Here are 13 SEO myths (oooh, spooky!) you might have heard – and why they are wrong.

SEO myth #1: It doesn’t work

It does.

There are lots of companies out there generating a lot of organic traffic and qualified leads using SEO. Google is investing A LOT into free SEO resources (which can all be found collated in one place at Google Search Central) and even publishes SEO case studies – focused on how companies have used SEO to increase revenues.

It also spends a lot of time creating guides and insights for its YouTube community (in multiple languages). Checkout the SEO Made Easy playlist if you’re at the beginning of your SEO journey; the Search Console training playlist if you’re keen to start measuring the impact of your SEO efforts; or the Sustainable Monetized Websites playlist if you’re building your side hustle!

Google’s Search Off the Record podcast, which was launched in mid-2022, is also a great listen!

SEO myth #2: What you spend on Google Ads affects your organic ranking

It does not. It doesn’t make sense. This is why (straight from the horse’s mouth):

“We’ve heard people ask if we design our search ranking systems to benefit advertisers, and we want to be clear: that is absolutely not the case. We never provide special treatment to advertisers in how our search algorithms rank their websites, and nobody can pay us to do so.”

Source: Google

SEO myth #3: It’s a one-time thing

It would be great if you could pay an SEO magician to wave their magic wand and fix your SEO permanently. But that simply isn’t the case. Like most things in life, it requires continued hard work, adjustments, research and reporting.

Search engines are constantly changing their algorithms, so tweaks need to be made on an ongoing basis. Competitors can move in on your rankings, so it’s important to keep improving, if you want to keep that sweet organic traffic. Basically, anyone who tells you that they can sort your SEO on a one-off project basis is not going to.

SEO myth #4: You need to include your keyword a certain amount of times

One of the most common SEO myths is that there is an optimal level of keyword density required in content. Search engines consider so much more than the number of times a keyword is mentioned – they consider external and internal links, user behaviour, images, semantically related phrases, the expertise and experience of any named authors, and website folder structure, amongst other things.

So don’t get hung up on keyword density – you’ll be wasting your time and you’ll probably jeopardise the quality of your content, too.

SEO myth #5: Keywords aren’t a thing anymore

Of course they are! How can you rank for apples if you only ever write about pears? Keyword density might not be a thing, but keywords are. Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller explained this to Search Engine Land’s news editor Barry Schwartz:

“…I think, in general, that there’s probably always gonna be a little bit of room for keyword research because you’re kind of providing those words to users. And even if search engines are trying to understand more than just those words, showing specific words to users can make it a little bit easier for them to understand what your pages are about and can sometimes drive a little bit of that conversion process.”

It’s all about balance. If your content is user-friendly, expert-led and topic-focused, you’re likely to include your keyword (and variations of it) naturally anyway. So, make sure that it’s included, but make sure that it is used in context, too.

SEO myth #6: content doesn’t matter, it’s about design

How you design and structure your website is important when it comes to SEO, more so than ever before in fact – speed and mobile friendliness is paramount to organic search engine success (speed is already a ranking factor but page experience focused on Core Web Vitals became a ranking factor on mobile in June 2021 and on desktop in February 2022.

But it’s no good having a perfect design if you don’t have good quality content on your site – Google’s Mueller repeatedly emphasises this and points out that best content wins, but, “…if all of the content is very similar in the search results page, then probably using Page Experience helps a little bit to understand which of these are fast pages or reasonable pages with regards to the user experience and which of these are kind of the less reasonable pages to show in the search results.”

SEO myth #7: Mobile and desktop are the same

If you have a responsive site then there are often differences between the mobile resized version of your website and the desktop version. You may not realise the content changes (e.g. headers or ‘Read more’ sections disappear or the number of internal links change) when the website resizes.

Likewise if you’re running light and speedy accelerated mobile pages (AMP) in parallel to your main site, then make sure your AMP carry the same content and proper canonicalization (although Google effectively dropped AMP when the page experience update went live and there are no SEO benefits from using it).

What’s more, as of October 2023, Google has fully transitioned over to mobile-first indexing, which means the mobile version of a website is prioritised for ranking and indexing purposes. This makes it even more crucial to ensure that the mobile experience is optimised, with no significant content or functionality missing compared to the desktop version.

