Search engine optimisation has changed a lot in recent years. Google has rolled out one major update after another, and each time the criteria for ranking well in search results have changed slightly. SEO is not the same as it was just a few years ago, so it's no wonder that a lot of myths about SEO have arisen.
In this post, I'll go through some common SEO myths to help you avoid wasting time and money on something that doesn't have an impact (anymore). Many of the myths stem from strategies that used to have a positive impact, so don't be surprised if you find old articles on other websites that describe the myths from a different perspective.
Read also our post on, why SEO is important.
1. "SEO comes with a good website"
This assumption is based on the fact that if you have hired expensive web developers to create a new website, then of course the website is search engine optimised. This is wrong, both because there is no guarantee that web developers understand SEO, and because SEO is not something that can be done by web developers alone - they can work with technology, but rarely with content, links and user signals.
2. "We already work with SEO"
Most people who claim to work with SEO only work with part of SEO, more specifically content. Content is a good start - provided you know your target audience's search habits and what content to create as a result. But if the technical foundations aren't in place, and if you're not working with links, you'll never get much further than the beginning.
3. "SEO is too opaque"
If SEO is opaque, it's either because you don't know enough about what it means to work with SEO, or because your SEO agency are not good enough to involve you in the work. In fact, one of the strengths of SEO is that everything - deliverables, results and returns - can be documented, making it (or should be) fully transparent what you're getting out of your investment.
4. "Our IT department has a handle on SEO"
Working with SEO requires technical knowledge, which is why many people may be tempted to leave the task to their company's IT department. However, successful SEO requires a holistic approach to technology, content, links and user signals - in other words, it is a multidisciplinary task that can rarely be handled by an IT department alone.
5. "Our student assistant knows SEO"
Some companies entrust all work on the website - copywriting, search engine optimisation, continuous updating, design, etc. - to a student assistant. This underestimates the value and importance of working on SEO, and it is by no means realistic for a student assistant to be able to do everything on their own.
6. "SEO does not pay"
This assumption may be correct. The problem is that most people base it on a gut feeling rather than on concrete facts. We typically start a collaboration by drawing up a Business Casewhich maps the economic potential of implementing a targeted SEO strategy. Only then can we say whether SEO is worthwhile.
7. "Keywords must be included in the domain name"
The domain is one of the elements search engines look at when evaluating a website. In the past, so-called Exact Match Domains, where selected keywords or search phrases are included in the domain, almost guaranteed that you achieved a high ranking for those particular keywords or search phrases. Fortunately, this is no longer the case.
Just think of domains like google.dk, yahoo.com, krak.dk, jubii.dk and amino.dk. They're all completely meaningless about the site's content, yet they achieve top rankings on a wide variety of keywords and search phrases. Short domains that are easy to remember are often better than long, cumbersome domains with lots of words and hyphens.
Moreover, SEO is not just about achieving good rankings on one keyword or one search phrase. Often, a website has hundreds or thousands of relevant keywords and phrases, and it is quite impossible to include them all in the domain name.
8. "Websites should be added to Google"
Google automatically adds new websites to their index and automatically updates existing websites every time their crawler crawls the web. So you don't have to add your website to Google to appear in search results. It can take many days or a few weeks for Google to discover your website, so as a general rule you shouldn't worry if your website isn't indexed straight away.
If you have a brand new website, you may want to create it in Google Search Console. This way you tell Google about your new website and ensure a faster indexing. Please note that Google does not add all submitted websites to their index, for example if the website violates applicable Danish law.
9. "Keywords must match content exactly"
In the past, it was important that the keywords and search phrases you wanted to be found for were included verbatim on the website. Today, this is no longer as important, as Google tries to understand the intent of the user's keywords more, so that Google can display a website that matches the user's needs (but does not necessarily match the user's exact keywords).
So it's important to optimise your website for users - not for search engines. Use words and phrases that make sense to your target audience, and don't try to use clunky phrases that resemble the incomplete sentences users type in the search box. Also, don't be afraid to use phrases, synonyms and related keywords - Google can easily understand what your website is about.
It is also a myth that keywords and search phrases should be included in the text of the website as many times as possible. This misguided strategy is called keyword stuffingand, in addition to significantly reducing readability, you risk being penalised by Google for violating its guidelines. Read more about keyword density.
10. "Meta keywords are important for SEO"
Already in 2009 announced Google's Matt Cuttsthat Google does not use meta-keywords for anything. If your website is targeted at users in Denmark (where Google is the all-dominant search engine), it is therefore a waste of time to include meta-keywords on your website. All you'll get out of it is a checklist for your competitors of the keywords you're trying to optimise your website for.
