10 SEO Myths: The Things You (Think) You Know About SEO

Futuristic illustration of SEO myths by Bing image creator

We already know what SEO is – optimization of web pages to achieve the best results in SERP. However, we often get in Dutch when we start thinking about what this “optimization” means. You feel you know a lot about SEO when you don’t, or you trust a misleading source of information or have outdated information. Here are some of the most common or the most significant SEO myths.

1. Keywords don’t Matter Anymore

This SEO myth is pervasive and complex in its mixture of variations. Its subcategories are:

  • you do not need KW research,
  • you need to stuff your website with keywords,
  • low-volume search terms are worthless.

However, although the role and way of using keywords have changed over time, and search engines have become significantly more advanced in understanding language and context, keywords are still essential to SEO strategies.

It is already clear that you should not and why you should not clutter the pages with keywords. On the other hand, if you’re not sure why keywords are important, here are a few reasons.

Setting up or Improving the Structure of the Website

Keyword research will allow you to initially set up or subsequently improve the structure of your website so that it is logical and more accessible to both your users and bots. Logical and semantic arrangement and connection of content help establish thematic relevance and enable search engines to crawl and index more efficiently.

Identification of Searched Terms

By researching keywords, you will discover how your potential users search the Internet when they are interested in your services and products. Furthermore, you will determine which expressions, i.e., keywords, they use at various stages of their interest and thus know which to use to target your potential clients’ exact intentions and needs.

Optimization

You will optimize existing content (as well as new) in a targeted manner for keywords that correspond to specific search intentions, paying attention to the titles, title tags, and meta descriptions.

Narrow Targeting of the Desired Audience

Identifying and targeting keywords with lower search volumes can be very helpful if you operate in a highly competitive area, target a specific geographic region, or target a particular demographic group. Thus, you can focus on attracting a niche audience with specific needs.

Increasing Visibility in Search Engines and Building Authority

Although targeting keywords with lower search volumes may not seem appealing, it can do you much good. Positioning yourself well for them will bring you a relevant audience and increase your overall search results (SERP) visibility. It will build authority in the desired niche. When search engines recognize your established authority and satisfied audience, they will give you better positions in search results for higher-volume keywords, increasing overall visibility.

So, although keywords do not have the same role as they did ten years ago, they are still vital and valuable. You need to use them naturally, without excessive, artificial use. Their strategic incorporation into the web structure and content ensures that your website is relevant, discoverable, and user-friendly, leading to a more significant number of organic visits and achieving your results.

2. You Need to Buy Backlinks to Rank Higher

The statement “you need to buy backlinks to rank higher” or the variation “buying 10,000 backlinks for $10 will work” is an SEO myth that is a legacy from the past. Although it used to be possible to climb to the very top of search results by simply buying as many backlinks as possible, this has not been the case for some time, on the contrary.

Illustration of SEO myth that you need to buy backlinks to rank higher by Bing image creator

If you decide to use this tactic today, there is a high probability that you will be punished for it. Namely, the backlinks you can buy are usually of poor quality or irrelevant to your business. What’s worse is that they are often spammy websites. Hence, these backlinks destroy your trustworthiness and credibility, leading to a drop in search results. If the websites you choose are also part of some recognized link schemes, you will suffer problems. The worst outcome is the possibility of being penalized by Google.

Let everything be clear: backlinks are one of the ranking signals, but they are less critical than they were. In addition, the quality of backlinks is much more important than the quantity. You want a relatively small number of backlinks from websites with solid authority and credibility. More importantly, those websites should be relevant to your niche and business. In addition to the quality of backlinks, you should also take care of the anchor texts and the type of backlinks.

So, even though backlinks are one ranking factor, please don’t buy them because you can harm yourself. Suppose the website is set up correctly and has quality content. In that case, it will achieve positions in search results even without backlinks. Focusing on quality and appealing content will give you a good chance of acquiring them naturally. It is a recipe for long-term, sustainable growth and progress.