SEO myth #8: SEO is cheap

It definitely shouldn’t be. This is a myth perpetuated by old school spammy SEO agencies that will employ low-cost tactics that could see you removed from Google’s index altogether. Why would a company that can help you generate hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of sustainable revenue only charge you £30k a year for the privilege?

When you need technical SEO expertise, content experts and PR/outreach specialists to help you craft and execute a perfect SEO strategy, you shouldn’t expect them to charge next to nothing. Think about what you’d spend on a CMO – then spend at least that on an SEO agency.

SEO myth #9: Paid search results get the most clicks because they’re at the top of the results page

Accurate data on average click-through rate (CTR) for paid search and organic results is rare and is naturally not published by Google because, while they’re keen on SEO, they don’t want to devalue Google Ads.

However, it has been proven many times over through detailed CTR analysis and experiments that organic results vastly outperform their paid counterparts.

Whereas ranking first a keyword organically could yield you up to 40% of the total clicks available, you will be lucky to get 2% if you run a paid ad in Position 1 instead.

The amount of money companies spend on Google Ads over SEO is OUTRAGEOUS given the percentages of searchers who click on each type of result.

SEO myth #10: All links are created equal

When it comes to SEO, there are four types of back links – follow, nofollow, sponsored and UGC. All of these will help with SEO as Google’s uses all of them as ‘hints’, but the most valuable type of link is a followed link – this is a link from a reputable source that passes PageRank (link juice).

“All the link attributes, sponsored, ugc, and nofollow, now work today as hints for us to incorporate for ranking purposes. For crawling and indexing purposes, nofollow will become a hint as of March 1, 2020.”

SEO myth #11: Google penalises AI-generated content

Google’s guidelines do not explicitly prohibit the use of AI-generated content. As Google states:

“When it comes to automatically generated content, our guidance has been consistent for years. Using automation—including AI—to generate content with the primary purpose of manipulating ranking in search results is a violation of our spam policies.”

However, Google also recognises that “not all use of automation, including AI generation, is spam.”

Instead, the search engine emphasises the importance of providing high-quality, valuable, and original content for users, regardless of how it is produced:

“As explained, however content is produced, those seeking success in Google Search should be looking to produce original, high-quality, people-first content demonstrating qualities E-E-A-T (expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness).”

If the AI-generated content is low-quality, plagiarised, or designed to manipulate rankings, it could potentially be viewed as spam and negatively impact your SEO. The key is to use AI as a tool to assist in content creation while ensuring that the final output is unique, informative, and adheres to Google’s guidelines for high-quality content.

SEO myth #12: Links are the most important factor in determining SEO performance

There a plenty of link building myths – and this is one of the worst offenders! While backlinks from reputable sources are undoubtedly useful, they are by no means the sole determinant of SEO performance.

In fact, Google changed its official wording around the value of links as a ranking factor in March 2024:

Old: “Google uses links as an important factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

New: “Google uses links as a factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

Google’s algorithms consider numerous other factors, such as content quality, user experience, technical optimisation, and overall website authority. A well-rounded SEO strategy that addresses various aspects of on-page and off-page optimisation is crucial for achieving and maintaining SEO performance. Focusing solely on link building without considering other factors is unlikely to yield sustainable long-term results.

SEO myth #13: Longer content ranks better

While in-depth, comprehensive content can be beneficial for certain topics and queries, content length alone is not a direct ranking factor. Google’s algorithms aim to provide the most relevant and satisfying content for each specific search query, regardless of word count. In some cases, concise and well-written content that directly addresses the user’s intent may rank better than unnecessarily long-form content. The key is to focus on quality, relevance, and providing value to the user, rather than prioritising length over substance.

The best place to start? Conduct search engine results pages (SERP) analysis for your target keywords to determine what type of content works best for those specific queries.

SEO myths = busted

So, there you have it – the most common SEO myths to be aware of. However, if you’re keen for more then check out Google’s SEO myth busting YouTube series. Martin Splitt from Google’s Search Relations team specifically focuses on technical SEO myths including misconceptions surrounding canonicalization, crawl budget and JavaScript implementation.

If you’re looking for a B2B SEO agency that can provide no-nonsense SEO advice and guidance, get in touch.


Matthew Robinson 2

Originally published on: 13th January, 2020

Updated on 3rd April, 2024 by Matthew Robinson, Senior PR and Digital Strategist, Definition