Don’t fall for these common misunderstandings surrounding SEO.
Here you’ll find:
- The most common SEO myths
- The truth behind these myths
- How to avoid falling for these misconceptions
- Expert tips for boosting your SEO
A digital marketing strategy without search engine optimization (SEO) is like trying to kayak with a paddle that only has one fin.
Sure, you may be moving — but you’re probably not going to get where you’re going in a timely, efficient manner.
Experienced marketers know it takes both paid search and strong SEO for your digital marketing plan to function at full capacity. And while there’s plenty of information to be learned about both, there are also plenty of myths, particularly when it comes to SEO.
Let’s debunk a few of them to get a good idea of what SEO is — and what it isn’t.
Myth #1: SEO guarantees top search engine rankings
Truth: While SEO tactics can help you get to the top of organic search engine page results, guarantees simply don’t exist. SEO is only one part of an overall search engine marketing strategy. Without other components like pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, it can be difficult to beat out the competition for the top spots — and even harder to stay there.
On top of that, we know that SEO is an ongoing process. This means it often takes months to show any significant results. Even then, you may not get to the top of the first search engine results page (SERP). However, with the right approach and a well-thought-out strategy, it is certainly possible to achieve high rankings and increase traffic as a result.
Myth #2: Once you achieve desired results, SEO is complete
Truth: The SEO process is a project with no end in sight. What’s more, the moment you stop implementing SEO tactics, everything you’ve achieved so far starts evaporating.
Think of your SEO practice like a muscle you’re exercising. As long as you keep working at it consistently, it stays strong. But once you stop, the muscle mass begins losing strength — often faster than it was gained.
New SEO trends and search engine algorithm updates crop up all the time. Without following them and adjusting your efforts accordingly, it’s nearly impossible to maintain high rankings.
Myth #3: SEO is a “cheating” tactic
Truth: One of the most pervasive SEO myths is that search engine optimization is just a way to cheat Google and get your website on the first page of Google results.
While the practice of SEO is by no means unethical, there are certain “quick-win” tactics people will use to try to leapfrog into higher results. These methods are referred to as black hat SEO, and their efficiency is quickly approaching zero.
Search algorithms are becoming increasingly better at identifying black-hat techniques like keyword stuffing, low-quality content, shady link-building practices, and much more. What’s worse, employing these tricks may get your site penalized or have your pages disappear from results altogether. Basically, it’s not worth the risk.
Remember, search engine optimization isn’t just about rising through the ranks. It’s more important to make your website a highly valuable resource for your audience through ethical, white hat tactics. These include:
- Targeting a human audience with content, not search bots
- Publishing images with alt tags
- Creating easy navigation through site architecture
- Following all other suggested search engine guidelines
Myth #4: SEO is cheap
Truth: Scoring big returns with little investment of budget or time is no easy feat in most niches. SEO is no exception.
Effective search engine optimization requires dedicated, continuous investment. Any solutions offering a high-impact return at a low price point (whether that means dollars or effort) are likely short-lived, ineffective, and often against guidelines.
As mentioned above, it often takes time to see the true effects of your SEO efforts. But by investing the time and money to ensure your site is optimized, your content is high-quality, and your website can be viewed as trustworthy, you’ll be poised to see results that will be worth it.
Myth #5: It takes forever to see SEO results
Truth: The time it takes for SEO to start working depends on how you begin. If you already have a well-designed website, a top-notch content plan, and a smart backlink strategy, the effects may become visible in as little as a few weeks.
If you’re starting from scratch, that’s fine! Just manage expectations and understand results won’t be immediate. Remember the muscle comparison: It’s impossible to get a huge bicep after two workouts. Time and consistency are key.
Pro tip: Leveraging low-competition keywords and optimizing your site’s metadata are just a few tactics that can help you see relatively swift SEO results.
Myth #6: SEO is all about keyword search
Truth: Some people believe SEO boils down to doing a high-quality keyword search and sticking these keywords into the content on their websites.
While keywords and content are important pillars of SEO, they’re hardly the only components of the strategy. Search engine optimization also factors in things like website speed and design, backlinks, mobile-first indexing, social media, security, and much more.
Myth #7: Link schemes boost your ranking
Truth: Engaging in link schemes is another black hat SEO technique. It’s also a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. The search engine defines this practice as excessive cross-linking or “requiring a link as part of a Terms of Service, contract, or similar arrangement without allowing a third-party content owner the choice of qualifying the outbound link, should they wish.”
Sure, this tactic may boost your rankings for a while. But eventually, the search engine will catch on and slap your website with a penalty. Recovering from such a punishment may take months and can negatively impact other parts of your marketing strategy.
It’s worth noting that several legal ways to “buy” links exist. For example, paying a website for posting your content (guest post) with a link inside is perfectly within regulations. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find a respectable website that will post poor content, so focus on keeping the quality high, whether the content is published on your site or elsewhere.
Need help creating a myth-free SEO strategy? Let’s chat.
Myth #8: The more backlinks you have, the better
Truth: With backlinks, ignore SEO myths that say that quantity matters more than quality. Google focuses on the authority of the page that links to your website. Links from well-respected websites are much more powerful than links from no-name or spammy sources. The backlink should, of course, also be relevant to the content you’re posting.
SEO experts can devise strategies for garnering high-quality backlinks. While getting them might take time, one high-quality backlink can be more powerful than its 50 low-quality counterparts.
Myth #9: High-volume keywords are all you need to achieve high rankings
Truth: Of course, you want to snag rankings for those high-volume keywords… and so does everyone else in your industry or niche. That’s why the competition for them is fierce.
If you focus solely on these keywords, you’re more likely to get frustrated and have difficulty rising through the ranks.
Using high-volume keywords is an essential part of a solid SEO strategy, but it’s hardly the only one. Low competition and long-tail keywords could bring you impressive results as well, so try focusing on those. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Myth #10: Long content ranks better
Truth: Long content ranks better if it’s valuable. Google doesn’t draw a hard line when it comes to the length of your content — the algorithm cares more about providing search results that are relevant and valuable to searchers.
Aiming for a higher word count just for the sake of it could lead to adding fluff and making your articles downright boring, which may result in a higher bounce rate.
Pro tip: Though there’s no magic SEO word count you want to hit, it’s wise to avoid publishing thin content. This is defined as “content that has little or no value to the user,” according to Yoast. Google also considers low-quality affiliate pages and those very little or no content as thin content pages.
The practice of search engine optimization is as crucial as it is complex. To understand how it works, you need to be able to see through the common myths.
If you’re trying to implement SEO tactics on your own, you want to be careful with the information you use as guidelines so you know you’re on the right track.
Many SEO myths stem from the lack of knowledge about the latest updates. Staying on top of the current trends and algorithm news can help put you on the path to achieving the results you seek.
This article has been updated and was originally published in May 2020.