11 SEO myths to ditch in 2020

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Today’s search engine optimization is nothing like it was five years ago. Google is constantly updating its algorithm – not to make it harder for businesses to rank, but to make it easier for consumers to find exactly what they’re looking for. As a result, many SEO tactics that were once powerful tools, are now merely SEO myths it’s time to ignore.

Constantly adapting your SEO strategy and educating your team about each update can be a challenge.

But failure to do so will lead to gradual – and eventually dramatic – reductions in organic traffic.

Failure to update your SEO strategy on a regular basis will lead to a gradual — and eventually dramatic — reduction in organic traffic. Click To Tweet

The truth of the matter is that maintaining an effective SEO strategy is a lot of work and requires attention to detail and commitment to quality.

However, due to the fast pace of SEO evolution, many marketers aren’t even aware of what they’re doing is outdated – and potentially harmful.

So while keeping up to date is time-consuming, in the long run, you’ll save far more time doing SEO right.

That’s why we’ve compiled this list of SEO myths we see our clients doing on a regular basis that need to stop.

11 SEO myths to drop from your strategy

“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 in Lesson 1.3 of How Search Works

#1. Links are better than content

Link building has long been considered the gold standard of SEO.

Link building is constantly ranked among the top search engine ranking factors.

That’s because, in the past, the more inbound links your website had, the more authority Google gave it.

Unfortunately, that led many sites to build as many links as possible without any thought or strategy, including building backlinks for low-authority websites.

In 2013, Google upended that practice with the release of Penguin 2.0, which gave major priority to links from high-authority domains, essentially destroying most backlink strategies.

Today, quality trumps quantity and the best way to build high-quality backlinks is with high-quality content – the more the better.

The best way to build high-quality backlinks is with high-quality content. Click To Tweet

Linkbuilding is still – and will continue to be – an important SEO tool, but it is no longer purely a numbers game.

Investing in quality content (think web pages, blog posts and guest posts on other sites) is essentially investing in quality backlinks.

#2. Meta descriptions are supremely important to ranking

Many websites put undue importance on their metadata – the HTML descriptions given to a page to concisely explain its contents.

The reason SEOs believe this SEO myth is because these descriptions commonly appear on Google search results snippets. I mean, it just makes sense that these would impact rank, right?

Wrong.

Way back in 2009, Google announced that metadata, such as descriptions and keywords, have no influence on page rank.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think meta descriptions are important. If for nothing else, to separate your site from other sites and convince searchers your site will answer their query.

Think of meta descriptions as ad copy. This is your opportunity to set yourself apart.

Google has even increased the number of characters it will display, giving you even more real estate to get your message across.

So, while meta descriptions have zero impact on rankings, they definitely impact clicks, which is almost as important.

#3. Your keywords need to be an exact match

One SEO myth that’s been hard for people to let go is that your keyword needs to appear in headlines, body copy, alt tags and more in its exact form.

This myth is promoted by popular SEO plugins, such as Yoast, which grades your content on a somewhat outdated scale.

In fact, Google’s search algorithm is smart enough to downgrade your site if it thinks you’re using keywords in an unnatural way. Headlines, for example, should be written in a way that makes sense to your audience, not some arbitrary SEO goal.

For example, Yoast is screaming at us because our target keyword for this post — SEO myths — doesn’t appear at the beginning of our headline. Who cares? Google doesn’t.

Nothing screams, “Don’t read me,” more than an awkwardly written headline.

Nothing screams, "Don't read me," more than an awkwardly written headline, says @jeramygordon Click To Tweet

This rule applies to your entire content piece, too.

You should create content that will please and inform your reader, not the search engine.

Keyword stuffing, the act of putting as many keywords on a page as possible, went out of style almost a decade ago, but some poor remnant habits remain.

#4. Domain age is an important ranking factor

Up until a few years ago, it was commonly understood that domain age played a significant role in search engine rankings.

