Over the past couple of years, I’ve worked with several dozen clients, in a variety of different industries, from tattoo parlors, to realtors, to hospitals, and everything in between. In that time, I’ve heard several search engine optimization myths that people believe. This article is intended to debunk some of those myths. Search engines, lead by the all powerful Google, evaluate sites based on dozens of factors, and are constantly refining and improving their algorithm to make sure that the most relevant search results are at the top of a search, and that those attempting to cheat their system are penalized.
1. There’s a Secret Way to Make Your Site Appear At the Top
For anyone who thinks about it, this should be an obvious myth. First, how do you define “top”, because based on that definition alone, this myth falls flat. If “top” is defined as page 1 of Google, then only ten people can know this secret. If eleven people know the secret, then someone’s going to be left out. There really is no secret, it just takes hard work to get there.
2. Visiting The Page Multiple Times Will Improve Your Ranking
I’ve heard this one on more than one occasion, and have looked for a statement either confirming or denying it’s authenticity. I haven’t found any article that addresses it clearly, so if anyone knows of a resource, please let me know, however, this claim flies in the face of all logic. While search engines do value highly visited sites and probably consider them more relevant than a site that never gets viewed, they have much more complex and reliable ways of determining those sites. Google is a multi-billion dollar company that hires the best and brightest. They continually rank as the #1 company to work for, so they get to choose the cream of the crop, and have the brightest and most creative developers and programmers working for them. I doubt that their search engines will be impressed by having 20-30 friends bombard your site with a few hundred visits over the weekend.
3. You Can Pay For Higher Rankings
This isn’t as much of a myth as it is a misconception. Google does offer a program called AdWords, which are paid advertisements. These campaigns typically show you paid advertisements related to your searches at the top and right areas of your page. AdWord campaigns are pay-per-click promotions, which means that your advertisement can show up in an unlimited number of searches, but you only pay when a user actually clicks on the advertisement and visits your site. AdWords campaigns show up in shaded areas, which are separate from the type of search engine optimization that we’re talking about. Starting an AdWords campaign will result in your link being shown in search results, and yes, these do cost money, however, these results are in addition to the “top 10” results that most people think of when thinking of SEO.
4. Simply Placing Keywords in Your Meta Tags Will Improve Search Engine Rankings
This was at one point true, but that was a long time ago. In the beginning, simply placing a string of related keywords in your META tag helped with SEO, as it told search engines what your site was about. Developers quickly realized that they could trick search engines, and as a result, keyword stuffing became very common. As a result, search engines refined their criteria for evaluating results, and started evaluating the content of a page rather than the keywords. In today’s world, the Keyword meta tag is about as relevant as a typewrite repairman.
5. You Can Trick Search Engines To Be Listed Higher
Just the other day, while consulting with a potential client, I examined the code of their current site. Upon inspection, I found that their previous developer had added hidden hyperlinks, apparently to trick search engines into seeing more backlinks to these sites. The links were invisible on the clients site, being hidden by CSS, however, search engines could see and follow the links. After looking at other sites developed by the same company, I found that they had done this several times with multiple other clients. When I showed this to my client, he was totally unaware (and obviously somewhat upset). Does this method work? In the short term, it just may, however, this is considered “black hat SEO”, and if Google finds that your site is employing underhanded methods to improve search engine rankings, then you risk your site being blacklisted, in which case your site will fail to be listed at all. Search engines actively seek out black hat SEO methods, and typically, you can get better SEO results by playing by their rules and working hard than you can by cheating the system anyway.
The last thing to remember is that SEO is a cyclical and evolving process. Simply performing SEO once and then leaving your site alone might work in the short term, but you’ll soon find that your competitors have pushed you back off of page 1. Make SEO a daily, weekly, and monthly concern, and you’ll find that, in time, your site will be ranking with the big boys.