Five SEO Myths that Need to Die

I speak at multiple Internet marketing conferences each year like SMX and Affiliate Summit on the topic of SEO (I’ll be doing a full day SEO Training in New York this August). As a result, I’ve heard a lot of questions and seen a lot of “situations” involving search engine optimization. And while many of them I’ll gladly agree are open to debate and theory, there are a few SEO questions that come up regularly that make me want to beat my head into a wall.

Below are five common SEO myths that I wish would finally die:

#5: Meta keywords matter

The use of the meta keywords tag hasn’t mattered in regards to search engine rankings since almost the beginning of my career as an SEO over a decade ago. The meta keywords tag won’t harm you if it’s in your site header, but spending any effort to create them is a complete waste and has been for almost a decade, since the last search engine using them publicly announced abandoning them as a ranking factor. But the topic refused to die, causing Google to issue a public statement confirming once again that they don’t consider the meta keywords tag at all in 2009.

I think part of the reason this subject refuses to die is that the meta description tag still has limited use in Google. But the meta description tag isn’t used to determine where to rank you in the results. It’s used as the snippet for your site at times. So, it can be very useful in increasing your click through rates in the search engine result pages (SERPS) but it won’t help you get the rankings needed to be in front of users TO click on it.

#4: You should submit to search engines

Tons of snake oil SEO companies still tout search engine submission as an offering. However, submitting to search engines through general “submit here” URLs is futile and useless. Providing that your site has a link or people visiting it, it will get found – and indexed – by the search engines. And if it doesn’t have links or visitors, then you’re not going to rank in the algorithms of 2011 anyway, so being indexed in the engine won’t make much of a difference.

The quickest way to get a new site indexed is to promote it, legitimately. Get it publicity and get it basic links and the search engines will find you. And once they do, the promotional efforts you’ve employed will actually help you rank as well. The exception to this rule, in my opinion, is if you have a large or “complicated” site and want to submit an XML Sitemap to Google through its Webmaster Tools section. However, don’t confuse this with search engine submission services submitting your site to “thirty engines” snake oil.

#3: Using the ‘nofollow’ tag on internal links helps you direct internal Pagerank

The nofollow attribute was originally created under the claim that it was a joint effort by the leading search engines of the day (in 2005) to help fight blog spam. The theory was that if easily spammable platforms like blogs employed the use of the nofollow tag, the value of the link to the spammer would be worthless. If blog spamming no longer worked as a “ranking technique” as a result, then the incentive to do it would be removed and spammers would attempt to move onto the next target.

Since then, the tag has “evolved” to be used to not transfer credit to paid links (a practice Google has been “at war” with for a long time) and for a short time, was a way to direct (or sculpt) internal Pagerank to the pages you thought were most important on your website. Even Google’s own Matt Cutts answered that the technique was “allowed” (though stressed they didn’t see the point in putting a lot of effort towards it) during a SMX panel we both spoke on in 2008.

However, it wasn’t long before industrious SEOs found ways to abuse sculpting forcing Google to change how they treated the tag on internal links and thus killing the ability to sculpt internal Pagerank with the nofollow tag.

#2: Toolbar Pagerank matters

First, let’s acknowledge that long gone are the days when Google’s algorithm was based primarily on Pagerank. Second, I’d like to be clear that there is a difference between the real, internal Pagerank of a website that Google uses as a part of its algorithm and the green pixels you’re shown in the Google Toolbar (referred to as TBPR – Toolbar Pagerank.)

Way back in the day, the higher your TBPR was, the more valuable Google considered your site and the more your outbound links were worth. So, webmasters who knew this decided to only target links from sites that had a TBPR of 4 or more. While the original “truth” behind that method has long since become fiction, it unfortunately is still a “strategy” employed or suggested by some people who call themselves SEOs. Currently, Toolbar Pagerank seems to have no direct correlation to higher rankings or higher link value, though it is suspected to have some correlation to higher indexing rates. Matt Cutts has been quoted stating that he himself would like to see Toolbar Pagerank go away (I suspect as he may realize it’s mere existence prolongs the death of the TBPR related SEO “strategies.” )

#1: Google hates affiliate websites

Google doesn’t hate affiliate websites. Google hates crap affiliate websites. If the affiliate site is thin or contains the same duplicated information as a thousand other websites that are affiliates of a merchant (think affiliate datafeed sites) with no differentiation to it, then yes, Google is likely looking for your “type” of sites to suffer in upcoming search engine updates. But if you can find a way to create a value add and make your affiliate website into an affiliate brand and promote it via legitimate methods within the Google guidelines, then you’re not a specific target and you likely don’t need to fear every update. If you’re in the former category, learn how to survive the affiliate evolution and make defensible websites Google not only doesn’t hate but ones they actually want to rank.

