• adamryp

    I’m not sure I agree with your statement under #5 that personalization changes are “relatively minor”. I’ve been seeing some drastic rank changes due to personalization. I just posted about it at http://www.rypmarketing.com/blog/49-are-google-serp-personalizations-relatively-minor.whtml

    While there are still “absolute rankings” that display most of the time, your site can be ranked much higher or lower, based on personalization.

    Agree with you on almost everything else, though. I get kinda tired of running into some of these myths. I mean, some of these things have been false for many years (or always)…you would think the correct info would start to displace the myths. Sigh.

  • http://www.pualingo.com/ Casual

    Wow, you really went overboard with this one, huh? There are some good points in there, but a number of these are pretty misleading.

    “14) It’s important for your rankings that you update your home page frequently (e.g. daily.)This is another fallacy spread by the same aforementioned fellow panelist. Plenty of stale home pages rank just fine, thank you very much.”

    It actually is important. Sure, a stale home page might rank, but Google definitely takes freshness into account in rankings. I’ve seen rankings boosts whenever I post new content.

    “15) Trading links helps boost PageRank and rankings. Particularly if done on a massive scale with totally irrelevant sites, right? Umm, no. Reciprocal links are of dubious value: they are easy for an algorithm to catch and to discount.”

    Google places less weight on reciprocal links that they used to, but they still count. I’ve done numerous link exchange campaigns for websites, and seen huge boosts in rankings. At the end of the day, would you rather have a reciprocal link from another site in your niche, or no link at all? The answer is obvious.

    “16) Linking out (such as to Google.com) helps rankings. Not true. Unless perhaps you’re hoarding all your PageRank by not linking out at all — in which case, that just looks unnatural. It’s the other way around, i.e. getting links to your site — that’s what makes the difference.”

    Not true. Matt Cutts has said that linking out to high quality websites is one of the many factors that they use to evaluate a site.


    “31) Home page PageRank on a domain means something. As in: “I have a PageRank 6 site.” In actuality it means nothing.”

    Come on now. It’s true that a lot of people place too much emphasis on PR, but let’s not take it to the opposite extreme and say it’s irrelevant. PR is not the be-all-end-all of rankings, but it still matters. Having a high PR homepage clearly means *something*.

    “34) Keyword density is da bomb. Ok, no one says “da bomb” anymore, but you get the drift. Monitoring keyword density values is pure folly.”

    Folly? Hardly. If you’re trying to rank for a keyword, you want to make sure you use it a few times on a page. That’s just common sense. Of course, you don’t want to overuse a keyword, or it might come across as spammy. Any smart SEO pays attention to KW density.

    “35) Hyphenated domain names are best for SEO. As in: san-diego-real-estate-for-fun-and-profit.com. Separate keywords with hyphens in the rest of the URL after the .com, but not in the domain itself.”

    Hyphens in domain names are less than ideal for flagship businesses because they’re hard to communicate, but you better believe Google ranks domains with keywords in them highly, even if they contain hyphens. Again, it’s less than ideal (a hyphen-less .org or .net is preferable to a hyphenated .com), but if the top choices aren’t available, a domain that includes a hyphen can be a decent substitute.

  • http://twitter.com/kevinmspence KevinSpence

    I’m going to have to take issue with some of your points, Stephan, though I only have time to argue a few of them.

    1. Reciprocal links aren’t necessarily of dubious value. Consider this example:

    I’m a news site. I link to CNN because it’s CNN and they have news. One day, CNN links to me (huzzah). Technically, this is a reciprocal link, but no way in hell is Google going to discount the value of the link because the sites are linking to each other. So now you have to determine intent — and how do you do that?


    In many niches, every authority site links to every other. Not only is it natural, but these are the most relevant possible links. So what you seem to be saying is that Google lowers the value of a site’s most relevant links — thereby increasing the relative value of irrelevant or off-topic ones. That makes sense how?

    2. Don’t make a blanket statement that having hyphens in your domain hurts your potential. This is just fallacy. Yes, hyphens suck for direct traffic, as the domain is more likely to spelled incorrectly. But when it comes to search, domains with hyphens in them do just fine.

    3. Don’t assume that clickthrough rates don’t matter just because of some potential abuse that would happen if absolutely zero logic were built in.

    Identifying spam searchers would probably be easier than identifying spam sites.

