26 SEO Myths Busted: Separating Fact from Fiction

  • July 10, 2024
  • SEO
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SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is an intricate and expansive field that sometimes appears enigmatic. It encompasses numerous elements that can often lead to confusion.

There is no universal consensus on what SEO precisely involves—for example, the demarcation between technical SEO and development often varies between professionals.

This confusion is compounded by the sheer volume of misinformation circulating. Many self-proclaimed “SEO experts” post advice online, but not all are reliable sources. Determining whom to trust is crucial.

Adding to the complexity, even Google’s employees occasionally contribute to the confusion. Often, they struggle to clearly define their own system updates and sometimes provide advice that contradicts earlier statements.

The Dangers Of SEO Myths

One significant challenge in SEO is the ambiguity surrounding how search engines operate. Consequently, much of what SEO professionals do relies on trial and error and educated guesswork.

When learning about SEO, it’s tough to verify every claim you encounter, which gives rise to myths. Before long, you might find yourself advising your manager to “AI Overview optimize” your site based on unfounded claims.

Many SEO myths can be debunked through critical thinking. Ask how Google could measure the claimed benefit and whether it would genuinely enhance user experience.

The danger lies in considering search engines omnipotent. This misconception fosters wild myths about how search engines interpret and evaluate our websites.

What Is An SEO Myth?

Before debunking common SEO myths, it’s essential to understand their origins and forms.

Untested Wisdom

Many myths in SEO stem from unverified knowledge passed down over time. This untested wisdom often leads to practices that may not significantly impact organic traffic but are treated as though they do.

Minor Factors Blown Out Of Proportion

SEO myths can also arise from minor ranking factors that are unjustifiably considered crucial. These might be minor activities thought to be critical for success, despite having only a minimal impact even under ideal conditions.

Outdated Advice

Some myths are simply outdated advice that once worked but no longer does due to advanced algorithms and changing user perceptions.

Google Being Misunderstood

Google itself is often the source of SEO myths. Ambiguous guidance from Google representatives can be misconstrued, leading to SEO myths or “legends.” These myths usually distort sensible advice into something unrecognizable.

26 Common SEO Myths

Understanding the origins and persistence of SEO myths allows us to debunk some of the most common misconceptions.

1. The Google Sandbox And Honeymoon Effects

Some SEO professionals believe that Google intentionally suppresses new websites (the sandbox effect) or promotes new content temporarily (the honeymoon effect). However, John Mueller of Google has clarified that Google doesn’t systematically promote or demote new content. Google simply tests assumptions, adjusting rankings as necessary.

  • Verdict: Officially a myth.

2. Duplicate Content Penalty

Contrary to popular belief, having duplicate content does not result in a penalty from Google. Instead, duplicate content might lead to algorithmic suppression where Google’s algorithms choose the most relevant original content to display. However, using someone else’s content without permission can lead to legal issues and diminish your website’s value.

3. PPC Advertising Helps Rankings

This myth states that Google favors websites that spend on pay-per-click advertising. This is false. Google’s algorithm for organic search rankings is entirely separate from its paid advertising algorithm.

4. Domain Age Is A Ranking Factor

Domain age is often believed to influence ranking. Google has debunked this, asserting that domain age itself does not affect ranking. The apparent advantage older domains have is typically due to accumulated backlinks and established authority over time.

5. Tabbed Content Affects Rankings

The notion that Google devalues tabbed content (content not visible on the initial page load) has been debunked multiple times. As long as the content is accessible in the HTML, it is considered for ranking.

6. Google Uses Google Analytics Data In Rankings

The myth that Google uses Google Analytics data for ranking is persistent but incorrect. Google has repeatedly stated they do not use Google Analytics for ranking purposes.

7. Google Cares About Domain Authority

Domain Authority (DA) metrics from tools like Moz and Majestic are not used by Google for ranking. Google focuses on actual page relevance and quality rather than third-party metrics.

8. Longer Content Is Better

While studies have shown that top-ranking pages often have more content, this does not mean word count is a ranking factor. Quality and relevance of the content are what matter most.

9. LSI Keywords Will Help You Rank

LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords are a misunderstood concept in SEO. While thematically related words can enhance content, Google has moved beyond LSI with techniques like BERT to understand content.

