Unraveling SEO Myths: Key Insights for Effective Strategy and Action

SEO myths are all too common. As is typical with any myth, when there is uncertainty around a topic, people tend to spin their own narrative.

In this post, we will clarify the confusion around the most pervasive SEO myths out there and share research-backed findings to help us disprove each.

Chelsea Alves

SEO myths are all too common. As is typical with any myth, when there is uncertainty around a topic, people tend to spin their own narrative. These narratives are spread and repeated, eventually leading to misinformation.

In the case of SEO, we aren’t privy to how search engines determine ranking. We’re left with sporadic documentation, conducting our own tests, and listening to what others in our industry have to say to educate ourselves. This leads to confusion and often conflicting advice.

How do you determine the difference between fact and fiction?

The answer to this question is finding a reliable source of information who has already conducted tests and therefore can endorse or debunk these myths.

In this post, we will clarify the confusion around the most pervasive SEO myths out there and share research-backed findings to help us disprove each.

High keyword density improves page ranking

In the past, keyword stuffing was a widely used tactic. It was thought that if you used a keyword phrase numerous times throughout a piece of content, it would help Google crawlers to better understand the content’s purpose.

Content marketers would then inject the keyword anywhere it made sense (and often where it didn’t make sense, too) in the hopes of improving the page’s search ranking. Marketers would get even more creative and begin masking keywords in the same color as the page’s background. And for a while, this strategy did work – keyword stuffing did help boost a page’s organic rankings.

Then Google began to shift its focus to providing a better customer experience. In 2003, Google rolled out its first major search ranking algorithm update known as the Florida update. This update targeted link spam and spam practices in general.

In 2011, Google then announced its Panda update which penalized low-quality content. Keyword stuffing was seen as low-quality content that doesn’t provide value to the reader.

Crowding your content with the same keyword won’t help improve your ranking. Search engines want to see you are creating relevant content written for actual humans rather than for search engine algorithms. Use relevant keywords when and where it makes sense only.

Quantity is more important than quality with links

As with keywords, quantity is often confused with quality. Is it better to have more links throughout your content? Does Google reward this strategy? The answer is more in the gray area for this myth.

There’s not a specific number of links you should have on a page; however, you should only add links where necessary.

For example, if you’re a retailer writing a blog post about summer fashion trends, you wouldn’t want to add an external link to the candle store down the street in hopes of receiving a reciprocal link on one of their landing pages. While Google will recognize this is an external link, it will also see the link isn’t relevant to the context.

In this example, your page isn’t creating a good user experience. This can cause Google to lose trust with your brand and, in turn, negatively impact your search rankings.

Additionally, if you have too many links to external sites or too many links internally, this will also impact the user experience. Your visitors are intelligent and can discern when and where you’re using natural links.

Concentrate on the quality of your outbound and inbound links rather than meeting a quota.

Duplicate content is a negative ranking factor

Duplicate content is a negative ranking factor

Content creation is a necessity for all businesses. Creating high-quality content is a signal to Google that you have authority and expertise in your industry. Whether you’re producing new content or updating outdated content, providing something fresh is imperative. But of course, it can be difficult to ensure every piece of content is 100% original.

It’s long been one of the biggest misconceptions in the SEO industry that Google imposes a duplicate content penalty. However, this isn’t always the case.

In fact, Google’s search advocate John Mueller notes that duplicate content doesn’t have a direct impact on search rankings.

However, it does pose an issue for both sites where the duplicate content appears, as Google will have to determine which is the best to surface in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for the keyword.

John Mueller states, “if we find exactly the same information on multiple pages on the web, and someone searches specifically for that piece of information, then we’ll try to find the best matching page.”

Duplicate content can also negatively impact your site by:

  • Diluting link equity: Your page won’t be the only resource other pages can link to, which means you could lose out on valuable backlinks.
  • Your pages won’t be properly indexed. Google search engine bots have plenty of content to crawl and little time to do it. If those search engine bots see the same exact type of content multiple places, this creates more work and could prevent your web pages from being indexed.
  • You could miss out on prime search engine result real estate. If Google determines your content isn’t the best match, even if it’s high-quality content that’s been properly optimized, it may choose a different page to rank. Google isn’t likely to show two pages with identical content at the top of its search results.

Bottom line: Avoid duplicate content and focus on creating fresh content whenever possible.

SEO is a set-it and forget-it task

In an ideal world, we’d study up on our SEO strategy once and it would be done. We’d then reap the rewards and watch our organic traffic grow tenfold. Unfortunately, SEO isn’t a one-time endeavor.

It requires consistent attention, testing, analyzing, and education. What works well one year may not work the next. With Google’s ongoing algorithm updates, business owners must continue to evolve and keep up with the latest search engine ranking factors.

