Have you ever found yourself tangled in the web of SEO myths that seem to circulate endlessly in the digital marketing world? If so, you’re not alone. The ever-evolving nature of SEO has given birth to numerous misconceptions that can lead even the most seasoned marketers astray. Today, I am here to set the record straight and debunk 15 SEO myths that you should ignore in 2023.
Myth 1 Local SEO is Not Worth It
Many people believe that local SEO is only beneficial for brick-and-mortar businesses that rely on walk-in clients. However, this is a myth. Even if you’re a completely digital business that isn’t location-specific, you can still greatly benefit from focusing on local SEO. It’s an essential strategy that helps you identify and reach your ideal client. Local SEO, or local search engine optimization, is the process of optimizing your online presence to attract more local customers to your website or physical location. It’s not just about attracting people who are physically nearby, but also about reaching out to those who are most likely to be interested in your products or services.
Local SEO uses a variety of techniques, including website content optimization, obtaining local citations, ensuring your business can be located on Google Maps, and creating locally-focused Google Business Profile listings. These strategies can help improve a website’s ranking on Google, making it easier for potential customers to find a business. This is especially important for small companies. A study conducted by Google found that 30% of Google mobile searches are related to location and 72% of consumers look up the location of a business in Google Maps. Clearly, optimizing for local search can have a significant impact on a business’ bottom line.
Myth 2 New Content is Required to Rank Higher
Content plays an important part in Google rankings, but this doesn’t mean you need to be writing new content constantly to rank better. What you need is fresh content, which is not necessarily the same thing. In 2011, Google announced that fresh content would be used to determine ranking. This is because information is always changing. So, if you’re researching the best Android phone, or you’re in the market for a new car and want BMW X6 reviews, you probably want the most up-to-date information, not something published five years ago.
A blog post you wrote in 2019 about the best SEO tools on the market is not going to rank so well today, simply because Google will consider the information too old. But if you go back to it, update it with new tools, and make it fresh for 2023, Google might just love you again. This means that instead of constantly creating new content, you can focus on updating and improving your existing content to keep it relevant and fresh.
Myth 3 Low-volume Search Terms Are a Waste of Time and Money
There are actually many benefits to targeting long-tail keywords and niche markets, and low-volume search terms often return surprisingly high conversion rates. Long-tail keywords are low-volume search terms that aren’t as popular but have the benefit of having less competition than more generic, high-volume keywords. By focusing on these long-tail keywords, businesses can target niche markets and specific audience segments that are more likely to convert.
For example, a small web design company might struggle to compete with larger businesses for high-volume keywords like “website design” but choosing a more specific keyword like “website design for dentists” can help capture a niche audience and lead to higher conversion rates. Surprisingly, “70% of all searches performed online consist of long-tail keywords“. This means that only 30% of businesses bother with the more popular search terms, likely because they know the chance to rank with them is just much lower.
Myth 4 Google Will Be Replaced by AI
The advent of AI platforms like ChatGPT might feel new to us, but the truth is that artificial intelligence has been shaping the search experience for a long time. AI is how Google is able to provide voice search and image search, and AI-driven chatbots have been around for years. But what happens when people start asking ChatGPT questions instead of going to Google? Will this impact the value of SEO? In December 2022, The Daily Mail published an article that started with these ominous words: “Gmail creator predicts ‘total disruption’ for Google as new chatbot ChatGPT challenges tech giant’s monopoly on internet searches.”
By February 2023, however, Google had already announced its own AI language model called Bard, no doubt specifically meant to address the potential loss of search traffic to the very popular ChatGPT. Other search engines are also taking action to avoid losing traffic to AI. According to Digital Trends, Microsoft has integrated ChatGPT into its Bing search engine and the Opera browser is planning to do the same to prevent traffic loss. Do we know what the future holds for search and SEO now that AI is so widely available? At the moment, not even the experts can tell us where things are going, but we can be sure Google will find a way to restructure and rebuild to ensure the value of SEO endures.