3. SEO is Only for Big Companies

Everyone has thought this at least once in their life. But that’s just not true. Although large companies have more resources than smaller ones and thus the possibility of a more extensive investment in SEO, small and unknown businesses with mini investments in SEO can also achieve good positions in search results and better online visibility. SEO is the best and most cost-effective opportunity for them to attract the desired visitors to the web.
Let’s not lie; the initial advantages on the side of the big players are unquestionable, and among them are:

  • brand recognition,
  • already mentioned financial possibilities and
  • acquired web authority.

However, there are many reasons small businesses should turn to SEO and how it can help them. Some of them are:

Targeting

SEO enables a targeted focus on your potential clients and customers, i.e., people looking for your services or products. It can give small businesses an advantage over larger ones, which often offer a more comprehensive range of services and have a dispersed focus.

Profitability

In the long term, SEO is among the most profitable investments. All you need is to lay a good foundation with relatively small investments. In that case, you can maintain and increase your organic traffic and positions in the long run, achieving long-term results. It is incredibly profitable if we compare it with the costs of competing with big businesses in paid advertising.

Scalability

SEO is scalable and easily adaptable to all needs and resources. So, it is possible to design a strategy for all combinations of needs and capacities. At the same time, you can quickly adapt plans to modified or new demands and increased or decreased investment capacities.

DIY

In some cases, the requirements or possibilities are so minimal that the best option for small companies is to learn and implement basic SEO strategies themselves. Numerous resources are available for acquiring fundamental knowledge. However, deciding on the initial investment and finding someone who will systematically teach you precisely what you need would be best.

An example of a search result where one of the largest businesses is surpassed

An example of a search result where one of the largest businesses is surpassed

We should remember that SEO also helps increase brand awareness, click-through rate, and conversion rate and often generates a great return on investment.

So, with the right approach, small companies can benefit significantly from SEO. With a good strategy, quality content, and technical optimization, small companies can improve their visibility and search positions and attract more visitors, thus achieving better business results.

4. Daily Content Writing is Required

Over a decade ago (2011), one of Google’s algorithm updates rewarded fresh content. And since then, the scale of the SEO myth that daily content production is the recipe for success has only increased. Unfortunately, for many, it doesn’t work that way.

What Google had in mind then is the same as it is today. The freshness of the content is relevant for time-sensitive search terms, i.e., the answer to them changes over time. For example, a search for the term “new Google algorithm changes” would return:

  • in 2011, articles about the Panda update,
  • in Jul-Aug 2014, articles about the Pigeon update,
  • towards the end of 2019, articles on BERT update,
  • at the end of 2022, articles about the Helpful Content Update.

However, many inquiries refer to factual questions with the same answer regardless of time. So, freshness is irrelevant, and writing new content will not help them surpass the competition.

The direction in which it is also often thought is that writing new content every day will give the website credibility and authority, resulting in a better position in the search results. And that, too, is incorrect. If so, all news portals would constantly share the first position for all queries. 😊 When it comes to the content itself, quality is much more important than quantity, and it is better to direct the available resources in that direction.

So, if you write only to have new content or content newer than the competition, you will not achieve the desired results. It is better to publish higher-quality content less often. But quality alone is not enough. For content to deliver results, we must tailor it to the audience’s intent (and queries).

5. Internal Linking isn’t Important

This statement could not be further from the truth. Unfortunately, many website owners and digital professionals neglect internal linking.

Let’s distinguish between internal and external links. Internal links refer to content within the same domain, and external links (so-called backlinks) are links between different domains. Why are internal links important?

Understanding Structure and Relationships

When you set up the basic structure of a website, you are essentially setting up the basics of internal linking. In addition to structural internal linking and contextual internal linking, the insertion of internal links into the content of pages is essential for understanding the interrelationship between content. In this way, you show that the contents of those pages are related and connected. The contents of both pages must be correlated. At the same time, you can (and should) use descriptive anchor texts that can be keywords for which you want to achieve positions with the page you are linking. You can use different anchor texts if you have several internal links to the same page.

