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What Are the Most Common SEO Misconceptions in 2024?

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In the ever-evolving world of search engine optimization, misconceptions can lead small businesses astray. We've gathered insights from SEO consultants and strategists to debunk common SEO myths in 2024. From integrating SEO with overall marketing strategies to understanding why SEO plugins assist rather than automate, here are the top 25 expert takes on navigating SEO misconceptions.

Integrate with Overall Marketing

Small business owners often think that SEO can become their main traffic driver, regardless of their overall marketing situation. However, SEO can't work well just on its own.

SEO is intertwined with everything else happening in your marketing and beyond. Businesses burn money if their marketing is mostly about publishing mediocre content based on standard keyword research. Brand building, PR, CRO, UX, PPC, proper content distribution—all of these are activities that increase SEO's effectiveness and vice versa.

The action here isn't any alluring growth hack. Take a step back, define your marketing strategy, come up with a budget that's needed to achieve your goals, and choose a few core marketing channels with the highest potential. If organic search makes it to the top channels, then great; you're now ready to start your SEO journey on the right track.

Michal Pecánek, SaaS SEO Consultant, Michal Pecánek - SaaS SEO Consultant

Educate on Principles and Myths

One would assume small-business owners to have a reasonable understanding of 'How Search Works.' In my presentations, I frequently ask audiences a multiple-choice question (MCQ) about how they think Google ranks websites.

Surprisingly, the most common answer I hear is, "If you pay for Google Ads, you'll rank higher in Search!"

Despite Search being around for 20+ years, this misconception highlights a persistent gap in SEO knowledge.

The first step in addressing this issue is encouraging business owners to invest in their SEO education, using a few reliable online sources. Google's SEO Starter Guide is a good place to start. Attending industry events is another opportunity to speak to subject-matter experts and fix such knowledge gaps. Finally, optimizing one's site using sound SEO principles, and seeing a return on investment, is a surefire way to overcome this misconception.

Medha Dixit, Founder & SEO Director, Digital Chakra

AI Doesn't Replace Human Insight

SEO is an industry where misconceptions have run rampant for years, and 2024 will be no different. However, one misconception which I expect will take hold this year as we see AI further develop is this: SEO can be automated with AI.

Beyond AI-generated content or keyword research, we're going to see a flood of AI agents promising to supersede the role of an SEO agency. Yes, there is a whole range of opportunities to become more productive with the use of AI and AI agents. However, the problem with relying too much on AI is that you end up with more of the same, whether that be content or tactical. And if there appears to be one takeaway from the significant Google updates in March, it's that you want to focus on originality. So, I would caution any business considering an AI-based SEO agent, as I did with AI-generated content 12 months ago.

Quentin Aisbett, SEO & SEM Strategist, Searcht

Duplicate Content Penalties: A Myth

One very popular SEO misconception is that having duplicate content on your website is an issue, and that you can get penalized by search engines as a result. While it might not be the ideal solution, there can be many genuine reasons as to why a website would repeat content—blocks of text, for example—across multiple sections of their website. And for e-commerce businesses in particular, having products that belong to multiple categories is going to be fine; it may even be beneficial for SEO purposes.

So be wary of people warning strongly about duplicate content penalties, and judge each case on its merit. Using a bit of common sense, you should be able to steer clear of any such issues (which might result in your website not ranking as highly as it could, as opposed to being hit by some kind of penalty).

Matt Tutt, SEO consultant, Matt Tutt Digital Marketing

Focus on Quality, Not Quantity

One of the biggest common SEO misconceptions in 2024 is that small business owners have to create a new blog post 'every week' in order to show up on Google or get any benefit from SEO. That's simply not true. Because of AI, people can create content at a much faster pace, which means there is no shortage of content floating around the internet. But when it comes to ranking with SEO moving forward, the focus is increasingly on QUALITY, not quantity.

