Search engine optimization (SEO) myths are persistent and are too often believable. Once a myth is born, it spreads like wildfire and can cause destruction across an entire site, leading to a lower organic ranking and worse, lost sales. These common SEO myths are further perpetuated by Google’s ongoing search ranking algorithm updates. This begs the question, how do you know if these misconceptions about SEO are fact or fiction?
To help you discern which myths to worry about and dispel the myths you shouldn’t pay attention to, we put together a panel of SEO industry experts for an in-depth discussion. During the webinar, we discussed 16 common SEO misconceptions, to put these myths to rest once and for all. Panelists included:
- Jason Brown, SEO Manager for Over the Top Marketing and Founder of Review Fraud
- Chad Klingensmith, Senior SEO Strategist at Rio SEO
Let’s dive into our list of SEO myths and if they impact search ranks.
You can optimize your Google Business Profile listing for SEO for specific keywords.
Fiction. This is one of the biggest misconceptions we often hear. The only field in your Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business and now GBP for short) that can have a positive impact on your rankings is your business name. However, this is not to suggest changing your business name for the sake of adding certain keywords. In fact, this can be penalized by Google with a suspension, or worse.
Additionally, as Jason shares keywords in the reviews itself can also help boost ranking. To do so, first, your business should have a review acquisition strategy in place. Next, you can ask leading questions to encourage your customers to naturally use your desired keywords in reviews.
For example, say you’re a San Diego-based barber shop targeting the term “men’s haircut San Diego”. You could ask your customers, “How would you describe your men’s haircust experience today at our San Diego location?” This may prompt a response that includes the term men’s haircut and the location.
Adding keywords to your Google Business Profile business description will help improve your ranking
Fiction. Adding keywords for the sake of trying to add keywords in any piece of content not only risks you’re business appearing spammy but also won’t help improve your search ranking when speaking directly to the impact of adding keywords in a business description. Our panel recommends adding keywords where they matter most—in your on-page content creation strategy where they make sense.
Using keywords in owner review responses in Google impacts ranking.
Fiction. Keywords matter when customers leave a review directly. However, an owner adding keywords into their response does not impact SEO rankings. In fact, it can make your business look disenginous and may turn people away from using your business. Your review responses should be authentic, address positive or negative feedback, escalate negative feedback when necessary, and come directly from business owners when possible.
Paying for Google Ads can positively impact rankings
Fiction. There is no evidence or studies that have proven paying for Google Ads positively impacts rankings.
Google, in fact, has dispelled this myth on its own stating, “A PPC ad solution like Google Ads doesn’t have the same results as SEO and won’t improve your organic search rankings. Instead, Google Ads can help you display your ads to potential customers, at the exact moment they’re searching for a business like yours.”
You only need to respond to negative reviews your business receives
Fiction. A common misconception with reputation management is a business only needs to respond to negative reviews. Our pane notes businesses should respond to both positive and negative reviews if the business has the capacity to.
Jason shares, if your business previously hasn’t had a review reply strategy in place, start with addressing negative reviews first. Start with addressing the last three months of negative reviews. Then, from there, start responding to positive and negative reviews.
While responding to reviews isn’t necessarily an SEO strategy, it helps consumers see your business is actively engaging with previous customers and should be an ongoing process. Customers took time to write a review for your business, take the time to reply to those customers.
Citations are more important than backlinks
Fiction. While citations held more importantance in the past, and our panel agrees they aren’t a top priority anymore. And, research conducted by Whitespark shows the quality and authority of inbound links to a domain were at the top for Google local organic search engine ranking factors in 2021. A backlink should come from a high-quality site and should be relevant. Here are more tips for building your backlink profile (such as through guest blogging and award submissions).
Albeit arguably not as important as backlinks, it still remains imporant to ensure your local citations have the right business phone number, name, and address across popular sites, such as Yelp, Google, etc.
Ranking for a specific query is the number one goal of SEO
Fiction. Website traffic, including organic traffic, and conversions are the most important metric for SEO. And, ranking for one specific query is only the tip of the iceburg. Why limit yourself to ranking for one query when you could rank for many? Focusing on ranking for multiple queries will not only help you drive an increase in search traffic but also your ranking in search engines for additional keywords and phrases you’re targeting.
