Common SEO Myths & Misconceptions

There isn’t a day that goes by that I hear from a client something they have heard about SEO that isn’t even close to the truth.

It seems there are more stories about SEO than Chuck Norris. A quote by George Bernard Shaw comes to mind:

Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.

In the SEO world this quote rings true every day. Whether it’s a business owner that is wasting what little extra time they have on incorrect optimization, or someone in the industry making unfounded statements and making their agency (and themselves) look inept, false SEO knowledge is everywhere.

seo myths

The ever-changing search algorithms from various search engines may be to blame, but just as guilty are the snake oil salesmen and one-man SEO agencies spreading the myths faster than Paul Revere. Google’s webmaster blog does their best to debunk myths repeatedly. For example, they posted last year a reminder about selling links that pass PageRank, something they have been writing about since 2007. Despite their best efforts our clients still call us when a door-to-door SEO salesman comes to them about having a BOGOF deal on thousands of links.

Every ‘white-hat’ SEO provider should still do their part to make the Internet and their industry a better place so I’ll do my part here and try to banish some of the SEO bull-jive going around (and now I can check off using bull-jive from my bucket list).

1. Ranking No. 1 is all that matters

If ya ain’t first, yer last.” – Ricky Bobby

There is obviously a correlation between search results placement and click-through rates, but that doesn’t mean that it is the holy grail it used to be. Even in the past,having the best rankings didn’t guarantee success and high click-through rates, but were at least a good start.

Now, with search results being appended with enhancements such as author tags and rich text/snippets, the click-through rates for the top three slots have skyrocketed. The truth is relevant information and user-friendly listings every websites goal. A high-quality No. 4 can theoretically out-perform the No. 1 when it comes down to it.

2. SEO is Something Any Techie Can Do.

Fact: SEO is technical.
Fiction: Any technical person can take care of it.

SEO takes more than just being a technical person. Ask anyone in the industry how many clients come into their offices giving stories about how they entrusted their SEO to their IT guy or Web Designer or similar and have not had any results. They may be of assistance during the course of optimizing your site, and are valuable resources in the process when setting up XML site maps, redirects, and robots.txt files, but do not expect them to be your SEO go-to ‘guy’. That’s like expecting your electrician to fix your AC.

3. SEO is a One-Time Activity and You Are Done.

Too many times I have heard from other business owners that they just finished SEOing their site. This delusion is extremely rampant among the IT community, and it’s easy to see why. IT workers are given multiple “fix-it” tickets all day, so they treat SEO like every other assignment and tend to close the “ticket” and move on. SEO is an on-going process that requires a time investment on a periodic basis.

4. SEO & Social Media are Not Related at All

It’s a common misconception that SEO and Social Media are completely unrelated. In actuality, they are like kissing cousins. Search engines put value on content that has an element of social authority. This fact has spawned the term Social Search has become a common term because SEO and Social Media have been ‘going steady’ for years. Google has been working hard on this with Google+ and Google Authorship, but if you think about it, it’s only natural. Trusted and relevant content can drive your SEO and highly social content is easier to trust.

5. More Links > More Content.

YES, even with the changing link landscape in the search algorithms, inbound links are important; however, if SEO is your party than Content is your alcohol. Links are important, but if you focus purely on link building you are digging yourself a hole. The quantity of links might increase, but not necessarily the quality.

The problem here is that link building is no longer a numbers game. Investing in content, which can take form of a web page, blog article, and guest articles on other sites will often attract higher quality and more inbound links in the long run. On the other hand, please don’t think that having a blog is enough. It’s more complicated than that. You need to write with purpose, cater to your target audience, analyze traffic sources and performance of post types, and the list goes on and on.

6. SEO is NOT a Usability Issue.

I have heard this one with more frequency recently than ever before, and it’s not even close to being correct. SEO, at one point, was just getting found on the Internet but over the years this has changed forms more times than Goku. Now, true SEO includes how users of your website engage with your content. Yes, technically SEO stands for search engine optimization, but if they don’t click around on your highly ranked site, or even leave after clicking, the SEO serves no purpose.

To keep visitors on your site, ensure your content is personalized, relevant, intuitive and easy to browse through. If you have the usability of DOS, you wont convert. In the end that’s what SEO is all about.

7. <h1> is the Key to Great SEO.

This one is older than Larry King, and doesn’t seem to go away. The content structure on your site is an outline to presenting the content to search engines and of course users. The <h1> tag was extremely important at one point, but Google learns too. The old-guard of Black-Hat SEO spammed <h1> to death, so now it no longer really matters. Presenting your information towards the top of the page is a lot more relevant.

