For too many website owners, optimizing for search engines is still a mysterious process undertaken by experts who enjoy throwing around strange phrases like “inbound links” or “keyword density.”
Because few people master the process of optimization, a few SEO-related myths frequently pop up in discussions on that particular topic. The following are five of the most common ones.
1) Optimizing a website for SEO is expensive
Hiring the services of one or several SEO experts to overhaul your website and take it to the top of the Google search results can indeed cost you some money. It does not, however, necessarily mean you will be hit with a massive bill for that service.
Typically, SEO agencies or freelance SEO experts offer multiple levels of service, from a quick, inexpensive tune-up to a complete overhaul of your website. By giving you a choice between different options, SEO experts let you choose the one that most closely suits your needs and your budget.
2) You can learn SEO from a book
Brick-and-mortar and virtual bookshop shelves are full of books that promise to teach their readers how to optimize their websites. While such books can indeed teach you the basics of SEO, they lack a crucial component: up-to-date information about search engine algorithms.
Every day, Google publishes changes to the algorithm that ranks websites and delivers search results to users. Also, every year, the company releases a couple of larger updates, such as Panda or Penguin, which can drastically alter the ranking of websites.
Because of the ever-changing nature of these algorithms, the information you may find in a freshly released book is obsolete by the time you read it. SEO experts, on the other hand, constantly keep track of the changes made by Google and adapt their methods accordingly. That will ensure their customers’ websites continue to reach the top of the search results for relevant keywords and do not get penalized by the search engines.
3) SEO is spam
Some people sometimes associate search engine optimization with spam or other unsavory practices. The confusion comes from not understanding the two main types of SEO: black hat and white hat.
People who use black-hat techniques to optimize their site are typically looking to make a quick buck, even if it means breaking the rules. They do not care if their site gets banned from Google after a few months, as long as they can attract a lot of visitors and make money before search engines notice their attempts to game the system. Typically, no serious SEO agency or expert engages in black-hat SEO, as it can jeopardize the future of their clients’ websites. Instead, they rely on white-hat SEO techniques.
White-hat SEO experts work strictly within the rules and guidelines published by major search engines. In addition to helping your website reach the top of the search results page for relevant keywords or phrases, those experts also ensure that your website is fully compliant with Google’s rules, thereby eliminating the risk of a penalty or ban.
4) A good SEO expert can get my website to No. 1 for a single keyword
The bad news is, no, your site will never get the No. 1 slot on the search results page for common, one-word keywords, such as “car” or “travel.”
The good news is that you do not want your website to rank for such broad keywords anyway. For example, if you own a burger joint in San Diego, getting to the top of the results page when someone types “burger” would bring you a lot of traffic, but most of your visitors probably would not be looking for a restaurant in Southern California. Instead, they may be looking for a burger recipe, the history of hamburgers throughout the ages, or reviews for a burger restaurant in Sydney, Australia.
On the other hand, using a more specific set of keywords, such as “burger San Diego,” would bring you less traffic, but the people who do end up on your website are more likely to be potential customers looking for a tasty burger in San Diego.
5) PageRank still matters
Back in the 2000s, Google used to assign two scores to each website: a private and a public PageRank. While the search engine never disclosed the individual score assigned to the sites, the public PageRank (expressed as a number between 0 and 10) allowed users to know how trustworthy Google viewed a particular website. For many website owners, increasing their PageRank (and in the process, their site’s rankings in search results) was their top priority.
Although Google stopped updating public PageRank scores in 2013, many websites today still advertise PageRank checks or boosting services. It is also not uncommon to see sites listed for sale, with a high PageRank listed as their main feature. While Google still relies in part on its private scores, the public values are now outdated and of no use to website owners.
These are the five most common myths about search engine optimization, but you’ll find much more on internet forums and comment sections. If you have a question about a particular SEO-related topic, go straight to the source and ask an SEO expert.