The following is a post from Brian Fitzgerald, Director of Social and Search Marketing for TIG Global.
The search engine landscape is constantly evolving and over the last 10-12 years has changed dramatically. I think that the industry’s rapid evolution has led to the persistence of some myths and led many businesses to get poor information. Let’s be honest, plenty of people will tell you that they are an SEO “expert,” but if they are not fully immersed in the day-to-day motions of the industry, then their information is, at best, suspect. So I thought I would take this opportunity to dispel some of the common myths that I hear passed around on a regular basis. I personally would be wary of anyone who misspeaks about any of these SEO issues.
1. Keyword Density
Back in the early days of search engines, keyword density was one of the factors considered to help determine the relevance of your site and what your site’s rankings should be. Keyword density is quite simply the percentage that a word or phrase appears on a webpage compared to the total words on the page. In today’s search engine landscape, keyword density is not relevant as a ranking factor. Creating keyword rich content is still important for search engines and users, but using a strategy in which you try to achieve a certain keyword density percentage is not necessary. Today, search engines are much more advanced and likely using statistical methods like term frequency-inverse document frequency (TF-IDF) to analyze language and compare web pages.
2. Search Engine Submissions
Again, back in the early days of search engines, submitting your website URL to the engines was a necessary tactic to get your site indexed and potentially even improve your rankings. Today, this is just not the case. For existing sites, the engines already know about your site, and for brand new sites, all you need to do is get a few links to your site so that the engines can learn about you and crawl, or search through the content on, your site. Google does still have an ‘add your URL’ page, but I believe this is less effective than getting some inbound links to generate traffic to your site.
3. Paid Search Helps with SEO
A few times a year this myth always resurfaces. The myth here is that if you participate and spend money in paid search (PPC), then the engines will reward you and give your natural rankings a boost. This is almost comical and just untrue.
4. Meta Tags
This might be more of a clarification, but I’m going to consider it a myth because I see a lot of confusion and misinformation on a regular basis. There are lots of different meta tags, but the most common are the meta keywords tag and the meta description tag. The meta keyword tag is a tag that just lists a bunch of phrases, and it is only seen in the coding of a page. This tag has not been used by the major engines as a ranking factor for many years because it is too easy to manipulate, and there are so many other signals that can be used to examine your site. The meta description tag is also on the way out as a ranking factor, and Google has said publically that they don’t use it as a ranking factor. The difference with the meta description is that it is used very often in search results and therefore still has an enormous impact on users clicking your results, so the importance of optimizing it has not really changed.
5. Duplicate Content Penalty
It is not a myth that duplicate content is a very serious SEO issue; it is. What is a myth is that you get penalized by the engines for having duplicate content. There is no duplicate content penalty. The situation with duplicate content is that you are essentially shooting yourself in the foot. Because inbound links are such an important SEO factor, when you have two (or more) versions of a page or site, you are splitting those inbound links across multiple versions rather than getting all of that inbound link value pointing to one version.
6. Copying your Competitors is a Good Idea
This is another one that I get all the time. The World Wide Web is an open environment, and it is very easy for any business owner to do some digging and find out what keyword strategies, linking partnerships, social media strategies, etc. their competition is using. Should you do a thorough competitive analysis? Absolutely, we do this for our clients. Should you assume that what your competition is doing is correct and copy it? Absolutely not. You need to do your own research and have your own best practices and compare that information so that you can apply it to the bigger competitive landscape.
Are there other myths that you think exist or that we can help you clarify? Sound off in the comments section below, or visit our Ask the Experts Video page to post your question.
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