google PageRank. While it is true that PageRank is one of the metrics Google uses to rank webpages, it is not an accurate way to measure search engine optimization efforts and results. For one thing, PageRank is only one of hundreds of factors Google uses to rank pages. In addition, the PageRank number you can see via the toolbar is not the same number Google uses in its algorithms.
Myth #2: Getting better search engine rankings is achieved by optimizing your meta tags
According to myth and legend, inserting your target keywords into the meta description and meta-keywords tag on your webpages will help them rank higher for those keywords. This is simply untrue. By their own admission, Google has not used these meta tags to influence rankings for many years. One caveat is that your meta-description can show up in the Google search results pages, so it’s important that your meta description be an accurate, relevant and compelling description of the webpage.
Myth #3: Search engine optimization is a one-time activity
Search engine optimization can be broadly broken down into two categories: on-site optimization and off-site optimization (a.k.a. link building). On-site optimization may or may not be a one-time activity, depending on the size site of your site and how often it is updated. However, link building should always be an ongoing activity – you must constantly work to build and attract high-quality links, continually working improve your rankings. Even if you are ranked number one for your target keywords, you should continue link building efforts to maintain those positions – after all, your competitors are probably working to bump you out of the number one spot!
Myth #4: You need to submit your website to Google, Yahoo, and Bing
Major search engines such as Google and Bing do not rely primarily on submissions to find new webpages – their robots constantly crawl the internet looking for new webpages to add to their indexes. The easiest, fastest, and most reliable way to get your new pages indexed by Google is to link to them from other high quality, indexed pages.
Myth #5: Optimizing your site means measuring and adjusting your keyword density
Obviously, search engines want to return relevant results when users search for a particular keyword. This typically means that they will return webpages that include that keyword. Current evidence indicates that search engines use much more complex algorithms than keyword density to determine what a webpage is about. It’s best to simply write content with the mindset of “how can I write this content so that users searching for my keywords will find the information they want?” Also, ensure that your use your target keyword(s) at least a couple times on the page (more for longer pages).
Chris Turberville-Tully is the founder and owner of Inspiration Inc., (visit their website at SEO Birmingham). He has a Masters Degree in Information Architecture, 10 years PR experience and has immersed himself in the world of Search and Analysis. Chris leads all major client strategies to deliver real value.
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