Do You Believe in These 10 SEO Myths?

SMS Text

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! 

Sujan Patel
Sujan Patel has over 12 years of digital marketing experience and has helped hundreds of clients increase web traffic, boost user acquisition, and grow their businesses. He’s currently the VP of Marketing at When I Work, the top rated employee scheduling software. In addition to his role at When I Work Sujan co-founded and wrote the book on Growth Hacking titled 100 Days of Growth.
Sujan Patel
Get the latest news from Search Engine Journal!
We value your privacy! See our policy here.
  • Gene

    Yes, I’ve been repeatedly hearing the hype about SEO being dead but I think they do that to grab attention and be controversial. The fact of the matter, as you’ve stated, is that GOOD, solid SEO is still alive and kicking. Our latest SEO tool that we’ve found very effective is video SEO, now that YouTube allows the upload of verbatim transcripts along with the videos. Now the video content can actually be “read” and consumed by the search engines. Good article. Thanks!

  • Jordan

    Good stuff here. I feel like there is an article or opinion on Myth #1 every other week. Even moving into 2013, the perception of SEO is still fairly cloudy. It seems to mean something different to everyone. Perhaps that is due to its constant evolution. Makes me wonder just how much it will change again in the months to come.

  • Brian

    “Myth #2: SEO is Spam”
    While I don’t believe SEO is spam, the idea of “whitehat SEO that follows Google TOS” is not true. Manipulating your site for the explicit purpose of increasing ranking is AGAINST Google’s TOS. It has value and I endorse it as a marketing method, but this dichotomy of “black hat versus white hat” is a false dichotomy created by SEO marketers designed to simplify what is an incredibly complex question.

  • Chris Gaza

    If i have 5 websites and place them under one email google webmaster account will this affect my rankings if I have created these websites to act as a link building tools. they all have quality content, but i am using them to create quality links for my website.

    does google use the fact that they are owned by one person to discount their link juice.

    • Barry

      If you’ve got 5 websites under one Google Analytical account then I doubt that will be doing youself any favours! Make one kickass site and stop wasting your time with 5, G will more than likely see a pattern emerging if you are interlinking your sites anyway, is all the WHOIS details the same for every site – Google can read that, even if you’ve kept your details private!

      • Chris Maddaloni

        true and true, but i don’t think that is the case for everybody

    • Nick

      Google won’t do anything simply because you have more than one site under your account.
      However, what you describe is NOT quality link building. Your content on each may be good, but the links are still artificial. Google attempts to use links as a way of one party endorsing another – not one webmaster making a bunch of fake endorsements.

      Don’t just “look” real – BE REAL

  • Sergey

    The problem with SEO is that majority of business owners don’t understand what is it for. They think that if they hire SEO specialist – they will do better in SERP (which is very logical conclusion and expectation). However in order to get the most benefits (especially in online business) the business supposed to be build around SEO. You have to understand what Google wants from you and Google wants high quality search experience for their customers so in order to rank well you need to concentrate on customer’s experience on your site.

  • Matt Giovanisci

    From EVERTHING I’ve ever read about SEO, it pretty much boils down to…

    Create awesome content based on one specific keyword phrase (or set) and get other quality websites to link to it and talk about it on social media.

    That’s it in my eyes. Am I missing something?

  • Doc Sheldon

    I’d say you pretty well nailed it, Sujan. Of course, there are dozens (if not hundreds) more misconceptions floating around out there, so I suppose you must have had a hard time deciding which ten to feature.

    Which makes me wonder – if a guy was to list all the valid and invalid SEO practices – which list would be longer? ūüėČ

  • Thomas Preat

    Hi, Above article is good, it’s really interesting.. I really enjoyed at the time of reading..I think SEO stratergy always change.. Google always update his algorithm. Social media is now moving traffic to your site..We should think out of box about SEO..

  • Faiz

    Very good stuff, but with the google, google update his algo every time when find his income is getting down, he doesn’t think about SEO’s , he want every one follow him each an everytime ….as we see today the SMO is getting more powerfull so we need to focused on it….

  • Chris Flees

    I realized the devaluation of a website because of a linking strategy. I often find it interesting how many people claim the devaluation was due to penalties as opposed to the fact that the links were of little true value to the greater internet community. With that said, to see the site raise in rank and traffic the entire site was reworked page by page and after the efforts were put in the pank improvements were realized.

