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SEO Website Audit

8 SEO Myths Debunked

May 5, 2010
Photo Credit neoliminalOne of my favorite pastimes is debunking SEO myths – and there are many! I could probably come up with 100 SEO-related ideas or actions that people think are helpful, but which in reality won't provide them with more targeted traffic to their websites.

Here are some of the more prevalent myths I hear and see bandied about in SEO articles, at SEO conferences, in SEO blogs and on SEO forums:

SEO Myth #1: You need special search engine pages.

While it's not as prevalent as it used to be, we still get calls from companies who want us to create some sort of "SEO landing pages." While landing pages often make sense for paid search campaigns such as Google AdWords, they're unnecessary for organic SEO campaigns. Well, I shouldn't say that they're unnecessary – it's just that your SEO landing pages shouldn't be something outside of your site. They should already exist as an integral part of it. If those aren't currently bringing you search engine traffic, it doesn't mean you need to add new pages, it means you have to optimize your existing ones better.


SEO Myth #2: You need to optimize for just one keyword phrase per page.

Many, many SEOs and businesses believe that you should optimize each page of your site for just one keyword phrase. Their thinking is that you will keep a strong focus on that one keyword phrase. The problem with this is, first, it's very difficult if not impossible to write a page in a natural manner while you're trying to focus on just one keyword phrase. And second, it's a waste of a good page!

Why optimize for just one keyword phrase when you can optimize it for 3 or even 5 keyword phrases? The more keyword phrases you optimize a page for (within reason), the more targeted search engine traffic you will receive. If you look at your web analytics right now, you'll typically see that each page of your site is already bringing in traffic from various forms of numerous keyword phrases. It's not only okay to optimize for more than one phrase, but in my opinion it's critical to your website and to search engine success.


SEO Myth #3: You can't use tables in your HTML code.

This one makes me want to scream. HTML tables have been easily spiderable by search engines since the search engines were newly hatched. As far as I know, table code has never been anything that choked the search engines. I think this myth was propagated by website developers who advocate tableless designs to make you think you'll somehow get better rankings out of their designs. You won't.


SEO Myth #4: You must use text links, not image links.

Nope. Like tables, the search engines have been able to follow and index image links since their very early days. You certainly don't have to ruin a beautiful website design that uses images for the primary navigation because you think it's better for SEO. Just be sure to use the same words you'd use in your anchor text links in your image alt attribute text (alt tags), and you'll be good to go for the search engines.


SEO Myth #5: You can't use Flash on your website.

Yes, you can! While I don't recommend that you create your entire website in Flash, using bits of Flash here and there for some cool effects will not bother or choke the search engines in the least. They don't punish, penalize or otherwise nuke into oblivion sites that have Flash on them. You should of course avoid putting important content into your Flash elements, and also remember that some mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad don't support Flash. But if you add alternative text for non-Flash-enabled browsers, all should be well.


SEO Myth #6: Google's link: operator tells you all the links that Google knows about.

No, no, and double no! Typing link:www.yoursite.com into Google's search box often won't even show you any links, let alone all of your links. And when it does show you some, they're usually not the best ones. Don't even bother to use this command because it is useless at best. While there are some helpful tools that can find some backward links, there is no foolproof method for finding out about all the links that point to your site or to your competitors' sites. The good news is, just because you can't find them all doesn't mean they don't exist. Keep making a great site and getting the word out about it, and you'll keep building up your link profile, whether or not you can generate an accurate list of them.


SEO Myth #7: Toolbar PageRank = Real PageRank.

Most people who've learned a bit about SEO have seen Google's PageRank toolbar graph at one point or another. It supposedly shows the importance in Google's eyes of any given URL. Unfortunately, it's not even close to an accurate representation of any page's importance to Google.

That said, don't let that fact lull you into thinking that PageRank – that is, the real PageRank that Google, Inc. knows about your website – is not important. It's extremely important in how your site will perform in the search results for your targeted keyword phrases; there's just no way for you to truly know exactly what it is.


SEO Myth #8: Google or other organizations can certify SEO companies or declare them the Best/Top SEO in the world.

