Tag Archive: SEO

SEO Myths – Part 2

In my first post regarding SEO Myths, I felt it better to leave the list of myths at about 10. By trying to list all the ones I’m familiar with (either through work or study), I was at risk of reaching retirement age before finishing!

Seriously, there are so many circulating in cyberspace that it’s amazing us SEO’s aren’t vilified and shunned by web designers, clients, programmers & employers.

As promised, here are a few more:

  1. Having an XML Sitemap will boost your Google rankings – all an XML sitemap will do is list all your site’s pages in one place, helping search engines find and index them. Rankings will depend on what Google finds on these pages.
  2. Having country-specific sites creates “duplicate content” issues in Google – Google, Yahoo & Bing et al know how to identify a country of origin by IP address. And, since these three sites all have multiple country-code TLD websites (ie. a .com, .co.uk, .co.jp etc.), wouldn’t they have fallen foul of a duplicate content rule like this years ago?
  3. Googlebot doesn’t read CSS – they do, which is bad news for black-hat SEO’s who still think that hiding text by matching it to the background colour of a page is a justifiable trick.
  4. Linking out (such as to Google.com) helps rankings – failure to link-out makes Google think you’re trying to hoard PageRank, and yes, that could have a negative impact. But since it’s the INBOUND links rather than OUTBOUND links which have the impact, linking out isn’t going to have much influence.
  5. Italicizing or boldening words encourages Google to focus on them and rank your site more highly for these words – nope. Bold, italics, underlines etc is more for human eyes than for Googlebot. Take this article as an example – I’d be risking ranking for some ridiculous keywords if bold tags were a deciding factor!
  6. The “Disallow” directive in robots.txt can get (and keep) pages out of Google’s index – the robots.txt file isn’t rewally an essential part of SEO (though a correctly-coded one does no harm). Use the “noindex” meta content code on a page-by-page basis, as required.
  7. Google will not index search results pages on your website – when I worked at First Internet, this misconception (nullified during 2008, by the way) from a previous employee led to some pretty messy Google Analytics reports, and an impact on SEO performance that was worrying. A quick chat with the web design team had them adding the “noindex” meta code to search results pages, and the problem was quickly resolved.
  8. Placing links in small sized font at the bottom of your homepage is a good way to raise rankings – this tactic is a waste of time. Plus, it looks silly and amateurish.
  9. It’s important to change the links on your homepage as often as possible – not the case. Many sites have been successful without doing this. Whilst changing them may be nice for web surfers, constantly changing these links is a waste of effort which could be put to better use elsewhere.
  10. Tidying up URLs on your site is “cloaking” – if you’re just making them tidier (by removing session ID’s, or URLs generated by an automated CMS), there’s no problem. Be sure to make sure your 301 redirects are all working, however: one broken 301 could lead to thousands of broken links!

SEO Myths – Part 1

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.

Google Panda Update 3.3 Announced

Earlier, Google announced on their “Inside Search” blog that amongst the 40 search updates being rolled out for February 2012, Google Panda was receiving a tweak to bring it up to version 3.3.

Google Panda was one of those updates that was always going to raise controversy amongst website owners, particularly those relying on adverts for revenue.

Google Panda

Google declared on "low quality" content with their Panda update - sites with heavy on-page ads got burned.

The update heralded a very noticeable change in Google’s search results 12 months ago. Many of us SEOs spotted that “content rich” websites like news websites, social networking sites etc were suddenly crawling up the SERPs, whilst websites whose on-page advertising was considered excessive were gradually being downgraded.

In some ways, the Panda update was likely to be welcomed by many. Web users usually dislike excess advertising on web pages, not only because it can spoil the look and feel of a page, but the individual feed request each ad must request on page-load leads to pages loading more slowly (which is a ranking factor in Google, despite what some may claim…). And the annoyance of losing your page if an ad is accidentally clicked is something we’ve all experienced at some point.

In other ways, many websites whose revenue is dependent on these ads have since seen their rankings, visitors and ultimately revenue fall sharply. Sadly, this will certainly have impacted on the website where I began developing my SEO skills: ReviewCentre.com. It would also impact on new entrepreneurs who may choose to create a new website and offer advertising as their source of revenue. Fortunately, the website I built whilst at ReviewCentre was closed down (by myself) before the Panda started prowling round…

One theory I had was that one effect of the reason would be that websites displaying ads from platforms like Microsoft AdCentre and Yahoo Search Marketing might shift focus to Google ads instead, believing that sites using a Google advertising product wouldn’t be penalised by Google. With just 12 months of data available, commentators will now have a much clearer idea how many abandoned their old ad providers for favour of Google…