seo myths

13 SEO Myths: From Backlinks to Google Ranking Factors

Wondering how to separate SEO myths from facts?

SEO has attracted its share of self-styled experts whose advice isn’t always reliable.

In this article, we’ll cover some common SEO myths so you can become more confident in your SEO knowledge.

SEO Myth #1: SEO is a One-Time Action

Some aspects of SEO require a one-time action. But to rank well requires ongoing discipline.

This is because multiple parties are involved in rankings, including

  • Prospects
  • Competitors
  • Search engines

Winning new rankings and maintaining the ones you have is all part of SEO. And because the goal is to connect to new readers, subscribers, or customers, SEO is never completed.

New market entrants will try to bypass you in the rankings. Competitors will publish new content. And algorithms evolve. So, the SEO playing field is constantly changing.

The good news is adopting simple SEO disciplines can have an outsized impact.

SEO Myth #2: You Can Buy the #1 Spot on Google

One of the most common SEO scams is the email that promises a #1 slot on Google within a set time period.

Not even Google knows what will be in the #1 slot, let alone when.

Also, a #1 slot is only meaningful for a relevant keyword that advances your website goals.

Consider: We found an electrician’s site ranking for “Halloween pumpkin LED lights.” The site was not local, and we’re confident no one will hire an electrician to place battery-powered LED lights in their pumpkins.

Learn how to protect yourself against SEO scams.

SEO Myth #3: DIY SEO is Hard

Many aspects of running a small business are a slog, and SEO can be a slog, too.

But there’s never been a better time to learn and practice DIY SEO.

Here’s why.

  • All of the most popular website platforms have easy-to-use built-in SEO options.
    • Drupal has modules
    • Joomla has extensions
    • WordPress has plugins
  • These options often come with free support from SEO professionals.
  • SEO how-to information is abundant online.

For example, WordPress plugins like All in One SEO (AIOSEO) make technical aspects of SEO as easy as clicking buttons and filling out forms.

aioseo homepage

All in One SEO was designed to be beginner-friendly without compromising on results. So sitemaps, schema, local SEO, and content optimization are easily learned and handled through the plugin.

If you can read, click a button, and fill out a form, you can learn SEO.

Of all SEO myths, the idea that DIY SEO is hard is perhaps the most unfortunate because it causes people to give up before they try.

Don’t let this myth keep you from enjoying improved rankings.

SEO Myth #4: Word Count is an Article Ranking Factor

Despite the popularity of this idea, there’s no evidence that word count is a ranking factor. Yet many bloggers believe everything they post has to be 2,000 words or longer.

This idea likely came from various research tests that found a correlation between “long” articles and articles ranking in the top slots on Google.

However, correlation isn’t causation. So, how should we think about these findings?

  1. Quality is the most critical ranking factor.
    Often, a writer will win a featured snippet or top ranking because he produced an article that is more comprehensive than competing articles. Because of the additional detail, the article may be longer than competing articles further down the rankings.
  2. Conversely, an article that is easier to understand and better organized or includes original thought may bump competitors out of their slots. And this may not require producing a long article.
  3. Long articles of poor quality won’t help you rank.

SEO Myth #5: Meta Tags Aren’t Important

Meta tags in SEO refer to your page title and meta description. The latter is a short description that appears in search results.

These 2 factors can.

  • Help Google match your page to related search queries.
  • Persuade searchers to click through to your site.

Don’t ignore meta tags. Instead, learn how to use them to your advantage.

Five SEO myths down, 8 to go!

SEO Myth #6: Algorithm Updates Mean You Have to Start Over Again

Google uses hundreds of algorithms, but major algorithmic updates, like Panda and Penguin, bury some sites while elevating others.

This sends SEO professionals scurrying to recover their clients’ rankings.

But algorithms don’t penalize sites. Instead, they sort sites by factors that are related to quality.

If there’s one lens through which to understand best Google’s algorithm changes, it’s quality.

SEO Myth #7: AI-Generated Content is Good for SEO

We all like a good shortcut. Following the release of ChatGPT, there was a tsunami of posts claiming you could use it for all your content needs and get rich quick.

ChatGPT could write your articles, optimize them for SEO, create clever headlines, and maybe even cook dinner for you.

So, what’s the lowdown on ChatGPT and related content generation tools?

Emergent technologies commonly go through a hype cycle before hitting their stride.

They can be powerful productivity tools, but you shouldn’t use them to wholly generate articles. Instead, use ChatGPT and Bard as co-pilots, providing ideas and speeding up mundane tasks.

As with all AI tools, the user must steer the process and make the decisions.

Over the years, Google has refined its algorithm to better identify and reward quality content. “Quality” doesn’t just mean factual, fluent, and grammatically correct. It infers a distinctly human element, such as the authority that comes from personal experiences, work experience, and original insights. Of course, AI tools don’t have experience or insights.

Accuracy is also essential for rankings, and artificial intelligence is known to hallucinate.

Not All AI Content Platforms are the Same

Here, it’s worth noting that for years, the Associated Press has been using AI to generate news stories on corporate earnings and sports scores.

This makes sense when the fact source is an unimpeachable database. The AP uses a platform called Wordsmith by Automated Insights. This setup is very different from ChatGPT’s.