Despite what some SEO companies would like you to believe, there is no such thing as an SEO certification. No organization currently exists that can certify that any company is qualified to perform search engine optimization services. There are no definitive tests that an SEO company can take to prove that they are qualified, and there are no courses that, when passed, will prove that a company can do SEO. Yes, there are courses people can take that will provide them with a certificate of completion for that course, but don't ever believe that a certificate of that sort has any real meaning beyond the completion of the course.

There are also lists and directories of SEO companies who pay a fee for the honor of being labeled the "#1 SEO company!" If you are ever in the market for SEO services, don't let those fake paid-for awards trick you into thinking that the SEO company must be good or the best. While it's possible they may be a perfectly fine company, they may not be. Paying for a "best" label doesn't magically make a company any good. It just means they are willing to spend the money it takes to purchase the label. Much to the surprise of unwitting SEO clients, award sites are not actual rating or ranking SEO companies based on any skill sets.

Have you fallen for any of these SEO myths before? Please leave your comments below.

Jill
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Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a Boston SEO Services Agency.

If you learned from this article, be sure to sign up for the High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter so you can be the first to receive similar articles in the future!

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 WTFSEO said:
Can't say I agree with you on Myth #4. Sure, they can follow the links, but that alt tag barely helps for rankings whereas keywords can make a huge difference.

There's absolutely no reason to have image only links. You can lay text over a background, or you can do some css image replacement, have the site degrade when no JS, or whatever you want.

Text links aren't just good for SEO, they're imperative for usability. Screen readers, text only browsers, etc choke on image navigation.
 Jill Whalen said:
I beg to differ, WTFSEO. In my experience, the image links with descriptive alt attributes work just as well as text links with the same.

And they work as well for usability too since the alternative text shows up just the same as if it were a text link.
 Lisa Wood said:
Jill, excellent article. I'm so glad to have this in print to refer my clients to.
 Denis desnoyers said:
Jill, this is one of the best article I've read on your newsletter. I will print it because I almost can hear myself arguing with some of my clients in a few of those myths. There is so much bad information out there that keeps coming back to my ears about SEO that I sometimes feel like a parrot, repeating the same arguments over and over.
 WTFSEO said:
You can test the link thing easily. Put a made up word in an image link's alt attribute. You'll never rank for that word.

Doing so in links though, we all know works.
 Zack said:
You're right, we could go all day with SEO myths. 8 is only a drop in the bucket.
 Beantown SEO said:
Robocop on top of a flying unicorn is an interesting image choice to accompany this article, let alone any article for that matter lol........
 Jill Whalen said:
WTFSEO said:
You'll never rank for that word.
Sorry, WTFSEO, but I'm afraid that you are mistaken.

Clickable linked image alt attributes very much are indexed by the search engines as I have tested this on numerous occasions. Unlinked (and therefore unclickable) image alt attribute text is sometimes indexed by Google and sometimes not. Last I checked it was, but it's one of those things I wouldn't count on to always be indexed. Clickable ones tho, like those we're talking about here for navigation have always been indexed by Google ever since I've been checking, which has been for many, many years.

Many pages rank very highly based soley on the weighting of the alt attribute text pointing to those pages. It's just like anchor text. Test it for yourself. Or look at some highly ranked sites that have image navigation with proper alt attributes.
 Jen said:
Amen to #6 and #7 in particular. The only thing that is more upsetting than someone talking about how many links Google says they have, is hearing them quote their in-links according to Alexa. It's also really hard to convince people not to trust what they see in regards to PR. That green bar makes everyone a little crazy. I think because REAL page rank is based on so many intangibles people are inclined to latch onto any measurement tool they THINK they can see and verify.
 Michael said:
Re: #3:
Table-based design usually dilutes keyword density, compared to tableless, CSS-based design. Because of the extra code, it makes pages load more slowly. And the markup is less semantic, so the content is harder for search engines to evaluate. That counts for something, doesn't it? (Plus, it's much harder to edit later.)
 Kmadd said:
Not buying the ALT attribute text adding value argument whatsoever. Jill, if you could provide an example, I would be much at ease. Your "examples" are incredibly vague and prove nothing.

