SEO. Just the mention of it will flood your Twitter stream with spam replies and start the “gurus” knocking at your inbox door. But really, SEO isn’t as big of a mystery as many would make it out to be. Oh sure, there are some hard and fast rules when it comes to the good versus the bad, but many of the important parts about SEO can simply be followed by writing good content.
Chances are that you’ve seen a rumor or two or fifty floating around about the different things that you should or shouldn’t do all in the name of SEO. While I don’t claim to be an expert there are quite a few things that get mentioned to me on a regular basis by people starting their websites so I thought I’d pass those on to you here.
SEO Is Done Once
Let’s start by killing this myth right off the bat. SEO is a constant process, driven primarily by how you choose to write your content. While there are a few “set and forget” items that count toward your overall search ranking, much of what needs to happen will come into play with every single item that you post to your website.
Keyword Density Matters
Want to see your site disappear from Google search results? Just stuff a bunch of useless keywords into everything you post. While it used to be true that having repetitive keywords (nearly to the point of making something unreadable) would help you to appear higher in search rank, that’s been fixed ages ago.
Today, with Google’s Panda algorithm, it’s not only fixing the problem it’s also penalizing the people who are still causing it. Instead of only searching for keyword stuffing, Panda is also analyzing quality and “trustworthiness” of a site. So, stuff all you want and watch your competitors fly past you.
Content Is King
OK, so content does matter. It matters a lot, actually. If you have great content, people will read what you’re writing. That’s important. But it’s not the only thing that matters. You can’t have a site that’s completely SEO-free and hope to get by on content alone. It’s a fine balance and one that many people screw up to the point of being relegated to obscurity.
Trade Links to Gain Rank
Find a site that you want to link to because you find them valuable? That’s great! Go ahead! Listing a huge amount of links that are completely unrelated to your content, just to get backlinks from them? That’s stupid. Please stop. Remember that section about keyword density and being trustworthy? That applies here, too. If you’re starting a site that will focus on water filters but you’re being linked to by a bunch of sites that talk only about medical marijuana, that’s not going to get you anywhere.
H1′s Are Your Friend
No. Just no. We use H3′s around here at TNW pretty often, but we don’t do it for SEO purposes, we do it because it makes things easier to read. When you’re looking at a big wall of text on a screen it’s really easy to get lost. Visual elements such as images, Hx breaks and the like make it significantly easier to find your place again after you blink. Again, it’s not about SEO, it’s about providing content and making that content easy to digest.
PPC Ads Kill Your Ranking
Nope. Not even close. In fact, as detailed at Search Engine Land, there are almost as many people who believe that they can help you as those who believe that they hurt you. Now, if the ads that you’re running contain code that is seen as bad, that could cause a problem. Even then, search crawlers are likely to notice that the content didn’t come from your site and you won’t be penalized for them.
Flash Kills Your SEO
This is a yes and no problem. If you run your entire site (including navigation) in Flash then yes there is a chance that it will hurt your ranking. If you want to include a Flash element or two on the page then that’s not going to hurt matters (unless an iPad user tries to browse it). What’s not advisable, however, is including your textual content via Flash. Doing so will make your content unavailable to many users who do not or can not run Flash and it doesn’t tend to make the crawlers very happy either.
So there you have it. These aren’t the only 7 myths around, that’s for certain. What’s less certain though is how these things will change as time goes on. The short version of the story? Just write good content, follow the basics and don’t worry about writing for the search engines. If enough people are reading your content, the search engines are going to find you unless you do things to run them away.