Search engines are getting smarter, but technically focused SEO is no longer relevant in 2020. Today Google and the best SEO strategies are oriented on users’ problems first. But there are myths that people still believe in.
We interviewed 13 SEO gurus (Barry Schwartz, Bruce Clay, Douglas Karr, Nick Eubanks, Marcus Miller, Shane Barker, Mikko Pippo, Kaspar Szymanski, Marie Haynes, Michael Bonfils, Marcus Tandler, Omi Sido, and Bas van den Beld).
We also asked over seventy SEO experts about methods that do not work.
Majority of SEO experts, including the author of the book “Search Engine Optimization All-in-One For Dummies” Bruce Clay, says that not all links are good. Of course, link building is vital for SEO templates, but the quality is better than quantity. Use only high-quality and organic links to boost your site. Links from spammy sites, blog comment links, directory links will probably hurt your search engine rankings.
Google algorithms are changing and becoming smarter. The keyword in the domain doesn’t mean that the site contains the best answer for user’s problem. That is why keywords in the domain don’t work anymore. Instead of this, Google ranks sites higher if they are focused on the users’ problem. That means quality content with deliberate and hierarchical site structure.
The strategy to put as many keywords as possible into each page had been successfully worked over 15 years ago. Such content usually does not make sense because it is focused on search engines, but not on the user. Google algorithm updates have done away with it in 2008 and again in 2012. Today Google penalizes sites for keyword stuffing and rewards relevant content.
Sarah Hancock, SEO manager at BestCompany.com, says that now, with the rise of semantic search, the goal is to cover a topic rather than zoning in on a specific keyword. If you want a page to rank higher, focus on content strategy more than keyword density.
In addition to this, let’s also put a quote of Julianne Pangal, Customer Engagement Lead & Events Manager at L-Tron Corporation: “Quality content may (still) be king, but user experience has quickly become the queen. Websites need to be user-friendly, easy to navigate AND have the quality content that people are looking for – making them want to stay on the site. These sites also need to be equally easy to navigate across all platforms (desktop, mobile, etc.), and have other sites (links) driving traffic to them.”
This rule worked over a decade ago. These days if you rely on technical SEO solely you will bring your site to the black hole of the SERP found on page 2 and beyond. Clear, useful information about a subject that is easily readable is the best way to be ranked better for a long time.
Kimberly Kosaka, Director of Marketing at Alexa.com says that there's still an intuitive (but often misguided) notion that the more content a website publishes on a single subject, the higher the site will rank for that subject on SERPs. Also, if each page is not targeted with a unique keyword, keyword cannibalization can occur, which is where search engines see multiple pages optimized around the same keyword and make them compete with one another. This then reduces all page rankings and creates the risk that lower quality pages will appear most prominently.
Our interviewed SEO-experts, including Omi Sido, Senior Technical SEO at Canon Europe, say it’s a myth that META Descriptions is a ranking factor. Google doesn’t use keyword tags in META. This description matters only for users. That is why it has to be informative and catchy to hook your audience.
Among others SEO-experts, whose insights you may read below, Marcus Miller says that the biggest SEO myth that they see at Bowler Hat is that there is some secret sauce, usually in the form of on-page optimization, that will catapult a site to the top of the search results. The reality is that a site can have great content or perfect technical and on-page optimization yet some relevant signals on and off the site culminate in strong rankings. Unfortunately, no secret will fire you to the top of the page; instead, there are some SEO ranking factors you must optimize to get results.
This is an interesting myth, and some people still pay for it. But this way goes nowhere. Chris O’Leary, VP and Digital Strategy at Link Right Media, says that the single biggest SEO myth is the idea that you can fool the algorithm. Trick it into thinking you're the right result even when you're not. Consider instead "What is Google trying to accomplish?" The answer is simple.
“Google wants the user to find as the very first result of a page of content that will satisfactorily answer his question. So, if instead of trying to fool the algorithm, work with it to prove you have a page of content that is the best result for the search. Do that, and every time Google adjusts the algorithm, you will see a boost, rather than a splash. Do that, and you no longer have to fear the next adjustment,” says Chris.
Still, a lot of people believe in this myth, but the truth is in a continuous process of optimization. SEO it is not just a marketing channel. SEO in 2020 is a marketing strategy which develops a website, product, and business on a regular basis. It updates as soon as search engines update, and it monitors competitors and users’ needs.
Marine Klein, Digital Marketing Manager at Commusoft, said, “a huge SEO myth I see is that SEO is all you need to bring people to your website. Get the keywords right, use them the right number of times, optimize your alt tags and page titles — and you're done! However, Google is getting smarter and smarter, and it can tell shoddy, keyword-stuffed content from valuable, helpful content. That means SEO only works as part of a comprehensive content marketing strategy, which is good news because it's better for the consumer.”
Meta keywords is not a ranking signal for Google.
“Links are all you need” is a myth, and all links are useful links.
You do not need to use keywords to tell the search engines what you are about.
Google always tells the truth.
Frequency - While frequency is wonderful for setting reader expectations, it’s not helping your search engine visibility. We see far too many clients that are spreading subtopics across multiple articles rather than writing one comprehensive, well-researched, graphically enhanced, organized, in-depth article that captures all the attention and beats out the competition.
Anything you read about SEO in Q&A sites is probably a myth.
Q&A sites are an excellent source of SEO myths. Don't believe in anything you read on Quora regarding the importance of directory submission, using blog comments and forum signatures for backlinks, using page rank for assessing link quality, etc. Most of the SEO related answers are just content spam written by marketers.
