5 SEO Myths Busted

September 26, 2017

SEO Myth

SEO is rampant with misinformation, speculation and myths about SEO. But that's the nature of the game, right? Since nobody but Google knows for certain which 200 plus ranking signals comprise the Google secret algorithmic formula, we're left to speculate. However, there's gross misinformation, complete speculation and then there are theories put into practice tested and proven to return results with some degree of reliability.

With that, I've decided to address some of the SEO myths I see or hear from time to time. Most of the following SEO myths I'm attempting to debunk are controversial, meaning the vast majority of SEOs will disagree with my assertions, and I'll probably take a lot of flack. But that's okay. Feel free to lambaste me in the comments. I stand behind everything I'm professing to be true. That's because I've done exhaustive testing, keep a detailed SEO Log and I've seen the results.

Now, should you take my word as gospel? Not at all. As with anything in SEO, you need to test everything yourself and draw your own conclusions, so you too can dispel those nasty SEO myths. When it comes to SEO, I believe what I see with my own eyes. So too should you.

With that, here are my 5 SEO Myths Busted.

1) Google favors old domains

The age of the domain doesn't influence rankings. Sure, Google loves older domains and older domains typically have more trust and authority than newer sites, but that's because older domains house older content. It’s the age of the content, not the age of the domain. There's really nothing more to say about his one. It's a common misnomer that needs to be dispelled.

2) Links from article syndication and press release distribution are worthless

I see this SEO myth spouted at least once a week by SEO gurus. Links from article submissions and press releases are certainly low value and may or may not get filtered out by Google's algorithm, but they're not worthless. Here's an excerpt from my interview on using press releases for SEO (note: the same can be said about article syndication):

"First, press releases allow you to build anchor text links to deeper pages on your site that don’t attract links naturally. And because of syndication and scraper sites, those deep pages will acquire lots of links from a variety of sources."

"Secondly, those pages often see a subsequent boost in the search results because of the flood of signal and the freshness factor of syndication. However, that boost is usually temporary and fades within a few days, but the interim spike in SERP traffic is nice."

An interim spike in rankings, even if it is fleeting, is hardly worthless. And many times depending on the keyword competitiveness of the vertical your targeting, those rankings spikes are permanent or see little retracement.

Now am I saying you can dominate your vertical with these types of low value links? Not at all. In fact, having these links alone won't help you crack the top spots in Google for competitive queries. For that, you need quality links from authority sites. But as I said, syndicated links are particularly effective for pointing links to deeper pages on your website that don't attract links "naturally" and sending contextual ranking signals. Either way, anyone who claims they have zero effect on SEO are regurgitating something they read in a forum or they aren't actively engaging in this practice.

3) Meta tags have no impact on rankings

The meta keywords tag is finally dead. Sigh... Even Yahoo no longer supports it, or at least that's what they say. However, the SEO value of the meta description lives on. My experience is that manipulating the text in your meta description has an impact on rankings. It just does. And I’m not talking about the meta description's impact on CTR or clickability. Yes, having compelling and relevant text in the meta description does facilitate more clicks (which does impact rankings, IMO). But the ranking results I’m talking about are exclusive of and supplemental to CTR and clickability. I've spent the better part of the past six months tweaking and swapping text in and out of the meta description to test this theory, and I've seen a clear impact in where my pages rank in the SERPs because of it.

Now, I’m not sure why the SEO community is so convinced that keywords in the meta description have zero impact on rankings. I mean, logically, why wouldn’t Google use this key contextual element as a ranking signal? The stock answer to this question from SEOs is because you can spam it with keywords? Well, you can also spam your title tag too, and you can spam your page content as well, and you can spam external links pointing to your site, yet those elements influence rankings. Still the SEO myth persists that a prominent piece of content in the SERPs has no bearing on rankings. Sorry, but  I see otherwise.

4) Pretty, keyword-specific URLs don’t matter

So I’ve tested both pretty URLs (yoursite.com/pretty-url) vs URLs with query parameters like yoursite.com/?id=3015, and hands down pretty URLs have a positive effect on rankings. You hear it time and again: create content for people not engines. Well, the same applies to URLs: create URLs for people. A pretty URL with relevant keywords sends a clear signal to what that page is all about. Pretty URLs are simple and self-explanatory. Searchers prefer them, meaning they’re more likely to click on them and more likely to link to them.

I don't have the resources, but I would love to do a psychological study on this theory and see which URL the average person prefers. Actually, strike that. I'm pretty positive I know which URL the average person prefers. No tests are needed.

5) Toolbar PageRank is Meaningless

I can feel the PageRank Nazis rolling their eyes as I write this.

Okay, let's start with a question for all the SEOs out there: If you had your choice, would you rather get a link from site with a Toolbar PageRank (TBPR) of 10 or 1? I mean, TBPR is "meaningless," so it doesn't matter. Right?

Baloney. Any SEO who said they'd take the link from the TBPR1 site over the TBPR10 site is full of it. You know you'd take the TBPR10 link and so would everyone else. So there you go, SEO Myth busted! TBPR is not "meaningless."

On the flipside, I wouldn't go so far to say that it's meaningful either. Instead, I would defer to Google's description of TBPR:

"Wondering whether a new website is worth your time? Use the Toolbar's PageRank™ display to tell you how Google assesses the importance of the page you're viewing."

The key word here is "importance." I do agree that TBPR gives you a loose idea of a site's "importance." For example, CNN.com recently jumped from a PR 8 to a PR 10. Why is CNN.com a PR 10? Because it's an important site. In contrast, my thin affiliate websites are PR 2s. Why? Because I spend zero time on them, they aren't important websites (well, important for my beer and gas money every month) and the Toolbar PageRank reflects that, and rightly so.

And though there's zero correlation between SERP rankings and TBPR (lower PR sites continually outrank higher PR sites), I do feel it's intrinsic value lies in link building, giving SEOs the ability to evaluate the link health of a website. I routinely use Toolbar PageRank to determine whether or not a site has a healthy link flow and has the potential to funnel link equity to my site. It can also be used to evaluate the link health of your own website. If pages aren't passing incremental PageRank internally and juice isn't flowing freely, something may be wrong with your site architecture.

That said, TBPR clearly is a flawed measurement because it's an outdated snapshot of a site and it's updated very infrequently, with the latest PageRank update happening on October 29. So it's measure of freshness and to-date accuracy is compromised. But again, it's far from "meaningless."

Finally, if Toolbar PageRank is so meaningless, why did Google just update it again? And why do prominent SEO blogs report the update? Pretty confusing, huh? To me, actions speak louder than words. Sure, Google may be phasing TBPR out because they say it's flummoxing Webmasters. But I think that's bull. I think it's purely a move to put the link brokers out of business.

So like it or not PR Nazis, Toolbar PageRank lives on! How much longer remains to be seen.

Ken Lyons

Ken Lyons

Ken Lyons is a cofounder and managing partner of Measured SEM.

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