The ironic thing about the education side of SEO is that most of those who are making a lot of money from the field with their own websites, ranking under competitive terms such as “buy viagra” and “credit card application”, rarely have time to become SEO authorities. On the other hand, those who can’t rank under anything worthwhile are the ones who take the social and educational aspects of SEO far too seriously, and after a few years often times themselves become SEO authorities which other people refer to.
You see, to become an SEO authority, you don’t actually need to know much about SEO. You just have to be good at giving the appearance that you know a lot. Since search engine optimization isn’t an exact science, and is constantly changing, most of what is recommended or stated as fact is actually unverified. SEO isn’t chemistry where two elements are guaranteed to react in a certain way. There are so many variables that any charismatic, influential person is capable of swaying peoples minds. Once a little authority is established, along with a mailing list, being a “charlatan SEO” (as I think of most SEO authorities) is surprisingly profitable, especially for those people who don’t really know much about SEO.
There is of course a huge market of webmasters after answers, answers that cannot be provided without scientific studies. So, who’s going to fill in the gap and provide these answers? Of course, businessmen. If you haven’t realized that and you think every famous SEO blog you read is accurate, then it’s time to wake up. One way you can realize whether you’re under an illusion about SEO or not is to ask yourself “what is the most profitable keyword term to rank under?” If your answer doesn’t involve an immoral keyword, then chances are you’re asleep. If it does, then look at how websites under that keyword rank, and you’ll begin to see the lies that you’ve been fed.
One common thing that the charlatan SEO will do is find something that real SEOs are doing, and then say that it’s ineffective because it’s not easily understood. They will in turn call these things “SEO myths”. Whilst the majority of SEO is in fact myth, some parts of it are claimed to be “pure myth” when they aren’t (for the reason stated). In this post I want to cover three of the most famous of these so called “SEO myths”, and explain why they in fact aren’t myths at all.
Doesn’t it annoy you when someone comes around and tells you that “the Google toolbar PageRank means nothing”? You know these people don’t really know what they’re talking about, and that they acquired their belief from some “SEO authority” or are instead playing on words. Meanwhile after a toolbar PageRank update they’ll hurriedly fetch data on the latest high Page Rank sites to acquire backlinks from. Or, if they don’t do that, then they’re one of the garden variety of SEOs that ranks their websites under non-competitive keyword terms and don’t even realize they live in a world of illusion, filled with what I like to call “SEO placebo effects”. What’s worse, these people are the ones who commonly sell their “SEO knowledge” to third party companies, and make the majority of their income ranking websites under obscure, overvalued terms as consultants.
Of course, any SEO that studies Google’s algorithms is aware, and how patronizing that one must say it, that the PageRank displayed within the Google toolbar is not current and up to date, and not a true reflection of a page’s actual PageRank. But we already know that. Toolbar PageRank is nevertheless the most prominent key factor that we can use to determine the value of a backlink from a page. Not one of the key factors, but the most prominent one, despite what misleading blog posts may tell you. Of course, as time elapses from a toolbar PageRank update the accuracy of the PageRank displayed becomes less certain. Nevertheless, it’s still the most important value we have on how Google is perceiving a certain page’s worth.
Google will tell people not to focus on PageRank, that it’s not that important. This may be true for your own websites, however when acquiring inbound links from other websites, the higher the PageRank and less outbound links on the page, the more value that will be passed. This simple observation holds true, despite whatever Google or anyone else may tell you. We can prove this from simple empirical observation from the ranking of our own websites. Sure, this may change in the future, but as of the time of this post (June 2011), and since 2004, PageRank has been the most important factor for determining the worth of an incoming link. Notice nowhere I said PageRank for your own website is the most important ranking factor? So don’t put words into my mouth either or misunderstand what I said. I said, when acquiring external links, PageRank is the most important identifying factor, along with outbound and internal link count, when determining the link’s value.
People somehow thing that by being nice, polite, and agreeing with everything that Google says that Google will in turn never penalize their website, and will pass them on a manual review. Talk about self interest. Thankfully Google is, for the most part, against censorship. If Google were to penalize your website because you disagreed with something they said, or because you teach some black hat ranking methodologies, then this would be censorship. If you had enough verifiable evidence of such a thing, you no doubt could blog about it and receive huge publicity. As far as I’m aware however, Google is quite fair when it comes to websites discussing methods they don’t agree with, or don’t approve of.
