12 of the Biggest SEO Myths: Explained & Debunked

Jan 31, 2024 | SEO News Feeds | 0 comments

SEO Content Writing Service

No one knows exactly how search engine algorithms work—especially Google’s.

Which is why there are so many SEO myths. From made-up keyword types to claims backed by misinterpreted data. 

We’re about to go over some of the main SEO myths right now. So you don’t waste time chasing incorrect tips.

Let’s dive in.

1. There’s an Ideal Keyword Density

Keyword density tells you how many times a keyword appears on a webpage compared to the total number of words on that page. You can calculate it using this formula:

Keyword density = Number of times target keyword appears in content / Total number of words in content

So, if you wrote “keyword density” 20 times in a 1,000-word article, the keyword density of your article would be 2%.

SEO experts often prescribe ideal keyword densities. Some say 2% to 3% is ideal. Others say 4% to 5% is what you want to aim for.

But there is no optimal keyword density.

Google has said so multiple times. Including in a 2011 video devoted to keyword density.

Instead of counting how many times you mention a target keyword, focus on writing naturally. And aim to be truly helpful with your content.

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But you do need to watch out for keyword stuffing (i.e., using your target keyword so many times that it seems spammy to readers and Google).

Thankfully, that’s easy with the SEO Writing Assistant.

Simply open the tool and click “Analyze my text.”

Then, enter your article text and target keywords into the spaces provided.

An article and "Keywords" entered into the SEO Writing Assistant editor

The tool will then tell you if you’ve used your target keyword too many times.

"Keyword stuffing" identified in SEO Writing Assistant

Simply remove the keyword mention or rephrase. So your content doesn’t go overboard with keyword use.

2. LSI Keywords Boost Search Rankings

Many SEO experts claim that Google uses latent semantic indexing (LSI)—a retrieval method that evaluates the relationships between words within a set of documents—to understand and rank content.

LSI keywords are thought to be words or phrases that are relevant to your target keywords. But aren’t synonyms. 

For example, some would say LSI keywords for “credit score” include “accounts opened” and “credit limit.” But not “credit rating”—a synonym.

This isn’t correct. Google has confirmed that LSI keywords don’t actually exist.

Google's John Mueller's post on X that reads "There's not such thing as LSI keywords -- anyone who's telling you otherwise is mistaken, sorry."

But Google does care about semantics and search intent.

Google wants you to write genuinely useful and thorough content. And when you cover a topic extensively, you naturally integrate semantic keywords into the content you create.

You can quickly find semantically related keywords with the Keyword Magic Tool.

Enter your target keyword into the tool and click “Search.”

"credit score" entered into the Keyword Magic Tool search bar

You’ll get a list of keywords that are variations of your target keyword.

Now, click on the “Related” filter.

"Related" filter selected in Keyword Magic Tool

This will show you keywords that are topically similar to your main keyword. Which you can then incorporate in your content.

3. You Should Only Target High-Volume Keywords

High-volume keywords are keywords that get thousands to millions of searches per month. And they’re typically shorter search terms. 

For example, “SEO” is a high-volume keyword.

“SEO” is a high-volume keyword, with 165K monthly searches in US (as shown in Keyword Overview tool)

Some self-proclaimed SEO experts claim you should always target high-volume keywords over low-volume keywords. Because the latter don’t generate much traffic.

But high-volume keywords are also usually quite competitive. And often not very specific to your niche.

Low-volume keywords, on the other hand, usually have less competition. And are often more specific to your company.

Let’s say you run a website focused on helping people find the most affordable flights.

The high-volume keyword “cheap flights” gets around 2.2 million searches per month.

Keyword Overview results for "cheap flights" show a volume of 2.2M and keyword difficulty of 100%

But consider that the top-ranking results for “cheap flights” are from Cheapflights, Kayak, and Skyscanner—sites that will be difficult to outrank. 

And also notice the search intent (the reason behind a search). When you scan the search results, it’s clear that people are interested in buying affordable plane tickets. Not reading some sort of informational guide.

Let’s take a look at a relevant low-volume keyword instead.

The term “are same day flights cheaper” only gets around 110 searches per month.

Keyword Overview results for "are same day flights cheaper" show a volume of 110 and keyword difficulty of 63%

In this case, outranking the top search results isn’t as difficult. And the people searching “are same day flights cheaper” are probably your actual target audience you can create appealing content for.

Use Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool to find relevant low-competition keywords you can create content around.

Go to the tool and enter a keyword. Choose the correct location and click “Search.”

"sleeping bag" entered into the Keyword Magic Tool search bar

The tool will generate a list of keywords.

A list of keywords related to "sleeping bag" generated by Keyword Magic Tool

Then, click on the “KD %” filter. And set the “To” filter to “29.” That way, you’re left with a list of keywords that are easy to rank for.

"KD%" filter set to "0-29%" in Keyword Magic Tool

Go through the list of low-competition keywords to find the most relevant ones.

Then, click on the checkbox beside each keyword that you choose. And click on the “+ Add to keyword list” button.

"wearable sleeping bag," and "double sleeping bag" keywords selected from the list

Now you have a list of keywords that you can target with your content. And realistically rank for.

