The most common SEO myths
Most of the web’s information about SEO is flawed. You can find many articles that describe old speculative lists of “ranking factors”. But Google is a large complex system that uses hundreds of algorithms and these algorithms influence in thousands of ways.
What you’ll find below are common myths that are often perpetrated by agencies, bloggers and freelancers.
Keyword density greatly improves page ranking.
On one hand, keywords matter.
Using them thoroughly and frequently matters. But chasing an exact percentage of keywords in a page’s text doesn’t.
In extreme cases, it’s harmful.
If you ratchet up specific keywords to a level that’s unusual for a topic, or start obsessing about your density of adverbs, Google perceives your site as a manipulative outlier and not a more relevant resource.
Also, Google recognizes synonyms, word stems like “s” and “ing”, and other variations in language. I’d even say this is the one area that they’ve improved most over the years.
One of the most popular myths is that older domains rank more strongly. It’s not true. Google’s John Mueller confirmed that domain age is not a ranking signal, tweeting, “…domain age helps nothing.”
On the other hand, very new sites — less than six months old — have trouble ranking. Many SEOs think that backlink age or other backlink factors influence rankings. That’s not true.
Even though domain age is not a ranking factor, Google may use your domain historical search data to help fight webspam. Also Google can use domain historical search data as ranking signals. That is why “old” sites can be ranked better.
Does Google give sites with a new domain a boost? No, that’s not true.
Links are the most important ranking factor
This nonsense should have died 10 years ago. But SEOs love this myth because the SEO mindset is trapped on the link building treadmill.
Frankly, in any algorithm that considers 200+ “signals”, arguing that one signal is more important than another is a waste of time. The fact of the matter is that most SEOs invest their resources in link anchor text — which only proves that links are the most important factor to SEOs rather than to search ranking algorithms.
The fact that you can rank through backlink in no way implies that links carry more weight than content.
Links are important for ranking but you mustn’t invest all your money in link building.
Site traffic and sales
Google Search algorithms do not access Google Analytics for your traffic and sales data. It would be ridiculous if Google used site traffic or sales for ranking.
But here’s the thing: there’s a lot of data-driven studies in the SEO industry that says otherwise. SEO experiments show that CTR strongly influences search rankings.
Unfortunately, SEO case studies are anecdotal. Click-rate studies are as flawed as correlation analysis (and really are just built from correlation analysis). Again, your CTR studies are not accounting for all the other things that influence search results.
Your personal search results
Everyone’s search results are personalized based on where a person is and what it is searched for and clicked on, among other things. For example, if you search for your most cherished keyword every day, ignore your own site, and click on your competitors’ sites, you may start to see those competitors ranking higher. SEOs cannot observe the web search ecosystem without changing it.
Use webmaster tools (Google, Bing, Naver< Yandex Metrica) to see your website organic traffic and actual ranking.
Alexa rank, DA and other third-party data
Data for third-party tools (Alexa, SEMrush, Ahrefs, Majestic, others) come from sources other than Google’s or Bing’s algorithm. The tools cannot perfectly measure or predict your real SEO performance for the location, target audience and keywords.
For example, SEO tools use a combination of public ranking data and analytics to estimate your traffic and sales for each keyword. They’re based in part on data. Alexa Rank, on the other hand, relies on the browsing behaviors of internet users, which Alexa then extrapolates into estimated traffic and engagement.
Ask the provider of a tool about the methods of data collection.
Ranking success of one business does not guarantee high ranks for others, even if they’re related. For example, a financial SaaS company is the only manufacturer ranking on page one in Google for “financial services.” But that doesn’t mean other financial Saas companies can rank well for “financial services” if they use those same methods and SEO techniques.
Also you should know that just because your competitor is doing it doesn’t mean it’s working for them.
Online ad (PPC) spend
Google and Microsoft both strongly deny that the amount you spend, if any, on their paid search platforms has any connection to organic rankings. You can see many brands with paid search budgets in the millions of dollars and weak organic search performance.
An apparent correlation between ad spend and organic rankings can be attributed to other factors. For example, the more you advertise, the stronger your brand recognition, presumably. Branded search queries typically rank well for that company, which should increase its organic search traffic.
Social signals are a ranking factor
Since the early 2010s, every search engine optimization blog has been slathered in posts about social signals.
These posts theorized that Google was deeply measuring from your number of followers to your poor choice on Instagram.
Most of it was wrong then. The few that are still doing it are definitely wrong now.
Mostly, it means links. Your site can drive traffic from social media. But these links can’t affect the ranking of your site.
No matter how many times a well-known person repeats a myth, it’s still just a myth.
Only these things truly matter in organic search:
- Search engines’ ability to crawl and index your site quickly and accurately (tech SEO)
- The relevance of your textual content to the queries of real people (onpage SEO)
- The quality of the signals your site sends to amplify that relevance (content marketing and off page SEO)
If you need real SEO for your business sites, you should avoid SEOs who repeat myths.