Keeping up with the constant changes to Google’s algorithm is a full-time job that requires constant attention and care. SEO covers a wide range of different things that are all digital based and evolving just as quickly as the math behind how Google determines any individual website’s authority. The result of this constant, relentless technological evolution is the creation of myths that propagate the internet. Myths like bad or old advice, not like Bigfoot or the Mothman.
Something that may have been true at one point may be entirely moot by the time it becomes common knowledge across the internet. This is how these “myths” about SEO practice can commonly develop.
Like much of the advice you will find when learning about SEO practice, the word “myth” can be rather misleading.
Concrete truth: Four words certain in SEO. Don’t. Mess. With. Google.
It is important to remember that there are very few concrete pieces of advice regarding SEO, other than never EVER try to abuse the system. If you want to read about some of the updates Google has employed specifically to seek out and punish offenders of this rule, take a moment to read our previous blog post Two things you MUST avoid when optimizing your website for SEO. The short version being, SEO at this time is all about ranking with Google. It’s Google’s playing field so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to do things that they don’t like.
If you can manage to understand the simple principles that are behind this one and only concrete rule the rest of the SEO learning should come very easily.
Myth: You can never have too many links
Truth: Link quality is more important than quantity
Related to the subject of abusing the system, consider that one of the most important things in determining your authority to Google is how many external links lead to your website. The myth surrounding this is that you can never have enough links. Yes, it is true a lot of links to your website CAN be a good thing. That is, if they are quality links that you acquired in a coherent organic way.
If you purchased a bundle of links from India coming from websites that have nothing to do with what your website is about, it will drag you down and if you get caught Google will punish you. Google prefers that people go out on the internet and interact and link to each other in a natural, meaningful way. If you find a reputable website that provides a meaningful resource to the topic you are covering it makes sense and creates value to receive a link from them and vice versa.
You may be wondering what is the best way to go about acquiring links in the manner that Google deems appropriate. This can seem like a daunting task, especially if you are just starting out. Some of the first things you will come across will be “SEO experts” who want to help you by trying to sell you these backlinks that could end up hurting you. Purchasing links is viewed as cheating the system. Period. Is it possible to do it and get away with it? Technically yes. But generally, it is not worth the risk. If you are considering taking them up on it, consider this- if you have a budget to purchase backlinks invest in content instead.
Creating content and sharing it with the internet is how you can begin that process of acquiring links in a natural organic way. Just consistently generating content alone is very good for SEO. The more often a website is updated the higher it will rank with Google. If you are regularly writing a blog and shooting for 700 words (1200 is ideal) in each post, your authority will improve with Google. If you are sharing these articles on social media that is linked to your website you will naturally begin to find others who are interested, especially if you are investing in targeted social media marketing. Having a strong social media following connected to your website is also good for SEO. All of these things will not only improve your authority but will lead to more meaningful connections and opportunities than spamming yourself with useless links that you purchased artificially.
Myth: You MUST submit your URL directly to Google
Truth: You can, but you really don’t need to
Most of the reason why purchasing links it is not worth the risk is because Google is pretty good at seeking out and monitoring websites to be included in its index. Not only are they pretty good at it but they are always getting better. That is why, though it may have been true at one point, it no longer holds any value to submit your website directly to Google to be indexed. Really, don’t worry about it. It wouldn’t hurt but it doesn’t actually matter because Google’s web crawlers are always actively searching and indexing.
Myth: You MUST rank #1 in search results for SEO to be valuable
Truth: It’s not that simple, and shooting for page one should be enough
Another major misconception and popular SEO myth is the belief that SEO is only about ranking; showing up as the number one result in the Google search is the end game. First of all, there are other factors that you may not have considered. For one thing, Pay Per Click (or PPC) ads often steal away that coveted top spot in the search results, especially when highly transactional search terms are being used. If you want to read all about PPC ads and the new changes Google has made to the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) you can review our previous blog Search Intent Strategy.
Still, reaching the top three in the search results, even if it is under a 4 pack of PPC ads is a good thing. Yes, that is nice, unless you are ranking for the wrong keyword. Then it is pretty pointless. Determining what keywords work often depends on the situation. Is it the homepage you are considering, which links to everything else? Is your homepage a landing page for other traffic sources such as listings on various other websites or social media? Or is it blog posts that deal with specific topics and offer information intended to be useful for a specific task?
Doing research and determining what keyword is best for any given situation is the only way to make sure you are aiming for the right search terms. Often you can probably assume what would be the best keyword for the given situation by understanding the buyer persona you are reaching for and what terms they would be using if they were looking for something like what you are offering. Nevertheless, checking up on how these terms rank and how competitors are using them is obviously always valuable information.
Once you have found your keywords, don’t abuse the system and forget that concrete rule. In these terms that means don’t try to over-optimize your website or blog posts by carelessly littering them with the keywords you want to rank for. Google can and will penalize your website if you overuse keywords.
Soon-to-be-myth: Switching to HTTPS is not that important
Truth: Right now, it isn’t. But it will be very soon.
Lastly, one of the more modern myths to have developed is the belief that having an SSL certificate, or a URL with HTTPS, is not important for SEO. This is a great example of how these myths can develop very quickly. Only just recently Google announced that they would be giving a boost in ranking to websites that featured HTTPS instead HTTP in their URL. An HTTPS website has a Secure Socket Layer or SSL certificate which makes it more secure than the predecessor HTTP. Once again, if you want to read all about this check out our blog Google’s Migration from HTTP to HTTPS.
The short version is Google wants your websites to be more secure and it has begun to encourage users to make the step to HTTPS by offering a slight boost in ranking, for now. However, by as early as January of this year they could begin to penalize non-HTTPS websites by labeling them potentially unsafe. So, for the past few months and the current moment, you are only missing out on a slight boost in ranking. But before the end of the year you could lose your current authority with Google if you don’t update. That is how quickly these pieces of advice can go from misconceptions and SEO myths to truth.