SEO is like having a child. It constantly needs attention, rarely does what you expect, and it’s pretty much a full-time job!
Huge algorithm shifts and years of outdated information and mistruths has made it a minefield. You think you’re moving in the right direction… then BOOM!
With so much misinformation and so-called “facts” waiting for you at every turn, it’s hard to know what’s effective and what is defective.
Most information is wildly outdated. What worked 5 years ago could be as useless as a waterproof tea bag today.
Google is much smarter than people give it credit for. Huge advances with AI and deep machine learning lets it understand much more than it ever has before.
So, let’s get started. How many of these common SEO myths are you going to be guilty of in 2019?
1 – Using Exact Match Keywords in Content
This might have been true up to a few years ago. But with Google’s evolution, exact match keywords in your content no longer need to be quite as exact.
Technological advancements, such as LSI keywords (latent semantic indexing) help search engines like Google gain a deeper understanding of your content context.
As voice search is set to account for more than 50% of all searches by 2020, natural sounding speech is not only recommended, but encouraged. It’s time to optimise content for voice based searches.
This means that using stop words in your keywords and utilising semantically related phrases can both work to help your SEO efforts.
You can write for the search engines using unnatural sounding keywords. And sure, you might get the rankings that you want. But when the user faces unnatural sounding content, you can bet your bottom dollar that they are going to bounce like a rubber ball!
Just to show you that stop words and word order don’t interfere with primary keyword search volumes and top three placement, here are a few screenshots of variants of one keyword:
See, the keyword may not be an exact match, but its intent remains the same… and Google knows this.
And the first page ranking for the top 3 websites using each variation?
Top 3 sites are identical across the board. And every single site on the first page remains on the first page. Clever old Google!
If you can weave an exact match into the title or headings, awesome. But the main thing to remember here is that Google focuses on user intent… and has done for several years now.
Forcing unnatural keywords into your text creates poorly constructed content. And that can cause more damage than good to your rankings.
Focus on checking how each variation weighs up and check the metrics, then use a mix of them if you can. Stop words (articles, conjunctions, etc.) are rapidly rising in search volume, so ignoring them is not really best practice.
Even Yoast, an avid campaigner for avoiding stop-words has backtracked on its previous stance.
Remember: poor user experience = high bounce rate. High = bounce rate is a signal your content isn’t delivering.
2 – SEO is About Ranking Number One on Google
Taking that top spot on the first page of Google is what everyone aims to achieve, and that is a good target to have.
But here’s the thing:
Whether you rank number one, number five or number 10 on the first page of the SERPs, your organic site traffic is going to explode.
When people perform a search, they rarely only ever visit one page. When it comes to gathering information, several sources are usually required.
So while you definitely want to have your keywords rank on the first page of the SERPs, hitting number one is no more advantageous than hitting number five.
And even if you do hit that top spot on Google, rich snippets, PPC ads, Google’s answer box, maps and more are still likely to be above you.
For ranking success, it’s all about being on page one, not being number one. So focus on a broad range of keywords instead of trying to push just one or two into the top spot.
3 – Google Penalises Duplicate Site Content
This is a big one that circulates worldwide. You’ll see it left, right and centre… and it’s really not what some people make it out to be.
In fact, Google have confirmed on more than one occasion that duplicate content does not result in site penalties.
So what is actually going on here?
Let’s say that you’re a new website and you have simply copied and pasted content from another site onto your own…
Google doesn’t look at it and say “this is duplicate content, let’s give them a penalty.” It just ignores the content completely!
And this is where this myth arose from.
People were snatching content and using it on their own sites… and not ranking for it. Even though the site they took it from was on the first page!
The search engines know that duplicate content happens on a website for several reasons. So no, you are not going to be penalised for it.
However, now that you know Google simply ignores duplicate content, any duplicate content you have should be optimised so that it can rank in the SERPs.
4 – One Tool can Fix it All
You’ll see tools everywhere on the internet claiming that they have an all-in-one solution for fixing your SEO.
In a perfect world, this would be true. But this world is far from perfect…
That is not to say that there are not some truly useful SEO tools out there. But none of them are a magic solution to instantly fix all of your SEO problems on your behalf.
One of the best SEO tools that anyone can use for their website is SEMrush. Automated report detailing exactly what needs to be changed or fixed go a long way with pointing you in the right direction.
Of course, unless you are a site developer with a detailed knowledge of how to execute everything in the report, you’re going to find it tough.
Luckily, the internet is filled with useful ‘how-to’ guides and forums where you can find all of the guidance and information you need to crack on with it.
If you don’t perform a regular site audits, you won’t know what needs to be fixed. And any software that says it can fix everything for you automatically, well… we have a magical unicorn for sale for just $100,000.
5 – Header Tags are Irrelevant
Nope. Header tags are not and have never been irrelevant.
