We’ve hit a new decade, yet still there some SEO myths that are lingering in the digital world like a bad smell!
Don’t be so 2000, come and join us in 2020, where getting your website ranking well in Google has a new set of rules!
With so many updates in the SEO world happening every week, every month and every year, it can be surprising that people are still making the same mistakes.
Are you still doing the same things you did ten years ago?… of course not. So don’t expect that Google to have sat still, SEO is a moving object.
Unfortunately, SEO myths continue to be executed by businesses who haven’t had the knowledge to stay up to date and sometimes by roque SEO practitioners or those who are just lazy.
Some myths are not only damaging your reputation and your bank balance, but they’re also stopping your website’s ability to secure more traffic and perform better in search. In fact, some of these myths can now even be detrimental to your website. Meaning, if Google find out you’re carrying out bad practices, you risk pages being deindexed.
Don’t keep making the same mistakes. Here, we’ve busted the biggest SEO myths still lurking around in 2020.
1. Keyword Content Ratio
If we had a pound for every time someone told us that there needs to be more keywords in their content we would be Richie Rich. .
The belief that you have to repeat a targeted keyword over and over again in your content is a myth!
After all, does this make any common sense for user experience?
As a user if you discovered a page which has the same keyword repeated 20 times in a 500 word article, it wouldn’t be helpful, that would just be annoying. So please, stop thinking you need to repeat your desired keyword to improve ranking.
Instead, think about what the intention is behind your desired keywords and how they add value to your audience and do they keywords complement the copy.
Take a look at long tail keywords and start to look at semantic keyword variations which will best support your content.
In 2013, Google launched the Hummingbird update.
A significant change in their ranking algorithm, which would impact how businesses create content around keywords and change the future of search as we knew it.
The Hummingbird algorithm is designed to make people think about what a user was really looking for when they type in that keyword. Therefore, this update stressed more than ever that you need to know your audience and serve them content that is going to answer their query.
This certainly does not mean that keywords are not important because they are, but today it’s more about understanding the intention and contextual meaning.
2. SEO is A One Time Task
It continues to baffle us just how often we hear of businesses who have done SEO once and feel like it never needs to be revisited again. SEO is not a ‘set it and forget it’ marketing strategy.
This SEO myth should really be at the top of the list because it still remains prevalent.
When you have competitors that are carrying out ongoing SEO you will struggle just taking the back seat and dropping off the first page of results. It’s likely you are targeting visitors using similar sets of keywords.
Unfortunately, too many businesses continue to fundamentally misunderstand what SEO is, and the impact it has. This can often mean that content is not regularly updated, technical fixes not addressed, backlinks not reviewed and customer experience not addressed.
SEO is a consistent process of improvement as Google continue to update algorithms to evaluate and rank websites. Tactics that may have worked a few years ago can quickly become out of date and no longer add value to a website.
Investing in a long-term approach to SEO may appear costly to begin with, but when you look at the benefits of increased brand visibility, more visitors and more enquiries, it really is a no-brainer.
3. Exact Match Domain Names
Let’s paint a picture. You need a domain name for your business, and you’ve got that ideal keyword you want to target, so you think hang on, let’s just create a domain name from that exact keyword if the domain is available!
At first, this probably feels like you’ve really won one over on Google. But we’re sorry to tell you; this doesn’t provide you with a free pass to ranking at the top of SERPS (search engine results pages).
In 2012, Google rolled out an algorithm that reduced the presence of low-quality exact match domains (EMD penalty).
Yes, many years ago, in the early days of Google exact match domains were found to give an extra advantage for targeting keywords. But this is 2020 and the times have moved on.
When this Google update was rolled out, a study found that EMD’s had already quickly started to slip out of first page rankings, and many websites that relied on their domain were out of the first 100 positions.
So focus on a domain that adds value to your brand and your business name and don’t spend time looking for exact match domains.
4. Keyword Rich Anchor Text
Building links brings up all sorts of myths in itself, but one of the most popular myths is whether you should use a keyword as your anchor text.
To clarify, anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink. For example [RAD SEO Cambridge]. When a user clicks on the link that piece of text takes them to another website, blog or page.
Again, back in the yesteryear of Google, it was claimed that making this text your keyword, and linking back to your website as many times as possible would help you increase ranking for that specific keyword.
However, as always, Google has become more intelligent and its algorithm can easily see this tactic does not offer a good experience for website visitors.