Mikko Piippo, Digital analytics & CRO at Hopkins Oy, Helsinki
I would say the greatest 'myth' still is that people believe that 'just write good content' is enough. There is a lot more to it. And the definition of 'good content' varies as well. Content should be based on the needs of the audience, not the product that the site owner is trying to sell. Unfortunately, there are still many that don't understand that.
Some rather persistent SEO myths that have been making site owners miserable are hard to uproot. Among these, the notion that the use of Google AdWords has any impact, whatsoever on SEO is a likely winner. That myth has been around since AdWords came to existence and despite all outreach efforts from Google and the informed SEO industry, it remains a popular question in online marketing conferences. As much as this is a persistent topic, it is equally unequivocally wrong. Using or not using Google AdWords has zero impact on organic ranking.
Another common myth that has been around for a long time is the tale of “Google algorithmic penalties.” No such thing exists; there are only manual penalties (see: https://searchengineland.com/guide/google-penalties) and algorithms, which however have no punitive objective. Anyone who speaks of algorithmic penalties is mistaken since there is no such thing. Algorithms of any kind are merely calculations. They are fed with variable SEO signals and calculate site rankings. Just like any other machine a website requires regular inspections, to ensure signals read by algorithms translate to desired results and high visibility in search. That is precisely why periodic technical SEO audits are a must for any site that is supposed to do well in Google continuously.
Finally, a lot of people are under the false impression that using Google Analytics may provide some insight into how Google calculates user signals, or that Google used the very same GA data for ranking purposes. While once again while these myths are hard to dispel, they are at the same time untrue. GA is not used for all websites worldwide. That makes any data from Google Analytics biased against or in favor of sites that use Google Analytics versus sites that do not. Consequently, Google Analytics is not a useful data source for Google Search engineers.
At the same time, while GA is a superb tool that provides insights on user experience, it says zero about what users have done before entering or after leaving any given site. Therefore, it allows for no actionable conclusions regarding any sites SEO relevant user signals. It is but an SEO myth.
I'm not a big fan of round-up posts.
I think that far too many people are spending time and money in content marketing as a form of link building. Google is good at determining that links in widescale article marketing are not real votes for a site that should help improve rankings. Most of those links are likely being ignored.
Just translate your website, and you are good to go to launch in other markets. This is hardly the truth, not only does the google spider recognize it as a translated duplicate, you are doing your clients a disservice by not writing the correct content in their tone that appeals to their market. By simply making sure your HREF lang attributes are correct and that your content is transCREATED, not translated, you are far better off succeeding when growing into new countries.
Some of the biggest SEO myths I still run into in 2020 are:
- That spending money on PPC ads will directly correlate to increased rankings because Google wants to help its advertisers, and
- That you should build many pages targeting the same keyword or slight variations of the same keyword. Google's ML behind RankBrain is smart enough to match not only exact variations of keywords but also synonyms, so all you're doing in this effect is cannibalizing your ability to rank one stronger page for more keywords.
Some of the more obvious SEO myths that come to mind are:
- SEO equals free traffic - SEO can help drive your “free organic traffic” but only so much. Just slapping together a plan won’t cut it. It requires proper time, effort, investment, and expert guidance.
- SEO drives all leads - I’ve seen brands allocate entire budgets just to SEO for lead generation purposes. People have this notion that SEO alone is enough to generate quality leads. It does its part, yes. But it’s only one aspect of an integrated marketing strategy to drive leads.
- You should stuff keywords into content - Again, while everyone realizes the importance of having keywords, sometimes brands overdo it. Too much of anything is bad. Adding keywords randomly, without any context or stuffing your content with keywords is going to do your SEO more harm than good.
- You can set and forget your SEO - A common problem I’ve noticed with some brands is that they work on their SEO only every few months. They believe that doing so will generate more organic traffic automatically. SEO is an iterative, continuous process. Brands need to monitor and tweak their SEO on a regular and frequent basis.
Shane Barker, Digital Strategist
Myth #1: More pages can help a website rank better
When it comes to SEO quality is much more important than quantity. I know a lot of websites that rank high for their target keywords, despite not having a massive number of pages. Add pages to your website only if they add value to the visitor.
Note: To add the so-called 'fresh content' to your website use your blog.
Myth #2: Meta Descriptions is a ranking factor
No, meta descriptions are not a direct 'ranking factor' - and they haven't been since 2009. The reason that meta descriptions still matter is that they appear as page ‘snippets’ in the SERPs and they have a profound impact on CTR (Click Through Rate). And this is a ranking factor especially when it comes to the latest (and greatest) Google's algorithm updated called RankBrain.
Omi Sido, Senior Technical SEO at Canon Europe
Many people still believe that SSL doesn’t matter, but Google has stated that a similarly ranked SSL site will rank slightly higher than a non-SSL enabled site. It’s also been shown that visitors are more likely to leave your site if the browser says “not secure” in the address bar, which could have a domino effect.
Another myth: keywords should be an exact match
Many companies still try to frame headlines around certain keywords, and this ends up looking awkward and in the worst cases, unreadable. Having clear information about your subject that is easily readable and not made just for a search engine is the safest and most effective long-term strategy for ranking.
