Wading Through The Search Engine Myths
by Scott Buresh

There is an abundance of search engine information available
on the web - some of it valuable, much of it contradictory.
Throughout the years, some prevailing search engine myths have
developed. Some of these myths are actively encouraged by
companies with a financial interest in their continued
existence. Others are based upon techniques that were
effective years ago but no longer work. Still other myths come
from simple misunderstandings that inevitably come with a
relatively new medium. What follows is a few of the most

Myth: Using a program or service to "Submit your site to
10,000 Search Engines" is a good idea.

Fact: There aren't 10,000 search engines. There aren't even
500. In fact, the top 10 search engines account for the vast
majority of search traffic (studies vary from between 85 and
98 percent). Most of the sites that these programs or services
list as "search engines" are called FFA (Free For All) sites.
These sites will agree to place a link to your site on their
site, which is usually just a collection of links. Your link
will usually only appear for a short time, since as new links
are added, the older ones are pushed off the page. Almost no
traffic can be expected from such links - but you can expect a
lot of unsolicited mail to the email address that you provide
them. In fact, these pages are set up largely to collect email
addresses to which spam can be sent (and you can get spam for
free!). In addition, engines do not like submissions done by
computer programs (because of the excessive use of resources
and the general low quality of the pages they usually receive
in this manner), and many of the most popular have taken steps
to make automated submission impossible. This means that these
programs or services will not even get you listed in many of
the top engines. 

Myth: Using a program or service to "Submit your site to
10,000 Search Engines" or listing your site on FFA pages can
get your site penalized.

Fact: Search engines are very careful not to penalize sites
for issues that are outside of the webmaster's control. For
example, if it were possible for a site to be penalized for
using one of these scam submission services, it would then be
fairly easy to get your competition penalized for a nominal
fee by simply submitting their site. If a link to a site from
an FFA page were all that it took for penalization, it would
not cost anything to get your competition penalized, save for
the time it took to submit their link. Your site will not be
penalized for incoming links, period, even if they come from
less than desirable sources. You can, however, be heavily
penalized if you choose to link OUT to bad pages. The
difference, of course, is that you have full control over the
sites you wish to link to, whereas you have very little
control over who decides to link to you.

Myth: Using software to check your search engine positions
will get your site penalized.

Fact:  This belief is still widespread today, even among many
respected industry professionals. Since Google states in
their terms of service that ranking software should not be
used to check rankings, many people interpret this to mean
that Google will penalize the sites that are being checked. 
However, for largely the same reasons described in the
previous myth, this just wouldn't make sense. The ability to
get your competitors penalized by repeatedly running software
to check their search engine positions would be a very
powerful (and unfair) weapon, and Google realizes this. What
they will do, however, is penalize the IP address of the
machine that is running the software. This can make for
uncomfortable moments when you have to explain why everybody
sharing your office T1 line is denied access to Google, but
won't get your site penalized.

Myth: Meta tags are the most important factor in search engine

Fact: Many search engines (most notably Google) largely ignore
meta tags due to constant abuse by webmasters. The only
importance placed on meta tags these days is actually the meta
description tag, which will appear as the description for the
corresponding page on engines that use Inktomi data (such as
MSN). Meta tags are virtually irrelevant in the ranking
algorithms of the top engines - but many people continue to
believe that they are the only optimization strategy that they

Myth: It's impossible to do search engine optimization in-house.

Fact: It often is done in house, and done effectively. This is
typically when a large corporation hires in-house talent that
is devoted exclusively to promoting the website. However, it
is unrealistic to expect someone with many other job functions
to do a credible job of SEO. Much of the skills are acquired
through experience - and it isn't usually desirable to have
someone "experimenting" with the company website (especially
considering that certain techniques can get sites penalized on
engines or banned outright). SEO isn't rocket science, but it
also isn't something that can be learned overnight. When
deciding whether to outsource SEO or do it in house, it is
important to consider the actual costs involved. Often, when
the necessary hours it takes to pay someone to learn on the
job are taken into account, it is cheaper to outsource (and,
if you've chosen your vendor wisely, the results are almost
always better). Only a careful evaluation of your goals and
resources can determine the best course of action for your

Myth: Sites must be constantly resubmitted to retain rankings.

Fact: This is a scare tactic popularized by various submission
services and software companies. In fact, it is a waste of
money to pay to have your site resubmitted once it is already
listed in an engine's database. It will not hurt your rankings
to resubmit (or else people would constantly submit their
competitor's sites to get them penalized), but it will not
help, either. 

Myth: Search engine optimization is not as effective as
"traditional" marketing.

Fact: In many ways, it is more effective. Companies often
spend countless dollars on direct mail, television and radio
advertising, and bulk email without a second thought. The
common thread with each of these strategies is that the
prospect is "approached" by the company, and that the company
must reach a great number of people to find a few motivated
prospects. On the other hand, search engines can deliver
highly motivated prospects directly to your website - people
who have already demonstrated, through their use of particular
keyphrases, an interest in your products or services. 

These are only a handful of the numerous search engine myths
currently in existence. Even if these particular myths were
to be universally dispelled tomorrow, a new batch would surely
arise to take their place - and the motivations behind some of
them would be just as dubious. With search engine marketing,
as with anything else, it is important to treat everything
with a healthy dose of skepticism (including this article!).

Scott Buresh is Co-founder and Principal of Medium Blue Internet
 Marketing (http://www.mediumblue.com). For monthly tips on how 
to get the most out of your internet presence, sign up for our 
Internet Marketing Newsletter (http://www.mediumblue.com/newsletters)