New tools to improve performance
on August 12, 2019 (last modified on August 22, 2023) • 41 minute read
I figured other people would have run across a few myths I haven’t, and maybe the total number of myths in the final post would be 15 or 20.
I never anticipated that people would submit 44 different myths.
But as Return on Now’s Tommy Landry says, “There are so many myths out there, and as SEO evolves, the myths just keep growing.”
Some of the most common myths, from my list at least, include “SEO is something you do once,” “keyword stuffing is good,” and “buying links is acceptable”:
But these eight myths are just the tip of the iceberg. The 120 different SEOs who responded to our survey came up with dozens of additional myths that range from unsurprising (SEO is dead, just like every other marketing tactic ever) to downright bizarre (making your keywords bold will help you rank higher).
And evidently, running across someone who believes an SEO myth is incredibly common. A third of our respondents said that 70-100% of people they’ve discussed SEO with wholeheartedly believe in an SEO myth.
Some of these myths are the outcome of people still thinking outdated SEO best practices still work. But as JXT Group’s Menachem Ani says, “In the current landscape, things that worked even as soon as 18 months ago may not be the best strategy for SEO today.”
Others are the result of bad information perpetuated by deceitful and/or uninformed SEOs.
Below, you’ll find the 44 SEO myths our respondents believe do the most damage to a site’s ability to rank highly—or rank at all—in organic search.
“The greatest myth in the Australian SEO industry that, regretfully, many businesses continue to buy into is the ‘Performance and Timeframe Guarantee,’” says Noam Judah of TopRankings. “In fact, two of the larger SEO agencies in Australia guarantee page-one results by X timeframe for X number of phrases.”
“The outcome: poor results by fast-growth agencies that, at the same time, tie the client into a 12-month contract,” Judah says.
But this myth isn’t just a problem in Australia. Several other respondents have run into this myth as well.
“Clients approach us with the question, ‘How do we get on the first page of Google for our business?” says John Hoey of The Marketing People. “They think it’s an easy process—or that just by paying another company, it’ll be done within two weeks, which isn’t the case. And if anyone tells you it is, don’t believe them!”
“You can’t promise a client a number-one ranking without diving into site performance, doing research with industry-leading tools, or locking in the budget that will be needed in order to achieve results,” says Naveen Jasrotia of Digital Nar.
“There are so many small agencies or individuals that promise a lot in order to grab the client’s attention and money. The trick of the promise is simple: not clarifying what type of keywords (branded or non-branded) they will rank for.”
“Ranking takes time and a lot of effort. Sometimes, no matter how greatly we optimize a current website, we end up with the challenge of not being able to support the SEO with any additional content or digital campaigns due to a tight budget—or better yet, due to another search engine algorithm change.”
“In my opinion, promising a ranking is the biggest myth in our industry,” Jasrotia says.
“The worst myth is that SEO is something you do once and forget about,” says Darryl Antonio of Digitalhound.
Several of our respondents said this is a common myth. In fact, it was one of the most-mentioned myths on this list.
“Back in my agency days, clients would come in and ask us to ‘SEO their site’ like it was a matter of installing 2-3 plugins, writing a few metatags, and then bam, number-one rankings,” says Julien Raby of Nerf Gun Center.
“When we’d tell them that we needed to write about 50 new pages of content and launch a long-term link acquisition campaign, most of them would back off. I’m pretty sure they went on to find a company that would ‘fix their SEO,’” Raby says.
“This myth is usually perpetrated by SMB business owners who know they likely need SEO but don’t want to invest in its continual development,” says Matt Bassos of Vuly Play.
The problem with this myth, as Showcase IDX’s Kurt Uhlir explains, is that “thinking that SEO is something you do only once will kill organic rankings over time.”
“I’ve seen businesses get to position one in Google results for various phrases and then think it’s okay to put a halt to their SEO efforts,” says Matt Tudge of WDA Automotive. “The result? Their competition continued their SEO efforts, resulting in ranking drops across the board for those who stopped doing it.”
“SEO requires continuous work to get to the top of Google rankings and make sure you remain there,” says Andrew Ruditser of MAXBURST. “If you are not continuously using the newest SEO trends and strategies, you will fall behind your competitors in Google rankings.”
“Ongoing SEO is both proactive and reactive,” says Cheyenne Schueman of Page 1 Solutions. “Good optimization is a line of defense against core algorithm updates. Ongoing optimization is what brings your rankings, traffic, and leads back up once old practices no longer work.”