Now, we are not saying that they are a major ranking factor. Nor are they the be-all and end-all of your pages syntax.
But they definitely go a long way with helping Google and the other search engines understand your website’s content.
Using your primary keywords and semantically related keywords in your title, H1 and H2 headers, along with in your content can have a positive effect on your SEO efforts.
6 – No Sitemap Equals No Ranking
Here’s another common myth that circulates the internet like a fly around your head in summer.
Now, we are not denying that having a sitemap is useful. After all, it helps the search engines get a deeper understanding of your site structure.
However… not having a sitemap does not have an impact on where your site will rank in the SERPs.
This is especially true for small sites that have properly structured site navigation.
Of course, the larger your website is, the more a sitemap will help the search engines understand what they are looking at. And then crawl an index it much faster.
But the main point to take home from this is that having a sitemap will not boost your rankings… just help the search engines crawl and index with ease.
Not a bad thing to have really. But not the end of the world if you don’t.
7 – Avoid Outbound Links
You’ve probably heard this one before, but it goes a little something like this…
having too many outbound links on your website will pause your PageRank to drop.
First things first: PageRank is long gone for SEO average Joe’s.
Anyone who uses PageRank as a reason not to use outbound links needs to build a time machine and head back to 2013… you know, when the Google toolbar got rid of it.
The only ones who measure PageRank are Google… and as is becoming more and more common with the search engine giant, what happens in Google stays in Google.
Secondly: Google does not penalise people for using outbound links. In fact, it looks like the complete opposite. Websites linking to authoritative and useful resources are actually rewarded.
Yes, it’s true that the website you linked to receives a little bit of your domain authority. But you know what? That’s the whole point of outbound links.
You are voting for the site that you link too by telling Google “hey, I vouch for this site.”
Of course, you need to make sure that any site or content that you linked to is related to your page content or niche.
Want to save some of your link juice? Throw in a ‘nofollow’ tag.
At the end of the day, if there were no outbound links used on the internet, there would be no inbound links (backlinks).
Just make sure that what you linked to makes total sense to the search engines when it looks at both website’s content.
8 – Blackhat SEO Doesn’t Work
This is something that we’re not too happy to admit to… but blackhat SEO absolutely can work when done right. Especially when performed by someone who knows what they are doing.
But just because something works doesn’t make it right. And black hat SEO is seriously risky business for your website.
Just like the black market, black hat SEO usage loopholes, underhanded tactics, and often goes against the rules set by the search engines.
Sure, you could pay someone to cheat your way to the top. But when Google finds out, and Google always finds out, your business will be banned (de-indexed) from the search engines.
This is why, although dodgy tactics can work, it’s always better to play by the rules and develop your SEO strategies over time.
Building your rankings and developing your website is a marathon, not a sprint. Be the tortoise, not the hare… and reap the rewards for decades to come.
9. Meta Descriptions are a Ranking Factor
A few years back, meta descriptions were taking into account as part of the ranking decision. 2009 saw this all change.
Now, while meta descriptions are no longer a ranking factor, that’s not to say that they are not important. They are!
We like to keep bouncing back to user experience (UX), and a meta description can really help.
Google might not care about it anymore, but people do. It gives them an insight into what the content is about and if it’s what they are looking for.
Plugins, such as Yoast can help you create a personalised meta description. This prevents any text from being cut off in the SERPs. Thus giving the user a complete picture of what lies ahead.
A keyword here or there won’t hurt. After all, the meta description is read by the search engines for further content context.
But the main thing to remember is to always write for people and not the search engines.
10. Link building is More Important than Content
This one is probably one of the most ridiculous one on this list. link building is more important than content!
See, if you dedicate all of your time to link building, you have no time for creating content.
And here is where the problem lies.
Without quality content, people have nothing to link back to!
Of course, link building is hugely important when it comes to SEO. And having several high-quality links pointing to your site can help the search engines decide when to show you over the competition.
But to be able to attract these highly sought-after links, you first need to focus on providing high-quality content.
In fact, high quality content can generate organic links that you don’t have to work on to get.
When it comes to SEO, content is king and backlinks are brilliant. But your main focus should be content that offers value and generates natural links before moving on to link building strategies.
If you really want to know which SEO methods work, ignore what the ‘so-called’ experts are saying and look at what they are doing.
If they tell you that meta descriptions should be less than 140 characters, but they use 160, they aren’t practicing what they preach.
If they say that you’re header body copy should be less than 300 words and then go on to use 600, again, they go against what they say.
Site speed not important? Yet their site loads almost instantly… you can guarantee they spend time and money making sure it is as fast as possible.
Basically, what we are saying is that while the internet is filled with useful SEO advice, take what you read with a pinch of salt.
Many people don’t mean to add fuel to the fire by spouting out more and more myths and outdated information. But this is where a little bit of research truly comes into play.
Focus on what works… but don’t be afraid to try new methods.
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