Google doesn't need more content; it needs BETTER content. So moving forward, I would definitely recommend that small business owners with limited resources focus on creating one amazingly helpful blog post a month that really supports your business goals and your target audience. That way, you're still creating content that targets ideal keywords to help you increase your organic traffic from Google, but you're doing it with more intention.

Bonus points if you can create content for different search intents, too! Because with the way that AI is changing content creation—and soon enough search itself (with Google's Search Generative Experience (SGE) currently being tested)—we want to be creating more than *just* informational educational content. Create content that supports your ideal audience as they move along the buyer's journey. Focus on those two things, and you're going to be in great shape SEO-wise in 2024.

Mariah Liszewski, SEO Consultant & Online Business Educator, Mariah Magazine, LLC

E-E-A-T and Authorship Still Matter

E-E-A-T and authors don't count for SEO.

Google announced that E-E-A-T was not a ranking factor, which caused controversy among SEOs. I admit it was confusing for many, but here's the thing: SEO should focus on customer experience and good marketing, as well as ranking factors.

A trusted author with credentials and experience is a trust signal for users, and we want our users to trust us.

So, add authors to your articles, create pages with biographies, including credentials, experiences, and other notable successes like publications, and don't forget to add schema, too!

Zoe Ashbridge, Co-Founder & Senior SEO Strategist, forank

Prepare for Search Generative Experience

The most common misconception I am seeing among businesses is that many of their leaders don't foresee major changes happening in SEO soon and therefore, they are not preparing fast enough for the time SGE is released. Along with Microsoft's Co-pilot, it will change the search engine experience by inevitably leading to less organic traffic than businesses that are doing SEO and content marketing are used to.

Changes are coming fast, and businesses can do a couple of things to mitigate the dangers of vital traffic drops:

  • Focus on brand building. B2B businesses often completely overlook the importance of brand-building campaigns that reach the market they are targeting. The brands that have more of an internet presence will find that they find it easier to generate in chatbots' answers and reach a wider audience.
  • Diversify marketing communication channels. Video is the most promising (YouTube, TikTok, etc.), but also platforms such as LinkedIn for B2B-oriented companies.

Marko Maric, VP of Growth, Cake.com

Quality Content Triumphs

Common SEO misconception: "SEO is dead!" In 2023, this was screamed from the rooftops because of the emergence of ChatGPT, AI content-writing tools, and generative AI in Google's search results.

However, it couldn't be farther from the truth. And Google's March Core Update speaks volumes to how alive SEO still is in 2024. In the Core Update, Google came down on low-quality, spammy websites that weren't adding real value for the search user on Google.

As a small business, it's critical to stay focused on quality over quantity. Avoid the AI content-generation tools and work with smart, intelligent, and experienced writers in your industry. Research keywords most relevant to your business and publish high-quality content that hits on Google's E-E-A-T measures. This will benefit small businesses the most in the short and long run.

I've been in the SEO space since 2015, and I actively teach SEO to thousands through my social media channels. SEO is very much alive, and there's TONS of opportunity if you approach it with a long-term mindset. Unfortunately, there's no "get-traffic-quick" scheme here.

Connor Gillivan, Entrepreneur, Owner & CMO, TrioSEO

SEO Requires Continuous Improvement

The biggest misconception is that once you rank high, you will always rank high. Google changes its algorithm hundreds of times a year and usually has at least four big updates. Just because you ranked high for the past year does not mean you will rank high in the future. You must be constantly improving your content. This includes both creating new content and editing existing content.

You must be seeking out link opportunities either through producing valuable information, making sure your directories are up to date, and other backlink opportunities that might become available.

Finally, you need to look at your website metrics monthly for trends. Do you have broken links that need to be fixed? Did your title tags change and get too long? Does your content need to be lengthened or updated? If you see a trend in your analytics, you need to immediately start planning for corrections.

The key is not to sit on your high rankings but to constantly improve.

