10 SEO Myths Reviewed

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seo myths

Myths in SEO run almost as deep as they do in Lock Ness and Area 51. Let’s have some fun and look at 10 of them today. By no means a definitely list, these still pop up.

I Need to Rank #1

Yes, it’s nice to rank on top, but you know that actual rankings fluctuate on a daily basis. Does the #1 spot actually get you more clicks and conversions and the # 2 or #3 spot. Depends on the phrase sometimes. And for those trying to get off page 2 of the SERP and onto page 1, be careful. Often the click through rate (CTR) of the top spots on page 2 are far better than the CTRs on the lower positions on page one. If you rank well on page 2, be careful when planning your assault on page one. Unless you can get above the fold, it might be better to stay put and own the top of the second page. All of this will, naturally, vary a great deal form site to site, page to page and even across individual phrases. Sometimes people research on one phrase and buy on another version, for example.

My Title Tag Will Save Me

It’s important, but even the most well-crafted title tag can’t elevate a site skipping everything else. This is a somewhat common refrain from bloggers as some of the most popular platforms don’t include things like meta descriptions in their base code. Plugins exist to easily add them, and allow access to a bunch of other common areas SEOs like to fiddle with. You should spend time getting the title right, but this alone won’t save a sinking ship.

Social is All I Need

Social takes time, I can’t be bothered with SEO, so I’ll just do social. There was a time when ranking a website was like making consommé. You wanted one thing – clear broth. At that time, you could focus on a single tactic and it would boost rankings. Today it’s more like trying to make the world’s best seafood chowder. Success depends on a complex mix of ingredients, freshness and timing. One ingredient alone won’t bring success, and yet without that one ingredient, you don’t have a chowder.

Videos are All I Need

People like to consume content in videos. Videos are easy to produce and easy to consume. It’s pretty easy to make high quality videos today, and even if you don’t the expectations of people online have aligned with more modest efforts. But let’s face it, embedding videos can negatively affect page load times, frustrating visitors. And a video alone won’t help rankings. You’ve got to give the engines something to understand, as they’re not going to “watch” that 4 minute rant you posted. Transcripts are a great way around this little issue. Videos are a great part of growing your content, but aren’t a silver bullet, despite what some ads on Facebook would have you believe.

Buying Ads Helps My Rankings

Nope. No amount of ad buying will get you organically ranked higher. If you still believe this today, click here. The instant and engine starts determining ranking based on ads bought is the instant it loses credibility. Game over, Player One.

I Make Awesome Content

Maybe you do, but it’s not your call to make. Great content is content that’s deemed great by searchers and visitors to your site. All the standards in the world won’t help you if no one likes your writing style, voice or message. Grammar affects how people (readers) perceive you, so that can have a direct impact on engagement and rankings. But never delude yourself into thinking what you produced is excellent just because you put time into it. Watch what visitors engage with and seek to follow that same pattern.

Links are All I Need

While important as a vote of confidence for the content they point to, there is simply so much link spam these days that it’s tough to know where to turn. Obviously buying links is a dead end, and it doesn’t matter how you split this hair: sharing, encouraging, incentivizing, buying – it’s all the same. You want links to surprise you. You should never know in advance a link is coming, or where it’s coming from. If you do, that’s the wrong path. Links are part of the bigger picture. You want them, but you want them to be natural. If an engine sees you growing tem naturally, you’re rewarded with rankings. If they see you growing them unnaturally, you’re rewarded with penalties.

Marking Up My Content Will Help It Rank

No. It will help the engine gain a better understanding of your content, and allow us to use that content in unique ways in the SERPs (should we choose to), but installing the code doesn’t boost rankings.

Usability is Different Than SEO

While technically a different discipline, its time more folks starting seeing them as similar. Both focus on improving a website for users. Investing in SEO and not investing in usability is like tying one sneaker and going for a run. Yeah, you’ll be OK, but wouldn’t it be a better experience with both shoes tied?

SEO is All I Need

Do you want consommé or chowder? SEO is foundational. It’s important and can fuel growth. Like Soylent, it’ll keep you going. But maybe you’d rather sample the entire buffet?


