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November 15, 2011

14 Popular SEO Myths Examined

With so much misinformation about SEO having been dispensed over the years, it’s hard to know what’s true and isn’t true – making it all the more difficult to separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff, as it were. Concerned about the potential harm misinformation about SEO can ultimately cause, I decided to compile an alphabetical listing of the most popular and persistent SEO myths, to either debunk or confirm their factuality.

1. Adwords

Since the arrival of Google Adwords, there has been an ongoing debate over whether or not running an Adwords campaign can improve search engine rankings. Ultimately, only Google knows the answer to that question for sure. However, to my knowledge, there is no credible evidence to support the notion that Adwords can improve your search engine ranking. If there were indeed concrete evidence to the contrary, it stands to reason, everyone would just start an Adwords campaign to boost their rankings.

2. Anchor Text

Although it can be other colors, anchor text is typically the blue, hyperlinked text you see on a web page – the words that you click onto take you to another page. For example:

free marketing tips

Okay, but is anchor text important? Yes, it is because it’s a crucial element in the search engines complex algorithmic formula that helps determine the rankings of websites.

For example, suppose you have a blog that reviews digital camera’s; the more links you have with the words “digital camera reviews” in your anchor text, the greater your chances of increasing your ranking for the keywords digital camera reviews.

3. Alt Tags

Alt tags are used to display a short text description of an image. It gets displayed when you hover your mouse over the graphic. But are Alt tags an important part of SEO?

It depends on whom you ask. Some experts dismiss the importance of Alt tags altogether, while others tout its importance. Personally, I used to lean in the direction of “not important,” until I read a couple of outstanding articles that made me rethink my position.

SEO expert Bill Hartzer makes a strong argument for the use of Alt tags. In his article, Search Engine Optimization: Why Image Alt Tags are Important.

“There is strong evidence that the search engines are now giving more weight to Alt Tags than they are the Title Tag or even an H1 Tag on the page. What?!? Yes, that’s right. You do need to make sure you use proper Title Tags and H1 Tags, but more SEO value for organic search engine rankings can be gained by using proper Alt Tags than using proper Title Tags or H1 Tags.”

And in his article, Why You Need to Stop Ignoring Image Alt Attributes, AJ Wilcox of makes a compelling common sense argument:

“Keyword usage in image alt text is classified as having minimal importance by a consortium of SEO experts, but that doesn’t mean it’s worthless. It is yet another opportunity to declare your relevance to your given keyword. The little things add up to big things together, so don’t ignore them.”

I agree with AJ. A lot of little things in combination do indeed add up to big things.

4. FFA Pages

FFA is an acronym for “Free-For All.” Here’s an example of an FFA page:

In a nutshell, FFAs are basically web pages of worthless links where anyone can submit their website’s URL for free (hence the term Free-For-All). One of the biggest and oldest SEO myths is, if you post your website’s URL on FFA pages, you will get massive traffic, as well increase your link popularity and search engine ranking. Here’s the truth: People who visit FFA pages do so only to post their own ads – not look at someone else’s. And any traffic you do get will be completely worthless!

In addition, FFA pages are considered both spammy and scammy, and posting on them could adversely affect your website’s reputation with the search engines – which could in fact hurt your ranking – or even get you banned. Why? Because in essence, FFA pages are nothing but link farms – and you know what Google thinks of link farms.

My advice: RUN, DON’T WALK away from FFA pages!

5. Header Tags

Header tags, for example H1, H2 are standard HTML elements used to define headings and subheadings on a web page.

Are they important? To my knowledge, there is no credible evidence to suggest that header tags have an effect on search engine rankings one way or the other. My advice: If you’re currently using header tags, continue using them if you wish. If you’re not using them, don’t worry about it.

6. Keyword Density

Question: What is the correct density of keywords on a web page?

Answer: There isn’t one.

Yes, I know this topic has been debated back and forth, but personally, I don’t think keyword density even exists as a calculable numeric constant. In other words, don’t worry about the correct keyword density. And don’t worry about counting keywords. Just create your web pages naturally, without trying to force or stuff keywords where they don’t belong. Then, let the proverbial chips fall where they may.

7. Keywords in Domain Name

Do keywords in a domain name help your ranking?

Based on my own personal experience, yes, having your primary keywords in your domain name does help with your ranking. To what degree, however, only Google knows the answer to that. But since Google uses over 200 signals to determine the ranking of websites, I can’t imagine keywords in your domain name not carrying some amount of weight.

8. Meta-Tags

A meta-tag is the HTML coding that describes the contents of a web page.

Opinions vary on the importance of meta-tags, but in my opinion, they’re not nearly as important as they once were. They don’t have a significant impact on your rankings one way or the other. That being said, if you want to use them, it certainly won’t hurt anything – provided you don’t abuse them (i.e., keyword stuffing).