Peter Boyd, President, PaperStreet

It's A Long-Term Investment Strategy

There is this significant misperception among businesses that undermines the importance of SEO in their branding and online presence. Every business is looking for an immediate return in terms of their investments, but I have said this before and will continue to emphasize that SEO is not a short-term fix; rather, it is one of the most lucrative long-term strategies that reap benefits like no other marketing sector in the digital marketing scope. The only solution I personally recommend is to continue to educate, educate, and educate businesses on this topic. The power of knowledge is immense and far greater than any dollar amount or number. The future looks bright!

Sid Gandotra, Founder & CEO, Eminence Rise Media

Ads Don't Guarantee Top SERP Position

A big misconception is that Google will always put ads at the top, so to be first on the SERP (search engine result page), you need to advertise.

Google signaled this is absolutely false with their change to "Top of Page" and "Absolute Top of Page" on March 27, 2024. They now mean the top of the group of ads. While it's always been true that Google would sometimes put ads below organic results, this documentation change confirms a true commitment to user experience, while saving ads for when they will be the most impactful.

Brands should take stock of why they are engaging in each marketing endeavor and, if budget/ROI doesn't support it, consider pivoting to other channels. A good rule of thumb is that if you don't have the budget for at least 10 clicks per day for the thing you want to advertise, you should likely harness content or organic social to market it. This is because a 10% conversion rate is really good for non-branded, and if your budget can't support that, you're setting yourself up to fail.

Navah Hopkins, Evangelist, Optmyzr

SEO is Not Mandatory for All Businesses

A common misconception is that all businesses need a website and must invest in SEO to be successful. This is not true. Most small businesses don't have enough revenue to sustain long-term SEO efforts. If they do, most are either in an overly competitive industry or in one with no potential search traffic. Before seeing any return, businesses could end up investing hundreds of thousands of dollars, be somewhat successful, and then Google could remove all that traffic in a week. These things happen.

My general advice to most entrepreneurs, especially startups in the early stages, is to advertise on already-ranking websites. Search for the keywords your clients will use; pick one of the top-ranking results in Google; contact them and ask to advertise your product, preferably for free; and be willing to pay them to send you clients if needed. Example search queries: 'buy art,' 'sales jobs,' 'hotels in Boston,' 'finance consultancy,' 'contractors near me.' One last point: Brick-and-mortar companies should have an up-to-date 'Google Business Profile'.

Jean-Christophe Chouinard, Senior SEO Strategist, jcchouinard.com

Optimize Sites for Users, Not Just SEO

A common misconception in SEO, and one that Google itself has pointed out recently, is thinking that optimizing your site is all for search engines, rather than the real audience: your users. The best SEO strategies focus on enhancing your site for the people visiting it. Take adding descriptive alt text, for example; it's not just an SEO tick-box but a crucial step toward making your site more accessible. Similarly, improving your core web vitals isn't just about improving rankings; it's about offering a faster, smoother experience for anyone who lands on your site.

The message from Google's search liaison team, which they've been pushing out through social media, is loud and clear: Don't just make changes because you believe that's what Google wants. Instead, focus on how these changes will better the user's experience on your website. Small businesses, in particular, stand to gain more by concentrating on creating content and making site adjustments that truly resonate with what their visitors are looking for, rather than simply jumping on the latest SEO bandwagon.

Dig into understanding where your users hit roadblocks on your site, figure out how you can ease their journey, and create content that directly addresses their main concerns. It's this user-focused approach that not only aligns with Google's guidelines but also sets you up for long-term success by building a site that genuinely serves your audience.

Ed Roberts, SEO & Paid Manager, Hovia

Keyword Stuffing Hurts, Quality Content Wins

One common SEO misconception in 2024 is that keyword stuffing still significantly boosts page rankings. This outdated tactic not only fails to improve SEO performance but can also harm it, as search engines have evolved to prioritize high-quality, relevant content over sheer keyword density. This misconception persists because of outdated SEO strategies that emphasize keywords over content quality.