“Sadly, because of the high number of SEOs that offer ridiculously cheap, low-quality link-building services, some people think SEO is a scam,” says Alistair Dodds of Ever Increasing Circles. “They will have tried it, paid peanuts, got no results, and decided it was a complete scam. The truth is that they got scammed!”
“By thinking that SEO is a scam and not worth the effort, businesses lose a valuable source of traffic, leads, and sales,” says Berify’s Johnny Santiago. “The reality is that SEO does require a commitment to see significant results, but it is well worth the effort.”
“Bad SEO doesn’t work,” says Sam Thomas of Embryo Digital. “Good SEO can—and does—transform businesses when the strategy is right.”
“One of the biggest myths is that SEO is a tactic used to cheat/beat the search engines,” says Chris Steele of Knowmad Digital Marketing.
Loud Digital’s Dan Young agrees: “The most common myth I come across from clients is that SEO is snake oil or some sort of voodoo. SEO performance can be tracked at every step of the way, and you can showcase exactly what impact you’ve had.”
“Fooling search engines won’t lead to better results,” says Dan Christensen of Morningdove Marketing. “If you’re not writing for the humans who will read your content, you’re doing something wrong.”
“There are no ‘hacks’ that will get you to the top of the SERPs,” says Miva’s Luke Wester. “SEO, like any other discipline, is about putting in the work. Short-term tactics won’t provide long-term success. Invest in great content, and forget about the snake oil.”
“Lots of people think it’s possible to achieve instant results with a very low budget—and that those results will stand the test of time with no further investment,” says Rachael Jessney of Atelier Studios.
“We have had clients who have made the mistake of buying into false promises and having unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved. This typically ends up in wasted budget, and sometimes the tactics used are more damaging in the longer-term,” Jessney says.
“Just because you don’t pay for clicks in SEO as you do with Google Ads doesn’t mean that the traffic doesn’t cost you anything,” says David Lye of PriceMyCar. “Organic traffic isn’t free! In fact, in many cases, it’s actually more cost-effective to pay for PPC than SEO.”
“It’s just that with SEO, costs are hidden. Aside from the obvious costs attributable to SEO (link building, content creation, etc.), SEO takes time. A whole lot of time. You have to be constantly researching opportunities, staying on top of best practices, and mitigating associated risks.”
Related: SEO vs. PPC: Which Channel Generates More Sales?
“The worst myth out there is that SEO is no longer relevant,” says Cannon Casey of Room 214.
Angela Han of Sharp Growth agrees: “There are a plethora of articles out there that say that SEO doesn’t work anymore, so let’s address these objections:”
“The biggest SEO myth I see is that it takes a long time to see any results,” says Oren Greenberg of Kurve. “Sure, SEO is a long-term investment that increases traffic cumulatively over time, but a one-off meta audit, content upgrade, or speed fix can have an immediate impact.”
Katrina Gallagher of Digitangle agrees: “Although you may not see immediate results, you should always have some visibility on the impact of changes.”
“Sometimes it does take a while for new content to rank, but you can still see results in a short period of time,” says Best Company’s Claire Shaner. “Especially for low-competition keywords, you can dramatically increase your rank with some minor tweaks to your content. Strategic SEO can show results fast.”
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The flip side of the “SEO takes a long time to produce results” myth is the myth that SEO drives dramatic results instantly.
“I have so many clients who expect SEO to work within weeks and think they’ll be ranking for all of their highly competitive primary keywords straight away,” says Phoenix Menday of Consultus Digital. “SEO is a long-game, slow-burn process that requires patience and consistency.”
“While there are certain tweaks that SEOs can implement straight off the bat that can have an immediate effect on rankings, the peak results will be evident after at least 3-6 months,” Menday says.
Growth Hackers’ Jonathan Aufray agrees: “The worst SEO myth is that SEO is fast. There are a lot of freelancers, marketers, and agencies out there who spread the word that they can rank websites for any keywords within a few days. So when I tell prospects or clients that SEO takes time, they don’t believe me.”
So which is correct? Does SEO take months to work, or do you see results immediately? Our respondents argued that both are myths.
The truth is that it depends on the context. If you’re optimizing a site that has lots of existing content and a fair amount of established authority, there are almost certainly quick wins that can produce immediate results. Optimizing a newer site, on the other hand, takes much longer to produce dramatic results.
