One of the annoying things about the SEO industry is the blogging culture can sometimes turn into an echo chamber. When your only source of information is the popular blogs and websites, like SearchEngineLand or Moz.com, they end up becoming redundant. Additionally, gurus make bold proclamations and platitudes that drive popular opinion (“Directories are dead!”, “link building is dead!”). This can lead to the general public accepting “facts” that are, in fact, not backed up by data.
This is especially true of “white hat” SEOs. While I hold the belief that anybody proactively trying to rank in search engines, as opposed to buying AdWords, is going against Google’s terms of service, there are still many SEOs that sleep better at night knowing they are doing everything the “right” way (although I’ll be quick to remind them that no one is immune from algorithm updates).
Below I’ve listed 2 of the more egregious fallacies that are accepted in many SEO circles. These have been hinted at or “confirmed” by authorities (even Google themselves), but the data just doesn’t back them up.
Let’s get into it.
Myth #1 – Directories don’t help rankings.
I come across this myth a lot. And it’s a great example of hive mind. Based on a spotty history and some vague (and not so vague) recommendations from Google, some “SEOs” recommended avoiding all directories.
John Mueller says directories “generally” don’t help with rankings.
This is ridiculous, and the reason he includes this “general” qualifier is that the statement is, generally, not true.
Granted, directories do have a spotty history:
- Pre-penguin they had been easily exploited as link farms (often using exact match anchor text).
- Pre-penguin, worthless directories sprouted up all over the place. There were even WordPress themes that would create a directory-style site automatically.
- DAO Directories still exist and are generally useless.
However, any knowledgeable local SEO will know that directories are a critical aspect of any local SEO ranking process. Whether it’s direct submission to high-quality directories (generally DA50+), or the use of data aggregators to spread company contact information, directories end up being a vital crux of the process.
So why does this myth still prevail? Maybe because some people still misuse them. Even 5 years after penguin you will still see people trying to sneak in anchor text within a directory link.
More likely, however, it’s because people are too afraid to try things out on their own. Instead, they’ll listen to an expert and take their word as reliable.
But, Do they work?
Short answer, yes. Long answer, you pretty much can’t rank with just directories. Nonetheless, they are a very helpful part of the process. Just take a look:
This was a brand new website (at the time), targeting a local service provider. Ordering some basic directory submissions saw the rankings jump within a week or two. Note that it wasn’t jumping to the first page, but it is a great foundation to begin your other link building initiatives.
Furthermore, at least one case study sends local citations to an affiliate site and sees great results. Fake address and everything!
Yes, use high quality (~DA50+), business directories for your local site or even your affiliate site. However, be sure that you only use the brand name or URL anchor text.
Myth #2 – Duplicate Content is the Worst
This one is fun because it’s the perfect example of white hat “best practices” actually not being applicable in the real world.
I recall a nice long “Local SEO” article on a major publication that recommends writing unique articles for every target location page. This is fine if you have 3 locations you are targeting. But what if you want to target every city in the state? In the country? Not effective.
There are tons of data to suggest that local landing pages don’t need to be 100% unique. With the exception of an address or location, they can generally be the same content.
Like this case right here. I have a local service provider for a major metro area. It’s ranked on the first page for its primary keyword. Several months ago, I decided to leverage its authority to rank for a slew of new cities/towns.
I created a page for each of 300+ cities/towns. They were exactly duplicate content (except for the city name and some other templates, like a map embed).
300 pages of duplicate content. Good luck even getting indexed, right?
Not so much.
Here’s the result: 50 #1 rankings, and 191 of the 300+ in the top 10.
I spoke with a former Google quality engineer, and he quoted some numbers that astounded me. He said in order for content to be considered “unique”, it only needs to “have a sentence or two” of unique content, but he generally aims for 20% unique. 20%!
Now don’t be over-confident, you shouldn’t go spinning articles and only looking for 20% uniqueness. It’s just meant to indicate that this whole infatuation with “duplicate content” is way overblown, especially in the local niche.
If you want to go ahead and create a unique article for each city page, have at it. Keep in mind, for the above example: having 300 articles created, proofread, posted and formatted would cost something like $3,000 and 100+ man hours.
A total waste of time and money, considering the rankings achieved by simply creating templated content.
These 2 myths are good examples of why you shouldn’t take anything for granted in SEO. Even if the almighty Google makes statements (like with directory listings), you should only truly trust data that you observe for yourself.
Or more simply put: Don’t take SEO advice from Google, or Google parrots so seriously. Your own observations and experiments will be the most important aspect of your SEO campaign
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