51 SEO Myths
1. SEO is voodoo
No, SEO is NOT voodoo. While it can seem difficult to demystify SEO, it’s important to use language that isn’t ridiculously complicated that makes it seem mystical. The average business owner has no idea what canonicalization issues and keyword density are. However, these can be broken down into plain English pretty easily. Don’t be confused by the big, confusing language many SEO consultants and specialists use. If you don’t understand something, just ask.
2. SEO is a one-time effort
Often times, SEO agencies take on “one-time” SEO projects for limited budget small business clients, send the client on their way, realize great results, then have to start up again 9 months later when their results had tanked.
SEO is an ongoing evergreen process that requires maintenance, constant updating, refinement and optimization. So why is ongoing SEO the way to go?
- More sustainable
- Continual improvement based off data
- Adapt to algorithm and competitor updates/changes
- Update and create new content
3. SEO is Dead
SEO definitely is NOT dead, but if you’re still doing what you were doing 5-10 years ago, then you will be actively tanking your website’s ranking. Some elements that were important 5-10 years ago no longer are. But, in reality, there are new elements that have replaced the old or elements that have morphed out of old ones.
Practices of the past, such as spamming your links all over random digital directories will no longer boost your ranking but instead hurt it. As such, it is important to constantly research and study how SEO is changing to keep up with the current practices and methodologies.
4. SEO is All About Ranking
The real point behind SEO is traffic, not rankings. Traffic can be a byproduct of rankings, but not always. Also, a lot of times most of your traffic will come from thousands and thousands of long-tail keywords that aren’t a big deal on their own, but when you add them up they dwarf the #1 ranking for the pie-in-the-sky keyword.
5. SEO is Inexpensive
Sure, SEO can be inexpensive if you want shoddy tactics (black hat SEO) or if you want nominal results. Cheap services can often lead to the following:
- Poor content: Content drives SEO, and without good content your SEO initiative is dead in the water. You should expect to pay $150-$200 for a high quality article--not 10.
- Black hat techniques: Black hat techniques are methods like keyword stuffing, link spamming, etc. Once effective ways to increase search rankings and traffic, these methods now have a negative impact on your site due to the advancement of search algorithms and their ability to recognize such efforts.
6. Social Signals Don’t Matter
While google says social media is NOT a direct SEO ranking factor, this isn’t the whole story. As seen in Cognitive SEO’s graph below, there is a strong correlation between social signals and ranking position.
Social media doesn’t impact SEO directly, but it does so indirectly by amplifying ranking factors that Google DOES consider. How? Because social media leads to mass sharing of your content and ultimately more visibility. If a lot of people share your content on social media, it’s more like people will link to it (backlinks are a huge ranking factor!).
7. Keyword Research a One Time Thing
This seems ridiculous, right? You should also be updating your keyword research list to continue to capture new, high-value keywords for your site.
8. Keyword optimization is the #1 Priority
Now that Google uses RankBrain, its machine learning algorithm, keyword optimization is not as big of a deal. There are now hundreds and thousands of long tail keywords that are regularly searched within a topic. They also change based on location. In addition, Google will actually punish you for overusing keywords. RankBrain will actually find keyword topics that are related to one another on its own.
9. Keywords Need to Be an Exact Match
Few things can make high-quality, well-thought out content less appealing to readers and searchers than a headline or writing style that is awkward because it has keyword phrases forced into it. Nothing sounds worse than something like, “US citizens operating United States small businesses in America have been seeing great gains in the US in recent years.” That’s a lot of keywords and phrases crammed into that one sentence. But, the sentence sounds horrible and extremely redundant. Don’t let your content sound like that!
10. Keyword Targeting is Irrelevant after Google Hummingbird
This is clearly not true. Although, purely focusing on keywords is outdated and will not move the needle for your site. As a starting point, content should always be written for the user first. Keywords and associated phrases can be added in later if necessary.
11. Exact Match Anchor Text in Content is Required
Not true. In fact, a high percentage of exact match anchor text can result in a penalty because it looks manufactured and not organic.
