Some myths are harmless: sitting too close to a television will make you blind; smashing a mirror will give you bad luck; carrots will help you see in the dark. SEO myths, however, can be incredibly damaging to your marketing strategy.
Whether it’s advice given on Linkedin circles or Facebook groups—or even that guy at the pub who claims to be a ‘million-dollar SEO expert’—chances are, if you've been given SEO tips from a dubious source, you should take it with a pinch of salt.
SEO agency, Reboot, has a decade of experience working in SEO, providing top-tier marketing services for countless local, national and international brands. Throughout our time, we’ve encountered many who have fallen for SEO myths—here’s why it’s important to know them.
“In general, search engines are a bit of a mystery—Google and other companies don’t tell you exactly how rankings work. If they did, people would obviously be able to game the system, which is what used to happen,” Oliver Sissons, our very own SEO expert who manages SEO operations here at Reboot, says.
A lot of these theories involve adopting “shady tactics” that can actually hurt the chances of having your website ranked on search engines in the long run. It's important to be as informed as possible about false information to ensure your search strategy is not hindered.
Search engines are constantly evolving, as seen in Google's fight against disinformation. A common SEO misconception is that the practice itself is a static entity, a skill that can be mastered in its entirety. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
Believe it or not, SEO has similarities with football – you can get really good at it, sure, but to keep in the top league you need to be continuously improving, regularly working your SEO muscles!
In other words, SEO is a long-term strategy: something that might look good on paper one month might not work the next.
But don’t let this put you off, with the correct information marketers can avoid falling for common SEO traps. Here are the top SEO misconceptions you should never follow:
This is arguably the most common criticism battered around by SEO sceptics.
“A lot of the time, when people say SEO is dead, they mean the strategies they’ve been using have suddenly come under scrutiny by Google,” Oliver Sissons adds. “On the other hand, a lot of people also say it to suggest that you can’t optimise or influence search results anymore – which has never been the case, and probably never will be the case.”
In other words, the concept of SEO isn’t dead – instead, the strategies critics have been using to optimise their search are outdated. SEO is a constantly evolving process and when people lag behind this is often the first excuse people are drawn to.
SEO is not dead in 2022, instead, it’s thriving. Search engine optimisation is still an incredibly powerful marketing strategy for anyone trying to build an online presence for their business. With the rapid integration of social media over recent years, SEO doesn't show any signs of slowing either.
Facebook has already begun to integrate SEO into its model – with the network having an average of 1.5 billion searches every day. Searching for information is literally what the internet is about, and that won't change anytime soon.
Another one to add to the list of SEO misconceptions is that the more keywords the better the ranking – leading some to fall into the trap of keyword stuffing in desperate hopes of climbing up the SERP.
In fact, keyword stuffing (the act of crowding your content with needless, repeated keywords) can actually lead to penalties from Google and actually damage your chances of getting ranked.
“This is a strategy that used to work,” Oliver added. ”When search engines were in their early days, they needed to find a way to determine what a certain page was about – at that time the best way to do it was by looking at keywords.”
“Back then, if you had 20 keywords on a page as opposed to one, that would be a stronger signal that the page was more relevant for that search. Nowadays, search engines don’t need 20 keywords on a page to know about a specific topic.
“Instead, Google, Bing and other engines look at the content more broadly: keyword variations, the semantics, and the meanings behind phrases and words they’re using – that’s how they determine what the page is about,” he continued.
In other words, well-researched, readable and concise content – with strategically placed keywords across the board – is a much more effective content strategy.
Nowadays, algorithms are fine-tuned to weed out sub-par copy stuffed full of keywords; put the quality of your keywords above the quantity.
Newbies in the SEO world can easily fall for the misconception that Google only values fresh, brand-spanking-new content. ‘Freshness’ is a query-depending ranking factory, meaning that it matters more for some services than for others – depending on how important the ‘freshness’ of the content is for its quality accuracy.
“If you’re looking at news results, it makes sense that timely results are going to be more important than older ones,” Oliver said. “This is especially true if it's covering a topic that’s a new breakthrough or policy just announced – things of that nature. I would say that freshness is rewarded in those results.”
It all depends on context: evergreen topics – like “how to make a cup of tea” – don’t necessarily require timely content to rank because, unless there has been a revelation in teabag technology, the process never changes.
In these cases, Google will often rank pages on authority, with some pages being a decade old.
While it’s certainly true that some pages can decay over time, just look at the example below; updating the publish date of the page for the sake of it, without updating any of the content, won’t produce the results you want.
Oliver mentions that many inexperienced digital marketers often fall into this trap – showing a “tendency of changing publish dates, just for the sake of it.”
“Freshness can help results – if you’ve updated content recently or improved it, but that doesn't necessarily mean it’s ranked because it's fresh, just that it’s improved,” Oliver continues.
“You don’t necessarily need results from yesterday. Look at history, for example, a lot of the content ranking for history-related keywords should be older, it should be established and well-researched – that takes time.”
