36 Common SEO Myths You Love To Hate

Written By Trudi Holden. Updated 25th November 2021
Head of Digital Engagement and the face behind our social media. Trudi leads our social media strategy and content development, with a particular passion for increasing intuitive engagement.

In a world where everyone and their aunt thinks they’re an expert, it can be easy to get sucked into common SEO myths that sound too good to be true. From avoiding automated SEO and hiding keywords at the bottom of your page (I mean, really?!), to using that one search engine hack and putting your feet up when it’s done.

Let us break down the facts about SEO for everyone wanting to increase organic traffic, improve website rankings and quality conversions, without spending 100 hours down a dark Google whole of nothingness!

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36 SEO Myths

1: You can relax once your SEO is ‘done’

No, no, my friend. If you think 1 hour, or even 100 hours, of ‘doing’ SEO means you’re all done, you simply don’t know how it all works.

You never really complete search engine optimisation. It’s a rolling process that you will continually need to dip into, evolve and grow. There is always more to be done and just when you think you have completed every step possible, it’s usually time to go back over previous work for tweaking.

Indeed, great SEO is all about constant tweaks and fixes – keeping your website fresh in the eyes of search engines and ever link building for a rounded SEO strategy. Ranking factors include quality content, internal links, domain authority, keyword-rich anchor text, on-page SEO and so much more!

2: Mobile SEO isn’t a thing

It’s true that content, links and relevant keywords are largely the same on desktop and mobile, but the big SEO myth here is that you don’t need to optimise for mobile for search engine rankings. Usability is a huge thing to consider when mapping out your SEO strategy, don’t forget your rankings could be dropped on SERP’s for mobile users if you haven’t even factored them in.

3: SEO is a mysterious dark art only special SEO people can do

Ok, so I would love to think that we sit here with wizards’ hats performing cyber spells in a dark cave. SEO is no more a secret than cooking a good meal. Know your ingredients, how they work together and combine all elements to create a recipe for high web traffic and conversions!

Yes, it does take time to learn, master and execute effectively, but if you’re interested in how websites work, clever copywriting and a desire to make your site work the best it can, you’re halfway there.

4: Meta Tags boost rankings

Meta tags, meta author, and meta robots are unfortunately not given much weight these days. They have simply been overused and over abused and Google ranking algorithms don’t rate them. Don’t waste your time optimising them.

That being said, meta descriptions are still worth looking at. Though they don’t directly increase rankings, they influence the snippet displayed on search engines – a key part of the SERP journey. It may also get picked if your meta description includes a popular keyword.

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5: Its either SEO or PPC

Every good business owner or marketer knows not to put all your eggs in one basket. Search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) each play important roles in driving web traffic and increasing conversion. You really don’t need to choose, nor do we advise it.

It’s true that paying for paid search helps organic ranking, but a great SEO strategy will give longevity to your marketing efforts.

Read our blog 'Do Google Ads Work?' for why this should be a best friend to your SEO work.

6: Avoid automated SEO

It’s not spammy to make some of your SEO automated when it’s done right. Automation helps you to scale up and reach a wider audience.

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7: A SEO agency can do it all for you

OK, this is an SEO myth and it isn’t. On the one hand, you can get it wrong with an SEO agency. It’s not always the case that throwing lots of money at an agency and leaving them to it will serve your website objectives. Many businesses have lost too much money paying for expensive hours of SEO work that just didn’t pay off.

However, as SEO experts we do think there is the value when you work with the right agency (us). We work out a plan that suits your budget AND your objectives, finding the sweet spot of effective and affordable. Some activities, like link building, are almost always worth bringing in external help for.

8: Multiple Google Map listings is beneficial

Local SEO is often overlooked by bricks and mortar businesses, which is a shame as Google Places can be very effective. However, that’s not to say you should overuse this tool. Many people make the mistake of listing individual rooms or areas of their business as separate locations in the hope of increasing their ranking.

Not only is this confusing for customers (after all SEO is about people as much as computers) it just doesn’t work. Period.

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9: Increase paid search to make life easier

No. Just no.

Sure, if you’re a complete PPC master (like our Ben) and you’ve got something good going on, keep investing. But that is a whole other beast to SEO, so don’t think you can skip it.

