SEO Myths Busted by an Ex-Googler

Every industry has its myths and so does the SEO world. Google tries now and again to shed light on common misconceptions. However, there is only so much a small team of outreach professionals can do to raise awareness at international conferences, so here are the 10 most SEO myths, busted by former longtime Google Search employee and SEO expert. Myth #1: SEO is a level playing field In theory – or so it goes – SEO is a “fair competition,” where every website stands the same chance to compete for queries. Except it isn’t. It hasn’t been for a long time and it never will be “fair” again. Similar to any other market where two companies are competing, no offer is exactly the same. In the case of SEO, different websites show different on- and off-page SEO signals. Consequently, they rank differently. These SEO signals include but are not limited to page performance, technical setup, SERP real estate and backlink profile to name a few that can be measured and improved. This is what Search Engine Optimization is all about. Yet it is never back-to-square-one for everyone. It is true that Google grants brand new domains a Google Honeymoon Period. This is a brief moment during which the website ranks well, despite not having accumulated sufficient SEO signals yet. Sites that tend to do well during this grace period stand a good chance to excel for relevant competitive queries consistently. Most however drop once Google has gathered sufficient data “confirming” the new website’s true ranking. While the Honeymoon Period gives new websites some help at its launch, SEO is not a level playing field competition. Myth #2: SEO is a one-time project At industry conferences, attendees hear people say that it is important to “get it right” to rank. This is true, yet not entirely accurate. Like any other company investment in assets, over time that very same investment will inevitably wear off. Best practices of the past become outdated or downright obsolete. To keep up with the competition, especially in the more lucrative niches, SEO needs to be considered an ongoing effort with planned, periodic spurts of increased activity scheduled ahead of time. Some factors such as snippet representation, directly impacting user experience and signals must be continuously monitored and improved. The same applies to page performance, which again is directly responsible for how users experience the website. Other factors, such as managing backlink liabilities, may only require spot checks and be part of an annual on- and off-page SEO audit.  Myth #3: SEO is backlinks Links are fundamental to the internet as we know it. Without links, most search engines would not be able to find and crawl new content. For Google, backlinks also represent a ranking signal. However, contrary to popular perception, backlinks may harm website rankings. Next to manual spam actions (aka Google Penalties), there are also Google Algorithms such as Penguin tasked with identifying websites predominantly linked from low-quality websites. Google’s continuous mantra is that links must be based on merit, rather than paid or building schemes. Sites optimized with a disregard for Google Webmaster Guidelines will likely be in the crosshairs. But, SEO is not merely about PageRank passing backlinks. Backlinks should be actively pursued, however, not for an illusionary PageRank gain, but to grow conversions, which is the primary purpose for optimizing websites and does not pose a risk that the site may be penalized and disappear from SERPs altogether. Google does leave a door open for sites that had been in violation with Google linking policies at some point by providing…

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