Jason Vickers, President at UNIFY marketing & technology solutions
MYTH: The More Backlinks the Better
When it comes to ranking site content, some people think the more link you have, the better. While this is true in theory, it comes down to many other factors, such as the power of the sites that are linking back to you, the anchor text being used, the quality and DA/PA of those sites, and their relevance regarding content focus. One super high-quality link from an authority site in your niche could be worth more than 100 links from random smaller sites. Keep this in mind when focusing on link building and trying to rank higher in the search results. This is also a simple reminder of how putting in the necessary time, research, and effort goes a lot further than just paying $5 for backlinks on garbage sites.
The biggest myth is Position One. While organic Search positions continue to earn higher average CTRs than paid ads, the continual flux and development of new presentations affords an even greater opportunity, be it Position Zero (Knowledge Graph, Answerboxes), Video or Social Carousels, and other highly-engaging and visually-arresting rich snippets. To neglect this additional visibility by blindly pursuing nothing but #1 Rank would be a missed opportunity.
Michael Stricker, Digital Marketing Director at ODH
<U+0410> commonly-seen SEO myth is that an understanding of technical SEO will still work as well as it did over a decade ago. SEO is more about excellent content and link building than it is about direct keyword matching. Simple reliance on Technical SEO is a pathway to the dark side of the SERP abyss found on page 2 and beyond.
- Keyword stuffing
Keyword stuffing simply doesn’t work, nor has it for a very long time. It’s still hard to believe that people think adding a large number of keywords to their pages will make them rank better. Quality content may (still) be king, but user experience has quickly become the queen. Websites need to be user-friendly, easy to navigate AND have the quality content that people are looking for – making them want to stay on the site. These sites also need to be equally easy to navigate across all platforms (desktop, mobile, etc.) and have other sites (links) driving traffic to them.
- Keywords don’t matter
There are also those that are of the mindset that keywords no longer matter – and that is not true either.
- The bigger your site, the better
Gone are the days when having tons of deep pages would help you. I remember that when I managed an early eCommerce store, the company owners wanted as many products as possible on the site. The content for these pages was pulled from the vendors, meaning each page had duplicate content. Hundreds of pages, all built with duplicate content, did NOTHING for our rankings. While it is essential to showcase your products, again, quality content and unique content for 35-40 product pages (with links, that are easy to navigate) will be more beneficial to your site than duplicate content for 100 pages.
Keyword stuffing used to be an effective technique. It still shows up on most SEO how-to guides, but google caught on and adjusted their algorithm in 2008 and again in 2012 to flag over saturation as spam.
Hillary Robert, Digital Marketing Strategist
So many people don't understand the magnitude of traffic and its effect on SEO. It is one thing to produce great content, but if it is not marketed to build traffic, interest, and relevance, it is just another great idea lost in the darkness of the web.
I have a couple of myths that don't seem to die.
First Myth: I need to use matching keywords in titles, hashtags, and the content to have any chance of my content ranking in search.
Second Myth: To do better in local search, I need to keep building more and more citations no matter what the website is.
For a local business, one of the main SEO myths I still hear is that a business should buy a UPS Store address to use that address for their Google My Business listing. The thinking here is that having a location in that city will help them rank in the "map-pack" but, that's something Google has largely caught on to and does not work anymore. It's just wasted money.
We just started working with a client who asked us to add over 200 keywords in the footer of the site and mask them by making the font color the same color as the background color.
I couldn't believe it!
Cody Swann, CEO at Gunner Technology
In my experience, one of the most prominent “myths” is that 250-300 words of content is enough to get your SEO assets to rank.
In years past, it was fine to create short pages with one hyper-focused keyword. But, Google has been placing more emphasis on robust, high-quality content that covers a topic from multiple angles. Choosing a single “core keyword” is still the best practice, but writing naturally and including a broad variety of related, long-tail keywords will help you create SEO copy that’s more likely to rank higher in search results. While 250-300 words per page used to be a good target, 600+ is a much better goal for modern SEO.
“Link Juice,” or link building, is one of those SEO myths that people still think will work. Backlinks can help, when done right, but getting blind links from sites you know nothing about may hurt your rankings in the search engines.
Facebook helps SEO. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Social media isn’t a direct Google ranking factor.
Focus on a single keyword to maximize SEO.
SEO myth: I’m paying someone to ‘take care of' my SEO
If you’re saying this, then it’s probably not true. There are far too many SEO professionals and agencies out there still offering to “take care of” your SEO while you can go about your business and not need to worry about it. This is just not possible. SEO is a collaborative process, and you will need to be involved to make it work. If you’re getting a monthly report and some ranking updates and yet you think that your SEO is taken care of, then think again. You must question what is being done. Is this SEO activity actually in line with your business goals? Is there a content plan in place to support your business goals and SEO? Does your SEO provider understand your business and can speak fluently about it? If any of these things concern you, then it’s time to find a better provider to collaborate with.
My SEO Myth: Websites need to be publishing new content regularly to enjoy online visibility in organic search.
The reality: This is not true: websites creating authoritative and up to date long-form content enjoy long-term success without any need for frequent publication.
Some people think once they surface on Google organically they need to pay them for every conversion.
SEO is organic and completely free. Some people think they charge you for every click you receive.
Reuben Kats, Web Design Sales Engineer, Customer Service, Account Manager at GrabResults
I think one of the biggest SEO myths people still believe is that stuffing their keywords into a poorly written blog post will help them rank for that keyword. Google is smarter than that -- and so are your readers -- so keywords need to be incorporated naturally into a piece of content that is actually of use to your audience for it to be effective.
