Over the years there are quite a few myths that have grown up around SEO practices for forums, some of these are based on fact, others are based on what people think they know. So how do you sort out what it right and what isn't, especially as the new algorithms ( Panda & Penguin) turned the whole SEO world upside down. The first thing any admin has to accept is that Google is not the only search engine out there, but it is by far the most popular, the second thing you have to realise is that Googles rules do not apply to all search engines, so doing something to please Google may upset the other search engines out there. In general these myths are aimed at Google. Myth #1 Any backlink is a good link With Google this is no longer true, in fact too many links from low ranking sites can damage your sites ranking, you should not be concentrating on getting backlinks anyway. Myth#2 Exchange links are good As a far a Google is concerned this is a definite "NO", if you are seen to be doing too many link exchanges, Google will form the impression you are buying them, or just setting up exchanges to "beat the system". Googles algorithms are looking for organic links to tell them your site is source of reliable information. Myth #3 You should write short articles, 500 words maximum Myth, Google is looking for good reliable content, short articles with loads of keywords are not what it's looking for, you need to produce well written informative content, that means good grammar and excellent spelling. Google can also detect spun articles, so using systems like Spinner Chief will ring alarm bells and involve penalties. Myth #4 The more you optimise your site the better When Google developed penguin they did so for three main reasons, these were to eliminate low quality content, discover those who were trying to manipulate the system with manipulative linking practices, and those who over-optimise their sites. Myth #5 PR is absolute The whole PR game has changed, whereas in the past you got good PR by having backlinks from any site, with the Panda and Penguin updates PR is virtually if not totally dead. PR was used to rank the pages individually, now that is not the case, PR is just another tool to asses the reliability of the whole site, where you stand in organic searches now, is not a reflection on a single page you have optimised, it is a reflection of how Google rates the whole site. Myth #6 Ads are good Ads are good if all you are about is generating revenue, but eventually you will be penalised, Google does not see the net as a money making exercise for the few, it see's it as a source of information, and therefore only wants to promote sites that it sees as a resource. Most people who now complain about their site free falling in the rankings are doing so because penguin has finally caught up with them and determined the site as rubbish. This isn't to say that you can't have any adverts, Google realises that people need help to pay for sites, what it means is that you have to go back to Myth #3 and include good informative content as well. Myth #7 Content is KING I see this said on a lot of admin forums, and it is true, if all the other parameters of your site are right. It's no good having great content, if your visitors cannot get to it ! You have to make sure that your visitors can get to every section from every page, this mean you need a good navigation system, and it has to work. 404 errors have to be reduced to zero, they will do more harm than you think, the easiest way to get round 404 errors is to use htaccess, to send them to the front page, at least there Google Bots and real users can find other links to follow, hitting a 404 is like you hitting a dead end while driving. Myth #8 No follow links are OK I'm sure this one will cause a bit of a debate, in her book Kathleen McDivett explains that Google mission is to have a search engine that provides reliable information, and it does this mainly by linking great content to other great content, if you stop it doing that it gets confused as to why you should want to stop it, whilst it may not penalise you straight away, too many no-follow links on site will raise concerns about the reasons for your site. All links you leave on a site should be as anchor text using one or more of your keywords or phrases, simply leaving a raw URL is very bad practice. Myth #9 My site is perfect for SEO Unless you have used your site as a user and or a customer I doubt very much if it is. You need to think like a user, and not an admin, the more user friendly your site is, the better it will become. The worst metric you can ignore is the bounce rate, if you don't know what bounce rate is, you shouldn't be reading this until you do. Your pages should be designed to complement and match your keywords and adverts, that way your visitors will be more likely to go further into the site, reducing the bounce rate. Myth #10 I need to pay for SEO NO you don't, and the only people who will tell you that you do are SEO companies ! Think of it this way, before the Panda and Penguin updates if you went to an SEO company for help in getting your site to #1 these are some things they would do : Write short pieces of content stuffed with keywords Add you to their linkwheels to give you literally thousands of backlinks set you up with exchange links on sites of other customers create dummy sites with high PR and no content to inflate your PR artficially Of course there was the odd company out there that would also use white hat methods, but they cost a lot more. Since Panda and Penguin all these methods have been stopped, using them now will result in Google penalising you. There is nothing an SEO company does now, that you cannot do yourself, all it takes is time,knowledge and the right tools. The knowledge part is easy, there are enough books written and available in print and digitally to fill a library, read as much as you can, don't believe everything you read, but if several authors are saying the same thing, there has to be some truth in it The right tools are available on the net for free, everything you need to use can be found in Google webmasters, anything else is superfluous, learn how to use "inspect element" and "firebug" on competitors sites, you can find all the information you need using these two tools. There are other free tools, just search for them, they may not look as pretty as the ones costing $$$$$$'s but they work. Time, I don't have time is the biggest excuse, if you have a kindle you have time to research, on the train instead of staring out of the window, on the toilet, in the car as a passenger, in that taxi, or on that flight, there is always time to read and learn, especially if you know you are saving literally hundred of $'s while doing it. Myth #11 All Forum software is the same Apart from the obvious no they are not, not only is the coding different the way they present the forum in a way search engines understand is different too, Google and other Bots don't see your site as you do, they see it as a mass of text, code and image links. Your forum software needs to be up to date, you need to start using or thinking about using HTML5, some will scoff, but HTML5 is so much better from an SEO point of view, it gives the bots the info they want, in a way they can understand it better, it also gives you more flexibility in presenting content to your members. There has never been a better time to migrate your forum to Xenforo or VB5, both of which are HTML5 compliant. Myth #12 <meta> Tags are useless It is true that Google largely ignores all the meta tags, but Google isn't all search engines, others still rely on them to tell the bots what the site is about, what the keywords are etc, so using them is still good practice. HTML5 Also needs them, so if you are using HTML5 you should be using certain tags in the <head> section of every page, other wise your pages will not render properly. One more thing, if are using HTML5 you are not longer require to close tags, you can still do it, but it's not needed as a following tag closes the previous one. Summing Up Google no longer issues PR updates because it is of no relevance to how they now view your site, so don't waste time chasing it. If you read something about SEO, research it, see what other people are saying, if you read one SEO blog, there should be only one to read Google Webmasters, there are no other official Google blogs with news and updates from Google. Google runs it's Panda and Penguin algorithms every 7-9 weeks, these algorithms are always being tweaked and improved, one of those tweaks could affect you, there's no time like the present to overhaul your site.