The true myth, then, is simply that any specific time frame—whether immediate or long-term—for results applies across the board. If an SEO is suggesting a time frame without having researched your site and business, it’s probably worth questioning that time frame.
That said, with the help of an SEO dashboard you can track the impact of your SEO efforts in real-time.
“The biggest SEO myth is that it’s for everybody who has a website,” says Justin Dunkley of Amarise.
“Startups and small businesses regularly engage SEO services to rank well in Google and other search engines. But SEO is not a short-term strategy. When facing large, industry-leading competition, ranking high is likely to be unattainable mid-term as well.”
“Instead, these businesses should be focusing on shorter-term solutions like conversion rate optimization (CRO).”
“CRO borrows many processes from SEO—like great content and technical proficiency—but is focused on increasing conversions once a visitor lands on the website rather than ranking the website high so that visitors simply land on the website.”
“Businesses must also be mindful of the fact that when performing SEO to rank well in search, their competitors are also doing the same. Ensuring an improving conversion rate is much more profitable than SEO alone.”
“A common misconception is that having an active blog on your website is required if you’re a local business trying to rank for relevant keywords,” says Joe Lawlor of Digital Dynasty SEO.
“This is a huge myth. Although a blog may be good for companies that want to be established as a resource or an authority, it’s not needed for SEO purposes,” Lawlor says.
“What is right for one client’s site may not be right for another,” says Ben Johnston of Sagefrog Marketing Group. “It’s baffling how many SEO specialists are stuck in their ways, even though the data telling them otherwise is staring them right in the face. Do what’s right for your clients’ sites and their goals!”
“One myth I hear all the time is that SEO is all about technical stuff,” says Tom Jelneck of On Target Digital Marketing. “While I don’t disagree that there are some technical fundamentals that always need to be considered to be successful in search, I maintain that to truly win at SEO, you have to put your users first.”
“That means creating amazing content and building a website that speaks to them and is easy for them to navigate. Google, Bing, and other search engines strive to provide an amazing user experience, and I believe that experience starts with a focus on your website visitors and giving them what they need and crave.”
“A myth that should absolutely die is that keywords are still the center of SEO,” says John Donnachie of ClydeBank Media. “Good SEO practices are holistic, dynamic, and a reflection of search intent. An obsession with keywords is a good way to miss the forest through the trees.”
“Speed, links, multimedia, and the helpfulness of the content are all absolutely essential and should not be overlooked,” Donnachie says.
“Many clients believe that ranking their website depends solely on backlinks,” says Anjana Wickramaratne of Inspirenix. “They try their best to get the highest number of backlinks possible without considering other SEO factors such as on-page SEO.”
“With this mindset, these clients target highly competitive keywords, thinking their backlinks will back them up. This is an SEO myth that makes the client’s SEO strategies ineffective.”
“Yes, backlinks play a major role in SEO, but backlinks alone cannot rank a website. In order for a website to rank higher, that website must be fully optimized, which means considering both on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO,” Wickramaratne says.
Kris Gunnars of Search Facts agrees: “There is a massive focus on link building in the SEO community, often at the expense of emphasizing how to make the best content available to answer the search queries.”
“To me, the worst SEO myth is that content is king,” says Fundera’s Ricardo Velez. “Content, backlinks, and technical optimizations all play their own role in a successful SEO strategy.”
“Favoring one of these elements over the others is a surefire way to limit the potential success of your website.”
“The worst SEO myth is that page titles and descriptions are all you need to implement a solid SEO plan,” says Meg Raiano of reCreative. “Simply implementing titles and descriptions throughout your site does not mean that you will rank highly for anything.”
Omi Diaz-Cooper of Diaz & Cooper Advertising agrees: “People think you can take a site with very little content, insert some high volume keywords in meta tags, and miraculously improve rankings.” Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
“Domain Authority (DA) is the biggest myth in the SEO community,” says Akshay Sharma of Mind Digital Group. “Many companies think that if a website has a high DA, then they have a good reputation with search engines. This is not true. A high DA is not a guarantee that a site has a good reputation with search engines.”
So what does that mean? A site with a high Domain Authority score doesn’t automatically guarantee that a link from that site is high quality.
Some people also mistakenly believe that Domain Authority is somehow a Google ranking factor. In reality, Domain Authority is just a Moz metric that’s designed to give SEOs an idea of a website’s ranking potential.
