12 undying myths of SEO

12 Undying Myths of SEO

In digital advertising, marketing, and especially in SEO, there are myths and beliefs that just refuse to die down – no matter how much evidence is weighed against them. This blog outlines some of these myths of SEO, compiled by our own SEO agency in Warrington.

Below are just 12 of the many SEO myths that never die, regardless of how hard SEO specialists and even Search engineers try to clear them.

Good Content Is All You Need To Rank

You will find many articles and blogs that make say the only thing you need to rank good is high-quality content: this simply isn’t true.

It’s true that content is still king and is one of the most important things you need to rank well: but good content without any backlinks to support it will simply drown in the ocean of search results. Equally, low-quality, unreadable and spammy content could have tons of backlinks but will also reach the same dead-end. To rank high and long-term, you need both: fantastic evergreen content and high-quality backlinks.

Content Needs To Be New

According to this myth, a website needs to be regularly updated and have content/pages constantly added in order to maintain an image of “freshness.”

However, the same people that perpetuate this myth will also promote the idea of evergreen content: which is content that does not need to be updated or changed, content that can stay relevant overtime.

I believe this is where people get confused: people believe to stay relevant you need to have the latest information – but sometimes, the validity of information from 20 years ago can still be relevant. At the same time, people will also promote the idea that an older website will have an easier time of ranking higher than new, fresh websites.

A Lower Rank Means You’re Doing Something Wrong

Your position in the SERP is the result of a massive range of different algorithms, factors and inputs. These are all updated multiples times throughout the day, which is why your website’s position on the SERP can constantly change.

However, many people automatically associate a negative change in position as a hint that they are doing something wrong, or they need to act on it and do something. The only time when this is correct is if your page drops a very considerable amount: for example from position 3 on the first page down to the fifth page. If you have fallen only a couple of positions or you remain on the same page, this can just simply mean that another website is doing something right. In the end, the SERP is a list and will operate as a list: when an item climbs up that list, then something else must make space and fall down the list.

Duplicate Content Is A Penalty

This is a specific one. Firstly, it is never a good idea to have duplicate content across your website. But not because you are in danger of being penalised. There is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty.

Search engines want to show diversify in their results: if they see two sets of content that are the same, they will opt to show only one of them. The other one isn’t penalised for being a duplicate, it just isn’t shown because Google doesn’t want to show two listings for the same thing.

However, this is where it is important to understand the difference between innocent duplicate content and spammy, spun & scraped content. Trying to rank your website through copied content from another website will eventually get you hit with some form of penalty because you are actively attempting to use spammy tactics to game the search engines.

Social Media Improves Ranking

Another specific and complex myth: this one relates to the belief that links from social media profiles and posts can improve your ranking. The simple answer is that these links will not improve your ranking: these are low quality links since anyone can create by simply creating an account.

However, social media can indirectly improve your ranking. When done correctly with social media marketing, your brand and social media presence can increase, resulting in a larger audience, exposure and the chance of gaining natural backlinks from your followers: this is where your ranking can be improved, the backlinks from your followers on their own platforms or websites – not from the links you post to social media.

GoogleAds Improves Ranking

Another myth or even a conspiracy theory. You can see many blackhat or low-tier SEOs proclaiming this as a way to explain their website’s bad rankings: “you need to grease Google with PPC payments to improve your organic rankings!”

This is nonsense. GoogleAds and Google Search are completely separate departments within Google, spending money with GoogleAds will not make Google suddenly decide to give your website a better ranking.

Google’s Algorithms Is AI

It’s true, Google uses a lot of artificial intelligence and machine learning, especially within the realms of SEO. However, Google’s algorithms for ranking a website, such as Penguin or Panda, is not AI. These algorithms abide by a specific set of rules, which needs to be tweaked or changed manually by a Google Search engineer. This is what happens in a Core Algorithm Update which is where the web will see a lot more volatility and position changes than usual: because one of Google’s many algorithms has been updated.

The reason why AI is not used within these ranking algorithms is because if something breaks, Google will simply have no idea how to fix it. This is because the AI at Google utilises machine learning: the AI is always learning new things in the field from real results, content, pages and websites. As we have seen in the past, AI with machine learning does not always produce the best results and in the case of Google, this could literally break the way Search works.

You Don’t Need a Sitemap

An unusual one: some people proclaim that it is not necessary for your website to use a sitemap. Many of these people will state that if your internal linking is good enough, Google will be able to find all your pages without a sitemap.

For a small website, I completely agree: Google should be able to find all your pages through internal linking without requiring a sitemap file (although I don’t see why this means you should delete your sitemap.)

However, does this point still stand for a global eCommerce website with 300,000 products, each with their own different variations? I’ll keep the answer simple for you: no, it doesn’t.

The advice is simple: ensure your internal linking is good and allows your website visitors to quickly and easily find what they need, and use a sitemap to ensure Google can find all your pages.

Hyperlinks Are Dead

Refer to “Good Content Is All You Need To Rank” This is pretty much the same case but with more of a focus that backlinks do nothing for your website in terms of SEO.

This is completely false, backlinks still remain the most important factor in search engine optimisation. Even a Google paper shows that, in the eyes of a search engine, the anchor text of a backlink can provide a better description of what a webpage is about than the content on the webpage itself.

Keyword Density Should Be (x)%

An old tactic of search engine optimisation. Back in the day, SEO was all about the number of backlinks and how often you mentioned your exact keyword within your content. Nowadays, search engines are far better at understanding words, synonyms, phrases and content overall. In fact, if you write content with the intent of mentioning your exact keyword all over the place, you’ll probably find yourself punished for over-optimising for the keyword.

You Must Submit Your Website To Google

A popular tactic with people selling SEO: “you need to submit your website, we can do it for you for £500” or something along those lines. Submitting to Google is a reference to adding your website to Google’s Search Console. This is a very useful tool for tracking how your website performs in Google and you can request Google to crawl your webpages if you find your website is not being regularly crawled. Whilst I highly suggest any webmaster has their website verified in Google Search Console, this isn’t a requirement and it’s definitely not something you should be paying hundreds to be done for you.

Big Companies Do It, So I Should Do It

Within SEO, it is a standard practice to check what the websites above you in the SERP are doing. Sometimes this includes copying their backlinks, using the same amount of images/videos, having a similar word count etc.

We have already covered that the search result positions are determined by a huge range of different factors and algorithms: any of these things could be the reason why they are above you. Do not aimlessly copy another website just because they are above you: you should be trying to be better than them, not trying to become them.

A similar issue is people looking at the massive global brands such as BMW, Apple, Facebook etc and trying to copy off of them. This really just doesn’t make sense to me, and a quick search online will show you that time and time again, these massive brands have actually been penalised by Google for spammy tactics and other malicious ways of improving their own search visibility.