Modern search algorithms are sophisticated and designed to understand user intent and content context. They penalize practices like keyword stuffing that detract from user experience. Instead, they reward content that genuinely answers users' questions and provides value.

So, what can small businesses do differently? Focus on creating comprehensive, well-researched content that addresses the needs and questions of your target audience. Utilize keywords naturally within the content to signal relevance to search engines without compromising readability. Invest time in understanding user intent and the topics that interest your audience. Use tools to perform keyword research effectively, but integrate those keywords seamlessly into valuable content. Also, pay attention to other SEO aspects, such as site speed, mobile optimization, and quality backlinks, to build a strong, holistic SEO strategy.

Anna Anisin, Founder, DataScience.Salon

Outstanding Content Sets the Bar

A big misconception is that good content is the key to winning in SEO. Instead, it has to be outstanding content. It has to be some of the best the web can offer. Yes, that's the bar. And it's rising.

How do you create outstanding content? Go the extra mile. Conduct first-hand research. Create proprietary images, charts, and graphics. Do whatever you can to be the only one.

Kevin Indig, Growth Advisor, Growth Memo

Blogs Remain Effective for Lead Generation

A common misconception about SEO in 2024 is that writing blogs has become ineffective due to the rise of short-form video content and AI.

Blogs are still an effective strategy for small businesses to generate leads. Small businesses should identify keywords their customers search for when deciding on a product or service and write helpful content that assists them.

Providing a resource such as a guide, template, or white paper is an effective tool that you can utilize for users to opt in to get more leads from your blog.

Daniel Askarinam, CEO, DA Media

Exact-Match Domains Offer Local Benefits

One common SEO misconception is that exact-match domains have no power nowadays. It won't carry you to the top of the SERPs on its own, but there is evidence to show it can still help to a certain degree. This is especially helpful for local searches that are pretty uncompetitive. If you're a small business and a relevant EMD is available, it might be a good idea to take it (given that the migration is overseen by an SEO).

David Begazo, Owner, PRismatic SEO

Hreflang Requires Unique Regional Content

When working with clients that have an international presence (the same goes for small businesses), I often find that sites believe that if they're using hreflang, they can simply duplicate their content across various regional URLs and gain more visibility as a result. This often occurs when all regional variants are in the same language.

When sites take this approach, there can be a lot of unintended consequences, often putting the rankings of the primary location at risk. When translating the same content to different languages, this is a much more sustainable way of gaining new visitors to your site. It just becomes a lot more risky when it is only the country that is changing.

If you need to target URLs to different countries without changing the language and are using hreflang, it is of high importance that the content being duplicated is as unique as possible. This could mean the products/services being featured on the page, the written content describing the product/service, or even some of the functionality. If this isn't a consideration, then you're exposing yourself to ranking issues down the track.

Brodie Clark, Independent SEO Consultant, Brodie Clark Consulting

AI-Generated Content Needs Expert Review

A misconception in 2024 is that search engines don't like content that was created using AI. The end goal of a search engine is to provide people with the best answer to a specific query. When using AI to create content, it is important to review its output and convert it into a high-quality, accurate piece of content that answers specific queries. And when you are a subject matter expert in a certain field, you can still rank high when you create content without using AI content outputs. Personally, I never publish AI-created content on my blog, but I do use AI to get inspiration on topics to write about.

Bram Van der Hallen, Digital Marketing Lead, BramSocial.com

Timely, Helpful Content Boosts SEO

The biggest misconception for SEO in 2024 is that you should write articles around search intent. Due to recent updates with Google's ranking algorithm, you should absolutely write content that is helpful to a reader, as well as timely.

A great example of this would be a recent blog I wrote about how to clean collard greens. We were already writing a recipe blog about collard greens with smoked turkey, and I figured that I might as well write a separate article about the cleaning process...and the outcome was wild!

