9 Common SEO Myths: How To Tell Fact From Fiction

8 min read

What are the most common SEO myths? Are you making unnecessary mistakes with your SEO, and if you are, why is it dangerous for your site?

We take the lid off a few of the common SEO myths to help you separate facts from fiction.

Mistaken beliefs, inaccuracies, and confusion abound in SEO. And dare we say it, paranoia. In some ways it’s understandable. All website owners believe they are vying for just 10 spots on Google’s search results. And they all think they must have the No.1 spot (see point 1 below).

 

We attribute most of these problems to search engines themselves. Google’s primary focus is to make search results relevant and reliable for searchers. Because of this, they are in a constant battle to limit any “gaming” of the (SERPS) Search Engine Results Pages.

 

But we believe Google is making a pronounced change of direction to help eliminate many of these SEO myths. For example, John Mueller, a Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, regularly tweets SEO facts to dismiss myths and rumours.

To isolate some SEO myths we have listed 10 we consider perpetuates the confusion surrounding SEO practices and why we know they are incorrect.

No matter how many times SEO experts try to tear them down–they always seem to hang on in there.

1. Being No.1 In Google Search Is All That Matters

number one Google Myth

We believe spending money and effort trying to get a specific keyword to No.1 on Google is a waste of your resources. Why is this?

Clients always ask three questions. Can you get my site to No1 in Google for my preferred keywords? How long will it take to get there? How much do you charge?

It’s not wrong to ask those questions. But, to begin with, being No.1 doesn’t guarantee you will get the highest number of clicks. In a recent study, Ahrefs found the No.1 Listing only receives most traffic 49% of the time.

Not that being there isn’t better than the other 8 or 9 listings below you, because it is. We’re saying being in that slot doesn’t guarantee you most of the traffic.

Look at the way they lay the SERPs out today compared to a few years ago and you can see why.

Paid listings look more like organic listings than ever before. Local listings can be paid ads. Organic results are pushed further down the page and there are only 9 organic listings if you count the localised listing. And slap bang in between the listings is news results.

Google is still where you need to be but, it’s out of your hands, you cannot control what Google does with its listings.

Here’s what you need to do:

2. Google’s Sandbox Penalises New Sites

New Website Penalty SEO Myth

Another SEO myth is that there is a mistaken belief that Google will automatically put new sites into a kind of Sandbox (we define a Sandbox as a virtual space where new or untested software or coding can be run securely).

The explanation for this is Google is trying to determine if a new site is spammy and if so to prevent the site from ranking in the SERPs.

John Mueller, whom I mentioned earlier, debunked this in a Google Hangout, by saying there are no such filters applied to new sites.

However, we have all seen new sites move up and down the rankings in the early stages of launch. Mueller said that Google has algorithms that could appear to act as a sandbox, but this is only because the algorithms are trying to establish where this site fits with others vying for the same search term.

3. SEO Is A One Time Concept

SEO long term investment

We always stress to new clients (and reiterate to older ones) that SEO is a long-term investment. To grow a site ranking for many hundreds of thousands of keywords is not a short-term aim.

Google in the past has made it known it considers upwards of 10,000 signals influencing their search results. We can’t be certain this is true, after all, it’s in Google’s interest to make it look as complex as possible.

But. Let’s consider if they are only 50% accurate, 5,000 signals are still way too many to put in place when you launch a new site. It would never get launched.

There are perhaps 15-20 things that must be in place and can be established by a technical SEO website audit before we launch a site. From then on, it’s looking at those other 4,980 signals as an opportunity to rank higher than your competition.

This makes SEO such a fascinating science and art form.

4. SEO is Akin To Black Magic

SEO Black Magic Myth

However unfortunate it is, anyone can set themselves up as an SEO “Expert.” There are no formal examinations to prove a person’s ability or skill set.

Even if there were, would they count? You can’t set up an examination for something Google tries its best to keep secret.

No, the only commodity that works is trust. A site owner must trust their interests are being taken care of by the person or persons they use to look after their SEO.

Therefore, we say it’s almost akin to black magic. Because, if you hire someone who does a terrible job for you, they will not blame themselves, their skills, or SEO knowledge, will they? They will perpetuate the myth SEO is unfathomable and no-one knows how it works.

This is pure nonsense.

A professional SEO agency will work to make sites comply more closely with Google’s algorithms, and what’s more, these algorithms are not unexplained phenomena.

