Have you read that SEO is dead? Well, don’t believe the hype. Sure, many things have changed since the early days of the Internet — but search engine optimization is far from over. Not only does search engine traffic convert at a rate 9 percent better than social media leads, but SEO is still the best way to perform well in the SERPs.

So today, in the spirit of debunking digital marketing fallacies, we’re breaking down the five biggest SEO myths still lurking online.

First: A Few SEO Basics

Before we start debunking myths, let’s review a few digital marketing basics. If you have a solid understanding of search mechanics and are just looking for the top five SEO myths, hop down to the next section.

What Is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization, which is the process of maximizing your exposure on platforms like Google, Bing, and Baidu. Generally speaking, the goal of SEO is to drive a given website as close to the top of the search engine result page (SERP) listings for relevant queries.

Standard SEO techniques include:

A Very Brief History of SEO and Search Algorithms

One of the main reasons SEO myths get started is because of search algorithm changes.

In days of old, algorithms weren’t nearly as “smart” as today’s iterations. In fact, in the early days, web pages that repeated keywords over and over again landed on top. It was that simple.

Within a few years, engineering evolved, and algorithms became a bit more elegant. But they were still rooted in basic if-then, binary logic. As such, digital marketers spent a lot of time coming up with keyword-ratio and backlink formulas. In those times, content still didn’t need to be great, but using the right content-to-keyword calculation and phrase placement tricks would rocket a website to the top of the SERPs. As long as you nailed the formula, sub-par content and spammy backlinks were a-ok.

Then came Panda — Google’s first significant content algorithm update — and everything changed. The year was 2011, and Panda crashed into the digital marketing world like a wrecking ball. Ostensibly overnight, sites that once dominated the SERPs were nowhere to be found, and little-trafficked platforms that had been producing quality content for years finally got their day in the sun.

Why was Panda such a game-changer? The update targeted low-quality content and spam farms. Platforms that relied on poorly written posts and ill-gotten links were either severely demoted or removed from the index altogether.

Since Panda, Google has made several major updates — including Penguin, Hummingbird, and RankBrain. Today’s search bots are leagues better at understanding user intent thanks to advancements in latent semantic indexing.

A Quick Note About Google

You’ll notice that we sometimes interchange “Google” and “search engine.” To be clear, we know the market is flooded with search engines. However, we’re also mindful that Google holds 92.47 percent of the worldwide user share. In the United States, the breakdown looks like this:

Google: 88 percent
Bing: 6 percent
Yahoo!: 3 percent
DuckDuckGo: 2 percent
Baidu and Ecosia: Less than 1 percent combined

So while it’s wise to set up business accounts on the top five search platforms, there’s no denying that Google is the pack leader, and succeeding at SEO means achieving on Google.

The Top Five SEO Myths

Ultimately, SEO work involves implementing and maintaining coding, linking, and content techniques that satisfy both search engines and users. When platforms like Google and Bing update their algorithms, SEO professionals must tweak their approach to keep up with evolving bot intelligence.

But sometimes, people misinterpret changes caused by algorithm updates or misconstrue missives made by Google insiders. When it happens, SEO myths permeate through the community. Below, we’re breaking down the top five.

Social-Media-SEOSEO Myth #5: Social Media Doesn’t Help SEO

It’s true that the number of “likes” you rack up on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook won’t directly affect your search engine result rankings. In other words, if one of your posts goes viral on social media, your website won’t automatically pop to the first spot in Google for your keywords.

However, social media can help SEO efforts tangentially. For starters, algorithms account for social signals, which means sharing, commenting, and liking can boost social impressions, which leads to higher click-through rates. Moreover, if people discover a blog post you wrote via social media, they may link to it organically, which is excellent for SEO.

Ultimately, the more engagement a social media account enjoys, the more impressions it will earn. The more impressions it accumulates, the more people will come in contact with the business or brand. So while social media may not be a direct route to SEO gold, it can help.

The Takeaway: Even though social media won’t directly boost your SERPs, it can help your SEO efforts overall.

SEO Myth #4: Having More Links Is Better Than Having More Content

There was a time when backlinks meant everything. They were the sun, moon, and stars of SEO. Back then, it didn’t matter from where your links came. The one and only goal was to amass more backlinks than your competitors, and for a while, it was better to invest in backlinks than content.

But those days are long gone. Yes, links are still a vital component of SEO — but so is content. A site that publishes fresh, quality blog posts, articles, videos, and infographics weekly will almost always do better than one that only publishes a few times a year. Plus, the more content you create, the larger your digital exposure. And the larger your digital footprint, the more chances you have of attracting clients, patients, or customers.

The Takeaway: It’s important to cultivate both quality backlinks and content. One isn’t necessarily more important than the other.