My thought here is that Google, et. al. have always focused on content that is visible to users, whether on page or off. If there were the potential to "hide" content within the code of a page that a user would never see, would we not essentially be talking about meta-keywords and open up the type of exploits that plagued early search engines? By placing any value on content that does not appear on a page or in an inbound link, you are opening a gate to the most deplorable types of manipulation. Google has openly discredited meta-descriptions, noscript tags, hidden text (via hidden div, color background matching, floating a div outside of page margins, cloaking, iframes(!) etc.) Why would ALT attributes be treated any different?

With that said, could you honestly say that if an ALT attribute does carry any weight, that it would even be comparable to what a true text based href would carry? Not only from an on-page perspective, but from the manner which navigation passes value throughout a website. Please tell me that your studies have shown that an alt attribute have shown to be as valuable as, mmm say, an H3 tag. My life dealing with creative, brand, and engineering teams will be greatly simplified if this is the case.

Final point. You reference that "Many pages rank very highly based soley (sic) on the weighting of the alt attribute text pointing to those pages," to which I say, "how is it possible that the only instances of terms that these sites rank for appear exclusively in alt attributes?" It seems improbable that a navigation taxonomy would be developed in a manner that it is so unintuitive that the only time a page would be linked with that nomenclature would be within said navigation, and that all other references external and on-site text based would deviate from that naming convention, heck, it seems impossible that a navigation scheme would lead to a page that contains on content as to the category which it falls under.

If you can show me one single of example a page ranking for a term that only appears in an alt attribute, I will be content. Otherwise I can only chuckle the irony of your attempt to debunk a "myth" only creating a more damaging myth.

//please do not point out image search, which for obvious reasons does utilize alt attributes.
 Beantown SEO said:
Why not simply use an HTML text link layered over the image......seems to solve both problems.
 Jill Whalen said:
@Michael, HTML code isn't factored into any density calculations that the search engines might do. They're only looking at the actual words that people see, not the code.

@Kmadd, I don't have an example handy, but I've seen plenty over the years. Try looking at a site that gives away award images to those who "win" it. They provide specific code to link back to them with, and often use specific keyword-rich alt attribute text. Or  look at any of the software sites that force people to link back with a little image to them if they're going to use the software for free.

Those types of sites have learned long ago the power of the alt attribute from thousands of sites linking back to them. There are numerous examples of this. If you don't want to dig for them yourself, some day when I'm bored I'll dig a few up as I'm sure they are still plentifully in existence.

Honestly, I'm shocked that anyone doing SEO for a few years or so wouldn't have run across the power of clickable images with the appropriate alt attribute text. It's been very evident for quite some time if you study the SERPs at all.
 Kmadd said:
@Jill

IMHO, not even close. Your response carries no merit as to the topic at hand.

Per "SEO Myth #4: You must use text links, not image links." You in no way imply that you are speaking of thousands of external links pointing to a single resource. But I'll get to that point in a moment.

In your original point you discuss index-ability of image links (not in question), and that on-site navigation can be image based with no repercussions and carry the same advantage as text links, which is false, and you are not directly responding, rather avoiding your erroneous claim.

The question that I ask you is: Can you say to your readers that image based navigation and intra-site links in no way harms SEO performance? That is most certainly what you implied with "Myth #4."

Please correct me if I am wrong, but you claim that it is unnecessary to make links text based, as images will work just fine.

And to the drivel about thousands of image links back-linking to a site increasing visibility, your are, as so often is the case, confusing causation with correlation. As I am familiar with such "old hat" tactics, can you empirically say that the rankings of a site were due to the alt attribute and not the link itself? What about the fact that so many of these promotion elements which you speak, often have the alt text as the company's name, which is also their domain, which is heavily mentioned on their site which is being linked to?!?

