Debunking 2019’s Biggest SEO Myths & Misconceptions

As SEO pros, we've encountered countless myths about our field over the years. Some are minor misconceptions about how SEO works, while others are longstanding and continue to plague our industry. Let's bust some myths and clarify some things, shall we?

by Catie Leary

Inbound Marketing | SEO

Reading Time | 5 min

As SEO professionals, we’ve encountered a lot of myths about our field over the years. Some of these myths are just minor misconceptions about how SEO works, but there are some other longstanding myths that continue to plague the SEO industry. Continue below for just a few of the ones we’ve heard from clients and other professionals in the SEO industry:

1. SEO is dead!

People have been saying that SEO is dead for more than a decade, and yet, here we are.

As someone who started out their career in journalism, I am no stranger to the “X is dead!” line of thinking. But like so many things in life, journalism is not dead — it’s just evolving, and the same applies to SEO.

Now, there are certain SEO strategies and tactics from over a decade ago that have gone the way of the dodo, and for good reason. Remember long ago when people used to sneak in keywords on a page with the old “white text on a white background” trick?

SEO will exist for as long as people navigate the internet, though it will probably look and function wildly different 20 years from now as technology continues to progress.

2. SEO is a scam and/or not worth the money.

“Yeah, our company tried doing the SEO thing for a few months. Paid a lot of money, and got absolutely nothing from it.”

This is an unfortunately common experience we’ve heard from prospective clients. Sometimes it’s because they were burned by a previous SEO agency, but more often, it’s because they didn’t know what they were paying for and didn’t know how to evaluate whether they were actually getting a return on their investment.

If you’ve started doing SEO work and you aren’t seeing results you want, there are a few things to ask yourself:

  • Did I properly benchmark my SEO strategy? If you don’t know where you’re starting from, it’s impossible to measure your success or failure going forward. Benchmarking allows you to track and monitor your ROI.
  • How much time did I give it? New content and on-page SEO work can take weeks or even months to reflect in search engines. Be patient. Don’t give up after only a few months!
  • Were “black hat” SEO tactics used on my site? Gosh, we hope not. Black hat SEO is tactics that go against search engine best practices. Even if it provides you with a quick win, the win will always be temporary. Google is not afraid to penalize sites that leverage black hat SEO and warp results in a way that prevents its users from accessing the best possible results.

And if you are someone who was burned by an SEO professional in the past, don’t miss our guide for how to choose an SEO agency!

3. Content is king! It’s all that matters! Bow down!

Yes, content is the bread and butter of SEO, and no respectable SEO strategy should neglect content. That said, there are many other factors that can make or break the success of how your content ranks in search engines. How fast does your site load? Is your site secured with HTTPS and SSL? Are your titles and meta descriptions properly optimized?

These are all important questions, but there is one we see most overlooked during content creation: Does your content include links that are relevant and helpful to users?

It’s entirely possible to rank for a highly specific longtail keyword using a piece of content that doesn’t have any links. This usually happens when there is very little competition for the keyword. Sometimes a lack of competition presents a great opportunity, but more often than not, it’s indicative of a very common SEO mistake. It means the keyword you chose is so obscure that no one is even searching for it at all.

On the other hand, if you’re going after more competitive keywords and key phrases, your content may only be as strong as the links contained within. That’s because Google uses links — both internal and external — to evaluate the relevancy and authority of your content, which ultimately plays a role in how that piece of content is ranked.

Even if you’ve written the most comprehensive, definitive blog on a particular subject, it can be difficult for Google’s algorithm to understand that if you have little to no links. It’s like turning in a 30-page scholarly paper and neglecting to cite your sources or include a bibliography. Without references, your professors cannot verify whether you actually know what you’re talking about.

4. Agonizing over keyword density is an absolutely reasonable use of my time.

Please don’t fret too much if you don’t have X number of keywords in your content! Keywords do matter — it’s the foundation of how search engines function — but there are so many other factors that play a role in how your pages rank. In some cases, trying to meet a certain keyword density threshold can backfire because keyword stuffing can compromise the quality of your content.

First and foremost, focus on creating good, useful content for your site visitors. The keywords should come naturally.

5. Buying Google Ads will give me a leg up in my organic rankings.

Yikes, we hope you weren’t investing in paid advertising with the sole hope that it would boost your organic rankings! That’s simply not how it works, and Google makes it pretty clear why in their explanation of SEO vs PPC:

“Google’s first responsibility is to provide search users with the most relevant possible results. If businesses were able to pay for higher rankings in the search results, users wouldn’t be getting the information they’re looking for.”

At most, a paid advertising campaign can maybe improve your visibility on the internet in general, which can maybe provide an indirect effect on your organic SEO. But that’s not something you should bank on.

6. I must optimize for Google RankBrain.

This isn’t so much a myth, but a misunderstanding of the purpose of Google RankBrain and how it works.

RankBrain is a machine learning technology that Google uses to provide more sophisticated results based on context and search intent. It was devised out of the need to make Google’s algorithm more flexible and responsive while evaluating the millions upon millions of new content published on the internet each day. When someone searches for something that has never been searched before, RankBrain attempts to interpret the searcher’s intent and identify shared contextual patterns that relate to existing searches. This allows Google to provide relevant results to users very quickly.

RankBrain is not really something you can separately “optimize” for beyond the usual SEO tactics you’re already employing. If you’re already creating high-quality, well-linked content with search engine users in mind, then you’re inherently optimizing for RankBrain

At SiteCare, our dedicated team take the mystery out of SEO and social media. Get in touch with SiteCare to discuss our seo optimization services

Catie Leary | Contributor

Catie has spent the last 12+ years honing her digital storytelling skills as both a journalist and a content strategist. In her spare time, she enjoys powerlifting, karaoke nights with friends, reading science fiction, and hanging out with her three cats.