Mankind is no stranger to myths. From Greek mythology to the stories our parents told us as bedtime stories, we’ve grown up around myths and these tall tales.
Work stories don’t make ideal bedtime stories (How I Ranked Joe’s Plumbing Business isn’t the same as Hercules), that doesn’t mean the SEO industry is lacking in myths. SEO myths have been around for as long as SEO has and the worst part is plenty of experts still believe them.
Since the industry is ever-changing, it can (admittedly) be difficult to keep up with fact or fiction but sometimes that fiction takes hold and doesn’t let go.
Today, I’m going to run over some of the biggest SEO myths that are still out there and why you should stop believing them.
What Makes an SEO Myth?
“And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for two and a half thousand years, the ring passed out of all knowledge.”
-Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings
Many of these myths were tactics or strategies that used to work. SEO has been around for years and is an ever-changing industry which means what worked three years ago, two years ago, or even six months ago may already be outdated.
We should remember what has become outdated and forgotten, but those things can become lost and come back to bite us, much like The Ring.
What turns these tactics into myths is, typically, none other than Father Time. What worked in the past may still be a pillar of some SEO expert’s tactics or a method may become resurrected after time.
In other circumstances, it might just be an idea that popped up and many people latched on to simultaneously.
Nonetheless, they’re called myths for a reason. Let’s dive into some of the biggest myths out there and do our part to dispel them.
Myth #1-Keyword Stuffing Works
To rank for a certain keyword, you should (naturally) be using that keyword in your text, headers, and alt-text for images.
What you shouldn’t be doing, however, is stuffing that keyword everywhere you can. Let’s see if you can spot the keyword here.
Joe’s Pizza is the best pizza in New York City. You won’t find any better pizza in New York City. It’s impossible to find better pepperoni pizza in New York City. So come on down to enjoy a slice of Joe’s Pizza, the #1-rated pizza in New York City!
Google representatives have spoken out against keyword stuffing on multiple occasions, such as directly calling out a webmaster on Twitter. You should feel pretty special to get directly called out by Google.
Plus, it’s against the Google guidelines.
Even though it’s been debunked numerous times, it still happens on websites all around the globe. Especially with local SEO (more on that later). If you’re looking to rank for a certain keyword, don’t jam it in your copy multiple times. Write naturally and Google will figure out what you’re trying to rank for.
Speaking of keyword stuffing…
Myth #2-There is an Exact Science to Keyword Density
While not the same as keyword stuffing, keyword density can be considered its distant cousin.
If you’ve used the Yoast SEO plugin, then you’ve undoubtedly seen their SEO analysis at the bottom of the page.
Naturally, you want to include your keyword in your text. How else are you going to rank for “dinosaur lightsaber battles” if you don’t talk about dinosaur lightsaber battles?
There is no “ideal” percentage or number of times you need to use your keyword in your text. Overall, it’s going to vary greatly and there isn’t one blanket rule.
Google’s John Mueller even commented in 2014 that search engines have moved on from keyword density being an important ranking factor.
The best piece of advice that I can offer is to write normally and then optimize for SEO at the end.
Myth #3-You Need Keywords in All Your Headings
I promise we’ll move to something other than keywords soon…maybe.
While it’s a good idea to have your keywords in your title tag and some headings, there is still an old thought that you need to stuff your keyword into as many headings as possible.
This is an old-school, holdover tactic from a few years back and it’s something that has held on for many people.
So how do you use headers? Use them to break up your text, guide the reader, and layout a clear structure. Don’t be using them to jam keywords and similar keywords in there to boost up your rankings.
Myth #4-SEO is a One-Stop-Shop
If you’re exercising, you can’t go to the gym once and call it quits forever. Six-pack abs don’t happen overnight.
The same goes for SEO, it’s an ongoing process and falls into the long game category. More often than not, you’ll see this creep up from clients. I had a client tell me once that the one blog post I wrote for him didn’t get him an increase in traffic over a week, so SEO obviously didn’t work.
To be successful, SEO needs to be implemented monthly and even over a few years, depending on the website.
The Google algorithm changes, strategies change, and new competitors pop up regularly. You need to be on the lookout for all of these over a consistent time.
Myth #5-The More Backlinks, The Better!
Backlinks are an integral part of your overall SEO strategy and rankings. They can be hard to come by, but having other sites point to yours is necessary for long-term success.
Go out and get as many as you possibly can!
Not so fast.
Just because you have a ton of backlinks doesn’t mean that your website will rank well. You need to be obtaining quality and relevant links for your site. That means if you run a travel blog, pursue sites in your travel niche.
