One of the most effective ways to bring traffic to your website is, and has always been, SEO. If you truly want to grow your blog traffic the sustainable way, you need to use a strong, effective SEO strategy that will bring results. Unfortunately, we are bombarded every day with SEO myths that are not effective and, at worst, a complete waste of time. An abundance of time is not something we have as professionals, so every bit of it you dedicate to SEO optimization has to be spent on things that matter. We are here to cut through the noise for you by highlighting 12 SEO time-wasters circulating about. These are the techniques and practices that we know, based on information Google has given, are false.
SEO Myths to Leave Behind
SEO is an ever-evolving beast. What worked before won’t necessary work today. In fact, many of the old SEO practices that were essential five years ago are completely obsolete today.
You need to stay on top of which SEO practices are no longer helpful or useful, so you don’t end up wasting time on techniques that won’t gain you an increase in search rankings. You also need to know what practices are outdated in order to avoid possible Google penalties or devaluation of your content in the rankings.
Myth #1: Keywords Don’t Matter
There’s been a lot of information floating around that keywords don’t matter for SEO anymore. This was a myth two years ago and still is, despite all the advances made by search engines to bolster the intelligence of their algorithms.
Yes, search engines are becoming way more sophisticated in their ability to understand your content.
That’s NOT a myth.
It’s a great thing that search is becoming more refined. It means we no longer need to strategically place multiple iterations of keywords throughout every post we write.
But it doesn’t make keywords obsolete. Adding keywords multiple times throughout your text can have a negative affect on SEO efforts, for sure. You no longer need to overstate the obvious by crowding your text with keywords.
But keywords have more purpose than that. If you want people to read your content, you have to make sure it’s a subject people are actually searching for. By
Today, choosing keywords that have a high search volume, you know you are writing content that is in demand is the right way forward.
This is because you are using keywords to ensure the content you write matches what the user is searching for.
If you go back to not caring about keywords, you will lose the ability to understand what readers want. And your traffic will go away with it.
Leave behind keyword stuffing. But continue researching keywords to determine demand and competition.
Myth #2: Keywords Are Everything
There have been a lot of changes lately to Google’s algorithm and to its ability to understand search queries and deliver the best results. No longer is it necessary to force feed Google your keywords in order to be considered for those search queries.
So while keywords are still very important, their importance has changed over time. In the past, search engines relied heavily on the density of keywords on landing pages to correlate their relevance to queries. This is where the term keyword density originated.
Although there are still tools, like the Yoast plugin, that still focus on keyword density, it is no longer necessary to hit a defined ratio of keywords in content.
With Google’s Rankbrain technology, the BERT algorithm update and now Smith, Google has adequate technology to determine the context of your writing without having to include all the relevant keywords and variations.
Myth #3: New Sites Have No Chance
I think it’s fair to say that blogging has finally become a viable business and career path. There are now, more than ever, website owners who are making a very decent living from their websites.
For this reason, more and more new sites are being built every day – not as hobby blogs, but as businesses. I’ve heard so many people say they wish they’d started a site years ago when it was still viable – when the internet wasn’t already flooded with competition.
To me, this is just an excuse. It’s a myth that you can’t get a start on the internet today. In fact, more bloggers than ever before are adding a second or even third site and expanding their empire. It is a major misconception that if your site is too small or too new, you cannot rank in the search results.
In fact, I often rank on the first page for specific keywords from a site I have only had for a few months. The size and age of your site is less important to Google than the relevancy and quality of your content. Of course, if you aim to rank for keywords that are impossibly difficult, then you’re right, you won’t be able to rank.
But if you choose your keywords wisely and write incredible content, you absolutely can rank well with a brand new or small site.
Myth #4: Writing for SEO is Bad
Let’s be clear – it’s always been bad to write for SEO when you’re doing it solely for SEO’s sake.
Black-hat SEO strategies, keyword stuffing, and manipulating search results with keywords are and have always been bad. With SEO, it’s all about the approach you take. We only use SEO practices that are beneficial to our readers.
A lot of people say that you can’t write a good post if you are writing for SEO. But I disagree, and I think Google does too. SEO is a completely legitimate way to ensure that your site gets the traffic it deserves.
Writing for SEO doesn’t have to mean stuffing keywords and manipulation.
