It’s no secret that there are many myths and misconceptions when it comes to search engine optimization. The first whisper starts with a Google announcement and it’s then passed into the ears of search marketers across the industry until, finally, it reaches the last player of the game.
This could be your client asking a question about SEO best practices or your CMO looking for answers.
It’s important to know the truths and falsehood of SEO. In this post, we’ll look at some of the most common SEO myths being passed around the online marketing industry and determine whether each is true or false.
10 SEO Myths & Misconceptions
Keyword density is an important factor when writing for SEO.
This statement is false. At one point, SEO could very well have been about putting a keyword on a page a certain number of times to ensure that it was being recognized by search engines. But, today, it’s critical that you’re not just trying to put a keyword on your page for the sake of having it there. The goal should be to write for humans – in a natural manner.
Not only is Google extremely intelligent and able to understand what your content and website is all about, but you can actually face penalties for stuffing keywords on your page. Search engines have improved their ability to recognize natural language, so they know when you’re stuffing keywords.
META keywords help pages rank better in search results.
Again, this statement is also false. At one point in time, people took advantage of this and stuffed a bunch of irrelevant keywords in the META tag to gain visibility in search results. Some even used hidden text on a page to create association around additional terms that would drive traffic. Needless to say, Google quickly caught on.
Things that META keywords can do? If your competitors are leveraging META keywords, you can determine what keywords they’re targeting on a given page. META keywords can also help you set up other triggers (like pop-ups and banners). They cannot, however, help you rank better in search results.
XML sitemaps help search engines index your site faster.
This one is a little more complicated, but it is also false. XML sitemaps don’t necessarily help search engines index your site faster, but it can help point search engines to new pages.
With that said, site architecture is a critical factor to make sure that information can be found by both users and search engines and XML sitemaps can certainly help this. Similarly to how users navigate a website, crawlers (like Google bots) look at webpages and follow the links on those pages. They jump from link to link, and gather information about those pages for Google’s servers.
If there was a way to ensure that search engines would crawl your content immediately, SEO would be a-whole-lot easier. Indexing can take time, even if your XML sitemaps are updated.
Exact match domains often have a positive impact on rankings.
This statement is true to some degree. Exact match domains can obviously help, but, like any SEO tactic, it shouldn’t be abused. A few years ago Google rolled out a penalty around exact match domains because, again, people were taking advantage of this strategy in ways that weren’t necessarily relevant.
The SEO best practice is to have the brand name as the domain. If it makes sense with your core keyword target, you just might see some benefits from it. On the flip side, if your brand name (and domain name) take on a meaning beyond your company name, you could see some less relevant traffic coming in from those related keywords as well.
PPC can help improve SEO rankings.
False. The idea is that PPC and SEO compliment one another primarily because of Click Through Rate (CTR). For example, when a user sees two results from the same company in search, they are more likely to click because it creates some sort of credible and trust for that company.
There is some research around this theory that is worth considering. Google did a study in 2012 that found incremental clicks to paid results when an organic result was present. MediaPost also showed that even when organic results appeared in the first position, users still clicked on the paid ad.
Both of these studies backed that having both paid and organic results for the same search query can benefit CTR. This bring us to the next myth….
Click Through Rate is a factor in search result rankings.
Disclaimer: Trick question! This statement is true (but technically false). I’ll explain further, as there is much debate around this in the SEO community.
- Why It’s True: SEO’s who are highly focused on the human element would claim that this is true, since CTR has a lot to do with personalization. Search results are tailored to individuals and what they have clicked on in the past.
- Why It’s False: SEO’s who are more focused on the algorithmic factors of Google would say that this is false. Reasoning for this is that Google has not (yet) specified that CTR is a ranking factor.
While CTR may not be built into Google’s algorithm, it can impact what you’re seeing in search results on an individual level. It’s worth noting that search engines constantly evaluate the effectiveness of results, and one of the easiest ways to determine this is by measuring when users click on a result and quickly leave the page. This tells search engines that what the user found was not helpful.
Too much link building will negatively impact your SEO.
This is false. The Google Penguin update back in 2012 caused some commotion around the do’s and don’ts of link building.
For those of you who don’t remember, Penguin was centered around the sites that were building “spammy” links, buying links or obtaining unnatural links that were put in place to boost rankings. Ever since this update, SEOs have been more cautious about link building efforts.
If your website is rolling out thousands of links at once, this could definitely get flagged from search engines.
But, the bottom line is that if you’re building links through the creation of quality content, studies or reports, premium content assets, guest article contributions, content syndication or even partner links, search engines are smart enough to recognize this.
Keyword-focused anchor text can help improve keyword rankings.
This is absolutely true; to a degree. Search engines have identified link relevancy as a key ranking metric. Link relevancy refers to how related the topic of one page is to another page, if they link to the other.
However, as we’ve seen with many SEO tactics, keyword-focused anchor text has been abused in the past causing Google to update its algorithm. The George Bush “Miserable Failure” Google Bomb is a perfect example of how anchor text used to work. After this incident, Google launched an algorithm update designed to stop mass link pranks from working.
Today, acquiring links with content related to the topic of your page will help search engines better understand what your site is about. Links that incorporate keyword-focused anchor text can help boost association between that page and the topic at hand.
Just don’t overdo it and focus your link building efforts solely on acquiring links with keyword-focused anchor text. Comprehensive link building programs, focused across a range of tactics, need to be considered.
Content marketing is SEO.
False. Content marketing is a part of SEO; however, it is certainly not the only element.
Content marketing can be described as a way to tell an organization’s story. It involves creating content that will engage an audience and encourage them to continue down the sales funnel to make a purchase.
As every search engine marketer is well aware of, content is a critical factor for success. Whether you’re looking to drive traffic, increase conversions or build links, aligning these tactics will greatly benefit your broader online marketing strategies.
SEOs must also consider optimizing for Bing.
This is true. It’s safe to say that Google should be a top priority when it comes to optimizations, since more than 79% of the global market share favors this search engine.
With the growing usage of speech to text and considering that Bing is powered by Siri, SEOs should keep their eyes on this search engine. It’s important for search marketers to stay aware of what’s happening for Bing and the artificial intelligence industry as a whole, as this could impact some of our tactics in the near future.
As a search engine marketer, we must be prepared to address these SEO myths, whether questions come from a client, team member or even your outdated family member who still thinks you work at Google. Some of these misconceptions are far more complicated than others, and it’s certainly natural to debate within the SEO community.
If you have any thoughts or want to share your experience with these tactics, feel free to chime in on the comments below or reach out to me directly via Twitter!