Links have value, yes, regardless of what is within the href. Text links have contextual value, sure. If this were the case with alt text, then why has nobody been able to successfully launch a "alt text link ads" service to more discreetly than ever pass value to customers in the most non-invasive way possible?
 Wynne said:
Regarding alt tags for link seo - I tend to agree with @Kmadd and @WTFSEO. If you can show proof of this then we'd all be a lot happier. Otherwise I will continue to believe that anchor text is best for navigation links (rather images).
 i80equipment09 said:
Check out our image navigation. Our alt tags rank for the page. Yes, there is text, but not linked anchor text. Google sees the text and it also sees the alt tag attribute for the picture, ranking it for the specified page. All page 1, I might add. If I'm not interpreting this correctly, then I apologize. However, we specifically added the alt attributes as part of our on page optimization.
 Jim Summer said:
Hi Jill,
Longtime follower from waayy back, not much of a commenter.
But I do feel compelled to comment on #3 - using tables.

I would say - DON'T... unless you are displaying spreadsheet type tabular data. Yes they can be indexed but the point I am making is avoiding redundant code bloat. Whatever you can achieve using less code - go that route. I agree with Michael.
--
Jill Whalen said:
@Michael, HTML code isn't factored into any density calculations that the search engines might do. They're only looking at the actual words that people see, not the code.
--
Would you happen to have a link to where its stated that code is not factored into the density calculations? I would like to see this as I disagree. Preferably anywhere other than Matt Cutts.

If you have 2 identical pages and all things being equal (links domain etc) which will rank higher the one with more code or less code? Even if say, the load times are identical? Something will set them apart... it could be the total kb on the page that is the difference. That 1 millisecond of Google server processing or that 1 extra packet could be the difference between being #1 and #2. Just mho :~)

I used to have to use JAWS (speech reader) to 508 websites, this exercise showed me how code can convolute the heck out of your page (content), and at the end of the day, it's being graded/read by a machine.

Thanks a lot!
Jim Summer
Jacksonville, FL
 Dave Foreman said:
FYI - the arguments made against alt tags beg for testing. I will point out though that the person in this thread that claims that correlation is not causation is absolutely right. Unfortunately without access to the actual Google Algorithm one cannot tell correlation from causation unless you run a split test which aparrently no one on this thread has done. I have seen data on SEOMoz that shows that there is direct correlation between use of Alt tags and improved SEO results for specific keywords. There is however No correlation between the use of H1-5 header tags. In my mind is makes sense for Google to recognize alt tags as long as they are not spammy. Google should want to support any protocol that makes sites more usable for disabled people.
 Mark Nunney said:
SEO Myth #2: You need to optimize for just one keyword phrase per page.

If you focus SEO on a few keywords (the head) but are really thinking about all keywords containing those keywords then you are targeting thousands of keywords (the tail).

One page can easily get results for thousands of keywords. Have a look at your top pages.

Target the head, exploit.
 James O'Sullivan said:
Link bait "SEO" hook line and sinker everyone :-) HR just caught some fishys with this one!
 Robert said:
I'd agree with many of these to some degree, others I would argue with.

On the value of text links vs image links, simply put, Jill would you rather have an image link with targeted alt text pointing back to you or a text link with targeted anchor text? Sure I'd take 1000's of links over one, but I'd rather have the best of both.

@Jim, well actually all things equal, two identical pages that have the same load speeds, I'd give preference to the one with the higher kb value, because it loads in the same time. Isn't that more efficient? The counter to that argument works just as well.

Multiple keywords on a single page. I agree and disagree. I'm not likely to have a page rank for both a house for sale in my region and a sale for the latest Final Fantasy game. Common sense dictates that a page may rank for more than one keyword, provided they are somewhat related. I would still argue that I prefer to work on a single core phrase and the long tail around it.
 Geoff said:
What about Google Adwords coverage affecting SEO positioning? Heard that one a couple of times....