In 2012 Google launched the Penguin algorithm update. One part of this update was to downgrade sites that were attempting to manipulate search results with over optimised keyword rich anchor text. At the same time they penalised sites involved in manipulative link schemes and stuffing keywords into a web page.
You can of course still use keyword rich anchors where it is appropriate but these should be diversified with other anchor link types including brand name, generic words, long tail keywords and images. The copy on a web page should add value for a visitor and anchor text links are no different.
5. Guarantees To Be Found Fast OnGoogle
Chocolate teapots, solar-powered torches and getting found on Google fast. Yes, if you’re being told by an SEO agency that they can get you ranking number one fast, then you may need to question the tactics they are using to do this.
Yes, there are improvements and changes that can be made to a website that can dramatically help to shift search ranking over a matter of weeks, sometimes days. But SEO should be invested in as part of a long term marketing strategy.
No marketing agency or ‘Google expert’ for that matter can claim to rank all websites fast without reviewing the landscape of the SEO competition and without fully assessing auditing the website.
There are of course many other considerations like keyword analysis, technical configuration, content editing, future content strategy and link building. Quite simply there needs to be some time invested in research to prepare a short to long term SEO roadmap.
The lesson here, don’t buy your SEO off the back of a van, otherwise, you’ll be paying the price for it long after it’s left you.
6. Guest Blogging Is Dead
Are you petrified of writing on any other website or platform in case you’re condemned by Google?
This myth is understandable, but we can confirm it is a hardcore myth.
The trouble is, this myth comes from Google itself.
In 2014, Google’s Matt Cutts wrote on his personal blog, and put out a tweet that said, “So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.”
Now Matt’s claim is true, SEO marketers around the world were utilising guest blogging to secure links, but the trouble was, some of these marketers were being outright spammy with their approach. This included post guest articles on syndicate websites, and even posting on blogs that were completely irrelevant to the service or product.
Guest blogging was a respected form of link building on good quality sites. Unfortunately sites were set up purely to get links, these sites often had duplicate or spun content. Google eventually clamped down on this and many sites were penalised and this sent shockwaves through to the sites that had content and links with these publishers.
So, guest posting is not dead but where and what you publish is more relevant than ever,
Only post on blogs or websites that are of high-quality and are relevant to your business or service, and ensure that the content your’e posting is unique and the links add value to the visitor.
7. Paid Ads Improve Your Organic Results
According to whispers on the street, if you pay for Google Ads, you’re going to get a nudge up the ranks in your organic results. Unfortunately, this is simply not true.
The simple fact is these two areas work as completely separate marketing channels with different algorithms.
Organic results come from Google’s index database. While paid ads are based on your bid and how much you’re willing to invest. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.
Don’t believe for one second that just because you’re doing paid ads with Google that you should then expect to see an improvement in your organic results as it won’t happen.
By all means, there is a lot you can learn from paid advertising. For example, you can define and refine the keywords that you target organically through the data and keyword tools provided.
Paid ads can also enable you to get quick wins for particular campaigns that may be highly relevant to the season or something that’s trending or for organic keywords out of your reach.
But please don’t use paid ads because you think it’s going to help you organically – It’s all an SEO myth.
8. You Should Hit A Word Count On Your Blog
We can hear the debate already.
“Word count only needs to be 500 words.”
“No, it needs to be 3,000+ words.”
And so the myth continues even though we’re now in 2020 and this myth has been going on since the dawn of blogging.
The trouble is, the data varies greatly on what works. You can read one SEO survey from the likes of Moz, and it says one thing, and then you can read another report from the likes of SEO expert Neil Patel, and it will say another.
There is no magic number you should be hitting.
The aim of any article should be to provide the best value to the user, not hit a word count. At RAD SEO we tend to find that an article 1,000+ words tends to perform better than a 500 word article but will still have shorter articles that have ranked and gained engagement and links.
While it doesn’t make your life any easier, write for your user. What would help them get the answer to their query? – And what extra value could you add to help them?
When you write for a word count, you’re not writing for a user; you’re writing to try and rank. Which ultimately causes you pain as it can often reduce the content quality.
The better a piece of content, the more opportunity there is to rank. One of the ways Google determines this is bounce rate and page exits, people arriving at your site from SERPS and then returning to the search results because they haven’t found your content useful (dwell time) would be a negative signal. If visitors stick around to view your content then that is a thumbs up from Google.
