SES Toronto 2008: Interview with Jill Whalen on SEO Donts, Myths, and Scams

Search Engine Strategies (SES) will be held in Toronto, Ontario next month featuring a number of our industry’s thought leaders. A topic that sprung my interest was on day 2: “SEO Don’ts, Myths, & Scams” featuring the CEO of High Rankings, Jill Whalen. To get some insight before SES Toronto, I was able to catch up with Jill Whalen to ask her a few questions on the topic of SEO Don’ts, Myths, & Scams. Below is how our conversation went:

[Manoj]: On the topic of SEO scams, is this something that is still rapidly growing?

[Jill Whalen]: I wouldn’t say that it is rapidly growing, but they are definitely still out there. We get people on our SEO forum all the time asking about the cold calls they get from companies who claim they can place their website in the number 1 spot for $50 and things like that. What they are actually doing is either reselling sponsored ads at a premium and you’re showing up in the sponsored section, or in some cases, they get you to download their special toolbar, and then they can show you whatever results they want to show you. This scam is less prevalent today than it used to be as people are more leery of installing 3rd party software these days.

The latest SEO scam is companies who instead of working hard to help you create something worth linking to, make up entertaining but fake news, and the post it on your website as real news, in order to gain links to it. In the media’s frenzy to re-print and discuss just about any news they can find, they rarely bother to check sources anymore, and freely link to the original made-up story. The tactic apparently works (at least temporarily), but at what cost to the website’s credibility? Google’s Matt Cutts has recently weighed in on this issue and stated that the tactic does fall outside of their Webmaster guidelines.

[Manoj]: What myths do you consistently come across in the search marketing industry?

[Jill Whalen]:One of the most interesting is the myth that your Google AdWords can affect your organic rankings. About half the people who believe this myth think that running a Google AdWords campaign will hurt your organic rankings, while the other half believe it will help your organic rankings! In reality, Google is smart enough to keep their paid and organic results completely separate.

Another myth I consistently run across is that frequent respidering of your website will somehow increase its organic rankings. If you are adding new content on a regular basis, then of course it’s important for Google to respider your site often so that they will index your new stuff. But if you aren’t adding new content, it’s not necessarily a problem; you certainly don’t need the spider to index the same content they already have indexed. Rankings don’t suffer because of a lack of spidering (unless you have some other technical issues going on). Some of the best-ranked pages haven’t been changed or added to in years.

[Manoj]: If you were to prioritize a list of SEO Don’ts, what would be your top 3 in terms of biggest impact to a site’s online strategy?

[Jill Whalen]: Most of the SEO myths that are out there are fairly harmless — whether you do them or not, they won’t impact your site one way or the other. “SEO don’ts” on the other hand, are a different animal and can very well impact the profile of your website in the search engines. There are so many don’ts that it’s difficult to prioritize them, but here are 3 common ones:

  1. Don’t stuff your page full of keyword phrases at the expense of its readability. SEO copywriting has nothing to do with keyword stuffing. While keyword stuffing may actually increase rankings (temporarily), if your pages read poorly they will be less likely to convert for you.
  2. Don’t set out to deceive search engines. They want the best, most relevant pages for the search query at hand. Don’t fake having the best, most relevant content — actually have it!
  3. Don’t design your website in such a way as to make it invisible or unspiderable to the search engines. Unfortunately, a lot of website designers still haven’t figured out how to create crawler-friendly websites, which puts those sites at a huge disadvantage right out of the gate.
[Manoj]: How important is SEO Education and Training in regards to better understanding SEO Myths and Scams. Additionally, can you recommend some good SEO training resources?

[Jill Whalen]: Because SEO myths are so prevalent, SEO education and training is crucial for people who are trying to learn how to optimize their websites to obtain more targeted search engine traffic. Unfortunately, people have to be careful which courses they choose because some are the biggest spreaders of SEO myths to begin with! So while the students may think they’re getting a good education, in reality, they’re just learning a bunch of myths that won’t help increase their targeted traffic — or worse, might even hurt it.

Today, there are some good, trustworthy SEO training resources available, however. I would be remiss not to mention our own High Rankings SEO Training which is held in-person on a monthly basis at our office just outside of Boston. The classes are limited to 6 people per class, and each is customized to the needs of the students, using their own websites as examples.

In addition, seminars such as Search Engine Guide’s Small Business Marketing Unleashed are also invaluable, and are a good way to start learning search marketing without all the confusion and myths. Then there are the larger conferences such as Search Engine Strategies and Search Marketing Expo, both of which I am a frequent speaker. These larger shows are especially helpful if you are already entrenched in search marketing and/or if you’ve previously attended a smaller class or have taken some online courses. They are also excellent vehicles for networking with your peers in the search marketing industry.

There are a number of good online search marketing educational opportunities offered as well, such as SEMPO Institute’s certification courses and Marketing Motive’s membership site. High Rankings also offers search marketing training videos based on one of our training seminars.

[Manoj]: Finally, what is your favorite part of SEO?

[Jill Whalen]: That would be the puzzle aspect of it. I love looking at any website and figuring out exactly what it needs to make it be the best it can be for search engines and users. Every site is unique and needs a different combination of tactics to help it succeed. Finding the right mixture and then seeing it all come to fruition with increased targeted sea
rch engine traffic is truly an amazing experience!

About Jill Whalen

Jill is the founder of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum, now celebrating its fourth year. She is also is the host of the High Rankings Advisor, a free search engine marketing email newsletter, and the author of The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines. Regularly quoted in national and industry publications, Jill is frequently called upon to speak at conferences worldwide


  1. says

    SEO myths. Wow. There have to be exactly 1 bazillion of them.

    I would say digital point forums is the biggest offender when it comes to perpetuating them.

    I would also say, as a broad over generalization, that affiliate marketers are THE WORST when it comes to perpetuating SEO myths.

  2. says

    Great Interview and some honest answer by Jill.

    I completely agree, to my surprise today only I have seen google sponspered Ad of one the company claiming to provide Top 1 ranking across Google, Yahoo, MSN and about 100 other search engines.

    On top of that the so called SEO Company Claims that they are having association with all search engines, so people who take their services will get Top Rankings for 3 different packages. I have URL of that Website (But I am quite smart, don’t want to promote them for any reason, it is Boston Based Company & you can view it on Google Sponspored Ad’s sometime), many such companies like this are existing in Industry.

    They are trying to decieve other people & to my belief this is a serious matter, some one has to check on all such organisations who are making innocent people & companies fool by spreading such words.

    I don’t think any SEO Expert or SEO company can claim that they are associate with Search Engines. No One! This itself is objectionable question about them!

    If they can provide no-1 ranking for other’s & claiming so why don’t they are ranking at No-1 on every Search Engines. While after doing some research on those companies I found them they are no where in search engine results & say’s they are in this Industry from last 10 years (Ghosssssshh…..) How Can anyone be so un-ethical.

    I am also in SEO Industry, still learning SEO things on continous basis. Though I have achieved top-10 rankings for many keywords, but Never ever I can claim or say with Guarantee! I guess most of Veteran SEO Professional do agree with this.

    Search Industry is going to be good only if most of the Companies try to learn basic knowledge about SEO & it’s practices. It is very much necessary for us to educate people what is organic SEO & what is black hat.

    All those who are looking for SEO Experts or SEO Company be cautious with all such Companies.

    Be educated about what is right & wrong. I am also going to raise this issue on my SEO Blog

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