Today, writing for SEO means:
- Successfully matching your content to user intent
- Making your content discoverable to search engines by using relevant, well-researched keywords
- Structuring your content well so readers want to stay on your site longer
Myth #5: SEO is All About Backlinks
It’s true that one of the most important ranking factors for Google is backlinks. However, SEO is not just about gaining more and more backlinks. There is a lot more to it than just backlinks. And there is a lot more to backlinks than just obtaining a link.
Backlinks to your site shows Google your site is popular and worthy of ranking higher in the search results. Each backlink counts as a positive vote for your site – though some backlinks carry more weight than others.
Many people believe that purposefully building backlinks to your site is a black hat technique that should be avoided at all costs. Google has continuously said that links must be based on merit, rather than paid or building schemes.
The key is to make sure you’re not building spammy links, and you’re not just trying to “game the system”.
For more, check out our guide to building backlinks.
Combining link building with other SEO strategies, like keyword research, will bring you the most value. Building links alone will not help you build a successful site.
Myth #6: SEO is Set-It and Forget-It
As we all know, SEO is an ever evolving thing.
It doesn’t remain the same for long. You always have to be adjusting and keeping on top of things. This is why it’s a complete myth that you can optimize your site for SEO and then you’re good. It’s not a set-it and forget-it endeavor. If you pay someone to optimize your site for SEO, you might be “good to go” for 3 to 6 months, but then what?
It’s not just your content that must be kept up over time. You also need to refresh the user experience, maintain speed, monitor your backlink profile, and tackle any technical issues like broken links.
Myth #7: Gaining Traffic is Luck
This myth is probably perpetuated by those who continue to struggle to gain traffic. It’s sometimes easier to assume that gaining traffic is largely just luck.
We’ve always maintained that getting traffic isn’t magic. It doesn’t just automatically happen. It’s not based on whether your site is lucky or “liked” by Google.
Getting traffic is not magic. It’s based on a strategy and technique. You will never get anywhere significant with your blog without a solid, well-developed SEO and traffic generation strategy. Believe me, I struggled with this for many years before I realized I was ignoring the most important thing that would make my blog successful – SEO.
I thought that once I published a really well-written post, that would be enough. But it wasn’t.
Once I implemented my current SEO strategy, I saw an immediate increase of 162% in my organic traffic. Now that we consistently use this SEO strategy, over the course of a typical year, we see anywhere from 180-380% increase in organic traffic.
The strategy includes 5 parts – writing great content, keyword research, on-page, off pages, and technical factors. If you think you can get results like this without addressing all five parts, you may have to come to grips with the fact that your blog will never grow.
If you aren’t satisfied with that, start with this beginner’s guide to SEO.
Myth #8: I Already Rank So I’m Good
Have you been monitoring your stats and rankings? If not, you should. Just because you ranked in the top 10 at one point, or even in the #1 position, doesn’t mean you’ll always stay there. You need to watch out for competitors who may rise up and swipe your spot.
You need to be sure to update your posts regularly to ensure they stay in that top spot. We like to celebrate wins, and getting a post to rank at the top of Google when it’s published is one of our favorites, but it’s generally only a temporary win.
You will have to continually update the post and adjust it over time, in order to keep that ranking. SEO must be considered an ongoing effort in order for it to be viable in the long run.
Writing content and then never revisiting that content won’t work. This is why we developed Revive Old Content, an ebook that is packed with 10 advanced SEO techniques that need to be constantly applied to your website through time in order to keep old content fresh.
At the very least, to maintain your ranking, you should be updating your post on a regular basis to get rid of any outdated content, to add additional or new developments, to make sure you continue to provide a better user experience than competitors.
Myth #9: Social Media is a Ranking Factor
At face value, social media is NOT a ranking factor for Google. They’ve made that clear in many statements they’ve made. But that doesn’t mean social media has no impact on rankings.
The impact of social media on rankings is an indirect one. Social proof is relevant to Google, but they don’t factor this directly into rankings. Let me explain. Comments, likes, votes and social media engagement are not being factored into Google’s algorithm directly.
So, whether you get 2,000 likes on Facebook or zero likes, it’s all the same to them. However, social media efforts are integral to brand building and can have a lasting impact on factors that do matter to SEO, like brand recognition and click-through rate.
The more people who click into your site, and are engaged with your brand, the better. And it tends to be those brands that have a clear presence on social media and are regularly engaging with their audience that build brand loyalty.
Myth #10: The Ideal Content Length is 2,400 Words
It has been proven in many studies that the most successful posts – the ones that rank at the top of the search engines – are on average between 2,350 and 2,425 words. It may then appear that the ideal length for all content is around 2,400 words.
