There is a lot of misinformation on the Web around SEO. You find them everywhere from blog posts, white papers, e-books to videos and infographics.
Some of this information is written by SEO and non-SEO practitioners who claim to be "experts".
I used the term "non-SEO practitioners" here because many SEO articles are not written by the experts themselves and instead hire a content writer who researches and then come up with some articles.
Also, in my SEO development journey, I have come across some experts still using some of the confusing terms in the search engine optimization process.
One of these terms is "LSI keywords". I'm sure you might have come across this as well, if you're not, I'm here to tell you that the term LSI keywords in SEO
Maybe there was a term like LSI keywords in Google some decades back before I even know what the SEO acronym stands for… But all I know is - I can't relate to any patented papers where Google mentioned LSI keywords as a ranking signal - or such in its ranking system of pages.
And so, some "experts" advise using LSI keywords - everywhere possible if you must rank on page 1.
Before I dive into some of these SEO myths, here are some resources you may want to follow or subscribe to; to validate the information you come across on the internet.
Google publishes helpful resources on several blogs about what they're doing, the latest information and updates to their service, which you'll need to subscribe to.
For direct QA, you may even want to follow Google webmasters evangelists on Twitter.
Myth 1 - About TrustRank
Myth: Google uses TrustRank to rank pages on the SERP.
Reality: Google doesn't use TrustRank in its system of ranking. Although, they have stated that "trust" may become a ranking signal… it has not to do with TrustRank.
TrustRank is a Yahoo initiative that was launched to combat Web Spam in 2004. Its purpose is to identify spammy pages on the Web. And Itself is never a ranking factor even in Yahoo search engine.
Here's an excerpt from the abstract of the release paper.
“Web spam pages use various techniques to achieve higher-than-deserved rankings in a search engine's results. While human experts can identify spam, it is too expensive to manually evaluate many pages. Instead, we propose techniques to semi-automatically separate reputable, good pages from spam. We first select a small set of seed pages to be evaluated by an expert. Once we manually identify the reputable seed pages, we use the link structure of the web to discover other pages that are likely to be good."
I recommend you read this paper to have a full understanding of TrustRank: combating web spam with TrustRank.
Myth 2: About Sitemap
Myth - Submitting your sitemap to Google will boost your rankings.
Reality - XML Sitemap helps search engines and users navigate your site easily. While it may help in indexing your web pages, it doesn't guarantee any ranking.
Here is a statement from Google webmasters blog:
"A Sitemap does not affect the actual ranking of your pages. However, if it helps get more of your site crawled (by notifying us of URLs we didn't previously didn't know about, and/or by helping us prioritize the URLs on your site), that can lead to increased presence and visibility of your site in our index."
For your knowledge; follow this link for more about sitemap on Google.
Myth 3: About SEO
Myth: SEO is long dead.
Reality: SEO is not just alive is fast evolving into what businesses cannot do without. The only way to gain quick exposure for your brand is through search engines. And only SEOs provide that.
Myth 4: About Ranking
Myth: SEO is all about ranking on search engines - your focus should be on ranking.
Reality: This is a big misconception: It's true that people will see your listings, but it does not mean you will get more click-throughs.
The truth is...
While there’s a strong correlation between search results placement and clickthrough rates, ranking is not the supreme end goal that it used to be.
You're in business to make a profit to fulfil company purpose.
Myth 5: About HTTPS
Myth: HTTPS means nothing in SEO. It's only important in cybersecurity.
Reality: Can you give your credit card information to someone you don't trust?
If your answer is no then,
Here's the reality, Google has publicly stated that two websites which are otherwise equal in search results, but one has HTTPS enabled and the other uses HTTP, Google says the one with HTTPS will receive a higher ranking.
In fact, up to 85% of people have stated that they will not continue browsing on a site that's not secure, according to a recent survey from HubSpot Research.
The difference the "s" in HTTP(s) makes on the traditional HTTP is huge - it protects your information such as when you're processing transactions online with your credit card. Encrypting your details so that hackers can’t intercept any of your data.
Myth 6: About keywords
Myth: If you must rank, you must always make your keywords an exact match.