9. Nofollow Links

As you already know, Google doesn’t count “Nofollow” links, right? Wrong. Google looks suspiciously at sites that have an unbalanced ratio of Dofollow links to Nofollow. Why? Because it’s an unnatural linking pattern that’s why. It’s also a huge red flag! Google prefers a healthy combination of both Dofollow and Nofollow links. So contrary to popular belief, Nofollow links do add to a site’s overall link profile, and has the ability to rank for keyword phrases. And while Nofollow doesn’t influence PageRank or pass link juice, it does contribute to your overall search engine ranking.

10. PageRank (PR)

Is PageRank important? One of the most controversial, misunderstood, confusing and debated topics in the SEO universe is the importance of PageRank.

However, in my not-so-humble opinion, Google’s 0-10 logarithmic toolbar PageRank is nothing more than a “superficial beauty contest” vanity tool – very much out-of-date, and does NOT have a direct impact on a site’s ranking. That fact was established long ago.

I’m going to say this as succinctly as I possibly can: Toolbar Pagerank Is Not An Accurate Representation Of A Website’s True Reputation With Google. In fact, if you do a little research, you’ll discover lower-PR URL’s consistently rank higher than higher-PR URL’s in Google’s SERP’s (search engine results pages). Therefore, the only page rank you should be concerned about that has any significant importance, is where your web pages rank in Google’s SERP’s.

Does toolbar PageRank have any importance at all? Yes, it has some…just not as much as many perceive it to have.

11. Reciprocal Links

Yes, reciprocal linking is an important part of SEO, but all links are not created equal. Achieving a high search engine ranking depends not only on the number, but also the quality of inbound links you have pointing to your site. For example, if your website does movie reviews, exchanging links with Betty’s Homemade Fudge won’t do you nearly as much good as exchanging links with a site that is thematically related to yours. So if you exchange links with other sites, be sure to keep relevancy in mind.

12. Site Maps

A sitemap is a collection of hyperlinks that outlines a website’s structure. These links make it easier for visitors to navigate their way around your site, as well as make it easier for search engine spiders to crawl your site.

But do they have any SEO importance? Not really. A few years back, I thought they did. But recent experience has taught me sitemaps have no direct impact on search engine rankings.

13. The Open Directory Project (DMOZ)

Is getting a backlink from DMOZ still important? With the arrival of mega-popular social media sites, as well other types of high quality websites and blogs, DMOZ is not nearly as important or respected as it once was. Personally, I think your time would be better served trying to acquire high-quality backlinks from other sources.

Does that mean you shouldn’t waste your time submitting to DMOZ? No, it doesn’t. Since it only takes a few minutes to submit your site, I see no harm in submitting to DMOZ. But be advised, it can take up to a year or more to get your site approved – and it might not get approved at all. So I wouldn’t lose any sleep worrying about getting your site listed in DMOZ.

My advice: Simply submit your site and forget it!

14. Title Tag

The title tag is a critically important factor in achieving high search engine rankings. For those of you who don’t know what a title tag is, it’s the words displayed at the very top of your browser. It is also used as the title of your website in the SERP’s (search engine results pages). Therefore, you should put plenty of thought into writing your title tag – to make sure it’s as effective as possible. Your title-tag should also contain specific keyword phrases, in addition to the name of your company.

David Jackson is a marketing consultant, and the owner of – Powerful, free marketing tips to help grow your business!

38 Responses to “14 Popular SEO Myths Examined

    avatar Tony Price says:

    FFA pages?

    Where on earth has that one been dug up from? FFA pages were completely irrelevant to SEO years ago!

    As for DMOZ, to the very best of my knowledge, it remains the root directory for Google and loads of other directories. Take the time and submit! Ensuring you submit to the right category is the key.

    avatar david miller says:

    I use SEO Pressor on my blogs and I feel that their emphasis on H1/H2 tags and keyword density makes sense and they certainly put value on alt image tags. They are an excellent SEO on page checklist.

    avatar Rob Osborne says:

    Some interesting points in this article. The subject of what’s best for SEO is always a challenge so any guidance is greatfully accepted.

    avatar Tmcards says:

    This is very good article on common myths about seo. Nofollow Links you have explained very good.

    avatar Dave says:

    I agree with you in point 3 “alot of little things do add up” so for that reason I’d still put ‘some’ effort into Meta Tags, Header Tags, Sitempas etc

    Hi David,

    Thank you for a very enlightening article.

    Being rather new to the whole SEO thing, your article made me understand the process a lot better.

    The problem I believe many newcomers faces is, that most times information of this kind is broken up in pieces. You on the other hand have with your 14 tips provided really valuable information.

    Of cause I realize, there is much more to it, but your input will be a great checklist to seek more insight on the subject(s).

