Let me start this with a question. When was the last time you encountered something in SEO that you wouldn’t agree with?
Well, that happened to me not long ago.
This one colleague of mine told me that you shouldn’t link anyone else in your content. I was like, WHAT?
This must have happened to you too. You learned all Google’s best practices and done all of your homework, and when you start working, somebody hits you in the face with a myth.
Sometimes the myth is harmless, but other times, it can ruin a whole company. Like I have seen companies that are earning money by selling myths. They’re living in another dimension it seems.
So let’s buckle up and explore the science as to why we tend to fall for these myths. Also, we’ll look at some of them and debunk them.
Too Long; Didn’t Read
We tend to fall for the SEO myths because it’s an easy answer, and a large group of people believes in them. Also, when someone is selling us services, they make use of these myths to convert us. And myths are easy to circulate but hard to debunk.
What are SEO Myths?
In order to understand what SEO myth is, we first need to know the definition of myth itself.
According to Oxford, A myth is “something that many people believe but that does not exist or is false.”
A common myth everybody knows is “A penny dropped from the top of the Eiffel Tower could kill someone”.
This is known by a large chunk of people, but it is false. And if you argue with people that is a myth, they will resist you because people hate counterarguments.
If you have been in the SEO industry for a while, you must have come across statements that are contrary to what you have heard or experienced.
A common myth in SEO is that you need to write certain words of content.
This is believed by a large number of marketers, but it’s not true.
So in essence, an SEO myth is a piece of information related to SEO that people assumes is true but in reality, it’s not.
Now that we know what a myth is, we should know…
Why do we Tend to Believe Myths?
I asked Martin Splitt on Linkedin about why we tend to believe in these myths and here’s what he said “I guess part of it is because things keep changing and misconceptions and misunderstandings are easy to create and amplify, but hard to debunk, sometimes. Sometimes it’s also because someone tries to sell something to somebody else. And sometimes it’s because someone doesn’t know but doesn’t wanna say so”
This is true. I agree with every single point of his.
Here is my interpretation of why people love falling for this fiction:
- The main reason why people fall for these myths is that Google is constantly changing. And because of this, the information that was valid 5 years ago is not true today.
- Also, a majority of SEOs still don’t optimize for users, they optimize for rankings and that leads to google releasing updates and changes to combat them and this loop continues forever.
- Another reason is that whenever a myth is circulated around enough times, that starts to sound like a true thing. For example, if everybody started telling you that eating pineapple at the night will make you sick, then after a point of time, you will start to believe it. (I don’t know if that’s true or not, I just used that as an example). You won’t question its validity, because if everyone is saying that, it must be true.
- We as humans are constantly chasing patterns. We tend to look for them everywhere. And this leads to us believing in misinformation. For example, if I ran a test that buying links will make my site rank higher, and if that did happen, I will believe that indeed, buying links gets you to rank higher. But it can also be a mere coincidence.
- We don’t like to admit that we’re wrong. Humans hate change, as we don’t want anybody challenging our thoughts and ideas.
- SEOs don’t trust Google: This is true, admit it or not. Despite people doing SEO for Google, they don’t believe what Google recommends. They don’t believe in Google’s official documentation, their Twitter answers, or anything. They like to make their own rules.
- SEO makes us question our own knowledge. Whenever you’re with your colleagues or are participating in online communication, you can feel like you don’t know anything which can lead us to believe in false information.
Its’ time we uncover….
What are the Common SEO Myths?
If I were to list every single SEO myth that’s ever existed, it would take me millions of years because there is a new myth being born every second. (that’s just me being sarcastic)
Let’s start debunking these myths, shall we?
- You shouldn’t do external linking: The people who spread this myth think that you’re driving traffic to someone else’s site. And this is not true. Crediting authors and citing them is a good practice as it makes your content credible and it gives your readers references.
- Anyone can do SEO: You can’t get your meds from a carpenter. SEO is sort of the same. Not everyone is specialized in SEO. It takes time and patience to understand the search engine, the best practices, and more. But the SEO itself is not that hard. It’s just it takes a little time to learn and practice.
- The number of links you acquire is more important than the content: That’s absolutely false. It’s not about how many links you build, it’s about the quality of those links. Sadly, most digital marketing companies charge you to create a thousand links per month, but those all are worthless unless they are doing quality link-building (Which they’re not, trust me).
- On-page (or SEO in general) is a one-time thing: SEO was not and will not be a one-time thing. Because as search engines and industries are changing, so does SEO and its strategies.
- Shady backlinks help you rank higher: Doing link building via shady links such as classifieds, social bookmarking, articles, directory submissions, and more will not only degrade your backlink profile but is also an invitation to a manual penalty. These backlinks are not only irrelevant but also spammy.
- You need to constantly generate backlinks, or unless your rankings will go down: I have seen agencies whose only work is to generate hundreds of backlinks per day to boost rankings. That’s not how SEO works. For rankings, quality backlinks are the key, not quantity backlinks.