Reality: An exact match everywhere in your content will only get you in trouble with search engines like Google. Keywords stuffing is totally against search engines guidelines - and the only result is a penalty.
Google is growing really fast in understanding - beyond keywords - semantic search, words and words association - synonyms just to match query to relevant web pages.
Myth 7: About More pages
Myth: The more the number of pages on a website, the higher the ranking.
Reality: The common notion that if you have more pages, you will get a higher ranking and more traffic to your website is far from the truth.
Is good to create content. But, check your website, are the content relevant, original and useful - you may have to check your Google analytics for insight.
Your content should be focused on quality - one that adds values - not quantity, which will not attract any backlinks.
As of February 2011, Google’s Panda algorithm has been getting better at detecting content that adds no value to visitors.
And Google confirmed (via Twitter) in March 2018, that they're still committed to policing quality through the release of a broad core algorithm update that rewards sites with informative search results.
Myth 8: About User Experience (UX)
Myth: You can focus on user experience later. First, increase your rankings on search engines. User experience is just a bonus and not a ranking factor.
Reality: User experience is a ranking factor.
Search engines want to delight their users with a good experience on whatever site they're endorsing as - safe-to-browse, easy-to-navigate and that the content is relevant.
They don't like their users stuck on a website whether due to slow page speed, bad navigation, or poorly written content. And that's why they spend time on their algorithms
To improve your website’s user experience, you’ll want to focus on things like page load time, bounce rate, time on page, page views per visit, and
how far a person scrolls down the page.
And the only solution to this is quality content.
Myth 9: About Heading 1 tag
Myth: The H1 tag is the most important on-page element.
Reality: H1 is still important, but it’s not the most important element on your pages. Think of the content structure on your webpage as an outline, which gives organisation and structure to your content.
All other header tags have similar weight H1, H2, H3 and in general, are only used for structuring purposes.
The myth surrounding this is that, when writing content, you'll want to start with a header - and subsequently subheadings. And so, you'll often want to place the header in a bigger font size and also, you'll want your keywords to appear as soon as possible - close to the beginning - so that people and search engines can quickly detect what the content is all about.
Myth 10: About image optimization
Myth: Images don't require optimization, after all, Google can see the image itself.
Reality: Google is still working hard to detect and read images. There's a gradual improvement though.
But the best way to make Google crawlers know the purpose of an image - whether is to augment the message in the text, is to state clearly within an alt attribute tag what the image is and what's adding to the text content.
You'll need to optimize your image to allow it features in the snippet by referencing it in your text using keywords.
Google also recommends providing descriptive titles and captions for your images, so consider adding those when relevant.
Myth 11: About domain age
Myth: The age of my domain will help me rank well on Google.
Reality: "Does Google care if you registered your site in 1998 or 2008 or 2016? No, they don't care at all. They only care about the degree to which your content actually helps people and that you have links and authority signals and those kinds of things."
- Rand Fishkin
Many people believe that older domains perform better in search results but that's not true. According to Matt Cutts, domain age is a pretty insignificant factor, especially after a site has been around for two or three months.
Myth 12: About local SEO
Myth: It's all about the real SEO. Local SEO doesn't matter anymore.
Reality: Which is the "real" SEO?
According to Moz’s 2019 “State of Local SEO Industry Report,” 64% of surveyed marketers agree that Google is becoming the new local business “homepage,” displaying more information about a business directly within the SERP than ever before.
This means that you must have an SEO strategy in place to control what information Google displays.
If you sell plumbing material only and you optimize for plumbing repairs - you know what that means - zero conversion!
In July of 2014, Google took a major step to release a dedicated algorithm - the Pigeon algorithm. The algorithm treats local search rankings more like traditional search rankings, taking hundreds of ranking signals into account - including proximity.
So, going forward, Google will continue to take steps to improve the "local pack" with more and more relevant local businesses.
Myth 13: About Google
Myth: Google is biased. It tends to favour certain industries or niches or some categories of websites.
Reality: Google's algorithms hold no grudges and are not biased the way some people think.
