There are a lot of SEO myths out there. Sometimes, these myths are SEO assumptions that used to ring true, but no longer make sense in the fast-changing SEO landscape of today. Others still hold a kernel of truth, but have been distorted so much that the so-called ‘fact’ that grows out of it is not really a fact at all!
Your time is important and if you’re tackling SEO for your website, you need to focus on the right areas. We spoke to a group of industry experts to find out what some of the most common and damaging SEO myths are. Here’s what they had to say:
Myth: Good quality content is all you need to rank
Daniel Foley, Assertive Media
“Having worked with over 100 clients in the last 5 years, we have helped them to execute successful content marketing strategies which involved generating topical, engaging content that did well on social media. However, average quality content with links seemed to do much better organically, even with lesser social media shares, driving home that the emphasis Google places on links is still higher than content availability / structure or semantic keyword integration.”
Myth: Ranking number 1 in Google is the best way to measure success
Tom Lynch, Novi Digital
“Rankings aren’t the key factor to success that they’re often held up to be. What’s frustrating about this are two things; first, it’s never been true, and, second, the people who believe this don’t search that way.
Like everyone else, people who believe this will scan through results looking for the meta title and meta description that best suit what they have in mind rather than start with the top result and work down. If you do this yourself, why fixate on rankings?
It’s far more important to concentrate your efforts on making sure that when potential customers see your listing, it’s the one they want to check out first – and success in that can steadily move your site up the rankings in return.”
Haris Chechi, Digital Uncut
“Being told by clients ‘make me number 1 in Google organic search, that is the only thing that matters’, whether this is a myth or not, there is a problem with this mindset. SEO is always changing, and Google is always testing their algorithm and the SERPS and how those results appear (I won’t go into further detail here as it needs a few pandas, penguins, and hummingbirds to be pasted to understand!).
The focus should be on traffic, engagement, and converting that traffic. So you could be in position 3 and have better calls to action in your title and description than position 1, so ranking 1st isn’t the be all and end all. In fact, there is now a new position 0 above position 1! You’re probably wondering what this position 0 is all about; the answer is featured rich snippets – the summary of an answer to a search query. So ranking number 1 is not the only way to measure success.”
Mike Lawson, trCREATIVE
“Backlinks… Bear with me. Yes, they’re great, and very much needed for SEO, but they vary in quality – massively! 1000 backlinks from forum posts, spammy directories etc is going to hurt rather than help you. Whereas 1 backlink from a quality website in your industry is worth its weight in gold.”
Myth: SEO interferes too heavily with the way search results work
Farky Rafiq, Liquid Silver
“[There’s the myth that] SEO at a fundamental level doesn’t actually change that much, because to a certain extent there needs to be a level playing field in order for the internet to work globally in its present form. (i.e. Google’s job). However, our task has actually become more about correcting technical issues and building and promoting brands.”
Myth: You need to focus your keyword efforts on keyword density
Simon Fryer, CandidSky
“[There’s a focus on] keyword density (the number of times a keyword appears in relation to the number of words) as a ranking factor. In our experience, using synonyms and modified versions of a term, or related terms not only reads better for a user, but allows you to target a broader set of search terms. It also shows your content to be more comprehensive and valuable to a user, as it addresses other concepts they are likely to be interested in based on their search.”
…But keywords can’t simply be dismissed either
Mischa Weston-Green, Transcend Marketing
“[It’s a myth] that keyword insertion in both titles and meta descriptions holds no weight these days. Our own testing on dummy websites (and clients) shows vast uplifts provided it’s done correctly.”
SEO is a one-stop fix
Elaine Simons, EJS Marketing
“[There’s the myth] that there is a magic wand to SEO, when it’s actually part of a wider digital marketing strategy. I believe that this is only one tool in the tool box!”
Myth: Links are THE most important part of an SEO strategy
Simon Fry, CandidSky
“Links, citations, and brand mentions are all important, but they are only part (and a weakening one at that) of how search engines evaluate a result for users. Really what they want to measure is how well a result fulfils a user’s needs and, whilst links were for a time the only good way to measure value added, there’s a growing divergence between links and rankings as other factors become more heavily weighted. What’s more, links are useless if your technical SEO is off-point – effective SEO is about addressing every piece of the puzzle.”
Rob Stoubos, Odyssey New Media
“Links and link building will always hold weight when Google is calculating who should rank highly etc. Link building for targeted, high quality, relevant websites is a long and often arduous process. Google knows that only websites and brands who invest in proper online PR, content generation and outreach are going to obtain links. A high quality, authoritative link is like a letter of recommendation and Google will always analyse a website’s overall link profile and authority as a differentiating factor when looking to rank websites.”
Myth: SEO is a mysterious, dark art
Joe Friedlein, Browser Media
“[People believe] that it is some strange technical dark art. Good SEO is good marketing – having a deep understanding of your (potential) customer needs and creating content that will engage them.”
Ben Cope, The Content Works
“The biggest myth is that SEO is a ‘dark art’ best left to geeks who know better than you. If you hear ‘SEO’ and decide you don’t understand it and don’t want to understand it that’s where your issues begin. You are disconnecting yourself from the process. The simple fact is: as a business owner you want to provide a solution for your customer’s needs and your website can help you do this by giving your future customer the information they need – so that when they get in touch, they know you can solve their problem. If, as a business owner, you aren’t involved in your website and therefore your SEO, you’re potentially heading for a painful ride.”
It’s clear there are a variety of SEO myths – yet many of them share one feature: the belief that SEO can be achieved by picking one tactic and sticking to it. Unfortunately, taking any one component of an SEO strategy – whether it is well-targeted keywords, or good link networks – is not enough by itself – and if overdone, can actually harm your website! Taking a comprehensive and balanced approach is more likely to lead to success.
Another thing to take away from this is that ranking isn’t always the end goal. If instead you focus on matching your content to the needs of users, and demonstrating to search engines that you are the right fit, then ranking will follow naturally. It’s more worthwhile to create a website that provides a great user experience that satisfies the visitor’s needs (and by extension, a makes good search result for search engines), than trying to game the system to get a higher rank.
And finally, SEO is not as unapproachable as it’s made out to be! With all the technical jargon and tools referenced, for a beginner it can seem a little overwhelming. But if you boil it down to the fundamentals – that it’s a way to get your website to be the best fit for searcher’s needs as possible – understanding the process behind Search Engine Optimisation becomes a lot easier.
Thanks to all our experts who helped us put this article together.