Invest the time to periodically look at performance and make necessary updates. Check your click through rate, if you’re seeing an increase in search traffic, which keywords are ranking in organic search results, and more. The more you know about how and when users are engaging with your content, the better.

I can’t do SEO because it’s expensive

Every business, whether small or large, should have an SEO strategy. For businesses with bigger budgets, you may want to consider turning to an SEO agency to help grow your digital marketing strategy. However, even if your business isn’t in the position to have an SEO agency help, there is still a variety of free tools to help you get started.

For example, Google Analytics can give you a transparent view of how you’re acquiring traffic, top-ranking pages, how much time users spend on your pages, and more. This helps you understand the type of content users want to see when they visit your site, who is visiting your site, and how they engage with your content.

In addition to Google Analytics, Google Search Console is another free tool offered by Google to provide more transparency into your SEO efforts. In Google Search Console, you can see how a page is ranking and its click through rate. You also have insight into page ranking signals.

Whether you have the marketing budget for paid SEO services or you are seeking something a little more cost effective, SEO must be a part of every marketing strategy.

Ranking is the number one goal

Ranking is the number one goal

If you ask anyone getting started with SEO, they’ll likely say their number one goal is to be in position one. And we have anecdotal evidence that click through rates improve the higher a web page appears in the SERPs.

Research shows the first result in Google’s organic search results had an average CTR of 27.6%, and results that appeared in the first position were 10 times more likely to be clicked than the link in the 10th position of that page. On average, moving up 1 spot in the search results increases CTR by 2.8%.

It’s evident why ranking is the number one goal for search marketers, but it shouldn’t be the only goal you consider.

There are many other places a customer can find you online—on social platforms, press releases, guest blogging, official business listings and more. If you don’t have accurate, up-to-date information on each of these platforms, you’re missing out on potential conversion opportunities.

A first page ranking doesn’t translate to more money. For example, if your content doesn’t match the search query or user intent, the end user will likely exit the page quickly. Additionally, if a searcher perceives your content as irrelevant or low-quality, this also won’t translate to a sale.

Ranking is always a priority, but it shouldn’t be your only priority. You need a well-rounded set of goals to attract and convert high-quality organic search traffic.

You need to create content daily

Similar to keyword density and building your backlink profile, more isn’t always better. Google doesn’t reward creating daily content. It prefers high-quality content that adds value to the end user. If you’re writing content just for the sake of cranking out something new, then you’re falling into one of the most common SEO misconceptions.

Adjust your content goals for content quality and relevancy. It’s also worthwhile to look back at older pieces of content that may need updating to match user intent. For example, an article on popular conspiracy theories may require more consistent updating as new theories emerge. Conversely, an article on “what are Google Ads” won’t become outdated as quickly.

Long-form content is better than short-form content

As with most misconceptions about SEO, there is some gray area with whether long-form content is better than short-form content. Some SEO professionals swear by long-form content, advocating for writing over 1,000 words per post. Before you consider incorporating thousands of keywords to meet a length requirement, though, consider the following.

Your content is unlikely to rank unless it matches the searcher’s intent regardless of how much you write. For example, you can write a 4,000-word long-form content piece, but it won’t help your page rank higher in the SERPs if it’s not adding value.

Also, bear in mind that the average attention span is 8.25 seconds. Most people don’t want to or have the time to spend 20 minutes reading a blog post, no matter how compelling the content is.

Google’s mission is to make the searcher’s experience as seamless as possible. You too, should follow their lead.

Off-page SEO doesn’t matter

You’ve spent ample time drafting relevant content, have the proper header tags in place, and drafting an engaging meta description. Your on-page SEO is flawless for ranking purposes. That’s all it takes, right? Well, you’re just scratching the surface.

There are plenty of off-page SEO search engine ranking factors you need to consider to maximize your efforts. On-page SEO is critical to rank well, but it’s not the only way to rise to the top. Other off-page factors deserve your attention too.

Consider the following:

  • Do I have backlinks from reputable authority sites?
  • Am I leveraging my social media profiles to their fullest extent?
  • Do high-quality sites within my niche allow guest posting?
  • Is my Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) up to date?
  • Am I distributing useful and informative press releases?

Concluding thoughts

These are just a few of the most common misconceptions for SEO, but there are still more out there. More popular myths will form and spread, causing confusion and unrest. The next time you encounter a potential myth, do your research rather than taking it as fact.

Find out what other SEO professionals have to say about the matter. Have any of them conducted tests to see if the myth is fact or fiction? Can you conduct your own test to determine the result?

When it comes to SEO, it’s important to determine what the truth is when helping your website or a client’s website to reach its full potential. First, seek a definitive answer before making any adjustments to your strategy. Next, always consider: will this improve the user’s experience? If the answer is no, it is likely a myth.

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