Finding Content and Navigation

With signaling about content relatedness, internal links help bots and users find content and navigate your website. The bigger the website, the longer it takes for the bots to discover all the pages. Google itself says: “Google must constantly look for new and updated pages and add them to its list of known pages… Other pages are discovered when Google follows a link from a known page to a new page…”

Distribution of Link Values

Each link transfers part of the value of the page it is on to the one it refers to. Thus, the page (usually the homepage) with the highest number of backlinks has the highest link value and usually the highest authority. Internal links convey that value and authority further. Therefore, if a page has a lot of internal links, we tell the bots that this page is important to us, raise its authority, and increase its chances for a good ranking.

So, internal links have multiple roles and are significant. We must not ignore them because it is an easily accessible tool to help us achieve our SEO goals.

6. Sitemap Improve Ranking

The statement “sitemap improves ranking” also belongs to the domain of SEO myths. The idea that creating a sitemap will improve your position in search results is incorrect. It won’t.

But creating a sitemap(s) has its benefits. Namely, sitemaps serve as an index of all existing pages on your website. In this way, they help bots find and crawl all of the important (to you) pages and increase the chance of their indexing. They are crucial for new websites and those with many pages. Sitemaps should only contain pages that you would like to be indexed. Every change on the web, such as a new page or URL change, should be automatically updated in the sitemap.

So, sitemaps have no direct influence on the ranking of websites. They help bots discover all content faster, especially new content, i.e., they play a role in crawling (optimization of the crawl budget) and indexing.

7. SEO is a One Time Thing

This statement also belongs to the sphere of SEO myths. It is possible (and necessary, desirable, and positive) to initially optimize most (technical and on-site) SEO items, and this will provide you with some results and a starting position. However, you must constantly work on your website to maintain the starting position and advance.

Why?

Changes in Searching Habits

The way and intention of searching changes daily. The ways users and technology interact are changing. How users conceptualize searches is changing. There are more and more diverse reasons for searches. Google alone processes about 99,000 queries every second, roughly 8.5 billion daily searches, or 3 trillion searches annually. Among searches each year, 16% to 20% (540 billion!) are brand-new queries no one has ever used.

Algorithm Changes

Even birds already know this – search engines (read Google) regularly change their algorithms. Most of these modifications go entirely unnoticed, at least by average users. However, some updates lead to significant changes and confusion in search results. They aim to provide users with the highest quality and most relevant results and remove all bad, spammy, fake, and malicious results from the search results. Google informs the public about changes, many of which are included in the quality rater guidelines, which are regularly updated.

Other Changes in Search Engines

Besides algorithm changes, search engines constantly test and develop additional options. You should monitor and, if necessary, use new elements. Some of the examples are:

  • expanding or canceling markup support for Rich Results,
  • adding new options for displaying structured data,
  • changes in crawling and indexing,
  • changes in the way of reading or evaluating items in the code (e.g., changes in the display of the title tag and meta description),
  • appearance or cancellation of other possibilities (like deprecation of the pinging possibility).

Significant Technological Changes

Suffice it to say – artificial intelligence.

Competition Activities

Even though you did everything right at some point, your competition is likely to have done the same and continue to work on development and optimization. It is necessary to follow events in the niche and react promptly. It is even more helpful and better to be proactive.

So, SEO is a constant process that requires continuous work and adaptation. To remain competitive and ensure a continual increase in organic users, we need to be continually active, monitoring user behavior, changes in search engines, and competition. SEO tactics must evolve and adapt along with technology and users. However, be careful. You don’t need to jump on every noticed change immediately. Google often tests innovations, and some never take off and gain importance.

8. Google Penalizes Duplicate Content

This search engine optimization myth stems from a misunderstanding of Google’s penalties. Google penalties are penalties that a website receives from human controllers. Furthermore, you will receive a notification about this in Google Search Console; you can fix what you are penalized for and then explain it to Google (there is a possibility of direct contact). When it comes to content, you can get penalties for hacked, hidden, scraped, and spammy automatically generated content and for cloaking.