It’s handy to keep an eye on the type of backlinks you have. Low-quality, spammy backlinks can drive down your backlink profile and hurt your rankings.
Link schemes that offer thousands of links for a low price and likely going to be putting your site on low-authority and low-quality websites which can hurt your overall ranking. Even if they do save you from writing all those outreach emails.
Myth #6-You Need to Write Content for the Algorithm
The Google algorithm holds an esteemed place in the eyes of SEO experts. After all, this is what determines whether or not you land on the front page. You need to make sure you’re doing everything you can to please it (no goat sacrifices though).
The truth is, the algorithm has advanced past the stage of being something you tick boxes off for. When you’re writing and creating content, you should be doing it with your target audience in mind.
Write and create content that they’re more likely to read. Don’t start writing thinking about how you will please Google.
Not only will you eventually rank higher, but your customers are more likely to come back.
Myth #7-A High Bounce Rate is a Sign of Failure
A user visits your website and leaves after just one page. That must mean that your website is on the decline. For many sites, the bounce rate doesn’t matter.
For those that have sites based on informative and educational pieces, why should it matter that people are visiting your website and then leaving? If they came to look for an answer, found the answer (and then some), you should consider it mission accomplished.
While we’re on the subject, bounce rate does not affect your rankings. A site with a 90% bounce rate isn’t going to send you careening towards the bottom.
Myth #8-To Maintain High Rankings, Publish Content Frequently
While it’s true that Google does like a site that shows it’s still regularly updating with new content, that more applies to sites that rely on fresh content such as news organizations or online magazines.
The truth is, there are plenty of high-ranking sites that aren’t always pushing content out. If you’re trying to constantly push out X number of posts each week, then your quality is going to drop and people will stop visiting your site.
Do you need to publish content on a somewhat consistent basis? Preferably. But freshness is not a ranking factor in Google’s eyes.
Myth #9-Want to Rank Locally? Get in ALL the Directories
Another old SEO tactic that still frequents the internet, many experts believe that to rank locally, you need to make sure that your website is listed in every possible directory.
John Mueller has said that directories don’t really help improve your rankings. Whatever should you do then?
The truth is, there are still some directories out there that have value.
Here are a few:
- Google My Business (duh)
- Bing Places
- Yellow Pages
- Better Business Bureau
Instead of spamming a business to multiple directories, make sure to focus on the high-authority ones that will bring you some value.
Myth #10-Duplicate Content is a Google Penalty
This myth has been around for about as long as Google and from the outside, would appear to make sense. Copy someone else’s content and get penalized.
The truth is that Google has been saying there’s no such penalty for over a decade now. That doesn’t mean that duplicating content is OK, there’s just no big scary penalty for it.
However, it does come with some risks. Google still has to select a URL when it comes to displaying something in its search engines and they might not choose yours.
Myth #11-If You’re Not First, You’re Last
This immortal quote from Ricky Bobby seems to ring true for plenty of SEO experts and clients. We all know the statistics about the first page of Google: 75% of people never scroll past the first page.
But just because your website isn’t in the top spot doesn’t mean all hope is lost. In fact, less than half of all clicks come on the #1 spot.
You should still be doing all you can to get into the first page but don’t punish yourself for not being able to land that top spot.
Myth #12-Meta Keywords Should be a Big Focus
Yes, I thought we had moved past keywords as well but fear not! They have returned.
Even though meta keywords were dropped as a ranking factor over a decade ago, they are still focused on by plenty of SEO experts. The main reason they’ve been passed over is that they were abused for so long and Google ended up dropping them.
If you’re not sure what they are, they look like this:
Going forward, just don’t even worry about them.
Myth #13-Meta Descriptions are a Ranking Factor
In case you’re not sure what a meta description is, let’s take a look at this image.
I’m not here to tell you that meta descriptions aren’t important. They are important, but not for Google. They are more important for the user. These short little descriptions give users a glimpse into your website.
They are usually informative but in other cases, they can be comical.
They are not a ranking factor but you should still have one for potential visitors.
Myth #14-You Don’t Need to Optimize Your Images
While the written word takes a lot of the spotlight when it comes to content, that doesn’t mean you should be ignoring images, graphs, and infographics. Not only do these make your long-form pieces (like this one!) easier to read, but they can help with your SEO.
By properly optimizing your images, you can improve the SEO of your content pieces.
The first step is to name the image with an appropriate file name. You want it to be something related to the picture itself and your content.
