Originally published on medium.com
To protect against rankings manipulation, search engines are tight-lipped regarding how exactly they rank websites. It’s no secret that Google and Bing, as well as other search engines, analyze content and backlinks in their ranking algorithms. There are hundreds of ranking factors, however, each of which can influence a website’s search rankings.
The lack of transparency with ranking algorithms often leads webmasters down a surefire path to failure. A webmaster may assume a particular search engine optimization (SEO) process will increase his or her website’s search rankings, only for it to have the opposite effect. To ensure your website’s SEO strategy yields positive results, you should familiarize yourself with these 10 common misconceptions about SEO.
1. Outbound Links Should Be Avoided
Some webmasters are reluctant to use outbound links on their website, believing those links will hurt their website’s search rankings. If you create an outbound link, conventional wisdom may lead you to believe it will pass link juice from your website to the linked website. While outbound links certainly pass link juice, though, they don’t always have a negative impact on search rankings. On the contrary, if you create outbound links to authoritative and relevant websites, they’ll likely increase your website’s search rankings.
2. Automated Link Building Is a Safe and Effective SEO Process
Although there are certain SEO processes that can be automated, link building isn’t one of them. Google explicitly prohibits the use of software, services or digital tools to automatically create backlinks. Automated link building is considered a link scheme, and like all link schemes, Google penalizes websites for it by lowering their search rankings. To stay in Google’s good graces, you must build backlinks manually.
3. Creating More Content Leads to Higher Search Rankings
Your website won’t rank high without plenty of content. With that said, creating more content doesn’t always translate into higher search rankings. If the content is irrelevant, inaccurate or riddled with typos, search engines may respond by lowering your website’s search rankings. Rather than mass-producing low-quality content for your website, focus on creating fewer, higher-quality pieces of content.
4. Only Google Matters for SEO
Accounting for over 90 percent of the global search engine market, Google is by far the world’s most popular search engine. But don’t let that fool you into thinking only Google matters for SEO. Bing, as well as its affiliated search partners like Yahoo and AOL.com, has become increasingly popular among internet users in the United States. Statistics show nearly one-quarter of all U.S. searches are now performed on Bing’s network, compared to just 10 percent in 2009.
5. Competitors Can Lower Your Website’s Search Rankings
Assuming you proactively monitor your website’s backlink portfolio, a competitor can’t hurt your website’s search rankings. If a competitor builds thousands of low-quality backlinks to your website, Google’s algorithm should catch it. John Mueller, webmaster trends analyst for Google Search, addressed this topic in a recent Webmaster Hangout. According to Mueller, Google’s algorithm identifies most instances in which a competitor builds low-quality backlinks to another website. When Google detects low-quality backlinks created by a competitor, it will filter them so that they don’t harm your website’s search rankings.
6. Social Signals Don’t Affect Search Rankings
Social signals can and will affect your website’s search rankings. All other ranking factors aside, a website with thousands of Facebook and Twitter shares will rank higher in the search results than a website with few or no Facebook and Twitter shares. Shares, as well as likes and comments, signal popularity. As search engines discover your website’s increasing popularity, they’ll rank it more favorably in the search results.
7. Nofollow Backlinks Don’t Affect Search Rankings
Don’t assume a backlink is useless just because it’s nofollow. Numerous studies have shown a correlation between the number of high-quality nofollow backlinks websites have and their search rankings. Furthermore, Google’s Danny Sullivan and Gary Illyes revealed in a blog post that Google will soon treat nofollow backlinks as hints. Effective March 1, 2020, Google’s algorithm will begin to look more closely at nofollow backlinks, so don’t discount their SEO value.
8. Creating a Sitemap Isn’t a Waste of Time
Search engines are proficient at identifying newly published web pages, but this doesn’t mean creating a sitemap is a waste of time. A sitemap features the titles and locations of all your website’s pages, allowing search engines to quickly and easily crawl your entire website. And if you’re worried about the time and labor required to create a one, there are free tools available online that will automatically create a sitemap.
9. Search Engines Ignore Heading Tags
While typically used to improve the readability of content, search engines look at heading tags for ranking purposes. The H1 tag, for example, is the main heading tag that typically denotes the title of a web page, whereas the H2 tag is an optional heading tag that’s used to organize and label specific sections of content. When search engines crawl your website, they’ll scan the HTML for these and other heading tags.
10. SEO Is Expensive
An effective SEO strategy costs money, but there are ways to optimize your website without spending a fortune. Rather than partnering with a digital marketing company to promote your business on Facebook, for instance, you can perform your own social media marketing. Setting up social media profiles is a straightforward process that most webmasters can do themselves. You can also build your own backlinks rather than hiring a company or freelancer to build them. Not only will you save your money by building your own backlinks, but you can rest assured knowing that your website’s backlinks comply with search engines’ guidelines.
Since neither Google nor Bing has disclosed the formula used in its ranking algorithm, webmasters are often left guessing which SEO processes work and which ones don’t work. While you can conduct your own experiments by testing different SEO processes, you shouldn’t believe these 10 common SEO misconceptions. Search engines will likely update their ranking algorithms in the future. Currently, though, falling victim to these misconceptions will push down your website’s search rankings.