Last week, the world-renowned SEO expert, Bill Slawski, wrote an article for us called A Guide to the Biggest SEO Myths on the Web. The SEO industry as a whole responded very well to the article, and our community loved it. Due to this response, our social team asked Bill to participate in our weekly #SEMrushchat so we could discuss SEO myths with the SEMrush community. Here is what we covered:
- What SEO concept did you believe in, but it turned out to be just a myth?
- What are some consequences you have seen that are a direct result of an SEO Myth?
- What advice can you give to an SEO newbie so they can distinguish myths from real facts and could stay ahead of the SEO curve?
- If someone is not sure if the SEO information they have is correct, what are some ways to fact check?
- What are the red flags that help to distinguish a true SEO expert from an impostor?
The responses we received to the questions were helpful, insightful, and educational. This chat recap post is going to be extra long because we received so many great answers, and I felt our readers should see the many great tips the participants shared. So, get ready to read and be sure to share your answers to these questions in the comments below.
What SEO concept did you believe in, but it turned out to be just a myth?
Stevie Howard — "DA. Me and my SEO partner were looking into it for clients. We started asking around forums and got DRAGGED. Insults flooded in. I learned 2 things that day: 1. DA is not a ranking factor and 2. Communities, even as good as the marketing/SEO, one can be toxic."
Bentley University — "At the very beginning... Quantity > Quality *gasp*"
Dawn Anderson — "None. TBH I am a complete cynic and don't buy any of the rhetorical BS that gets spun out. Anything true in positive SEO can always be found in academic literature with peer-review. You only need to think about how it applies at a wider level."
Simon Cox — "Actually I’m with Dawn on this - I couldn’t think of anything I truly believed in then found out it was a myth. Everything is fake unless I can get it to work!"
Maddie Clark —"Doing keyword research for organic was the same as doing it for PPC... I honestly had so many SEO mishaps in the beginning of my career but that's a face palmer for sure. Even asked the client how much they wanted to pay too...yikes."
Jason Brown — "That there was no value in nofollow links."
Tod Cordill — "Build it and they will come. #MarketingMyth"
What are some consequences you have seen that are a direct result of an SEO Myth?
Bill Slawski — "I have seen people making bad decisions about changes to their websites because they believed that they were being impacted by an update (but they weren't) and they made changes that didn't make their sites any better. (Be careful when you diagnose problems!)"
Itamar Blauer — "Someone believed that to rank well you'd need as many words possible on their pages. They made a blog post with 16000 words. That post didn't rank for anything."
Sam Harries — "Oh god, I think I could write a book on this. I think my favourite one was a small business no-indexed their entire site out of fear that Google would scrape their data and sell their products, putting them out of business. They nearly did it to themselves."
Diana Richardson — "Clients take things into their own hands based on what they've seen/heard/read. I had a client once swear they needed to change homepage content once a week no matter what I told them. They would delete my work. Every. Week. Google didn't like that."
Dawn Anderson — "The duplicate content myth / inappropriate content pruning just because something has not had traffic for a while is amongst the WORST SEO myths out there. Seen people literally blow-torch their sites rather than improve content or add a higher ratio of quality."
Rajam Roose — "Had a client with hundreds of pages of duplicate-ish content (believing that would help their site), hardly any were being visited, some had nothing to do with their biz. and they got hit hard with the Medic update."
Michael Ramsey — "Going back some years the fallout of when Google really got aggressive about link spam. I spent a few years of my SEO career spending too much time cleaning up messes made by other agencies/SEOs."
Alizée Baudez — "A LOT of time wasted doing and undoing things, instead of doing thorough research beforehand."
David Cohen — "People losing jobs, clients losing money, and companies losing to competitors, are consequences I've seen from people believing or pitching SEO myths."
What advice can you give to an SEO newbie so they can distinguish myths from real facts and could stay ahead of the SEO curve?
JP Sherman — "My advice for new SEOs 1: Read behavioral science. 2: Understand information retrieval. 3: Get a baseline familiarity w/ statistics. 4: Know how code works. 5: Look for peer review. 6: It only probably works in specific cases."
Bill Slawski — "Find people to talk about SEO with - co-workers, SEO Meetup groups, conferences and learn how to test out things you read about before you might use them on a client's site."
Alizée Baudez — "Ask the #SEMrushChat community :) And cross-reference your sources, keep an eye on the date those blog posts were published. What may be true 2 years ago might not be anymore."
