5 Common SEO Myths Explained (With Piotr Olesson)

Scott Pittman:
Hi everyone, and welcome to another episode of Ask, Learn, Grow. The show where the Reef Team answer questions and share updates and insights from the digital marketing industry.

I’m joined today with SEO Manager Piotr and we’re going to be talking about SEO myths, of which there’s quite a few.

Piotr, what are some of the common SEO myths that you are seeing today?

Piotr Olesson:
I’ll cover a few myths during our call today.

There’s quite a lot in the SEO space, from SEO itself to content or backlinks… all of which we’ll be covering in this conversation.

Definitely the biggest SEO myth that I keep seeing and I’m pretty sure anyone in the SEO space has been hearing about since 2014, is that SEO is dead.

I think primarily because SEO is getting increasingly harder for a lot of people.

Scott Pittman:
I hear that one every year!

Piotr Olesson:
Yeah. Compared to what it was a long time ago, where people could just buy or build links of any quality and that was pretty much it.

Whoever had the biggest budget to buy links or the ability to create the most links of any kind, sort of ruled the SERPs.

Now, definitely Google and even users have changed their behaviour in terms of requiring higher quality information.

Google has ‘tightened their belt’ in terms of figuring out what the best content to serve to users is based on their intent.

So I definitely feel that this SEO myth has been around for a long time and whenever there’s new changes, especially when it comes to anything from a minor algorithm update to something really wide ranging, such as when Penguin was rolled out aimed at links or Panda aimed at thin content and things of that nature, it kind of thins out the ecosystem somewhat.

It pruned out some of the more black hat SEOs and what I’ve noticed over the years, is the people who are doing a good job continue to grow and thrive.

So that’s why I think that the common myth – SEO is dead – still surfaces, because many people do find it hard and it certainly isn’t easy.

But if you do everything by the book, you improve SEO performance over time and will have grown your visibility in the SERPs. That’s the way I feel about it.

Scott Pittman:

You mentioned content. What myths have you heard about content?

Piotr Olesson:
So there’s been a large amount of misinformation in this space overall, but one of the bigger SEO myths is that you only need ‘good content’ to rank.

I feel that’s a bit of a misconception because some people think:

“Oh, my website ranks really, really well. I don’t do any link acquisition. I don’t do any technical SEO. I just have great content.”

That only works in very small micro niches.

What I feel a lot of people tend to do, is they read a headline or two or perhaps one person’s unique experience and they kind of run with it. That’s how a lot of these myths happen.

Carrying out your own testing is one good way to dispel many of these myths.

For example, if you try and compete in more competitive niches, insurance or loans, things that are really competitive from an SEO perspective, content alone won’t get you page 1 rankings for any worthwhile keywords.

I feel that this is one thing that people need to be very mindful of.

Content is important, but it’s not the entire picture when it comes to SEO. It’s just one element in a larger ecosystem.

Scott Pittman:
It’s one of the three pillars isn’t it, really?

Piotr Olesson:
Yes.

Scott Pittman:
We talk quite a bit about the three pillars of SEO. Content being one, technical being the other, and then digital PR and off-site brand building, link acquisition, all that kind of stuff, being the third.

Just on the off-site activity:

What kind of myths are you hearing if any, about backlinks?

Piotr Olesson:
Sure. There’s so many to choose from, but one of the bigger ones I see is that all backlinks are created equally.

Some people think: “Oh it doesn’t really matter if I buy links because my website is still ranking.”

Or: “Links from a certain source are the same as those from another.”

I feel that backlinks have always had that kind of mystery behind them because there’s so much chatter and different accounts or experiences being told.

There’s people saying that black hat SEO still works in 2020, for example, because you see some people buying links.

I just feel that sweeping, broad statements about links isn’t a good way to think about things. Links do vary in quality and I feel that assuming all links are the same is a really bad approach because definitely they’re not.

More is not better.

If you don’t acquire links the right way, your website can be penalised.

Even if you do buy links, from a negative perspective, you might only see improvements for a short period of time. Eventually you’d expect Google to tweak the algorithm and devalue those links at best or penalise your site at worst.

So definitely all links are not equal.

I would suggest to carry out good digital PR with creative link building strategies to acquire high quality links to your website.

Scott Pittman:
Slight diversion but it does tie into SEO myths and links:

What do you think about the recent chatter around Wikipedia pages? Google stated that this link does absolutely nothing for your website.

Piotr Olesson:
Yeah, happy to answer this.

Primarily I feel that when Google release very broad statements such as this… I kind of understand what they’re trying to do because there’s newer people entering the SEO space every day as well as the veterans like myself and other people who have been in SEO for years.

I’m just concerned with certain broad statements from Google such as this, that indicate that there’s zero link value from Wiki pages.

Like I mentioned earlier, I think that when people just read a headline or two, perhaps skim a couple articles, that’s when a myth is easily created.

People might think: “Wikipedia pages don’t do much for SEO.”

As it turns out, from a purely backlink perspective, no, maybe they don’t do anything for SEO, but…

Since 2007, Google has made sure that any links coming from a Wikipedia page aren’t followed. So there’s no actual link value (although they recently said that nofollow links can still help), but there is value to the website from a broader perspective.