Alexandra Bohigian, SEO Specialist & Marketing Manager at Enola Labs Software
One of the most pervasive myths in SEO is the idea that you should be optimizing for the search engine. This mentality impacts the approach to SEO and loses sight of what is important – the user. The search engine will never buy anything from your business, so optimizing solely for them is futile. Focusing on the user and what’s best for them when it comes to SEO is the only way to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your program.
Myth: "With SEO it's set it and forget it." I hear this way too often from people when wondering why they need to keep paying for SEO services; SEO is an on-going process that evolves.
SEO Myth Busted: Spammy Directory Submissions No Longer Work
Most SEO guys still resort to directory submissions to get tons of backlinks, hoping to get quality traffic to their site. That's a strategy that no longer works as Google Rankbrain, the new child on Google's algorithm street heavily penalizes sites that use spammy directories to fool search engines and gather high ranking signals.
Harsh Tripathy, Assistant Manager - Content Marketing at Mettl
Internal Link Sculpting
I constantly encounter people who nofollow internal links on a page, thinking that it will increase the "juice" to the other pages linked-to from that page. It doesn't work that way anymore; the amount of authority passed to other pages is divided by the total number of links on the page, whether those links are nofollowed or not.
- Proliferating online content that is based on specific keyword phrases and using these keyword phrases as links (anchor text links) back to a website will help with Google rankings.
- Content spinning the same articles to appear original to Google and just changing the keyword phrases as anchor text links with help with Google rankings.
- Submitting these articles to article directories in volume will improve SEO rankings for the keywords used as anchor text.
V. Michael Santoro, Co-Founder of Vaetas
As the digital marketing director for an agency, I am constantly bombarded with client “advice” as to what is and isn’t working in the SEO world. Some of the more common ones I hear are:
“All I need to do is add keywords to my pages, right? I can even copy and paste a large list of keywords and make the text white so no one sees it but Google on my pages.” I always need to explain that this type of keyword stuffing may have worked 15 years ago but not anymore.
“I don’t need links. All I need is good quality content. I read that ‘Content is King’ and link building will only get you penalized by Google. I’ll make a new blog post once a month and share it on Facebook.” I always need to explain that there is a ton more that Google looks at besides the text content on your website.
“I can stop paying for SEO once I get to page 1 for all my main keywords.” I always need to explain that SEO is an ongoing process and should be considered part of your regular marketing budget for best results. Things will change; SEO is not a set it and forget it medium. Google updates their algorithm, new competitors enter the playing field, etc.
One myth that people still believe is that the META keywords tag matters. Search engines have long since ignored this tag due to its likelihood of being “keyword stuffed.” In fact, using the tag to place keywords on the page and *not* having those keywords on the page is considered an SEO flag. With no real upside and only a downside, I advise clients not to use the META keywords tag.
Greg Cruce, Venn Marketing
Something I still see circulated (and believed) in the marketing and SEO world is that social media shares and followers will "move the needle" for SEO.
I have found this to be all but 100% not true. I have worked to get pages to rank on our site (and in my other work) that have ZERO social shares and a total social media following across all platforms under 1,000.
A big myth around SEO is in the area of link building. People think things like Fiverr link building, Tumblr link building, and blog commenting are effective to build SEO. The only thing that works nowadays is high-quality content with 5,000+ word articles.
Austin Iuliano, Social Media Strategist
Here's one I hear from small business owners all the time: There's some conspiracy to push more established businesses with PPC click budgets to the top of search.
SEO-myth: It is necessary to have the keyword in the domain
This has been one of the most discussed debates for years and is that there are still some SEO specialists who defend the need to have the keyword in the domain to a high position in Google.
However, more experts have appeared claiming that this is not true. For example, John Mueller (Google Analyst) advises trying hard to have quality content focused on the user than to search for a domain with the exact keyword.
Google is a service company, and as such, its primary objective is to always offer the best solution to users through their search results.
Therefore, that a website has the exact keyword in its domain does not mean that it must always be the best answer; everything will depend on whether the content is focused or not on the user problem.
Many SEO specialists I have seen still use comments as an option in gaining a backlink to their website. An old tactic that no longer has an impact in overall DA authority on the site.
There are a lot! Here's a couple of them:
Write great content and visitors will come.
Websites with High DA (Domain Authority) rank better.
The more backlinks you have, the better you will rank.
The biggest SEO myth I still find others still talking about, which is so far out of date is keyword stuffing. In the early days of search engines, it was a popular (and successful) strategy to place as many keywords as possible into website content like blogs and articles to rank high on search results. The result was a less than ideal experience for the user because the content would not always make sense because of the forced word count (basically gaming the system). Google now actually penalizes you for keyword stuffing and rewards the content based on relevance to the search.
Peter Mikeal, Head of Marketing Strategy at Small Footprint
Employing SEO solutions is a great way to help with content marketing and metric analysis, leading to an adjustment in SEO optimization; however, it is impossible for any SEO to guarantee rankings of any kind. It would be unethical for any SEO professional to make such a promise. SEO is always changing, and while there are techniques that can improve rankings, there is never a sure thing in SEO with rankings affected by more than just strategy offered by an SEO.
Anne Ward, CEO, and Founder of Circle Click
The common biggest myth that newbies to SEO still believe is that SEO is something that you can “turn on.”
What they don’t realize is that in 2020 to execute on SEO, your website, your product, and your business has to be built around it.
