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Discern fact from fiction in the world of SEO.

3 Common SEO Myths Debunked

If search engine optimization isn’t your full-time job, it can be maddening to keep up with the constant changes of Google’s search algorithms. What’s more, if you ask five SEO’s for their opinion on how a site issue impacts SEO performance, you may get five different, often competing answers. To avoid some of the headaches this may cause, you can typically rely on Google’s first-party resources. When this isn’t enough, there are many discussion forums provided by Google, Moz and other SEO industry leaders with a plethora of useful information. To help get you started, there are three common SEO myths that have been debunked.

Myth #1: 404 Pages Will Hurt Your SEO Rankings

Truth: How to handle 404 pages has been a hot topic for SEOs since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. On one hand, users don’t want to run into a dead end on a site. On the other, users will end up confused if they try to get to a particular page and are automatically redirected somewhere else without any context.

From their perspective, a 404 status on a page allows Googlebot to quickly remove that page from its index. This ensures new and returning users will only have access to live content when they enter your site from search, and they won’t have the unfortunate experience of entering your site under false pretenses. When Google reports 404 pages to you within Search Console, the best way to utilize this report is to make sure that your site and other external sites are not linking to these down pages. If your site is linking to 404 pages, promptly remove these links. If other sites are linking to these 404 pages, either ask them to update their links to point to live pages on your site or place 301 redirects on these URLs to the next most applicable pages.  Google’s John Mueller confirms how to implement 301 redirects effectively in a public discussion board and explicates why 404 pages don’t directly hurt a site’s ranking.

Myth #2: Google Factors Bounce Rate into Site Rankings

Truth: Bounce rate is a metric that is so easily manipulated that Google could never reliably use it within its ranking algorithm. While a high bounce rate is often a sign of poor engagement, it can also be a good thing. This is true for pages where users found what they were looking for immediately, such as an answer, an address or a phone number.

Instead, Google measures how often users return to search results and click on alternative results until they find the “answer” they intended to find. This is why it is important for every page on your site to be unique and have an intended audience. Ultimately, Google’s goal is to match searcher intent with relevant content. Moz’s Rand Fishkin does a great job explaining the logistics of this process in his weekly Whiteboard Friday: The Impact of Queries, Long and Short Clicks, and Click Through Rate on Google’s Rankings.

Myth #3: Link Building Is Dead

Truth: Although Google makes changes to their algorithm more than once a day on average, and they have played with removing backlinks as a ranking signal altogether due to their ease of manipulation, they continue to remain as important as ever.

Imagine Google is like your high school yearbook committee. If they want to know who has the “best hair” why not put it to a vote with the members of the student body? If a large group of jerks vote for the student with a rare condition that causes extensive hair loss, the yearbook committee will most likely override and discredit these votes. This is exactly how Google evaluates and discredits links, as discussed here.

While we typically follow the advice of Google, it’s sometimes appropriate to tip-toe outside the lines. The most successful SEOs will continue to find creative and tactful ways to build links, despite Google’s preference of naturally acquired links. 

The great part about hiring an agency to help with your SEO efforts is the experience they have dealing with different issues. If you have questions about your SEO strategy or are looking for an agency with experience to do the heavy lifting, we would love to hear from you