The total search volume for the keyword 'how to clean collard greens' in Ahrefs is 1,000 Search Volume. What did I receive from Google for providing a well-written, well-documented article with numerous images? A total of 29,748 clicks in the span of 5 days.

This started around March 17 to March 21 and has since dropped off. This tells me that the article (which was written just in time for Easter) was well received by Google as informational and was sought after by readers. Google then served the article in Discover, and the rest was history!

Quit writing articles based around search intent from various SEO platforms. Start writing articles that you'd want to read based upon timeframes.

JD Alewine, Owner, Them Bites

Success Goes Beyond Content and Links

The biggest misconception in 2024 is that SEO is still as easy as publishing content and ranking for keywords.

Google has become highly sophisticated and considers many factors that weren't factors in years prior—just a few of these include:

  1. Matching authorship with professional experience.
  2. User experience, including site functionality and even ad placements.
  3. Matching queries/content with user intent (informational vs. purchase, for example).

While the age-old saying 'Content is king' is still very accurate, writing content and sprinkling in some backlinks is just the beginning of what it takes to increase your organic search presence in 2024 (and beyond).

Nick LeRoy, SEO Consultant, Nick LeRoy Consulting

Sustainable Growth Avoids Quick Fixes

A common SEO misconception is just how long SEO truly takes to see results—and that rapid SEO growth can actually be a liability. While it's common knowledge that SEO takes longer to see results than other channels, one misunderstood aspect of SEO is that certain SEO tactics that might lead to sudden, unnatural increases in traffic could actually lead to severe issues later on. Google and Bing use various systems to algorithmically demote websites and webpages that violate their extensive SEO guidelines for site owners, and sometimes, these issues aren't revealed until future algorithm updates. Even worse, some "SEO" tactics could be considered pure spam by Google, and could result in Google issuing "manual actions," also known as penalties, which lead to massive losses in traffic and often undo all prior SEO success.

For this reason, driving sustainable SEO growth is truly about playing the long game: earning organic traffic and visibility in ways that comply with search engine guidelines, avoiding risks that could cause issues with future algorithm updates, and always focusing on user satisfaction, which is ultimately what search engines care about most.

Lily Ray, VP, SEO Strategy & Research, Amsive

SEO Is an Ongoing, Adaptive Process

One common misconception in SEO is the belief that it's a one-time effort. Many business owners think that once you've been doing SEO for a few months, your website is optimized, and you start seeing success, you can stop and reap the benefits indefinitely, but that's not true. If you stop SEO work on your website, especially if you're in a very competitive market, you may notice drops in performance pretty quickly. Keyword rankings will start to fall, traffic will decrease, and leads will follow. This happens because your competition is continuing their SEO work and because Google's algorithm is always changing. In recap, SEO is an ongoing process that requires constant attention and adaptation.

Sarah Kuchar-Parkinson, Creative Director, Kuchar

Improve Existing Content for Better

One of the biggest SEO misconceptions in 2024, and perhaps since the beginning of SEO, is that more content is not always better. What do I mean by that? Content that is already ranking, or that is older and has been on Google longer, will be much easier to improve in rank and get more traffic than fresh new content.

How you can do that is to see what queries and things it's showing up for in Google Search Console and add those missing keywords. Additionally, add more contextual internal links, which can help improve the SEO and give you more traffic.

Peter Rota, Senior Technical SEO Manager, Peter Rota SEO

SEO Plugins Assist, Don't Automate SEO

One of the most dangerous SEO misconceptions is that installing an SEO plugin on your website is enough to optimize it and rank on Google.

It isn't.

Any plugin, even if it's AI-powered, is just a tool. It's not the end result. As a tool, it might help you set up SEO elements properly (such as updating metadata, improving internal linking, etc.). But you need first to understand what you're doing and why you're doing it.

You can learn it by yourself or hire an SEO expert to help you.

Kristina Azarenko, SEO Hero and Educator, MarketingSyrup Digital Inc.