12 SEO myths and facts you must know


Whether you are an in-house seo or an agency, if you don’t have strong proofs/examples to back up your suggestions then you will have a hard time getting them implemented.  Which means your 80 pages long seo audit report can end up gathering dust in some file cabinet in a remote area of your client’s office. My blog post is an attempt to gather some solid proofs which will help you in educating your clients or getting that important approval from senior management to make changes to a site and separate seo myths from reality.

I am writing this post with the assumption that you don’t believe a single word i say and i suggest you to think this way about yourself whenever you send seo recommendations to clients/boss.


Stop chasing the fat head. Run after the long tail keywords

Reason & Proof-

if you had a monopoly over the top 1,000 search terms across all search engines (which is impossible), you’d still be missing out on 89.4% of all search traffic. There’s so much traffic in the tail it is hard to even comprehend. To illustrate, if search were represented by a tiny lizard with a one-inch head, the tail of that lizard would stretch for 221 miles.

Source: http://weblogs.hitwise.com/bill-tancer/2008/11/sizing_up_the_long_tail_of_sea.html

Illustrating the Long Tail

Source: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/illustrating-the-long-tail

Search Demand Curve

Source: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/illustrating-the-long-tail

The Search Demand Curve

Source: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/search-engine-landscape-2010

conversion rate by keyword phrase length

Source: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/search-engine-landscape-2010

 8-Word Search Queries Up 34,000% in Last 5 Years!  As new data from Hitwise suggests, we’re gradually starting to use more & more keywords when conducting our search engine queries. Hitwise compared January 2009’s data with last year’s, but I want to take you back farther in time–5 years in fact!

Not that my memory goes back that far, but I did remember covering this data for my old blog: Search Engine Lowdown. Here are the numbers from this year, with Feb 2004’s numbers in parentheses:

1-word searches = 20.29% (19.02%)
2-word searches = 23.65% (32.58%)
3-word searches = 21.92% (25.61%)
4-word searches = 14.89% (12.83%)
5-word searches = 8.68% (5.64%)
6-word searches = 4.65% (2.32%)
7-word searches = 2.49% (0.98%)
8-word searches = 3.43% (no one did 8-word searches in 2004!)

As you can see, there’s been a significant drop in the number of people using 2- and 3-word searches, while those using 5-words and above are becoming more common–likely from those of us that cut-and-paste large quantities of text into Google.

Source: http://www.marketingpilgrim.com/2009/02/8-word-search-queries-up-34000-in-last-5-years.html


Great contents is (automatically) not equal to great rankings

Reason & Proof-

” Great content doesn’t necessarily rank because it’s great content. The content may deserve to be ranked, but if no one knows about it, or if the site architecture is so atrocious that it repels the spiders, then 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.” Don’t let these comments dissuade you from creating high quality content. Indeed, it’s a likely prerequisite for SEO success, especially when the keywords being targeted are highly competitive.” – Stephan Spencer (author of the famous book ‘The Art of SEO’)

Source: http://searchengineland.com/seo-myths-reloaded-clarifcations-consensus-and-controversy-41816


“No. Great content doesn’t itself produce great rankings. But the way it is distributed and promoted among the potential linking partners. Moreover Google can’t read and evaluate contents like humans. So it can’t rank web pages on the basis of its merit. It ranks web pages on the basis of its link popularity and the trust and authority of the domain which host the web pages.” – Rand Fishkin

Source: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/great-content-equals-great-rankings-right-wrong


Don’t bother about keyword density

Reason & Proof-

” Keyword Density Not really a factor. Yes keyword should be present but density is not important. Include the keyword but make writing sound natural.”

 Source: Third Google Webmasters Chat in which Matt Cutts was present.


Antony Johnson – 5:23 pm Q: Hi Matt, Are there any guidelines available on keyword density we have pages that are about 1 single subject and the keyword density is quite high Matt Cutts – 5:27 pmA:

Antony, you may not believe this, but we tend not to think much about KW density here at Google, b/c our algorithms handle it pretty well. My advice is to pull in an innocent/non-search friend and have them read the text. If they raise their eyebrow…..

