What are some myths about SEO?


Today's question comes from Ryan in Michigan. Ryan asks, what are some of the biggest SEO myths you still see being repeated, either at conferences or in blogs, et cetera? That's a fun question, because there are a lot of SEO myths. So one of the biggest that we always hear is, if you buy ads, you'll rank higher on Google. And then there's an opposing conspiracy theory, which is, if you don't buy ads, you'll rank better on Google. And we sort of feel like we should get those two conspiracy camps together, and let them fight it all out. And then whoever emerges from one room-- we can just debunk that one conspiracy theory. There's a related conspiracy theory, or myth, which is, Google makes its changes to try to drive people to buy ads. And having worked in the search-quality group, and working at Google for over 13 years, I can say, here's the mental model you need to understand why Google does what it does in the search results. We want to return really good search results to users, so that they're happy, so that they'll keep coming back. That's basically it. Happy users are loyal users, right? And so if we give them a good experience on one search, they'll think about using us the next time they have an information need. And then, along the way, if somebody clicks on ads, that's great, but we're not going to make an algorithmic change to try to drive people to buy ads. If you buy ads, it's not going to algorithmically help your ranking in any way. And likewise, it's not going to hurt your ranking if you buy ads. So those are some of the biggest SEO myths that we continue to see repeated over and over again. The other one is, I would say, just in general, thinking about the various black-hat forums and webmaster discussion boards, never be afraid to think for yourself, right? It's often the case that I'll see people get into kind of a group think, and they decide, aha, now we know that submitting our articles to these article directories is going to be the best way to rank number one. And then six months later, it'll be like, OK, guest blogging. This is totally it. If you're guest blogging, you're going to go up to number one. And then a few months before that-- oh, link wheels! You've got to have link wheels if you're going to rank number one. And it's almost like fads. And if you think about it, if somebody had a foolproof way to make money online, they would probably use that way to make money, rather than packaging it up into an e-book and selling it to people, or patching it up into a tool, and selling that to people. And so the idea that you're going to be able to buy some software package and solve every single problem you've ever had, is probably a little bit of a bad idea. I read an article recently where someone was talking about using some automated software package, and trying to do white-hat SEO with it, which, to me, sounds like buying a gun and trying to use it as a hammer. Just be aware that a lot of these tools, they have the potential to dig yourself into a hole. Just because somebody says they made a lot of money online doesn't mean they really made a lot of money online. If they really made a lot of money online, they'd normally keep doing it, rather than tell you about it. So just approach some of the tools and services and products that you see on the various boards with a little bit of caution. Try to avoid group think. And if you keep the mental model of, what is Google trying to do-- we're trying to return great search results for users-- then that helps you figure out how to align yourself with those goals, because if you're aligned with those goals, then we're going to want return the high-quality pages that you're making. If you're not aligned with those goals-- if you're trying to do fly by night, churn and burn, black hat, spam, stuff that only lasts for a couple of weeks before we catch it-- you're always going to be working in opposition to the algorithms, and you're always going to be working in opposition to regular users and what they want to see. So they're going to be kind of angry when they run across your stuff if they're at all tech-savvy. So that's just a few of the myths that we see over and over and over again. It's kind of interesting how a lot of people just assume Google's thinking about nothing but the money, as far as our search quality. And truthfully, we're just thinking about, how do we make our search results better? And that's served us pretty well for a long time, and I expect us to keep doing that for a long time to come. 

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