10. SEO Takes 3 Months

The claim that SEO results only manifest after three months is an oversimplification. Some changes can yield quick results, while others, especially in competitive markets, take longer to impact rankings.

11. Bounce Rate Is A Ranking Factor

Bounce rate, a metric indicating visits with no further interactions, is not used by Google as a ranking factor. The context matters more, and a high bounce rate might not signify poor content.

12. It’s All About Backlinks

While backlinks are a significant ranking factor, they are not the sole determinant of success. Content quality and technical SEO are equally critical.

13. Keywords In URLs Are Very Important

Keywords in URLs provide a very minor ranking signal. Rewriting URLs solely to include more keywords is generally not worth the potential SEO risks.

14. Website Migrations Are All About Redirects

Redirecting URLs is crucial during website migrations, but it’s not the only consideration. Many factors, including content consistency and bot access, must be addressed.

15. Well-Known Websites Will Always Outrank Unknown Websites

While larger brands often have more resources, smaller brands can still outrank them by targeting long-tail keywords and maintaining local relevance. The Google algorithm doesn’t inherently favor big brands.

16. Your Page Needs To Include ‘Near Me’ To Rank Well For Local SEO

Including “near me” in content isn’t necessary for local SEO success. Google’s understanding of user intent and location largely dictates local search results.

17. Better Content Equals Better Rankings

Quality content is valuable, but it is only one of many factors influencing rankings. Technical performance and user intent are also critical components.

18. You Need To Blog Every Day

Frequently updating content for the sake of freshness won’t inherently improve rankings. Instead, focus on creating well-researched, authoritative content.

19. You Can Optimize Copy Once & Then It’s Done

SEO copy requires ongoing updates to adapt to changing search behaviors and search engine algorithms. Regularly reviewing and updating content is essential.

20. Google Respects The Declared Canonical URL As The Preferred Version For Search Results

Google may choose a different canonical than the one indicated by the website owner based on factors like backlinks and site structure. The canonical tag is a signal, but not an absolute directive.

21. Google Has 3 Top Ranking Factors

While links, content, and RankBrain are commonly cited, Google’s ranking factors are more nuanced and context-dependent than a fixed set of top three factors.

22. Use The Disavow File To Proactively Maintain A Site’s Link Profile

Using the disavow file to maintain link profiles should be reserved for specific scenarios, such as after receiving a manual action from Google, rather than as a routine practice.

23. Google Values Backlinks From All High Authority Domains

Quality and relevance matter more than the authority of the linking domain. Links from high authority domains are valuable only if they are contextually relevant.

24. You Cannot Rank A Page Without Lightning-Fast Loading Speed

While page speed is a ranking factor, it is often considered a tie-breaker rather than a primary determinant. The overall usefulness and relevance of content remain paramount.

25. Crawl Budget Isn’t An Issue

Crawl budget is relevant primarily for large websites with frequent updates. Smaller or less complex sites can generally disregard it.

26. There Is A Right Way To Do SEO

SEO is not a one-size-fits-all discipline. Successful strategies vary by industry, competition, and other factors, requiring tailored approaches rather than rigid adherence to a specific methodology.

When Can Something Appear To Be A Myth

Sometimes an apparently failed SEO technique might be considered a myth simply because it didn’t work under specific circumstances. Every website’s unique characteristics mean that blanket applications of strategies aren’t always effective.

Causation & Correlation Being Confused

SEO myths often emerge from conflating correlation with causation. An observed change in performance might appear linked to a new tactic, but other factors might be contributing to the observed effect.

Steering Clear Of SEO Myths

Understanding and avoiding SEO myths can save time, resources, and prevent inefficiencies. Here’s how to navigate the landscape:

Test

Always test new SEO advice on a small scale before fully implementing it. This allows you to gauge its effectiveness without risking broad negative impacts.

Is Google Just Testing?

Sometimes, Google tests new layout or ranking algorithm changes temporarily. Wait before fully reacting to industry advice based on such tests, as Google might revert these changes.

More resources:


Featured Image: Search Engine Journal/Paulo Bobita

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