Source: Recording & Coverage of second Google webmaster live chat event


“Honing in on a particular keyword density value while editing page copy is a colossal waste of time, a distraction from what really matters………There is no value in benchmarking against competitors’ keyword densities. If your SEO consultant tells you otherwise, turn and run!” – Stephan Spencer (author of the famous book ‘The Art of SEO’)

Source: http://searchengineland.com/seo-myths-reloaded-clarifcations-consensus-and-controversy-41816


“Keyword Density is Not Used – How Many Times Do We Have to Say It?” – Rand Fishkin

Source: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/some-opinions-on-the-seo-myths-realities-fight


Stop bothering about Page Rank

Reason & Proof-

PageRank Distribution Removed From Google Webmaster Tools. “We’ve been telling people for a long time that they shouldn’t focus on PageRank so much; many site owners seem to think it’s the most important metric for them to track, which is simply not true. We removed it because we felt it was silly to tell people not to think about it, but then to show them the data, implying that they should look at it.  :-)” – Susan Moskwa (Google Employee)

Source: http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Webmasters/thread?tid=6a1d6250e26e9e48


Q: My site’s PageRank has gone up / gone down / not changed in months!

A: Don’t worry. In fact, don’t bother thinking about it. We only update the PageRank displayed in Google Toolbar a few times a year; this is our respectful hint for you to worry less about PageRank, which is just one of over 200 signals that can affect how your site is crawled, indexed and ranked. PageRank is an easy metric to focus on, but just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s useful for you as a site owner. If you’re looking for metrics, we’d encourage you to check out Analytics, think about conversion rates, ROI (return on investment), relevancy, or other metrics that actually correlate to meaningful gains for your website or business.

Source: http://sites.google.com/site/webmasterhelpforum/en/faq–crawling–indexing—ranking#pagerank

Source: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/the-science-of-ranking-correlations


Is Page Rank a Good Predictor of Rankings? No. Not really. Our data on Page Rank correlation is very solid and suggests that yes, PR is positively correlated with rankings on Google.com (though much less so in Google.co.uk – sorry Brits!). However, the degree of correlation is not overwhelming and there are far better single metrics if rankings correlation is your goal.

Source: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/the-science-of-ranking-correlations


Toolbar PageRank Won’t Change Crawling, Indexing or Rankings. We do Toolbar PageRank updates 3-4x/year but to be honest, it’s not something that you need to wait for. The PageRank shown in the Toolbar is an older snapshot of the PageRank that we use internally (which is continuously updated). Changes in Toolbar PageRank will not change anything with your site’s crawling, indexing, or ranking, so as a webmaster, I’d strongly recommend focusing on something else.If you are using PageRank as a means to sell PageRank-passing links, keep in mind that this is against our Webmaster Guidelines, and can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results.  – John Muller (Google Employee).

Source: http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Webmasters/thread?tid=25ddb903338c4cb0&hl=en


There is no such thing as over optimization or over optimization penalty.

Reason & Proof-

Approving the theory of ‘over optimization’ is equivalent to approving the theory of ‘keyword density’. Over optimization is bad not because you will get a penalty but because your website will look spammy and nobody would like to link out to a spammy website. Matt Cutts has clearly said in this video that  “there is nothing in Google that we have like an over optimization penalty for


Linking to other websites can help you perform better

Reason & Proof-

Linking out to authoritative sites has positive impact on ranking. You can listen to the NYTimes’ SEO, Marshall Simmonds in this video on SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday. He talks about how adding external links to articles on the site had a noticeable positive impact on the Times’ rankings and traffic.


Meta Keywords tag has no impact on Rankings

Reason & Proof-

Meta keywords tag has not effect on ranking and is completely ignored by search engines like Google. On the other hand it can help your competitors to determine the keywords you are targeting. Matt cutt has clearly said in this video that “Google doesn’t use the keywords meta tag in web ranking“:


SEO can’t be done cheap

Reason & Proof-

Common business sense is the biggest proof here. Lot of businesses don’t understand the value of getting the desired rankings esp. in the competitive markets and thus ended up getting ripped off again and again. It takes real money to displace real money.