  • http://www.covario.com Stephan Spencer

    @adamryp, Thanks for your comment. I agree that a site CAN shift drastically in a particular SERP when personalization is on. When I stated that “the differences between personalized results and non-personalized results are relatively minor”, I meant that a head-to-head comparison of a page of SERPs personalized and non-personalized will return mostly the same results with minor shifts here and there. A listing may disappear or be replaced, but we’re not talking about a completely different set of results being swapped in and out. As you say in your post, “usually personalization only substantially changes the rankings of a few websites.”

    Even for such an ambiguous query as “dolphins” (do I mean the football team or the cute sea mammal?), the first page of results doesn’t change drastically even if I do a bunch of football related queries first, such as “football”, “patriots” and “nfl”. I still get mostly animal-related results, with a bit of movement in the lower half of the page. #6 shifted to position 7, #7 shifted to position 8, and #8 shifted to position 6.

    My point was: if you’re ranked in the #1 position with “pws” (personalized web search) set to 0, I think you’ll find, generally speaking, that you’ll be at #1 for the majority of searchers, whether personalization is enabled or not.

  • http://www.sweetspotmarketing.com kevinpike

    You better check yourself before your wreck yourself – no body says that anymore either (see #34) but anyway…

    #13 I’m fairly confident I could tell you why the SEOmoz test didn’t work. I could tell you, but then I have to kill you. ; )

    #33 – Don’t think anyone is 100% certain on CTR for organic rankings, but my guess is it’s part of the algo. Call me crazy, but if Google’s got PPC click fraud under control & CTR as part of quality score, I’m thinking they wouldn’t hold back on organic because of some lame third world click fraud peeps.

    #4 – I was at conference where XML sitemap was discussed too. It was likely better described as an exercise to not boost rankings, but help your site index. If the XML sitemap can get more pages indexed, it then can lead to a larger keyword footprint. It could also give you better overall domain authority – which then in turn could boost rankings.

    Just saying don’t be so literal with your break downs. Sheesh ;)

  • http://www.covario.com Stephan Spencer

    @Casual, yes I realized that I went a bit overboard once I hit the 2500 word mark. ;-)

    Re: #14, I think freshness is mildly helpful but generally not required to maintain a high ranking (QDF “query deserves freshness” searches notwithstanding). Particularly if you have strong domain authority, you can maintain a top position in Google for a very long time without updating the page content. Take for example http://kidshealth.org/kid/ill_injure/sick/food_allergies.html which ranks on page 1 in Google for “food allergies” — yet this article hasn’t been updated in years.

    I wouldn’t dissuade folks from keeping content up-to-date. I’m just saying that — given that there’s a limited number of hours in the day — your time may be better spent building quality backlinks than incessantly updating the page content.

    Re: #15, sure I wouldn’t turn my nose up to a relevant reciprocal link from a trusted site. It’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, surely. But if I had my druthers it would be a one-way link with me on the receiving end. ;-) My point was to discourage folks from link exchanges and so forth. Trading links with irrelevant sites, en masse, is at best a waste of time and at worst an invitation for a penalty. Generally speaking, reciprocal links aren’t necessarily worthless (note I didn’t say “worthless” above, I said “dubious”), but they sit pretty low in the food chain. There are of course exceptions. Nevertheless, I’d *always* steer clear of link farms and link exchanges.

    Re: #16, in my experience the benefit of an external-pointing link is relatively minor, assuming you haven’t been hoarding your link juice. I am not alone in this view: http://www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors

    As far as the quote from Matt, I wouldn’t take his word for it without some sort of fact-checking or corroboration. “Trust but verify” is my motto when it comes to Googlers. They aren’t SEOs. And they aren’t infallible. For instance, Matt clearly announced to the audience at the WordCamp 2007 conference that Google was going to be treating underscores as word separators. The change was either already in effect or was imminent. His exact words (taken directly from the video recording) were: “We’re in the process of changing that. We might have already changed that. So dashes and underscores are almost exactly the same.” I was in the audience and I excitedly wrote about this new development for the News.com blog. Shortly thereafter, in response to my post, Matt revised/clarified his statement. He didn’t exactly recant, but I’d say he majorly backpedalled. Fast forward to 2009… Matt confirmed that they *still* had not implemented this change (http://www.stephanspencer.com/search-engines/underscores-still-not-word-separators).

    Re: #31, ok I’m being a little bit provocative when I say “it means nothing”. PageRank scores at least have entertainment value. Seriously though, I’d take domain mozRank scores any day over Google’s publicly available PageRank scores.