Many people thought Google gave priority treatment to older domains until Matt Cutts set them straight in 2017.

“Domain age does play a role, but a small role & it’s not a very strong ranking factor as compared to others,” he said.

Cutts goes on to say that after a site has been crawled for two to three months, age has little impact.

Domain age does come into play for brand new sites with little to no content, but that changes quickly as those sites build up valuable content.

Cutts offers a tip to those who are truly worried about changing domain names: launch the site early with a “coming soon” or “under construction” page while the site is being developed. This will give Google the time it needs to index the page.

The bottom line: don’t worry about domain age and instead focus on important factors, such as quality content and backlinks.

#5. Local SEO doesn’t matter

This SEO myth is shocking and couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, if you’re a local business that depends on customers within a specific geographic location, local SEO is the only thing that matters.

While it’s true that local SEO doesn’t help your site rank for your target keywords, it does help people nearby find your business and most likely buy from you.

If anything, Google has shown time and time again that it values local search. In July 2014, with the launch of Pigeon, Google began giving local searches top billing on the results page.

local search results from Google
Local search results from Google

Like standard search, Google takes hundreds of data points into account before displaying a local search result.

Earlier this year, the 2019 Moz State of Local Industry Report said the vast majority (64%) of marketers see Google as the new local business “homepage,” usurping YellowPages.

Google is displaying more and more information directly in the search result, which means customers no longer need to click to get the info they seek.

This makes managing your information on Google My Business more important than ever.

Need help setting up Google My Business? Here’s a recent blog post walking you through setup step-by-step: How to rank on Google Maps.

#6. Voice search is just a trend

Wrong, again.

Voice search is most likely the future of search engine optimization. It’s no fad.

Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook are all doubling down on their virtual assistant smart speakers, which now include video capabilities.

Since IBM’s Simon was first introduced in 1994, virtual digital assistants have been growing in popularity.

When Apple purchased Siri in 2010, everyone paid attention. And voice-activated devices have exploded in recent years, with billions being invested in perfecting the technology.

Today, it is estimated that 20 percent of Google search traffic is voice search – a number that’s expected only to rise.

While the technology is undoubtedly a work in progress, businesses shouldn’t ignore its importance. This is a perfect opportunity to get a jumpstart on our competitors.

#7. Page speed isn’t important

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Google has admitted that page speed is important to SEO.

In fact, there’s evidence to support that page speed is one of the most important SEO ranking factors.

page speed test results
Here are the test results from our page speed test. Obviously, we have some work to do.

Not only do slow page speeds mean search engines have to work harder to index pages, but they also offer a poor user experience.

Pages with slow load times tend to have higher bounce rates – another important SEO metric.

Delays in a page loading can also impact conversion.

So … the importance of page speed cannot be overstated.

You can test your site and page speed with the Google PageSpeed Insights tool.

#8. I don’t need to optimize my site for mobile

Yes, we still hear this SEO myth, believe it or not.

Don’t you remember “mobilegeddon?”

mobile-friendly test results
Our page is mobile-friendly

I don’t care if you think the majority of your customers prefer your desktop site, Google doesn’t.

Google has used mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor since 2015 when it started rewarding mobile-friendly sites and penalizing non-mobile-friendly sites.

Today, more than 60 percent of searches take place on mobile devices.

Still don’t believe us? Here is it straight from the horse’s mouth:

“Since the majority of users now access Google via a mobile device, the index will primarily use the mobile version of a page’s content going forward. We aren’t creating a separate mobile-first index. We continue to use only one index.”

You can check your website’s mobile-friendliness here: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly

#9. Google never forgets

If you repent of and turn away from your SEO sins, Google will forgive you.

If you repent of and turn away from your SEO sins, Google will forgive you, says @jeramygordon Click To Tweet

Just because the search behemoth slapped you with a penalty doesn’t mean it goes on your permanent record.

If you fix the problem quickly, Google will move on.

