We only use 10% of our brains.”
“Lightning never strikes the same place twice.”
Myths are usually harmless.
But unfortunately, the same can’t be said for most SEO myths.
When you take these as marketing advice, it leads to wasted time and money.
So let’s bust these myths and get you focused on the things that’ll move the needle.
The first and possibly most dangerous myth is that SEO is dead.
Journalists say that many things are dead, like “YouTube is dead,” “Facebook is dead,”
“Bitcoin is dead,” and “romance is dead.”
These kinds of headlines often lead to opinion editorials that end up being nothing more than clickbait.
SEO is alive and well.
In fact, over the past three months, we’ve had over two million visits to our blog from Google alone.
So why do people keep clanging the same gong?
Well, the main argument is that Google is answering more and more queries right in the search results.
For example, if you search for “km to miles,” Google provides a calculator in the results so you don’t have to even visit a page.
In fact, 90% of searches for this query don’t result in a click to paid or organic positions.
But this doesn’t mean that SEO is dead.
You can still get clicks from this keyword and Google doesn’t give definitive answers in the search results for every keyword anyway.
Not even close.
So as long as search engines exist and have users, SEO isn’t going anywhere.
The next myth is that Google only ranks “fresh” content.
Does Google rank fresh content?
But does Google also ranks old content that hasn’t been updated in years!
Freshness is a query-dependant ranking factor.
Meaning, fresh content matters for some search queries, but not so much for others.
For example, this page on the human heart has had almost the exact same content since 2013.
And if you look at the page’s traffic trend, it’s continually gained search traffic to this date.
Well, that’s because a query like “picture of the human heart” isn’t dependent on freshness, since nothing has really changed.
Now, a topic like “top google searches” is something that changes over time.
And if you look at the organic traffic trend for our post on this topic, you’ll see dips and then spikes in search traffic.
Basically, the dips happened as the content got older without an update.
And when we updated the post with fresh data, we saw almost immediate gains in search traffic.
So how can you tell if a query relies on freshness?
The quickest and easiest way is to look at the top 10 ranking results.
If you see that all of the pages have the current year in the title, there’s a high chance that freshness plays a role in ranking.
This is a bit oversimplified, so you can watch our tutorial on republishing content if you want more of a step-by-step guide on this.
Bottom line: Google doesn’t only rank fresh content.
The next myth is that duplicate content will get you penalized.
Duplicate content is exact or near-duplicate content that appears on the web in more than one place.
But there is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty.
It’d be impossible to track properly since many pages are syndicated, scraped, and can even be created without you knowing it, like on category or archive pages.
In fact, Google and its representatives have said on numerous occasions that Google doesn’t have a duplicate content penalty.
But that doesn’t mean duplicate content is good for your site.
It can actually lead to undesirable results like backlink dilution, wasted crawl budget, or syndicated content ranking ahead of you.
For example, these two pages from Buffer are near duplicates.
And if we compare the URLs in Copyscape, you’ll see very high match rates.
Now, if we analyze these pages in Ahrefs‘ Batch Analysis tool, you’ll see that each page has generated a good number of referring domains but neither get very much search traffic.
So they could probably benefit from consolidating these URLs into one page and updating it to maximize link authority and search traffic.
To find duplicate content on your site, you can run a free crawl using Site Audit in Ahrefs Webmaster Tools.
After the crawl has completed, go to the Duplicate Content report and click on the orange area beside the Content category.
Then it’s just a matter of analyzing and fixing your pages.
The next myth is that SEO is a “set it and forget it” job.
Yes, SEO can lead to free, passive, and consistent traffic that doesn’t fade over time.
But that doesn’t mean you rank your pages and then call it a day.
SEO is kind of like going to the gym.
It’s ok to miss a workout here and there, but you have to go consistently in order to get results and maintain those results.
If you choose to ignore all SEO efforts after you’re ranking high, you’ll likely lose backlinks while your competitors are building them.
Your content will get stale for queries that rely on a freshness factor.
And before you know it, you’ll see a slow and steady decline in search traffic, which will likely affect your bottom line.
The next myth is that social shares help you rank higher in Google.
It’s reasonable to believe that the more your content gets shared on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, the higher those pages will rank.
After all, if tons of people are sharing something, it must be valuable, right?
Maybe, but Google’s John Mueller has said that social signals don’t directly impact rankings.
And while that word “directly” is up for interpretation, it makes sense that they wouldn’t use shares or likes as ranking signals.
I mean, anyone can buy thousands of social signals for just five bucks.
But if social signals aren’t a ranking factor, then why do studies like this one show a correlation between social shares and rankings?
Well, correlation doesn’t mean causation.
So the way I look at it is that social shares lead to more exposure.
And that often leads to more backlinks, which we know are a ranking factor.
And pages that rank well in Google get more search traffic, and assuming it’s a shareable piece, will continue to get shared on social.
The next SEO myth is that Pay Per Click Advertising won’t help you rank higher in search.
Paying for ads doesn’t directly influence rankings.
Meaning, Google won’t rank you higher in organic search just because you’re paying them.
But PPC can indirectly help your pages get more backlinks because of increased exposure, just like social shares.
In fact, we spent $1,245 on Google Ads to see if search ads could lead to backlinks.
Long story short, it works well if you bid on queries that have so-called “link intent.”
The next myth we need to bust is that SEO is always about ranking #1.
We all want top Google rankings.
But there’s a point where boosting your position for a single keyword may not be worth the required time and effort.
In fact, our study of 100,000 search queries showed that the top-ranking page only gets the most search traffic 49% of the time.
And the reason for this is because pages can get traffic from tons of relevant keywords, not just one.
For example, if we look at the top 10 pages for the query, “high protein diet,” you’ll see that the top page gets around 11,000 monthly search visits from the US.
But if you look at a couple of the other results, you’ll see they get significantly more search traffic.
Now, if you look at the number of keywords these pages rank for in comparison to the top page, it all makes sense.
They’re ranking for hundreds and even thousands of more keywords.
The lesson to take away from this is to focus on total traffic potential as opposed to a first-place ranking for a single keyword.
And this is something we talk a lot about in pretty much all of our keyword research tutorials.
Now, there are obviously a lot more SEO myths that I didn’t cover, like “backlinks are dead,” and “long-tail keywords are easier to rank for.”
So if you’ve heard conflicting advice related to SEO and want our opinion, let us know in the comments and we’d be happy to give you our take.