As Russ Jones writes in a recent Moz blog post: “Let’s get the correlation-versus-causation objection out of the way: Domain Authority does not cause search rankings. It is not a ranking factor. Domain Authority predicts the likelihood that one domain will outrank another.”
“The worst SEO myth is that buying backlinks works,” says Nathan Fuller of Launch Team, Inc. “Buying backlinks will hurt your site’s authority—not help it!”
“A brand needs to earn its links, not buy them,” says Liraz Postan of LP Marketing Services. “Links are an important ranking factor, but you can naturally gain links by providing the best experience.”
“SEO is no longer predicated on generic link building and spammy authority-boosting tactics,” says Nate Masterson of Maple Holistics. “It’s all about getting smarter and more legitimate. Overall, the short-term boost of buying links is never worth the risk of the harsh penalties you may face if you get caught.”
“A lot of people blindly believe that more links are generally better,” says Akash Makwana of UK Business Energy. “This is among the biggest myths in SEO.”
“When you’re building links, you want to look for topical relevance as the number-one item when selecting your opportunities. For example, if you have a blog on baking, you want to find relevant websites under the cooking umbrella. One link from a relevant website can really help reinforce your SEO efforts,” Makwana says.
Insightland’s Irena Zobniow agrees: “The quality of your backlinks is much more important than the quantity of them. If you focus on mass link building but ignore relevancy and quality, you can easily expose your website to Google’s penalization.”
“One high-quality backlink is worth hundreds of spammy ones,” says Colibri Digital Marketing’s Andrew McLoughlin.
“It’s true that quantity was important in the very early days of SEO. But for more than a decade, search engines have been actively moving away from that mentality, prioritizing sites that embrace quality and relevance and penalizing those that continue to try to make up the difference with spam,” McLoughlin says.
And Trina Moitra of Convert Insights Inc. offers this advice: “Your link profile must be relevant (from domains that have credibility in the area that you operate in), diversified (with referrals from domains with varying DAs), and built over time (earning 100 links in three days is a big red flag).”
Related: 100+ Marketers Share The Link-Building Techniques That Work Best
“The fact that I still see people spamming blog comments with links seriously blows my mind,” says Tony DeGennaro of Dragon Social Limited. “A five-second search would let you know that these kinds of irrelevant spammy links have little-to-no positive effect—and can have large negative effects.”
“Relevancy is usually seen as the most important factor in the quality of a link, so it makes no sense to repeatedly post links to your online casino on my marketing blog,” DeGennaro says.
“Clients who switch to our agency because they couldn’t see any results with their previous SEO company often tell us that they were lead to believe link building practices meant creating comments on forums or paying for links on average-quality sites,” says Agnieszka Podemska of MiroMind.
“Spam links on forums or backlinks from link farms will not help your site in the long run. On the contrary, sooner or later, poor link-building practices will result in a Google penalty,” Podemska says.
This is a lesson that Digital Magus’ Shadab Khan learned firsthand: “When I first started doing SEO work, I was focused on blog commenting and social bookmarking. But over time, I found that only doing quality SEO works.”
“Some people think that search engines are vehemently opposed to websites building links,” says BrainSpin’s Daniel Ashton. “It’s easy for information from Google to be misunderstood and reinforce that belief.”
“For example, Google’s page on link schemes has a long list of link strategies you should avoid. Some might take this to mean that link building is completely off-limits. That isn’t the case though.”
“Google understands that not all link building is bad—and is even a necessary part of improving the internet browsing experience. If no one used link building strategies, the best piece of content on a certain subject might sit in a dark corner of the web with no traffic.”
“If your link building is relevant and your content is quality, link building will definitely be accepted. However, you should be wary of the specific link-building schemes that search engines condemn.”
“The worst SEO myth is that link building is dead and a waste of time and resources,” says Luke Davis of Adzooma. “Link building is very much alive and delivers multiple benefits.”
Blue Digital’s Jordon Goodman agrees: “Backlinks are considerably important. Having strong sites linking back to your site is completely beneficial for your ranking opportunities.”
“While it’s true that some queries rely more heavily on content and author expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, backlinks still play a significant role in ranking a page for a user’s query according to recent correlative studies,” says Tony Mastri of Search Engine Coach.
“I’ve had clients throughout the years who have believed this myth,” says Holly Rollins of 10xdigital, “and our services have been able to prove this myth wrong.”
