There’s no denying it, SEO is a complex beast. The benefits of getting it right are huge for your business but get it wrong and you’ll know about it!

The industry itself is filled with confusion and lack of clarity, partly due to the nature of the work and the lack of transparency from the search engines, but also partly down to the fact that one single, perfect SEO roadmap does not exist - it’s all about tailoring and testing your approach (see myth 1).

So, to help clarify, we’ve debunked eight SEO myths and revealed how to make a better choice for your business.

Myth #1: Following best practice always works

Our view: There are certainly guiding principles we adhere to across the industry, but we also recognise that best practice often differs between disciplines, hence it takes experience to tailor your approach to your client’s needs.

Things to consider: Recently, a leading eCommerce giant removed category copy from its site; often considered to add great SEO benefit. The move helped streamline user experience, so the search engines rewarded them with higher traffic, right? Unfortunately, no. Despite this being best practice from a UX point of view, it caused a dive in rankings leading to lost traffic and revenue. The only option was a return to expansive category copy.

Our advice: where best practice collides, take a measured approach. A/B testing is the best way to test a hypothesis while minimising risk.

Myth #2: Content has a limited lifespan

Our view: Wrong. Old content can add real value when refreshed in the right way. Creating new content from scratch is time consuming, and companies often miss out on the low-hanging fruit of dated content that just needs a bit of TLC to turn it back into a traffic driver.

Things to consider: Start with your evergreen content. This should be monitored regularly for tweaks and optimisations that could improve performance and keep it relevant for the audience. It’s also important to look at the data – which pages were big traffic drivers when published, but have since fallen off the radar? Which surprising topics are still driving a steady stream of traffic long after you thought they would? This type of content is often prime for reactivation. Look to improve it with updated insights, and refresh to match the current intent of the reader for that topic. It’s also a good idea to stay close to content designers and CMS managers to monitor the deletion schedule, as there’s nothing worse than realising valuable content has been removed.

Myth #3: Core Web Vitals are the top priority to protect and improve your rankings

Our view: Core Web Vitals have been a hot topic in the industry ever since they were first announced back in May 2020. The announcement of user experience playing a more pivotal role in ranking factors caused quite the stir - but so far, despite the chatter, we have yet to see any major fluctuations in performance as a result.

Things to consider: When building your strategy, don’t just look at core web vitals in silo; they need to be considered as part of the overall organic equation and prioritised accordingly. Is speed the key lever to pull right now? Or should content, authority building, or other technical fundamentals take priority?

We’re not saying ignore them, especially if the data suggests you are offering a poor experience versus your competitors, but just be smart in how you approach them, prioritising them sensibly within the rest of your workflow.

Myth #4: Your brand reputation means Google understands how authoritative you are

Our view: This is not the case; you must demonstrate authority and prove your credibility through the content you produce. A brand with a reputation for reliable content will naturally start to pick up trust signals but must still work to produce that relevant and authoritative content.

Things to consider: Ensure your content is always adding real-life value for the reader. Expert quotes and author pages are a great way of showing that the people producing the content are knowledgeable on the subject. The more you get noticed for quality content, the more people will naturally link through to it as a source and point of reference; these votes of confidence are another key indicator of authority to search engines.

Myth #5: Voice search is the future of search

Our view: Maybe, but not right now. Voice search may well have its place in the future, but when considering your marketing efforts for the next couple of years, it’s unlikely to play a significant role. There’s currently limited search behaviour data available, making it hard to evaluate the potential and if you need to act differently. We wouldn’t suggest focussing all your efforts on voice just yet, but stay close to your customers and keep an eye on trendsetters.

Things to consider: It’s important to remember that customers have unique preferences, and they look at the search results through the lens of those needs, self-evaluating the quality. Voice, smart speakers, or in fact a keyboard are just the interfaces for how we connect those needs with potential solutions. Changing the interface doesn’t necessarily mean an improved solution.

When voice is truly here, it will be far from the constraints of our current understanding. So, in the meantime, focus on offering customers solutions and guiding them through the buying journey regardless of the interface - this is where you’ll see the most benefit.

Myth #6: Backlinks are a volume game

Our view: While volume does matter, it's the volume of quality, relevant links you have that makes the difference. For too long there’s been a focus on the sheer number of links a digital PR campaign can earn. The pressure for every piece of content to go viral is something digital PR teams have been battling for many years; while there’s no denying it’s always nice to see a campaign hit 50, 100 or 150 links, it’s important to understand that only a handful of those links are going to be beneficial to your performance.

Things to consider: Look at the velocity with which your competitors are earning quality backlinks and set your link-earning strategy to match and outpace this. And remember, earning backlinks is not a one-time job - a consistent stream of quality links is essential to prove the value of your content to Google.

Myth #7: Keywords are the number-one priority for creating editorial content

Our view: Not entirely true. While keyword data is essential to inform an organic blog strategy and a post's structure, it's more important to consider the wider picture. User intent should be front of mind to ensure that the blog content you're publishing is exactly what searchers are looking for.

Things to consider: Think about analysing the current landscape; what kind of content is currently ranking on the first page for your core target terms? E.g. Do users expect step-by-step video content or are longer listicles more valuable for them?
We're not saying forget keywords altogether, but view them as one piece of the puzzle to help boost visibility, rather than a silver bullet.

Myth #8: Duplicate content won't harm your performance

Our view: While Google has stated on multiple occasions that there is no duplicate content penalty, it doesn't mean that it's not negatively impacting your performance. If your site is suffering from duplicate content issues for technical or editorial reasons, you're making it hard for search engines to process the value you're providing.

Things to consider: The key thing to consider when addressing duplicate content is which piece is the “right” one? You can use search and analytics data to help make that choice. Once you’ve answered that question, it’s then about communicating this to the search engines.

To let them know which page you want to rank, look at using 301 redirects, the rel=canonical attribute or adding a noindex meta tag. The preferred method varies depending on the context of the content, but all three offer ways to address duplicate content issues.

 

As much as some would like to think of SEO as black and white, these myths show it’s just not that simple. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach and in most cases, there is no simple yes or no answer. Instead, SEO takes experience and understanding, as well as the will to try and test new approaches (whilst minimising risk in the process).

Keep up to date with industry thinking and updates, but ensure you always view them through the lens of your business and your audience - this is key to making it work.