  • Users provide datasets to the platform. So, accuracy is not a concern.
  • The data is fed into templates created by users.
  • The templates are set up to include phrasing variations, so not all stories sound the same.

You can see how corporate earnings reports can easily be automated this way.

With this nuanced topic of generative AI addressed, we have 3 more myths to obliterate.

SEO Myth #8: Website Traffic is the Most Important Metric

While website traffic is important, it’s only meaningful in the context of website goals, like conversions and sales.

To understand why less website traffic is sometimes better, consider the analogy of foot traffic in a restaurant.

Sam’s Soup & Sandwiches is a small cafe offering free internet service and unlimited soda refills. He’s been getting a lot of foot traffic lately. But lots of people come in just to use the free wifi.

Some of the wifi users spend the whole afternoon there. Maybe they pay for a soda but not a meal. In this case, Sam would be fine with less traffic if he had more people willing to buy his lunches or dinners.

So, as you use SEO to grow traffic, be sure to clarify who your target audience is so your site can attract the right kind of traffic.

Perhaps one of the best-known SEO myths, the idea that link building always works can be misleading.

Link-building includes backlink campaigns (getting other sites to link to yours) and internal linking (adding links within your website).

While backlinks are a ranking factor, not all links are equal. Low-quality links, such as those from spammy sites, can harm your SEO. And there is no evidence that quantity of backlinks is as important as quality.

Instead, the relevance and quality of the referring domains (the sites linking to yours) are key.

Learn more about backlinks and paid links in SEO.

Next, let’s look at one of the most widely disseminated SEO myths.

SEO Myth #10: Bounce Rate is a Ranking Factor

Because Google’s algorithms are proprietary, SEO professionals have run numerous tests to try to guess which factors influence ranking.

In this process, they often use correlation as a stand-in for causation. As a result, some SEO myths come from experts. From there, the myths multiply as other writers repeat the same claims.

“Bounce rate is a ranking factor” was one of these guesses that spread online.

Google’s John Mueller has stated, “I think there’s a bit of a misconception here that we’re looking at things like the analytics bounce rate when it comes to ranking websites, and that’s definitely not the case.”

Learn more in Is Bounce Rate a Ranking Factor?

SEO Myth #11: Google Uses Domain Authority Scores to Rank Your Website

Some professional-level SEO tools, like Moz, Semrush, and Ahrefs, that have created proprietary scores for ranking websites. These numerical scores go by various names, such as “domain authority” or “domain ranking.”

Based on a logarithmic scale, the scores go up to 100 and are proxies for understanding the quality, influence, and authoritativeness of a website.

While useful, they’re not perfect. For example, someone can buy a domain with a high score, and turn it into a spam blog to earn revenue by participating in link schemes.

As proxies, these scoring systems were created by software companies, not Google.

On this topic, Google’s John Mueller has explained that “Google doesn’t use ‘domain authority.'”

SEO Myth #12: Social Media Signals are a Ranking Factor

Social media platforms can be an effective way to boost awareness of your brand, market your content, and (with YouTube) entice a target audience to think about your offerings. But social signals, such as “likes” and “shares,” don’t impact your website rankings, according to Google’s own experts.

John Mueller was asked this question in a webinar: “Do social signals have an impact on organic rankings in Google?”

His answer, in part:

Not directly, no. So it’s not that there’s any kind of a ranking effect there. To a large part, social networks also have a nofollow on the links that they . . . provide when they post this content. So it’s not the case that that would give you any kind of a ranking boost there.

What you do sometimes see, however, is that these social posts show up in the search results . . . they can rank for your keywords, they can rank for product name . . .

Creating content on topics that people search for is important for SEO, but social media links to your content won’t influence its organic rankings.

Google’s Greg Illyes concurred: “And that’s where social media comes handy. It’s not because SEs search engines] will rank you better, that’s BS, but because you market your content.” [Source: Twitter]

“[M]ost social media links count as much as a single drop in an ocean,” he added.

Learn about the differences between SEO and social media.

SEO Myth #13: You Need Expensive Digital Tools in Order to Rank

It’s not necessary to use any tools, let alone expensive ones, to rank well in search results. Knowledge and a focus on the fundamentals are necessary, however.

Low-cost WordPress SEO plugins do make technical tasks like generating sitemaps and adding schema markup as easy as clicking a button. And they can provide a helpful checklist for improving your content.

Expensive tools are typically used by professional teams that need to scale content operations up across multiple sites. Furthermore, these tools, like MarketMuse or Clearscope, can be misused by novices. For example, a misunderstanding of “terms” may lead to keyword stuffing, which can sink your SEO.

These tools also do not provide the irreplaceable aspects of quality content, like original insights.

So, even with pricey tools that use machine learning and AI, the judgment and knowledge of the user is key.

A good SEO strategy should focus on the unsexy fundamentals, not expensive tools.

What’s Next?

We hope this post was useful for identifying some common SEO myths. When you know what to think, you’ll know what to do.

You may also want to check out other articles on our blog, like how to set up SEO for different languages and how to use a WordPress FAQ block to boost SEO.

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author avatar
Sherrie Gossett Content Writer
Sherrie is an SEO analyst based in New Hampshire in the United States. When she’s not busy researching, implementing, and writing about new SEO developments, she can be found hiking and playing guitar.

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