Content length doesn’t matter
Fiction and a fact. Long-fom content has been proven to improve ranking in search engines and long-tail keyword ranking. But, if you string together 1,000 words of low-quality content this has a negative impact on user experience.
Creating relevant, high-quality content should be the end goal in your content marketing strategy. Whether that piece of content turns into short-form or long-form content doesn’t matter as long as the content is tailored toward helping the reader.
The density of your target keywords are important for on page body content
Fiction. As our panel states, write for consumers rather than for tools. Writing for the tools rather than your consumers. Keyword stuffing and injecting popular search terms within your content everywhere possible is a tactic of the past. Google’s earch engine algorithms have long since evolved to improve and better understand semantics. Keyword density is no longer as important as writing naturally.
Google penalizes duplicate content
Fiction. The Google duplicate content penalty doesn’t exist. Yet, it remains one of the most common SEO myths out there. But, duplicate content doesn’t help with improving ranking either.
As a benchmark, Chad says to make sure 30% of your content is unique. For brands managing multiple locations, creating fresh content can be a challenge. Jason suggests creating multiple diverse boilerplate content versions and then injecting relevant content for each location. This fresh content may include adding the street address, important landmarks, or products available at the specific location.
First-party reviews are another must for your content strategy. They are user-generated content that will be different for each of your locations and can be added to your local landing pages. They also build trust with search users.
Keyword clusters can help impact ranking for multiple keywords
Fact. Keyword clusters are a group of phrases that are relevant. For a hardware store, some of these keyword phrases that may be included in a keyword cluster are hammers, claw hammers, and framing hammers. A product page featuring hammers would likely include all of the aforementioned terms, as a customer may conduct a search query for a specific type of hammer rather than using generic keywords.
Keywords with less than 1,000 monthly pageviews are worthless
Fiction. Even one pageview can convert a potential customer. With voice searches and artificial intelligence on the rise, long-tail keywords are becoming more prevalent. When search users conduct a long-tail query, they typically know exactly what they want.
Long-tail keywords (3 or more words) don’t necessarily have as many pageviews, but they can be higher-converting. In fact, 70 percent of all searches performed online consist of long-tail keywords. Targeting shorter relevant keywords will no longer cut it. There must be a healthy mix of short and long-tail keywords incorporated into your digital marketing strategy.
Domain age does not matter for ranking
Fact and Fiction. We’ve long known that domain authority and age can impact search rankings. Traditionally, older domains do perform better, but what’s more important is if the domain has existing backlinks (a top organic search engine ranking factor) and some built up domain authority. It’s also important to considder Google’s Matt Cutts says the difference between a domain that’s 6 months old and 12 months old is very small. He also says, “As long as you’ve been around for at least a couple of months, you should be able make sure that you can show up in search results.”
Aditionally, if you have an older site that you want to completely abolish, you can use a 301 redirect to a new domain to help new domain obtain some of that old domain equity.
Internal backlinks aren’t important
Fiction. Backlinks are very important, from external links to internal backlinks. In fact, internal links came in as the third top organic ranking factor according to aforementioned research. However, there is a difference between good and bad internal linking. An example of a bad backlink (internally) may be link internally to a page with no relevance or an outdated link. Bad backlinks (externally) may be links that were paid for, are spammy, or from untrustworthy sites. Natural links work best, and shouldn’t be overdone.
It’s okay to change your Google Business Profile name to include keywords
Fact but mostly fiction. Of course at any time you can change your business name in your GBP if your business name has legally changed. But, it’s a different story when business owners change your business name in GBP for the sake of adding keywords.
Keyword spamming in GBP business names has been around for awhile, but continues to be penalized. Also your competitors are likely monitoring your official business listings and social media profiles at all times, waiting for you to slip up. Unless you’ve legally changed your business name, avoid using keywords in your business name. Google may suspend your listing or worse, if you do decietfully change your business name.
Structured data (schema) isn’t that important for SEO
Fact. Structured data, or Schema MarkUp, is not necessarily a SEO ranking signal, but it will help your web pages stand out more in search results and improve search volume through click-through rates. It also helps Google more closely match the search intent, optimizing your content for the search result and helping Google crawlers understand what the web page is about.
When writing content for structured data, be sure to test it using the Rich Results Test during development, and the Rich result status reports after deployment, to enusre your pages don’t break after deployment.