About the Author

Rae Hoffman-Dolan aka “Sugarrae” is an affiliate marketing veteran and provides (extremely) occasional SEO consulting services specializing in SEO audits and link building techniques. In addition to being the SVP of Marketing for Speedy Incorporation Service, she is also the author of the often controversial Sugarrae blog. You can connect with Rae via Twitter or via Facebook.

Comments

  1. says

    This is what I call a useful piece of material. I, for one, am extremely frustrated with the amount of information that purports to give you the “secrets” of SEO but without any real proof of what works and what does not.

  2. says

    Hey Sugarrae, yes I so agree. All 5 of these come up over and over. I especially like “#1: Google hates affiliate websites”. I hear this one the most. ;)

  3. says

    I agree with the “Google hates affiliate websites” myth. I think they are a major contributor to the Google experience. Sans the crappy ones of course. I am sure they account for millions of dollars in adsense revenue for Google. Just play by their rules and they will let you roam in their yard.

  4. says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    The more I’ve been reading on the subject of SEO, the more I really DO bang my head against the wall. I even had a cry today. Whether from the bruised head or frustration, I’m not sure.

    Kudos to the smart, honest people who aren’t afraid to tell us like it is. I may even survive this journey of hard work and tribulations.

    Karen

  5. says

    I feel good because I got all of those correct! lol Of course, I’ve always thought page rank was a pile of stuff, and since it seems they’re no longer updating anything I feel kind of vindicated by it all.

  6. says

    Yes I dislike the same mantra constantly spouted by people about google hating affiliates. Google makes a lot of money from affiliate websites with adwords.

  7. says

    Thanks Ros,

    This post clears up a lot of bits and pieces that I always read about. Until now I was never totally sure of the truth.

    • says

      GOOD backlinks are the critical element of all SEO. “Bad” backlinks are the least effective. Popular and relevant links give you the best results for ranking and traffic as well.

  8. says

    Good Article. It is so good to have people help us little guys so we focus our efforts on profitable strategies, Thanks

  9. says

    Thank you for speaking truth. Meta-keywords have been a pet peeve for me since time began. So many people think they are important. And Page Rank? Let’s not go there. I have a friend who runs a toy store who has better Google page rank than her competitors and has had for some time because she has lot’s of great content. Still, her store, despite it’s age and quality and great page rank, is not #1. Anyway, it is great to have this page to let people see from another source that these things are true, true, true. All the best.

  10. says

    Thank you , thank you for the clarification. I get visitors and sales on one of my sites, yet was actually wondering why since all of the products are affiliate products from different programs and someone had told me the big lie that it will never work because Google doesn’t like affiliate sites. With a wee bit of SEO when building the site and as I add merchandise and pages, it is slowly increasing with age and added product. I don’t have the time to do any more than once a month, but at least I am being found and making sales!

  11. Bernie D says

    Hi Ros,
    I’ve been following you since 2004 = Super Affiliate Handbook, Your YouTube Vids and Your News Letters. THANKS for The Great Info.
    Regarding SEO have you Reviewed Dr. Andy Williams Software ‘Web Content Studio’ ? He uses Latent Semantic Indexing, or LSI. to Create Top Ranking Article Content. Were you able to come across his material?
    THANKS Again.
    BLD

  12. says

    If Google hates affiliate sites they certainly wouldn’t have their own affiliate network!

    I am still new to aff. marketing and haven’t explored this meta-stuff, yet. This makes me feel like I don’t need to worry about it.

    So, back to content … content …. content …, help people … help people … help people …

    Thanks for more peace of mind, Ros!

    Cheers : )

  13. says

    Nice article and well written. Some good info here.
    Although, I do believe that Google’s manual reviewers seriously need to lay off the alcohol while they work because some good sites have lost traffic and rankings for no good reason. The only reason I can think of is a manual reviewer was having a really bad day and was hitting the big red “See Ya Later” button every 2 seconds..lol

  14. says

    Some good points. I think the bottom line is SEO has to be kept basic. Good regular fresh content, high traffic links, and a wide variety of the types of links.

    Keeping things simple without trying to work out what Google are doing has to be the way ahead

  15. says

    excellent info Ros, and I have to admit, I was still thinking of a couple of those were worth focusing on.

    Thanks for the eduction as always. :)

    steve

  16. says

    When I first started out I signed up for every newsletter, bought many launches and found out pretty quickly that only good content on your web site and quality backlinks matter at all.

    Thanks for confirming what we all need to know.

  17. says

    Great article! I always thought that google hates affiliate websites…actually I still do. But, now when hearing from you that it is just a myth, I am starting to doubt a little bit. Thank you once more.

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