Debunking the Top 7 SEO Myths That Aren’t Actually True
The SEO world is full of speculation. This makes sense since Google’s algorithm is a sort of black box that inserts your website content on one side and spits out a ranking on the other.
Google has gotten more transparent over the years about what ranking factors are important, but the algorithms are constantly changing. They’re always trying to optimize and stay ahead of websites trying to game the system, so the exact algorithms and importance of ranking factors have yet to be precisely known.
Hence, the speculation.
This leads to a LOT of conflicting advice, and it can be hard to tell what’s true and what’s not. Ideas often get echoed without actual research, resulting in untrue myths spreading over the internet.
This untrue advice often stems from a misunderstanding or false assumptions about Google’s ranking algorithm. The people giving this advice are often well-meaning, but various factors could lead them astray.
Common Reasons for Spreading Untrue SEO Myths
It can be good to understand the common reasons untrue myths are spread:
- First, since Google is constantly updating its algorithm, sometimes factors that used to matter in earlier days don’t matter as much anymore.
- Second, ranking factors that only apply to searches with specific intent can be confused as universal factors for all searches when they’re not.
- Lastly, assumptions are often made based on the correlation between a change in strategy and ranking results. But further analysis often reveals the change in strategy did not directly cause the results, leading to confusion.
Top 7 SEO Myths To Avoid in 2023
Following the advice of untrue myths can prevent you from focusing on what matters. Read on to learn the top 7 SEO myths that aren’t true so you avoid the bad advice and focus on the strategies and tactics that improve your search rankings.
Myth #1: Domain Age is a Ranking Factor
Despite what you may have heard, domain age is not one of Google’s ranking factors. All else equal, a site with a 20-year-old domain name has no better chance of ranking than a 6-month-old domain name.
The myth of domain age as a ranking factor has a few factors driving its prevalence.
First, some evidence suggests domain age was once a ranking factor in Google’s earlier years. This video featuring Matt Cutts, former head of Google’s Webspam team, implies that domain age had some weight as a ranking factor – although probably not much.
The problem is that video is over a decade old.
And we now have more up-to-date insight from John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, saying “domain age helps nothing”:
Although this tweet is from 2019, it is Google’s most recent “official” statement on the significance of domain age as a ranking factor.
The other reason for this myth’s existence is that there is often a positive correlation between older domain age and better search rankings. But, as we learned in statistics class, correlation is not the same as causation.
Sites with older domains have usually been up and running for extended periods, giving them more opportunities to publish useful content and gain authoritative backlinks.
So while sites with older domains often outrank newer ones, domain age is not a direct ranking factor.
This means you shouldn’t go out and buy an old domain name for your site solely because it’s old. An older domain could have a poor backlink profile, hurting your search rankings.
On the other hand, it could have a strong backlink profile that gives your site an early advantage.
Myth #2: Your Content Won’t Get Ranked if It’s Not Fresh
According to Google, freshness is a query-dependent ranking factor. So, freshness does matter for some types of content, but not all.
For example, a query like “who won the 2004 world series” doesn’t need to be fresh. That question was answered in 2004, and the answer will never change. So, updating a page targeting this query for freshness will not affect search rankings.
On the other hand, to optimize for a keyword like “best new movies,” freshness is essential. Keeping this page relevant with the best and most up-to-date content is essential to ranking for this keyword.
Consider whether the queries and keywords you’re targeting require fresh content or not before taking the time to update existing content. You may be wasting your time if you update content that doesn’t need to be fresh.
Myth #3: Long-tail Keywords are Easier to Rank For
It’s common to come across advice telling you to target long-tail keywords to help drive organic traffic to your site.
While this is often good advice, conducting detailed keyword research is important before deciding which keywords to target.
First, let’s define what a long-tail keyword is with the help of the below chart from Ahrefs:
Long-tail keywords have relatively low monthly search volume and are, therefore, in the “long tail” of the chart. This is usually because they’re more specific than “fat head” keywords.
But just because they have lower search volume doesn’t mean long-tail keywords are always less competitive.
This is because the intent behind many of these keywords is satisfied by content already ranking for more popular keywords. These types of long-tail keywords are called “supporting long-tail keywords” because they are less common phrasing variations that have the same intent.
Since Google’s algorithms are very good at understanding the intent behind a search phrase, they aim to serve the best results for fulfilling that intent – not the content that is best at targeting a specific search phrasing.
In the screenshot below, you’ll see the search volume and ranking difficulty – based on Semrush’s keyword difficulty (KD%) ranking – for two different keywords with the same intent. The higher the KD%, the more difficult the keyword is to rank for on a scale of 0-100.
As you can see, although “what brand is the best air fryer” only has ~140 monthly searches, its KD% is 86 (very difficult). This is nearly as difficult to rank as “best air fryer,” which has over 90k monthly searches. This is because Google understands that the intent behind the searches is essentially the same, so that it will serve similar results.
Plenty of long-tail keywords out there that signal different, more specific intent, and these often are easier to rank for. But it’s important not to assume that long-tail = is easier to rank.
Be sure to consider ranking difficulty when deciding which long-tail keywords to target. Long-tail keywords are often more specific and imply a higher level of purchase intent, but they can also be a less common phrasing of a more popular query. Refrain from blindly targeting long-tail keywords and assuming you’ll have an easy time ranking them.
Myth #4: Pogo-Sticking is Bad for Search Rankings
It is a commonly held, yet false, belief that pogo-sticking is terrible for search rankings.
Pogo-sticking is when a user visits a site from a SERP (search engine results page) and quickly leaves to return to the SERP.
