“We only use 10% of our brains.”
“Lightning never strikes the same place twice.”
Myths are usually harmless, but unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the top SEO myths. When you take these as marketing advice, it can lead to wasted time and money.
So let’s bust these myths and get you focused on the things that’ll actually move the needle.
The first and possibly most dangerous myth is that SEO is dead.
Journalists love saying that many things are dead, like “YouTube is dead,” “Facebook is dead,” “Bitcoin is dead,” and “romance is dead.” These kinds of headlines often lead to opinion editorials that end up being nothing more than clickbait.
But SEO is very much alive and well.
In fact, over the past three months, our websites and our client’s websites have had over one million visits from Google alone, which has resulted in a lot of new leads, enquiries and customers.
So why do people keep clanging the same old gong?
Well, the main argument is that Google is answering more and more queries themselves in the search results.
For example, if you search for “F to C,” Google provides a calculator in the results, so you don’t have to even visit a page.
In fact, 90% of searches for this query don’t result in a click to paid or organic positions.
But this doesn’t mean that SEO is dead.
You can still get clicks from this keyword and Google doesn’t give definitive answers in the search results for every keyword anyway.
Not even close.
So as long as search engines exist and have users, SEO isn’t going anywhere.
The next common SEO myth is that Google only ranks “fresh” content.
Does Google rank fresh content? Sure it does, but Google also ranks old content that hasn’t been updated in years!
Freshness is a query-dependent ranking factor, meaning fresh content matters for some search queries, but not so much for others.
For example, a popular web page about the human heart has had almost the exact same content since 2013.
And if you look at the page’s traffic trend, it’s continually gained search traffic to this date. That’s because a search query like “how does the human heart work” isn’t dependent on fresh content, since nothing has really changed.
Now, a topic like “best movies on Netflix” is something that changes over time, and if you looked at the organic traffic trend for a web page about this topic, you’ll see spikes and dips in search traffic.
Basically, dips happened when the content got older without an update, but when the post is updated with fresh content, you’ll see immediate gains in search traffic.
So how can you tell if a query relies on freshness? The quickest and easiest way is to look at the top 10 ranking results, and if you see that all of the pages have the current year in the title, there’s a high chance that freshness plays a role in ranking.
But the bottom line is Google doesn’t only rank fresh content.
The next SEO myth is that duplicate content will get you penalised. Duplicate content is exact or near-duplicate content that appears on the web in more than one place.
But there is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty. It’d be impossible to track properly since many pages are syndicated, scraped, and can even be created without you knowing it, like on category or archive pages.
In fact, Google and its representatives have said on numerous occasions that Google doesn’t have a duplicate content penalty, but that doesn’t mean duplicate content is good for your site.
It can actually lead to undesirable results like backlink dilution, wasted crawl budget, or syndicated content ranking ahead of you.
The next common SEO myth debunked is that SEO is a “set it and forget it” job.
Yes, SEO can lead to free, passive, and consistent traffic that doesn’t fade over time, but that doesn’t mean you rank your pages and then call it a day.
SEO is kind of like going to the gym. It’s ok to miss a workout here and there, but you have to go consistently in order to get results and maintain those results.
If you choose to ignore all SEO efforts after you’re ranking high, you’ll likely lose backlinks while your competitors continue to build them.
Your content will get stale for queries that rely on a freshness factor, and before you know it, you’ll see a slow and steady decline in search traffic, which will likely affect your bottom line.
The next myth is that social shares help you rank higher in Google.
It’s reasonable to believe that the more your content gets shared on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, the higher those pages will rank.
After all, if tons of people are sharing something, it must be valuable, right? Maybe, but Google’s John Mueller has said that social signals don’t directly impact rankings. And while that word “directly” is up for interpretation, it makes sense that they wouldn’t use shares or likes as ranking signals.
But if social signals aren’t a ranking factor, then why do studies show a correlation between social shares and rankings? Well, correlation doesn’t mean causation. So the way I look at it is that social shares lead to more exposure. And that often leads to more backlinks, which we know are a ranking factor.
And pages that rank well in Google get more search traffic, and assuming it’s a shareable piece, will continue to get shared on social.
How SEO myths can cost you: The next SEO myth is that Pay Per Click Advertising won’t help you rank higher in search. Paying for ads doesn’t directly influence rankings. Meaning, Google won’t rank you higher in organic search just because you’re paying them. But PPC can indirectly help your pages get more backlinks because of increased exposure, just like social shares.
In a recent test we ran, we used Google Ads to see if search ads could lead to backlinks. Long story short, it works well if you bid on queries that have so-called “link intent.”
The next SEO myth we need to bust is that SEO is always about ranking #1. We all want top Google rankings, but there’s a point where boosting your position for a single keyword may not be worth the required time and effort.
In fact, our study of 100,000 search queries showed that the top-ranking page only gets the most search traffic 49% of the time.
And the reason for this is because pages can get traffic from tons of relevant keywords, not just one.
For example, if we look at the top 10 pages for the query, “high protein diet,” you’ll find that the top page gets around 11,000 monthly search visits. But if you look at a couple of the other results, you’ll find they get significantly more search traffic.
Now, if you look at the number of keywords these pages rank for in comparison to the top page, it all makes sense. They’re ranking for hundreds and thousands of keywords.
The lesson to take away from this is to focus on total traffic potential as opposed to a first-place ranking for a single keyword.
There’s obviously a lot more SEO myths that I didn’t cover here, like “backlinks are dead,” and if you’ve heard conflicting advice related to SEO and want our opinion, get in touch and we’ll give you the straight facts.
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Go to our contact page and book a call-back at a time that suits you.
Check out the first part of our SEO For Beginners series, that will help you rank your website higher in Google.
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Pete Skuse (The SEO Guy)
Plymouth SEO Services – Let’s put your website to work for your business