    Re: #34, I’m sticking to my guns on this one. I would NOT advise paying ANY attention to keyword density scores. They are a distraction from what really matters.

    Re: #35, I agree with you that a hyphenated domain can be an acceptable substitute if better choices aren’t available (such as a hyphenless .com, .org, or .net). But surely you wouldn’t *favor* a hyphenated domain over its non-hyphenated counterpart if both were available. Years ago I bought information-architect.com, but I would have bought informationarchitect.com instead if I had the choice. I wonder if anyone snapped up the san-diego-real-estate-for-fun-and-profit.com domain mentioned above… It’s a keeper! ;-)

  • http://www.covario.com Stephan Spencer

    @KevinSpence, thanks for weighing in. In regards to your first point, I think that authority sites get to operate under a different set of rules — e.g. the tolerance level for questionable tactics is higher, the benefit of reciprocal linking is greater, etc.

    As I stated in my comment to @Casual, non-hyphenated domains are generally *preferable* for SEO as well as other reasons (branding, usability etc.). The more hyphens, the less desirable the domain, in my view. Certainly a hyphenated domain can still perform well in the SERPs.

    To date I’ve seen nothing to indicate that CTR influences rankings. If you have evidence to the contrary, I’d love to hear about it. I’m not precluding that Google may some day use CTR as a signal. To be clear, the potential for abuse/manipulation isn’t my only reason for thinking CTR isn’t currently being evaluated.

  • http://www.pualingo.com/ Casual

    @Stephan, thanks for the reply. In regards to CTR influencing rankings, there are a number of things that lead me to suspect that user behavior does affect search results.

    I’m sure you are familiar with the so-called google \honeymoon period\ that seems to occur when a new site launches. The site will rank highly for a few weeks, and then see a dramatic drop in SERPs. I’ve launched over a dozen sites in the past year, and have noticed this pattern.

    I believe this goes beyond QDF, it’s a site-wide phenomenon. The hypothesis is that Google will temporarily rank a new site highly, to see how users perceive the site. If people visit the site, and then immediately hit the back button to return to the SERPs, that’s a good signal that the site did not meet the needs of the user, and that google should not rank it as highly.

    Another phenomenon that some SEOs have noticed, is that a lot of people search for your brand name, it tends to help with your rankings for that term. See point 1 of:


    While the above is not conclusive, I think there is enough evidence out there that CTR and user behavior influence rankings, not to dismiss it out of hand. The bottom line is to create quality content that meets the user’s needs, which will help rankings in google for any number of reasons.

  • http://www.returnondigital.com/dave-ashworth.php Dave Ashworth

    I have to disagree with 14 & 20, although it’s more the wording than anything else.

    14 – This varies from niche to niche, of course a site can rank well whilst remaining static, it may also have a considerable number of links pointing to it. In a competitive niche where the link volume/quality is pretty even, then regular updates to the home page, and other pages within the site can make all the difference – to describe this as a fallacy is a fallacy itself.

    20 – H1 tags are very important, I’ve seen pages rank well for targeted keywords once the tag has been tweaked to be more targeted, not spammy or purely for SEO, but well written. Ok, in some cases it may not be “crucial” but after the title tag I think it’s up there as one of the most important on site factors.

    Think it’s fair to say, whilst most of the above are valid points, some are subjective opinions as opposed to myths.

  • jakehadlee

    No 6 – “What about other meta tags — such as meta description, meta author, and meta robots — you ask? None of the various meta tags are given any real weight in the rankings algorithm.”

    Hmm – I think the number one myth about SEO that should die is that SEO is all about rankings or appearing high up in search. SEO is about conversion – which happens when you appear high up in search for people who then actually go on to use your business. Meta description is a useful (but not foolproof) conversion tool and as such is still pretty important to SEO even if it doesn’t carry weight in the rankings algorithm.

    We’ve had SEO clients where we’ve changed the page title (and description) knowing it will have a negative impact on their search position for a particular search term, but also that they will get more relevant click-throughs and higher conversion. The end result – happy clients making more money, which is what its all about.

  • http://www.visualscript.co.uk Badams

    As pointed out by others there are some issues with your list. let me highlight two:

    #13: you are relying on flawed data. Internal link anchor texts do matter.

    #20: once again, your data is flawed.

    Lesson of the day: Don’t rely too much on what SEOmoz tells you.

