9 Factors That Debunk A Common Search Engine Optimization Myth – Part 1

9 Factors that Debunk a Common SEO MythThanks to guest blogger, Jeff Finkelstein, Founder, Customer Paradigm

One of the most common tactics some SEO professionals use to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt with Website owners is the following myth:
“We looked at the code on your site and noticed there are some problems with it. It`s not optimized as well as it could be.”

The Dodge: Do you know how to write code in HTML? If you’re like most Website owners, you may not have the technical skills to look at the HTML source code and determine what might be wrong.

The Facts: A well-coded site may in fact rank higher than a site that has confusing code.

How This SEO Myth is Like an Oil Change

It`s not much different than going into a quick oil change establishment. You get your oil changed and they inevitably tell you that you need a new air filter. Do you change your own air filter? And, do you know how often it needs to be changed? Every 3,000 miles? Some experts say once a year or every 50,000 miles.

Shake it out, but you don’t need to replace it every time you change your oil. However, if you don`t know that much about cars, and the guy in the uniform tells you to replace it for $29.99, it`s easier just to say “yes.” So, you get it replaced and feel you won’t risk having any expensive problems in the future.

Your Website may be that way too. The reality is that it may in fact (as some sites do) have code that is tough for search engines to understand.

To help debunk the myth, there are 9 factors that are legitimately difficult for Google and other search engines to crawl through and understand when reviewing a site. In Part 1 of this 2-part series, we’ll explore Factors 1-4:

1. Lots of Graphics. Graphic designers like to design graphics which appear as text. Search engines don’t “read” images. Sometimes important words (such as your company name or valuable keyword phrase) may be illustrated in your images and labeled something generic like “logo.gif.” One work around is to use an ALT tag in the code that defines your images. Search engines can read ALT tags.

2. Non-Standard Navigation. Some sites have navigation systems that are confusing to a search engine, use graphics, Flash or can`t be easily indexed. Is your site one of them?

3. Not Using a Standard Layout System. Your headlines should use a Heading 1 tag (H1), Heading 2 (H2) and paragraph layout system that search engines understand easily.

4. Store Finder Search Box. If the only way someone can find your store location is to enter their zip code into a box, then a search engine isn`t going to be able to find all of those pages. Instead, it’s best for you to list stores by state, with text links that make it easy for a search engine to follow (and for your viewers to click).

Ready for Part 2 with Factors 5-9? Read more here.

In the meantime, what’s been your experience? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks.

Jeff Finkelstein, Customer ParadigmAbout Guest Blogger Jeff Finkelstein: Jeff is the founder of Boulder, Colorado-based Customer Paradigm, an interactive marketing firm that has helped its clients achieve their goals through Search Engine Optimization, eCommerce, Web Design and various other marketing strategies. An expert on Internet Privacy and Web Marketing, Jeff evangelizes the customer experience and helps businesses design sequenced interactions that lead to loyal, delighted customers.


  1. Very helpful info, I had no clue! Thanks, great post.
    Gail Storey recently posted…How to Glide on the Winds of ChangeMy Profile

  2. Wow, loads of great information. I had a website designer. I wish I could do some of these things. Great post!
    Wyneatte recently posted…Day 3 ~ Love Challenge: Review Pet Peeves TogetherMy Profile

  3. What a relief. I really didn’t want an oil change on my website. I appreciate this information. So far I’m okay with items 1-4 and am looking forward to seeing the other ones.
    Linda Luke recently posted…The One Minute Business AssessmentMy Profile

    • @Linda, as Jeff suggests, our cars need tune ups (i.e. oil changes) every few months, but they don’t need air filters every time the oil is changed.
      Websites can benefit from tune ups as well, but complete overhauls aren’t always necessary as some might want to convince you. Stay tuned for Part 2. Thanks. ~Debra

  4. Thanks for bringing to light a key part of a site’s success! Happy to say I like to ‘look under the hood’ and have a trusted pro to keep it humming along!
    Andrea Feinberg recently posted…Why is an Ounce of Prevention so Heavy?My Profile