    I’ve visited your blog too, and I want to complement you for the very clean look.
    Bookmarked it and tweetet this post also found over there.

    Michael 🙂

    avatar Barry Edge says:

    David, an excellent article, many thanks. Would you mind if I share with my visitors as I am always looking to inform them about best practice as majority of my clients work with limited budgets, and anything I can do to help them being ripped off can only be a good thing.

    Since switching to CSS for coding my business coaching site, I have been using background image more and image source less, for displaying images. But alt doesn’t work as a mouseover highlight with background image and I have been using td title to get the little popup panel. I wonder if this carries and seo juice or if I should add a seemingly irrelevant alt tag to the background image code for seo purposes?

    avatar Steve Bookspan says:

    Great Article. Good points and i agree with almost everything. Well done.

    There is always a lot of controversy about SEO. It is difficult to keep up with all the latest trends. We have all the tags, meta, alt and headings. It is difficult to keep track though. For images and hyperlinks we add title tags as well so that even when you hover over link there is more text, but we try to use different keywords in the alt and title tag for the image. Is it important? We can’t take the risk just in case tomorrow it becomes important! Thank you for the great article.

    Tony, as I clearly stated in my article, FFA pages have absolutely no SEO value. Unfortunately, many newbies coming online for the first time don’t know that. This article was written for their benefit.

    Regarding DMOZ, getting approved is not as simple as submitting to the right category. DMOZ’s problems run much deeper than that. In fact, many of their categories don’t even have an editor to review submissions.

    I stand by what I wrote. A link from DMOZ is NOT that important. Submit your site and forget it!

    avatar Lee says:

    I agree with most of this. A couple comments.

    1 – Keywords in the domain name no longer carry much, if any, value.

    2 – Meta tags should definitely be used, but not for keyword stuffing or rankings. Write them to encourage click thrus as they’re often what will be displayed on the search results page.

    3 – And am in complete agreement about making sure to mix in nofollow links in your link building.

    4 – Have been saying for years that keyword density doesn’t matter. Glad you agree 🙂

    avatar Former Marine says:

    Dave – I was surprised to see your article this morning as it normally doesn’t appear until Friday … *grin*

    @ Frederick Pearce- I don’t know how long you’ve been a site owner, but apparently you’re quite confused regarding CSS; Alt tags and SEO.

    Decorative images include background images, bullets, equivalents, spacer images, etc. These types of images make the page prettier but have no semantic value for a webpage. The alt attribute for decorative images should be empty as such – img src=”path/image.gif” alt=””.

    If you include an empty alt attribute, screen readers will skip over the image. If you fail to put an alt attibute in, the screen reader will read the entire URL of the image. Can you imagine listening to a robot say “spacer gif spacer gif spacer gif” repeatedly, or, worse, going letter by letter thru the underscores and extensions of a filename generated by ImageReady.

    @ David – FFA pages? LOL; yep – RUN, DON’T WALK away from FFA pages!

    As long as I’ve been a Webmaster teaching CSS; HTML; Ruby On Rails; proper coding, etc, many of us have our opinions on the subjects you touched on.

    Lastly; Google PR was actually created as a joke to see how many site owners would jump on it and Google did away with that crap a long time ago … it’s amazing how many people still think it’s vitally important versus Content.

    DMOZ? They’re human editors, so I strongly suggest site owners forget about them.

    Barry, thank you for your kind words. I would be honored to have you share my article with your visitors. 🙂

    avatar Gonzalo Oviedo says:

    Great Article!!

    I have 20+ websites and I keep my paid advertising is very low. And certainly I’m not an SEO guru. However Ive tested few things regarding some of your points:

    The keywords in the domain is important. not because the domain itself but in some cases you only can back-link with the url of your site. By Having keywords in the domain you get an anchor text with keywords as back-links already.

    Meta-tags are relatively important, I have sites with and without them and I used to see Google using my suggested meta-tags on the SEPRs; but more and more Google is showing different contents of my site regarding the keywords used to search.

    Thanks for the great article!

    avatar Former Marine says:

    @ Barbara Eyre – After looking at your website coding, I see that you and I code very much alike, and I agree with you on the fact that meta tags are vitally important.

    Even though I do have a link to my Directory on my main website, it sure is funny about reciprocal links … seems many site owners want you to link to their site, but they don’t want to link back to yours.

    Guess they don’t grasp the concept, “There is no such thing as a Free Lunch”

    avatar Sheila says:

    Thankyou, as a small business owner trying to make sense of all this stuff and generate solid trafic I appreciate the insite into the insanity that can be the internet.

    avatar Barbara Eyre says:


    Great article. Thank you for taking the time to point out these often-times confusing points.