Savvy SEO professionals have a talent for aligning sites with Google’s algorithms. They live, breathe, and eat algorithm changes. A trustworthy SEO professional is the next best thing to having a Google employee working for you.

This is the polar opposite of black magic. We learn this knowledge and experience the hard way.

5. Paying For Google Ads Will Help Organic Listings

Google Ads Help SEO Myth

This is a common SEO myth. Bandied around forever. If we were being cynical, we might say any agency selling PPC (pay per click) services would be at an advantage if it was true.

However, it’s quite an easy myth to debunk.

Google’s ad placements and organic listings have nothing to do with each other. The two algorithms involved do not cross over.

We’re not saying it isn’t workable or even helpful to run a paid ads campaign, at the same time you are trying to rank organically for the same keywords. There may well be benefits to do so. But it will not affect your rankings directly.

6. Google Will Penalise Duplicate Content

Duplicate Content SEO Myth

This one has survived for some time.

The SEO myth circulating about duplicate content contends, if you have any content on your site duplicated elsewhere on the web, then your site will receive a Google penalty.

There are two factors at play here. It’s having the perception to recognize the difference. On the one hand, there is algorithm suppression and on the other is a manual penalty.

Your page might not rank because it’s trapped in an algorithm filter. A manual penalty is removing a page or pages from the Google index. A human does this working at or for Google.

You will receive notification of this via your Google Search Console.

If you take the copy from another page, Google may see their copy as more relevant than yours, and because Google doesn’t see any reason to show both, they suppress yours. This is the algorithm doing what they programmed it to do.

Although you might not receive a manual penalty for copying someone else’s work, the owner of the copy might see fit to take action against you.

7. Google Deploys 3 Top Ranking Factors

Position 1 SEO Myth
We mentioned that Google can sometimes be the architect of the confusing information that circulates within SEO circles. This is a point in question. In 2016  Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google offered this knowledge. Google deploys 3 Top Ranking Factors, RankBrain, Content, and links. This led SEO professionals to believe there was now a top 3 list. However, Google has now debunked this themselves through John Mueller in another webmaster hangout. He insists it’s not possible to establish the most important factors because they change from day-to-day and query-to-query. It does not help webmasters to target singular factors, because of the sophistication of the algorithms.

8. Google Analytics Data Is Used In Google's Algorithm

Google Analytics SEO Rankings Myth

This is something many site owners are apprehensive about. Studying their reports and seeing high bounce rates and low time on site, instantly makes them shudder.

Their worry is Google will presuppose their site to be inferior quality and therefore penalise it in the search results.

The SEO myth here is they incorrectly believe Google uses their analytics data in the algorithm.

Gary Illyes is a Google Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, on 26th June 2017 tweeted to the effect “We don’t use *anything* from Google analytics in the “algo” and if you take time to think about this, how would it even be possible?

Google would need to understand the myriad ways site owners have set every analytics account up. And for webmasters that don’t use Google analytics, would their information be taken into account?

Having a high bounce rate (low time on site) might be the sign of a bad website, but it could be their content is quickly consumed.

9. SEO Loses to PPC

SEO Doesn't Work myth

No, it does not!

There are some statistics out there from Forbes saying SEO will be an $80 billion industry by the end of 2020. We can’t say we know that for sure.  But, what’s clear is, SEO will be around for a long time for a reason.

You can test this for yourself. Post a high quality article that is relevant for your target audience and wait two months. You will see it rank and bring in some visitors.

How much has this cost you? If you have some decent SEO knowledge, other than the setup of the site and your time to perform quality keyword research, nothing. And if you are working with an SEO professional, then around an hour of his or her time (whatever it’s worth). One hour (ok, maybe 2), once (per article), that’s it.

Now compare the cost to using PPC and you would be out of pocket at least a few hundred pounds.

The difference? Your organic listing will continue to grow and the traffic will multiply by the number of new pages you publish. Whereas the instant you stop paying for clicks, your traffic stops. And if you are determined to continue, then you will have to keep investing… multiplied by the number of targets. Looks backwards now, doesn’t it?

It will take longer to get there with SEO, but the results speak for themselves.

Conclusion

With SEO you must separate fact from fiction. If you don’t you might waste a great deal of time and energy for no result.

There is some logic and even sense in some of the SEO myths you hear. The only actual way to discern what’s true is to study SEO carefully, and if you hear an idea you can’t say for certain is fact or myth, err on the side of caution, assume it’s a myth. Or at the very least test in-depth, before you decide to follow the information.

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