Myth 5 SEO Only Matters For Large Companies
There’s a common myth that only large companies with a massive budget should worry about SEO. However, with the right SEO strategy, even small businesses can make their presence known online and somewhat compete with bigger companies in the digital space. This myth probably comes from another myth — that it’s impossible to beat competitors with bigger SEO budgets than you, so why even bother? While it’s true that larger budgets can provide more comprehensive SEO strategies, even small investments in SEO can lead to noticeable improvements in online visibility and search rankings.
In fact, even a shoestring budget will pay for effective SEO tactics such as keyword research, on-page optimization, and content creation — all great tactics to improve a business’ online presence. According to a new study by Backlinko, the average small business spends $497 per month on SEO services, with 36% of small businesses spending less than $500 per year on SEO. Done well, this could be enough to improve search rankings and increase organic traffic.
Myth 6 SEO is a One-Time Thing
SEO is not a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. Much of the hard work is done at the beginning, when you’re optimizing a website so it shows up on search engine results pages. But, as ThunderTech puts it, SEO is an ongoing process, not a static thing: “No longer is SEO merely keywords and links; rather, sites that cater to users are rewarded. Users’ needs are constantly changing, and your SEO efforts should evolve right along with your audience.”
Google’s dynamic algorithms are one of the reasons SEO is always evolving. As a minimum, you should be updating your SEO every time Google rolls out new algorithms to keep your website optimized and ranking well. SEO is not a one-time task, but a continuous process that requires regular updates and adjustments to keep up with changes in search engine algorithms and user behavior.
Myth 7 High Keyword Density is Essential
Keyword stuffing has been dead for many years, but the myth that they’re an important ranking factor seems to persist. In fact, according to a study conducted by Moz, keyword stuffing actually leads to a loss in rankings — the opposite of what it once did. This is because keyword density can actually harm the readability and quality of your content. From the point of view of search engines, a high keyword density is a good indicator of search engine spam. If a keyword appears too often in a website, search engines will downgrade the website and it will then appear lower down in search results.
SEO agency Stan Ventures adds that “Although there is no definite percent score for ideal keyword density, to rank higher in Google listings, a good practice would be to maintain a keyword density of 1-2%. This means your keyword should appear about one to two times for every 100 words. At the same time, your content should be relevant and valuable to the reader. It’s not just about keyword density, but also about the quality of the content you’re providing.”
Myth 8 SEO is Dead
This is a myth that has been circulating for years, but it’s simply not true. SEO is not dead, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. The reason this myth persists is probably because of the constant changes in Google’s algorithms and the way we use the internet. As we’ve already discussed, Google’s algorithms are always changing, and so are the ways people use the internet. This means that SEO strategies that worked a few years ago might not work today. But that doesn’t mean SEO is dead. It just means it’s evolving.
SEO is still very much alive and kicking. In fact, according to a study by BrightEdge, organic search drives 53% of all website traffic. That’s more than half of all web traffic! And SEO is the key to capturing that traffic. So, if you want to drive traffic to your website, you need to be investing in SEO. It’s as simple as that.
Myth 9 Meta Tags Don’t Matter
Meta tags are HTML tags that provide information about a webpage for search engines and website visitors. These tags can influence click-through rates and the perception of the quality of the result. While it’s true that Google announced back in 2009 that meta tags don’t factor into their ranking algorithms, that doesn’t mean they’re not important. Meta tags still play a significant role in improving the user experience and click-through rates.
For example, the meta description tag provides a brief summary of a page’s content. This is the text that appears under the title in search engine results. A well-written meta description can entice users to click on your link instead of a competitor’s. Similarly, the title tag is displayed as the clickable headline in search results and is very important for usability, SEO, and social sharing. It’s the first impression many people have of your page. So, while meta tags might not directly affect your Google rankings, they can certainly influence click-through rates and user engagement, which in turn can indirectly affect your rankings.
Myth 10 SEO is All About Rankings
While rankings are important, they’re not the end-all-be-all of SEO. The ultimate goal of SEO is not just to rank highly, but to drive qualified traffic to your website and convert that traffic into leads or sales. Focusing solely on rankings can lead to tactics that don’t necessarily translate into more traffic or better user experience. For example, you might be able to rank highly for a certain keyword, but if that keyword isn’t relevant to your business or doesn’t attract the right kind of traffic, then it’s not going to help your bottom line.
