Copied from my blog, theGoogleCache.com
There is a lot of misinformation out in the world of Search Engine Optimization, especially following the Jagger and BigDaddy updates. My goal here is to separate fact from fiction. The answers are often more gray than black-and-white, but to often they are expressed as one or the other. You are free to disagree with me, but I honestly believe that what I have said is true. Many of these, I believe, are very convenient to SEO industry leaders, who would like you to believe that a successful SEO campaign is Rocket Science and that the Google Algorithm is a black box to which only they have the key. I hope to bring a little transparency back into the game.
1. Reciprocal Linking is Dead
This is perhaps the most frustrating of all the claims. Sites that have used reciprocal linking as their primary or only link-building strategy still maintain high-performing rankings in the SERPs (search engine results page). The real culprit, IMHO, is a devaluing of PR passed by a link based on the number of outbound links on a page or on the site. This algorithm, however, affects all types of link schemes (reciprocal, 3-way, directory submissions, Link Vault), thus making it a much more efficient algo for a Search Engine than trying to compare the outbound/inbound links for every page on the web. If you are banned, however, you are unlikely to pass a reinclusion review if you maintain a reciprocal linking section. Make sure you remove this before requesting a re-review.
2. Meta Tags Dont Matter
First things first, dropping keywords into your meta tags are not going to rocket you to the top of the SERPs. Period. But, it is absolutely foolish not to use them. A clever use of keywords in the description tag can help make the snippet more likely to appear in the search results, thus improving click-through rates. (My trick is using the keyword at the beginning and end of a 1 sentence snippet. #Keyword# resources plus useful information on #Keyword#.) If the search engine is forming the snippet for you because you have no meta description tag, your chances of getting click throughs may be diminished.
3. Im in the Sandbox
The Sandbox is actually a fairly uncommon phenomenon. It is different from the links-aging and general ranking queue that plague most of us. This 6-12 month period is just the time it takes for links pointing to your site to gather enough strength to power your rankings(being indexed across all datacenters, being present through 2 indexes of the same page, etc). The Sandbox, on the other hand, is a unique phenomenon where fairly new sites enjoy high allinanchor, intitle, inurl, etc. rankings but do not show in the top 10, 100 and sometimes 1000 positions in Google. This is likely a mix of links-aging, OOP filters, and other factors working together that cause phenom sites to be lumped together with heavy link-spamming sites.
4. Other People Cant Hurt My Rankings
It is called Googlebowling. And it works. A quite well-known experiment was conducted about a year ago where hundreds of thousands of spam pages were filled with links pointing to a random domain to see if the site could be bowled for an OOP. It did not work. People assumed this meant Googlebowling was not possible. Unfortunately, this is only the entrance of the rabbit hole of Googlebowling. Link-spamming hundreds of thousands of referrer pages, guestbooks, wikis, blogs and trackbacks is a successful method. Using simple XSS methods, as well, you can generate fake doorway pages on competitors sites and report them. There are several methods of Googlebowling that exist and work. They are not easy, fo course, but the do exist.
5. I Have to Buy Links
I truly hate this myth. It has become too commonplace to purchase links through hubs like Text Link Ads and Link Adage. This is an empire that will crumble like any other, simply because Googles employees can shop at the same site you do. Google can crawl through pay-for links just like Link Vault, Gotlinks, LinkMarket or any other and devalue outbound links on these sites in a heartbeat. You may get beneficial results from this in the shortrun - it may even be years till this empire falls - but it is not the only way. Press Releases, Article Syndication, Directories, Recips and 3-ways, Relevant blog commenting and blogging, and a host of other options are available that dont require you renting links.
6. I Need Ethical SEO
This is just marketing speak for Bad SEO. Read my article on Consensual SEO, which is a much more applicable model to Search Engine Optimization Ethics. More importantly, if you did not employ traditional SEO practices to attain rankings, the only sites that would rank are those that could afford to advertise elsewhere (TV, Radio, Newspapers) and, thus, attract natural links. Securing high rankings for a keyword is no different from a television advertisement claiming that a product is the best. Unless the entirity of the marketing world is unethical, you should sleep comfortably at night even if you are engaging in reciprocal link exchanges.
7. Pagerank Doesnt Matter
It has almost become a mantra among SEOs. It is like the password to get into the club, you are cool if you believe Pagerank doesnt matter. Well, it certainly doesnt guarantee rankings - it never did - but it does give a lot of useful hints about a site, especially if there is an exceptionally high PR (7+). It is a valuable, albeit generic, measurement of site link popularity. It can assure you that your site is not banned (Got PR You arent banned), and it certainly is calculated in the value of outbound links (A link from a PR9 page is more valuable than one from a PR2). SEOs - if you disagree, please let me know. I have a lot of PR2 sites that would love to reciprocate with your equally important PR9s.
8. Keyword and Phrase Density Dont Matter
This is simply untrue. Two pages on the same site named a.html and b.html have the keyword blue widgets 2% and 10% respectively with similar on-page SEO (same h1, bold, etc. usage). Which do you think the Search Engine is going to choose rank for blue widgets Now certainly there is more to it than just density. The tags that are used in association with the keywords, the inbound linking, comparison to similar pages, the total number of words / phrases on the page. It is complicated to be sure. It may be 10th or 20th on the list of things-to-do, but it does matter. There is not a black-hat spamdexer out there who doesnt include the targeted keyword several times on their generated pages.
9. Themes are Essential
At least for now, themes are not essential to ranking. You are going to want to steer clear of adult, gambling, and pharmacy for your site on childrens toys, but for the most part Google is not going to disregard a link from a random website unrelated from yours. Why If my customer has a personal site on motorcycles but loves the toy motorcycle he bought his son and links to my site, it would be absolutely terrible for a search engine to devalue it. More importantly, the sheer calculation power and time required to employ LSI across the billions of pages on the web would bring only marginal value. Sites have been ranking off of non-thematic links for years without difficulty and continue to do so. Dont turn away links just because they have nothing to do thematically with your site.
10. Guaranteed Rankings.
At the recent Search Engine Strategies conference in New York, there was only 1 exhibitor with the audacity to claim a guaranteed top 10 position in Google for their clients. of us in the industry secure these rankings on a daily basis, but almost none of us makes this guarantee - it is unfair to involved. There are only a handful of ways to do this. (1) Go after crappy, uncompetetive keywords or (2) Use the fuel of an existing site to build a doorway page that secures a temporary high ranking. Neither of these are suitable for a long-term SEO strategy.
On the contrary, the Guarantee you should get is for the work to be completed. Find out EXACTLY what your SEO Firm plans to do, ask around the industry in chat rooms, etc. if this sounds like a good plan, and then get a Guarantee from the company that they will complete these tasks to your satisfaction. You want a guarantee of services, not of results. If a company makes a rankings guarantee - ask them if you get to choose the keyword, how long till it happens, how long the ranking will last, and what do you get back if it doesnt work. If their answer is written by a lawyer, it is time to find another SEO.
The world of SEO is not black and white. Most of us are grey-hats - the Search Engines all think we are black, and the BlackHatters all think we are White. The only voice that really matters is that of the customers. If you are comfortable with what we are doing to improve your rankings, and satisfied with the results, then we have done our job.