How often do you come across a blog post or article that makes some outrageous claim about SEO? We are sure you might have seen them before. They usually start off something like this: “Something and something will give us higher rankings, so we should do this. And something and something gives you lower rankings, so we should not do that. Ever.”
It seems like every day we hear new stories from Google about how they’re changing their algorithms, rethinking their approach to ranking web pages, or tweaking their search results. As if that weren’t enough, there are also all sorts of myths out there about how to optimize your site for search engines. Some of these claims are true, but many are simply wrong.
The reality of SEO is oftentimes very different compared to the misconceptions about SEO. In this post, we went through some of the rarer ones that we have seen, and attempted to dispel some obvious fictions and outright lies.
As you read through each misconception, try to remember whether it’s true or false. If it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is. And if you want to get better rankings, then you must be aware of fact vs. fiction in SEO. This is where the problem lies – most bloggers don’t realize what they really need to know.
Misconception 1: Links Are The Only Thing You Need for Great SEO
Links are still important, but don’t overvalue them. We’ve been hearing this one for ages now – “links are everything.” But that’s simply not true. In fact, there are still plenty of cases where sites have no links, but they rank better than other types of sites because they have stronger content and on-page SEO.
And while some people think that links are the most important factor in determining rankings, they’re wrong. Link building is just one part of the equation. There are many other things like context, social signals, keywords, content, etc. that play a role as well.
So why do people keep saying that links are everything? Well, because they want to sell you stuff. They want to make money off of you. So if you ask them whether links are important, they’ll say yes. If you ask them how to improve rankings, they’ll tell you to buy more links.
But here’s the thing: links aren’t everything. You might think that buying tons of links will help you outrank competitors. But in reality, it won’t. Here’s why:
1. Quality matters more than quantity.
A single high-quality link from an authoritative domain can carry more weight than hundreds of thousands of lower-quality links from random domains.
2. Don’t focus solely on links.
Focusing solely on links is a mistake. It’s important to ensure that you strike a balance on growth from content to links and other elements.
3. Don’t focus on just improving your link velocity.
All links all the time is a poor strategy, which doesn’t focus on getting quality links that matter. Finding quality links that matter on a consistent basis is always better than aimlessly building “all the links, all the time.”
Misconception 2: Rankings Are All About Keywords
In the early days of SEO, it was common practice to stuff keywords into every piece of content, hoping that those words would help boost traffic. This method worked well enough to rank some sites very highly; however, it didn’t work for everyone.
Today, most people agree that keywords are important, but there are still plenty of misconceptions about what they actually mean.
The most commonly held belief is that keywords equal better rankings. In fact, keywords do play a role in how Google ranks web pages, but they aren’t the only factor.
Misconception 3: Content Marketing is a Replacement for SEO
Content marketing is often thought of as a replacement for SEO. In reality, both are important components of a successful online strategy. But while SEO focuses on the technical aspects of web design, content marketing emphasizes the creation of high quality information that helps people solve problems. If you don’t have great content, neither will your site rank well nor will it generate much interest.
While the two tactics work together, there is no reason why one cannot exist without the other. Both focus on different audiences, use different strategies, and require different skills. For example, SEO requires expertise in coding HTML, CSS, and XML, whereas content marketing relies heavily on writing and editing copy.
In addition, content marketing can help increase your rankings in search engines, especially if you publish regularly and include relevant keywords in your posts.
This is because SEO is about making sure your site appears on the first page of search results.
The best way to understand how SEO and content marketing work together is to look at a few examples. Let’s say you want to start a blog about dog training. You could write some articles on topics like “How to train your dog,” “Best dog toys for dogs,” and “Dog obedience classes.” These are all related to what your audience wants to know, and they are all good keywords. They might even help improve your rankings over time.
Now let’s say you decide to take things further by creating videos about dog behavior. You could talk about “Why do dogs bite?” and “What makes a dog aggressive?”
These are very niche topics, but they’re still useful to your audience. And since they aren’t directly related to dog training, they won’t hurt your rankings too badly.
If you think about it, most businesses face similar challenges. They offer products and/or services that address real issues faced by consumers. However, many companies struggle to communicate those messages effectively. As such, they lose out on sales opportunities.
So, if you want to succeed in today’s market, you need to make sure that your content is engaging, informative, and useful. After all, if you can’t convince someone to buy from you, you’ll never see a return on your investment.
