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Top 10 Search Engine Optimization Myths

Myths include: SEO is for cheaters, too much regard for page rank and the paying-for-directories conundrum.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a funny topic. Other than a select few people who work for search engine companies, few have a true yes or no answer. The search engine companies hold their cards close to their chests, and webmasters look at results of their campaigns to see which techniques worked with the search engines and which didn't work. From this guessing, combined with constant algorithm readjustments by search engines, many myths have arisen over time, 10 of which we will cover in this article.

1) SEO is for Cheaters

[login] Many people do not think this way, but I am constantly surprised at how many people still believe this statement. Ten years ago, search engines were not nearly as smart as they are today, and many people found relatively easy ways to trick the search engines. That has forced the search engines to become smarter. The spammers responded with more resourceful techniques, the search engines got smarter in response, and so this loop continues. Unfortunately, that creates a misleading situation that puts the spotlight on the spammers, and not the people who are trying to create great content and bring attention to that content.

Due to the evolution of the search engines, fundamentals are becoming increasingly important. For most search engine optimizers, SEO now means creating superb content or products, and applying correct, well-advised and ethical techniques so that the right audiences can find the content which is right for them. Due to the quality of search engine spam detection, the search engine optimization professionals have been forced into actually playing a large role in creating a better web.

2) Page Rank

Page rank is a scale of 0-10 that Google attributes to a site. Zero is for new or spam sites, and the higher numbers are given to trusted authority sites. The page rank scale can be seen by adding the Google toolbar for Firefox. It comes with the little green bar which shows page rank for sites. People have been obsessing about page rank for years, but true search engine professionals often claim to not even bother to look at page rank. It is a largely misleading factor that was important once, but currently people are skeptical about how much the green bar can be relied on. When checking a site's strength, it is probably OK to use page rank as one of the factors in measuring quality, but generally checking quality/quantity of back links (sites that link to the examined site) is a better barometer of how highly that site might be regarded by search engines.

3) No-Follow Links

People obsess about no-follow links. For those who are not familiar with this concept, some time ago Google introduced a link format like this:

<a href="someUrl.html" rel="nofollow">Text User Sees</a>

This means that if Google crawler came across this link, it wouldn't transfer the strength of the link to the site which is being linked to. This created quite a stir in the webmaster community. People suddenly disregarded regular links and only wanted yes-follow links. People who were linking out began putting the no-follow tag into their outbound links in the hope that it will help them preserve their site's strength. Not wanting no-follow links is a terrible mistake. First of all, other search engines like bing.com and ask.com claim to disregard the no-follow tag. Second, it is widely understood in the SEO community that even Google pays attention to the no-follow links.

My own practice has confirmed that belief. Additionally, if Google looks at the people linking to your site and all the links are yes-follow links, that just looks suspicious and you may even run the risk of being penalized. A natural looking set of links contains some no-follow and some regular links.

4) Linking Out

Many people resist linking out due to a belief that it will cause them to leak "link juice." Link juice is a way to discuss the strength of a link. People think that they should link to pages that are within the site, thus making the internal pages stronger, rather than linking out to external sites and giving them link strength. But no man or website is an island, and it looks somewhat unusual to a search engine if it comes to a site which has absolutely no outbound links. What webmasters should do is link to trusted authority sites in their topic theme. That will send a trust signal to search engines. Intelligently linking out will help your site look more natural and trustworthy in the eyes of a search engine.

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