If your site is penalized, then you must have breached one of its guidelines. And if you think your ranking is dropping, check to see if there's any core update in recent times.
Most times when there's an update, you may likely see fluctuations in your ranking. Know that you're not the only one affected. And things do bounce back within a short time.
Check to see the webmasters guidelines, you might just be doing something that's not in line with it.
Myth 14: About EAT
Myth: EAT is a ranking factor.
Reality: E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) is a concept Google introduced in the 2014 edition of the Search Quality Guidelines.
E-A-T serves as one of the guidelines for reviewers to use to measure the extent to which a website offers expert content that can be trusted - and thus, authoritative.
“For all other pages that have a beneficial purpose, the amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) is very important.”Google
Myth 15: About EAT (continue)
Myth: EAT itself is an algorithm that Google uses together with hundreds of algorithms.
Reality: EAT is not an algorithm on its own.
Gary Illyes in a recent Q&A session said;
“Google has a collection of millions of tiny algorithms that work in unison to spit out a ranking score. Many of those baby algorithms look for signals in pages or content - that can be conceptualized as E-A-T."
So, what Google does is look for signals from its algorithms both on and off-site that correlate with good or bad E-A-T, such as PageRank, which signals authoritativeness.
Myth 16: About links vs content
Myth: More links are better than more quality content
Reality: This is something that often comes along with the question, “Which should I invest in, link building or content generation?” Links are an important part of your website’s authority.
But, My question is linked to what? Empty site? Poor and thin content?
Content remains the king. And link building is an effective way to promote it.
Myth 17: About SEO plugins
Myth: Installing Yoast or RankMath is SEO and search engines will start ranking your pages.
Reality: SEO isn't just about installing a plugin and expecting it will do all of the work. It takes a lot of careful planning and works to make your site SEO-friendly.
In fact, you can do SEO without plugins. Yoast, All-in-one SEO or other SEO plugins only make it easier to edit keywords into your desired elements.
Think of hand-coded websites that are not run on any of the CMS like WordPress. And you still do the SEO.
Myth 18: About word count
Myth: Pages must have an ideal word count to have a chance of being ranked better on search results.
Reality: Many answers to questions provided in the featured snippets on the SERP have only 100-150 words on the page.
There's no magical formula to ascertain the right word count that is going to enable you to rank better on search engines.
But, creating content around the searcher's intent is the only way you can rank better on SERP.
Myth 19: About Keywords density
The Myth: A certain keyword density ( the number of times a keyword appears on a page compared to the total number of words on the page is necessary for high rankings.
The Reality: In reality, this isn't part of algorithms used by Google, as the ratio of Keywords to other words is not an indicator of quality.
Google has advanced way beyond using keywords and instead, focuses on context, synonyms, and natural language analysis.
With the introduction of Berth, and RankBrain together with the principal algorithm - the Hummingbird - the focus has now shifted from keywords.
Myth 20: About Duplicate Content
Myth: Duplicate content can cause your site to be penalized by Google.
Reality: Duplicate content doesn’t cause your site to be penalized. Googlers know that users want diversity in the search results and not the same article over and over, so they choose to consolidate and show only one version.
Myth 21 - About Site Submission
Myth: You must submit your site to Google before they can find your website and index it.
Reality: While you can submit your site to Google, it's not a must - Google can still find it and index it. Site submission doesn't guarantee any ranking on search engines.
"When you do a Google search, you aren’t actually searching the web. You’re searching Google’s index of the web, or at least as much of it as we can find.
We do this with software programs called spiders.
Spiders start by fetching a few web pages, then they follow the links on those pages and fetch the pages they point to, and follow all the links on those pages, and fetch the pages they link to, and so on until we’ve indexed a pretty big chunk of the web; many billions of pages stored on thousands of machines.”- Matt Cutts
For your knowledge: read from the Google help centre
Summing it up…
Understanding the realities in SEO will make you both more effective and efficient with your organic search strategy.
Now that you know some of the common myths and misconceptions in SEO, what misconception in SEO do you have before now or which one do you know is common that you'll like to share with us?
Drop it in the comment below.