Misconception 4: Duplicate Content is Penalized by Google
Duplicate content refers to pages that are identical or nearly identical to one another. These pages often exist because of poor design choices or because a site owner wants to make money off of multiple versions of the same product. In some cases, it might even be intentional — a single page could contain sections of content that are duplicated across the entire site.
For example, imagine you run a news blog where you write about current events in your area. You decide to publish three articles on the same topic. Each one focuses on a slightly different angle, but each one provides the exact same information. This is what we call duplicate content. If you link to all three articles from a single page, you risk creating a situation where Google doesn’t know which page to show to users.
The best solution is to keep your content focused and avoid publishing duplicates altogether. For example, if you’re writing about a local event, consider creating a separate page for each of the three angles you’d like to cover. Then, link to those individual pages from your main page.
This supposed “penalty” is, in reality, a duplicate content filter. Google does not want to show duplicates of what they already have, so they will filter out pages that look too similar or duplicative in nature.
Misconception 5: The Canonical URL is Always Respected by Google for Indexing
The rel=”canonical” attribute tells search engines about which page is considered to be the “preferred” version of a given webpage. When you use this attribute, Google treats the specified URL as the preferred version. This means that Google won’t try to find other versions of the same page.
If there are multiple URLs that point to the same page, Google might decide to pick one of those URLs over others. For example, if you have a page with three different URLs, each of which points to the exact same page, Google might choose one of those URLs over the others.
This is why it is important to make sure that the preferred URL matches what you want to happen. You don’t want to confuse Google into choosing something else.
You can use the rel=”canonical” tag to help ensure that Google chooses the correct page as the preferred version. However, even though Google respects this tag, it does not guarantee that the page you specify will be chosen for indexing in all situations.
Misconception 6: You Do Not Have to Do Keyword Research
One of the first misconceptions of SEO is that you don’t really need to do much research into what words are most popular for a given topic.
The reality is that you’ll never know whether a particular word is actually a good choice unless you’ve done some research. Even though you might think you’re targeting the perfect keyword, it could turn out to be a poor fit. For example, you might think “keyword” is a great keyword because it’s something that people searching for information on your subject matter are likely to type in. But if you look at the competition for that term, you may see that it’s used frequently throughout the web. So even though you think “keyword” makes sense, you may want to consider another option. Maybe “keyword research” is a better choice than “keyword” because it satisfies the user intent better and has better search volume.
You may also think that certain terms aren’t worth targeting because they’re too competitive. In this case, you may want to avoid them because someone else already owns the term and it would be too hard to rank for within a year (or less). Or perhaps you’re worried that people will associate your brand with a negative connotation, like a disease, if you use that term.
If you’re still having trouble choosing a keyword, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What is my audience looking for?
- How often does my audience search for this topic?
- Are there any trends I’m seeing?
- What variations can drive more traffic?
- Which version of the keyword is the best one?
- Does this keyword satisfy the user intent of my page properly?
After you figure out these things, you will be able to choose your keywords properly.
Misconception 7: You Have to Stuff Your Pages With Keywords for Ranking
Yet another common SEO misconception is that the more you use keywords on your pages, such as meta descriptions, the better your rankings will be. This isn’t always true. There are many factors that affect how well a page ranks, including the quality of the content, the number of links pointing to the page, and whether or not the page contains spammy links.
If you’re trying to increase your traffic by incorporating keywords into your webpages, there are some things you need to know about how Google works.You don’t want to overstuff. Instead, you want to sprinkle keywords in such a way that is relevant to your article, but also provides supporting context and information.
According to Moz, one of the best ways to optimize your pages for keywords is to make sure your page doesn’t contain any keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing occurs when someone uses a lot of the same keywords within a few lines of each other. For example, “buy men’s shoes online” might be a good idea if you’re selling men’s dress shoes, but if you’re selling women’s sneakers, this might not work.
The reason why this causes problems is because Google looks at certain patterns of words, like repeated keywords, as a sign that the page is trying to manipulate search engines. So, if you’re writing a blog post on how to buy shoes online, don’t repeat the word “shoes” 50 times on the page. Instead, try to sprinkle variations of the keyword phrase into your article in places where it makes sense.
If you do choose to use multiple keywords, keep in mind that it’s important to avoid keyword stuffing.
Misconception 8: You Don’t Have to Target the Right Keywords
Another misconception among online marketers is that if you target the right keywords, simply by sprinkling those keywords throughout low-quality content, the content on the pages doesn’t matter as much as the keywords themselves. This misconception stems from the fact that many people think that if you are ranking for the keywords you want to, you don’t need to worry too much about what’s actually on the page.
