There are over 1.7 billion websites on Google and 10 to 12 results on Google's first page. Depending on your search, you always get a result you are pretty satisfied with. Half of this credit goes to Google's algorithm and the other half to functional SEO.
In this article, you will discover how these myths pollute content creation and marketing strategies. More importantly, you will learn how to implement the proper practices in each instance to improve your reach and ranking.
1. Keywords = Visibility
The first myth of SEO continues to persist because it was the first insight into SEO. Back when the internet wasn't populated with content (and Google wasn't as sophisticated), the law of the land was: The site with the most relevant keywords would get ranked the highest.
This was true at that time and was the first mandate of SEO. Perhaps because of this status, it persists in the SEO space despite being proven inaccurate and outdated. Every science changes and SEO is no exception.
There was a time when doctors used to prescribe physical violence as a cure for mental illness. Using keyword stuffing in today's SEO landscape would be like prescribing a whopping to a patient in 2022. It is not just wrong but is horrifyingly damaging to the subject. Websites penalized for keyword stuffing are categorized as spam and can be slammed with a Google penalty or even de-indexed.
2. More Links = More Visibility
To a large extent, Google's algorithm relies on Do-Follow links to build its database and pull results for most keywords. Websites that receive multiple links for a keyword are given a higher rating and are therefore preferred in search results.
There is a very low-resolution take on this: the more links you get, the better your website will rank. And this take doesn't account for the quality of the links. The result? Random spam comments across different forums linking the keyword to a specific website.
Of course, Google doesn't reward ruining the web browsing experience for anyone. So, Google started ranking websites for their link reliability in the mid-2000s. This way, random blog comments wouldn't influence keyword traffic.
During the same era, Private Blog Networks (PBNs) emerged. These were multiple websites that linked to each other and a few sites. Their link network would raise their authority in Google's eyes, and then they would point to the parent site that benefits from a better ranking. Google has been cracking down on PBNs for a while, and many of them are nearly obsolete.
3. Getting the Click matters the Most
This SEO myth relates to websites that rank on the first few pages of Google. The top result on Google's first page rarely stays the same. Since Google can change result rankings on its first page, many SEO novices assume that this is because of the number of clicks that specific results get.
They believe that if the third result gets 15 clicks and the first one gets 2 clicks, the third one is elevated to the first one's spot. And they buy clicks to prop up their results. But once you know what happens and how Google assesses result quality (hint: Google likely considers 200+ ranking factors), you will see why buying clicks have the opposite effect.
One primary way Google assesses result quality is with session time. Google can track not just who clicks a result but also how long one stays on the website after clicking. This tracking is done from Chrome browser data, which Google owns, and from Google Analytics data.
When novices buy clicks, they get hundreds of clicks, but everyone who clicks bounces off the page immediately. At best, it signals to Google that the result is irrelevant, which is why people exit the page. And at worst, it communicates that one's trying to use bots and phony clicks to game the system. As an ad-selling business, Google dislikes any kind of botting.
4. You can Beat the Algorithm
There are many ways to game the algorithm at any given point. Temporarily, at least. But because Google keeps track of such a massive chunk of user activity, it can quickly spot patterns and wisen up. And whenever it wisens up, it penalizes the SEO hackers. Still, some SEOs like to believe that beating the algorithm is not just possible but also their primary goal in life. Perhaps if they just focused on SEO's true meaning, they would get the message.
It is SEO, not SET. Search Engine Optimization is not Search Engine Trickery. And Google is not your enemy. You can work with it. Google wants to improve its users' experience, which comes from putting the best result forward.
If your result is the best, you can use SEO best practices to help Google help its users. But if your content is subpar, and you insist on tricking Google into placing your site on top, you're buying brief time with a harsh punishment on the other side.
5. You can Buy your way to the Top
Companies with a lot of money have on-point SEO and page rankings. Outsiders assume that there is a causal relationship there. A large budget can help you to do better research and create better content, but it cannot guarantee top organic search placement.
You cannot replace Jimmy Fallon's Wikipedia page with your blog with your money unless you buy Wikipedia and make it your blog. You cannot buy your way to the top while ignoring SEO best practices. Still, you can get decent visibility through Google search ads if that's what you are after.
6. SEO is Set-it-and-Forget-it
It's challenging enough to get business owners to buy into organic traffic. Even more challenging? Convincing those same business owners that SEO isn't a one-and-done discipline! You already learned that Google rewards fresh content in my post on inbound marketing best practices.
Important distinction: Fresh content doesn't mean you have to blow up every blog post and start from scratch. This content refresh post by Ahrefs helps identify "what" blog posts to update and "how" to update them.
Oh, and if you need more reason to turn that frown upside down, this HubSpot study boasts a 106% traffic increase after revamping old content.
7. SEO is Blackhat
While one extreme believes that SEO can outperform good content with bad content, the other extreme believes that SEO is nothing but technical shenanigans. SEO is not an obligate black hat practice; it can benefit search engine users and help the search algorithm.
That said, there is a hint of truth in this myth because plenty of mediocre SEO "specialists" resort to quick wins like link-bombing and keyword-stuffing to please their clients (who don't know any better). In a way, many SEO strategies being used today (to no positive effect) are outdated black hat tactics.
Almost all SEO myths revolve around the same idea: that SEO is something other than improving content quality and positioning for it to be discoverable to Google and desirable to the audience. In reality, SEO that works is always the one that serves people and acknowledges the Google algorithm's discovery methods.
Suggested Reading: Is SEO Dead? (my take)