Conformity can be dangerous, especially if your goal is to make a name for yourself. The fact that a belief is widely held doesn't mean it is true or useful.

Yes, the title of this article contains a bit of hyperbole, but these three beliefs really are widely deemed true by the SEO community, and they really are wrong.

Take a look.

1. Content Marketing is the Only Legit Way to Do SEO

Everybody seems to be saying that content marketing and SEO are synonymous these days. The logic goes something like this:

  • If you don't have good content, you cant get natural links
  • If you can't get natural links, you have to use spam links to get rankings
  • If you don't have good content, you must be using spam to get rankings

And, therefore, if you aren't using content marketing to do SEO, you must be some dark lord of spammy black-hat from the underworld.

The reality is quite a bit different, though.

Facebook is not a content site. Neither is Google. The same goes for Twitter, Quora, Instagram, Pinterest, Adobe, Amazon, eBay, Bing, PayPal, Apple, Craigslist.... I think you get the point.

Sure, all of these sites have content on there somewhere, but that's not their core function. These sites are platforms, tools, and communities.

And those don't count as content if you use the definition that content marketers are using.

I think we need some perspective. According to Statista and Mashable, this is how people are spending their time online:


Barring online video, content is practically nonexistent here. The amount of time spent on blogs and online radio, newspapers, and magazines is nothing compared to the amount of time people spend on social networks, email, search, online games, and various other activities we don't even have names for.

Please don't get me wrong. Content marketing is great. Its powerful. We use it, and it works.

There is
"most important"
ranking factor
But when you genuinely believe content marketing is the only way to do SEO, you are completely losing touch with the reality of how people use the web. Many (most?) of the popular, successful, heavily linked-to sites on the web cant be classified as content sites.

Instead, they give visitors something to do.

Don't let yourself get stuck in the content marketing bubble. If you do, you'll blind yourself to a virtually unlimited number of alternatives, many of them potentially more profitable.

2. Links are the Most Important Ranking Factor

How do you get more traffic? How do you boost your rankings? How do you make a bigger profit?

According to far too many SEOs, the answer is links. Its always more links.

But that's simply untrue. If you wanted to rank for the query "How to make sure your cats socks are a good match for their personality", the solution is not to get more links. The solution is to write a blog post about that subject and put that phrase in the title. No amount of links will help you rank for that phrase.

Yes. This is an extreme example.

But its also obvious, and it demonstrates without a doubt that links are the most important ranking factor is completely untrue.

There is no "most important" ranking factor.

I'm not arguing semantics here. I believe that too many SEOs place far too much emphasis on links.

It's certainly true that you need links, preferably authoritative ones, in order to rank for competitive queries. And, in the wake of Hummingbird, you can't just target some obscure keyword phrase and hope to rank well for it if there is a more popular query that means the same thing.

But, like anything else, links have diminishing returns. If Moz has your Domain Authority listed as 25, and you aren't pulling at least 5,000 visitors per month, you're probably investing too much in link building, and not enough in a more diverse and unique range of site topics.

When you're targeting the same keywords as your competitors and trying to beat them by building more/better links, you're engaged in an arms race you will probably lose, and that might end with a penalty.

Remember, the most important ranking factor is relative. It depends entirely on your circumstances and goals. Please stop assuming that links are the solution to everything.

3. Social Media Directly Benefits Your SEO

I'm sorry, but it just doesn't.

Many mainstream SEO pundits claim that social media helps your rankings in Google. Here are Matt Cutts exact words:

Facebook and Twitter pages are treated like any other pages in our web index so if something occurs on Twitter or occurs on Facebook and we're able to crawl it, then we can return that in our search results. But as far as doing special specific work to sort of say you have this many followers on Twitter or this many likes on Facebook, to the best of my knowledge we don't currently have any signals like that in our web search ranking algorithms.

This would also be a terrible idea. The way that Facebook Likes are being gamed currently makes link spam look like a drop in the bucket:

Spammers who allow businesses to buy fake likes are building loads upon loads of fake profiles and Liking random profiles that they find in order to keep their clients protected. Google has a very limited ability to crawl these profiles and may never be able to reliably identify legitimate social media profiles. It's stuff like this that makes social networks valuable, not direct SEO benefits.

And if you think things are different for Google+, I'm going to have to disagree. Matt Cutts has already debunked the idea that +1s have any influence on rankings:

Just trying to decide the politest way to debunk the idea that more Google +1s lead to higher Google web rankings. Let's start with correlation != causation:

Google has also very little incentive to start using Google+ metrics directly to rank websites. Their +1 data is currently a very good metric to train machine learning algorithms with. If they turned it into a direct ranking factor, it would be gamed to ridiculous proportions. This would damage a very useful dataset that they are probably already using to design better search algorithms that don't rely directly on +1s.

Obviously, social media is still worth using, and it can influence your SEO in indirect ways. Using social media well can increase the size of your audience, strengthen relationships with influencers, and start online discussions that reference your brand. All of this can help your rankings, and of course is useful in many other ways.

But if you're expecting your Like count to improve your visibility in the search results, you're probably never going to see any results.

Can We Let These Myths Go?

Content marketing, social media marketing, and link building are all very beneficial and effective, but they are shrouded in myth.

Don't let these myths blind your SEO efforts.

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