Debunking Common SEO Myths

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!