  • http://www.seobloom.com davide corradi

    good good
    love number 24 25 34

  • http://www.cpcsearch.com Terry Whalen

    I agree with the 2 kevins and casual: it makes all the sense in the world that CTR would be part of the algo that determines rank – it’s easily measurable user behavior, and it should be a good incremental indicator of relevance. And yes, Google is quite competent w/r/t accounting for click fraud, etc.

  • http://ursusmedia.co.uk Adam at Ursus

    Thank you. Brilliant post.

  • http://www.covario.com Stephan Spencer

    @Dave Ashworth, Re: #14, I think the effect that’s going on there is that the regular updates are making the site more link-worthy and thus it’s attracting links at a faster rate than the competition.

    Re: #20, I think the effect you’re experiencing with the H1 is that you’re refining the page’s overall keyword theme and keyword prominence. I’d argue the fact that these copy revisions are within an H1 is inconsequential. Try taking a site with headlines marked up with a font tag and turn that tag into an H1 in the template — without changing the copy within the headlines (or anything else for that matter) — and see what happens to your rankings. I think you’ll find the result to be not very impressive.

    I’m not just basing this on anecdotal evidence, or on someone else’s study (e.g. SEOmoz). Here at Covario, last year we did our own correlation study of page features that influence ranking. We did it to validate the scoring methodology for our Organic Search Insight product which our clients use to audit and track their sites’ SEO health. The 17-page report of findings is only for internal distribution — sorry I can’t share it! The data collection & statistical analysis were rigorous though, I assure you. We found H1 tags towards the bottom of the list of signals we examined, just above bold/emphasis tags.

  • http://www.covario.com Stephan Spencer

    @ jakehadlee, I like how you think! Conversion is DEFINITELY a critical component to SEO! I’m a big proponent of optimizing the elements that will improve clickthrough from the SERPs — shortening the URL length, getting bolded words (KWiC) into your listing, refining the title and snippet copy to include compelling calls-to-action and value propositions — particularly at the beginning of the title & snippet which are the most viewed pieces of the listing. I should also add to my list of annoying myths that tweaking your meta description is the sole way to optimize the Google snippet’s conversion potential.

  • http://www.covario.com Stephan Spencer

    @Badams, It’s always possible to find flaws and things to pick at in someone else’s study, but IMO having *some* research is a lot better than having *none*. Otherwise you’re flying blind, drawing only from your own observations, conclusions and hunches.

    Can you share some evidence to back up your assertions? It sounds like you’re dismissing the SEOmoz research out of hand — of course that’s your prerogative if you wish to do so, but I’d like to know the basis for your conclusion.

    In general I think we’re ALL relying on flawed data. Would anyone’s SEO experiment *truly* stand up to scientific scrutiny? There are so many moving parts — so many influencing factors — that we can’t control or isolate out of the system when conducting experiments. Search is in a constant state of flux — the algorithms, indices, competitors, data propagation across data centers, etc. Given this, how can one possibly create a proper control group for scientifically rigorous experiments? But we do our best. That’s SEO. It’s the nature of the beast.

  • http://www.billhartzer.com/ bhartzer

    Great post, Stephan. I totally agree with most of these. However, there are a few that I disagree with, mainly linking out to other sites.

    We do need to realize that our site shouldn’t be an “island”, but we also need to share the link love around a bit, even if that means linking out to other trusted authority sites.

  • http://www.internetbeacon.com ibeacon

    A really great article. It’s interesting to see how some people cling to old ideas about SEO and fall prey to them.

  • TheWizardOfOne

    Great post Stephan,

    All had me laughing thinking of the many times I’ve heard them. It’s interesting to hear the debates on some of these issues.
    As for #33, I am on the fence, I could literally flip a coin whether it is myth, magic, or the CTR really does make a difference. If it does it is such a small difference it’s nothing I would ever focus on for success.
    #34 I don’t believe in full blown Keyword Density, though I truly believe in strategically placing your keywords throughout the content as long as it doesn’t take away from the usability.

    I like to use a bit of the Old methods mixed in with the New as to ensure all avenues are covered, until testing proves something is just useless. If it still pushes out results, I’ll still use it. Thanks again great write up!

  • http://www.lightwavewebdesign.com Dan Kehoe

    Good list that helps focus efforts in the right areas.

    On #6 and #20, I wonder if the effect or lack thereof is a matter of the size and competitiveness of a keyword’s market. For one client, his site was hovering around #8 on the search results and all I changed was to move the keywords to start the homepage title, description and H1 and now we bounce between #1 and #2.

