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The SEO field has some great thought leaders who work hard to share their knowledge and data with the community. Despite this, after nine years working in the field, I still see some horrible misinformation published on an alarmingly regular basis.
So, with the help of Twitter, these are the five SEO myths I would love to see buried in 2011...
1 "You need to improve your keyword density"
This one always blows my mind. It can be disproved with about 30 seconds research; simply do a search for some of the most competitive terms you can think of and what do you find? Strangely, it's not endless reams of keyword-stuffed landing pages.
Apart from the fundamental shift that happened years ago when search engines started placing more weight on link graphs rather than on-page text and meta-data, language processing is a well documented science.
In short: Never start sacrificing the quality of your content for SEO purposes.
2 "Google penalises for duplicate content"
Although we recently heard from Google about new changes that will target sites that copy others content (think scraping content farms), it is important to note that generally speaking there is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty.
If you've got some duplicate pages, or you're hosting some content from another site, it makes no sense for Google to display the exact same content twice in one search query result: If the first one wasn't helpful to the searcher, the second one won't be, so why waste valuable SERPs real estate on it?
The result is one of these pages is filtered from the index. It does not mean your site is suddenly going to be hit with mythical ranking penalties.
In short: A little duplicate content won't kill you, but maybe look at why it's there.
3 "Update your content regularly to keep it fresh and rank better"
Well, it sounds like it could be true, right? Unfortunately, all too often I see companies with staff updating their website for the sake of it, under the instruction of their "SEO expert".
While it's true that the "age" of content will affect some verticals (think about news results, which are basically chronological), for the most part, your average chartered accountant website isn't going to see a return on having someone spending 20 hours a week writing in their "latest news" section.
Sure, you could argue that by creating all this content you're doing something for the "longtail", but I can guarantee you there's better ways to spend your time.
In short: If you've got something to say, write about it. If you don't, please don't have someone doing it just for "SEO".
4 "W3C/Standards compliant code will help search engines love your site"
I like good code. There's a whole bunch of great reasons to write compliant code and make your website as accessible as possible. SEO though, is not one of them. As long as you're covering off the SEO basics so your site loads quickly and can be indexed (you're not giving technical barriers to search bots), you'll be fine.
While it may make sense at first thought, only a small percentage of websites conform to web-standards it would make it a very difficult metric to use for search engines to judge how useful the page is for the searcher.
In short: Please produce good, accessible code as standard practise. Don't recode your entire website for just for SEO purposes.
5 "PPC Spend / Adwords / Adsense affects your SEO"
Sure, big brands and big spenders might get back in the index a little quicker if they get banned than you, but it's nothing to do with PPC spend. If a big brand does get penalised, Google has no choice long-term than to reinstate them.
If you do a search for "cheap flights" you expect to see RyanAir, you expect to see EasyJet (not that I'm suggesting they've done anything wrong). Not having these brands present would reduce the quality of Google SERPs, which is its core mission to maintain.
If you get banned from Google and it takes you nine months to get back in, it's not because Google doesn't care, it's because most people don't care.
Even Matt Cutts had to answer these allegations on Google preferring Adwords/Adsense clients in organic SERPs:
"One misconception that we’ve seen in the last few weeks is the idea that Google doesn’t take as strong action on spammy content in our index if those sites are serving Google ads. To be crystal clear:
• Google absolutely takes action on sites that violate our
quality guidelines regardless of whether they have ads powered by
• Displaying Google ads does not help a site’s rankings in Google; and
• Buying Google ads does not increase a site’s rankings in Google’s search results.
These principles have always applied, but it’s important to affirm they still hold true.”
In short: Don't confuse an Adwords spend with the importance brand equity plays on Google's SERPs
If you've got any more favourite SEO myths you still hear, please share them so we can continue educating and improving our community!