Posted by randfish
In this week's Whiteboard Friday, we'll be tackling some SEO myths that might scare you but shouldn't. From keyword density to reciprocal linking, lets set the record straight about some of the myths out there. After watching what are some myths that don't scare you and why? Enjoy your weekend!
Howdy SEOmoz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I want to address some of the myths that form in the SEO world that get people really scared and worried and asking questions in Q&A and on Twitter and on forums going, "Hey, wait a minute. I heard that this is a problem. Is this going to cause something bad with my site?" Let me put these to ease and try to explain each one. We've got ten. Let's get to them.
Number one: I'm worried because I have too many links pointing to my site from one particular domain. Maybe it's a site-wide link. Maybe they just embedded you in their blogroll, and it's linking to you. This isn't a problem unless the links are coming from a highly manipulative source, in which case you'd hope they weren't linking to you anyway. But I wouldn't stress too much about it. I'll get to people pointing bad links to you in a second. If you have 80,000 links pointing to you from one particular site, don't stress. This isn't going to kill your SEO. It's not the end of the world. If there's a good, editorial, natural reason why those links should exist, it's probably going to help you. What it won't do is help you 79,000 times more than if you just had a few pages on there, but it will help. It's not a terrible thing. Don't panic. I would almost never worry about this unless the links are from particularly terrible, spammy pages, in which case you might sort of worry, right? People have been worried particularly with Google's Penguin update that, "Oh, the links that I have might be hurting me." Great. Okay.
If you bought those links and you did it in a manipulative way, you acquired them somehow, fine. Contact those people. Please tell them to take those links down. If other people are just building spammy links to you, do not sweat it.
Sweat earning great editorial links. Great editorial links, a fantastic site, great user experience, tremendously valuable content that people don't want to live without, and building a real brand on the Internet, those things will protect you far better from spammy links than trying to contact webmasters one by one and get them to take down your link profiles. There are cases where you might need to do this if you have done or someone else has done bad linking on your behalf in the past, but these are rare. They're few and far between. I'd worry much, much more about building up a great site.
Number three: My keyword density is too high. I don't know where this concept came from. I know years ago people worried about keyword density as in the percentage of keywords on a particular page that are my target phrase that I'm trying to rank for. That's a good search engine signal, and I should try to make my keyword density 2.78%. No. A) You don't need to worry about that, and (B) you also don't need to worry about too high. There was then this myth that, oh wait, if my keyword is too high a percentage of the content on the page, maybe they won't use it for ranking, but they'll flag it for spam. Years ago Bing did say, "Yes, keyword density, we might look at that as a signal of how we do things." If you're writing content naturally and you've got a great user experience, and it just so happens that you have an e-commerce product page where the title is the name of the product and then the product description contains the title twice, and that's just how it goes and that's natural and it's in the headline, and it happens that, oh no, my keyword density here is 30% or 40%
of the text on the page, don't panic. That's okay. That's a fine thing.
As long as you're doing things naturally, you really never need to worry about keyword density. It's when you're doing manipulative kinds of things and building pages just to rank and stuffing them with keywords, then you might start to get into danger territory. But even then, keyword density is probably not the way to measure it. Measure it by looking at the page and being logical and saying, "Does this look like a great page for users?" If not, "Wait a minute. Is the word on here four times, and I only have ten other words? Oh no." Don't panic.
Number four: Other sites are scraping your site or your blog - your RSS feed is the most common way - and then republishing it elsewhere. Not only should you not panic about this, but I might say you should be a little proud of this. This mean that great, the Internet has discovered you. They've decided your RSS feed is good, useful, and worth copying and reposting. If they're reposting other places, 99% of the time they're also linking back to anything that you link to, including your own site. So having your blog picked up and scraped is just fine. Some of these, yes, they're spammy, manipulative, and junky. Don't worry. Google's not going to hold that against you. It's not your fault. Every site on the Web has this. Literally SEOmoz, I think, is copied by 200 plus different aggregators who all republish our content, maybe more than that. Don't stress. Don't worry about it. What you can do, what you should do, is make sure that those links that you've got are absolute links, so that when they're copied and picked up, they point back to your site. That's a great way to go. But don't panic about this. A lot of these uses are also legitimate.
Number five: What if Google sees my analytics because I'm using Google Analytics, and then they see that my engagement rates are low? I have a high bounce rate, low time on site. Are they going to punish me for low engagement and give me a penalty? No, they are not. Don't panic about this either. Number one, Google has promised that the Google Webspam Team and Search Quality Team do not get data directly from Google Analytics. In the aggregate, they might be using it to inform some things, but they are not looking at your site's analytics and saying, "Oh, let's punish that guy. Let's punish him for having low engagement, low time on site." They might see that people are bouncing off your page and back to the search results and being unhappy and those kinds of things. But if you're delivering a good user experience, if you're delivering a great answer to simple questions, your bounce rate is going to be high, and your engagement and time on site is going to be low because you've answered the user's query very quickly. Think of Q&A sites that are essentially answering dumb, simple questions like: What year Franklin Roosevelt was born? Oh, good, it was this year. Good, I'm out of here I'm done. You're gone. Don't worry about this low engagement, low usage. And don't worry about Google seeing into your analytics. They're not going to penalize you for it.
Number six: If this link is reciprocal, meaning I link to this site and they link back to me, will I get penalized for it? Does it lose its value?