SEO is not just a marketing channel that you could turn on.
You have constructed your entire company to be oriented around SEO to create the kind of content and backlinks that are required to perform well at search engine organization today.
Zach Hendrix, Co-founder of GreenPal
I just had a conversation with a new client about this yesterday. He spent $12,000 on an exact match domain for his industry six months ago and couldn’t understand why that domain and some content didn’t cause him to rank number one nationwide.
SEO Myths People Still Believe In - That an exact match domain and junk or no content will still get you ranked. The same rules of SEO apply to EMD’s that apply to every other site. There’s no express lane to number 1 with an exact match domain anymore.
As a Digital Marketing Manager primarily focused on SEO, I would say that one of the major misconceptions/myths that refuses to die (that has been told to me what feels like hundreds of times) is the importance of actively building backlinks. While I certainly find backlinks to be helpful, when a client demands I build "hundreds" of backlinks to their website, it tells me they've spent a bit too much time talking to less honest SEO companies. In my experience, on-page optimization, user-experience, and technical fixes are the "80" of the "80/20 rule" for SEO.
Andrew Golden, Digital Marketing Manager
One of the biggest SEO myths out there is that guest blogging is a dead practice. While Google did take measures to reduce the effectiveness of certain kinds of guest posting, the idea that the practice is valueless is completely inaccurate. I've been able to build clients' backlink profiles with this practice - the key is to ensure that you do it in the right kind of way.
Eric Johnson, SEO Specialist at FeedbackWrench
A big myth that I still hear tossed around occasionally is: Using keywords in meta descriptions is essential for ranking. The terms and key phrases used in a meta description do not matter to Google, and using keywords in them does not help you rank for those terms. What is important is getting the click-throughs and not having a visitor bounce once they hit your page. So, you want to hook them with a good description, then keep them with excellent on-page content. Google may highlight a related key term or phrase if it thinks it matches the intent of your search query, but having that exact match phrase in the description will not make that page rank higher in the SERPs.
Having a bunch of exact match domains redirecting to my current website helps with SEO. This is false. A long time ago, it used to help to have a lot of great URLs redirecting to your live site. Now, Google knows about this trick and has negated any benefit of having these domains pointing to your site. It can even be harmful to have these domains redirecting to your site, especially if the sites have less-than-healthy backlink profiles.
I think the biggest SEO myth out there is that you somehow need to be sneaky. Google is constantly improving so if you base your business on sneaky tactics you're heading for trouble sooner rather than later.
Ian Wright, Founder of British Business Energy
The first thing that comes to mind is domain names. People still try to create domain names with keywords they think are important, when in reality Google worked this out of their algorithm some time ago. Don’t do keyword stuffing - it will make your page’s writing poor, and Google is smart enough to pick up on it.
Daniel Ali, Vice President at MyQuickStartup
Most people emphasize the need for high-quality content and links - and these factors are important for SEO. But, even the strongest content is meaningless without a deliberate and hierarchical site structure, which will help Google to index and understand your content.
Matt Carrigan, SEO Content Writer at Logic Web Media
The More Keywords On A Page, The Better.
When you start to write a blog, you may think it’s a good idea to optimize several keywords in a single post before you hit publish, but this only sets you up to compete against yourself and confuse Google. Instead, focus on a primary keyword (and a secondary keyword at most) for your blog. Use all the SEO optimizing strategies you have up your sleeve and then write follow up content with the related keywords on your list and internally link back to your primary post.
Lauren Laftsidis, SEO for TruLaw
- Usually, people know, or they have heard about the basics of SEO the old way, like: "To rank on Google, you need to have a big number of backlinks" they mean this regardless of quality and relevance which is not the case anymore.
- They ask for fast results, but most of the time that is not achievable with SEO.
Myth: Just SEO my page, and it will rank well.
Well, yes and no. By applying SEO best practices to any webpage, it will likely rank better. However, there is so much more than “SEO-ing” a page; solid SEO practices are an ongoing effort that combines many different aspects of a website, including optimizing content, structured data, internal linking, external linking, website health, crawl networks and user experience (to name a few!). SEO is also something that needs to be reviewed regularly, not just once.
Myth: URL structure doesn’t matter.
I’ve worked with a lot of teams, agencies and brands that seem to think their URL structure isn’t that important or not worth the investment to fix. Having a clear, appealing and clickable URL can pay dividends in the long run for large sites as well as small brands. A cleaner, readable URL drives more relevancy, more clicks and likely more shareable in the long run.
Myth: Just create great content, and the links will come naturally.
This is a widespread myth that I know many SEOs, consultants and agencies adhere to. Google encourages natural links, but there is no guarantee that people will link to your content if they don’t know it’s there. Content marketing and link development should be an active part of any SEO strategy.
Kristan Bauer, SEO Trainer & Consultant, formerly Director of SEO at Zillow
The biggest myth I see people adhering to today is keyword density. Writers often spam their keyword throughout their article. Many Plugins like Yoast even increase your score as your density goes up. This method is forced, comes across as cheap, and decreases the amount of time readers spend on a page.
Instead, I advise writing your articles for people first, and computers second. Using keywords is important, but reserve them for when they feel natural.
Sean Baran, SEO Analyst at FilmToolKit
I’m continuously surprised by the number of people who still believe keyword density impacts your ability to rank well on search engines. That was true at one point in time but certainly not today.
