Google algorithms change hundreds of times a year. Some of these updates are major – big enough to completely rewrite the book on good SEO.
But even with the constant changes, a lot of outdated SEO beliefs stick around for years. Here are 11 common ones I still come across that need to just go away.
This is one of the most outdated SEO beliefs out there today. Before Penguin, more links = better rank, but not anymore.
Google now takes link quality into consideration.
Say you have a bunch of backlinks from irrelevant domains or even spam sites – these can actually hurt your rank.
At the same time, getting even one do follow backlink from The Wall Street Journal could have a positive impact on rank.
So instead of trying to get links from everywhere, invest in targeting the highest quality domains.
SEOs have been arguing about this one for years. And Google has categorically stated that social media signals are not rank factors, but that’s not the point.
Study after study has shown strong relationships between social media and search rank. Like this one from Search Metrics.
Whether that’s happening directly as the result of Google algorithms or indirectly shouldn’t matter for SEOs.
A fact is a fact. If you want better SEO, a strong social media presence is a way to do it.
Keyword stuffing is bad for user experience – someone searches Google, clicks on your link, and comes to a page so full of keywords it’s almost gibberish.
Google pays attention to this and will lower your page rank accordingly.
So instead, focus on creating content that’s easy to read and valuable for your audience. Keywords should be an afterthought.
High search rank isn’t all it takes to get people to your site. Searchers actually have to click.
If your headline or meta description isn’t doing a good job of catching people’s attention, you might not get much traffic.
You could also be optimizing for low-traffic keywords, or for the wrong keywords entirely.
So don’t focus on getting rank for rank’s sake. Instead, I recommend you target keywords with a healthy search volume and make sure your page is attractive to people in search.
It’s an old belief that the more pages your site has, the more traffic it will get from search.
Sure, you’ll have way more indexed pages, but that does nothing to improve your domain’s authority overall.
And the vast majority of indexed pages never get any traffic from search.
Why? Because 92% of searchers never make it past the first page of search results.
Instead of focusing on creating more pages, make sure the ones you already have follow search best practices.
Google uses anchor text to determine what a page is relevant to. Because of this, many SEOs optimize all their anchor text for specific keywords in an attempt to manipulate rank.
This is a bad idea.
Google wants anchor text to be relevant to the content, not relevant to your SEO goals. As a result, if they see you’re using the same anchor text over and over, they can hand you a manual action or an algorithmic penalty.
That doesn’t mean you should never use a keyword in your anchor text. Just make sure your site (and your guest posts around the web) have a healthy distribution of different relevant phrases.
Syndication is good for content marketing, but it can actually hurt your SEO.
Google doesn’t like duplicate content across the web, so having some could hurt your rank. If Google decides you or the site hosting your syndicated content are using duplicate content to manipulate rank, they may penalize you.
As an added problem, the syndicated version could end up with better rank than the original.
Content isn’t king; at least not quite. Quality content is king.
A lot of webmasters (especially bloggers) create content for search engines that covers a topic, but not well enough. It doesn’t offer any real value or insight – as Google terms it, it’s “thin content.”
Don’t rely on spinning or rewriting other content from around the web. Focus on creating something unique and quality on your own.
Meta descriptions aren’t for search engines; they’re for people.
Google offers them as context for searchers, so they know what your page is about.
So don’t worry about filling them with keywords. Instead, focus on creating a description that intrigues readers and encourages them to click.
Some people get confused about this one. Directory listings are important for local SEO – Google compares your name, address, and phone number (NAP) in listings across the web to determine your business’s rank in local search.
But getting listed in every directory out there just to get links is a bad idea.
Google can tell if a directory is quality by looking at the kind of businesses they list. If they list anything and everything, then it’s probably a low-quality directory – and Google will consider your link to be low-quality, as well.
Link networks are groups of sites that agree to link to each other to manipulate rank. These schemes are against Webmaster Guidelines, but they used to work pretty well for link builders.
Now, Google is on the lookout for unnatural linking strategies with their algorithms and manual action penalties. If you and another site have an unnatural number of links pointed at each other’s pages, you could be in for a penalty.
Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content, and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands, including Salesforce, Coca-Cola, Target and others, to build their online presence. See more from Aaron at Louder Online, his blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.