Debunking SEO myths, an ex Googler sheds some light on Research

Tempo di lettura : 6 minuti

All of the controversies sparked by the Wall Street Journal against Google article over the last few days maybe did not provide enough evidence of interferences and manipulations on the search engine, but surely proved something else: not everyone knows how does the Reasearch work and for a lot of people the entire topic is surrounded by thick dark fog. That is why it really come in handy the well-timed contribution by Kaspar Szymanski on Search Engine Land to debunk 10 SEO myths.

The myths to bust on SEO

Once known as part of Google’s Search Quality Team as well as Mountain View’s anti-spam team, Szymanski drawn up a whole list of the most common wrong ideas there are out there about Google‘s optimization process and practical operation, true and proper myths often repeated and commonly accepted as “facts” but that in reality, as the expert proves, bear no relevance at all.

Here follows the ex Googler’s decalogue we are going to further analyze in the article.

  1. SEO assures fair equity to all sites
  2. SEO is a one-time project
  3. SEO is all about backlinks
  4. SEO is all about user signals
  5. Google hates my site!
  6. Google AdWords has any impact on ranking
  7. Keywords are the one true keystone
  8. SEO is “freshness”
  9. Social signals are an SEO signal
  10. SEO is magic

SEO is not a level playing field

The first issue the expert focuses on is pretty surprising, but useful as well: according to him we need to quit the idea that “every website stands the same chance to compete for queries”, because even with SEO support there is no such thing as an equal basis for all and never could be. As in every other competing field, no condition is the exact same copy of another and there are lots of parameters influencing success.

Different sites transmit different signals to Google

For instance, in the SEO case, “different websites show different on- and off-page SEO signals”, making them rank differently; these SEO signals includes, for example, page’s performances, technical configuration and backlink profile just to quote some of those that can be measured and improved.

A period of grace you better take advantage of

According to Szymanski, there should be a kind of “honeymoon” period that Google grants to newborn domains that, despite not having gathered enough SEO signals yet, it starts to rank anyway: if this new site takes advantage of the “grace period” it could acquire more opportunities to constantly excel for relevant and competing queries. As a matter of fact, when the honeymoon ends some of the sites tends to “drop” once Google has collected enough data to “confirm” their true worth, in our author experience.

SEO is not a one-time investments

Another issues the original article lingers on is the level of optimization activity’s consideration within the business strategy: in order to really be effective and always keep up with the competition, mainly on the most profitable niches, SEO must be considered an ongoing effort with previously planned spikes of activity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to keep oneself constantly up to date because even best practices get older, and what was working before could have become antiquated in the meantime. There are some elements that have to always be monitored and enhanced, such as everything impacting on user experience or page performance, while other factors – like backlink analysis – could only require sampled controls and be part of a more comprehensive on and off-page SEO audit.

SEO is not limited to acquire backlinks

We often said that links are fundamental to the nature of the Web itsefl and that, without them, most part of search engines would not be able to find and scan new contents anymore; we also know that the link building could be pivotal to the organic visibility of a site, but SEO must not be only limited to acquire this backlink-trasmitted PageRank.

First of all, there is the very real possibility to run into Google’s penalties if the stategy is not carried out in a professional and wise way, and broadly speaking the search engine’s guidelines highlights the fact that links must be builded on worth, rather than paying schemes and “construction” works. Anyway, Szymanski reminds us, Google leaves an open door even to those sites that committed policy violations, like with the Disavow Tool, that allows to disassociate oneself from a backlink coming from an undesirable source.

User signals are important, but they are not everything

The so-called user signals are a relevant SEO factor and Google itself bases its business model on user satisfaction, trying to use the gathered feedback to enhance its products and better answer the transpired needs.

To SEO, the actual presence on Google Search Console of impression and clicks percentage indicators helps us understand (part of) the users’ perception of the site and their behaviour, and like that the combination of high volumes and low CTRs can mean that user signals could be improved. This is but a small part of a bigger SEO picture because, as we were saying about bounce rate as well, the chance to improve and detect people’s favor mainly depends on the basic sale offer of the web site.

Google does not target specific sites

It is quite irrational to think that Google could have a “personal animosity” of some sort or straight “hate” towards a specific site, says the ex Mountain View’s team member; if anything, the algorithm shows a total indifference towards web sites, up to the point of even being able to penalize Big G’s properties that violated rules (like in the the historical AdWords case, for instance).

So to debunk the theory that Google absolutely wants to punish a specific site and avoid it to rank, all it generally takes is to launch an audit to discover technical or content lackings or on and off-page problems.

There is no actual link between AdWords and SEO

One of the most common SEO myths is the idea that Google AdWords has a positive impact on Web sites ranking: actually, the natural organic research is strongly independent from paid search and, Szymanski confirms once again, Google AdWords does not provide a SEO signal no matter how high is the investment dedicated to the campaigns.

Keywords alone are not relevant

We should quit the antiquated idea that “keywords are key” to SEO: it is true that originally search engines used to be strongly based on keywords’ density within the landing pages in order to relate their relevance to queries, but we are talking about a 20 years old story!

The ex Googler expert says that ci dice che “Google has always been ignoring meta keywords and keywords in URLs are not being used for ranking purposes either. Keywords are unlikely to have any desirable impact on CTR, especially in comparison with rich snippets breadcrumbs, which do help users navigate”. Basically, “The times of counting keywords on pages and attempting to identify a fleeting ideal ratio are a thing of the past”, and on the other hand even with SEOZoom, right from the beginning, we have overcome this old conception to supply pages and contents analysis.

SEO is not only freshness

This is another myth that keeps on repeating itself, a.k.a that Google rewards freshness: this is only partially true, whenever freshness meets search intent, that is. The author of the SEL piece thinks that “for sites operating in fast-paced news, vertical freshness can translate into a competitive advantage”, but “For the overwhelming majority of websites, freshness is not important as an SEO factor and no amount of changing publishing dates on old articles is going to convince Google it’s fresh content”.

Social signals are not SEO factors

Comments, likes, votes and social media engagement of any kind – including links emerging from social media channels such as Facebook or Twitter – do not help SEO as ranking factor, despite common thoughts. Google does not keep in consideration social signals for several reasons, mostly because available data are fragmented and unreliable, but this does not necessarily mean that they are useless for online marketing and brand awareness.

Briefly, we could say that social presence contributes to build the brand identity and to reinforce (or enhance) the users’ perception of reliability: this could be translated into a people’s preference and, so, a higher propension to click and purchase on referred sites. Factors that are actually useful to SEO, says yet again Szymanski, because after all “Google, while not admitting in so many words publicly, still shows a preference for websites that are popular with users“.

There are no tricks or magics in SEO

The last point this long analysis dwells on is a common (and naive) way to look at SEO, as a hard to get mix of “art and science”. Actually, SEO is pretty simple or can be simplified, anyway: it is data-driven and often the amount of required data to solve a problema can be huge, there are lots of on and off-page signals that could be conflicted, but everything can be divided into smaller “blocks” to effectively manage and analyze.