4. Domain Authority Is a Ranking Factor

Domain authority indicates how strong and trustworthy a website is.

But as opposed to what some SEO experts claim, it isn’t a ranking factor. And has no direct impact on rankings.

Google’s John Mueller has explicitly said so.

Google’s John Mueller post on X saying that domain authority is not a ranking factor

So is domain authority relevant?

It depends on the specific metric. And Semrush’s Authority Score is calculated using confirmed ranking factors:

  • The quality and quantity of backlinks
  • The estimated monthly organic traffic
  • Any spam indicators that indicate an attempt to manipulate rankings

So while it isn’t a ranking factor, Authority Score can tell you how well a particular website holds up compared to similar websites. And you can check it for any website with Semrush’s Domain Overview tool.

Simply open the tool and plug in the website you want to inspect. And click “Search.”

Domain Overview tool

You’ll see the Authority Score at the top of the report.

"Authority Score" widget showing "75" highlighted in Domain Overview dashboard

If you click on the number, you’ll be taken to a report in Backlink Analytics. 

It will show how the Authority Score is spread across the three key factors:

"Authority Score" widget in Backlink Analytics overview dashboard shows how the metric is spread across the three key factors: link power, organic traffic, and natural profile

5. Google Always Penalizes Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is any content that is a page that’s exactly the same or nearly the same as another page. That could mean multiple pages on different sites or multiple pages on the same site.

Here’s an example of what duplicate content can look ilke:

What duplicate and slightly rewritten content looks like

Despite what many SEO experts and content creators think, Google has explicitly said that they don’t penalize duplicate content—as long as the duplication isn’t intended to deceive search engines.

The problem with having duplicate content on your own site is that it can hurt your SEO performance when Google isn’t sure which result is the “main” one that should be shown in search results. Which can lead to lower or even no rankings for those pages.

So, it’s still a good idea to avoid duplicate content as much as possible.

Quickly find duplicate pages on your site with Semrush’s Site Audit.

Simply enter your domain into the space provided. And click “Start Audit.”

Site Audit tool search bar

Follow the prompts to set up your audit. And when the tool is done analyzing your domain, head to the “Issues” tab.

"Issues" tab in Site Audit tool

Then, search for “duplicate” in the search bar. The tool will tell you whether you have the following issues:

  • Duplicate title tags
  • Duplicate content
  • Duplicate meta descriptions

Duplicate content, title tags and meta descriptions issues found in Site Audit tool

Click on the “# pages” within one of the rows. Like the “# pages have duplicate content issue” row.

"67 pages have duplicate content issue” row highlighted

You’ll get a list of specific pages and their duplicates. Then, click on “Why and how to fix it” to see how to address the issue.

An explanation of the duplicate content issue and how to fix it

6. Long-Form Content Always Performs Better

Some SEO experts claim that long-form content performs better on Google. 

After all, articles longer than 1,100 words tend to perform better in organic search, according to our 2023 State of Content Marketing Report.

Text length graphic showing word count for high, medium and low text length

But it’s an SEO myth that longer articles rank better due to their length.

A 2,000-word article that covers all the wrong subtopics probably won’t rank. But a 1,000-word article that exhaustively covers a certain topic likely will.

In other words, covering the topic comprehensively and in a way that matches search intent is what helps content rank well. Not word count.

Apart from meeting search intent and being comprehensive, high-quality articles also have the following elements:

  • A title that effectively summarizes the article
  • Logical headings and subheadings
  • Accurate, up-to-date information
  • Primary and secondary keywords that are incorporated naturally
  • A scannable structure with images, bullet points, lists, and white space

Elements of a high-quality article

Create high-quality content faster with ContentShake AI.

On the tool’s landing page, click “Get for free.”

ContentShake AI's landing page

Then, follow the prompts to describe your business, your role, and your content plans. 

Describe your business in ContentShake AI tool

The tool will generate a list of topics and subtopics for you. 

Next, choose a topic you want to cover and click “Start writing.” 

"Start writing" button highlighted next to the topic titled "Market Research Techniques for Effective Targeting"

The tool will generate a detailed outline with a title, subheadings, images, and more. You can then add to it. Or use the AI writing features to generate copy that you can fine-tune to meet your needs.

ContentShake AI will even give you a score to show how the piece looks compared to the competition. And allow you to publish it with the click of a button.

Content score and publish button in ContentShakeAI

7. More Content Is Always Better

There’s an undeniable correlation between publishing frequency and content performance. 

Our 2023 State of Content Marketing Report shows that almost 25% of high-performing blogs publish content every day. And low-performing ones tend to publish less frequently.

A graph showing median publishing frequency - impact on performance

But that doesn’t mean publishing often itself leads to better results.

And Google Search Central held a webinar to discredit this SEO myth. And clarified that you shouldn’t produce content just for the sake of it. 

Instead, your content strategy should focus on meeting your audience’s needs and wants.

A meta description is a code snippet that provides a brief explanation of the content on your page. 

It looks like this in your HTML:

A meta description in page's HTML

Google will sometimes grab your meta description and use it as a snippet on the search engine results page (SERP). 

