HomeSEOWhy we’re hardwired to consider search engine marketing myths (and methods to...

Why we’re hardwired to consider search engine marketing myths (and methods to spot them!)


Give somebody a fish they usually’ll EAT for someday. Educate somebody to fish they usually’ll EAT for a lifetime. Sure, that’s an search engine marketing pun. It’s additionally the objective of this text.

For those who pop into both of the improbable search engine marketing communities on Twitter or LinkedIn, you’ll inevitably encounter some widespread search engine marketing myths:

  • “Longer dwell time means a very good person expertise, so it have to be a rating issue”
  • “A excessive bounce charge signifies a foul person expertise, so it have to be unhealthy for search engine marketing”

Social media posts like these get tons of engagement. Consequently, they amplify the myths we attempt to squash by means of repetition, false proof, and defective logic. The issue isn’t restricted to social media, both. There are many high-profile web sites that bundle hypotheses as info as a result of readers eat them up.

These myths are an enormous drawback as a result of they’re purple herrings. They trigger entrepreneurs to prioritize initiatives that received’t enhance the content material, person expertise, or Google search efficiency.

So how can the search engine marketing group rally across the fact? We will begin by doing two issues:

  1. SEOs should admit our personalities and professions hardwire us to consider myths. We have now a deep need for solutions, management, and predictability, in addition to a fierce mistrust of Google.
  2. We have to acknowledge the psychological and environmental elements that affect our skill to kind truth from fiction.

So fairly than busting particular person myths, let’s ask ourselves “why?” as an alternative. In different phrases, let’s be taught to fish.

Inside causes we consider search engine marketing myths

Let’s dig into some inside elements, akin to our ideas and emotions, that affect our beliefs.

1. SEOs want construction and management

search engine marketing is an interesting department of promoting as a result of our efficiency is pushed by a continually evolving algorithm that we don’t management. In truth, there have been greater than 5,000 Google algorithm updates in 2021 alone.

In different phrases, SEOs reside in a world of crippling dependency. Even the top-ranking indicators that we learn about can fluctuate based mostly on the trade, question, or out there content material inside Google’s index. For instance, when you handle web sites within the finance or well being house, E-A-T is important. For those who publish information content material, then recency is essential.

To achieve a way of construction and management, we search for extra methods to affect outcomes. However there are two issues with that strategy:

  • We overestimate the influence of particular person rating elements
  • We falsely consider one thing is a Google rating issue that’s not

Our must amplify our personal stage of management is supported by psychology. A 2016 research revealed a person’s want for construction made them extra more likely to consider in a conspiracy idea.

“The human tendency to acknowledge patterns even when none exist is proven to have functions in client conduct. The present analysis demonstrates that as one’s private want for construction (PNS) will increase (that’s, requiring predictability and disfavoring uncertainty), false client sample perceptions emerge.”

If you end up waffling between truth and fiction, don’t let your need for management dictate your ultimate choice.

2. The primal want to acknowledge patterns

The human mind is great at recognizing patterns. All through historical past, we’ve relied on that skill to make higher choices and make sure the survival of our species. Sadly, we’re so good at recognizing patterns that we additionally fabricate them.

False sample recognition has a number of drawbacks –

  • It would affect search engine marketing choices that might have a sitewide influence
  • For those who overstate the connection publicly, others would possibly misread it as truth

A superb instance surfaced on Twitter not too long ago. Google’s John Mueller was requested if including too many hyperlinks to your web site’s principal navigation might influence Google Uncover site visitors. The person who requested the query ran a number of exams and noticed constructive outcomes, however Mueller mentioned it was merely an attention-grabbing correlation.

“I’d nonetheless go together with ’unrelated’. As talked about in our docs: Given the serendipitous nature of Uncover, site visitors from Uncover is much less predictable or reliable when in comparison with Search, and is taken into account supplemental to your Search site visitors.”

Luckily, this particular person went straight to the supply for a solution as an alternative of publishing a case research that might have had severe implications for web site navigation choices.

3. Affirmation bias

It’s well-documented that folks settle for data that helps their beliefs and reject data that doesn’t. It’s a primordial trait that advanced after we started to kind social teams. Early people surrounded themselves with others who thought and acted the identical approach to make sure their survival.

One of the vital well-known affirmation bias research comes from Stanford. For the research, researchers segmented college students into two opposing teams based mostly on their beliefs about capital punishment.

One group supported capital punishment and believed it decreased crime. The opposite opposed it and believed it had no influence on crime.

Every group was requested to react to 2 research, one which supported their views, and one which contradicted them. Each teams discovered the research that aligned with their beliefs rather more credible, and every grew to become extra entrenched of their authentic beliefs.

search engine marketing practitioners are notably vulnerable to affirmation bias as a result of we’re afraid of being improper. We hypothesize, take a look at, construct, optimize, and iterate. If we’re improper too usually, we’ll waste money and time, and we might danger our fame and our jobs.