“Lots of marketers would rather have no link than accept a nofollow link,” says Best Company’s Rochelle Burnside. “Google may not give you link juice for a nofollow link, but there’s still value in contributing to a quality source that could drive traffic to your blog.”
“Readers could decide to use your source in their own content and credit you with a dofollow,” Burnside says.
“One of our customers once complained because he had several nofollow links on his backlink profile,” says Gustavo Carvalho of Copahost. “He asked us to remove (disavow) such links. We explained to him the benefits of keeping nofollow links, but he insisted and disavowed the links in Google Search Console.”
“The result? In two weeks, his SERPs went down from ranking in #1, #2, #3 positions to ranking on pages two and three,” Carvalho says.
Inseev Interactive’s Emily Banks says that it’s a myth to think that you shouldn’t link out to other sites: “While having a link to another site on your page may prompt a reader to check out a different site for a moment, if your content is beneficial and relevant, they will come back.”
“As long as you are providing more pertinent material within each hyperlink, linking to credible sources of information will help build your reader’s trust and authority over time. And not only will linking to authoritative sites build trust with your readers, but it will eventually help boost your search rankings in Google.”
“When you reference and link to sites that are authorities in your industry, Google will crawl your page, see that you are linking to a dominant site in a natural and relevant way, and if everything was done correctly, your site will eventually gain some additional authority in Google.”
“As long as they are relevant and natural, having hyperlinks pointing to other sites on your website can be a great way to gain authority with Google and trust with your readers,” Banks says.
Teodora Pirciu of Impressa Solutions agrees: “When you link to influential sites, you show Google and your readers that you’ve done your homework. A couple of useful links increase the value of your content, and search engines will notice that.”
“One of the worst SEO myths is that a high volume keyword is the best keyword,” says David Hoos of The Good.
Anna Kaine of ESM Inbound agrees: “Lots of people are too focused on aiming to rank for a single, golden keyword. Long-tail keywords bring so much more overall traffic than obsessively trying to climb up SERPs for a single, oversaturated keyword.”
“Clients are often concerned about targeting keywords with low search volumes as they believe these keywords they will not help their businesses,” says Rob Heywood of Audana NW.
“I help reeducate clients who believe that low search volume keywords are bad by demonstrating the value of user intent and showing that these visitors are more likely to be looking for your service and ready to buy.”
“If you’re ranked number one and get an additional 100 visitors that convert at 10%, then surely this is better than attracting 1,000 tire-kicking visitors that convert at a below-average rate of 0.5%—and facing the additional problem of increased bounce rates,” Heywood says.
“Too many people get wrapped up in vanity metrics and focus on search volume as their only criteria, leaving a lot of revenue on the table for smart competitors,” says John Reinesch of Beacon Digital Marketing. “But intent will always be more important than search volume.”
“I have worked for companies who are ranking for keywords with 100,000+ search volumes, but they get only a handful of conversions each month. On the flip side, I have worked on many campaigns where we strategically target high-intent keywords with lower volumes, and then our results improved dramatically.”
“Intent of the keyword itself is important, but matching that intent to your content is where you can really pull ahead of competitors,” Reinesch says.
Editor’s note: Show your clients/leaders the impacts of creating content that targets low-volume keywords with this free SEO Overview dashboard that shows your top links, keywords, SERP positions, goal completions, sessions, and more.
“An SEO myth that still runs rife is that the more times you stuff keywords in the text, the more it will boost your pages’ rankings,” says Katherine Rowland of YourParkingSpace. “With all this talk of optimizing for keywords, many naively think it as simple as stuffing in as many in as you possibly can. But this is far from correct.”
Daryl Burrows of Six & Flow agrees: “The biggest myth has to be keyword stuffing, or keyword density, or whatever else you may refer to it as. “It’s classic. It’s often what is associated with— even synonymous with—SEO: that you need to smother a page with the keyword that a company wishes to rank for.”
“Google’s algorithms are far too sophisticated to be fooled by this, and the practice looks spammy and probably does more harm than good,” says Will King of Eastside Co.
“Keyword stuffing doesn’t help boost your page,” says Paypro’s Kayla Kelly. “What it really does is lowers the quality of your content.”
“Keyword stuffing and hidden links have got to be some of the worst myths that can often be practiced to this day,” says Cai Simpson of Victory Digital. “As early as 2005-2006, BMW placed a series of hidden links and stuffed their pages with keywords to rank higher. Google caught on and banned them from the search engine.”