This post originally appeared on Bing, and is re-published with permission.
Featured Image: David Arts via Shutterstock

Duane Forrester

Duane Forrester

Senior Product Manager at Bing
Duane Forrester is the Senior Product Manager at Bing. He is also the author of How to Make Money With Your Blog with Gavin Powell.
Duane Forrester
Duane Forrester

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  • Jarod Goenner

    We know that ads don’t have an impact on rankings but they do have an impact on organic traffic, and that is always something to keep in mind.

    • I have to agree with you there. An interesting point on this is that by survey I couldn’t show you a single person that I know who will say they click on paid advertising, yet marketing companies that specialize in online paid advertising are making the top of the Inc 500 list. There’s probably something to it 🙂

      Point being that using AdWords can greatly improve your traffic and bring about a very high ROI.

  • I’d just like to reiterate my experiences with usability and SEO. Simplistically, sites that focus on usability/design tend to earn more shares and links. In fact, in many instances, pages that contain “better” content, but live on poor UX/design, earn less links than pages with “thinner” content, that focus on users.

    • Raymond Anderson

      I completely agree. I had this theory some time ago when first noticed beginning lose interest in an article if I was visually disengaged. After a series of A/B tests, splitting views with different CSS application, all the evidence weighted heavily toward the most visually enhanced design. The experiment revealed better CTR, longer sessions, lower bounce rate and much higher social shares.

  • Following trends and trying to one-up the latest heavily-shared piece of content has been the saving grace for a few of my clients’ social status. I can’t express enough the importance of keeping close tabs on what’s trending and then uniquely mimicking those trends.

  • This definitely cleans up a few short-sighted strategies, I kind of disagree with your point that buying ads doesn’t help rankings though. It might not help ranks directly, but indirectly – the exposure you gain can very well result in natural links which in turn improve rank! I can speak from experience 😉

  • neil hannam

    I don’t want to be one of those people who comments about spelling a grammar on the internet but is spell checking your content before publishing it the elusive 11th myth that needs reviewing?

    What’s that you were saying about grammar affecting the way people perceive you?

  • Nice post Duane!! Picking up right steps based upon completing your goals is the only feasible solutions for better SEO.

  • SEJ – thank you for republishing this article, from such an authoritative source as a Senior Product Manager at Bing.

    SEJ has become an essential resource, and consistently provides timely, useful information for the benefit of SEO’s.

    I have a question for Mr Forrester –
    do typos, misspellings and bad grammar affect rank on Bing?

    This article has many examples:
    “Lock Ness” should be Loch Ness
    “a definitely list” should be “a definitive list”
    “#2 or #3 spot” needs a “?”, not a “.”
    “vary a great deal form site to site” needs “from,” not “form.”
    “If you still believe this today, click here.” Link missing.
    Headline “Linked are All I Need” – “Linked” should read “Links”

    Speaking for myself and my company, we’re all in favor of good grammar, proper spelling, and proofing for typos (as you may have deduced by now. We’re proud of our own record of editorial excellence :).

    Does anybody get a free pass on this, or does this just not matter any more?

    • Well said Jon. Big fan of SEJ but I do wince at all these errors. I may just be anal but even my text messages contain better proofreading. Sorry dude

  • l.J. Tek Team

    I disagree about not needing great content. As far as I’m concerned, content is king and sites that can’t provide it aren’t ones that I am interested in visiting. Whatever other strategies a site employs, it’s has to be centered around great content or why are visitors coming to your site? As far as I can tell, there are simply too many sites that don’t understand how to produce engaging content. It’s more art than science.

  • Ronnie Charrier

    Great article Duane. I was glad that you ended the piece on the “SEO is all I need” myth and I believe an interesting discussion on that topic could take up an entire article itself. While it’s certainly not recommended and generally ineffective, there are still some spammers out there that occasionally show up in competitive search results by doing “just SEO.” While those rankings rarely last, it’s still worth noting that this practice still exists. Thanks as always for the great content.

  • Definitely true about ranking # 1. I’ve ranked at one as well as multiple positions on the same page and it still didn’t generate any sales.