Site owners have believed this is treated as a negative signal by Google and hurts search rankings.
In one of Google’s webmaster office-hours sessions, John Mueller confirmed this is not true. When a webmaster asked a question about how pogo-sticking affects SEO, John answered by saying:
“We try not to use signals like that when it comes to search. So that’s something where there are lots of reasons why a user might go back and forth, or look at different things in the search results, or just stay briefly on a page and move back again. I think that’s really hard to refine and say “well, we could turn this into a ranking factor.” So I would not worry about things like that.“
I don’t blame site owners for believing pogo-sticking negatively impacts search rankings. After all, if a user visits your site during a search and quickly leaves, it might seem like they did not find the content helpful and had to find another site to meet their needs.
While this is certainly a possibility, there could be many other reasons for pogo-sticking that don’t mean the content is not helpful.
For example, the searcher may research a topic with a yes-or-no answer, like, “can dogs eat grapes?”
This user may want to quickly verify the answer from multiple sources, bouncing back and forth between the SERP and different websites. This does not mean the content wasn’t high-quality and helpful, and therefore Google doesn’t want to punish sites when this happens.
While pogo-sticking is not a ranking factor for search engines, it could still be a negative result for your business.
Pogo-sticking often results from unclear content, poor UX design, or clickbait titles.
It would be best if you always aimed to keep users on your site as long as you can, so minimizing pogo-sticking by improving design and content quality is usually a good business goal. But when it comes to search engines, it won’t affect your rankings.
Myth #5: You Should Optimize for the Keyword ‘Near Me’ for Local SEO
You may think you should target the phrase ‘near me’ when optimizing for local search, but that is false. Although users often use these words in their local searches, Google is smart enough to know that this means they want results near their location. So, Google uses location data to serve the best results and does not consider whether your content contains the words ‘near me’ when choosing the best results.
Instead, ensure your business location is visible on your website and in your content. It would be best to have a strong Google My Business page so that Google can serve your business due to local searches.
Myth #6: Social Media Doesn’t Affect SEO
Before we dive into the effects of social media on SEO, it is commonly agreed that social media is not a direct ranking factor. In other words, your social media profile will not directly impact your site’s search rankings.
BUT, that doesn’t mean there aren’t many important SEO benefits you can gain from utilizing social media.
First, sharing your content on social media will likely boost traffic to that content on your website. If your content is high-quality and holds users’ attention, this signals to Google that the content is valuable and should be ranked.
Having more traffic to your site also increases your opportunity to gain backlinks. The more people see your content and find it helpful, the more likely some will link to it, improving your backlink profile.
Also, social media pages, like your company’s Facebook page, can appear in search results, especially local ones.
So while social media metrics aren’t one of Google’s direct ranking factors, your site’s traffic and SEO can significantly benefit from leveraging social media.
Myth #7: Long Content Ranks Better Than Short Content
Google does not use word count as a ranking factor. So, there is no direct impact between the number of words on a page and the page’s search ranking.
What does matter is the quality of the content and how good it is at helping users and satisfying their search intent.
Again, we’ll hear from our friend John Mueller with some very sound insight, stating, “Word count is not indicative of quality. Some pages have a lot of words that say nothing. Some pages have very few words that are important and relevant to queries. You know your content best (hopefully) and can decide whether it needs the details.”:
So you can ignore advice like, “If you want your content to rank in Google, it should be at least 1,500 words.” It’s never that simple, and your primary concern should be publishing useful, high-quality content.
Some topics may need more words to provide essential details and fully satisfy a user’s intent. Other times, users want quick answers and will be turned off by too many unhelpful words.
It can be a good editorial guideline to require writers to produce a certain amount of words, and that’s a business decision that’s up to you. But just having lots of words on a page does nothing to guarantee better search rankings.
After dispelling that last myth about content length, I’ll keep the conclusion short and will save you time.
There are many reasons that SEO myths may pop up and spread in popularity, but be sure to consider what your business deems essential regarding SEO.
You can always come back to this page for reference or do further research on your own. But if you want a quick answer when considering an SEO strategy or tactic, ask yourself if it will benefit the end user or search engine. Focus on these goals, and you should be able to avoid the most inaccurate advice.
Chris Pearson is a web copywriter and content writer for small and mid-sized businesses. He has spent countless hours researching what actually works when it comes to content and SEO. If you need help optimizing your website content, you can contact him at his email address firstname.lastname@example.org
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most common SEO myths that aren't true?
The top 7 SEO myths that aren't true are: keyword density is crucial for SEO, meta tags are important ranking factors, social media directly affects SEO, paid advertising helps organic search rankings, link building is dead, longer content consistently ranks better, and top ranking is the ultimate goal.
Why are these SEO myths still prevalent?
These myths are still prevalent because they were once believed to be accurate and were widely circulated. Some people continue to spread them despite their lack of validity. Additionally, Google's algorithm constantly evolves, leading to confusion and misinformation.
How do these myths harm SEO efforts?
Following these myths can harm SEO efforts by distracting from practical strategies and tactics that improve search rankings. It can also lead to wasted time and resources on ineffective tactics, ultimately hindering progress toward achieving better search rankings.
What are some effective SEO strategies to focus on instead of these myths?
Effective SEO strategies include: focusing on high-quality content, optimizing for user experience, conducting keyword research and optimization, building authoritative backlinks, and ensuring technical SEO is up to par.
How can one stay up-to-date on the latest SEO best practices?
Staying up-to-date on the latest SEO best practices can be done by following reputable sources and industry experts, attending industry events and conferences, and regularly monitoring Google's algorithm updates and changes.