5 SEO Myths Busted


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.

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Dan Nedelko
Nov 05, 2009

I tend to agree with you on a few points, although I would say that many of the examples above require more than simple answers. For example: domain age is a factor in the Algorithmic PageRank however I would not call it a primary factor.

Same thing with article and press release links. They are not going to be primary factors however a good solid volume of consistent links from these aources can definitely benefit overall internet marketing efforts (not only on an SEO level but on a brand saturation levels as well).

The Toolbar PR point is also another. I am often annoyed with the Toolbar PR debate since Google waffles back and forth on this quite frequently. I agree TBPR is a good general indicator of site quality (very general) however I think Google should be more proactive in their updates in this area. A 6 month time lag to a TBPR update is unacceptable since it is not accurately reflecting any changes to the site in a very long period of time. The worst part is that they created the metric and then refuse to properly support it.

Just my input. Overall though I would say I agree with your points above.

Dan Nedelko

Nov 05, 2009

PageRank Question

The more I learn the more questions I have.

Since PageRank is a measure of Google's trust in a website (and implicitly, value of getting links from that website), why does PageRank vary.

For example:

www.WordStream.com, PR = 5, Alexa Rank in U.S. = 6000
A Respected Blogger on SEO, PR = 0, Alexa Rank in U.S. = 140,000
Thin Affiliate Site, PR = 1, Alexa Rank in U.S. = 6,400,000

I would expect a direct correlation between high PR's and popular Alexa ranking (lower numbers). That's the case for www.WordStream.com .

But a thin website of mine with little traffic has a higher PR than a popular blogger with tons of traffic. No correlation there.

Shouldn't there be a correlation between higher PageRanks and higher website traffic per Alexa?

Thanks, learning a lot today.

Ken Lyons
Nov 05, 2009

Actual Google PageRank is a link analysis algorithm, which Google uses to assign a numerical weighting to measure the authority, value or importance of a webpage based on inbound links. Nobody outside of Google knows the actual PageRank of a document.
What you're seeing is Toolbar PageRank (the little green pixel bar or "PR - " attribute in SEO for Firefox), which is reported to have no correlation to actual PageRank, although it too is supposed to be a link analysis measurement. Toolbar PageRank is notoriously unreliable as a ranking yardstick and many in SEO feel it's totally worthless and for "entertainment purposes only." I've outlilned my feelings on TBPR in the above post.
Either way, neither metric is purported to be based on traffic data.

Dan Nedelko
Nov 05, 2009


Just to follow up on what Ken said, I have a few points to add regarding PageRank.

1. Algorithmic PageRank and ToolBar PageRank are two different things. The algorithmic PR is the Intellectual Property of Google Inc and is the core of their engine. Now to say that PageRank is based on any *one* criteria any longer would be incorrect. Obviously there is quite a bit of debate over what scoring factors have promience at any given time. Google has admitted and been very upfront with some general information such as the algorithm being "patched" frequently in order to keep pace with rapid changes online particularly in the world of web spam. This is the point of the recent Caffeine update the ability to add updates and push them out quickly while returning search results more quickly.

2. Algorithmic PageRank has *no* upper limit as opposed to the TBPR which is on a 0-10 scale.

3. As Ken mentioned there is no direct correlation between an Alexa Ranking (or traffic) and the TBPR of the site. I would also say that Alexa itself is a rough guide for determining the quality of any site, I stopped paying attention to Alexa years ago. All of their info comes from their toolbar data and can be wildly inaccurate. But if you wanted to use a few similar tools to measure try using Quantcast and Compete as well, at least you will get a cross section of data.

If you wanted to get some more information on the basis of PageRank and the fundamental concepts check this out http://infolab.stanford.edu/~backrub/google.html

Hope that helps a little bit :)


Ken Lyons
Nov 05, 2009

Dan, thanks for your input and thorough run down on PageRank.
Much appreciated!

Nov 05, 2009

but, how in the world can anyone 'DATE' content? Is it simply based upon the changes made in the 'body' section between caches?

Ken Lyons
Nov 05, 2009

Content date is determined when a spider first crawls a page. Recrawling content discovers freshness or updating.

Dan Nedelko
Nov 05, 2009

@Anonymous from date of first discovery based on a GoogleBot crawl. You can find out this type of information from a few sources: Google Webmaster Tools, Your Server Log or if you use Wordpress there is a fantastic plugin called Crawl Rate Tracker. Once you start looking you'll see that Googlebot scours sites (particularly with fresh content) very very frequently. @Ken Anytime!

5 SEO Myths Busted | WordStream « Blog
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Brian Fitzgerald
Nov 05, 2009

In a recent blog post Google confirmed that they don't use the meta keyword tag AND the meta description tag. It is not that prominent in the post but right below the screenshot they say "Even though we sometimes use the description meta tag for the snippets we show, we still don't use the description meta tag in our ranking."


This would confirm to me that, at least for Google, meta keywords have NO impact on rankings.

Ken Lyons
Nov 05, 2009

Hey, Brian.
Thanks for commenting.
I never said meta keywords had any impact on rankings. As for meta description, believe what you want to believe. ;)

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Free Samples
Nov 08, 2009

I run 6 different websites and this is the first time I've heard anything about the seo impact on the meta description tag and the unforseen benefits of tweaking that tag. Looking forward to testing this and seeing what effects it may have. What was your timeframe to watch for the changes ? Thanks.

Greg Satell
Nov 10, 2009

Thanks for this. Extremely helpful.

- Greg

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Dec 11, 2009

I liked this article... Anyone who says to ignore PR is a moron.

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