    • There is many reasons that You did’t generate the sales due to high price as compare to others, No Discount or offer and the content on the page etc.

  • Glad to read a post by a Senior person like Forrester !

    Most of the SEO professional still feels fear while changing the Title of the page which comes in second or third page in SERP, its a real fear !

  • “Obviously buying links is a dead end” <– I feel like everyone knows this, yet the people selling thousands of junk links somehow find a way to stay in business. I don't get it!

    • Same here! I just try to educate small business owners who may not know better when I can.

    • It drives me nuts! It’s giving SEO a bad name.

  • I Make Awesome Content
    Maybe you do, but it’s not your call to make.

    This can’t be said any better. I often hear things like, “I’m not sure why that piece didn’t take off. It was a great piece of content!” Perhaps it was a great piece of content, but not the content that your audience was looking for. If the audience doesn’t reward your efforts with engagement, then it’s back to the drawing board.

  • You mention that grammar is key in how people perceive you for your created content, which will play into rankings, yet you have grammar and spelling errors.

    • Lucas, if you could tell me the spelling and grammar errors, I’d be happy to fix them! Even though we strive for perfection, we certainly aren’t perfect. 🙂

      • One example is the 7th Myth “Linked are All I Need” another is the 9th Myth, it is “it’s” not “its” but I am glad to see the biggest confusion was fixed after I posted my original comment.

  • Good read 🙂 I am guilty with I Make Awesome Content. It took some time for me to realize that it’s not all about that but I believe a good combination of this list will work.

  • Dana

    In regards to using proper grammar one should practice what one preaches as this post is littered with errors. Hey Bing if you need an editor hit me up.

  • Great article and very helpful tips. But some areas gives the wrong ideas to the business owners. SEO is still very important in the commercial businesses that operates in larger cities like London, waiting till the links grow natural may not be the best way to profitable business. Doing safely and methodically will save the time and help grow the business with SEO. Hiring the right SEO who has proven track record is the way forward.

  • Great post, thank you!
    Thanks for “supporting” me on the Buying ads… stuff. This is such an old and strong myth like “I will ranked high for the words which are in meta keywords”.
    Being a marketing person I would add to usabilty things that in many cases the right marketing positioning helps a lot. If a premium company is trying to sell from a poorly designed, ugly and old looking site, it is exactly the same case as usability issues.
    On the other hand: “wow”-design won’t help if it has no value content behind.

  • Thanks for the good post, Duane, As a longtime Usability and SEO practitioner (especially now in the video space), I’m glad to see someone else bringing up the issue that Usability and SEO are not mutually exclusive practices. I’ve worked at large enterprises where unfortunately, these groups under eCommerce or Marketing divisions are mostly silo’d, without either team having an understanding of each other’s best practices as they apply to their own work. However, I think what’s needed today is some cross-training in each other’s disciplines so they can achieve a good balance in terms of performance.

    For example, when I optimize videos for YouTube, I’m always thinking about the best balance of editorial and technical – image thumbnails, title tags, descriptions – how all of those things appear to the user, and not just appealing to a search algorithm. Today if you’re really going to have success with SEO, you need to need to really understand user experience (UX) best practices.

    Usability is Different Than SEO
    While technically a different discipline, its time more folks starting seeing them as similar. Both focus on improving a website for users. Investing in SEO and not investing in usability is like tying one sneaker and going for a run. Yeah, you’ll be OK, but wouldn’t it be a better experience with both shoes tied?

  • I giggled while reading the “I Make Awesome Content” section. I know I’ve fallen into the trap of not understanding why no one is engaging with a piece I’ve written. But it really is just that simple, if they don’t like, they don’t like it – move on. Figure out what your audience wants and give it to them.

  • Hello Duane, i can’t thank you enough, you have helped me be more focused on when deciding what to do and change when editing my content’s SEO. Cheers, and keep it up.

  • I like it! At the end of the day – it’s basically common sense. Stop trying to beat the system and focus on doing the right thing. It sounds like the engines want to reward those who are – so just stick to the moral script and karma should work it out 🙂