Anyone who has read my Talent Zoo columns knows that part of my mission is to set the record straight about SEO. I’ve written many times about SEO myths that just won’t die. So today let’s look at why all this wrong-headed advice is so pervasive.
First, it’s important to note that SEO is not an exact science, and there are many ways to accomplish the SEO goal of getting more targeted search engine traffic to a website. But there are many well-known supposed SEO tactics that most intelligent, SEO professionals who have a few years of experience know to be useless. Despite that, we continue to see them published as SEO advice.
For instance, all legitimate SEO consultants know that submitting websites to search engines died at least ten years ago as something that was a waste of time. And yet, someone told me a few weeks ago about a seminar speaker who was touting this as a must-do SEO technique!
I also recently read in an SEO newsletter that you should keep your optimized content to only 100 words, since that’s all that Google would supposedly index! (Never been true.)
This is the kind of irresponsible, incorrect SEO information that enrages me. If it was just being spread by one or two kooks, it would be no big deal. Unfortunately, however, mainstream news organizations and other popular websites are often the worst culprits in spreading this nonsense.
But why does it happen?
Here are my seven reasons why bad SEO advice spreads like wildfire:
1. Bad/wrong SEO advice is generally easy to do.
Many times it can even be automated. This is probably the number-one reason why bad SEO spreads like wildfire. Who wouldn’t prefer to do quick fixes over real SEO? Unfortunately, there’s rarely a shortcut to SEO. It’s often a lot of work. But bad SEO is easy. (It doesn’t work, but that’s just a small technicality!)
2. Bad SEOs need the SEO myths to spread.
That’s how they make their money. When business owners believe that SEO can be done as simply as performing search engine submissions on a daily basis with some cheap software, they will be more likely to sign up for it. Unfortunately, all it will do is keep the bad SEOs in business at the expense of the business owners’ own business.
3. Outdated, old SEO articles.
SEO has been around for over 16 years now, and therefore there are many old articles circulated that have out-of-date information. These may have been credible at one time, but SEO has changed a lot over the years. Search engines can index many more types of content than they used to be able to index. You can see what I mean by searching Google for something like "Should I submit to search engines?" All kinds of crazy advice will pop up. And unfortunately, even though it is all but worthless, Google's own guidelines make mention of their useless Add-URL page. Sigh.
4. Website designers often know only surface SEO.
Designers and developers really should know good SEO so that they can “bake it” into your website from the start. Unfortunately, many of them only know enough to be dangerous, and it’s usually the old/outdated (read: easy) advice that they’ve read elsewhere. If your designer tells you they’ve SEO’d your site because they put keywords into your keyword Meta tag, they are spreading bad SEO.
5. The blind leading the blind on forums.
SEO forums seem to attract newbies (and comment spammers). That’s not a problem if they really want to learn professional SEO and there are experienced professionals ready to provide updated advice. But most professional SEOs have stopped hanging out at forums as they simply don’t have the time. Instead, what the newbie SEO may encounter there is a group of other inexperienced SEOs, spreading bad SEO advice.
6. No testing of SEO theories.
Anyone trying to figure out SEO should never simply believe what they read somewhere, no matter how credible it sounds. Certainly, it’s fine to try different things out, but please don’t assume it will work just because someone else claimed it worked for them. Always experiment and wait until you see your own proof. And even then, try it on multiple sites in different ways before drawing conclusions. It’s very easy to mix up cause and effect in the SEO world. While it may look as if a change you made to a website helped increase its rankings, it may or may not have. Test, test, and then test some more!
7. Too many SEOs dislike change.
While SEO may not change as much as some would like us to believe, search engines have made great improvements over the past decade. Making a great website for people will always be important, but the technical means to do so often change. For instance, back in the 1990s, dynamically generated sites with URLs that had parameters in them (equal signs and ampersands, etc.) could cause the search engines to not be able to index the pages correctly. But that hasn’t been a problem in eons. Yet I still see people writing about how coding websites by hand is better than using a content management system! No, no, no, no!
I certainly wish that things were getting better in this regard, but for the seven reasons I’ve stated above, I worry that bad SEO advice being spouted to unsuspecting website owners is not going to go away anytime soon. If nothing else, I hope that this article will shed some light on the topic and encourage people to do a better job of researching any and all SEO advice they receive.
As an SEO Consultant, Jill Whalen has been providing her no-nonsense, practical SEO advice since 1995. If you learned from this article be sure to sign up for Jill's popular High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter to keep up with the latest information in the ever-changing world of SEO. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen, "Like" her at Facebook, and "Circle" her on Google+.