Search engines like Google are more interested in your ability to satisfy a searcher’s query because satisfied searchers come back again. The more times someone visits, the more opportunity Google has to entice them with revenue-generating advertisements. Roughly 90% of Google’s $89.5 billion revenue in 2016 came from its proprietary advertising service, Google AdWords. The percentage of times a keyword or keyword phrase appears on a web page compared to the total number of words on the page has nothing to do with satisfying searcher intent. Website owners should focus more on producing high-quality content and earning signals (like links) that tell Google your content is worthy of a high ranking.
Here's our silly statement of the day:
“I know that I need to blog more to rank on the first page of Google.”
WRONG. Everyone and their mom’s is blogging today. How is Google is going to be able to assign more value to your blog over the next? With tremendous effort and resources on your part. For most businesses, that efforts and those resources are better spent on other marketing avenues. Even within the realm of SEO, getting simple backlinks is going to take your buck a whole lot further than content creation will. With that said, if you have the right amount of time and resources to execute properly on content creation, it is worthwhile. It’s just not the first digital marketing tactic you should attempt with your limited resources and time.
Mazdak Mohammadi, Owner, Founder at BlueberryCloud
SEO Myth: Get ALL the Backlinks!
Yes, backlinks are critical to your SEO strategy. However, you need to be strategic in which backlinks you go after, as a quick rule of thumb, you want quality over quantity. Focusing on quality backlinks will help boost your SEO strategy very quickly. Conversely, if you're taking the quantity route, you risk acquiring spammy backlinks that will hurt your SEO strategy and search engine rankings.
Ally Compeau, Founder, and CEO at Woof Signs
MYTH: Link building is dead. As a marketing firm for attorneys, we see a lot of spammy link building tactics, especially in highly competitive markets and spend a large amount of time chasing links. We've been told link signals are losing value, but links are still crucial in your online success. We've seen a lot of success building relevant and legal related links to our attorney's websites, especially with priority keywords in the anchor text. I suggest focusing on high quality and authoritative links rather than sites like low authority directories that may not be relevant to your niche. These types of links are less valuable in achieving higher rankings in SERP's.
Katie Backovski, SEO Specialist at Postali
Myth: SEO is all about getting your website to rank in the first position/page of Google.
Truth: SEO is all about getting your BRAND to rank in the first position/page of Google. This doesn't have to be your website. It can be one of your social media profiles, an article about something your company has done in a major publication, or another site selling your products.
Craig Streaman, Digital Marketer
One of the TOP things that people seem to believe is that the more links, the better, no matter where they come from. I have had to clean up so many toxic backlink profiles for people that have paid bad link companies good money to get links that don't relate in any way to their vertical. Links from desktop backgrounds, comment sections of gamer websites, and adult content don't do you any favor unless they are your related topics.
Each month, the phrase “SEO is dead” is searched about 210 times, providing evidence that marketing professionals aren’t entirely sold on the benefits of using search engine optimization to increase website traffic.
But they would be mistaken in following that line of thinking because SEO isn’t dead, or even dying. You can make an incredible impact on web traffic by rising to the top of website rankings.
I’m surprised to find a lot of people that are still pushing doorway pages. Google came out against these pages in 2012, but agencies are making their money selling them.
Craig Andrews, Founder of allies4me
Perhaps the most common myth I still hear in the workplace is the belief that "the more keywords, the better." However, this is not true because spamming can actually hurt SEO and dilute the effectiveness of the message overall.
Additionally, another common SEO mistake I have noticed is the belief that "the more linkbacks, the better." Similar to keywords, an increased number of linkbacks can negatively impact SEO and the ability to get the message across to the audience. Instead, links should be high-quality and organic.
Beth Cooper, Director of Marketing and Social Media Specialist at KNB
One SEO-myth that used to be a huge factor in how your website would rank but can now actually result in your website being penalized is called “keyword-stuffing.” As the name suggests, this is when you try to cram as many keywords into your content as possible, which ultimately sacrifices the quality of your content. Search engines can detect keyword-stuffing fairly easily today, and prefer content that is written in a natural sounding way.
One thing I hear all the time is over utilizing keywords, or keyword-stuffing as a method to improve SEO. While this once worked, search engines have since become smarter and can now penalize you for this “strategy.” Oh, this and getting as many backlinks as possible, because “you can get 1,000 backlinks from some guy for $5 and it will rank you #1.” At one point this “strategy” also worked, but now search engines analyze the relevancy and authority of the links pointing to your site.
Ralph Marino, Enterprise SEO Specialist at SocialSEO
The SEO myth I dislike the most is when someone promises to make you the #1 result in Google Search in no time. People, even from established B2B companies, still fall for it. It's either a blatant lie or there is a 6-point font explanation that you'll appear for a long-tail 6+ word phrase no one is searching for. So, long story short, SEO does not happen in a day; it's a long-term strategy and one that pays off huge, but you need to be in the game for quite some time before you start seeing results.
I’ve been doing SEO for 15+ years and have heard a lot of myths! Here are some more common ones still hanging around:
- Use the meta keywords tag. Google has ignored the meta keywords tag for over a decade, but some webmasters still assume the meta keywords tag impacts their rankings. Google even wrote an in-depth blog post back in 2009 explaining why they don’t use the meta keywords tag.
- Use robots.txt to de-index pages. Many SEOs believe that they can get pages out of Google’s index by blocking them in robots.txt. While this can work in some cases, that’s not what robots.txt is for. Robots.txt tells Google not to crawl a URL – Google can and does index URLs without crawling them. If you want to Google not to index an URL, use the robots noindex meta tag.
