Maybe you are familiar with the concept of urban legends, plausible but untrue stories that are perpetuated by people who blindly accept and share this misinformation when they read it online. In the old (pre-Internet) days, these were often referred to as “Old Wives’ Tales”, and included nonsense such as how it takes swallowed chewing gum seven years to pass through a person’s digestive system or how you will drown if you go swimming less than an hour after eating. Some of these tales still persist, although most of us have smartened up to the newer wave of wealthy Nigerian widows wanting to share their fortunes and the alleged family members stuck in an airport with an urgent need for a loan.
When it comes to websites and what it takes to attain top search engine rankings, the myths seem to be never-ending, and new scams surface (and older scams resurface) on a regular basis. The fact is that quality content, well-written text, and incoming links are all important factors when the Google or Bing search engine robots are evaluating your website, but the following bits of frequently espoused advice are purely fiction.
1) Companies can provide top search engine placement. Those telemarketing calls that we all receive, with a pre-recorded message about your website’s poor search engine placement and how the caller’s company can remedy the situation, are sheer rip-offs. First of all, you are only being called because you have a business telephone number that is on a telemarketing list. The caller has not looked at your website and does not even know if you even have a website. They DO know that you probably have money in your bank account. Most of these callers imply that they are affiliated with Google, but they have no connection whatsoever.
2) Hyphenated domain names are better for SEO. In reality, long domain names and hyphenated domain names should be your last choice, and they have no impact upon SEO. Which example makes more sense – SpaceCenterCamping.com or The-best-campground-near-the-Johnson-Space-Center.com?
3) The .com extension is ranked higher by search engines. Not true; however, the .com version of a domain name should always be your first choice because many people subconsciously think of .com when they think of domain names. If your domain name is WonderlandCamping.biz, it will be ranked just as highly as WonderlandCamping.com would be by search engines, but many users might inadvertently type in the domain name with the .com extension, usually bringing them to the website of another business (which beat you to the .com), making the .biz extension less desirable.
4) An older domain name is more valuable than a newer domain name. An older domain name with a high existing search engine ranking is better than a new domain (which spends time in what is referred to as the “Google sandbox” before it gains traction), but there are also older domains that – due to their former content – have actually been delisted by search engines. Typically, the people making this argument are ones who have a domain name that they are trying to sell. The point is that the age of the domain name, in itself, has nothing to do with search engine ranking.
5) If you register your domain name for the maximum 10 years, it shows the search engines that you have a serious business, so they will rank your website more highly. I actually sat on a roundtable a few years ago where one of my competitors made this outrageously incorrect statement. The fact is that this myth was intentionally started by GoDaddy, in an attempt to get people locked into their service for a longer period of time. It has zero effect on search engine ranking.
6) Buying sponsored search advertising will influence and improve your organic search engine ranking. This is patently untrue. One has nothing to do with the other, although significant increases in the amount of traffic to, from, and within your site could be a contributing factor in a search engine’s ranking algorithms.
7) Link exchanges and reciprocal links will improve your search engine ranking. This is also usually untrue, unless the other businesses have something in common with your business, such as serving the same niche of customers. If you own a shoe store, and your website has a page of links to the websites of the major airlines, this is going to do nothing to enhance your search engine ranking.
8) Load time is no longer important because most people have high-speed Internet access. Actually, load time is still important. Faster loading pages have lower bounce rates (representing the numbers of people who reach a site but leave almost immediately) and their rankings will be higher. This does not suggest that a page should be all text and no graphics, since that type of content is unlikely to persuade visitors to follow the intended call to action.
All in all, it helps to exercise a bit of common sense before concluding that anything and everything that you read online is reliable and true. Even if something sounds plausible, get a second opinion. Either ask somebody whose knowledge you trust, or do a Google search for the claim to see if there are either differences of opinion or a downright disproval.
This post was written by Peter Pelland