But though hidden text and links are highly outdated and ineffective practices, Sharlene Reimer of Graphic Intuitions says, “many clients have asked about adding hidden text, such as white text on a white background. Google catches that and sees your website as being deceptive.”
“Many people believe meta descriptions are a ranking factor,” says Pixus’ Atanas Valchev. “Meta descriptions, along with meta keywords, have been time and time again proven to not affect rankings in any way.”
“This is not to say that meta descriptions are useless. On the contrary, they are extremely valuable when it comes to maximizing CTR. Understanding this subtle difference is vital to the way we write and use meta descriptions.”
“Certain theories in SEO simply do not work and, in many cases, can actually harm your efforts to increase your search engine rankings,” says Michael Goldstein of VRG Web Design. “One such myth is to include your main keyword in your domain name.”
“Including keywords in your domain name does not help you rank for highly competitive terms. It only serves to make your domain name longer and look spammy.”
“If it makes your domain name easy to read or remember, then there is a benefit. For example, if your keyword is ‘Nepali coffee’—and you are lucky enough to own the domain name nepalicoffee.com—then you will benefit because it is easy to remember the name and easily identifiable in search engine results.”
“However, to simply add words to a domain name so it includes your keyword, like ‘johnsnepalicoffeeshop.com,’ is a bit much. You also have to remember that it will make your email address very long.”
“I actually had a local SEO client who would bold all of the keywords on his pages,” says Kevin Peguero of Digital Rev Marketing. “He truly believed this helped his rankings.”
“Keyword cannibalization a myth that even seasoned web professionals believe,” says John Locke of Lockedown Design & SEO. “ Many people believe that if you write too many articles targeting short-head, high-volume keyword phrases, it will kill the rankings for all the articles on their site targeting that term.”
“In reality, the only time you would even have the possibility of keyword cannibalization is if you were targeting the same seven- to nine-word search phrase with two different articles.”
“For lower-volume keyword phrases, the SERPs often have two articles from the same website for that keyword phrase. I was looking up keyword phrases today, and looking at the top 10 results, three different sites had two different results on page one of Google.”
“This wasn’t a phrase with only a handful of available results or only a few competitors. Dozens of companies are vying to rank with this phrase.”
“So, if keyword cannibalization is a real thing, then no one site should have more than one page in the top 10, right?”
“What I see in reality is the more you target long-tail search phrases that contain short-head keywords, the more likely it is you’ll rank for one of them—or many of them.”
“The worst SEO myth is that more content is better content,” says Cierra Flythe of BoardActive. “Brands are certain they are hitting the mark somewhere if they just consistently put content out there. But it’s not about the quantity; it’s about the quality.”
“You can write thousands of articles, but if you miss the mark on what consumers are actually searching in your space, you may as well have written nothing at all,” Flythe says.
G2’s Lauren Pope agrees: “One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to master SEO is trying everything at once and becoming a ‘master of none.’”
“When G2 first launched our content team, we were writing about anything and everything. Chasing high volume keywords, writing 3,000+ word articles, and then jumping to the next big thing. This confuses Google and makes them wonder, what does this person really know?”
“Turn your focus in and become an expert. Write about one topic for a couple of months, build-out your content strategy, add internal links to your content, etc.”
“When Google sees a single author writing about social media and publishing dozens of articles on the subject, it makes a note that you’re an expert, and your SEO improves.”
“Not only that. but it will also give you more articles to interlink, pitch for outreach, and open up guest-posting opportunities. You don’t have to stay married to one topic forever, but don’t rush. Take your time to really get familiar with what you’re writing about and become the expert,” Pope says.
And SEO Consultant Francesco Baldini provides evidence that more isn’t always better: “A recent client of mine had a 5,000,000+ page website targeting many long-tail keywords for product brands and models. They were ready to add a few more million pages for this same reason.”
“Instead, we worked together to remove 99.9% of the pages. The site has now 1,500 pages and saw incredible growth in terms of organic traffic,” Baldini says.
“A big SEO myth is that you can get penalized if you leverage duplicate content,” says Neil Patel of Neil Patel Digital. “Google has explicitly stated that they don’t penalize for duplicate content.”
Orbit Media Studios’ Andy Crestodina agrees: “The duplicate content penalty is a myth. There’s no such thing. When there’s a lot of duplicate content, it often (but not always) means a site has missed opportunities, but there isn’t a penalty.”