12. Great Content Will Rank Automatically
Unfortunately, this isn’t true. In 2019, search engines are very competitive and you have to do more than just write great content. Especially with small businesses who have very few backlinks and little to no organic rankings, a few high quality pieces of content will do nothing.
13. Your Homepage needs a lot of content
Your homepage is a gateway to your business, not an opportunity for you to place 150 high value keywords on your site. Your homepage should contain content which reflects your products and services well, that’s it!
- Clean & Simple Navigation
- Headline: Clear Statement
- Sub-Headline: Short Description of What you do
- Main CTA: Main goal you want to convert
14. Guest Blogging is Obsolete
Not at all. Guest blogging helps you build high quality backlinks to your site to increase your domain rank. But, you should avoid low quality guest posts, shoddy sites, and use your best judgement. Also, use branded anchor text more often as it avoids Google penalizing your website. Plus, try to remember to link to authoritative sources. You can learn more about how to start guest blogging here.
15. You Don’t Need Links
Links can get a bad rap because of black hat SEO practices that send thousands of spam backlinks to your site. But, you need high quality backlinks in order to show Google that you have “votes of confidence” from other sources. Ideally, expert, authoritative, trustworthy sources will make up a majority of your backlinks.
16. More Links is Better Than More Content
The quality of links is far more important than the number. When you invest in content, you can actually use this to help your link building efforts. This content can be used for webpages, blog posts, lead generation offers, and guest posts on other sites. All of these types of content will bring on links further down the line.
17. Paid Search Impacts Organic Search
Not directly at least. Google treats the two entirely separate. That being said, once people start seeing your ads, they are likely to respond to your organic search listings differently than before.
18. Images Don’t Require Optimization
Google cannot see images on websites (at least not yet), so it’s important to give the image an alt text and relevant file name to ensure that Google knows what the image is about. As of February 2018, Google has removed the “view image” button on google search results for images. Instead, users will be prompted to visit the actual webpage to view the full-size image within the content.
19. Optimizing for Mobile Doesn’t Require Much Attention
Yeah, okay, good luck with that! Google just switched to a mobile-first index, so you should definitely pay attention to your mobile site! In addition, nearly 60% of all searches come from a mobile device, so, if anything, you should start with mobile FIRST!
20. More Pages = Higher Ranking
A great example showing this myth to not be true is Brian Dean’s backlinko. He has just over 60 pages on his site and is driving insane amounts of traffic to it. In reality, longer form content will actually rank higher than shorter form content all else considered equal. Google prefers posts that are 2000-3000+ words and so do searchers. Recently, a majority of search is trending towards long tail keywords that are hyper-specific. People want to get beyond just the surface answers and really dig into the details!
21. You Must Submit Your Site to Google
Submitting your site to Google is technically not necessary, but, it is highly recommended. You can do so pretty easily here for Google and here for Bing. They’re done through Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, both of which you should already have if you are serious about your website’s SEO.
22. Structured Data is Too Complicated to Implement
Not at all. And it’s super important to implement because you are basically helping the search engines analyze your content more easily. Get started with Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.
23. Speed isn’t that Important
Not only is site speed one of the signals used by Google’s algorithm to rank pages, but 53% of mobile visitors to your site will leave if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. A quick loading site will boost your rankings while also lowering your bounce rate!
24. Keyword Density
With Google’s implementation of Panda, Hummingbird, and the development of RankBrain, keyword stuffing has become a thing of the past. Keyword density is the percentage a particular keyword shows up on a page. So, if you have a 1000 word blog post and your keyword appears 10 times, that means your article has a keyword density of 1%.
There is no optimal keyword density. Loading the content chalk full of keywords can actually negatively impact your ranking, especially if it negatively affects user experience. As a general rule, you should focus on getting that main keyword in your title tag and somewhere in the first paragraph. But after that, just write good content!
25. You Don’t Need a Sitemap
This is not true, especially for really large websites or for those who are just starting out (not a lot of external links). Sitemaps are there to make crawling and updating easier on Google. A lot of website builders currently do this for you (ex. Shopify stores automatically generate a sitemap.xml).
