Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the best digital marketing methods you can use to grow your website traffic and sales. But SEO is harder to execute than most strategies.
It’s a time-consuming and ongoing task, with countless myths and misinformation surrounding it. Buying into these misconceptions and building your strategies around them can lead to wasted efforts.
So, let’s look at common SEO myths and debunk them with facts:
1. Duplicate Content Can Result in a Google Penalty
Duplicate content refers to content that appears on more than one web page within one website or is spread across several sites on the internet.
Many people believe that Google will penalize your website if it’s populated with duplicate content. But this isn’t true.
Google has stated many times that having duplicate content on your website does not result in a penalty.
But duplicate content can harm your website.
Google gets confused about which blog post it should rank. In some cases, it may rank pages with low-quality content that is not properly optimized. It also causes backlink dilution and bad user experience and wastes crawl budget.
So, there is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty. But duplicate content can harm your website and business in other ways. You can easily find and fix duplicate content using tools like Siteliner for free.
2. New Websites Experience the Google Sandbox Effect
Many popular bloggers used to believe that there is a special Google algorithm that prevents new websites with brand-new domain names from ranking high in Google organic results.
For example, if you have a new website with a new domain name and you’ve written a blog post, you likely will not find your blog post in the top 50 positions for that keyword within a couple of months of publishing.
People call this a sandbox effect.
But Google’s John Mueller said there is no such thing.
And the reason Google does not rank new websites so fast in search results is that it tries to understand what the website is all about. Google search algorithms also do not easily trust the content of the new website, so they experiment by ranking it a couple of times and observing the user experience through click-through rates and dwell time. This is why you see a lot of fluctuations in your Google rankings in the first year or so.
3. Longer Content Equals Higher Rankings
Another popular myth is that the more words there are in your blog post, the higher your rankings are in search results.
Many bloggers and SEOs recommend writing 3,000- to 4,000-word posts to rank higher on Google and outrank your competitors. And there are many studies to back the statement.
But this is just a correlation, and not all correlations are causations.
John Mueller said that the total number of words in a blog post is not a ranking factor in a discussion on Twitter.
But let’s think about it for a second.
If you have a query on how long it would take to become a doctor, would you like to read a 3000-word article on Google to get your information? Probably not.
You just want to know the time it takes to become a doctor – nothing more, nothing less.
Instead of looking at post length strictly, you need to decide the number of words according to the topic and query you are answering.
Fluff and filler in blog posts do not add any value to the readers, which affects user experience and, thus, rankings.
Make sure that all the information you give to your audience is highly relevant to what they’re searching for with the keyword you’re targeting.
4. More Posts Mean More Traffic
Believe it or not, the most important ranking factor is the quality of content you publish on your website. Content is king. But is it also true that the more content you post, the higher the traffic?
Again, not necessarily.
Mueller said on Twitter that more content doesn’t make your website better.
If you intend to publish blog posts daily, the quality of your blogs may decline. They become thin, spammy blogs with less information. With such low-quality articles, you can’t expect higher rankings in Google.
Instead, consider publishing fewer high-quality articles than lots of low-quality ones. This saves crawl budget, stops backlinks dilution and increases your website authority.
5. Backlinks Are Everything
There was a time back in 2010 when Google largely relied on backlinks to rank posts. But, over time, Google has been on a continuous journey to improve its algorithms, releasing one to two minor updates in its search algorithms every day.
So, backlinks are not everything for Google.
Many studies show backlinks as one of the major factors and not the only thing. And even Google employees admitted that the top three ranking factors in Google are:
Mueller himself stated that backlinks are not everything in ranking.
The value of backlinks has declined because Google has gotten better at understanding the content quality and determining whether the backlink is good or bad based on the location of links, relevance and authority of the website linking to you.
It is more about building fewer high-quality backlinks than lots of low-quality, spammy ones.
6. More Social Shares Mean Higher Rankings
Many people believe more social media shares of blogs can lead to higher rankings – because many of the blog posts with top positions also have a lot of social media shares.
But this is another case of correlation and not causation.
A couple of years ago, former Google employee and software engineer Matt Cutts revealed that the number of social shares of a blog post does not help with increasing Google rankings because social shares are easily manipulated.
And it makes sense when you think about it: If social media shares become a ranking factor, people can easily find bots and artificial intelligence (AI) tools to share blog posts with different IP addresses.
But that does not necessarily mean that social shares are not important. Social shares on Facebook and Pinterest directly mean that people are interested in learning about your content and can give you more exposure.
7. SEO Is Dead
Last but not least, many people believe that SEO is dead.
SEO was never – and never will be – dead.
According to several studies, more than 50 percent of website traffic comes from Google. And according to Ahrefs, more than 68 percent of online experiences start with Google.
Hence, SEO is very much alive. Not only that, it’s dynamic and constantly evolving. Old practices and tactics that used to work before may not work today.