However, there’s a big difference between focusing on your keywords and making sure that you’re providing high-quality content.
If you aren’t delivering high quality content, you won’t rank well for the keywords you want.
In addition to having great content, you must make sure that you’re creating unique content. Your content needs to be original, informative, and engaging. Don’t copy and paste your competitors’ content.
Make sure you utilize targeted keywords with enough search volume to be viable, that you integrate supporting keywords, and more.
Misconception 9: You Don’t Have to Worry About Your Page Title or Meta Description
Your title tag and meta description aren’t just important for SEO purposes. They’re also used by audiences to decide whether to click on your link or continue searching.
One of the most common SEO misconceptions around these two elements is that you don’t really need to optimize them. While it’s true that you shouldn’t overdo it with too many keywords or long descriptions, there’s nothing wrong with making sure your title tag and meta description contain enough text to be useful to both searchers and readers.
The title tag should be no longer than 60-70 characters. This allows for plenty of space for keywords, while still being short enough to fit within the character limit. A good rule of thumb is that your keyword phrase should take up about half of the total number of characters.
Meta descriptions are even shorter, typically less than 160 characters. The length of your meta description doesn’t matter nearly as much as the quality of what you include. Make sure the description contains your main keyword(s) as well.
Misconception 10: Creating a Sitemap Automatically Improves Your Ranking
Many people think that having a sitemap on your website guarantees that you’ll rank better in search results. However, there are several reasons why this isn’t true.
First off, some sites use dynamic URLs, meaning that they change every single day or even multiple times per hour. This makes it difficult for Googlebot to follow the link to those pages. So, while a sitemap might tell Google where each individual page is located, it won’t necessarily help you rank higher.
Secondly, many experts believe that Google doesn’t actually look at the sitemap itself; rather, it looks at how well optimized your pages are. If your pages aren’t properly coded, Googlebot won’t be able to access them.
Finally, Google doesn’t always crawl your entire site. So, even if you do have a sitemap that includes everything on your site, Google might miss out on certain pages because they just do not crawl and index everything on a website. They crawl and index what they feel are the most valuable pages.
In short, having a sitemap doesn’t guarantee that you’ll automatically rank higher in search results, but it does provide a way for Google to see what’s on your site.
Misconception 11: You Don’t Have to Publish Content Often
Content creation is a critical component in search engine optimization (SEM). And one of the most common SEO misconceptions about content creation is that you shouldn’t create content frequently because it doesn’t improve rankings. But creating content regularly isn’t just good for SEO; it’s also great for increasing conversions.
The truth is, if you want to make the best use of your SEO efforts, you need to create and publish content often. This means creating and publishing content consistently over time. Here is a reason why:
It Creates New Ways For Leads To Discover Your Website
If you’re like most people, you probably spend a lot of time searching online. As a result, you’ve likely seen lots of different sites pop up while you were doing your research. Some of those sites might even be related to what you’re looking for. Others aren’t.
When someone does a keyword search on Google and finds your site, that person sees a bunch of different pages. They see your home page, maybe a few blogs, maybe a video, maybe a product listing, etc. Those different pages give the searcher many options, and each option gives the searcher another reason to choose your site.
But guess what happens next? Most people may not actually go to your homepage. Instead, they’ll either skip straight to the next result after yours, or scroll down to the bottom of the search results if they don’t see anything that interests them. Why? Because there may be nothing compelling on the first page of results.
So when someone searches for “best dog food,” they might find your homepage, followed immediately by a list of seven products. Then they might check out the first three or four items on that list—and then they’re done. Even though none of those products are necessarily relevant to the question being asked, they still take away attention from the first page of results where the real action is happening.
Misconception 12: Your Mobile Site Has No Impact on Rankings
If you think your mobile site doesn’t matter, you might want to rethink that assumption. A study found that mobile sites are now being used by 57% of mobile searches. This makes sense, given how many people access the web via smartphones and tablets. But even though mobile sites are becoming more important, most businesses still aren’t taking advantage of them.
Google’s mobile-first indexing update is one reason why. Search engines like Google prioritize mobile versions of websites over desktop ones. They do this because mobile devices are much smaller than desktops—and thus require less data to load. So while desktop sites take longer to load, mobile sites tend to be faster.
As a result, Google’s mobile-indexed changes mean that mobile-optimized sites rank better than their desktop counterparts.
While this sounds great, there’s a catch. Mobile sites often lack features that make up the bulk of what desktop sites offer. This includes things like contact forms, social media buttons, and videos. As a result, they tend to perform worse in terms of conversions.