Websites which are in top 10 for highly competitive keywords have been spending loads of money in content creation and marketing for years. They didn’t come up on page 1 of Google overnight and certainly not with a shoe string budget. Which means if a business is spending say $5000 a month on seo and has been doing it for the last 3 years, then it has spent $5000*12*3 = $180000 so far to get/remain in top 10 for number of competitive keywords. And if your idea of replacing this $180000 worth of rankings with total budget of say $1000 then you need to wake up.

Related Post: SEO Scams – Why you get ripped off again and again


No one can guarantee rankings or allege special relationship with Google 

Reason & Proof-

“No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google. Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever.”

Source: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35291


SEO is not a submission service

Reason & Proof-

SEO is not all about submitting you website to search engines, directories, social bookmarking sites etc. Many seo companies/consultants provide submission services (submission to 200 search engines, 5000 directories, 2000 social bookmarking sites etc) in the name of seo. Check out what Google has to say about such SEOs:

“Avoid SEOs that talk about the power of “free-for-all” links, link popularity schemes, or submitting your site to thousands of search engines. These are typically useless exercises that don’t affect your ranking in the results of the major search engines — at least, not in a way you would likely consider to be positive.”

Source: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35291


SEO is not a black magic

Reason & Proof-

Some SEOs mislead clients/boss by using as much seo jargon as possible or not clearly explaining what they intend to do. Google has following advice against such type of SEOs:

# Be careful if a company is secretive or won’t clearly explain what they intend to do. Ask for explanations if something is unclear. If an SEO creates deceptive or misleading content on your behalf, such as doorway pages or “throwaway” domains, your site could be removed entirely from Google’s index.

Ultimately, you are responsible for the actions of any companies you hire, so it’s best to be sure you know exactly how they intend to “help” you.

Source: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35291


Investing in SEO is profitable.

Reason & Proof-

While there is no solid proof (at least not to my knowledge) that social media is cannibalizing search/seo but there are many solid stats which prove that people are searching more and more every month and demand of seo is rising:

Webshare Market Search and Volume

Overall search volume increased 5.3% M-O-M across the 5 major search engines. Source: http://blog.compete.com/2010/04/29/march-2010-search-market-share/

All search market share and volume

Source: http://blog.compete.com/2010/04/29/march-2010-search-market-share/

Source: 2010 SEO Industry Survey Results

PPC vs SEO in clicks and spend

PPC vs SEO in clicks and spend. Source: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/search-engine-landscape-2010

According to a survey (survey of 1.6 million SMBs) published by search engine land on Dec 8, 2011, SEO is the single most important marketing channel for SMBs.


Update: Steve Wiideman of seosteve.com has shared a real life success story of a client who earned quarter of million dollars in gross revenue online and 62% of the revenue came from organic search.

Real life example of what seo can do for your website

Real life example of what seo can do for your website. Source: http://www.wordtracker.com/academy/creative-seo-strategies


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  • http://www.seosteve.com/ Steve Wiideman

    By far the best article I’ve read online in a long time. It’s no wonder Rand did a tweet on it only moments ago. It amazes me how many companies still list Search Engine Submission as a service, thanks for calling them out.

    In terms of Recommendation #12, I have some great data available on an article I wrote for WordTracker: http://www.wordtracker.com/academy/creative-seo-strategies

    Recommendation #6, really? I’ve seen the opposite with my experience. Calls for another test.

    Recommendation #3 needs clarification. Over-optimization can kill you. I’ve seen clients, as recent as last week, stuff their pages with keywords and move to page 4. Using Chrome and Ctrl+F you can search for your target phrase and see it highlighted on the page. If there’s a lot of highlight, you might have a lot of spam.