Screenshot from Google Search Console - penalty message for participating in a link scheme

GSC penalty message for participating in a link scheme

The algorithm is handling duplicate content, not humans. It does not give penalties, although it can seem to you that it does if you are affected by some update. But let’s briefly explain what duplicate content is and where it comes from.

Duplicate content can exist within one website, for example, when the same product in different colors has an identical page for each color. Search engines understand why this kind of duplicate content appears, and of course, they will not punish you for it, nor will you have any consequences after algorithm updates. However, there are other consequences, such as not indexing these pages. To solve this problem, you should use some of the signals that search engines understand, such as canonical tags.

On the other hand, there are duplicate content situations where content is duplicated (copied) from one website to another. If the same content is on different websites, Google and other search engines will try to assess which one is original (sometimes they succeed, sometimes not) and offer it as a result for relevant searches. Logically, search engines do not want to show users two pages of the same content as a result, and one (yours) will not appear.

So, suppose you don’t engage in black hat activity or try to deceive people or search engines (in any way), and you don’t have an entire website full of nonsense. In that case, you won’t get penalized for duplicate content. However, algorithmic filters can identify it and remove it from search results.

9. PPC (pay-per-click) Helps Ranking

Another SEO myth we often encounter is that paid advertising directly impacts organic search results. In 2022, MOZ conducted research on a sample of more than 100,000 websites and found no statistically significant relationship between PPC spending and organic results.

The longevity of this SEO myth is because SEO and PPC often interact, and their results can be compared (if you connect all the tools correctly). What is the relationship between PPC and SEO?

  • If the pages are well optimized, it will contribute to the ads having a better quality score, lower cost per click, and higher ROI.
  • It is possible (and recommended) to use PPC as an A/B testing tool for optimizing landing pages.
  • If people see the ad and remember the brand, they are more likely to click on that brand’s page when it appears in organic search results.
  • PPC data on search terms and conversions can help create SEO strategies.

So, while SEO and PPC often interact and work well together, paid advertising does not directly impact search engine rankings.

10. Data from Google Analytics is One of the Ranking Factors

Finally, another myth that serves only to confuse and create a “conspiratorial” environment is the idea that Google uses data from Google Analytics, such as bounce rate, time spent on a page, or conversion rate, as a ranking factor. It is not valid. These data are for you to use as a source of information for identifying problems, successes, and opportunities in business.

The fact is that all data in Google Analytics is beneficial. But only when they are correctly configured, read, and interpreted. It is easy to manipulate this data to display the desired numbers. But it doesn’t bring you any value. On the contrary, it harms you because you do not have accurate information about your business. When reading the data, you should consider which period they refer to, what we compare them with, for which channels, and other things. Using filters can be helpful but can also completely change the data. Then comes the interpretation, which is different for all measures depending on the type of web, type of content, and goals.

For example, a short time spent on a website and a high bounce rate would (without additional information) be rated as poor by everyone. However, maybe your content is aimed at providing quick answers, or it’s easy to digest, or it’s landing pages for collecting leads with three-column forms, or users are satisfied with what they found and “went” to call you (but the tracking is not set up correctly). Google’s algorithms do not deal with such analyses.

So, the data in Google Analytics provides you, not the Google ranking algorithm, with valuable information that you can use to identify and react to potential failures or excellent results. They are an essential source of insights, so you should use them. However, as with all information, you should treat it cautiously and look at the bigger picture.

What would be the Conclusion?

SEO myths are widespread. They often simplify complex concepts or recommend ineffective tactics. Unfortunately, some can cost you a lot of time and money and prevent you from achieving your goals.

In any case, it is crucial not to rush to conclusions and not immediately jump on every change observed in search engines. Keep your eyes and ears open, think and test, research thoroughly, and ask experienced experts for guidance.