With SEO being one of those new apparently “controversial” professions, it’s unsurprising that a number of myths float around, confusing the hell out of companies, other SEO’s and probably even Google themselves.

Sadly, despite our best hopes, some misconceptions refuse to die, rather like a groaning zombie scaring the living daylights out of us when we just want some peace and quiet.

SEO myths are like zombies – undying, annoying and not particularly loveable

So, before I run around with some unlikely weapon trying to save mankind from an invasion of the undead, here are the first of many classic myths surrounding SEO:

  1. SEO is a black art – SEO is a thriving industry. If it were illegal, why would Google publish guidelines?
  2. High PageRank = high rankings – PageRank is an analysis of backlinks. Like many aspects of SEO, it’s simply one piece of a much larger jigsaw puzzle. I once optimised a page with a PR of between 2 and 3 to outperform entire sites whose homepage PR was 5 and above, and I’m sure many other SEO’s have done similar things.
  3. H1 tags are a crucial element for SEO – not always. I recommend that they are included for usability reasons, and should be restricted to a single H1 per page.
  4. The personalised search results that Search Engines provide mean SEO is now irrelevant – not true. Although some search results show minor differences, it’s negligible. There are ways to work around this, too.
  5. Meta tags will boost your rankings – a load of twaddle. In the early days, sites abused Meta tags to try and influence site rankings. Google got wise to this very quickly, so Meta tags have pretty much no influence. At best, some directories may use them to classify your entry into their listing, and even this is more usability than SEO.
  6. You should end your URLs in “.html” – boring, slow and not relevant.
  7. If you define a Meta description, Google uses it in the snippet – I tested this myself at ReviewCentre.com in 2007 and disproved it to colleagues. Many others have also reached the same conclusion.
  8. SEO is a one-time activity – the search landscape is constantly changing, and Google regularly updates their algorithms. So no, you can’t do it once and sit back. It’s like painting the Forth Railway Bridge in Scotland: once finished, it was time to start again.
  9. Keyword density is key – no, no and double-no. You should ALWAYS write content intended for human eyes, not Googlebot. By writing content that reads naturally (which Google recommends, and so do reputable SEO’s), you’ll remove the need for focusing on this.
  10. Great Content = Great Rankings – as I said earlier, content is just one piece of a much larger jigsaw puzzle. One lovely shiny piece matters little if the other pieces are damaged or missing.
  11. Google uses their Analytics software to obtain information about you or your site users – anyone who tells you this probably wears a tin-foil hat to stop the CIA reading their mind. Google don’t do this, and they’ve said as much. If they were using the data maliciously, someone would have blown the whistle by now.

Suffice it to say, there are far more than these ten. And however many I’ve found, I’m sure there are plenty more.

A good SEO will talk clients and employers through any misconceptions, and provide official statements of provable, third-party evidence (ideally from their own professional experience) to dispel these misunderstandings. In some ways I feel like I need to help bust these rumours before the day arrives that we SEO’s become social pariahs.