Like this:

A meta description on Google's search engine results page (SERP)

But while a meta description can be useful, it isn’t a ranking factor.

In fact, Google sometimes ignores meta descriptions:

Google SearchLiason's post on X explaining how Google uses meta descriptions

That said, Google can use your meta description on the SERP when that description is relevant. So, writing a meta description that stands out is still important for driving more clicks.

Here are some important factors to keep in mind when writing a meta description:

  • Keep it to 105 characters or fewer so it appears in full
  • Include your target keyword
  • Include a call to action that encourages users to click on your link

9. Mobile Responsiveness Is Irrelevant

Some people think their sites need to look great and work well on desktop devices. And the rest is secondary.

But Google has confirmed that mobile-friendliness is a ranking factor. So, it’s best to leverage responsive design.

This means that your website will adapt based on your users’ screen sizes.

Like this:

A responsive website shown on different screen sizes

Use our Website Speed Test to see how mobile-friendly any website is (including your competitors’ sites). 

Simply enter the URL and click “Check”:

Instant Website Analysis tool landing page

It’ll give you a report that outlines how the website performs on mobile and desktop devices. 

You can see a breakdown by performance, accessibility, best practices and SEO:

Instant Website Analysis's report dashboard, showing a breakdown by performance, accessibility, best practices and SEO

You can then make adjustments like minimizing image file sizes and eliminating unnecessary code to improve your score. 

Backlinks are links that point from one website to another. 

What is a backlink

They’re important for SEO because Google sees backlinks as votes of confidence that signal other sites see your content as reliable. Which can lead to better rankings

This has led to the SEO myth that all backlinks are good. And that you need as many as possible.

But not all backlinks are equal. 

Some backlinks contain the rel=”nofollow” attribute. Which tells Google not to follow the link or pass link equity to the specified page. 

Even for standard backlinks that do typically pass equity, the reputability and relevance of the linking site matter. 

One backlink from a reputable website in your niche will pass more authority than 10 backlinks from spammy websites that have nothing to do with your business.

A visual showing how authority is passed for high authority sites vs low authority sites

Quickly check out your backlink profile with Semrush’s Backlink Analytics tool. 

11. Working with an SEO Agency Guarantees High Rankings

Nothing is guaranteed in SEO. Which is why no one—not even an agency—can promise you that you’ll rank highly in a specific amount of time.

It can be valuable to work with an agency, though.

Doing so will give you access to experts who can take care of most (if not all) of your SEO activities. 

That can include on-page SEO (like content creation, internal linking, and title tag optimization), off-page SEO (like link building, content marketing, and social media), and technical SEO (like site speed optimization, canonical tag implementation, and sitemap creation):

Agencies can help with all aspects of SEO, including on-page SEO, off-page SEO and technical SEO

If you want to rely on SEO experts at an agency but aren’t sure where to start, we can help you find a good fit.

Fill out a project brief on our Semrush Agency Partners platform. And we’ll match you with an agency within three days. For free. 

12. SEO Is Something You Do Once

There’s a lot of preliminary work you have to do for your SEO efforts to pay off.

So, is SEO a one-time thing you’re done with once you’ve achieved solid rankings?

Not at all.

You need to regularly monitor performance and keep your content updated. To ensure that your site continues to appear in search engine results.

There are a few things you can do to keep your website performing well.

First, monitor your site performance with Semrush’s Site Audit.

Simply plug your website into the tool and click “Start Audit.”

Site Audit tool

Then, follow the prompts to set up your project. When you’re done, you’ll see your “Overview” report. Which includes an overall Site Health score.

"Site Health" widget highlighted in Site Audit's overview dashboard

Scroll down to find a list of issues that Site Audit has found. And resolve those issues as they appear.

"Top Issues" section in Site Audit tool

Second, monitor your content performance with Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Position Tracking. 

To use Position Tracking, open the tool, enter your domain, and click “Set up tracking.”

Position Tracking tool search bar

From there, follow the prompts to finish setting up your project.

Then, go to the “Overview” report.

"Rankings Overview" report in Position Tracking tool

You can now see how your rankings have changed. And spot any issues that suggest you need to make some adjustments. 

Finally, keep your content updated.

After identifying pages with declining rankings, it’s time to update them.

You can update content by:

  • Changing the format of your post based on the current search intent
  • Targeting new keywords
  • Removing and replacing old, outdated information
  • Updating both internal and external links

Making sure that your content stays fresh is a great way to make sure that it continues to produce SEO results.

How to Separate SEO Facts from Myths 

We’ve debunked 12 common SEO myths, but there are more out there.

If you’re unsure of how to tell the difference between what’s true and what’s not, consider the following questions:

  • Does the data really show causation or just correlation?
  • Who’s sharing this information? And how reputable are they?
  • What does Google have to say on the matter? What’s communicated by its Search Central Blog, official X account, or YouTube channel?
  • How old is the information? Does it consider the most recent algorithm updates? 

It also helps to have tools that allow you to keep an eye on what changes affect your performance. Like those available in Semrush. 

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