Given the number of different sources online, determining what constitutes legitimate information on the practice of search engine optimization and which assertions are either factually incorrect or maliciously wrong can be incredibly challenging.
So, in order to sort the wheat from the chaff of the digital marketing information published online, I’ve rounded up ten of the most common SEO myths I see online, as well as detailed explanations on why each belief is wrong. I hope you find them useful when it comes to planning your website’s future marketing strategies!
Myth #1: SEO is Dead
Sorry, nope. Every time a new Google algorithm change rolls around, industry “experts” sound the death knell for the entire search engine optimization field. However, the fact that people continue to have success manipulating given site variables in order to improve their natural search rankings conclusively proves that this isn’t the case.
SEO might change from time to time, but it certainly can’t be considered “dead” by any stretch of the imagination.
Myth #2: SEO is Spam
Beyond the common “SEO is dead” myth, I also see plenty of people calling out industry practitioners as being black hat spammers, as if there are no legitimate SEO tactics that fall within Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Of course, there are techniques that fall under this negative umbrella, but plenty of the best SEO tactics also look a lot like proper website management—with or without rankings optimization as a primary purpose.
Writing good web content, participating fully on social media sites, and building relationships with potential linking partners are all things that any website owner should be doing to grow his brand, dispelling the notion that SEO tactics only represent shady dealings.
Myth #3: Anyone Can Do SEO
Now, let me be careful with this one. Anyone can learn SEO, but until that training has advanced to an appropriate level, not everyone can do SEO effectively.
Basically, what I’m trying to get at is that there’s a big difference between working with an experienced, qualified SEO professional and passing off your company’s SEO needs to an IT worker, simply because he works with computers. SEO best practices take time to understand and develop, meaning that you should proceed with caution whenever passing off these needs to a potentially unqualified source.
Myth #4: Buying Links or Social Signals Will Make My Pages Rank Better
There are plenty of websites out there selling you fake Facebook “Likes” or packs of “10,000 backlinks for $10.” And while their website copy may be compelling, these programs do not represent a viable alternative to true SEO.
At best, purchasing these packages will give you a temporary, undeserved boost in your website’s search result rankings. But a far more likely scenario is that they’ll wind up being swiftly devalued (if not outright penalized) by Google and the other search engines, making them a potentially dangerous waste of money that should be avoided in favor of legitimate SEO best practices.
Myth #5: The More Links I Have, the Better
Think about this commonly-held myth for a second: If ranking well in the natural search results was simply a race to see who could acquire the most backlinks, the SERPs would look like a very different place!
So yes, the quantity of links pointing at your website does play a role in your site’s SEO equity. But even more valuable is the relative quality of each of these backlinks. When combined with the hundreds of other variables that search algorithms weight to determine their rankings, it’s obvious that your total backlink volume plays only a small role in your site’s search success.
Myth #6: Good Content Will Guarantee My Pages Rank Well
Although Google has been making plenty of noise about how much it values high-quality page content, let me be the first one to pop this bubble. While good content is important, this single ranking variable isn’t enough on its own to guarantee high-search placements.
Believing this SEO myth is akin to taking an “if you build it, they will come” mentality on your website. Good content alone won’t catch the search engines’ eyes. After all, there are thousands upon thousands of sites out there boasting high value posts and articles.
Instead, this good content must be paired with other SEO ranking signals (like, for example, the quantity and quality of backlinks pointing to it) in order to improve its placement within the natural search results.
Myth #7: Google Penalized My Site
If you spend any amount of time in digital marketing forums, you’ve probably come across dozens of posts from people claiming that “Google penalized my site.”
Here’s the thing, though: Manual penalizations by Google are exceedingly rare and are usually only executed in response to the most egregious of SEO violations. So, why the disconnect between the number of people who have seen diminished natural search results and the number of manual penalties that are actually given?
What most of these webmasters are seeing is actually Google’s devaluation of the SEO strategies that they’ve been using on their sites. As an example, take Google’s action against blog networks, which devalued an entire backlink structure overnight. Sites that were using this technique saw their search rankings fall, but it wasn’t because they had been penalized. Instead, large portions of their backlink profiles had been devalued, causing their overall SEO equity to be lowered and their rankings to fall.
So, the next time you see a decrease in your natural search rankings, don’t be so quick to jump on the “Google penalized me” bandwagon. Nine times out of ten, you haven’t been singled out—your chosen SEO techniques have simply been devalued.
Myth #8: PageRank is the Only Metric That Matters
I’ve already mentioned in this article that Google considers hundreds of different ranking factors in its search algorithms,so why do so many SEOs get hung up on this one particular element?
Sure, it’s true that having a high PageRank used to matter more when it came to ranking well in the natural search results. And it’s also true that courting links from pages with higher PageRank can generate more link equity when pointed back to your website.
That said, being able to say that you have a PR3 homepage, rather than a PR1 homepage, matters very little in the grand scheme of things. There are plenty of other more important SEO metrics out there that deserve more of your attention than this single attribute.
Myth #9: Using Google Analytics Allows Google to Spy on Me
If I had a dollar for every conspiracy theorist SEO who told me that using Google Analytics allowed Google to “spy” on his website, well … I’d have at least enough money to the entire Single Grain team out for a night on the town.
Certainly, part of the issue is that so much of the world of SEO operates under speculation and secrecy. Since Google won’t (and shouldn’t) confirm which factors influence its ranking algorithms and to what degree, SEOs have to piece together their own understanding of the field. This can lead to speculation regarding correlations that don’t exist, as in the case of rankings going down around the same time as some key metric within Google Analytics.
However, to totally clear this one up for you, here’s Matt Cutts talking about how the data found within Google Analytics is never actually used by the teams involved in search algorithms.
Myth #10: SEO is a “Paint by Numbers” Solution
One final myth I’d like to resolve is the idea that SEO is a simple set of steps that, once learned, can be applied to any website of any size in any niche.
Clearly, if you give this idea a bit of thought, it’s obvious why it can’t be true. A website like Zappos needs to take different steps to improve its natural search performance than a small, “mom and pop” website in the home remodeling industry. Sure, each website might engage in similar tactics (for example, social media marketing and link building), but the way they’ll apply these practices means that their ideal SEO strategies will barely resemble one another.
As such, before planning out an SEO strategy for a given website, it’s important to understand both the site’s current optimization level and its relationship with others in the same industry. Only with effective competitor research and a thorough understanding of how SEO techniques should be best applied can you put this myth to rest once and for all!
Have you heard of any other commonly held SEO myths? If so, share your thoughts in the comments section below so that we can all set the record straight!