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By Craig de Fasselle
Once upon a time, SEO was all about keyword stuffing, landing pages, submitting your site monthly to searches, and trying to stay ahead of every search engine algorithm change. Then SEO transitioned into link building, obsessing over keyword-optimized content, and trying to trick search engines into ranking your site above the rest.
SEO is far from dead, but it has changed–and it’s probably a lot different than what you think.
Seven SEO Myths and Facts
#1 My Site Must Appear on Page 1 of Google to Succeed
Wrong. Search rank does not guarantee success. Yes, high placement increases the number of clicks, but studies have shown that sites listed toward the top of search results on subsequent search pages also get significant clicks.
Also, top rankings are different based on your locale and search preferences. That’s because search engines favor local results, and filter bubbles are at work (see our “Who’s Finding You Online” post).
So, when you receive email solicitations promising you a No. 1 ranking in Google, trash them immediately. Short of getting you a top ranking on your company name (you probably have that now) or some obscure term, no one can guarantee a top ranking.
#2 My Site Must be Submitted to Search Engines
This is not necessary. Google will find you no matter what. A quick look at your web stats will show that search “bots” visit you twice a month. (That’s good news for you and your site’s ranking if you’re doing the right things.) Services offering to “submit your site to search engines monthly” for a fee are stealing your money.
#3 My Website Copy Should be Full of ‘Keywords’ for SEO
Good content doesn’t follow a formula. Focus on writing copy to convince visitors to buy your products or support your cause. Search engines favor good copy over content that’s loaded with so many keywords it doesn’t read naturally (see “Why a Copywriter Will Boost Your Bottom Line“).
#4 SEO is About Having Keywords in the Right Place or Density or Hidden in Code
This may have been the case in 1999, but not in 2014. If you sell Purple Widgets, you certainly want to have that phrase featured at the top of the page–for users, not search engines.
There’s no magic formula of keyword phrases or word count to get higher results in search engines. Jamming more keywords into your copy won’t make it better for SEO.
#5 Hidden Code Can Increase My Search Ranking
Wrong. Hidden meta tags or masked text will not trick search engines, and they might penalize your ranking.
Google evaluates the visible text on your site; the hidden keyword and description tags have no bearing on your site ranking. However, the title and description tags are important because they can convince searchers to visit your site.
#6 I Should Create Microsites that Link to My Site
No. There are rogue SEO firms that will offer to set up microsites of short articles that link to your site as an “expert.” J. C. Penney tried that a few years ago–and got caught and penalized by Google for violating their guidelines.
#7 All Inbound Links Help My Search Rank
Ever hear the adage that you’re known by the company you keep? That applies to search engines. Google will know–and penalize–your site for inbound links from low-quality sites or link farms. If you own other domains, linking from them won’t help. Google will know you’re voting for yourself.
OK, So What Should I Do About SEO?
Avoid thinking about SEO in terms of keywords or manipulating search rank. You will not trick search engines.
Instead, concentrate on creating a great overall experience for searchers. Focus on compelling content, usability and making it easy for visitors to find information that will convince them to choose you over the competition.