8. The Larger Your Sites Footprint the Better the Results.

If you think about it without insider knowledge, it would stand to reason that the more pages you have indexed by the search engine the better you would do. But you would be wrong. Just because you have more pages than the Twilight book series, doesn’t mean your pages are quality, just like Twilight. In fact, its more likely that the quality of the content was overlooked, and realistically, it is difficult to strive for both. Aim to publish relevant, quality content.

9. Since Search Engines Have Personalized Results, There is No Such Thing as Being Ranked #1.

You are absolutely correct that Google and Bing do have search results personalized to the user’s search history, even if the user is not logged in. On the other hand, the difference in results between personalized and non-personalized are extremely minor. In fact, check for yourself. Re-run your search terms by adding &PWS=0 to your SERP URL, or just go incognito (if you use chrome), and see how much (read: how little) the results shift around.

10. SEO is a Mysterious Dark Art.

Many people think of SEO being done by some rogue SEO employee that works in a closed office away from the rest of the company going about his experiments without involvement of clients or management. If this was true my life would read like a Jason Bourne novel. SEO is not a set of steps that can be applied to any site in any niche.

It is important to understand the industry, competitors, and a cooperative strategy to increase conversions for your company continually and consistently.

Concluding

Now, the future of SEO is in your hands, reader. Do your part. It takes a village to kill a myth. If there is only one thing you take away from this post, it is that SEO is about the overall experience of the user. From the initial search to leaving your site, the better the experience of the user from your results listing, to the quality and relevancy of the content, to the usability – the better your SEO will be too.

Comments

  • re: 9. Since Search Engines Have Personalized Results, There is No Such Thing as Being Ranked #1.

    The difference today might be minor. That’s true. But over time? Over time it would make sense that The Google gets better and better at personalization as it learns to use the signals. Keep in mind,(sensing) the willingness of a person to be personalized is a signal. And if it’s not, eventually it will be.

  • This will probably sound like a dig, but honestly it’s mostly a compliment:

    >>1. Ranking No. 1 is all that matters

    No, it isn’t all that matters, but it matters plenty. EXCEPT: with the formerly-tan ads above search results now looking an awful lot like they’re part OF search results, #1 LOOKS like #3, so … hmmm, maybe you’re right. Anywhere on the first page is good enough (http://answerguy.com/2010/06/21/when-good-enough-really-is-good-enough/ )

    >>2. SEO is Something Any Techie Can Do

    Holy COW is that one wrong. SEO requires technical understanding by … someone … but if you have your geeks do SEO it’s gonna stink.

    >>7. is the Key to Great SEO.

    Please don’t discount the value of H1. H1 still matters, and a lot. It just isn’t nearly what it was when Google conglomerated information but didn’t evaluate it. ( http://answerguy.com/2012/12/10/h1-tags-influency-great-search-engine-optimization/ )

    >>8. The Larger Your Sites Footprint the Better the Results.

    This one’s tough. You’re right that if your content is crap size will only barely help you, and if it’s bad enough more will actually hurt you AND THOSE ASSOCIATED WITH YOU. But size, in SEO as elsewhere, matters. A lot. Period.

    >>9. Since Search Engines Have Personalized Results, There is No Such Thing as Being Ranked #1.

    Actually, you got this one way wrong, but not for the reason you say. It’s correct that filtered vs non-filtered results alter who’s #1 at any given moment. It’s also true that there IS a “natural #1” in any search algorithm. But as guy whose primary web site ranks for over 11,000 keywords and who’s been looking at the results both for myself and for clients—for years, with a critical eye toward exactly this issue—I can tell you conclusively that Google ranks us CONSISTENTLY for some phrases at … 3rd to 7th … and we’ll show up NOWHERE IN THE TOP 100 both on clean and filtered results, on searched with search volume that makes that mathematically impossible. So in a sense there really is no trusting the numbers when viewed in a micro sense. But good SEO takes care of the macro.

    Like I said: that probably sounded critical. I prefer to think of it as realistic and pragmatic; nice post!

  • Sadiq well written. The info about aboust relation of social media and SEO was new for me.

  • karks88

    Excellent post! There are so many myths out there…

  • Damn I’m so lost right now

  • Hi Sadiq, very helpful post. Thank you. Q for you: do you believe a blog should be “built into” a website OR be independent and linked to the website? Thank you, Kevin

  • Great job dissing these myths out Sadiq. I definitely think SEO is not something just a techie guy can do. lol But I wonder, do you recommend small online entrepreneurs to invest in hiring an SEO company/team?