Wordcount on its own is a myth, the aim should be to satisfy the intent of the visitor whilst writing quality content at a length fitting for the topic whilst naturally attract links and engagement.
9 . Buying Links Will Rank You Higher
Links matter when it comes to SEO. It’s well known that links play a vital role in indicating to Google how authoritative your website is, and how popular your website is to other sites.
However, buying a bucket full of links to help accelerate your ranking could end up having a detrimental effect on your ranking.
Back in the early days of Google, this is how many SEO experts ‘gamed’ Google. They would buy links from all over the web, even on poor quality websites such as gambling, pornography and fake news sites. Sometimes would be bought in their hundreds as part of link farming and other link schemes.
In 2012, as part of the Penguin algorithm update, Google specifically targeted link spam and manipulative link building practices. Those found to be have gained ranking through bad practices were penalised or lost much or all of their ranking.
Hence, since this update, every business needs to take a cautious approach to link building or link acquisition however you choose to phrase it.
As Google says ‘Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behaviour that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.’
Unfortunately, poor link building is still rife in the SEO industry. This practice is a poor approach to marketing let alone SEO, yet companies that rely on their website could lose everything if Google believes the website backlink profile has been poorly grown.
So buying links to improve your ranking is an SEO Myth and when overdone could result in being penalised and lose your ranking and at worst have pages de-indexed.
10. Duplicate Content Is Bad
Word on the street is, if you copy content, you’re going to get penalised by Google for it.
The truth is rather more detailed than that, and actually, it really all depends on how that content is being distributed or ‘copied.’
Content which has been republished somewhere else won’t actually harm you as long as the republished feature still credits you for the work. So let’s say you write a great blog and then a magazine or newspaper wants to feature it. This is known as syndicated content.
Syndicated content doesn’t violate Private Label Rights (PLR), as the original author keeps the ownership of the article and offers ‘creative commons license’ for reposting.
In fact, syndicated content can really help your feature reach a bigger audience, hence growing your traffic and driving brand awareness.
Where it gets into the very dark areas of SEO and where you could find yourself in hot water, is where you have intentionally copied or ‘spun’ a feature that was not originally yours.
Ultimately, this is classed as plagiarism, and seen very negatively in the eyes of Google. If they believe your content has been copied in any way, Google could de-index your page or take action against your site.
As Google’s John Mueller has said, “Our algorithms prefer unique, compelling and high-quality content. Content that is rewritten, “spun,” automatically translated or otherwise modified in an attempt to make it appear unique would go against our Webmaster Guidelines and can result in action being taken against sites that rely on such content.”
11. It Takes Months To See Some SEO Results
Admittedly as we’ve mentioned previously when it comes to an immediate impact with SEO, it very much depends on the website. There is no ‘quick fix’, and ultimately it depends on a vast array of factors that differ from site to site.
However, if you’ve neglected your website over the years, you would be surprised to see how much of an impact your SEO can have when you make updates that are essential to compete effectively in the SERPS.
There are quick fixes you can make after carrying out an SEO audit that can often make small improvements, you can then form an SEO strategy for long term growth.
Quick fixes include:
- Improve site speed
- Optimise your site for mobile
- Fix or add XML sitemaps
- Find and redirect dead links
- Add a blog or news area
- Optimise headings and meta data
SEO in some cases can take months to reflect its true value but in nearly all cases there are quick fixes that can be had to start building SEO momentum. Creating an SEO roadmap is key to planning and prioritising your SEO tasks.
12. Great Content Is All You Need
There’s an old saying that sums up this myth perfectly – “build it, and they will come.”
Unfortunately, many businesses believe that once they’ve got great content and a highly active website the traffic is just going to come flooding in. This of course isn’t true.
Successful SEO is made up of many factors; content, technical optimisation, user experience and backlinks. You simply can’t have one without all the others. Each factor is there for a reason, and you have to put time and energy into each to ensure your SEO is strong.
You might have great content, and a beautiful looking website that is easy to navigate, but unless you’re not marketing it, and shouting about it, no-ones’ going to visit. And if your website isn’t telling Google the right stuff from a technical perspective, you’re going to get overlooked.
Sharing your content is essential in order to help get your website noticed.
Gaining backlinks is vital to help Google see your brand as an authority in your industry.
And making your website technically SEO healthy is going to give Google the freedom to easily crawl and index your pages and understand the content topics.
