SEO has undergone many changes over the past year. It has received a ton of attention and criticism, and continues to be a focus of debate since the Panda and Penguin updates. The problem with SEO is that it has always been open to interpretation, and as a result, plenty of myths are floating around. Some of them are easy to unmask, but some sound very legit. And that’s where the problems start.

As long as these myths survive, myth-busters need to be posted every once in a while. The other day, I wandered through another post on similar lines by Doc Sheldon on Search Engine Watch. It deals with repetitive but important myths that are almost out the window in SEO parlance today. These include things like keyword density, sitemap submission, meta descriptions… very basic things that many SEO experts still consider to be highly significant ranking factors. The good guys know better, of course, and only use them as a means to optimize the website for both the user as well as crawlers

Beyond the myths discussed by Doc, I believe there are a few more that could rule the roost in the coming days. Not that these are new — nothing is — but we’re going to hear people talk a lot more about these in the coming year.

Myth #1: SEO Is Dead

There’s only one thing that can be said about this one: As long as there is Google (or, in the unimaginable event of its absence, the next big search engine), there will be SEO.

SEO has been accused of being unethical, the essence of snake oil, and so on. It has been disparaged heartily every time a large algorithm/update brought down a bunch of low-quality sites. It has also been shamed to nothingness, but the truth is far from all of this.

SEO will never die because as long as there are search engines, people will try to optimize their websites to get to the top of the search results.

People who term SEO a form of snake oil or try to claim it’s dead are the people who think SEO is a constant set of activities like building links. They assume that SEO is a particular tactic that hasn’t changed, but this isn’t true. SEO has changed enormously and keeps changing on a regular basis.

Myth #2: SEO Is All About Textual Content (Articles)

This is the latest notion that has plagued plenty of misguided or self-proclaimed SEO experts. I’ve seen a lot of folks deliberately focus their entire SEO efforts on the “written text” — article marketing, blog posts, press releases. Not that these don’t work, but the level of importance has shifted elsewhere.

Google values content but not necessarily the written word. How many times have you been served a few videos on top of all the other results? How many times have you seen images load before website results on Google? And there are plenty of results where Google shows you the map. All these indicate something: content is not just the written word. It’s images, it’s videos and it’s data in any discernible form.

Moreover, having a lot of articles doesn’t do any good until you market them and leverage them.

Myth #3: SEO Has Nothing to Do with Design

This is another myth that continues to thrive. Since most SEO experts are not that interested in making websites look beautiful (and since most of them aren’t technically versed in things like User Interface Design, HTML/CSS etc.), these guys tend to downplay the importance of design in SEO.

But that’s totally wrong, Google has a clear sense of design. In fact, a long while ago, it changed its algorithms to make sure it could recognize websites with content “above the fold” … or in simpler terms, easily accessible content.

Now, who’s that again that said design doesn’t play a factor in SEO?

Good design has other benefits too: it encourages your visitor/reader to stay on your website a little longer. Good, sensible designs achieve better conversions. And they increase brand value and trust. Probably my favorite example of a well-designed, clean, user-friendly website is MySEOTool. Take a page from their book when looking at your website’s design.

Myth #4: Guest Posting Is All You Need to Do

People who seem to think that SEO is a game involving technical techniques have this habit of associating one particular trending method to SEO. Of late, that has been guest posting.

I am not against guest posting nor am I trying to underrate its influence, but the notion that guest posting is the be-all, end-all of SEO is wrong.

Guest posting provides tremendous value in many ways other than simply getting inbound links, but a proper SEO campaign requires much more than simply guest posting. Don’t forget the other essential elements, such as:

  • Onsite SEO basics (title tags, meta descriptions, etc.)
  • User experience
  • Excellent onsite content
  • Providing value to people

Without these elements, inbound links and publicity from guest posting won’t get you very far, from an SEO or a business perspective.

Matt Cutts’s answer to the value of guest blogging isn’t all that clear about how Google values those posts in a technical sense, but he speaks realistically. It all boils down to value, information, quality, and, of course, reputation.

Myth #5: It’s All About Links

I’m tired of this myth. Similar to number four above, there is much more to SEO than just a single tactic or school of tactics. It’s true that inbound links play a vital role in search engine ranking algorithms, but that role has diminished since the release of Google Penguin in April 2012. Google’s evaluation of links is much smarter now than it used to be, or even what most experts believe it to be now. Not everyone wants to realize that their interpretation of links is wrong but hear it from Matthew on SEOMoz. It’s “Relationship-building” that matters more than link building.

Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based SEO agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.