26. No Sitemap, No Ranking
Nope, it’s not that serious. Google will still find your content and you will still rank, it’s just not optimal. And SEO is all about optimization!
27. You Must Update Your Site
Not really. It’s an old internet marketing mantra that frequently updating your content will get you better rankings and more traffic. There is slight truth to this in that Google likes fresh content, but only if the information has actually changed. For example, technology posts should probably change pretty frequently, because technology is rapidly changing! But, if you have a piece on how to trim weeds… pretty confident it won’t need to be updated frequently.
28. Big Brand X is Doing it, Let’s Do it!
No no no… no! In reality, some of the largest brands in the US get away with plenty of SEO mistakes. The problem is, things that would hurt small businesses who don’t have an absurdly large online presence don’t matter for massive corporations who have such a ridiculous backlink profile and content repository that the little things don’t have an impact on them. But when small businesses get it wrong, they really get hurt.
Not only this, but all companies are different! Your users will have different queries and different user intent. Find what works for your users and stick to that.
29. Algorithm Devaluations are NOT Penalties
There is a big difference here. An algorithm devaluation just means your content is not up to the standards of the new algorithm. In reality, this should be a warning sign to you, because Google is telling you your content was not as user friendly as it could and should be.
When you receive a penalty, Google will actually inform you via Google Search Console. Then, it’s on you to fix the issues that triggered the penalty and file a reconsideration request.
30. Duplicate Content Penalty
Susan Moskwa tried end this myth back in 2008, but clearly it didn’t work. While there are some types of duplicate content that are discouraged (multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with A LOT of duplicate content), it really doesn’t matter. All that happens is that the pages are filtered and only one shows up. So, if you are posting your content on your own personal blog and on your business website, whichever is more relevant will be the one that shows up!
There are so many myths out there about RankBrain (partially because Google is secretive about their information) there are too many to count. So, let’s just say what RankBrain DOES do, and not focus on all the myths.
Rankbrain attempts to answer unknown queries by looking at previous search data and the relationship of the terms used in those searches. RankBrain uses machine learning to determine the most relevant results to search engine queries. We won’t get into machine learning here, but just Youtube it for some good explanations (it’s pretty cool).
32. Having HTTPS isn’t Important for SEO
Well, Google said it is, so we’ll leave it at that. Who are we to argue with them?
33. Meta Descriptions Have a Huge Impact on Rankings
Nope. It is not even a factor in the search ranking algorithm.
34. Meta Descriptions aren’t Important
FALSE. I know you read the last one and thought this was going to be true, but meta descriptions actually have quite an impact on your site. Meta descriptions impact click-through-rate (CTR) and ultimately conversions. When Google serves your site on the search results page, people still have to decide whether to click through or not!
35. Pop-ups Will Hurt My Ranking
Google did announce in 2016 that pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from search results may not rank as high (i.e. pop-ups), but the results have yet to show anything. Just start browsing around the internet, how many websites are still hitting you with ungodly pop-ups when you land on their site? That being said, you should not go out of your way to try and interrupt the user experience--make your pop-ups as seamless as possible.
36. H1 is the Most Important On-page Element
No. While it is good practice to help make your content more organized for the reader, it doesn’t contribute to SEO directly. Google Software Engineer Matt Cutts explains in this video that it really doesn’t matter. Just focus on high quality content.
37. Good User Experience is an Added Bonus
This used to be true, but not anymore as search engine crawlers have become more sophisticated. In fact, RankBrain, the third most important ranking metric, is driven by behavior metrics, including pages per session, bounce rate, session time, and CTR.
Bounce rate can be a bit of a misnomer though. If someone comes to your site and leaves after the first page rather quickly because they found their info (and they stop searching for other results) that is a good thing!
38. Local SEO Doesn’t Matter Anymore
On the contrary, Local SEO is becoming more and more important. According to Moz’s 2019 “State of Local SEO Industry Report,” 64% of surveyed marketers agree that Google is becoming the new local business “homepage,” displaying more information about a business directly within the SERP than ever before. Clearly, local businesses should be spending more time than ever on Local SEO.