One thing that many people espouse is how paid links will penalize your website. Now, this is either due to people being fearful of Google spying on them if they say something naughty, or because they genuinely don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s usually a good mixture of both.
There is one short sentence that needs to be understood by every SEO, but that won’t be. And that short sentence is this: Devaluation is not the same as penalization.
What is the difference between link devaluation and penalization?
Link devaluation is when Google’s algorithms, or a Google employee conducting a manual review of your website, detects an incoming link to not be worthy of passing any ranking value through to your website. This may be the case if the backlink is spammy, is recognized as a paid link, is unauthorized, or isn’t deserving of passing the value to your website that it should be. What is the effect of Google doing this? Well, as you may guess, the effect is that the link becomes devalued. Does this mean that your website is penalized? No it doesn’t. It just means that the link doesn’t pass any value.
On the other hand, penalization is when Google actively penalizes your website for breaching its webmaster guidelines. Penalties issued by Google are almost always due to on-page SEO foul play and result from things such as the use of hidden text or links, the setting up of cloaks or hidden redirects, and other bad ideas, including the selling of paid links (remember buying and selling are two different economic actions).
The differences between an incoming link devaluation and a site penalization are vast, as you can see. On one hand Google is simply devaluing an incoming link, on the other they’re actually penalizing your website. Now, if you had lots of spammy, bad quality incoming links, why wouldn’t Google penalize you? Quite simply because (and I’m sure you’ve heard this before) – there’s no way to know whether it was you who made the incoming links or someone else.
If Google did penalize your website in any way whatsoever, due to any type of bad incoming links you had (regardless of whether they were paid links or from bad neighborhoods), then the penalization could be scientifically studied and replicated on your competitors. SEO would become a huge game of deranking your competitors once you reached the top 10 results. Fortunately it doesn’t work like that, and that is the reason why Google doesn’t penalize you for paid links. Yes, that’s right – because they have no way of knowing that you bought the links.
What’s funny is how the charlatan SEOs (as usual, the big name ones) are using this recent example of J C Penney supposedly being penalized for using paid links. In fact, they weren’t penalized at all. All that happened was that the incoming paid links were devalued. Since there’s no way to prove that J C Penney actually bought the links, the most that Google can do is devalue the links.
This had the illusion of a penalization because J C Penney dropped in all of their rankings. However, the exact same effect is noticed from the devaluation of incoming links. What really puts the icing on the cake to prove this point is that the Alexa traffic data before J C Penney conducted its paid link campaign is the same as it is now. In other words, the exact thing you’d expect to see from link devaluation, not website penalization.
Of course Google won’t tell you that they’ve simply devalued the incoming links from any website. They’re quite happy to enjoy people believing that if they do anything bad through off-site SEO, Google will catch them. This however should not confuse you from the reality of the situation, which is that J C Penney simply received a devaluation of incoming paid links, not a website penalization. Remember the prior point mentioned – if a website is penalized for buying paid links, then you can use this strategy against your competitors. Fortunately, since this isn’t what happens, no such strategy exists.
This is just flat out a fabrication and widely circulated myth that 30 seconds of original research can dispel. The noarchive tag was designed as a means of preventing search engines from caching a copy of a crawled page’s content. This has no relation to the noindex tag. Search engines crawl pages with this tag just as much as a page without the tag. The tag doesn’t devalue or disregard outgoing links at all. Its sole function is so that search engines don’t store a cache of the page’s content. It doesn’t mean that search engines don’t crawl and pass PageRank and ranking value on to the external links.
There’s really nothing more to be said about this one.
Notice how the above three myths all have one thing in common? They’re designed to scare you. Where do you think they came from? From people trying to scare you and create link bait.
If you found that you were certain that something was true, and are now wondering if it is, then what you need to do is something that most people in this industry don’t do: Test what you hear and observe things for yourself. By doing that, you’ll avoid falling prone to newly hyped SEO nonsense which, right now, SEO charlatans continue to create to try and scare you. Don’t become one of their followers and spread misinformation. As a search engine optimization specialist, before you say anything related to your field, you should test it and verify it for yourself, then, and only then, compare the results with others results before comparing your conclusion to currently accepted beliefs. This will ensure you avoid having any wool pulled over your eyes.