Debunking Common SEO Myths

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The process of SEO has changed, and quickly. Buying keyword-rich domains, writing a few articles and tweaking the titles will no longer net a top position on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

What is important to understand about search engine optimization (SEO) is that there is no constant — no absolutes. But with a little education, there are myths that you can spot from a mile away and, more importantly, avoid wasting valuable time and resources.

The first and perhaps most damaging myth is that of guaranteed success. Keep this in mind when considering enlisting SEO help. SEO is a moving target and even some long-standing, “guaranteed” methods of SEO success have been proven ineffective.

Keyword Meta Tags: After many years of mystery shrouding the issue of keyword meta tags, rest assured that Google does not use this data to determine your search results position. While you might want to use keyword meta tags as a reference guide to keep track of the terms you are optimizing individual pages for, don’t rely on them to capture that elusive first place ranking. On a side note, Yahoo! apparently continues to use keyword meta tags, although the verdict is still out on Bing. Keeping the meta keyword tag might offer some insurance, just in case some engines factor the tag into their algorithms.

Meta Descriptions: Jump in your time machine to 2007 or earlier and you will find virtually every SEO talking about the proper length of the meta description. At the time, the meta description displayed on the SERPs was always the few lines of text specified by the site owner, but no longer. Google’s algorithm now picks up matching lines/phrases in the page content related to the search query and displays selective parts of the content on the SERPs snippets. Be sure to do your keyword research when preparing new content.

Keyword Density: At some point in the evolution of SEO, someone noticed that following a specific keyword density helped in optimizing content. As you might imagine, every SEO from Maryland to Marakesh picked up on that. While there probably was truth to the idea at the time (because search engine spiders can detect patterns) it holds little merit today. Ensuring the content page being optimized includes keywords is important — the actual percentage (keyword density) matters more to myth seekers than real mathematicians.

Dynamic URLs: The big three search engines have made major strides in how they manage dynamic URLs. The result is that duplicate content (once the scourge of large websites) is much less of a concern today. The most commonly used and avoidable parameters (e.g. session IDs, product attributes) are “known” by search engines, so no extra effort is required to convert them to an SEO-friendly format. Including the canonical link tag ( can “tell” search engines to index the preferred URL, not the long, dynamic version.

Flash: While search engines (Google in particular) are getting better at indexing content contained within Flash, there’s still a long way to go. It used to be that having an all-Flash website would result in a poor SERPs performance, but the reality was and is that using Flash gives you fewer options for SEO compared to a content rich page. But that doesn’t mean it is “bad” SEO. You can focus on other SEO factors, such as building high authority links, and get equally good results.

Remember that SEO is constantly changing. Knowing what’s true and what’s not will ensure that your prospects find your site when you want them to. Happy SEO’ing!


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Randi Thornton 12-01-2009 5:30 PM

Great article. As a SEO professional for the past 10 years I have witnessed many changes and I do not think it will slow down.

Wordpress Consultant 12-02-2009 12:17 AM

I agree that there have been changes (and will be more) to SEO in whole.  I do not agree that the days of buying keyword rich domains is over - because google still to this very minute favors those sites a majority of the time.  In addition, sites that have keywords in the title, meta description, heading, URL, and content in most circumstances rank light years above non-optimized pages.  Of course your site has to have some authority or the process is useless anyway.

I did a post awhile back about image alt tags and SEO that showed how a site with a little authority and some backlinks can rank above Wikipedia for some keywords because they were used in the page title, heading, and image alt tag (and other more powerful sites did not).

In my opinion - the thing about SEO that's changing the most is relevance vs. authority.  Big sites with millions of backlinks and huge pagerank don't rank above pages with little (or zero) pagerank that google deems more relevant.

Modern SEO is about making your site relevant to your market.

EF Cussins 12-02-2009 10:19 AM

I was just talking to a client about this, Monday. I believe the best way to get a website with good numbers is with good old hard work.

I am talking about good passionate content, cross promote, and talk to other people and bloggers about your website.  

ReidP 12-07-2009 4:37 PM

So, should we take your article tips with a grain of salt since SEO is constantly changing?

Thanks for your tips. Today, they are insightful. Tomorrow, ...?

SEO Company 01-09-2010 8:29 AM

As proved beyond doubt, content is THE King!

Good quality content that is more relevant to humans get you good rankings. Gone are the days when you could write content to please the search engines.

If you content is fresh, relevant and appeals to the readers, you'll almost always rank higher -- even with no back links or authority site link juice.

And, finally, I agree with others about the changing trends in SEO strategies.

MartinW 02-16-2010 4:44 AM

Very useful article.  It is amazing how many people still perpetuate these myths.  I suppose there is no harm in doing most of the things that you state are merely myths, but it is good to here someone clearly state that they certainly don't hold much sway with the search engines anymore (if they ever did!).

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