    I just wanted to expand on the meta tags point. While they may not hold as much SEO power as they used to, they are still very important.

    Meta description especially since it is typically the text that appears as the description of your SERP entry. So, not only should it contain that page’s most important keyword, but it should be written to reflect how you want your entry to read to those using the search engines. Make it enticing so they want to click through to your site.

    Another point you may want to expand on is the action of creating a links directory on your website … which expands upon your reciprocal links point. Is creating a small links directory of relevant (complementary) links/websites/blogs a plus for SEO or does it make little impact but is great as additional resources for your visitors?

    Thanks again!

    avatar NSEtips says:

    Must say that you have outlined the SEO aspects in a very clear and a logical manner and we will try to implement all. Keep doing great work!

    Former Marine, my articles are likely to pop up at any time. Gotta keep you guessing! 🙂

    avatar Javier says:

    The best practice I think for SEO and high SERP rankings, is to just write naturally and at least once a week. That’s pretty much what I do, yes, I go searching for backlinks (relevant links), but I don’t focus only on that, I write once a week and I have several hundred phrases that I appear at the #1 – #15 results.
    Just keep your content real and fun.

    Thank you for your valuable feedback everyone! 🙂

    avatar Abnre says:

    Wow, thanks a lot for that!!!

    SEO points are hard to figure out sometimes but that article made everything clear!!!

    Its real informative and fun 🙂


    Visit Crumblrr

    avatar Pat says:

    With regard to the meta tags, it is important to give an accurate description. When your page appears in the google results the description in the meta tags will appear as the description for that page. If someone is searching for something and your description doesn’t reflect the content then they won’t visit your site. Google may bring up the page as having relevant content but you need to lure the visitors in with a good meta description.

    avatar John says:

    We use IBP to sort SEO on our websites, we have found it to be very good, but this article has explained a few points that were not really made very clear within IBP. Thanks.

    avatar Portugal Property says:

    Hi David,
    Thank you for your fourteeen points.

    I’m not an SEO guy, but have been fortunate enough to take my site to Google page one for many of my keywords because of articles like yours.

    I’ve learnt a number of valuable tips from sitepronews and would recommend your site to all who wish to rank higher.

    In relation to the Google PR, the only thing I have noticed is that it seems to offer higher link juice, (Subject to a number of other factors), though I am not sure whether this really makes a difference to my overall SERP.

    Anyway, thank’s for the article and I look forward to learning more!

    avatar Scuffz Board Supply says:

    Hello David,

    I’m also fairly new to SEO and have to say that this article has helped me out greatly. I’ve tried doing all these things throughout the past few months and I have to say that my page ranking in google search has significantly improved. My only issue is that I don’t really know what changes contributed the most to my page ranking. Unfortunately the last thing I tried was submitting to the FFA sites, I hope it doesn’t set me back.

    avatar landing page optimization says:

    i strongly believe that anchor text is vital for on page search engine optimization but in addition its not everything for on-page ranking factors!!! Its only one part. With quality content optimization you can simply out rank your competitors. thank you very much for your informative article. For more link building issues please only go here=====

    avatar shankar reddy says:

    Seo techniques are used to increase the visibility of a website to search engines,which gives you higher rank in search engine results and also earn you more traffic.

    Superb article.

    Have to admit that I’m surprised by your view on Google pagerank but agree that it’s not a determinant on SERPs ranking.

    I’d never have considered using or having a FFA page but I’m glad you mentioned it.

    keep up the great work,

    avatar La Company Online says:

    Great article, I think those were some very good points. I think a little bit of everything helps.

    Dear David!

    Hi, thank you for your useful article, because lately it is very difficult to keep up with all the latest trends and google changes. Sure I will apply your recommendations with all my websites, anyway, have you heard about a website, have you used their service? do you recommend to used it? I will wait for your comments, thank you.


    avatar David Pury says:

    Pretty much got everything covered.
    Anchor keywords is important but we have to get it naturally instead of getting all the same anchor keywords with the same content everywhere.

    avatar SEO Bedford says:

    Surely those are very common SEO myths and they have been debunked clearly. But another myth that is raising lately is the influence of metrics in rankings, by metrics I mean bounce rate, avg time on site. Can anyone confirm their influence in rankings?

    Michael, I was just re-reading some of the comments and realized I neglected to thank you for complimenting my blog and retweeting this post. I sincerely apologize. I can assure you, the oversight was not intentional. Anyway, I’d like to take a moment to thank you now.

    avatar M.J. says:

    Thank´s for very informative article.
    I´ve tried so many tips an advices all the last years, but I´ve found some very clear “points to do” in this 14 SEO Myth. it is already saved in my favourite “IM-Tips” folder and your site bookmarked!


    avatar instagram says:

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    avatar Karen Millen 2013 New Style says:

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