However, that’s not necessarily the case. Content length DOES matter, but according to Google, it’s not based on an ideal word count.
What Google says is that the ideal length is based on user satisfaction. Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines says that “The amount of content necessary for the page to be satisfying depends on the topic and purpose of the page.
A high-quality page on a broad topic with a lot of available information will have more content than a high-quality page on a narrower topic.”
For instance, many food/recipe posts are much shorter than travel or health-based posts. This is because readers don’t expect or require as much information.
Myth #11: You Can’t Rank Well With a Low Domain Authority
Domain authority is a measure of the power of your domain to perform well in the search engine rankings, based on a set of factors created by a separate entity from Google (or any search engine). It’s just a metric Moz.com created to gauge the quality of a site, based on around 40 different factors, including things like backlinks and overall link profile, size, speed and age of a site.
While Moz.com attempts to mimic Google’s algorithm to create their score, domain authority has absolutely no effect on your Google rankings and cannot determine where you will rank with any real accuracy. I can say with absolute certainty that having a low domain authority score does not mean your site cannot and will not rank in the SERPs.
I have successfully ranked dozens of articles from my brand new sites with either no or low domain authority on the first page of Google. Google doesn’t care that my domain authority is low.
Furthermore, Google doesn’t ONLY rank high authority, long-standing sites. Your ultimate success in the SERPs comes down to a hundreds of little factors that Google doesn’t divulge. This is why it’s so important to use a proven SEO strategy that aims to tackle as many of the factors as possible.
Myth #12: You Can Beat Algorithm Changes
For whatever reason, Google’s algorithm changes have been leading to more drastic adjustments in rankings lately. Website owners have seen dramatic ups and downs in traffic in relation to algorithm changes.
The problem with algorithm changes is that Google often doesn’t divulge what went into the adjustment that could have caused such drastic fluctuations. They just say they are “improving” results. Sometimes their algorithm changes include dozens of little tweaks. They aren’t the Hummingbird and Penguin updates of the past.
For this reason, it’s impossible to do anything to beat the algorithm changes. It’s also not wise to start thinking there must inevitably be something drastically wrong with your site that made Google devalue it in the rankings. Google has repeatedly given the advice that there’s nothing you can do to “fix” your site and improve your rankings. They advice that you just continue to create and deliver great content.
Am I’m saying that you should resign yourself to this fact? Yes, in many ways, it will help your sanity to accept that we are at the mercy of Google for organic traffic. However, it is still up to you to make sure that your site is as amazing as it can be, in every way possible. If there are things you can improve – do so!
Check out my guide on how to handle algorithm changes.
What are Google’s most important ranking factors?
Now that you know the most common myths in SEO, and what things to avoid in order to increase your traffic without wasting time, we want to make sure you also know what the most important ranking factors are, so you can even further concentrate your efforts.
These are the three things that Google has clearly stated are their most important ranking factors.
Keep in mind, these can change, but for now, it seems fairly unlikely that they will any time soon.
- Content – While content has always been a major ranking factor, it is now more so than ever. Google’s main objective is to provide the very best content available to its users. If you don’t have the very best content, how will you compete with the other 500+ million blogs (plus millions of other businesses)? You have to stay laser-focused on providing the best, most comprehensive and user-satisfying content you possibly can.
- Backlinks – Backlinks are what show Google that your site is popular and deserves to be featured. The more you have the better. Just keep in mind, as discussed earlier, not all backlinks are created equal. And Google is very much against obtaining spammy links. Your backlink profile reflects on you, so keep it pristine.
- Google’s RankBrain – Do you know what RankBrain is? It is a component of Google’s ranking methodology that uses machine learning to determine the most relevant results to search engine queries. In general, it’s a way they assess content to make sure they are accurately matching the user’s intent with the content. This is one reason why keyword stuffing, or using many variations of a keyword, is less relevant and useful today. RankBrain can accurately assess the meaning of the content and how it matches with a keyword thanks to machine learning. The main impact this has on SEO is that we no longer need to include every variation of a keyword in order to rank for that keyword. We now need to make sure our content is 100% targeted to the user intent of the keyword.
While SEO remains one of the most important things you can do to ensure the success of your website, you can now see just how important it is not to believe everything you hear. And not to waste your time on practices that are not true, or are outdated. We hope you’ll use our free resources and helpful SEO tips to better understand and use it on your own site.