RE: #4 - I had a load of success changing the logo ALT tag on a site from the (low search volume) brand name to a leading keyword. Every page on the site linked back with the keyword in the ALT tag.
 Jill Whalen said:
Geoff, the Adwords one was in my last SEO Myth article ;)
 Joydeep Deb said:
First, Robocop on top of a Unicorn is neat :D

SEO Myth #3: You can't use tables in your HTML code.
After the introduction of Page Speed factor, I would personally recommend DIV/CSS over HTML

SEO Myth #4: You must use text links, not image links.
Text link will give more keyword(s) advantage over image links and also the page will load faster (Page Speed) factor.
 Nevil Darukhanawala said:
Seo Myth # 2 - If I had 5 keywords to target - seo expert, seo company, seo services, seo consultancy etc, and each is highly competitive, why would I want to put all of them on one page, which makes focused optimization a balancing task as well. I find pages with focus on 1 to 2 related keywords, with a mis-spelled keyword, work best. Try building a link with anchor text "seo sevices" to a page with title "SEO Expert ..... " VS anchor text "seo services" to page that focuses on SEO Services. Do a test and see which one ranks faster.
 OhPlease said:
Matt Cutts confirmed that page speed is a ranking factor. Do you link 18 nested tables of code bloat will help your rankings?

[Flame removed. - Jill]
 SEO BLOG FAILURE said:
These are terrible myths. The noobs on black hat forums don't even ask dumb questions about these. It's as if you took real myths and ran them through an article spinner.

#1 sounds like you can't understand what the needs of your clients are. Part of onsite SEO is making your target pages, the ones you want to rank, function like PPC landing pages. The purpose is making sure search traffic converts to another action on that page, by way of using the same methods of conversion optimization used on PPC landing pages.

As for #2, it's inside out and backwards. Each keyword you want to rank for, you need to target a single page for that traffic. The last thing you want to do is try to rank each page in your domain for the same keyword. Google doesn't want to fill up the first Serp with only your pages, so you need to let Google know which single page is most relevant for a keyword.

#7 is harmful misinformation. The function of Toolbar PR is to give a rough description of actual Linkgraph PR. Toolbar PR is likely based on a logarithmic or polynomial scale of Linkgraph PR, and is therefore pretty important. You should have quashed the myth of PR being the main ranking factor of a page, because that is still a rampant myth.
 Jill Whalen said:
@SBF, you may want to read the article again as you seemed to have read a whole lot into things than what was there.
 John Wright said:
#8 seems like a shot at TOPSEO's, deserved in my opinion. Making a business out of "certifying" other people's businesses whilst pertaining to hold some kind of authority is verging on fraudulent IMO.
 Keyword-rich Name and Link Removed said:
Also it's worth mentioning that lots of noobs think that spending hours editing meta keywords will result in huge SEO benefits... there's tons of myths out there
 greg cryns said:
My experience is that leaving a website alone and not adding stuff frequently will NOT harm your Google rankings.

It may help, but I don't think it hurts much.
 Bryan Casson said:
Myth #8: Totally agree, all these big SEO companies think they are the only SEO qualified companies. They forget that the SEO experts that built their companies, got their company qualified and then left cannot get qualifications for themselves because 1) they don't want to do it all over again 2) would rather focus on the clients live results than trying to prove themselves..

I must disagree with Myth #3 and Myth #4

Text to code ratio does play a role in Google algorithms. Tables make a lot of code. The table itself will index fine like you said but we need to limit the amount of table code so Google does not need to sift through so much code to get to your content. Secondly, all that extra code slows down the page speed which is a factor announced by Google for ranking.

As for Myth #4 : I would prefer to use text links. This creates anchor text. Take a look at your webmaster tools accounts for anchor text on those sites that use images, you will notice that those alt and title tags you used do not show up as anchor text. This tells me that Google may very well go through those links but the value from the anchor text is not there.

Thanks for the great article Jill
 Bryan Casson said:
@greg
Leaving your page alone is the last thing you want to do. Google loves fresh content. Fresh Content Marketing is a solid marketing strategy. Google will start to filter out old and dormant sites, you can see that they are pushing for new content. Secondly without new content you will never rank under the "Latest tab" in Google search . How many visitors do you think you will lose. Most of the time people don't want to read old news.

Another reason we want fresh content is to get the "freshbot" to visit our site so that when we post something new it is listed in Google in seconds rather than 2 weeks or event 2 days later.
 A Samuel said:
Too much noise around this subject...too many myths that top seo's contradict each other on. I prefer to test myself and work from my own findings...sure it takes time, but worth it in the end.
 Ruth O'Leary said:
Myth #3: There are reasons other than SEO for doing things in a certain way, and I think this is a good example. The use of tables *for layout* (as opposed to for the presentation of tabular data, which is entirely acceptable, so long as they're coded correctly) is bad practice for usability reasons, as they can cause real problems for visually impaired users with screen readers. From a developer's point of view, they're also horrible to maintain.