10: You need to be techy to do SEO

Do you need an SEO qualification to nail search engine traffic? No.

Unless by techy you mean knowing how to switch a computer on. Then perhaps you should pursue another career path. Otherwise, you really don’t need to be part of an IT, or indeed marketing team, to understand how to optimise organic search traffic.

That being said, like all multi-dimensional areas, the more you know the more you can do. SEO can start from anything as simple as great optimised copywriting, to meta and coding if you so wish.

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11: SEO is a marketing loner  

It is an SEO myth that it’s syphoned off for ‘website people’ and doesn’t affect any area of marketing, or indeed a business. Website search affects everything from customer service and accounts to social media and public relations. Though SEO does focus primarily on what you can and can’t see of a website, it should be incorporated and incorporate all areas of your business.

12: SEO is a bonus extra you can do once a website is built

No one likes making a rod for their back. A great website plan includes SEO from the offset. It’s the stuff that underpins the magic of your site – the cogs that make it work harder and faster. Your mock-ups, wireframes and content plans should all reflect your SEO strategy.

13: SEO is a separate arm to social

Sure, the two are friends, but they are also two distinct areas of expertise that can work harmoniously together. Check out our blog on Social Media SEO for more info on how to create a match made in heaven.

This is a reminder that SEO cannot just be tagged on to a generic marketing role – it can’t be tagged into someone existing workload and is expected to increase organic traffic overnight. Even with basic knowledge, SEO is something that can’t be rushed nor executed well by someone with their head elsewhere.

14: SEO is free

Nothing in life is free darling! Whether you’ve paid an agency, a team member or your own wages, SEO is time and time is money.

Sure, a great search engine optimisation strategy is cheaper than paid ads, but its not a quick win for conversions, nor will it always yield instant results.

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15: Analytics is just a tool for Google to spy and utilise data against you

Does Google analytics spy on you? Yes, kind of. Should you be afraid. No.

In fact, I’d be more afraid of a website that wasn’t hooked up correctly to analytics. Yes, it does collect and use your data (with your permission – remember those T&Cs you agreed to?) but these are more to optimise your digital journey.

16: Established, successful businesses don’t need SEO

I’m not sure I need to say anything more here. This is just the same as saying once you’re married, the deal is sealed and you can put your feet up!

If you still don’t know why this is the biggest SEO myth, read our blog on What is SEO and why it is vital for your business.

17: The key is to find that one hack that works for you

Just discovered link building or voice search SEO and ready to retire? Hold on a second my friend. As much as your ‘one ring to rule them all’ approach to search traffic domination might look good on paper, no one SEO hack will do it all.

Every SEO tactic is just a string on a bigger bow. You still need the basic SEO building blocks in place – the more you do, the higher the rankings.

18: Google will find your fresh content and index it

Wouldn’t life just be wonderful if this myth was that simple?

Search bots feed on fresh content, and they love to gobble that up. But does that mean they are waiting in line for the next new blog you’re posted about working with a digital agency?

Well, actually, yeah it can happen – it might take a few days – but if it hits the spot it will be found. Though we recommend giving those spiders a hand and installing a Google XML sitemap generator plugin for WordPress.

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19: Appearing in search engines takes too long

This myth could be true if you let it. I mean, how long is a piece of string? But then there are also many simple, cost-efficient workarounds including server modules, proxies, SaaS solutions.

It’s a myth that SEO is a slow, lengthy process that won’t bring in traffic for months or even years. We often work with our long-term clients to establish short and long terms goals, so we start small and build-up to world SEO domination.

20: SEO is more about ranking than conversion

SEO can be ALL about the conversion if you want it to be – search engine ranking is just the journey toward the end goal! Sure, you want to create a cohesive, compelling and user-friendly pathway toward your website and services – it’s not all about the hard sell – but SEO is certainly a powerful conversion tool when done right.

Bolding words, shortening the URL, editing snippet copy with a call to action are all great tactics for using SEO to increase conversion.

21: Top-level domains improve rankings

When you type any keyword phrase into a Google search, 98% of the search results are .com domain names.

This top-level domains hang out at the highest position in the hierarchy of domain names and are usually the ones people instantly trust over .biz. .edu etc.