Simon Cox — "Read up on what @bill_slawski has found in patents and what @dawnieando has found in academic research! Case studies are always good but the thing to do is test it yourself and see what happens. Things change constantly and in different verticals."
Dawn Anderson — "Also, realise that SEO is not exempt from the reproducibility issue which exists within most research fields. Just because it worked for one brand does not make it a global given and you should not automatically implement something based on single/few cases."
Marianne Sweeny — "Diversify your information sources. @dawnieando is spot on to point out academia and search engine research. Follow other disciplines (computer science, AI, info arch, content strategy, UX), go to their conferences. Break the filter bubble, broaden perspective."
Kelsey Ray Banerjee — "Vary up your readings, look at case studies. And honestly, think like a reader! It can help to dabble in UX and psychology if only to get a better idea of how humans think and why. Then see if proposed strategies actually make sense for human beings."
If someone is not sure if the SEO information they have is correct, what are some ways to fact check?
Bill Slawski — "When I see something that I have questions about, I will sometimes ping @johnmu or @method or @searchliason or @rustybrick. They can be really helpful when it comes to SEO information that might be wrong (though Gary might be sarcastic, too.) #SEMrushChat it."
Stevie Howard — "Ask your peers/community. Have they heard something like this? Or, search for it. Does this 'fact' show up in other articles as well? What are industry leaders saying about it?"
Alexis Katherine — "Ask Twitter (but be careful which advice you actually take). Check some trusted SEO sites and sources. Test and measure where the consequences aren’t very dire."
Aymen Loukil —" Don't panic and don't try to make fast changes to your website. Peer review, ask an SEO consultant, Ask Google representatives, read about the topic and try to demistify the how and why."
Raghuveer Singh Rao — "Ask your questions to SEMrush on Wednesday with #SEMrushChat. Join Google Official hours hangout http://meet.google.com - Follow @JohnMu and ask your question. Ask any SEO who is providing help in SEO field like @bill_slawsk. Google it again and again."
JP Sherman — "Yes, Common Sense is important. It is the beginning of knowledge. However, Common Sense without evidence is what tells you that the earth is flat."
What are the red flags that help to distinguish a true SEO expert from an impostor?
Bill Slawski — "Experts show off their expertise by their words & actions & whether they share their accomplishments (awards, case studies, presentations, etc.) if they tell you what others say about them 'Forbes calls us the best SEO in the World' they are engaging in hearsay."
Alexis Katherine — "Real SEO experts will also offer reasonable time frames for results. Too fast is obviously a red flag, but anyone who says it will take a year to see growth doesn’t know what he’s doing either."
Maddie Clark — "When you ask them to help you with your SEO and they only suggest fixing the metadata. BIG RED FLAG. there's more to SEO than meta tags. I have never seen a perfect score on a site health check so yeah that's a no from me if you're stopping there."
Neil Yeomans — "True SEO experts can break things down into simple, *actionable* steps that can be understood by multiple stakeholders, from tech specs for developers, to on-page guidelines for execs. Impostors try to bamboozle with buzzwords, acronyms and needless complexity."
James Leisy — "My biggest red flag within the SEO industry, is anyone who 'Guarantees Results'. Also, anyone who can't show their previous work, can't trust someone who hasn't got their hands dirty."
Simon Cox — "True SEO experts do not ever copy other people SEO posts and pass them off on their own blog even if they claim it was done by a staffer and not themselves. Then you realise they are using SEO as a vehicle to build and sell their company."
Bill Slawski — If someone feeds you a bunch of copywriting tricks (very actionable) and similar tactics, but no strategies, it may be all they know. Optimizing pages for Rankbrain by using copywriting tricks shows a limited toolkit and imagination."
Dawn Anderson — "Terminology is a big give away. The minute they start talking about DA as a ranking factor, or LSI (but can't explain what it is). Then you know they're a GuesSEO and to be avoided."
Michael Ramsey — "Guaranteed results - particularly for a suspiciously low budget."
Tod Cordill — "A true SEO expert will provide alternatives and give realistic expectations on budget and timeline requirements. If they say you need to spend your budget on them, or that it is cheap and quick, stay away."
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Do You Have Any Myth Busters or SEO tips?
If so, please share them in the comments below. We also want to thank everyone that participated in the chat. Our SEMrushchat starts at 11 am ET/4 pm BST every Wednesday — join us!