  • abilitydesigns

    #32 Outsourcing link building to a far-away, hourly contractor with no knowledge of your business is a good link acquisition solution. And a sound business decision… NOT! As it is, the blogosphere is already clogged enough with useless, spammy comments in broken English from third-world link builders. No need to make it worse by hiring them to “promote” your site too.”

    So is it a good strategy to go ahead if such a contractor was based in “first world” ?

    I’m a “third world” developer + marketer who knows enough “first world” people who can’t echo out simple ‘hello world’ let alone understand regex and yet call themselves “webmasters” LOL

    Get off your high horse Stephen. A person’s location does not make him a great / crappy link builder. It’s his willingness keep abreast with ever evolving search space and the resources he has / given to.

    It’s amazing how many first world sites owners go to sites like Elance/Odesk/Guru/Freelancer wanting to rank for keywords like online poker or insurance or web hosting with project budget of $250-750

    What’s your opinion about them ?

    ****Myth # 37**** Everything that conference circuit SEO’s say is Gospel

    Rest of the post is spot-on as usual.

  • smokey

    This is all trivial. Who would pay any attention to any of this? Don’t you have anything better to do?

  • http://voidmstr.blogspot.com voidmstr

    I see no one is criticizing #36.

    Great content = great rankings.

    This is job number one.

  • http://www.visualscript.co.uk Badams

    @Stephan, I’m not the one debunking SEO ‘myths’. The burden of proof isn’t on me. You’re the one stating absolute truths that are questionable at best. We have enough bovine faeces being thrown around in the SEO industry and your article isn’t helping.

  • jasonjm

    All due respect, but isn’t it a bit ironic that a 2500 word post aimed at combatting misinformation and disinformation would not quote one single piece of data, fact, or analysis, save for one dubious SEOMoz study?

    Strikes me as not so much mythbusting as debating flavors of Kool Iad

  • http://www.thesearchagents.com Bradd Libby

    The article says: “16. Linking out (such as to Google.com) helps rankings. Not true.”

    Many people believe that inbound links increase PageRank, while outbound links have either no effect or a detrimental effect on PageRank. This is based on a gross misunderstanding of how PageRank works.

    PageRank is calculated on a network of pages, therefore outbound links from any given node can increase that node’s PageRank. I show an example in my blog post Everything I Need to Know About PageRank I Learned in Kindergarten.

    The effect of outbound links on PageRank is understandably much weaker than the effect of inbound links, but to say that outbound links do not affect PageRank is simply false.

  • Yourself

    @Stephan – So, you say that Great (#36), Updated (#14) content on a page with a high density of Relevant Keywords (#34) and some links to other high quality sites that Link Back to you (#15) does nothing for your SEO. But you DO think that if other high quality sites link to mine, that my ranking WILL be increased. Let me ask the obvious: so how do I get those high quality inbound links in massive droves?!

    It’s by creating Great, Updated content on a website with enough Relevant Keywords to let people know what I’m talking about and then offering them access to other Resources they might not know about (who may or may not Connect Back to me)

    How could doing the above NOT affect your ranking positively?

    I actually learned a ton from your post, but I gotta agree with some of the early commenters. Certainly some of these shouldn’t be the end in and of themselves, but they cannot be. Also, you get really sarcastic and don’t back some of these “debunks” with the research that proves it. That would really be helpful.

  • Duane Forrester

    Myth – SEO is a stand alone activity. Truth – many facets of web design, hosting, etc, can impact your organic results to more or lesser degrees. People tend to think SEO sits in a silo and other things can go on around it without influencing the work required to increase rankings.

    Myth – you can apply optimization after launch. Truth – sure, if you like tripling costs and taking longer to rank than needed. Not a sound business plan item, IMO.

    Myth – I just hired a killer SEO agency – they’ll hit a home run for me. Truth – the agency will do as little work as it can to maximize the profit per hour. If it’s not in the contract, they won’t do it either. Can’t blame them here, though, as they are consultants, not free advice givers. Still, don’t assume because you read three quotes and selected one that that agency will work with your best interests in mind. Some will, many will claim to. Their job is not actually to perform SEO, that’s just what they try to do. Their job is to increase recurring billing to build their business. Just like your job is to get more traffic to build your business.

    Myth – SEO is separate from SEM, social, etc. Truth – actually, SEO is but one part of a larger overall marketing plan. It’s NOT the center, nor should it be. It remains a single tactic. To treat it spearately and invest only in it is to run the race with blinders on.