- You need to buy backlinks to get rankings: Buying or selling any kind of link for manipulating ranking is part of link schemes. And this is a violation of their webmaster guidelines. This can result in manual penalties by Google.
- SEO is all about rankings: SEO is more than just rankings. You could rank #1 but won’t get a single conversion. Optimizing for users, conversions, leads, sales, and content marketing are some of the areas that go along with SEO.
Even though Google doesn’t give you manual penalties for having duplicate content on your site. You should consolidate duplicate URLs (if there are any) on your site.
According to Google themselves, “Indexing isn’t guaranteed; not every page that Google processes will be indexed.”
- SEO is all about getting backlinks: Although backlinks are an important factor, there are 200 factors. So don’t worry about them much.
- If you buy Google Ads, Google will rank your website higher: Matt Cuts says it’s not the case.
- Creating fresh content is the key: It’s true that fresh content gets an advantage, but it is only applicable in certain industries. Like news, events, product, or any current affairs. But for others, it doesn’t matters much.
- Social media can help you get rankings: Matt Cutts and John Mueller and many others have come out and told us that social signals have nothing to do with rankings. So it doesn’t matter if your post has a million likes or comments.
- SEO is dead: Says people who can’t get rankings. Because as long as people are searching, there will be SEO. Period.
- We must rank #1 for everything: You cannot physically rank number one for everything. But it’s not important that everyone clicks the first results. People scroll and click what best solves their query.
- We guarantee you the first spot: Says the agencies who are charging you hundreds of dollars each month. And as this sounds fancy, agency owners use these tactics to close a sale. And as Google themselves says, “If they guarantee you that their changes will give you first place in search results, find someone else.”
- We guarantee you consistent rankings: This is similar to the above point. As industries and trends are changing, so will users need to search. So if your content piece was relevant in 2015, it’s not necessary that it will be relevant forever.
- We must submit our sites to ping submission, and directory submission sites for indexing: It’s not the case. It’s up to google which content it indexes or which ones it ranks. No other site can speed up or replace that process.
- Keyword-rich domains get the spot: No it’s not true. Matt Cutts, in 2011, debunked that myth. Also, Google released EMD (Exact Match Domain) update in 2012 that address this issue.
- Google will never know my black/grey hat tactics: Sooner or later, Google will know that you’re using some shady tactics to rank. Recently, Google released its helpful content update that targets low-quality sites that aren’t providing value to users.
- The same SEO strategies can be applied to any site: If only it was true. Just as you can’t feed the same food to a diabetic and a normal person, similarly, you can’t apply the same SEO strategy to two same websites. Every site is different and so should its strategies. What worked for one site might not work with the other.
- Link farms and paying for links are okay: I know a lot of companies who pay for getting PR links, guest posts, and whatnot. Doing so will hurt your site, sooner or later. Also, it’s against Google’s webmaster guidelines.
- Article submission is awesome for SEO: Another one debunked by none other than Matt.
- Thin content is okay: Thin content is thin content. It doesn’t matter if it’s a single page or your whole site. Thin content doesn’t provide any real value to users and it’s against Google’s guidelines.
- Always optimize anchor text: Google asks you to write descriptive anchor texts, but it also warns that you shouldn’t make your anchor text keyword rich as it appears spammy.
- Article spinning is okay for content: Article spinning and AI-generated content are bad as they will not only hurt your rankings but also hurt your user experience. And as this new helpful content update is rolling out, sites that are generating content through these tactics will be punished.
- You can manipulate rankings: This is also a marketing tactic companies use to close deals. Nobody can manipulate rankings, Not even Google themselves. They mostly use black hat tactics, which can seriously damage your site in the long run.
How do verify Between Myths and Facts?
As the internet and its contents grow, so does misinformation. And it’s not just in the SEO industry, it’s everywhere.
But there are some ways by which we can ensure that the information we’re getting is correct:
- Is there any Google official statement on this topic?
- What does Google’s official documentation, support articles and community has to say about this?
- Does all of the SEO experts/community agree on this?
- Do they have any evidence to back that claim?
But if your query is too specific, you can ask in the community, during SEO office hours, or you can ask John Mueller on Twitter.
Make sure all the information you consume is facts and not myths.
As time goes by, myths will emerge. Also, the speed at which these myths are revolving and the speed of debunking them is not the same.
Individuals and companies can lure you into believing that you can rank #1 in a month. But sadly, that’s not how SEO works.
SEO is a slow process. It takes time and patience. It takes creating value for users while ensuring you’re implementing best practices.
Did you like what you read? Or disagree with my points? I would love a conversation on Discord or LinkedIn!
Also, my inbox is open 24X7! Shoot me an email for any queries.
Disclaimer: The myths I have mentioned are from myself, twitter comments and threads, Google’s myth-busting playlist, search engine land, and Kieran D’s SEO myths playlist.
Suggested Reading: SEO vs Devs: What is the difference?