- Links are dead. This is a newer myth that has cropped up more in recent years. As Google relies more on factors like machine learning (RankBrain) links have become a little less important to gaining top Google rankings. They’re still important, though. Every SEO study shows strong links between links and rankings on Google.
- Google considers 500 words OK, 1,000+ words better, and 2,000+ words best. As Google has focused more on analyzing content quality, SEOs have noticed that longer content tends to rank better, which has led to some SEOs trying to calculate the ideal number of words content should have. There’s no such metric because Google is trying to rank the content that’s best for the searcher. What SEOs should do is work to create the most valuable content for the user. Often that will mean long content, but in some cases, it may mean shorter content.
Adam Thompson, SEO, PPC Manager at COMODO SSL Store
Some of the most significant challenges facing SEO today were once-viable and encouraged tactics for improving search engine rankings. However, these tactics are no longer favored by some platforms such as Google, while they are still popular signals for Bing and Yahoo!
While Google has stopped relying on antiquated search signals such as meta keywords and descriptions, there's a bevy of evidence and first-hand experience to suggest that these signals still matter to Yahoo! and Bing, which goes to show that there's no one-size-fits-all guide to SEO.
One of the biggest SEO myths people still believe in but need to leave behind is that Google rankings are all that matter. Over the past 5-6 years, Bing and Yahoo! have made significant gains in market share, but because they represent after-though platforms to many SEOs, the competition for all keywords isn't nearly as intense as it is on Google.
Finally: When it comes to SEO, rarely are there shortcuts that will be viable in the long-term. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. SEO takes hard work and a dual focus between on-page and off-site (link building) efforts to achieve the success that is both scalable and sustainable over time.
Myth 1: Links don't work anymore.
Truth: This couldn't be further from the truth. Links still make up the largest percentage of Google's ranking factors. Without links, you'll be stuck on page 10 indefinitely.
Myth 2: The more links you get, the better.
Truth: Not all links are created equal. For instance, blog comment links, directory links, and links from spammy sites are still considering bad according to Google. The kind of links you want for your site are relevant, contextual and from sites with authority.
Myth 3: SEO is easy and doesn't take long to see results.
Truth: SEO is a long-term investment and very difficult to do correctly. It is highly technical and can take anywhere from 9-12 months to see significant results.
One of the number one things we focus on when working on their websites is creating organic SEO web pages and blog posts. The biggest SEO myth is that it doesn’t work. Countless times, I have seen SEO work and be beneficial. For example, if you type into Google, “Oakland Restaurant Marketing” most of the links on the first page are mine including #1, #2, #3 because I am leveraging the keywords and location.
The second biggest myth is that Google will ‘figure it out.’ Google is brilliant, but the goal is to be smarter than Google.
The biggest myth is that you can pay an SEO company $100 a month and rank #1 for everything. There was a time when SEOs could add websites to link wheels, forums, and blog commenting, and rank any client for relatively little effort. Those days are gone.
Jerry Nihen, SEO Consultant
The top SEO myth that I see most often in practice is when a website owner creates hundreds of duplicate pages with only minor changes to the content. Unknown to the site owner, these nearly duplicate pages almost always cannibalize themselves and will also bring down the overall SEO potential of the site.
Matthew Post, SEO Expert
- Many people still believe that "fresh content" or publishing one new blog post once per week is good for SEO. It certainly doesn't hurt and is a slight ranking factor, but its weighting in Google's ranking algorithm is so low that it doesn't matter. I have a piece of content from 5 years ago that will outrank any fresh piece of content because it is so well optimized and extensive.
- Some people still believe that “keyword density” still matters. Keyword density is the number of times a keyword is mentioned on a page, relative to the amount of text. But nowadays Google is smart enough not to need the keyword to be mentioned five times or 10 times on a page. There is no exact ratio or formula.
- Some people believe that the anchor text going to the website must meet specific criteria like a certain percentage of it being the brand name or the keyword anchor text. This would only be important if you're doing some highly unnatural link building. Otherwise, Google's algorithm is smart enough that you don't need to try to manipulate this.
Meta descriptions are a critical factor in Google Ranking –
Google hasn’t judged pages off their keyword meta tags in practically a decade, yet many marketing teams still firmly believe meta descriptions play an important role in their SEO. Once Google realized that people were stuffing keywords in their meta tags, they quickly realized they had to change up their system. Nevertheless, a good meta description is still incredibly important, but many people tend to overlook it. While Google’s algorithms may ignore your meta description, it’s one of the major features humans notice while searching for pages. Therefore, SEO leaders are tasked with creating informative and catchy meta descriptions which to effectively separate themselves from the competition and draw in real users.
Nate Masterson, Marketing Manager at Maple Holistics
Many SEOs and website owners think that Google punishes a website if it has duplicate content. But that is not the case and makes no sense from a purely logical way of thinking. In practice, this happens very often. Some press releases are published not only on the PR site but also on their own website.
Another example is that online stores often take over the product descriptions from the merchant. Google also knows that duplicate content is natural and it would be nasty if the search engine penalizes pages. This happens only in extreme cases, for example, if a complete domain consists only of duplicated content.
Nevertheless, only one version of the text will be found ranked. Often this is the page that was indexed first. After all, the search engine also wants to work efficiently, and why should it store two equal pages in the index?