  • Adam Wagner

    Myth #3 is the one I come in contact with the most often and it always seems to make for an awkward conversation. I actually was in a pitch recently with a small business owner and towards the end of it her comment was “Wow, I could do that”. My takeaway was that I explained SEO implementation in a much too simplified way. I then proceeded to dive into a few more technical aspects and she retracted her statement with “Oh, maybe it is a little more complicated than it sounded”.

    This shows the tension between simple on-page keyword updates and all of the technical strategies and knowledge that an SEO brings to the table.

  • Keyword Name Removed

    As long as Google uses an algorithm for discriminating among site and ranking them, also SEO exists. But SEO needs to be done only by those who have knowledge otherwise (like Google said) “the best SEO is not doing SEO at all)

  • Chandler

    It’s very funny that various people of SEO industry wonders whether SEO is dead or alive? I feel quite amused really.. I think SEO can never be dead, as you said SEO is changing rapidly but still there are a lot hope for SEO to be alive. Thank you Sujan for the nice post !

  • Norm

    SEO Myth #11 – If I rank for it, they will come. I see a lot of sites put so much effort into SEO (most of it poor) and think that the reason their site isn’t doing well is because they are not on the first page. They often completely miss marketing. Getting onto the first page of search results, does not mean new business. SEO should start with the question, what do I want people to do when they actually find my site?

  • Kevin McDugle

    When it comes down to opinions, the old saying that states… “Opinions are like noses. . .everybody has one”…is so true in this instance. This is why decisions must be based upon empirical evidence proven over time. And since that span of time continues to change, we will still have people that might have had a little success, present themselves as the next “guru”.

    Stop trying to “game” the system. Instead, keep your focus on the end-user while using a good amount of common sense – doing so will cause the other things to fall into place. It’s not rocket science!

  • Cameron Whitaker

    I believe there is always a hint of truth to each and every myth and each webmaster will have different experiences pertaining to them. Like many things SEO and Google related a lot of what is done is more speculation that anything else. There are so many variables and constantly changing algorithms no one can really be 100% sure what works and what doesn’t.

  • Tom

    I have heard many of the myths in this article but what I was hoping to find was some clue as to how a guy like me, with limited knowledge of SEO can choose a SEO company and services. I have the “I don’t know any better” problem.
    I have SEO companies calling me all the time. After getting off the phone with one such company and taking notes, I got a call from another. When I told that guy about all the ways the first company was going to help me I was told none of the things I listed would work and the first company was a waste of my money. If I don’t know how to be an SEO person, how can I choose a SEO person?

  • Ssi

    Here is good post but i can believe on Myth #6: “Good Content Will Guarantee My Pages Rank Well”….its true.

  • Amit Yarashi

    When I started working as SEO I always had an illusion that ” PageRank is the Only Metric That Matters”. But now as the days passed by and as I am experienced, I dont beleive in any of the myths above except. Great article Sujan.

  • Amit Dwivedi

    Hi I am a Search engine optimizer and I am working with this industry since last 5 years. As per my real experiences this is totally fake points for a real business. Actually these myths are fully non trustable information for the peoples. SEO industry would create history within 2 years in the Internet marketing industry.

    Thanks for giving chance to me share my real ideas and thoughts with you and peoples.

  • chris

    I don’t believe that SEO is dead. It is more alive than ever. With the continuous changes, there is always room for improvement.

  • Eileen

    Myth 4 is the one I always come across to, you are so righ tabout it

  • Mohsin Mallik

    I have seen one of my friend who created a free blogger blog, posted an article there. The article was very well written, organized but he did not build a single backlinks for that post or for that blog. After a few days, probably the page rank update of google took place and that page got PR 2. I think only the good quality content played the role here.

  • Chris Meacher

    Myth #1 is always a ridiculous theory. While search engines still exist, a site, much like books in a library, still need to be organised so people can find them.

    I may be stating the obvious here, but the only time SEO can be declared dead, is when search engines are.

    As stated, construct your content to help the user get what they are looking for as efficiently as possible, and the rest should, for the most part, sort itself out.

  • Mike

    SEO is something that people is treating like a weather forecast. Depends from where the wind is blowing , form that direction Google is sending traffic.
    Well it might be true, however SEO can be done properly and not manipulate to attract visitors. A proper SEO done right it will generate traffic naturally and grow business with a “white hat” method, the one that Google loves it.
    Nice article by the way ūüôā

  • Steve

    There are so many guides and tips that tell us the do’s and don’ts of SEO. But SEO is like any good business practice – understand what you’re doing, don’t take shortcuts, be genuine in everything you do, work hard at it and you’ll see results.