The first place to start is with Google My Business. Sign up for an account, verify your business, and start building out your local search presence.
39. Google Won’t Know I Have Bad Sites Linking to Me!
Guess again! Google can see all the links going to your site and detect if they are bad. But, there is a three step process to getting rid of them.
- Detect all spam backlinks to your site (we use SEMRUSH for this)
- Compile a list of all the toxic domains (in .txt format)
- Disavow them from Google with the Google Disavow Tool (another reason to have Search Console)
That being said, John Mueller from Google recently tweeted that Google can recognize them and they actually just ignore them, so there is no need for us to do anything in most cases. I still won’t take my chances and will continue to use the disavow tool!
40. Featured Snippets Only Matter for Wikipedia
As of this writing, 11.94% of all search results now include a Featured Snippet, according to SEMRUSH. So, if you fail to optimize your content for featured snippets, you are at risk of losing a lot of clicks in the search engines even if you show up #1 in the organic search results. What is a featured snippet? See the below featured snippet on the right for the search query “featured snippet” :).
41. The Age of My Domain Will Help
While there are a lot of people out there claiming that it will, Google has continually refuted this notion. Recently, John Mueller of Google refuted it on Twitter as well. But to this day, it’s a topic that continues to come up. I wouldn’t spend your time fretting over the age of your domain.
42. Google Holds Grudges
Not really. Just because you get slapped with a Google penalty -- or a “manual action,” doesn’t mean that you can’t fix it and get your rankings back.
43. Video Has No SEO Benefit
Youtube is the SECOND LARGEST SEARCH ENGINE BEHIND GOOGLE. Not only can you get direct traffic on Youtube, but it provides linking and sharing opportunities. In addition, users spend more time on websites with videos and they can also increase conversion rates!
44. Voice Search Will Never Stick
It’s already kind of sticking. At least 20% of all mobile search queries on Google are done by voice (a number predicted to rise). As time progresses this technology will continue to get better and more and more people will begin to start using it. This will lead to more casual language and a great emphasis on long tail keywords.
45. Interlinking is Bad
While you can over-optimize your site for internal linking, it’s not bad if you include internal links in your content. This practice is actually recommended. From a metrics standpoint, it should increase the time spent on your website, page views per session, and the conversion rate. And with RankBrain, these all impact your site ranking!
46. Don’t Make Links Outside Your Site
You don’t want to make links outside your site if they are to low quality sites, but linking out to authoritative sources can make your article more reputable.
47. If I’m Not #1 it Didn’t Work
Not at all. It really doesn’t matter where your site is showing up (within reason). What matters it that you are driving traffic to your site through the keywords you are ranking for. If you are the 4th result on the page but driving a ton of traffic, who cares? On the other hand, if you are in the #1 spot but have a high bounce rate, aren’t converting well, or don’t have a good CTR from the search page to your site then it’s not a success.
48. On-page Time & Bounce Rate Don’t Matter
These are significant ranking factors for Google’s RankBrain. Also, you should really pay attention to these even if you don’t care about SEO. Why? Because if people are leaving your site right when they get there and aren’t spending any time with your content, you won’t get sales.
49. Google Will Find Your New Content & Index
Sure, it will happen, but it can take a bit of time. Why not simply submit a new XML map to Google? There are plugins you can use on Wordpress and other platforms that will generate and auto-submit a new sitemap anytime you publish new content. Why would you not try and make things as simple as possible for Google to index your content?
50. Claiming Google Listings Increases Search Traffic
Google Listings are a tool you can use to increase search traffic to your site, but just because you sign up for a Google my Business doesn’t mean there are magically going to be 100 people outside your store the next day. One of the best things you can do with your Google Listing is to gather customer reviews.
51. Long Form Content = Rankings
Yes, it is true that longer content length typically leads to higher rankings. But, this is only when it’s in conjunction with being actually valuable to the user. If you are simply creating long content just to create long content, your content will probably stink. Also, Google will still give priority to a high domain authority site even if their content isn’t super long!