Every culture has its own mythology, most of it originally based in fact. However, even as facts change, the mythos behind them fail to budge. In the geekily obsessive world of SEO, it’s no surprise that some once-true SEO myths have stuck around long past their prime. Here are some nefarious SEO fables that people (hint: possibly you) still believe and waste money on.
1: Keyword Saturation Is a Key Metric
Do you remember back when AltaVista was a top search site, and hitting the “magic percent” for keyword saturation almost guaranteed you page 1 placement? That saturation number was a magic bullet, so it’s no wonder people hung onto it – even well after it was no longer true.
These days, the top sites don’t have a 2.318762419% saturation. They usually have something closer to a 0.5% saturation and use writing that’s, well, readable. As the search robots have been taught to understand human language and the interconnectivity of words, well-written content has thrived while saturated content has been buried.
2: Meta Keywords Are Great for Stuffing!
Since hiding the keywords from site visitors while showing them to search engines has long been recognized as a black hat tactic, SEOs have tried to find legitimate ways to stuff keywords into the content. The most common place to do so these days is in the meta keywords field.
Did you see the end of Old Yeller? Well, that’s basically what happened to meta keywords. After years of black hat abuse, Google and other top search engines dropped meta keywords as a ranking factor. Iktomi’s segment of HotBot was the last algorithm that give half a damn about meta keywords – and even that ended five years ago (or, to translate that into technology years: eons).
3: Alt Tags Are Great for Stuffing!
Alt tags – the alternative text for images that indicates to search engines and vision-impaired site visitors what a picture is about – are still relevant for image optimization, sure. However, stuffing them only lowers your chances of being found in image searches. Also, programs known as screen readers give blind people an audio presentation of what the site says, and when the apps get to stuffed alt tags, the people have to listen to your laundry list of terms. Irksome, much? If those blind people ever see you, they’re going to kick the crap out of you.
Oh … wait.
4: More Content Is Always Better!
Content is king, as we all know. That’s why so many companies hire freelancers to write hundreds of pages for their sites. And, thanks to bottom-line myopia, it’s why they pay someone in a third-world country for penny-per-word content that looks like – well, penny-per-word content. Because content is content, right?
Wrong. It kills visitor engagement, lowers your chance of getting inbound and social links, and decimates your site reputation. Worse, thanks to Google’s Panda update – the search engine update aimed at thrashing junk content – producing large amounts of paper-thin content will substantially hurt your ranking.
5: Scraping Content Helps Your Search Ranking
If someone else posts an article or page that ranks really well, ripping it off their site and posting it on your own is bound to win over the search engines, right?
First, duplicating content that’s not yours is plain immoral. Second, it will get you flagged as spam more quickly than any other tactic. Third, if you’re proven as a scraper, your site will be blacklisted on the SERPs. And fourth, you can get sued for that, thanks to the implied intellectual property laws of the Internet.
6: Making Useless Comments on Blogs Builds Link Juice
Hey, you! The person skipping this article and going straight to the comment section since you know we’re a PR7 site. You want to leave a comment with a link back to your site, right? Or just have your user name link with a conspicuous keyword-based user name for your anchor text?
See, here’s the problem: More than 95% of blogs use what we call a nofollow tag by default. This tag prevents your useless comment from getting any link juice. If you want to get a link from a high PR site, you must a) write a great article and pitch it to the site, b) talk to the site’s advertising department, or c) write a comment compelling enough that the author and other readers will want to link to your cited content.
Maybe you won’t walk under a ladder. Maybe you even think Greek gods control the weather. Maybe you won’t feed your gremlin after midnight. That makes you quirky. But believing these myths? That’s a surefire way to destroy your site’s success.