    I’ve RT’d the post and will definitely make it a favorite. Thanks for sharing!

    • seo himanshu

      Thanks Steve. I am going to cite your data for recommendation #12. I know ‘over optimization’ is a pretty controversial topic. But what that hurts in my opinion is the ‘spammy’ look of the website (cos of keyword stuffing) which makes it hard to get editorial links from potential linking partners. Approving the theory of over optimization is like approving the theory of keyword density. Moreover i have yet to see any sold stats on ‘over optimization penalties’ though Matt Cutts has denied them in the video posted above. Thanks for stopping by.

  • http://www.ben-rush.com Ben

    Good article with nice inclusion of key data sources to summarise your statements without a big long essay.

  • http://Website Helen

    Excellent post!

  • http://www.italiaseo.net Gianluca

    I mean… this post is the pure essence of your blogging style: exact, citing the sources and a reference.
    Great job Himanshu… I think I will steal the idea (with reference) to build up a series.

    • seo himanshu

      Thanks Buddy. I am going to add more items to this post.

  • http://www.arcpropertysolicitors.com Chris

    Great post – useful for inhouse SEOs if they need to get the bosses onside.

    Just found your blog via one of Rand’s tweets and have now subscribed!

    • seo himanshu

      Thanks Chris! I hope you find other posts useful too.

  • http://www.seo-contentwriter.com Sushant

    Brilliant post! I totally agree with you, Steve. The best EVER article written on SEO. I came to know about this post from a tweet by my UK friend @acquistioneng whom I consider an SEO evangelist. But, Jesus!, this post merits a thousand tweets! I will make sure this post is read and tweeted as many times as possible. Wonderful data. Very unique, useful and illuminating! Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us, Himanshu! Hats off!

    • seo himanshu

      Thanks Sushant :)

  • http://www.villanovau.com Kristen

    Great post.!
    I’ve bookmarked and shared it with my team.

    I appreciate the concise nature with graphs and charts to back up the data. Plus the comments are a great conversation as well.

    I was wondering, have you noticed any impact on the long-tail keywords since Google implemented Instant search? I’ve noticed my keyword pool fluctuating more since the addition, but not much “damage” to any other aspects I’m tracking.

    I know Bing has offered Instant for awhile now, but with a much smaller portion of the market I’d expect its impact would be minimal.

    Again, thanks for the post. I’ll be citing it in future with those outside the SEO department, clarity and visuals are always a hit.

    • seo himanshu

      Hi Kristen! I haven’t seen any impact of Google Instant on the long tail keywords.

  • http://sankar.info Sankar Datti

    Great article Boss,

    I was very much impressed with Recommendation – 8:
    SEO can’t be done cheap. That’s absolutely right. But most of the clients won’t understand this. Of-course it’s completely depends on how we explain to them.

    Sankar Datti

  • http://www.netpaths.net/blog Christopher Vos

    @kristen “have you noticed any impact on the long-tail keywords since Google implemented Instant search? ”

    Most definitely, people seem to love trying google’s suggestions because of convenience, efficacy or interest.

  • http://www.wowpromotionalgifts.co.uk Paul Lakeman

    I came across this via a post on UK Business Forums http://www.ukbusinessforums.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=184478 and I’m so glad I did. Full of excellent advice many thanks

  • http://www.sbglobal.info/seopackage.aspx SEO Packages India

    you had shown very good this article. your graph is showing every details about seo but submission generates traffic.

  • http://www.jackdi.com/ Jack

    Being a newbie seo wannabe, I find this article very educational. Thanks a lot.

    I’ve also been doing long tail keywords ‘coz the fat heads are indeed very hard to beat.

    In a way to the one who is doing the search, long tail searches are actually more fruitful. ‘Coz if a single keyword is search, the result would be a lot and is more generic. This would be a pain for the person doing the search on looking for the right info. But adding a few more words to it, the search is narrowed down to the specifics.

    Thanks man. I had this bookmarked.


  • anand

    I simply want to give you a big thumbs up for the great information you have got here on this post.

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