Extra Credit Link Building Reading

Backlinking Strategies: Variety, Velocity, and Volume
What Is Anchor Text?
How Impactful Are Backlinks?

SEO Myth #3: Keyword Targeting No Longer Matters

Don’t believe the folks who insist keywords are no longer a critical component of SEO. This myth is becoming increasingly pervasive, and it’s hurting a lot of websites.

The fallacy first gained traction when algorithms started getting smarter. At that point, exact-keyword formulas were no longer working as well as they once did, people began to panic, and frustrated SEOs hastily jumped to the conclusion that “keyword targeting no longer matters!”

They were wrong, though. Keyword targeting isn’t over; it’s just more sophisticated. Algorithms got much better at judging latent semantic indexing and could contextualize content. For example, in the early days of search, if you published a blog post about puppies but randomly incorporated the phrase “chiropractic care” the right amount of times in the right places, the page had a shot at ranking for “chiropractic care.” But post-algorithm shift, articles like that no longer worked because bots could determine that the piece had nothing to do with adjustments, ligaments, or physiology.

These days, search engines are calibrated to hone in on user intent, not just exact keyword matches. For example, let’s say you typed “the top SEO myths” into Google. Years ago, articles that optimized for that exact phrase would win the top SERP spots. These days, you’re likely to get a variety of responses, not of all which are exact matches. However, the returned results will all deal with SEO myths, proving that keyword targeting is still essential.

So what does this all mean, practically speaking? Keywords still matter. You just need to use them naturally and include related phrases. Moreover, it’s no longer advisable to “keyword stuff.”

The Takeaway: Keyword targeting is not going anywhere anytime soon. However, use them naturally and include related semantic phrases.

Extra Credit Keyword Reading

What Are Keywords and How Do I Use Them for SEO?
What Are the Best Keywords for a Chiropractor?

SEO Myth #2: Local Search Doesn’t Matter Anymore

Have you heard the SEO myth that local search no longer matters?

We’re not 100 percent sure how this one got started, but it’s probably related to search algorithms generally becoming more regional over the past decade. For example, a person in London, England, will get different results when they Google “digital marketing companies” than someone querying the exact phrase in Denver, Colorado, or Svalbard, Norway.

However, a general shift toward regionality doesn’t mean you should stop optimizing landing pages for local search. Approximately 47 percent of people still add a town or county to their queries, and the best shot businesses have of performing well for those types of searches is optimizing for it. Maintaining regionally specific landing pages is a great way to rock local search.

Also, make sure to claim your Google My Business account. Having one goes a long way when it comes to local search. Google reviews also help boost local search rankings.

The Takeaway: Local search represents nearly 50 percent of goods and services queries and remains an integral part of any SEO campaign.

SEO Myth #1: Guest Blogging Is Dead

The “guest blogging is dead” myth all started in 2014 when Matt Cutts, Google’s former head of webspam, made a post on his blog that started:

“Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.”

He went on to rebuke the amount of guest blogging spam landing in his inbox, lamenting:

“Back in the day, guest blogging used to be a respectable thing, much like getting a coveted, respected author to write the introduction of your book. It’s not that way anymore.”

When the post landed, the SEO world collectively gasped. After all, guest blogging had become a prevalent part of the digital marketing business model, and it didn’t violate Google’s webmaster guidelines. Heck, Forbes.com, the online home of one of the country’s top finance magazines, relies heavily on guest posts for content.

If people had read the entirety of Cutts’s post, though, they would have realized that he was focusing on spammy, low-quality guest posts.

A few days after the hubbub hit, Cutts clarified his remarks on Twitter and reassured the SEO community. “Sorry for all the drama I caused with the guest blogging apocalypse,” he joked. “Guest blogging is OK again. My bad.”

These days, guest blogging remains helpful on several levels. Firstly, it’s a relationship-building tool — and knowing other people in your industry niche is always beneficial. Secondly, it’s a way to expand your online footprint, which increases exposure. And thirdly, guest blogging can provide solid backlinks in some instances.

The Takeaway: Guest blogging can be helpful. However, it should be quality content, not spammy shlock. The former can help; the latter can harm.

Extra Credit Content Writing Reading

Blogging With Purpose: SEO Content Writing
Five Things To Include in Every Blog Post
How Many Blog Posts Should I Publish Per Month?
What Is Pillar Content and Why Is It Important?
How Content Improves Your Website’s Search Ranking

Get Serious About Your SEO

Don’t fall for these SEO myths! Doing so could hurt your search rankings.

If you’re ready to boost your online presence and attract new clients, patients, or customers, let’s talk. Our experienced digital marketing team can get you where you want to be, professionally.