Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a crucial part of any digital marketing strategy. But with so many buzzwords, ‘expert’ opinions and guides on the topic, there are naturally many SEO myths out there.
Here are ten SEO myths you might have heard – and why they are wrong.
SEO myth #1: it doesn’t work
It does. There are lots of companies out there generating a lot of organic traffic and qualified leads using SEO. Google is investing A LOT into free SEO resources (which can all be found collated in one place at the recently launched Google Search Central) and has even started publishing SEO case studies – focussed on how companies have used SEO to increase revenues. It also spends a lot of time creating guides and insights for its YouTube community (in multiple languages). Checkout the Search for beginners playlist if you’re at the beginning of your SEO journey; the Search Console training playlist if you’re keen to start measuring the impact of your SEO efforts; or the Sustainable Monetized Websites playlist if you’re building your side hustle!
SEO myth #2: what you spend on AdWords affects your organic ranking
It does not. It doesn’t make sense. This is why (straight from the horse’s mouth):
“We’ve heard people ask if we design our search ranking systems to benefit advertisers, and we want to be clear: that is absolutely not the case. We never provide special treatment to advertisers in how our search algorithms rank their websites, and nobody can pay us to do so.”
SEO myth #3: it’s a one-time thing
It would be great if you could pay an SEO magician to wave their magic wand and sort your SEO permanently. But that simply isn’t the case. Like most things in life, it requires continued hard work, adjustments, research and reporting.
Search engines are constantly changing their algorithms (e.g. Google conducted more than 800,000 experiments and made 5,000 improvements to search in 2021 alone), so tweaks need to be made on an ongoing basis. Competitors can move in on your rankings, so it’s important to keep improving, if you want to keep that sweet organic traffic. Basically, anyone who tells you that they can sort your SEO on a one-off project basis is not going to.
SEO myth #4: you need to include your keyword a certain amount of times
One of the most common SEO myths is that there is an optimal level of keyword density required in content. Search engines consider so much more than the number of times a keyword is mentioned – they consider external and internal links, user behaviour, images, semantically related phrases and website folder structure, amongst other things. So don’t get hung up on keyword density – you’ll be wasting your time and you’ll probably jeopardise the quality of your content, too. If you’re interested in finding out a bit more about how Google understands language, then meet BERT.
SEO myth #5: keywords aren’t a thing anymore
Yeah they obviously are. How can you rank for apples if you only ever write about pears? Keyword density might not be a thing, but keywords are. Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller explained this to Search Engine Land’s news editor Barry Schwartz:
“…I think, in general, that there’s probably always gonna be a little bit of room for keyword research because you’re kind of providing those words to users. And even if search engines are trying to understand more than just those words, showing specific words to users can make it a little bit easier for them to understand what your pages are about and can sometimes drive a little bit of that conversion process.”
It’s all about balance. If your content is user-friendly and topic-focused, you’re likely to include your keyword (and variations of it) naturally anyway. So, make sure that it’s included, but make sure that it is used in context, too.
SEO myth #6: content doesn’t matter, it’s about design
How you design and structure your website is important when it comes to SEO, more so than ever before in fact – speed and mobile friendliness is paramount to organic search engine success (speed is already a ranking factor but page experience focussed on Core Web Vitals became a ranking factor on mobile in June 2021 and on desktop in February 2022. More on page experience here: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/experience/page-experience).
But it’s no good having a perfect design if you don’t have good quality content on your site – Google’s Mueller repeatedly emphasises this and points out that best content wins, but, “…if all of the content is very similar in the search results page, then probably using Page Experience helps a little bit to understand which of these are fast pages or reasonable pages with regards to the user experience and which of these are kind of the less reasonable pages to show in the search results.”
SEO myth #7: mobile and desktop are the same
If you have a responsive site then there are often differences between the mobile resized version of your website and the desktop version. You may not realise the content changes (e.g. headers or ‘Read more’ sections disappear or the number of internal links change) when the website resizes. Likewise if you’re running light and speedy accelerated mobile pages (AMP) in parallel to your main site, then make sure your AMP carry the same content and proper canonicalization (although Google effectively dropped AMP when the page experience update went live and there are no SEO benefits from using it).
SEO myth #8: SEO is cheap
It definitely shouldn’t be. This is a myth perpetuated by old school spammy SEO agencies that will employ low cost tactics that could see you removed from Google’s index altogether. Why would a company that can help you generate hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of sustainable revenue only charge you £30k a year for the privilege?
When you need technical SEO expertise, content experts and PR/outreach specialists to help you craft and execute a perfect SEO strategy, you shouldn’t expect them to charge next to nothing. Think about what you’d spend on a CMO – then spend at least that on an SEO agency.
SEO myth #9: paid search results get the most clicks because they’re at the top of the results page
Latest research (from ~5.1 trillion Google searches in 2020 – this type of data is rare and is naturally not published by Google because while they’re keen on SEO they don’t want to devalue AdWords), when performing a search on a desktop computer:
- 50.75 clicked on an organic result
- 2.78% clicked on a paid result
- 46.48% didn’t click on anything at all
And, when performing a search on a mobile:
- 21.99% clicked on an organic result
- 0.79% clicked on a paid result
- 77.22% didn’t click on anything at all
The amount of money companies spend on AdWords over SEO is OUTRAGEOUS given the percentages of searchers who click on each type of result.
SEO myth #10: all links are created equal
When it comes to SEO, there are four types of back links – follow, nofollow, sponsored and UGC. All of these will help with SEO as Google’s now decided to use all of them as ‘hints’, but the best type of link is a followed link – this is a link from a reputable source that passes PageRank (link juice).
“All the link attributes,
nofollow, now work today as hints for us to incorporate for ranking purposes. For crawling and indexing purposes,
nofollowwill become a hint as of March 1, 2020.”
Written by: Luke Budka, director of digital PR and SEO