7 SEO Myths Dispelled

Ian Lurie

Time to explode a few more SEO myths. I’ve done it before, in case you want to see this blog’s entire colorful history. Here are a few more things I hear about SEO that are utter bunk:

1: Black Hat SEOs are Unethical

BZZZZZZZZ. You’re out. Black hat SEOs find loopholes in search algorithms and exploit them to move up in the rankings. They do things the search engines definitely don’t like.
black hats are ok
But saying that all black hats are evil implies that the search engines are on the side of good. And that’s not really true. Even if you think they’re cuddly now, Google will still eat you when it grows up.
Black hat SEO tactics are not, in themselves, unethical. And a black hat SEO is only unethical if they fail to tell their clients the implications of their tactics: When the loophole closes, the client could find themselves gone from the rankings.
Fantomaster writes about some of the misconceptions around black hat SEO here.
Some of my best friends are ‘black hats’…

2: White Hat SEOs are On The Side Of Good

Untrue. In the last few years I’ve seen more clients screwed by ‘white hat’ SEOs who either

  • Don’t know what they’re doing; or
  • Make absurd promises to land their client; or
  • Sacrifice their client’s brand and conversion rate for SEO.

white hat seos
So-called white-hat SEO is a delicate balancing act between sales, rankings and messaging. If you’re not already a marketer, this kind of SEO is risky at best.

3: Rankings are absolute

Nope. Google (likely Bing and Yahoo! as well) now employs personalized search: Based on your previous searches, they customize the rankings pages, moving the sites they think you’ll most want to the top of the page.
That can happen, by the way, even if you’re not logged in to your Google account. Search engines also adjust rankings based on your geographic location.
So rankings are definitely not absolute. Better spend more time watching your incoming search traffic and less freaking out about rankings.

4: Search engines can now crawl Flash

Strictly speaking, yes, they can crawl Flash content. The same way that, strictly speaking, George Bush is a trained public speaker, and Bill Clinton was the picture of restraint.
Search engines crawl Flash content about as well as I dance Swan Lake.

5: Google now crawls javascript

See #4, above.

6: Buying PPC ads will influence your organic rankings

Come on. Buying ads doesn’t influence your rankings…

7: SEO is a level playing field

…Buying a huge audience, becoming a major brand and then pounding your opposition into goo, on the other hand, works great. Aaron Wall has an excellent look at this.
Life, I’m afraid, isn’t fair. Google misses some links, awards too much authority to others, utterly screws some companies and then undoes 90% of the damage and leaves the rest to rot.
I’m not saying SEO is pointless. Far from it. But I do recommend a diverse internet marketing strategy, and that you take what the search engines (and everyone else, including me) with a grain of salt.

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  1. What an excellent article. I virtually agree with every word (and also the linked article, Google will eat you when it grows up).
    I think it’s a result of herd mentality. Some things are considered good or bad because, well, someone decided they are good or bad.
    Personally I don’t (and don’t intend to) use Black hat methods. However, I don’t think classifying them as evil is right. I would say there are methods that are malicious (like spamming) but there are methods that are black had that aren’t.

  2. Great post. Specially the black hat one. I dont use them and do recommend them.
    Dont know why people use them as you rightly put it, when search engines build better algorithms your rankings will be gone.

  3. @Ravi Black hat’s a perfectly legitimate short-term play. If you need a top ranking for a couple weeks and don’t mind the risk of a ban after that, it can make sense.

  4. Hi Ian,
    It is nice experiance to read all your articles and i think this is really your best one.All your points are obvious and i agree with them.The only doubt i have is “Are you absolutely sure that search engines have started to crawl flash too?” I have lots of doubt in it for years.

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