The use of style sheets (CSS) should always be preferred for controlling page layout, to benefit users of screen readers but also to make it *much* easier to accommodate other devices (screen, mobile, print) without needing multiple versions of a single page. If this also ends up giving an SEO benefit then that's a bonus.
 Jill Whalen said:
Hey guys...

In regards to image alt attribute text counting like anchor text, I had a few minutes this morning to review some existing image links from this very site which shows that Google does in fact index alt attribute text and attribute it to the page it's being pointed to.

You'll notice that many pages of this site (highrankings.com) have a gray rectangular graphic that says "Subscribe to the High Rankings Advisor Newsletter." The graphic links to our newsletter subscription page and has alt text that says "newsletter signup."

There are no text links that I'm aware of which say "newsletter signup" that point to that page, nor does the word "signup" appear on the subscribe page at all.

Now if you do a search at Google for:

newsletter signup +site:highrankings.com

you will see the subscribe page show up first.

In addition, if you add an allinanchor to your query plus put the phrase in quotes, so it's:

allinanchor: "newsletter signup" +site:highrankings.com

You will see all the pages of the site that are using that graphic image/alt text. The fact that they come with in an allinanchor search seems to me that alt text = anchor text.
 3D Web Design said:
I disagree with Myth #4. Text links give more serp, links from images - more authority.
SEO Myth #8 is my favorite and exactly in google manner: google want to certify seo companies and google want to rule the world may be, but we know that this is not possible :)
 Jill Whalen said:
And if you don't like the test I mentioned above, I ran another one.

I linked to my Google Places article from the image of the bird from twitter in another article. I left the anchor text of twitter bird there.

Nowhere on the Places article is that phrase, but now it shows up for that phrase. Granted, you have to do the phrase in quotes and also a site:highrankings.com search, but that's because it's a phrase with half a million results so it's the only way to easily illustrate it.

At any rate, it's clear to me that the anchor text used for clickable images does indeed count towards the page it's linking to. I cannot say for sure if it's the same value or not, and I'm not really sure if that can be accurately tested, but I will think about how it might.
 B Lloyd said:
SEO Myth #9 - SEO "experts" all know exactly what they are talking about because they all know exactly how Page Rank is calculated. As evidenced above. Sheesh.
 RV Barrett said:
Thanks for all this food for thought. I was not fooled by most of these 'myths' but it's good to have them listed in post like yours. Can't say I'm the best at creating a strategy of attack for SEO work to your website, but this tells me that at least I;m headed in the right direction. If you can't learn something new, it's good to get a 'pat on the back' that you have been finally barking up the right tree for a change.
 Ruth said:
What I would like to know is if the VIEWSTATE unending list of gobbledygook near the top of our pages results in keywords and text in our pages from being spidered properly. Our developer says 'no' -- but we have lousy organic search results in Google on our asp.net powered product pages. I don't think there even are any meta keywords on these pages, where would they go in the code?
 Jill Whalen said:
@Ruth, thats all ignored by the search engines and it's not a problem. Your lousy organic results is definitely not a function of the VIEWSTATE code.

As to Meta keywords, they have no place in Google SEO as that tag has always been ignored by Google.
 Dave said:
On #4, while ALT text will rank, I have not seen anything definitive on whether the anchor text benefit would be the same, greater or less than a text link. My SEO intuition would expect Google might grant it a bit less, given that image ALT text is both non-visible, and also much more likely to be keyword-stuffed/spammy than a straight text link.

However, their have also been some recent changes on how Google is now handling links in general, including granting certain links more, less, or no value, based on their location and type, which could also come into play here.