    Myth – SEO is free – Truth – no SEO works for free, whether on your payroll or hired as a consultant, there is a cost. Ditto designers working on CSS changes, IT folks setitng up domains and IP addresses, etc. There is a cost to turning the dials and moving the levers of SEO and to think it’s free is folly. Yes, it CAN be cheaper than paid search, but paid search can also convert faster and more frequently than SEO on many phrases, so there you go. Want really stellar conversion rates, get a good email program running in house. ;)

    Myth – I can hire someone with a year’s SEO experience and they can manage the work as part of their job. Truth – you get back what you put in, at a minimum. Put in less, get back less. The time it takes a neophite to learn the details that make SEO work will be lost to your company. Add in mistakes and missed opporutnities and you could be sinking the ship with your own cannons! Plus, if YOU don’t know SEO, how can YOU hire someone who does?

    Myth – Can you give me the top 5 things to do to rank better and drive traffic? Truth – I am drawing my gun and will shoot you if you ask this again.

    Myth – because someone is senior in the company they must understand everything and are making decisons with a broad knowledge base inclusive of SEO. Truth – ……..sorry, trying not to laugh as I type this…

    Thanks for the article and chance to vent Stephan! Well timed man. :)

  • http://www.covario.com Stephan Spencer

    I’m not dissuading anyone from creating great websites with high quality, fresh content that includes relevant keywords as well as links to valuable, relevant sites. Please do that, that makes the Web a better place. Indeed, it’s what attracts great backlinks. But great content doesn’t automatically rank because it’s great content. The content may deserve to be ranked, but if no one knows about it, it won’t rank. It’s as important to actively promote that great content as to have created it. I’m simply making an argument against that tired old phrase “Build it and they will come”.

    At 2500 words, this article was super-long as it was (I probably should have broken it into 2 or 3 parts). If I fully backed up every point with enough research to satisfy everyone, this would easily have two or three times the length. If I can find the time I will expound further on all the points and write it all up as a white paper or ebook.

    I can appreciate that some folks may have strong opinions on one or more of the points. That’s why they’re persistent myths; it takes a lot of work to overcome a “feeling I’ve got about this.” :) It’s also easy to mistake correlation with causation.

  • http://www.covario.com Stephan Spencer

    @Duane, These myths ROCK! I wish I would have connected with you before publishing my article so I could have incorporated them. :)

    Congrats on the new book, btw.

    (Everyone please check out Duane’s new book “Turn Clicks into Customers”!)

  • Duane Forrester

    :) Consider these myths honorarily appended to this excellent article! Use as desired in any future expansion efforts. :)

    Thanks for the note of support, too, Stephan. As full disclosure to readers, my new book does feature an interview with Stephan, and a few other folks you’ve probably heard of. ;) … Rand, Shoemoney, Rae Hoffman… and others… :)

  • jasonjm

    “If I fully backed up every point with enough research to satisfy everyone, this would easily have two or three times the length”

    This is a fair point, but getting back to my ealier comment, respectfully, shouldn’t a post like that have more facts than plugs for your book and SEOMoz?

  • http://paulpedersen.com paulpedersen

    First off, excellent article. I agreed on most all of the statements you made and I wanted to say that upfront before I pointed out a few caveats to some of your points. With that said, I found the article to define SEO as factors that influence rankings, mostly ignoring factors that influence relevance for search queries. It’s in the area of relevance that I had to disagree with some points.

    In regard to my last statement, here’s what Google says about when a page is displayed and how high:

    “We use more than 200 signals, including our patented PageRank™ algorithm, to examine the entire link structure of the web and determine which pages are MOST IMPORTANT. We then conduct hypertext-matching analysis to determine which pages are RELEVANT to the specific search being conducted. By combining overall IMPORTANCE and QUERY-SPECIFIC RELEVANCE, we’re able to put the most relevant and reliable results first.” – http://www.google.com/corporate/tech.html

    You have to get invited to the party (relevance) before you can become the life of the party (rankings).

    #6 – While meta tags have little influence on rankings, the tag and meta description help with showing keyword relevance (i.e. The search terms for which your page should be displayed).

    #16 – Again, linking out is about showing relevance. Birds of a feather flock together. Webpages linking offsite, generally link to relevant info.