We must be proper so badly that we might settle for myths that affirm our beliefs fairly than admit failure.

4. Lack of belief in Google

It’s protected to say most SEOs don’t belief Google. That has led to a few of the longest-running search engine marketing myths I might discover. For instance, even after seven years of repeated rejections from Google, many search engine marketing specialists nonetheless consider engagement is a rating sign.

Right here’s John Mueller capturing down the engagement fantasy in 2015:

“I don’t suppose we even see what individuals are doing in your web site. If they’re filling out varieties or not, if they’re changing and truly shopping for one thing… So if we will’t see that, then that’s one thing we can not take note of. So from my perspective, that’s not one thing I’d actually deal with as a rating issue.”

Practically seven years later, in March 2022, John was requested the identical query once more, and his response was just about the identical:

“So I don’t suppose we’d use engagement as an element.”

And but, the SEOs piled on within the feedback. I encourage you to learn them if you need a way of the extreme stage of distrust. Primarily, SEOs overanalyzed Mueller’s phrases, questioned his honesty, and claimed he was misinformed as a result of that they had contradictory insider data.

5. Impostor syndrome

Even probably the most seasoned search engine marketing professionals admit they’ve felt the ache of impostor syndrome. You possibly can simply discover discussions on Reddit, Twitter, and LinkedIn about how we query our personal stage of data. That’s very true in public settings after we’re surrounded by our friends.

Not way back Azeem Ahmad and Izzie Smith chatted about impostor syndrome. Right here’s what Izzie mentioned:

“It’s actually arduous to place your self on the market and share your learnings. We’re all actually afraid. I believe most of us have this impostor syndrome that’s telling us we’re not adequate.”

This contributes to search engine marketing myths in a number of methods. First, it erodes self-confidence, which makes people extra vulnerable to consider myths. Second, it prevents of us who would possibly need to problem inaccurate data from talking out publicly as a result of they’re afraid they’ll be attacked.

Evidently, that permits myths to unfold all through the broader group.

One of the simplest ways to fight impostor syndrome is to make sure search engine marketing communities are protected and supportive of recent members and new concepts. Be respectful, open-minded, and accepting. If extra of us converse out when one thing doesn’t really feel correct, then we will preserve some troublesome myths in examine.

Exterior causes we consider search engine marketing myths

Now let’s discover the exterior forces, like friends and publishers, that trigger us to consider search engine marketing myths.

1. Peer stress

Peer stress is carefully associated to impostor syndrome, besides it comes from the skin. It’s a sense of coercion from friends, whether or not a big group of SEOs, a broadly recognized professional or a detailed mentor or colleague.

As a result of people are social creatures, our urge to slot in usually overpowers our need to be proper. When one thing doesn’t really feel proper, we waft anyway for concern of being ostracized. In truth, social proof could be extra persuasive than purely evidence-based proof.

I requested the Twitter search engine marketing group if anybody ever felt compelled to simply accept an search engine marketing rating issue as truth based mostly on standard opinion. A number of of us replied, and there was an attention-grabbing theme round web site code.

“Again in 2014, an internet developer advised me he really believed text-to-code ratio was a rating issue. For some time, I believed him as a result of he made convincing arguments and he was the primary developer I met who had an opinion about search engine marketing.”

—  Alice Roussel

“Years and years in the past I needed code high quality to be a rating issue. Many thought it was as a result of it made sense to reward well-written code. However it by no means was. Browsers needed to be very forgiving as a result of most websites had been so badly constructed.”

—  Simon Cox

Just like combatting impostor syndrome, if we develop a extra tolerable search engine marketing group that’s keen to respectfully debate points, we’ll all profit from extra dependable data.

2. Outdated data

For those who publish content material about search engine marketing, then you definately’ll be responsible of spreading search engine marketing myths sooner or later. Google updates its algorithms hundreds of occasions every year, which suggests assumptions are disproven and once-good recommendation turns into outdated.

Trusted publishers have an obligation to refresh or take away inaccurate content material to stop search engine marketing misconceptions from spreading.

For instance, in 2019 Google modified the way it handles outbound hyperlinks. It launched two new hyperlink attributes into the nofollow household, UGC and sponsored, and started to deal with all three of those as hints as an alternative of ignoring nofollow hyperlinks.

So when you wrote about hyperlink attributes previous to September 2019, your recommendation might be old-fashioned.

Sadly, most SEOs replace content material as a result of it’s underperforming, not as a result of it’s improper. So maybe publishers ought to put integrity above efficiency to strengthen our group.

3. Leaping on developments

Generally search engine marketing myths explode as a result of the info can’t sustain with the virality of the parable. One in all my favourite examples is the LSI key phrase development. This one pops up on Twitter sometimes, and fortunately Invoice Slawski is fast to quash it.

