10 Lies Your SEO Firm Is Still Telling You
The business of Search Engine Optimization is huge. There's not a single day that goes by that an SEO firm tries to entice customers into taking unnecessary risks. How so? Well, many, but not all, SEO firms sell their clients worthless services and spread myths that don't help the client at all. At best, they result in the client wasting money. At worst, they actually hurt search engine rankings for the client.
How do SEO firms pull off a stunt like this? Simple, they rely on the client being ignorant. Between Google's Matt Cutts, and several reputable SEO companies and experts, there are many myths that are now dying a horrible and much deserved death. Here are 10 that you should be aware of:
Myth #1 - "Our firm is endorsed by Google."
Some SEO firms will lure you in by saying that they are associated with Google, affiliated with Google, approved by Google, or that they are somehow endorsed by Google. Other firms are a little more covert in how they pitch this. For example, they'll tell you that their firm's SEO strategies are endorsed by Google or approved by Google.
If you mean that there are certain SEO practices that are approved of by the big "G," then yes, that's true. However, Google approves of only a handful of companies that help optimize websites. The majority of these companies don't sell the kind of SEO services that you'll find being hocked all over the Internet. Run for the hills if your SEO company is promising you "Google approved" strategies.
On a related note, some companies simply imply their services are OK because it's difficult for Google to monitor everyone. For example, on the issue of buying backlinks, some SEO firms will argue that "Google does it, so it must be OK. Sure, they tell you that buying backlinks will land you in hot water, but many people do it and hardly anyone gets caught so they implicitly approve of this practice." This last one should raise an eyebrow, but many people are taken in by it.
Myth #2 - Google Analytics is used by Google to spy on you and use the information against you.
This myth is largely born out of the conspiracy theorists out there in Internetland. Some SEO firms and experts will tell you that Google spies on you through their products. The argument goes something like this: "since Google has access to your site data, and you allow them to crawl your site and analyze it in great depth, they can then use this data to determine if you're a spammer.
First of all, Google doesn't use analytics for anything significant. Secondly, if you are a spammer, you probably need to be taken off the Internet anyway, so clean up your act. While Google says that they don't use analytic data for counterintelligence operations, your paranoia is welcomed amongst honest whitehat marketers.
For the rest of you, keep using Google analytics to monitor site performance. It gives you valuable data that you can use to tweak your marketing campaign and make important changes to your site that may help your rankings in Google.
Myth #3 - Your PageRank score determines your ranking in some way.
This myth is one that seriously needs to die a quick death. Somehow, actual search results don't seem to matter. Do this: fire up your favorite search engine. Use a PageRank checker tool or one of those fancy tools that plug right into your browser. Search for anything from "puppies" to "cars" to "endangered species." Check the PageRank of the pages and take note of the position of the sites.
A good example of this is "puppies." As of this writing, the first result is puppyfind.com. The second result in the listing is dailypuppy.com. Puppyfind.com has a PageRank of "4." Dailypuppy.com has a PageRank of "6." So much for the idea that PageRank determines or affects ranking.
Myth #4 - Having an XML sitemap helps boost your ranking.
Sitemaps are useful for a lot of things. They help search engine spiders crawl your site efficiently. They also help your site visitors out by giving them easy access to all of the pages on your site. Finally, sitemaps are useful a "canonicalization hint" if you have duplicate content on your site. What it won't do, however, is boost your rankings.
Myth #5 - There is no such thing as being ranked #1 anymore since everyone's search results are personalized so everyone sees something different when they search for a keyword.
Google has been moving towards personalization and localization for quite some time now. In many ways, this makes a lot of sense. When you log into your Google account, your search queries are personalized based on your search history. Even when you're not logged into your Google account, search results might vary based on your location.
However, none of this means that there is no position #1. You can check this yourself. Just add "&pws=0" to the end of the URL when you do a search in Google. See how little difference it makes? Not much moved around, did it? In many cases, the number #1 spot is held by the same website. Google's search results aren't that subjective.
Myth #6 - Metatags will boost your rankings.
This myth is so old and so wrong, anyone who utters it should be banned from SEO. Search engines don't even recognize metatags in some instances, and in many instances it's not a significant factor in the algorithm.
The reason search engines don't give metatags any weight in their algorithm is because these tags were abused badly by spammers in the early years of search engines. Don't you remember when porn sites could rank for just about any search term by stuffing their pages with keywords? Companies like Google don't want to go back to 1997.
What about meta description, meta author, and meta robots? These aren't given any real weight either for reasons similar to why metatags aren't given any weight. Meta is junk. Delete it from your memory banks. Fire your SEO company if this is part of their strategy.
Myth #7 - It's good to include a meta robots tag to specify "index, follow."
This myth somehow stands on it's own, though it's really a corollary to the previous myth. Search engines already assume that all links are "followed" unless you specifically mark a link as "nofollow" or "noindex, nofollow."
Myth #8 - You should target your keywords in your HTML comment tags, title attributes.
Adding keywords in the alt tags of images and links is a waste of time outside of usability. In other words, use keywords in the alt tags only if you want to increase usability of your site. For SEO purposes, these things won't do anything for you.
Myth #9 - Don't make country-specific sites, because it creates "duplicate content" issues.
This myth is idiotic, but is actually promoted by some SEO firms. The myth is false on its face. Google is smart enough to deliver a ".com.au" site to Australia and a ".co.nz" site to New Zealand while showing ".com" sites to Americans. They won't penalize you for duplicate content either, since its assumed that foreign sites are for, well, foreigners. If you're not using ccTLD, then set the geographic target setting in your Google Webmaster Tools. After all, that's what its there for. Stop listening to your SEO company, and listen to Google for a change. They're right about this one.