To truly debunk this myth, we need to split this into two: internal links and backlinks.
Including great internal links in your content is one of the most powerful ways in making sure your website ranks.
Search engines work by analysing the link-building hierarchies that occur in content – thus, making the mistake of not having a good link structure means the engines are unable to crawl and index your site properly. The down low: even if your copy is immaculate, you won't rank without interlinking every piece of your content properly.
It’s nice to think that if you write a page that’s good enough, search engines will recognise this and rank it highly. That’s not always the case.
No matter how good your page is, you’re not seeing the full ranking potential without building backlinks to it, or your site. If you use your skills in content writing and pair this with SEO marketing such as link-earning services, you’ll see real results of your hard work.
“The link-building aspect of content creation helps get more exposure for your content,” Oliver continued. “We’ve done multiple tests and concluded that link-building definitely does play a huge part in search engines. Google and other search engines are clear – they say this in their documentation as well.”
A common myth about SEO is that long-tail keywords – searches that have lower individual search voles – are easier to rank for. Long-tail keywords don’t necessarily have more words than head terms either, a common mistake made by SEO marketers.
Instead, the volume – or the number of monthly searches – is an important determiner of whether the keyword is long-tail and how specific the search phrase is.
Despite these types of keywords often having fewer monthly searches, they’re not easier to rank than their more popular counterparts.
Prioritising the search volume metric is an easy trap to fall into while conducting keyword research for SEO, but it’s the keyword difficulty that should be looked at. Head terms and long-tail keywords can have a similar keyword difficulty score – meaning that you might be better off trying to rank for a generic keyword search term than a more specific one.*
That said, there are instances where going for long-tail keywords is more beneficial. “If you’re trying to rank for head terms, what exactly the searcher is looking for is less clear – for you and to Google or other search engines,” Oliver, Head of SEO at Reboot SEO agency, said.
“This means that search results are more generic for head terms: whether it's category pages that cover a whole topic or master guides that are 20,000 words long – this depends on the type of topic though.”
Likewise, long-tail keywords are easier to write content for “because they’re more specific in nature: you know exactly what questions are being asked, you know exactly what needs to be answered,” Oliver continued.
“It doesn't have to be 20,000 words long to rank, it can be 500 or 1000 words depending on the subject. So if you’re coming up against competitors that have a significant domain authority and good content, it’s going to be quite challenging to outrank those sites, even if it's a long-tail keyword.”
“However, you can find some keywords that no one seems to be targeting. In that case, it's easier to rank for those long-tail keywords, not because they’re long-tail but more because of the lack of competition,” Oliver added.
Ultimately this one is a mixed bag and depends heavily on the context of the topic you’re ranking for. There are also topical long-tail keywords to consider too – search terms which conclude in a unique search query (but that topic deserves a blog post of its own).
Until it was discontinued by Google in 2016, PageRank was the bedrock of SEO metrics – the fundamental score given by the search engine that analyses the quality and quality of backlinks to judge the value of a website. However, despite Google confirming that PageRank is still a ranking factor in 2018, some believe the discontinuation of PageRank in 2016 means it doesn't matter anymore.
There is some merit to the argument: it’s true, we can’t see PageRank since its discontinuation – but that doesn't mean we shouldn't take it into account.
The label PageRanks is not used as often these days, but what it stands for and means still matters. What it originally stood for is the authority of a website originally signed by Google – that is definitely still relevant and links are still important.
PageRank refers to the number and quality of links pointed to a given website, so it does matter, even if you might not use the terminology anymore. Domaine authority is often used instead, or any other third-party metric or general terms.
The myths about SEO listed above are some of the most common that circulate in the industry, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. So, how can you avoid falling for common SEO misconceptions?
One of the easiest ways to stay vigilant is to “follow high-quality sources,” Oliver notes. “That means spending less time in unproven SEO circles – whether that be Facebook groups or blogs – that don’t provide any evidence for the claims they’re making. Also, test what you’re hearing – avoid making huge, rapid changes based on tips that may not be true.”
Essentially, it’s important to do your research – SEO is shrouded in mystery, and keeping a clear head to avoid the myths and misconceptions will drastically increase your chance of success.
“Make sure you follow credible people on social media too,” Oliver added. “We recommend following Garry Illyes and John Miller on Twitter for credible SEO information and updates.”
Above all, however, it’s important to not underestimate the value of a credible and knowledgeable SEO agency. SEO marketing can drastically improve your presence online and, ultimately, help build your brand and bring in revenue.
Don’t fall into the trap of cutting costs for the most valuable digital marketing strategy out there – invest in a credible and efficient SEO agency. “A lot of people waste money by trying to cut corners, working with a subpar SEO company – this is one of the biggest mistakes businesses make and, ultimately, is a waste of money.”
If you have fallen victim to any of these myths, or even tried out some shady SEO tactics and been penalised for them, our Google penalty recovery services will help to recover your lost rankings.
In the interest of pursuing perfection, we have updated some aspects of this blog. This includes remedying typos, as well as grammatical errors, and updating links.