To many inside and outside the tech industry, there are few more mystical letters than SEO. Somehow, through the magic of Google’s algorithms, some websites flourish while others founder — and only by unlocking the hidden art of SEO can one take control of one’s online destiny.

Unfortunately, it is exactly this approach to SEO that leads many businesses to follow the White Rabbit into Wonderland. Too many myths and legends lurk around the web, confusing even the savviest business leaders. So, everyone can benefit from the driving power of SEO, it’s high time that we dispel this misinformation — and that we teach everyone how to identify misinformation in the future.

Myth: Content Is All It Takes

Content is king — but a king alone can’t rule a country. Content is exceedingly powerful at building an audience, and it is a vital component of SEO. In fact, Google will tell you that some long-tail keywords used alone allow content to rank highly. However, a king is rarely and good without its queen and court; for content, the queen is links and the court is design and usability. Google pays close attention to the quality of all these components when ranking, so focusing so narrowly on content and ignoring all else is a good way to rank poorly if at all.

Myth: Keywords Are Key

Back when Google was young, its algorithm paid close attention to keyword density because a webpage with a multitude of query terms was likely highly relevant to the searcher. Yet, it didn’t take long for web designers to stuff pages full of keywords — in the content, in the background, everywhere they possibly could — making their pages essentially incomprehensible but still ranking highly on search results.

Since those Wild West days of SEO, Google has wised up and altered how keywords affect ranking. Now, there isn’t a simple formula for keywords — use the keyword X times per page to rank Y. Instead, you need to produce relevant, high-quality content that might include keywords or might not.

Myth: Search Engine Submissions

This is another myth anchored in practices that are long dead. When you launch a website, you will immediately start getting emails from “SEO site submission” companies requesting payment to submit your site to search engines. This was true when Google was in its infancy, but now the search engine is powerful enough to see your website not only as soon as the site is live but as soon as the domain is registered. While you might want to submit your website URLs if you have a particularly significant rebuild or juicy content, but you never, ever need to submit your site to be ranked.

Myth: All Sorts of Penalties

Misinformation and misunderstandings abound on the subject of penalties. Penalties exist, but they aren’t random — you can find a list of all 13 penalties, more accurately called manual actions, and how to fix them — and they shouldn’t be particularly unexpected. What many people mistakenly call penalties are actually changes to Google’s algorithm, which often shake up rankings by valuing and devaluing web pages in different ways. The next time a webpage drops in rank, you should look for evidence of an algorithmic change or investigate manual actions in your Google Search Console before jumping to conclusions about penalties.

How to Identify Fake SEO News

These aren’t even close to the only SEO myths floating around the web, and undoubtedly, new SEO misinformation will appear as more businesses jump on the SEO bandwagon. Therefore, you need to learn how to identify fish for yourself, not just avoid the fish mentioned above. Here are a few techniques for sorting SEO truth from SEO falsehood:

Look for fact-based insights. Opinions are becoming less and less valuable as Big Data becomes better at pointing you in the right direction. If an opinion isn’t backed by facts and data, you shouldn’t trust it.

Recognize context. Sometimes, articles will use quotations from experts in the field to back up their opinions — but it’s important that you look into the main sources of those quotations before you believe what they say. Oftentimes, quotes are taken out of context and manipulated to prove a completely different point.

Talk to SEO experts. If you continue to be confused about who and what to trust, you should always be able to rely on SEO services to provide valuable insights and advice.

The vast majority of SEO information online is published with noble intent — to inform people like you about good SEO practices. However, even that content can be filled with falsehoods. The sooner you learn to tell fact from fiction, and the sooner you find an SEO expert to rely on, the sooner you will find SEO success.

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