Do top level domains improve ranking? Not really. Sure, if your domain contains keywords, you’ll rank for your search term but the domain level is apparently not an indication of ranking.

Googles head of webspam, Matt Cutts confirmed: “There is nothing in the algorithm itself, though, that says: oh, .edu–give that link more weight. It is just .edu links tend to have higher page rank because more people link to .edu’s or .gov’s.”

22: The better the content, the better the ranking

If only it was that easy! We definitely agree that content should not be compromised to simply shoehorn in high ranking, low competition keywords, nor is a beautifully written piece with no keywords going to do much for your search engine optimisation.

But the fact is, even great optimised content will sit collecting dust if it lives within bad site architecture, and is even promoted well (see myth 8).

23: Including small hidden links at the bottom of the page increases search results

Repeat after me “Under no circumstances will I hide anything on my website that doesn’t need to be there, assuming I can trick search engines.” Our SEO advice to you: build in a robust link building strategy to improve organic rankings over keyword stuffing.

24: There is an optimum number of keywords to include in content

If you have a spare lifetime to count your keywords and create killer SEO optimised copy, go right ahead! But in truth, there is little value in counting, let alone testing, keyword numbers.

25: Bold a word to increase keyword ranking

Known as “KWiC” this is a practice ONLY to be used for usability – it's not like a double up a win scenario!

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26: Use H1 Tags for all your main keywords

As above, optimise these for useability only. There is very little evidence H1 tags affect ranking dramatically. If you’re seeing a difference from H1 tags, maybe consider the headline’s keyword prominence in the HTML.

27: Once you have lots of links you don’t need to build any more

 Have you learnt nothing from the previous SEO myths! In search engine optimisation there is rarely a moment when there is nothing more to do. Not only does more links mean potentially more traffic but search engines do factor in age of links and content – affecting your authority and relevance.

Here's how to build a website for SEO.

28: Hide relevant keywords in HTML comment tags and title attributes

Are we saving you hours of time yet? Don’t waste your precious hours cleaning up, optimising or hiding keywords into your HTML. It will neither rank you higher or effect site speed

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29: Googlebot doesn’t read CSS

A classic SEO myth that could catch up out! You better believe they do my friend. Don’t get too cheeky, they are on the look out for spam tactics and hidden divs.

30: End your URLS in .HTML.

This makes zero difference. Noticing a theme with these SEO myths?

31: Boost Google rankings with an XML sitemap

Can a sitemap boost your search rankings?

The Search masters Google said themselves on their Webmaster Central Blog that “A Sitemap does not affect the actual ranking of your pages.”

However, if your site is not indexed enough, it simply won’t get ranked very well at all. So, in that way, you may well see increased rankings when you index sitewide.

What we do know is that an XML Sitemap helps search engines crawl and index fresh pages faster. Sitemaps do serve as a guide, giving information about your site to Google, making sure that all of your URLs are indexed for easy crawling.

32: Use a minimum of 40 tags per blogpost

Ahh please don’t. This isn’t Instagram, nor is it a competition in how much you can spam your own site.

33: Spiders still find unlinked pages

Would you go to a party that even the host doesn’t show up to? If your pages aren’t worth appearing on your own XML Sitemap, search engines aren’t going to give them much time. Orphan pages rarely rank for anything, so get those URLs listed.

34: It’s risky to clean up the URLs in your links selectively and only for spiders

If you are genuinely cleaning URLs to remove session IDs and tracking parameters to help search engines – then go crazy! Though others may consider it ‘cloaking’, a tidy URL, when done with the right intentions, is actively encouraged by search engines.

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35: Sitemaps are for SEO not site visitors

This myth is simply not true. Ultimately your whole site is for visitors – every page, content and link is for human consumption and should be designed as such.

36: Google cannot detect artificial link building schemes

Artificial links - like link wheels, three-way links, viralinks, blog link networks and link wheels follow similar statistical distributions as natural links. Likewise, artificial links are identified and penalised, so be warned!

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many ways you can get SEO wrong. But so many wonderful, and frankly common-sense ways you can get it right too.

Don’t think you can trick search engines with your newest hack, nor should you skip vital steps that make a massive difference to authority, ranking and useability.

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