The situation is slightly different with the Bing search engine, where meta-keywords still have some relevance. Duane Forrester, Project Manager at Bing, has previously stated that "Meta keywords is a signal. One of roughly a thousand we analyze. Getting it right is a nice perk for us, but won't rock your world. Abusing meta keywords can hurt you.". However, the importance of having meta-keywords is so minimal and it is not something you should spend much energy on.
11. "Meta descriptions matter for your ranking"
Meta-descriptions are short descriptions in which you explain the content of your website. These descriptions are used by search engines, for example, as a way of presenting your website when it appears in search results. Google announced back in 2009 that meta descriptions have no impact on a website's ranking in search results.
However, this does not mean that meta descriptions are not an important part of SEO. On the contrary: meta descriptions allow you to stand out from other websites and they allow you to convince search engine users to visit your website. In other words, meta descriptions act as sales copy that determines whether users click on your website in search results.
As meta descriptions do not influence the ranking of the website in search results, relevant keywords in meta descriptions do not influence the ranking of the website either. However, it is a good idea to include relevant keywords in the descriptions because it reinforces the user's expectation that your website can meet their needs.
12. "SEO is all about placement"
Good rankings in search results are crucial for any SEO effort, as there is a clear link between a website's ranking in search results and the number of visitors to the site. Studies of click-through rates on Google has shown that users particularly favour the top three search results - but a good ranking in search results does not necessarily mean guaranteed success.
You can have a great ranking in search results, but if your website doesn't appear relevant and interesting to the user, your ranking is worthless. The same is true if your website does not meet the need that the user wants to cover with his search. So it's vital that you not only consider how you can achieve great rankings in search results, but also consider how you can improve your conversion rateso you get a return on your good rankings.
13. "Many inbound links are important"
Link building is one of the most important factors in SEO, because Google (and other search engines) interpret a link as a recommendation (and thus a stamp of quality) of a website. But if you think that many inbound links are always a good sign, you're wrong. The quantity of inbound links is no longer crucial (it used to be) - what matters is the quality and relevance of the inbound links.
The truth is that one quality link is much more valuable than 1,000 bad links. In fact, a lot of links from untrustworthy sources can, in the worst case, mean that Google interprets your website as untrustworthy and this can have negative consequences for your visibility in search engines. You should therefore focus on getting relevant and diverse sources to link to relevant pages on your website.
14. "Google never detects bad inbound links"
Google knows everything - you can't fool the search giant. And if you do manage to fool Google, they're guaranteed to come with an update that will make your hard work at best a waste (and at worst have a negative impact on your visibility). So it doesn't pay to spend time getting links of dubious quality.
If there are untrustworthy websites linking to your website and you are worried that it is harming your website, you can ask Google to disregard the links via the tool reject links.
15. "Outbound links are bad for SEO"
Some claim that outbound links degrades a website's SEO value, because outbound links send both your visitors and your SEO value to other websites. Fortunately, this is completely wrong!
Good quality links on your website can in many cases help your visitors find the information they are looking for (for example in-depth product information) - and the search engines reward your helpfulness. Search engines see outbound links to quality pages as a positive signal that reinforces the credibility of your website.
16. "The more content, the more visitors"
Some people believe that the more content there is on a website, the more visitors it will get. Content is indeed a key factor for visibility in search results, but it is far from always the amount of content that matters.
There's so much content on the web nowadays that if you write a lot of quick and meaningless text just to attract visitors, the text will never appear high enough in search results to ever have an impact. You need to focus on quality over quantity. Quality content makes your website stand out from the crowd, and that's crucial in a digital reality where hundreds of thousands of websites compete for a few spots in search results.
17. "There should be a lot of text on the front page"
The front page is your first chance to make an impression on your users and your first opportunity to signal that your products or services are relevant to them. Text on the front page can be a great way to influence users - and an easy way to give search engines an understanding of your website - but in many cases text is not the best solution.
The front page of the ginatricot.com webshop, for example, is characterised by beautiful and inspiring product images, while the front page of facebook.com is characterised by a "Create user" form. In both cases, the amount of text on the front page is minimal, but search engines can easily understand what the two websites are about because search engines combine information from the whole website (and not just the front page).
So you need to think carefully about how best to present your company and products to your users on your front page. For example, the front page can contain text, images, video, features or forms - or a combination of these. Search engines understand text best, but your front page needs to speak to your users.