This happens because not everyone operates from a top-down approach to mobile site design, which should consider everything from desktop to mobile and keep everything on mobile as well. Instead, they operate from a bottom-up approach: picking and choosing what to keep at their convenience. So, features go missing when a mobile site is completed if it is not explicitly requested or spelled out in the project briefs.
If your mobile site lacks those key features, it probably won’t help boost your rankings. On the flip side, if your desktop site offers everything that a mobile site does, it’s likely to rank well regardless of whether it’s optimized for mobile or not.
Misconception 13: PPC Advertising Helps Improve Your Rankings
The myth that running a paid search advertising campaign alongside SEO will negatively affect your organic rankings is completely untrue. In fact, there are many benefits to running both types of campaigns simultaneously. However, you shouldn’t confuse the two types of advertising. They’re different enough that it’s important to understand how each type works.
While SEO focuses on improving the visibility of a web page within the search engines’ index, PPC ads target people looking for products and services online. This is where the similarity ends. While SEO involves optimizing a web page’s content, keywords, and link profile, PPC advertisements focus on targeting specific phrases and terms.
A good example of this difference can be seen in the following scenario: A person searches for “best laptop” and finds a product listing on Amazon.com. When they click on a listing, they land on a page optimized for SEO purposes. If the same person searched for “laptop,” however, they would see a sponsored advertisement for the exact same item.
So what does this mean for marketers? Well, running a PPC campaign alongside SEO can help improve your overall performance across multiple channels—including SEO. Here are some reasons why:
1. You’ll reach a wider audience.
When someone performs a search on Google or Bing, they expect to find relevant information about her topic. By running a PPC campaign, you’ll show up in the search results for certain queries. These additional impressions could lead to more traffic, conversions, and sales.
2. Your landing pages will perform better.
By driving targeted traffic from PPC ads, you can drive better conversions. As a result, your landing pages will perform better because you have a balance of traffic coming from both SEO and PPC. PPC should not be siloed or “against” SEO at all. By working to have both PPC and SEO working properly together, you can impact results in a positive manner.
Misconception 14: SEO Tools Metrics Should Be Treated as Fact
When it comes to marketing, there’s no shortage of numbers floating around. But what do you do when those numbers don’t add up? You start comparing them. And once you see the differences, you’re left wondering whether the stats are reliable. Fortunately, there are ways to make sure you’re getting accurate information.
The problem with relying too heavily on a single metric is that it can lead to inaccurate conclusions about where your efforts should go. For example, let’s say you want to improve your rankings for a specific keyword. If you use Semrush, you might find that the number of searches per month for that term is low. This could indicate that people aren’t searching for that particular keyword very often, and therefore you won’t benefit from investing resources into improving your site’s performance. However, if you look at the same keyword on Google’s Keyword Planner, you might find that the keyword is actually quite popular. In fact, it ranks high enough to show up in the first few pages of Google. So why did Keyword Planner tell you otherwise? Because the tool doesn’t account for the difference between the types of queries each tool captures.
One way to ensure you are getting a true picture of your traffic is to compare multiple sources. You can do this manually by checking different sites, but there are plenty of software packages out there that automate this process. One such program is SpyFu.com, which lets you compare five different sources simultaneously. Once you have selected the ones you want to check against, you can choose from a variety of metrics including impressions, CTR, bounce rates, keywords, etc. Then you just enter the URL and hit “compare.”
Another great source of data is Google Analytics. By simply logging in to your dashboard, you can view detailed reports on the type of traffic you receive from different channels. You can even sort your analytics by date, location, device, referring domain, referrer, and many more filters.
Finally, you can always ask your clients directly. If you work with a client who uses a different tool than you, you can ask him/her to send you some screenshots showing the data he/she wants you to analyze. After doing so, you can compare both sets of figures side by side.
SEO Misconceptions Abound, But Performing Your Due Diligence Rules All
By making sure that you work on arming yourself with the right SEO knowledge, and that you avoid SEO misconceptions, it’s possible to ensure that you are engaged in only the right tools for the job for your website.
Otherwise, some of your efforts may be wasted and you could be surprised by the lack of results.
And one of the best ways to overcome this is through SEO testing, and reading the official Google documentation on the topic.
You may also want to read Jason Hennessey’s latest post on The Reality of SEO over on the Hennessey Digital blog.
When do you plan on improving your SEO knowledge by removing SEO misconceptions?