Online marketing myths busted

No explosivesInspired by the Mythbusters TV show which I regularly watch with my son, I thought I’d bust a few search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) myths myself (although it won’t be quite as entertaining as the real Mythbusters, nor will it feature any explosives).

Myth number 1: There are companies that can submit a website to 10,000 search engines (and it only costs a few pounds)
Lets start with some facts (dated May 2012). 66.5% of people use Google to search the web. 15.5% use Bing. 13.5% use Yahoo. A further 4.5% use Ask and AOL. Even if there are 10,000 search engines out there, what is the point in paying good money to be submitted to them when 100% of internet users search using just five search engines? Myth busted.

Myth number 2: It’s possible to make money by selling links placed within your website content
Technically yes, but (and it’s a dam big but) it violates Google’s webmaster guidelines and can result in your website Page Rank being penalised and a decrease in the level of trust placed in your site. With 66.5% of web surfers using Google for organic search it’s way too much of a risk. Myth busted.

Myth number 3: Submitting a website to tens of thousands of directories is good value for money
Search engine guidelines are quite clear: links should occur naturally and spamming or attempts to manipulate Page Rank (or to attempt better placement in search results) violates Google’s webmaster guidelines and can result in your website being penalised. If you have a webmaster account with Google watch out for manual link warnings and penalties (particularly so since the Penguin update). Dodgy tactics include buying links, bulk network links, bulk directory links, masses of links on completely unrelated websites and directories, as well as keyword heavy anchor text and regular anchor text manipulation. Myth busted.

Myth number 4: It’s possible to buy a link from a website with a Page Rank of 9
As mentioned in myth numbers 2 and 3, this violates Google’s webmaster guidelines, but even if it was acceptable why would you do it? Think about the person selling the PR9 link; do you think that they will accept one link on the PR9 website then stop? Or is it more realistic to assume that the PR9 link placement will be offered to all and sundry resulting in the site in question having tens of thousands of outbound links which completely degrade any authority and trust the site may have had? Page Rank can be faked, buying links violates Google’s webmaster guidelines, selling links violates Google’s webmaster guidelines, and if those three things don’t persuade you to avoid this action, ask how many other outbound links appear on this magical PR9 website that can retain high PR whilst openly violating Google’s webmaster guidelines. Myth busted.

Myth number 5: It’s possible to offer something for free on my website in return for an inbound link
I do hope that this isn’t getting repetitive, but there are only so many ways you can say “this violates Google’s webmaster guidelines“. If you offer some sort of free service, advertising opportunity, a free download, directory placement or registration and request an inbound link in return, then your website will probably be penalised by Google and you will suffer a decrease in Page Rank and consequential loss of traffic.

Ultimately building up a presence, reputation and authority online can’t be bought or achieved instantly; so if you see a cheap service that looks too good to be true then it probably is. Although I’ve mentioned Google numerous times above, the guidelines of other search engines aren’t that different. Also, there are some websites out there that do make use of some of the dubious marketing tools detailed in this post, but if you go down this route you are gambling with your website and run the risk of being penalised (and losing Page Rank, traffic, leads and/or commission) or worse still, being removed from the Google index.