Using social media can help promote your website content to your target audience and create interest which leads to visitors, sharing and possible backlinks.
Using content alone is an SEO Myth, it should be supported by other SEO tasks to increase awareness and help build a strong website structure.
13. You Shouldn’t Link Out To Other Sites
It seems counterintuitive to link out to other blogs or websites from your own; after all, you want those visitors to stay on your website. However, it really is a solid myth that you shouldn’t link out to other sites.
If the links you included in your blog, or on your webpages are helpful in some way, then they can strengthen and support that page. Just as you would reference something in a conversation to back-up an argument.
The best links to include in any webpage or blog should be of high authority. So this can include other industry websites, news features or research studies,
As long as your content remains useful and informative, users will come back to your page.
Providing highly valuable reference links works well for your content because you’re showing the user the research behind your points and the real-life examples that exist.
Google has never explicitly said that linking out to highly authoritative websites helps an article rank better however linking out to related content helps search engines build knowledge of content hubs across the web which can use to help rank sites. Linking out to relevant content can also help increase the value and trust in your site as they build signals related to your niche.
Here are some best practice tips to follow when linking out to other sites.
- Link to a high-quality content page
- Link out only when necessary or relevant
- Use the brand name or URL or the site as your anchor text
- Notify the website or blog that you have linked to them, and they may help share the post further
14. Only Use High Volume Keywords In Content
When your’e conducting keyword research, it can be tempting to try and target those with hundreds or even thousands of searches per month.
BUT…. let’s be realistic for a moment. How many businesses and brands in your industry do you think are trying to target those big golden keywords?
Yes, hundreds, maybe even thousands.
Many companies can waste their SEO budget trying to rank for overly competitive keywords that are too broad and require to much time and investment.
As we mentioned previously, it’s vital that you understand the intention behind the keywords you’re targeting. Just what does a user need when they’re typing in that query? Is the keyword and page they arrive at going to solve their search query?
Instead of targeting a short keyword, for example, “apple pie” – one word that could have a million different intentions behind it.
It’s far better value to go for longer keywords that have less competition and provide more insight into the intention behind it. For example “how to bake an apple pie” or ‘sugar free apple pie’.
Short keywords are highly competitive, and you can spend years tirelessly trying to achieve the number one position when the reality is that keyword may not end up relevant to your product or service at all.
Don’t waste your time or money: research long tail keywords that have less volume but more intention and also start to invest time in learning about semantic keywords that will be related to your copy.
15. Bolding Keywords Will Help You Rank
We don’t know where this SEO myth started, but it has been around for years.
Google does not see your keyword ‘bolding’ as a way to prioritise you in the search results.
When you are bolding keywords and phrases this is unlikely to have a direct impact on ranking but what it will do is improve the readability of the content especially for those that like to scan through paragraphs.
Stick to writing unique content, building strong links and working on the functionality of your website and bold where appropriate.
16. SEO And Content Marketing Is The Same Thing
It’s easy to get SEO and content marketing mixed up when getting started, but SEO and content although joined at the hip are not the same thing.
A good analogy to use is a car. Imagine SEO as the engine; you need all the parts to make it work. These may include: technical optimisation, content, user experience, site structure, speed, responsiveness, links etc.
Content, on the other hand, is the fuel, it keeps the engine running and makes your website (the car) move and get places faster.
Content is part of the SEO mix and needs to be invested in for you to see real results.
Content comes in many forms, from written blogs, whitepapers, eBooks, to videos, and podcasts. There are so many ways you can include unique pieces of content on your website now that will help your audience with some of their biggest queries.
SEO and content work hand in hand. You can’t have a moving car without an engine, and you can’t have a working engine without the fuel.
Each plays a role, and you can’t have one without the other.
17. Social Signals Don’t Influence SEO
There has always been much debate about whether social media has an impact on SEO, and although Google has never said outright that social media matters, many SEO experts feel differently.
There are 200+ ranking signals that qualify a website’s search results. You will hear the ‘200’ figure mentioned alot in SEO, it is however likely to be a lot more than this. Social Media however is not going to directly increase your search ranking.
At RAD, we believe like many other SEO experts that social does have a strong indirect impact on SEO.
The reason is social sharing increases the visibility of your content and helps it reach a wider audience. If you have a piece of content being widely shared then it also more likely then people will link to it and it’s the links that support your SEO efforts
The great thing is that it is easy to track social visitors to your site and also tack links to your pages so you can easily see the importance of an article and if the social traffic generates sales or enquiries.