For example, the ALT text on an image that happened to be one of the standard banner or other advert sizes, I suspect might now have a somewhat different weight with Google than a straight text link! ;)

There is also Google's recently granted patent (as reported by Bill over at seobythesea, and which I believe you are also aware of), regarding placing greater value on links, based on such things like font size, boldness, and color. ALT text could be at a considerable disadvantage in this case (as it is hard to imagine how you could define ALT text as 34-point bold ! LOL)

More importantly, the patent specifically mentions whether it is a text or image link as one of the factors that can alter ranking!

So even if they weren't doing it before, they just got an patent giving them the exclusive right to do it now!

On #5, the big caveat is that they don't try to do the actual site in Flash. Flash developers often push the client to do this, which is where the site gets into trouble SEO-wise.

Flash files can also tend to get quite large, which CAN now impact SEO, due to Google's recent addition of page load time as a ranking factor! ;)

On #6, Google Webmaster Tools (Your site on the web / Links to your site) does a MUCH better job for this - although nothing is perfect. You can also only use that approach on your own sites. Yahoo Site Explorer is also very handy, and can be used to check-out competitors as well.

But #7 is what really got my attention - even many Pro SEO's don't seem to get this! As a result of the mass of confusion, misconceptions and "myths" that that this specific issue has caused, I just recently wrote an advanced SEO article, covering / explaining that whole area in great detail! Given the frustrations you have expressed about PageRank in the forum posts you linked to above, I think that you may find the information in that article of value, I am therefore linking my name directly to it for your convenience. I would also be very interested in any comment your might have on that article - Thanks!
 Jill Whalen said:
Hi Dave,

Thanks for your comments. I have some thoughts on them below.

On #4, while ALT text will rank, I have not seen anything definitive on whether the anchor text benefit would be the same, greater or less than a text link.


Rather than looking for something definitive, may I suggest running your own tests?

There is also Google's recently granted patent (as reported by Bill over at seobythesea, and which I believe you are also aware of), regarding placing greater value on links, based on such things like font size, boldness, and color.

Patents are just that, patents. Since it was filed years ago, some, all or none of it could be in place today. Just because it was recently granted doesn't mean that there will be any changes due to it. Again, this is where running your own tests can prove to be extremely valuable.


More importantly, the patent specifically mentions whether it is a text or image link as one of the factors that can alter ranking!


Of course it is a factor, as are zillions of other factors. Anything on a page is a potential factor that can effect rankings.

On #5, the big caveat is that they don't try to do the actual site in Flash.

Which is what was stated in the original article.

Flash files can also tend to get quite large, which CAN now impact SEO, due to Google's recent addition of page load time as a ranking factor! ;)


Okay, you're one of many to bring that silly Google propaganda of page load time as a ranking factor, so I feel I better address it now. It makes me laugh how many people suddenly think that speeding up your website's load time will actually change your rankings. Really? Are you guys thinking straight? This is just another of Google's methods for getting website owners to sign up for even more tools that they own so that they can get even more information from you. Even the Google engineers who mention this factor have clearly stated it's not going to be a factor for most sites.

So can we please stop talking about website load time as a true ranking factor?

Google Webmaster Tools (Your site on the web / Links to your site) does a MUCH better job for this - although nothing is perfect. You can also only use that approach on your own sites. Yahoo Site Explorer is also very handy, and can be used to check-out competitors as well.

Again, I stated that there were tools that could tell you about some links. But neither of the two you mention are actually very good at it. While they're pretty much the best we have, they show neither the best links, nor even ones that may be counting towards link popularity. Yahoo's site explorer is horrible and not at very useful in that it shows ads, nofollowed links and others that are possibly not being counted by Google. And Google's own Webmaster tools shows crazy links...usually the most spammy ones that a site may have. I don't personally find either very helpful.
 Mitchell said:
Wow! Great post! I definitely learned a few things... especially about not using only one keyword per page. We will be implementing that soon because it makes sense - I don't know why I didn't think of that before!