    #18 – I happen to agree somewhat with the myth about Google using the meta description in their snippet …but only when meta descriptions are low quality. When my meta description jives with the page content and is well written, I see it used as the Google snippet in almost every instance. The only exclusion is the homepage, which can often be pulled from other sources such as DMOZ, as you mentioned. While still somewhat important to showing relevancy, the most important benefit of a meta description, in my opinion, is the ability to craft something that is compelling to click. Without clicks, SEO is meaningless.

    #20 – H1 tags are a crucial element for SEO – I agree that the H1 tags doesn’t have much influence on “rankings” …but I do find them to have an impact on relevance.

    #36 – Great Content = Great Rankings – No, but Great User Experience = Lots of Inbound Links = Great Rankings …and by user experience, I don’t simply mean design. I mean the whole user experience package: Did I get what I want? Did I get it easily? Did I enjoy the experience? Etc…

    Anyways… Those are my caveats based on my experience.

  • http://treasurezone.de Jan

    Hi Stephan,
    thank you very much for this list. There are some thinks I will have to read about now. Great Article.

    Best regards, Jan

  • http://www.bryanhadaway.com/ Bryan Hadaway

    One that’s got me a little scared, is the fact that since meta keywords are obsolete, people are now abusing and keyword-stuffing the page title the exact same way… I assume though that Google is much smarter and will continue to get smarter really to the point of differentiating SPAM titles from legit ones so spammers don’t ruin it for the rest if us.

    In the event that most of the items listed weren’t given in the context of “within reason” I might need to challenge a few of them:

    #2: Expanding past just Analytics, I don’t think that being labeled as a spammer by Google is really one of the big concerns of privacy. All conspiracy aside, Google has more behavioral data on people than ANY Government agency, they have multitudes of data on the way we; shop, search, email, IM, text, voicemail, websites we look at, places we look at on maps and list goes on, I’m being generous.

    And if Google doesn’t regularly share information/statistics with a Government agency especially after 9/11, they certainly do upon request. That’s not a conspiracy, that’s logic, to think anything else would definitely be naive.

    #3: That’s one that I think you meant a big “within reason” on. PageRank may not be exactly accurate and may be behind, but it is a very important indicator. For years now, I’ve checked the PageRank of every page I’ve ever visited and it’s almost always made sense. The more popular, the more quality, the better the PageRank.

    I think you were referring to more long tail search phrases. If someone searches: “web design” you better believe PageRank 6 page is going to get better results than PageRank 1 page 9/10 times. However, if someone searches: “web design jobs in 2010” they’re very likely to get a PageRank 0 page that contains all those keywords than a PageRank 8 page that contains just: “web design”.

    #4: That may be true that sitemap.xml doesn’t directly boost PageRank, however it all helps and it all ties together. Submitting a sitemap.xml just might get that one page indexed the crawler missed that could lead to someone discovering your website and linking to it and so on.

    #24: I’m a strong believer in ongoing campaigns, but there is indeed a place and reason for a one-off optimization. Most important reason being that most people can’t afford ongoing SEO. But, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be important to provide a basic SEO optimization for them; cleanup and validate code, fix titles, cleanup URL structure, add sitemap.xml and actual Sitemap page, add a live text nav in the footer if they’re using some funky non-seo-friendly menu, add social sharing buttons, set them up with social accounts, some of those things only need to be done once.

    #28: I don’t disagree, I just find it odd that Google does that. I had one of my Search Results pages indexed and it serves no purpose unless a search was made, I can of course add noindex.

    #31: I probably couldn’t disagree with anything more than this one. I guarantee a website that has homepage PageRank 6 and then 2 page deep pages having PageRank 5 and trailing off into 4’s and 3’s get’s WAY more traffic than the one with PageRank 3 and trails off into 2’s and 1’s. PageRank is not 100% accurate, but it’s an extremely good indicator, it’s not just make believe or useless non-sense that authoritative sites have PageRank; 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

    Nonetheless, great article and a good debate piece. I would love to hear some rebuttals to my ideas, not as a challenge, but there’s no better way to learn than when your ideas are put to rest.

    Thanks, Bryan

  • DartHere

    OK guys, I have a problem with this article
    Everywhere I turn they are always talking about doing the things that you are saying are not necessary. I went to a class offered by ATT Yellow-pages that is offered all over the country and they spoke about it. Here is a article that I got today from my Yahoo Search Marketing and they claim just the opposite of most of what you have written. So what am I to do?


