In digital marketing, and specifically searchengine optimisation (SEO), there are small items of information that in their retelling lose context and become what we call ‘myths.’
SEO myths are snippets of information that, despite being ignored over and over again, never seem to die. They take on a life of their own and leave site owners confused as to what is true and what is not.
This post is therefore going to look at 10 of these myths that never seem to die – no matter how hard experts try to kill them off.
We will focus on Google because that is where most sites get their traffic and importantly, where most of the myths originate.
Myth 1: SEO is a Dark Art
There is a low entry point into the field of digital marketing, this includes SEO. There are no real certification processes because how can you certify something that changes every day? Don’t forget, Google never publishes its algorithms, so there is no way to test an individual’s knowledge against what they contain.
Basically, when you hire an SEO provider it has to be based on trust.
This is why the myth that SEO is a dark art prevails. Bad providers will do bad work which will result in no results and therefore the client is left with no other way to explain their lack of results. In fact, it is often these bad practitioners who use the myth to explain their poor results.
That being said, SEO isn’t a dark art, real SEO is the process of making sites adhere to Google’s algorithms, for specific query strings, in order to increase relevant site traffic and then company revenues.
While Google never publishes the details of their algorithms, informed SEO professionals have a good understanding of what will bring a site in line with compliance. After all, they are based on maths and processes governed by logic.
A trustworthy SEO professional lives and breathes algorithm changes, which can amount to multiple changes every week. They know why the algorithms do what they do as best as anyone not working at Google can do.
This is the opposite of a dark art. It is earned knowledge and only comes with experience.
When you pay an SEO professional, you aren’t paying for their time, you are paying for their knowledge and the results they gain. With this in mind, prices are set accordingly.
Myth 2: Content Is All You Need
“Content is KING!”
You will find many articles that make this statement. While they are not completely untrue, content is less king and more like a valuable business partner to links, design, and usability.
Search positions will only come with links and content You must have both. One will not work without the other at least not well and don’t forget, both must be coupled to a website that has been ‘optimised’.
If you’re trying to rank for your key term then you had better have good quality links or you simply will not list!
So, while content is extremely important, content needs links. Just like links need content.
Myth 3: Speed Isn’t That Important
Google said many months ago that page delivery speed will be a tie breaker for search positioning however, this is not entirely true…
It has become obvious that those websites that dramatically improve rankings have an excellent page delivery speed and those that have severe page speed issues do not receive the results they require!
It is important to understand what Google is measuring when they are evaluating your page speed. While they are looking at overall speed the issue, they are most interested in is how long the Direct Object Model or DOM takes to load. The DOM items are those visible items on your page that excludes ads.
A faster site is much easier for the Googlebot to crawl. When the site is not slowing the crawl down, more of your site is getting indexed either in number of pages or in depth of page crawl.
Note: The Google Page Speed Insight tool only measures items in your DOM, so you could have a higher page speed score than a competitor site, but still perform poorly in the rankings. This will be because your overall page load is too slow. Pagespeed is important and will become even more so as we move into mobile first, so never discount it.
Myth 4: Links Are Dead
Simple answer here, links are not dead. Links aren’t even close to being dead!
If you have the best content in the world but no links, your site won’t become visible. Links and content are the basis for rankings. Great content still needs great links.
Don’t forget, good links need relevancy and need to be legitimate, if it isn’t natural and it comes from an unrelated page or site, it probably won’t help much.
Myth 5: Keyword Density
There was a time that keyword density did provide some search validity.
Google got smarter and did away with keyword stuffing as a viable practice many moons ago. Even those that used density testing for much smaller keyword sets no longer could count on this as a good listing practice.
While you can still put a word on your page too many times, there is no set range of what makes a page rank well.
Its better to spend time on relevant content that you can link to internally and that others can link to externally than to waste time on trying to optimise individual keywords. That being said your title tag is still highly relevant. Spend some time adding your keywords there. That might give you a boost.
Myth 6: You Must Submit Your Site
I am sure you all get those spam emails from an SEO site submission company telling us we need to pay them to submit our sites to the search engines.
You simply don’t!
There are times when it is good to submit your site. When you need the search engines to come back to your site to pick up a new piece of content or to re-evaluate a page however, you never need to submit your site in the first place.
Never pay someone to submit your site!
Myth 7: You Don’t Need a Sitemap
Sitemaps are not a nice to have add-on for sites, they are a necessity. This gets even more important as we move into the mobile-first era that is now so important.
Why? When Google cannot easily crawl a portion of your site, the sitemap allows the crawler to better find these pages.
Google is going to have a harder time finding pages due to the reduced size of navigational elements in mobile-first indexing. Sitemaps – both XML and HTML – will be the best way for them to find all the pages on the site you want indexed and ranked.
Myth 8: Because Big Brands Do It…
There is a long history of sites copying bad website decisions from their market leader simply because they thought the other site knew something they didn’t.
Don’t be a sheep.
What one site does may work for them, but it may not for you. Unless you’re looking at their analytics how do you really know that it does work for them? The chances of that particular thing being right for you are slim.
You are a different company with different users that use different queries. Don’t forget that because big brands don’t suffer as much from user and Googlebot discontent when they get it wrong, they are more likely to get it wrong!
Don’t copy big brands, simply find what works for your users and stick to that.
Myth 9: Social Media Helps You Rank
Social media that is done well will increase your digital exposure. That exposure can then gain links and citations and then those links and citations can get you better rankings.
That doesn’t mean that social media is helpful in gaining search positions!
Social media simply does not provide links, but it encourages others to link to you. It also means that the social media post may provide you a true site link, but don’t hold your breath.
Social media is about visibility.
Getting those people to share your content and link to or mention your site in a way that Google counts as a “link”, now thats SEO.
Myth 10: Buying Google Ads Helps with Organic Ranking
Simple as, no. Investing in PPC wont boost your organic search rankings.
Your PPC must be used to maximise those competitive terms that perhaps organic struggles with but at the same time, organic should mean you no longer need to use PPC for your name and other simple terms that your organic should be controlling!
They should work together not as two separate services although that is definitely what they are.