Rob Miller, Owner at ProfitKong.com
SEO Myth: Brute force and targeting exact match, short tail phrases is the best way to build relevance and ranking.
Depending on the percentage of certain exact match phrases you have in your backlink portfolio (the anchor text distribution percentage) you may be doing more harm than good. If you're in a highly competitive space and you're only actively building for the short tail/exact match phrases, and NOT building links that also focus on longer tail variation, inexact/partial match, and synonyms, it's going to be extremely difficult to maintain strong rankings.
Experience: I've worked 8+ years in SEO. I’ve been in boutique agencies, and I have even led to an SEO strategy team in an international agency. Now I handle my own SEO clients through Orthris Media. I've worked with companies that have incurred penalties from brute force linking, that need site migration, and that need forward-thinking SEO strategies.
Myth: SEO is dead. Like SEO, this myth never seems to die, though it crops up every few years as Google changes its algorithms. Yes, in 2020, SEO still matters very much, though the ways we optimize content are certainly evolving. Local SEO, Schema markup and voice search are growing in importance, and brands that persist in their erroneous belief that SEO no longer matters will be eclipsed by businesses wise enough to be ahead of the curve.
Natalie Hornyak, SEO expert at The Content Factory
You can't optimize for search while also optimizing for conversions and keeping the language on-brand. People still believe that to write for SEO you have to sacrifice all of the other goals for your website.
I'm an SEO and conversion copywriting expert who has increased traffic and conversions for Europe's fastest-growing startup among many others in b2b tech.
Dayana Mayfield, Copywriter & Digital Strategist
I can tell you that there is a misconception that if you build links too quickly, Google will penalize you. If you are building links quickly and you have the amount of content to match it, you won't be penalized, as the content will appear to be natural. Think about what happens when content goes viral on the internet.
Elias Arosemena, Chief Growth Officer at KRUMA
If you have been doing search engine optimization long enough, you will know that Google constantly changes its algorithm. The search engine giant does it so frequently that monitoring those tweaks and doing something about them to keep your websites up to date is a full-time job and a half for those working for an experienced SEO firm.
The good thing about these relentless algorithm changes is that they keep SEO people on their toes. The downside, however, is that SEO myths tend to develop and evolve because of these same tweaks. Here are some SEO myths that you should not believe.
If you receive an email from some SEO company that promises to get your website on Page 1 of the Google Search Engine Result Pages within a month or two, block that email address right away.
There is no such thing as quick SEO results. Chances are, this “SEO Company” is into building spammy backlinks to the sites of people who buy into their affordable and instant SEO success program. That is going to earn you a penalty from Google, and it would take you some time before you can recover from it. Never deal with these people if you know what’s good for you.
Another myth that so-called SEO professionals shamelessly peddle to potential clients is that their friend who works for Google can help them rank, for the right price.
First, this is illegal. Even if the SEO professional who sent you that email actually has a friend who’s a Google insider, there is no way that person will jeopardize his or her much-coveted job just to help a friend out. Second, no SEO company has any kind of special relationship or access to Google. Even top websites have to work hard to maintain their rankings.
In the world of SEO, you could be no. 1 in the SERPs today, and then be on Page 2 or worse tomorrow. No self-respecting SEO professional would ever say that his work is already done. Competitors are always on your heels, continually making an effort to become top-ranked websites themselves. Even if you’re at the top of the SERPs, you still have to continuously create relevant and valuable content and build organic traffic to keep your spot. Rest on your laurels, and your competitors will eventually overtake you.
Yes, it does, especially these days when the number of social media users has risen exponentially. If you thought otherwise, you must be living under a rock. When determining your page’s ranking, Google considers its social activity because to them, it’s a sign of its quality, and therefore deserves better rankings.
For many years, webmasters have believed that the older their domain, the better their rankings would be. This could be true if they actually put up better content, attained high-quality inbound links or did anything that can be considered as good SEO all those years. But we have seen younger websites outrank much older ones by doing good SEO work, so having an older domain is not a guarantee of SEO success.
You can blame this one on Matt Cutts, the former head of the webspam team at Google. During his time at the search engine giant, SEO professionals and webmasters hung onto his every word, because he was actually the last word on SEO issues back then. So when he posted on his personal blog in 2014 that guest blogging as a link building tactic is done, many people took his word for it.
Cutts, however, eventually backtracked and declared guest blogging to be “okay again.” He has since left Google, but his words about the end of guest blogging still linger today. Nevertheless, guest blogging is still one of the most effective ways of building links and relationships.
Some people wait to finish construction of their websites before they start performing SEO work on them. The truth is, you can start optimizing your site the moment you create it, regardless of whether or not it’s finished. Google will crawl it as soon as it goes live. If you want to get SEO-friendly web site right away, check the most popular WordPress SEO optimized themes which can boost any business.
Just because Google frowns upon keyword stuffing these days doesn’t mean keywords are already irrelevant. After all, search engines still need to understand what your post is about, and the keywords you use are their best hints. However, you now need to put them in certain key places to rank. These key places are the URL, the post title, the main heading, the first paragraph, and once more anywhere in the content.
Organic search is primarily responsible for driving more than 51% of overall traffic to websites the world over. If SEO is truly dead, then it must be a zombified SEO that drives all that traffic.
What you need to realize is this: It’s important to have quality content, but few to no people will be reading it without quality SEO.
For more SEO myths, check out the infographic below.
P.S. Just making sure you get a SEO company WordPress theme in the right place.