It’s quite simple actually: Google will notify you of a penalty (or manual action) in your Google Search Console. Once you have addressed the issue, you can submit a request for reconsideration.

Once Google confirms the fix, the penalty is removed.

Now, you may not bounce back in the rankings right away. But as long as you keep up to date on current SEO practices, you should be just fine.

#10. Pop-ups are bad for SEO

Lead generation is one of the primary drivers behind SEO. Pop-up forms are a primary lead generation tool of inbound marketing – and they work.

However, a lot of sites tend to misuse popups.

So much so that Google took notice. In 2016, the search engine said it would penalize sites practicing what it dubbed “intrusive interstitials” starting in 2017.

Now, that doesn’t cover all popups. The key takeaway here is “intrusive.”

It’s important to make sure your popups do not hinder your user’s ability to access your content, especially on mobile. For instance, if a user has to “x” out of a popup in order to see or read your content, Google won’t be happy.

As long as your popup doesn’t impact your mobile user’s experience, you’ll be fine.

Popups, when used properly, can be an integral part of your digital marketing strategy. If you have questions about whether you’re doing popups correctly, reach out to us, or leave a comment in the comments below.

#11. The more pages I have the better

In the olden days of SEO, you needed separate pages for every keyword you wanted to target.

There’s also an old-school way of thinking that says the more pages my site has, the more traffic it will get.

That’s no longer the case.

Google and other search engines are much more sophisticated these days. Quality is much more important than quantity.

Since Google released its Panda update in 2011, its search algorithm has been heavily focused on quality.

And, today, Google is much better at understanding the context of a page, which means you can group multiple related keywords and get one page to rank for them all.

A common example of this is the pillar page.

Here are two pillar pages we created, one with content marketing keywords and one is SEO keywords:

  1. Everything you need to know about Content Marketing
  2. How to Build Backlinks: Everything you need to know

Bonus SEO myth: Ranking is all that matters

One bonus SEO myth we’d be remiss to leave off is the sense that SEO is all about ranking.

Yes, it’s true the top three Google search results get the vast majority of the clicks – there’s no doubt searchers favor these top three results – but ranking doesn’t guarantee success.

It’s possible to rank well for a keyword, get tons of traffic, and never make a sale.

What’s the point of that?

If that sounds familiar to you, then listen up. Here’s a little truth bomb: Higher rankings do not guarantee higher conversion or higher revenue.

Here’s why:

  • You’re ranking for keywords that have little to nothing to do with your business. For example, one key phrase that drives an annoying amount of traffic to our website is “websites that contain lorem ipsum text.” This has nothing to do with our business and is likely a competitor looking to provide content services.
  • Featured snippets are stealing your traffic. Google’s entire goal is to keep people on its site, not send them to yours. If Google can answer the searcher’s intent without sending them away, it will. Make sure your site is using structured content and is properly optimized for answer boxes, which always display ahead of the No. 1 ranking page.
  • Ads are taking your clicks. As you probably know, the top of a Google search result page (SERP) is dominated by ads. These ads can easily steal valuable clicks. A strong PPC strategy is integral to any SEO strategy.
  • You’re not taking advantage of meta descriptions. Remember earlier in this article we talked about meta descriptions? While these descriptions are huge for SEO, they are very important to click-through rates. This is your ad copy to hook the searcher and convince them to click on your site.

Conclusion

Now that you’re aware of these common SEO myths, it’s your move. What are you doing to move the SEO needle – up or down?

In order to be an SEO pro, you need to understand what works and what doesn’t work. We hope you found this post interesting and useful.

If you know of any SEO myths we left off, let us know in the comments below.

For more information on our SEO services, contact us.

    Jeramy Gordon is the founder and Chief Content Officer at the Lorem Ipsum Company. He has been creating successful content strategies for almost two decades and believes in the power of high-quality content. He lives in Orange County, California, with his wife and two children.

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