Thanks,

Mitch
 Centec said:
I was just talking to my wife a few days ago about how all the sudden it seems all web designers & webmasters claim to be SEO experts :)
 Dan Lew said:
I think most SEO these days is based on all myths on what you can or cannot do, even Matt Cutts himself never provides a solid explanation on things. :)
 Keyword Rich Link Removed said:
Great list. You really do provide a great explanation of things. I like the part about flash. We incorporate flash in our website but we also exclude it from getting crawled with a robots.txt file. I'd recommend doing that so that you don't confuse a crawler. Overall, great read and keep up the good work.
 London said:
It's all to generalistic to give a definite yes or no to any of these 'myths' - there are too many factors involved. Myth one - you shouldn't have landing pages outside your site. If it's in the sitemap, and has links to it, and backlinks, and therefore visitors, is there a good reason why you shouldn't do this? I've seen sites appear on first page of google for low competition areas based entirely on the internal optimisation which is obviously impossible to do and cover what you want on a homepage alone. If you had links to your 'lonely' landing page, is there a good reason why not? once they click away, then they're into your normal site anyway...
 Rich said:
I recently read a book and the author said he had created mutiple landing pages for his site with each landing page targeting different keywords. He would then submit to Google in hopes of showing up in the SERP's. Now I have been doing this SEO stuff for some time and I never heard of such a thing. Your article supports my intial reaction; it is a waste of time. Interesting article.
 Silkstream said:
#1 How about if you're using filters? These perform so badly in SERP's that its a necessity to create a new landing page.
#2 If you optimise for just one phrase per page you do run the risk of looking too unatural to Google but rather than deviate from your key term why not try swapping two words around, using synonyms such as 'kid' instead of 'child' etc. This will look more natural, will help gain traffic for those words too and these will help push your main keywords rankings also, as google understands these are two different ways of saying the same word.
#3 We would never recommend using tables over CSS. Ever.
#4 Alt text does hold some weight for seo ranking, all be it almost insignificant whilst keyword rich anchor text is one of THE most important factors when ranking for any keyword. Thousands of hours of A/B testing and a whole generation of SEO's cant be wrong about that, surely?
#5 Flash is becoming defunct. Java is the future IMHO.
#7 Pagerank works as 'rough guide' to the value of the page. Its better to use this than go blindly guessing, I prefer to use the MOZ bar though due to the amount of metrics taken into consideration.

6 & 8 Agreed.

I cant help but feel this article was created as some kind of link baiting exercise...?
 TheCat said:
7/8 isn't bad.

In the real world where companies run by morons with masters degrees in marketing end up with horrific websites then want a quick and cheap fix (we're talking big companies) then seo landing pages are that bandage. So your #1 is incorrect in practice, but absolutely correct in theory.
 Kansas City News said:
#4 - I have proven that beyond a doubt image Alt text is heavily indexed and followed. I have a news website that I started and I get more hits on my images than on my pages - or almost, at least. I have NO idea what I'm doing, but my news page called "Kansas City News" ranked in the top 10 on Google for over 2 years going between number 6 and number 9. Pretty impressive considering the competition (over 374 Million Results). Then just last week, Google made some MAJOR changes and my site (and several other of my sites) dropped to page 4 or 5. I didn't change anything. Wha' Happened? What operation did Google just complete that really changed the Serps?

Anyway, thanks for the article Jill, but the images definitely bring traffic to my site - I always name them very specifically - i.e. a photo of the downtown Kansas City skyline is named "kansas-city-skyline-downtown.jpg"
 Dave Tapp said:
I have not read all of the comments (because I am simply too lazy), but I wanted to say that I enjoyed the article.

I agree with pretty much all of what you have said, but I think you have made some assumptions that you state as facts. The big conversation piece in the comments seems to be #4. I think I agree that having images is not the end of the world, as with a well written alt the link should still pass the relevancy of next page onto search engines (remember that internal links do not work in the same way as external links), but you cannot say exactly how Google treats these links just by what you have seen in the past. There may be a slightly high weighting on contextual links over image links, but you are not able to easily see or test.

I am of the opinion that you should always make things as easy for Google as possible. That in my opinion would be to try and include contactual content where possible.

Allso #5 is indeed true, but why would you recommend flash over HTML5 and CSS? You say within the article that it is not ideal. Of you wanted to add that in you could say the same about many 'SEO issues' (pagination, duplicate content, canonicalisation etc etc.) as Google can handle most issues itself, but if you do things well from the start it makes it easier for them to spider, index and rank.