Should I not link to the places that are linking to me? What if the New York Times links to me? I want to share that article with all my readers and say, "Oh, look, the New York Times covered me." But I don't want to make it a reciprocal link. Stop worrying. This is not a big concern. You don't need to worry about reciprocal links from this perspective. Years ago, there was this practice, and it still exists a little bit, where people would create pages and pages of links. They'd all point to their friends who they found on the Web. Their friends would all point back to them, and reciprocal links became a bad word because it was a spammy tactic that the engines had a pretty easy time identifying. But if you're just sharing the stuff that's sharing you, this is a fine thing to do. Don't panic. Don't worry that just because you're linking to something, the link back won't count.
Number seven: I'm linking with non-ideal anchor text. Is this going to hurt me? I have this page and I want to point to it internally or externally with a link, and I wanted it to contain this anchor text, but it's not as user-friendly and I'm worried people won't click through on it, or it seems a little manipulative, or I just can't get my product team to buy into that. It's okay. Don't panic. Don't worry about that either. In fact, there's a lot of suspicion in the SEO space right now that Google is looking at exact match anchor text and saying, "This stuff is not natural. This isn't normal. Why are people linking like this?" If you have an opportunity where it fits well with user experience, fits well with the content, and the anchor text makes sense, great. Fantastic. Take that opportunity. Earn that link. But don't stress if many of your links are pointing with a brand. This is again part of that density myth, where people think, oh, wait a minute. If 100 links point to me but 50 of them don't have my anchor text, then I won't rank for that. This is not a problem. You're going to be just fine. Don't stress.
Number eight: There are links in my footer. I have a footer on my website. I've got links in there. Are those going to negatively affect me? I've heard lots of bad things about footer links. Most of the time, this is not a problem. Again, it goes back to the same thing that we've been talking about throughout this Whiteboard Friday, which is if you're doing it for good user experience. If we take a look at one of my favorite footers, which is on Zappos.com. They have a great footer. It's long, it's lengthy. It almost feels too long, but it has fun stuff in there. It makes me like the company even more. It links to a lot of good things. Great, no problem. However, if you're stuffing tons and tons of links and you've got a footer that, oh here's an exact match anchor text; there's another exact match anchor text; there's another exact match anchor text; and I've got a big old list of them, and it goes all the way down my footer, you start to look like you're manipulating the search results. We've actually seen people who've pulled these or made their footers look more natural and more user-
experience centered, the penalties will actually be lifted. So it looks like Google algorithmically penalizes people for tons of stuffing and bad keywords in the footer. But just because it's in the footer doesn't necessarily mean it's bad. Don't stress just because of this word footer and footer links.
Number nine: Will URLs without keywords prevent me from ranking well? I don't know where this myth came from, but there's like this world of, "Oh, look, it's /123 or /?ide=7 instead of /keyword which I wanted to rank for."
This is not a tremendous problem. Certainly if you can get to the point where your URLs are keyword friendly and they're static, that's good. That's best practices. You want to make it so that when someone reads your URLs offline or sees them in an email or a tweet, they go, "Oh, I bet I can guess at exactly what's on that page," and that's a wonderful thing. Yes, when people copy and paste those URLs, the keywords will be in there. That's nice. But this is not going to prevent you from ranking. You see tons of pages that rank very well that do this. I would not stress about this. I wouldn't necessarily jump through tons of hoops to have all your URLs rewritten. It can be a big engineering effort. Sometimes it pays off. When you're doing a site redesign anyway, go for it. But I wouldn't make that the centerpiece of your SEO campaign. Oftentimes, this is not going to move the needle as much as you think it will.
Number ten, our last one: What about link bait? I'm worried about link bait and content marketing efforts and building this great content stuff, having a blog, having infographics, and having these cool videos, because they're not my product pages or sales pages. Won't Google eventually penalize for this because they don't want to see people just engaging in producing great content and earning links to their site? No. Google and Bing have both stated very specifically that they love this practice of content marketing, of doing great stuff on the Internet, even if it's only partially or semi-relevant to your particular niche or industry or customers. This is like saying, "Hey, I have a business that hosts a bunch of events. I have a business that donates to charity. I have a business that is one of the best employers in the state." It is interesting and does cool stuff outside of our pure product and sales process. That is a good thing. That is a great way to earn branding and awareness and attention. It's a great way to do well in social media and earn a following there. It's a great way to have content that's spread throughout the Web. It will help with SEO because of the rising tide phenomenon, which is essentially your site is this ship sailing on the ocean, and as the tide rises from all the links that are pointing into you, essentially your domain's link juice rises and authority rises, all the pages on there will perform slightly better. Google is not going to take away this power and essentially say,
"Oh, you know what? We're only going to count links to the exact page and we're only going to count them exactly this. We don't want this concept of domain authority." They love the concept of domain authority because they love the world of brands and branding. I would not stress that your content marketing and link bait efforts are going to be penalized or devalued. In fact, I would continue to focus on them. And if you can find ways to make the audience overlap well with what the people are actually buying, that's even more fantastic.
I hope you've enjoyed this Whiteboard Friday. I want you to de-stress, stop worrying about some of these myths that I know are popping up all over the place. Stop being scared of words like footer links and footers and URLs without keywords and keyword density. Just because these words are out there, just because they're causing problems for some people who are doing things in a spammy, manipulative way, doesn't mean every SEO needs to stress about them.
All right, everyone, I hope you've enjoyed this Whiteboard Friday. We'll see you again next week. Take care.
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