18. "H1 is the most important element on the page"
H1 headings (used for headings) has been very important for SEO in the past, because headings tell you something short and clear about what content you can expect to find on the page. Today, however, the importance of H1 headings is significantly less. Search engines have become good enough to recognise that a large piece of text at the top of a website is a heading - whether it is surrounded by an H1 tag or not.
The most important thing is to present your most important concepts and information about the page content at the top of the page - and preferably in a large and easy-to-read font. And of course you might as well use an H1 tag, as it's often the easiest and it often has a number of design advantages in terms of styling different text types.
19. "Images should not be SEO optimised"
On-page SEO is more important than ever, and that includes images (including all forms of illustration). Search engines are not yet good enough to look at an image and understand what it is an image of. That's why it's important to give images alt-texts and relevant file names, so that search engines have a chance to understand what the images show.
Image optimization on your website strengthens the credibility of your website and enables your website to gain visibility in search engine image searches. Google can currently index the following image formats: bmp, gif, jpg, jpeg, png, webp and svg.
20. ".com domains rank best"
It is a misconception that .com domains generally rank better than other domains. The misconception may be that .com domains have a good brand, that they are easy to remember and that they are associated with a large number of large, well-known companies and brands. But that doesn't mean they rank better than other domains.
The only domains that are to some extent favoured by search engines are .edu, .gov, .int and .mil. These domains are restricted, meaning that only specific governmental and educational institutions are allowed to own them. Such institutions have a high credibility in society, and it is therefore natural that search engines weight them slightly higher than others.
Wikipedia.org is probably the best example of how you can get good search rankings without a .com domain. If your website is targeted at users in a specific country, you will usually achieve the best rankings by opting out of the .com domain in favour of a country code domain (e.g. .dk, .se or .co.uk).
21. "Local SEO doesn't matter anymore"
This myth is as far from the truth as it gets. Local SEO matters more than ever before, and it's actually very logical: If your TV has broken down, you don't buy a new one from a retailer in the US. You buy a new one from a local retailer (a local webshop) that can offer short delivery times, transparent terms and conditions, as well as warranty and guarantee rights under current Danish law.
Search engines therefore naturally try to display search results that target the same country or region as the user is in. So if you have SEO optimised your website for a location, you enable search engines to show your website to relevant users, boosting not only your visitor numbers but also your conversion rate, because local users are more likely to choose your particular products or services.
22. "HTTPS encryption is not important"
HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) is an encryption that protects your customers' data when they send information between their computer and your website. Google, internet users and politicians all want a safer internet, so it came as no surprise when Google in 2014 announcedthat they will favour HTTPS-encrypted websites in the future.
If you are one of the 99.9% of websites that do not use HTTPS encryption, you should consider doing something about it now. HTTPS can give your website a small boost in search rankings, and it also has a number of security benefits.
23. "Mobile optimisation is not important"
In spring 2015, Google launched an algorithm update that has since been nicknamed "Mobilegeddon". The update expanded Google's use of mobile-friendliness as a parameter for ranking websites in search results. In short, the update means that Google now favours mobile-friendly websites in mobile search results. And this is something that can be felt, because a very large proportion of users now make searches from mobile devices.
So if you don't yet have a mobile-friendly website, you should plan a strategy to modernise and adapt your website for mobile devices. A responsive design is the obvious solution for most. As well as boosting your website's ranking in mobile search results, it significantly improves the usability of your website and can have a big impact on your conversion rate.
24. "Highlighted excerpts are not important"
Highlighted snippets are short explanations that appear at the top of Google when a user asks a question in a search. For example, try doing a Google search for "what is scoliosis" and notice the explanation from Wikipedia that comes up at the top.
You can work to create relevant content on your website that answers questions about your industry or products. This will help your users answer their questions and increase your chances of a highly visible position at the top of search results. Read more Google's guide to featured snippets.
25. "Google Ads improves website rankings"
A very common myth is that Google Ads improves a website's ranking in organic search results. This is completely wrong, and it cannot be said enough that a website's organic ranking remains the same whether or not it has Google Ads associated with it.
However, there are many advantages to using Ads. For example, they can be used to expose your website to keywords that you would not otherwise be found on, or they can give you double exposure (paid and organic visibility) on selected keywords, making your website significantly more visible. Google Ads should therefore be a consideration in any marketing strategy - but in terms of organic visibility, Ads have no impact.