“I’m not sure why people ever thought this was true. A huge percentage of the internet is duplicate content.”
“If two sites having the same content hurt the rankings of both, then it would be possible to do ‘negative SEO’ and hurt the rankings of a website just by copying pasting their content into another website,” Crestodina says. “But this doesn’t work. Thankfully!”
“I have been testing this for quite some time,” says Liam Abbott of Top Shelf Media. “Location-based pages with only one or two words switched out have ranked higher than their parent pages before in my tests. Oddly enough, the parent pages continued to rise as their child pages were reaching #1 rankings.”
“I’ve seen no duplicate content errors whatsoever,” Abbott says.
“A typical SEO myth that I hear about a lot is that blog articles need to be 800, 1,600 or 1,890 words or more (depending on your source) to rank,” says Portent’s Kyle Freeman. “This is far from the truth. Different industries, user intents, and topics will require different types of content and length to rank well in search results.”
“What’s most important is that the blog post provides the best value to the user. When you start to aim for a certain word count—or adding more words than the top-ranking results—you end up with a blog article with 3,000 words of fluff that provides little to no value to the user.”
“In reality, the user wanted 500 words of relevant content that fulfills what they were looking for.”
“Write your content to be as long as it needs to be to meet the user’s needs,” Freeman says.
“This myth is particularly dangerous because it directly impacts user experience, which actually hurts SEO,” says Terakeet’s Jonas Sickler. “If you fluff a 500-word answer into a 2,000-word dissertation, your audience will lose interest and bounce.”
“Not only does that affect your conversions, but it also signals to Google that your page isn’t providing users with useful information.”
“To be clear, Google does not prefer content with more words. It favors content that provides the best answer to a searcher’s query—whether you accomplish that with 500 or 5,000 words.”
“Sometimes, it may seem like Google ranks longer content higher, but that has more to do with comprehensiveness than word count. So don’t get distracted by content length. Instead, provide the most succinct, thorough, and complete answer you can to cover a topic—nothing more, nothing less,” Sickler says.
“There is a lot of talk about the importance of culling low-quality content,” says Sam Wheeler of Inseev Interactive. “While it is important to get rid of content that has no value to the user (and no rankings or links), many people often mistake pages that have a low amount of traffic as being low value. This is not always the case.”
“If your content is receiving some organic traffic, it may just be that some of the queries have low search volumes and the page still provides a good answer for the user.”
“We have seen sites kill off a ton of content without a proper audit and lose a lot of long-tail traffic. On a large scale, this traffic loss can really impact your overall organic revenue or lead generation!”
Related: How to Update Old Blog Posts & Boost Search Rankings
“One common myth about SEO is that you need to have a consistent content schedule when it comes to article or blog creation,” says Milad Hassibi of Internet Things.
“We have observed sites with no fresh content in 8+ months surge to the top of search results without any new content creation.”
“Article spinning sounds similar to recycling content to laymen, but the fact of the matter is that it couldn’t be any more different,” says Sam Olmsted of Search Optimism.
“Article spinning is the practice of taking a piece of well-performing content, changing the title and some wording, and republishing it as if it were a new piece.”
“On a surface level, this seems like a great idea. You already know the content is good, so why not change it slightly and repost it to get that second wave of traffic? Because it doesn’t work like that.”
“Your return visitors can see right through this method, and they won’t want to be tricked into reading the same post over and over again because it’s been published several times under unique titles.”
“Also, the more you do this, the content of the post becomes progressively more unrelated to the title. Search engines will begin to penalize your page by pushing you down the rankings, and all of a sudden, your once solid piece of content becomes a hollow shell of what it once was, and readers will deem it low-quality.”
“Recycling, however, is a white-hat method that involves taking a well-performing piece of content and publishing it in different ways across many channels.”
“If you have an ebook that performs well, you can take each chapter and turn the content into individual blog posts. From there, you can create a digital advertising strategy and use the blog content as ad copy. You could also use this content to promote YouTube videos, podcasts, and other similar series.”
“If you play your cards right, your well-performing content will reach an even-wider audience because it’s been ethically spread across many different channels without being spammy.”
“The worst SEO myth I routinely run into is the idea that SEO is something entirely separate from content marketing that you ‘sprinkle on top’ of a blog post after it’s written to get it to rank in search results,” says Chas Cooper of Rising Star Reviews.