  • elle

    Thanks for the list. But honestly, I have read this a thousand times before. Can all SEO experts please stop writing these “SEO Myths Busted” posts. If your an expert you should spend more time discussing what does work, not list out everything that doesn’t.

  • Mikeos

    Most of what is written here is true but the stuff about CTR, description meta tag, and heading elements is off bat.

    CTR isn’t about a small number of clicks here and there, it’s about a huge volume of clicks over a prolonged period, and it’s the prolonged period that matters.

    With regards to the description meta tag Google even now still tell people to use it, heck it’s on their guidelines, so if they say you should use it then you should use it. END OF!

    Heading elements are also important as it helps establish context, but more importantly it defines the structure of your document, and well structurally laid out pages are given extra weight.

    In relation to keyword density, I’m sorry to burst your bubble on this but a short while ago I flooded my main index page with a repetitive keyword phrase and after a few short months I ranked 1st for that phrase in Google, within the top 5 of Yahoo and Bing (yes I know Bing powers Yahoo now), a position I held for the duration of the website. I only did this to see if it still worked and it did. I will add though that whenever anyone creates new content they should write for their readers, the content matter itself will ensure relevant keywords are used, and the document should be reviewed for keyword usage but shouldn’t distract from a naturally reading piece, I only broke away from this to see if keyword flooding still worked and I’m sorry to say it does.

    The stuff about not having to update pages regularly is true, I’ve left pages untouched for years and it never had a negative effect on placement, even not adding to websites with new content hasn’t had any negative impact on websites I’ve run.

    Most importantly what people fail to recognise here is that there is no ‘Holy Grail’ tactic that will make your site rank well, everything about SEO is cumulative. When you say such and such has little value you fail to see that most things have little value but it’s the accumulative effect of all those things that propel your website, ignoring something because you believe it doesn’t have much effect, as opposed to no effect, is pure folly.

    I’ve been a web developer now for 15 years and the fact is the SEO aspect of it is far easier than it’s being made out to be today, search engines have become more sophisticated yes but it’s still very easy to get excellent placements, so called SEO experts have made it far more complex than it really is!

  • http://www.returnondigital.com/dave-ashworth.php Dave Ashworth

    @Stephan Spencer,

    #14 – regarding the home page changes, I guess this is subjective to the site and others sites you’re up against, but during my research, I noted that one key aspect of the sites I was up against, were regularly changing content on the home page – not massive chunks at a time, but a section dedicated to linking to the latest blog post and a special offer of the day was commonplace – I adopted similar methods and began to find my crawl rate increase and subsequently I’ve been able to sustatin a place in the top 10, prior to this I could not, these updates I feel did contribute to this

    #20 – When you say “I can appreciate that some folks may have strong opinions on one or more of the points. That’s why they’re persistent myths; it takes a lot of work to overcome a “feeling I’ve got about this.” – I guess that yes, my opinion is more based on a feeling due to work I’ve done and results that have come from this, whereas you have done extensive research – however, this would strike me as less of a myth when I see the following top SEOs:


    suggesting that H1 use is the 4th most important on page factor, regarding it as moderately important:


    I guess when you’ve got those people saying that it does count to some degree, you’re always going to be up against it when trying to convince people it’s a myth!!

  • http://www.stephenwhitehead.co.uk Stephen Whitehead

    re #6 – i would add the proviso that this is NOT the case for some non-Anglophone search engines. It’s widely acknowlegded that Baidu (which presently has 60% of the Chinese search market) – still places importance on meta-data including meta-keywords.

  • http://www.otimizacaodesites.org Reinaldo Silva

    #6 Meta tags will boost your rankings. I’m so sick of hearing about meta tags. Optimizing your meta keywords is a complete waste of time. … None of the various meta tags are given any real weight in the rankings algorithm.

    If this really roots truth, it would not exist in the area of webmaster tools, the part of goal-tags.

    Try to change the name of this page to “revenues of cakes” and see what happens.

  • http://www.otimizacaodesites.org Reinaldo Silva

    I typed SEO in the Google search and your site doesn’t appear any in place.

  • http://www.bryanhadaway.com/ Bryan Hadaway


    I would believe individuals, experts, professionals, NOT companies trying to sale you something.

    @Reinaldo Silva

    “I typed SEO in the Google search and your site doesn’t appear any in place.”

    Who said it would? And if you’re just implying he must not be very good at SEO because he doesn’t come up for the search “seo”…

    Thanks, Bryan