So instead of leaving a photo as download1r3.jpg, change it to something like seo-audit.jpg. You will also want to make sure and include your ALT text for every image. Although ALT text is hidden to most users, it’s vital for those who can’t see the image.
Commonly, it is used for moments when an image can’t be loaded. But, they’re also vital for those who are vision-impaired.
They can also help your SEO by helping the crawlers “see” the image, helping you show up in image searches.
Myth #15-You Are Allowed One H1 on Each Page
When it comes to structuring your content, you want to make sure it’s nice and clean. For many, that means going from the Title tag to one H1 tag followed by H2s, H3s, etc.
There has long been a belief that you should only have one H1 tag on each web page, but according to Google’s John Mueller said the following:
“Think about your users: if you have ways of making your content accessible to them, be it by using multiple H1 headings or other standard HTML constructs, then that’s not going to get in the way of your SEO efforts.”
Basically, use as many H1 headings as you deem necessary.
Of course, you should stick to a natural hierarchy and not go completely random with the numbers, but just because you have more than one won’t kill your rankings.
Myth #16-Local SEO Doesn’t Require Keyword Research
Again with the keywords? Argh!
Yes, but this time I’m going to focus on a more specific side of SEO: local SEO. For some, there’s a thought that to rank highly in your local market, you don’t need to do as much keyword research.
But imagine if you’re a plumber, should you just be advertising plumber across your page? You should be using words and services related to plumbing. See what phrases and words your competitors are using and try to take their strategy and improve on it.
Ignoring keyword research as a local business is how your competitors can move past you while you stay at the bottom.
Myth #17-It’s Not Working for Me, So It Probably Won’t Ever Work
Many people think SEO is easy. With so many guides online and actionable steps, there are plenty of people who think they can do it themselves. I had a client never return my calls after performing a site audit for him because “I can do it myself, I don’t need your help.”
What tends to happen is that people try out SEO and don’t get the exact results they’re looking for and decide that SEO can’t work for them. Traffic may be up but they’re not #1 on the map-pack. Their rankings may have jumped but traffic isn’t where they want it to be.
SEO works, it just takes time. So if you or a client is ever thinking that SEO doesn’t work, keep plugging away! Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Myth #18-Blog Comments are Solid Backlinks
Years ago, the rumor started that you could gain a valuable backlink simply by posting your link in the blog comments. While tracing down the source of this rumor is hard, it has stuck around for all these years and it’s still incredibly common to see.
Simply put, posting your site on blogs or forums is not an effective way to build backlinks. The majority of sites, such as Reddit, will put a nofollow tag on those links.
Plus, Google sees them as spam if they’re used too much. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t post on relevant blogs and forums, though.
If you’re in the fishing industry and active in an online fishing group, then posting a link on a blog comment isn’t bad. It may help your brand awareness but will do little to help your overall SEO.
Myth #19-You Need to Use Google Ads to Rank Effectively
This myth is a bit more recent as many in the SEO industry think we’re all heading down the PPC path. After all, every buyer-intent keyword out there brings up an ad.
Of course, Google would love you to jump on the Google Ads bandwagon. After all, that’s how they make a large portion of their money each year.
The main issue is there is no evidence to back up this claim. Spending money on ads doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to rank on the first page or at the top of your local rankings.
PPC and SEO share many similarities but those that dive into Google Ads aren’t going to see their organic rankings increase.
Myth #20-A Sitemap is 100% Necessary
Whenever I see a website without a sitemap submitted to Google Search Console or one filled with errors, I immediately try to correct those mistakes.
Despite its importance, a sitemap isn’t necessary for high rankings. A sitemap will help Google understand your site structure and improve crawl efficiency, but it is by no means necessary.
It is, however, highly recommended, but not completely necessary.
Myth #21-SEO is Dead
I thought I would save the best one for last.
You can find this myth just about anywhere. Facebook groups, Reddit, online forums, other SEO experts, and online publications.
Entrepreneur just published an article claiming that Google’s recent update is the death of SEO.
It’s not like we haven’t been hearing this for years and years. Every time there is a significant update or change in the SEO or marketing world, someone comes out and claims SEO is dead.
SEO, my friends, is not dead.
SEO is still alive and well, helping businesses and entrepreneurs increase their organic traffic, gain leads, and improve conversions.
Don’t buy into the hype or start planning a beautiful eulogy. SEO is alive and well and plans to stick around for years to come.
Although Madrid, Spain is home, Jake Peterson works as an SEO specialist for Atiba Software in Nashville, Tennessee. When he’s not busy with work, he’s playing basketball, dreaming of his next PC build, or taking care of his rambunctious daughter.