“The truth is that good SEO and good content marketing are one and the same. SEO begins before the content is written, not after the fact. It helps the author know exactly who the audience is and what they want from the content before the author even begins writing.”
“And good SEO never sacrifices good writing for technical trickery. For both SEO and content marketing, the goal is to give readers as much value as possible.”
“I think the worst SEO myth is thinking that it’s fine to host your blog or content on a subdomain or a different domain,” says Kapwing’s Julia Enthoven. “For example, people invest a lot of time doing content marketing on Medium but don’t get any SEO benefits if people link back to their Medium publication.”
“We put some engineering effort into making sure our blog was on our domain (not a subdomain or a different website), and it’s been well worth it for SEO.”
“Believing that domains and URLs/URL structures aren’t all that related to SEO is one big myth we see often,” says Jordan Daly of ADK Group. “Changing domains willy-nilly is one thing that happens all the time when a client is launching a new website.”
“Recently, we were a few days out from launching a new client site, and the client says, ‘We bought this new domain, and we are going to use it.’ The new domain name wasn’t great, and the implications weren’t at all considered or discussed ahead of time because it was a completely unanticipated surprise.”
“It took their site a good six months to recover from the SEO hit, and the entire time the client questioned whether we were effective at all.”
“We changed our own domain once, and with proper planning and preparation, we were able to take only a brief SEO hit. We then immediately saw a surge in organic because of all the efforts to maintain value.”
“I’ve found one of the most destructive SEO myths is that you need more plugins or other code to be successful,” says Jeremy Cross of Team Building DC.
“While some plugins can help make your SEO efforts easier, adding excessive code to your site will likely slow download times and increase page size, both of which can actually negatively affect your rankings.”
“I’ve consulted for a number of companies that believed in this myth, and when we removed the extra plugins, their SEO positions tended to improve quickly.”
“The worst myth is that website A/B testing hurts SEO,” says Spire Digital’s Nicholas Farmen. “Website A/B testing can really improve conversion rates and can even be done through Google’s own Google Optimize.”
“Many large companies make millions off of website A/B testing, which leads SEO experts to believe it’s not destructive to SEO rankings.”
“The worst SEO myth is that black-hat SEO is acceptable and should be applied in 2019,” says CrazyCall’s Jakub Kliszczak.
“There are plenty of so-called SEO experts who still practice things like commenting on blog posts and forums or stuffing their articles to reach over 5% keyword density. They completely forget about user intent, testing, and optimizing, and instead, use tactics that no longer work. Plus, it’s unethical,” Kliszczak says.
And Inflow’s Alex Juel reminds us that just because a competitor is doing something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do (whether it’s black-hat or just an ineffective practice):
“I had a client who implemented review schema on category pages across the entire site despite me telling them not to do it. They said that all of their competitors were doing it and getting stars in the search results—which was true—so Google probably wouldn’t do anything to them if they did it, too.”
“They were wrong. They got a manual action, schema markup was ignored across the entire site, and they lost the stars in the search results for both category and product pages. Even after fixing the issue, their organic listings never returned to the way they were,” Juel says.
It’s obvious that there are a lot of SEO myths that a lot of people believe. But the real question is: is it possible to convince bosses, clients, and other marketers that a myth simply isn’t true?
According to most of our respondents, it definitely is. A little over 40% said that convincing others that a myth is false is somewhat easy. A little more than a third said it’s somewhat difficult. A few said it’s very difficult, but almost no one said it’s impossible.
What I’ve found: trying to educate people about SEO is sometimes like being a parent. You warn your kids not to do things they shouldn’t do, but in the end, the best lessons sometimes happen when they ignore your advice and discover for themselves that you were right all along.
“I once had a client tell me ‘We don’t need our old content redirected to the new site. Google will find our fresh pages and index them anyway,’” says inSegment’s Diana Vasile.
“As a full-service advertising agency, we also have a web development department, and all our site development projects usually include SEO support by default.”
“However, we recently took on a client who wanted to have his site completely redesigned, including the site’s architecture. But he was only interested in our web development services without SEO support, although he was informed that this would have a negative impact on his traffic and rankings.”
“Following the redesign of the site—which of course did not include on-page optimizations or redirects from old pages to the new ones created—the site’s traffic dropped by 80% in the first month,” Vasile says. “This convinced the client that he needs SEO after all.”
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