Instead of focusing solely on rankings, it’s better to focus on a combination of metrics, including organic traffic, bounce rate, and conversion rate. These metrics give you a more holistic view of how your SEO efforts are paying off. Remember, the ultimate goal of SEO is to improve your website’s visibility in a way that brings more targeted traffic to your site, and then converts that traffic into leads or sales.
Myth 11 Social Media Doesn’t Affect SEO
While it’s true that social media signals don’t directly influence search rankings, there’s a strong correlation between social signals and ranking position. Google has stated that it doesn’t use social media signals as a ranking factor. However, social media can indirectly affect your SEO efforts. For example, social media can help increase your online visibility and brand awareness, which can lead to more people searching for your brand and visiting your website.
Additionally, content that’s shared a lot on social media can attract backlinks, which are a major ranking factor. So, while social media might not directly affect your rankings, it can certainly help boost your SEO efforts in other ways. It’s also worth noting that Bing, the second most popular search engine, has stated that they do look at the social media signals when determining rankings.
Myth 12 More Pages Mean Better Rankings
It’s a common misconception that having more pages on your website will automatically lead to better rankings. However, the quality of your content is much more important than the quantity. In fact, having too many low-quality pages can actually hurt your rankings. Google’s Panda update, which was first introduced in 2011, was designed to lower the rank of “low-quality sites” or “thin sites”, and return higher-quality sites near the top of the search results.
Instead of focusing on creating as many pages as possible, focus on creating high-quality content that provides value to your audience. This will help improve your rankings and drive more traffic to your site. Remember, it’s not about the number of pages on your site, but about the quality of those pages.
Myth 13 Paid Search Improves Organic Results
There’s a myth that spending money on Google Ads will improve your organic search rankings. However, Google has stated multiple times that advertising with them does not improve your organic search rankings. Google’s ad and search teams are separate, and the money you spend on Google Ads doesn’t have any impact on your organic search rankings.
That being said, running Google Ads can have indirect benefits for your SEO strategy. For example, it can help increase brand awareness, which can lead to more organic search traffic. It can also help you test different keywords to see which ones drive the most traffic, which can inform your SEO strategy. But it’s important to remember that these are indirect benefits, and running Google Ads won’t directly improve your organic search rankings.
Myth 14 Images Don’t Require Optimization
Many people overlook the importance of optimizing images for SEO. However, images can play a crucial role in your SEO strategy. Google’s image search can drive a significant amount of traffic to your site, and properly optimized images can help improve your site’s user experience and page load times, both of which are important ranking factors.
There are several ways to optimize images for SEO. This includes using descriptive file names and alt text, compressing images to reduce file size, and using responsive images to ensure they display correctly on all devices. So, while it might be easy to overlook images when thinking about SEO, they can actually play a crucial role in your overall strategy.
Myth 15 SEO is Not a Usability Issue
There’s a myth that SEO and usability are separate issues. However, the two are actually closely related. Google’s algorithms are designed to reward sites that provide a good user experience. This includes factors like site speed, mobile-friendliness, and easy navigation. So, if your site provides a poor user experience, it can hurt your SEO efforts.
On the other hand, a site that’s optimized for usability will likely perform better in search rankings. This is because a good user experience can lead to more time spent on your site, more pages viewed, and more repeat visitors, all of which can help improve your rankings. So, while SEO and usability might seem like separate issues, they’re actually closely intertwined.
Can duplicate content lead to a Google penalty?
No, Google does not penalize sites for duplicate content. However, it can lead to less efficient crawling and dilute your content’s value.
Understanding the truth behind these SEO myths can help you avoid common pitfalls and focus on effective strategies. Remember, SEO is a long-term game that requires patience, persistence, and a commitment to continuous learning and adaptation. So, don’t let these myths hold you back from achieving your SEO goals in 2023 and beyond.
What other SEO myths have you come across? Share your experiences in the comments below!
For more insights into SEO, check out our comprehensive guide to SEO.