Development-based myths go viral as a result of they faucet into the concern of lacking out (FOMO), and SEOs hate to overlook out on the chance to achieve a aggressive benefit. Additionally they resonate with SEOs as a result of they seem to supply a secret glimpse into Google’s black field.

Though developments ultimately fade, they may stay a thorn in our facet so long as the unique sources stay unchanged.

4. Correlation vs causation

Essentially the most tough myths to bust are these backed by knowledge. Regardless of what number of occasions Google debunks them, they received’t die if of us come armed with case research.

Take precise match domains (EMD) for instance. This text lists a number of the explanation why EMDs are good for search engine marketing, utilizing Resorts.com as a case research. However it’s a traditional hen and egg argument. Does the location rank primary for “resorts” as a result of it’s an EMD? Or is it as a result of the proprietor clearly understood search engine marketing technique and prioritized key phrase analysis, hyperlink constructing, inside hyperlinks, web page pace, and high-quality content material advertising and marketing for the final 27 years?

We can also’t low cost the truth that the area has 42 million backlinks.

However if you wish to hear it immediately from the horse’s mouth, Google’s John Mueller says EMDs present no search engine marketing bonus. Right here’s what he mentioned on Reddit:

“There’s no secret search engine marketing bonus for having your key phrases within the area identify. And for these coming with “however there are key phrase domains rating effectively” — in fact, you may as well rank effectively with a site that has key phrases in it. However you possibly can rank effectively with different domains too, and a site received’t rank effectively simply because it has key phrases in it.”

That is clearly correlation, not causation.

To be clear, I absolutely help working search engine marketing exams to be taught extra about Google’s algorithm. However it’s extremely tough to create a sign vacuum that forestalls exterior influences from skewing your outcomes. And even when you handle to isolate one rating issue, you don’t have any approach of figuring out how robust the sign is in relation to different indicators. In a complete vacuum, one sign might win. However within the wilderness of Google, it could be so weak that it’s nearly nonexistent.

Moreover, the sign might solely apply to sure varieties of content material. We’ve seen sign fluctuations earlier than relating to product evaluations and E-A-T in YMYL areas. So even when knowledge suggests one thing would possibly enhance natural rankings, how dependable is the knowledge, and the way necessary is the sign?

All that is to say that we needs to be very cautious when proclaiming new rating elements, particularly in the event that they contradict Google’s statements or stray too removed from universally measuring person expertise.

5. It’s believable, however not measurable

This group of myths is rooted in logic, which makes them notably harmful and sticky. Normally, they comply with a easy method: if A = B, and B = C, then A = C.

Right here’s an instance:

  • Google desires to rank content material that gives a very good person expertise
  • If a webpage has a excessive bounce charge, it should present a foul person expertise
  • Due to this fact, a excessive bounce charge is unhealthy for search engine marketing

This appears to make sense, proper? But, Google has mentioned many occasions they’ll’t see what customers do in your web site, they usually don’t take a look at bounce charge.

I’ve seen the identical argument utilized to dwell time, time on web page, SERP click-through charges (CTR), and so forth. To be clear, Google says CTR  doesn’t drive natural search engine rankings as a result of that will trigger outcomes to be overrun with spammy, low-quality content material.

Most frequently these myths stem from competing views about what a good person expertise seems to be like and methods to measure it. What constitutes a very good expertise for one sort of search question could be a horrible expertise for one more. This lack of consistency makes it nearly unimaginable to determine metrics that may be deployed universally throughout all web sites.

In different phrases, if potential person expertise indicators rely upon too many elements, Google can’t use them. That’s why they launched the web page expertise replace in 2021 which quantifies person expertise with particular, common metrics.

Right here’s your fishing pole

In lots of circumstances, search engine marketing myths fall into greater than one of many above classes which makes them much more tough to dispel. That’s why we preserve seeing social media posts falsely figuring out rating elements like key phrase density, area authority, conversions, and meta key phrases.

For those who perceive a couple of primary ideas about rating elements, you’ll be higher geared up to kind truth from fiction and prioritize search engine marketing initiatives that drive extra natural site visitors.

Ask your self these 5 questions while you scent the stench of a fantasy:

  • Is it quantifiable and measurable?
  • Is it scalable?
  • Is it broadly or universally true, or does it rely upon the person?
  • Does it help Google’s targets of delivering a greater person expertise?
  • Has Google confirmed or denied it publicly?

For those who can examine every of these containers, then you might have a legitimate rating issue in your palms. However don’t take my phrase for it. Run some exams, ask some pals, use logic, and make sure your idea. And if all else fails, simply ask John Mueller.


Jonas Sickler is a broadcast writer and digital marketer. He writes about search engine marketing, model fame, buyer consideration, and advertising and marketing. His recommendation has appeared in a whole lot of publications, together with Forbes, CNBC, CMI, and Search Engine Watch. He could be discovered on Twitter @JonasSickler.

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