  5. Interesting how an H1 or H2 can be so important in coding a website.
    Peggy Lee Hanson recently posted…Oh, how I hated the balance beam in high schoolMy Profile

    • @Peggy Lee, I learned about using H1 tags in the HTML code since Day 1. Many folks doing their own sites use enlarged type for their headlines not realizing that – as far as search engines were concerned – there was a difference between that and an H1 or H2 tag. Search engines have long paid attention to the difference. Thanks! ~Debra

  6. Thanks so much for all of the comments on the article! I often guest blog and put information out there, but it’s hard to know if it resonates with people.

    There is so much misinformation out there about websites and search engine optimization that I’m trying to squash some of the bad practices that go on.

    I probably receive 3-4 inbound SEO unsolicited offers each week on our site. And we do SEO!

    That said, little things like H1 tags, title tags, image alt tags and the basic structure of your site do actually matter.

    If you’ve ever had the chance to see the leaning tower of Pisa first hand (I did many years ago), it’s a great reminder how much a solid foundation really matters!
    Jeff Finkelstein recently posted…No Posts Were Found!My Profile

  7. All the little factors truly do add up. Put them together with great keywords choices, placed in page titles, meta descriptions, page headline, and the first 90 characters on the page and you will boost your results significantly.
    Kathy Widenhouse recently posted…Feb 13, How to Get Testimonials at Events or When You SpeakMy Profile

  8. Hi Debra and Jeff- really like this topic and these are interesting facts. I still feel a little confused about SEO:-) How do you know when/if you need a tune up. How do I know if Google and other search engines are able to read my site well? I’ll be back for part 2.
    dana recently posted…I am the lightMy Profile

    • Reading these tips from Jeff is one way to get started @Dana. A quick test you can run is to go on Google and search a keyword you think your prospects are using to find you. Does your site show up? be specific with your keyword phrase and see what happens. Thanks. ~Debra

  9. Thanks for sharing! There is so much to know, what’s true and what’s not. I appreciate the help.
    Gladys Parker recently posted…Handmade From The HeartMy Profile

  10. Hi Debra and Jeff

    Eager to read the second part and learn about Factors 5 -9. Seem to have the water and battery under control – but a question so that I can check with my website designer – point 4 Store Finder Research Box. This is a new term for me. What is it and where can I find it on my website? Sounding D’uh, I know but very keen!

    • Hi @Vatsala, you don’t have a Store Finder Research Box on your site. It’s used mostly by retailers or businesses that have more than one location. Their viewers can insert their zip code and the bos will tell them about the store/office that is nearest them. I’ll be posting Part 2 of these series on Monday. Thanks! ~Debra

  11. #3 is key. I never understand why people format blog content like a high school term paper. Using heading tags is not only good for your SEO – it’a alos good for your readers who scan first read second!
    Tai Goodwin recently posted…Launch Talk: Intellectual Property 101 for New EntrepreneursMy Profile

  12. I can so relate to this post – I had a local lady come to me before Christmas witha 65 page “SEO” report asking if I could help her translate it. Talk about overwhelm and not useful at all. It’s these sorts of practices that give the industry a bad name.
    I’m looking forward to part 2 🙂
    Jan recently posted…A Simple Way To Increase Your WordPress Security [Video]My Profile

    • 65 pages @Jan? I bet she was grateful to have you “translate” for her. How unfortunate that what she received was not beneficial to her. I’m sure you re-directed her and got her heading in the right direction. Part 2 will be posted on Monday, Feb. 22nd. Thanks! ~Debra

  13. Dana – It’s tough to know how your site performs, but I’m happy to have my SEO team do a free, no-obligation competitive SEO analysis of your site for you (and any of the other readers here).

    Here’s a link to our site where you can give us the information we’ll need to run the report for you:
    Jeff Finkelstein – Customer Paradigm recently posted…No Posts Were Found!My Profile

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