Use Social Media as part of your SEO strategy to improve brand awareness and extend the reach of your content.
18. It Doesn’t Matter How Your Content Looks
Saying it doesn’t matter how your content looks, is like saying it doesn’t matter how much of a wreck your house looks when you’re trying to sell it.
EVERYTHING about your content matters and that includes the structure and way it looks.
As we’ve moved into a digital age where we want everything instantly, even written content has to work double hard to capture people’s attention.
In the realms of SEO, the way your content looks is important because of how long people will stay to read it, and whether they take one look and exit!
If people are clicking off your website quicker than you can say ‘boring content’, you’ve got a problem, as Google wants to see users interacting with your content in a positive way.
Content on a page should be well structured and add value to the user. This helps improve time spent on a page and dwell time from a visitor from search results. These signals help influence where Google continues to rank your content.
Make your articles look great using simple things such as adding relevant imagery and subheadings, to including short video snippets or visual graphics.
19. All Links Are Good Links
Unfortunately, in the digital world, not all links are created equal, and there will be some links that can cause severe damage to your websites rankings and brand reputation.
Some of these links you might not have even asked for, but keeping an eye on where your links are coming from is vital to ensure that you don’t end up with a poor quality link that can harm your search presence.
As we’ve explained before, gaining natural links is the best way to build a strong backlink profile. These often come from high-quality websites that are perhaps in your industry or have a strong readership—for example mainstream media, business sites, sites in your niche, sites near your location etc.
Simply put a ‘good quality backlink’ is one that points to your site from a relevant and authoritative source in any format. These are classed as organic links. However links come in many forms including editorial, relationship based, guest post, directories, social, opinion pieces, podcasts, infographics etc…
Links can help improve page authority and domain authority and improve your ranking. Organic link building isn’t for the feint hearted though and can take a lot of time. This is why so many SEO agencies and companies end up building spammy links which are very easy to get.
Its certainly always worth keeping in mind quality over quantity.
In fact there are many low quality link placements that you may want to avoid including, sidebar and footer links, paid links, poor directories, comment spam to name a few.
You can check the quality of a website that is already or may link to you by using a number of SEO tools including SEMrush and Ahrefs, these will tell you how often they are linked to, and from which other websites.
Unfortunately, without tools or guidance, it should never be assumed that one size fits all with links and if working on link engagement then thorough analysis should be carried out as part of the process.
If you don’t have the budget to work with an SEO expert, keep an eye on where your links are coming from. Engage with websites you feel are truly relevant to your industry or service, and that have a reputable online presence. But remember all links are not good links, this is an SEO myth!
20. SEO Can Be Done By The IT Department
It’s funny how SEO consultants and the IT department get lumbered in the same space – this often comes from a complete misunderstanding of what SEO is. But asking someone from IT to help with your SEO is like asking a plumber to do your electrics.
The role of an SEO expert is far more extensive than just hosting and technical language. An SEO expert should understand how to fully analyse a site and provide actionable recommendations at the very least.
While there may be some technical areas your IT department could help with including server related items. You gain value from an SEO expert to help continually carry out site audits, analyse content, improve UX and develop and maintain your SEO roadmap.
21. Google My Business Will Improve Your Ranking
At RAD, we’re big fans of Google My Business (GMB), and we’ve discussed many times in a previous blog about how a Google My Business account can help you gain more local brand visibility.
However, having a Google My Business account has not been linked to improving organic ranking.
By having a Google My Business account, you also confirm to Google about where your business is located and what you do; further helping them to place you in local searches when people are seeking your particular product or service. Your results may appear in a number of places across maps or search.
You can optimise your GMB listing by remembering to fill in as much data as possible including:
- phone number
- opening hours
Research shows that almost 70% of users view businesses with complete listings as more reputable, approachable and well-established.
There are numerous benefits to having a Google My Business account. It’s easy to set-up and keep active, so it’s something we’re always recommending.
However, there are no signs that an account will help to increase your organic ranking.
Imagine Google My Business as a separate marketing tool to increase local awareness for people who search for services and businesses near their location.
Unfortunately, we may have arrived in 2020, but many of these SEO Myths are still doing the rounds and stopping many businesses from seeing online success.
Take note of our recommendations and see if you need to adjust your SEO strategy.