To elaborate further on this, think of the knowledge graph.

If you were to search for ‘Nike’, then a branded knowledge graph or panel should I say, will probably appear. That entire first paragraph is often sourced from Wikipedia.

So there is SEO value from Wikipedia in other ways, but it’s not necessarily from a link perspective. There’s definitely value from a brand perspective and a rich snippet perspective, which in turn will benefit you from an SEO perspective… but this isn’t covered in the direct statement of “Wikipedia links don’t do anything for SEO.”

I feel that there has to be that distinction made that Google should really say:

“Wikipedia pages don’t improve the website from a backlink perspective, but there are benefits to having a Wikipedia page.”

It’s a good example this. You have a higher chance of enhancing your branded snippet or knowledge panel in the search results.

Look up Apple, Nike, Tesla, any of these big companies. A lot of that information is actually being pulled from none other than Wikipedia. So it’s quite interesting from that perspective.

So think carefully and question everything, especially if you are new to the SEO space.

Treat what Google says with a pinch of salt and then do your own research, because these broad statements easily perpetuate SEO myths too.

I wouldn’t be surprised if people start now saying: “Wikipedia doesn’t do anything for SEO.” When in fact that’s actually incorrect.

Scott Pittman:
I always find Google’s sweeping, blanket statements are deliberately vague, and open for misinterpretation.

Piotr Olesson:
Yeah. I think the purpose is they just don’t want to direct people to focus too heavily on something.

If Google stated that something specifically improved SEO performance, then all the SEOs would suddenly start working on the exact same thing (at the expense of improving their overall websites), which wouldn’t be good for the search results.

So I understand why Google is doing it. I think they kind of try and keep people on the right path to protect the SERPS.

But definitely consider and question the statements and do your own research, as it can be easy to misinterpret or miss important things when it comes to these broad statements.

So yeah, it would be nice if Google would be a bit clearer, but I do understand why they’re doing it. They want to protect the search results and not have people focusing on the wrong things instead of improving their website. So that makes sense.

Scott Pittman:
Cool. Thanks Piotr. Any other myths to wrap up before we close this call off?

Piotr Olesson:
Certainly. This video could easily last over an hour explaining myths, but I’ll quickly wrap up with one more, which is a classic. It is:

“All Google algorithm updates include penalties.”

This one can be quite misleading because:

People don’t always realise that during an algorithm update, their site can experience a loss in rankings, or a rankings drop for certain keywords and it’s probably not a ‘penalty’.

The thing many people might not understand is that these algorithm updates are just ranking recalibrations.

Yes, there were some algorithms in the past that were directly related to combating spam or combating black hat link tactics.

Scott Pittman:
Penguin for example

Piotr Olesson:
Yeah like Penguin.

But now more recently in the last few years, it’s just primarily refining the algorithm and search results.

So the way an algorithm actually works now is part of that algorithm update is launched live in some search results.

Google actually monitors how users interact with the new SERP experience and information. So by SERP information, it could be something as simple as changing the structure of how certain pages rank.

Maybe a page was ranking fourth it’s now ranking first and vice versa, and they’re seeing how users interact with the new results.

They also have a team of their own human quality checkers and they start to look at the results too.

They start to analyse whether the update was an improvement in quality and whether it’s creating a better user experience due to the websites that are ranking for a query and taking into account the intent of the query.

Once they have collected enough data and are confident the update will improve search results and the user experience, then they roll out the full algorithm update.

Yes, Google gets algorithm updates wrong from time to time. It does happen.

There are sometimes a few bugs here and there, nothing’s perfect.

The thing to remember though is that these algorithm updates don’t necessarily penalise websites. They just try to recalibrate results to show the best search results possible to users.

At the end of the day, Google’s main objective is to provide the best user experience and to provide the best and most relevant information.

If your website doesn’t provide the best or most relevant information for a query, then your website might be moved out of the way so that another website can take the same position.

This is why it’s important to make sure that your content is up to date. Your website is well optimised, and to ensure that your website is providing the best user experience for whatever audience segment or searcher that you’re targeting. That your information is clear, concise, and extremely useful.

That’s kind of my two cents really.

So you shouldn’t really worry about algorithms because if you’re doing a good job, you have a good chance of benefitting from an algorithm update and seeing a rankings improvement, rather than a reduction in visibility.

To dispel this SEO myth, Google does not penalise websites with every algorithm update that it rolls out.

Scott Pittman:
Cool. Thanks very much for sharing that information Piotr.

So just a very quick recap:

  • SEO isn’t dead. It gets strong results when done the right way
  • You need more than just content, in most cases, to rank and gain visibility.
    • There are three pillars to any solid SEO strategy: technical, content and digital PR
  • All backlinks are not the same and more isn’t necessarily better
  • Wikipedia pages have other SEO benefits, rather than just the link
  • Google algorithms do not roll out penalties with every update and you may be positively affected versus negatively affected.

Cool. That wraps up today’s call.

So thanks everyone for watching. If you’ve got any questions about this or any digital marketing related topic, do send them in.

If you’d like to see the team answer a burning question, or cover a particular topic, send those in too and we’ll see what we can do.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the channel to be notified of when the next video is available. Apart from that, thanks for watching and enjoy the rest of your day.

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