Consider your competition. Look at what your competitors are doing and how they are performing in their search marketing before you decide how you can best compete with them. Research what search terms they rank organically for. Consider if you can execute a plan to top their SERP placements. Also, look at what paid terms they are using to drive traffic to their own sites. As you perform this research, look for gaps that you can fill and areas where you will be unable to compete in both paid and organic search.
OBSERVATION – You can have the content and the links – but if your site falls short on even a single user satisfaction signal (even if it is picked up by the algorithm, and not a human reviewer) then your rankings for particular terms could collapse – OR – rankings can be held back – IF Google thinks your organisation, with its resources, or ‘reputation, should be delivering a better user experience to users.
Search engines may penalize sites they discover using black or grey hat methods, either by reducing their rankings or eliminating their listings from their databases altogether. Such penalties can be applied either automatically by the search engines' algorithms, or by a manual site review. One example was the February 2006 Google removal of both BMW Germany and Ricoh Germany for use of deceptive practices.[54] Both companies, however, quickly apologized, fixed the offending pages, and were restored to Google's search engine results page.[55]
QUOTE: “Content which is copied, but changed slightly from the original. This type of copying makes it difficult to find the exact matching original source. Sometimes just a few words are changed, or whole sentences are changed, or a “find and replace” modification is made, where one word is replaced with another throughout the text. These types of changes are deliberately done to make it difficult to find the original source of the content. We call this kind of content “copied with minimal alteration.” Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines March 2017

Learn the ins and outs of optimizing a website, from conducting an initial audit to presenting your findings and recommendations. Hands-on activities include learning how to select and apply appropriate keywords throughout a website, incorporating keyword research in a content marketing strategy, and optimizing a site for local search. You will also learn strategies for setting goals and client/stakeholder expectations, building effective analytics and reports, and communicating SEO improvements.
As of 2009, there are only a few large markets where Google is not the leading search engine. In most cases, when Google is not leading in a given market, it is lagging behind a local player. The most notable example markets are China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the Czech Republic where respectively Baidu, Yahoo! Japan, Naver, Yandex and Seznam are market leaders.
Ever wonder how major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo rank your website within their searches? Or how content such as videos or local listings are shown and ranked based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users? Welcome to the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This course is the first within the SEO Specialization and it is intended to give you a taste of SEO. You will be introduced to the foundational elements of how search engines work, how the SEO landscape has changed and what you can expect in the future. You discuss core SEO strategies and tactics used to drive more organic search results to a specific website or set of websites, as well as tactics to avoid to prevent penalization from search engines. You will also discover how to position yourself for a successful career in SEO should this subject prove interesting to you. We hope this taste of SEO, will entice you to continue through the Specialization.
QUOTE: “So sites that don’t have much content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. If you click on a website and the part of the website you see first either doesn’t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience.” Google 2012
In short, nobody is going to advise you to create a poor UX, on purpose, in light of Google’s algorithms and human quality raters who are showing an obvious interest in this stuff. Google is rating mobile sites on what it classes is frustrating UX – although on certain levels what Google classes as ‘UX’ might be quite far apart from what a UX professional is familiar with in the same ways as Google’s mobile rating tools differ from, for instance,  W3c Mobile testing tools.
NOTE, in 2019, the HTML title element you choose for your page, may not be what Google chooses to include in your SERP snippet. The search snippet title and description is very much QUERY & DEVICE dependant these days. Google often chooses what it thinks is the most relevant title for your search snippet, and it can use information from your page, or in links to that page, to create a very different SERP snippet title.
Length of site domain registration; (I don’t see much benefit ON IT”S OWN even knowing “Valuable (legitimate) domains are often paid for several years in advance, while doorway (illegitimate) domains rarely are used for more than a year.”) – paying for a domain in advance just tells others you don’t want anyone else using this domain name, it is not much of an indication that you’re going to do something Google cares about).
Onsite, consider linking to your other pages by linking to pages within main content text. I usually only do this when it is relevant – often, I’ll link to relevant pages when the keyword is in the title elements of both pages. I don’t go in for auto-generating links at all. Google has penalised sites for using particular auto link plugins, for instance, so I avoid them.
Don’t be a website Google won’t rank – What Google classifies your site as – is perhaps the NUMBER 1 Google ranking factor not often talked about – whether it Google determines this algorithmically or eventually, manually. That is – whether it is a MERCHANT, an AFFILIATE, a RESOURCE or DOORWAY PAGE, SPAM, or VITAL to a particular search – what do you think Google thinks about your website? Is your website better than the ones in the top ten of Google now? Or just the same? Ask, why should Google bother ranking your website if it is just the same, rather than why it would not because it is just the same…. how can you make yours different. Better.
SEO is also about making your search engine result relevant to the user's search query so more people click the result when it is shown in search. In this process, snippets of text and meta data are optimized to ensure your snippet of information is appealing in the context of the search query to obtain a high CTR (click through rate) from search results.
When I think ‘Google-friendly’ these days – I think a website Google will rank top, if popular and accessible enough, and won’t drop like a f*&^ing stone for no apparent reason one day, even though I followed the Google SEO starter guide to the letter….. just because Google has found something it doesn’t like – or has classified my site as undesirable one day.
Ever since its April 2015 update, Google is now taking the user's mobile experience into consideration in its search results. This means that when a user is doing a search on a mobile device, Google's search results will favor websites that are mobile friendly over the ones that aren't. If you want to capture that mobile search audience, you will need to have a mobile version of your website in addition to your desktop version.
The above information does not need to feature on every page, more on a clearly accessible page. However – with Google Quality Raters rating web pages on quality based on Expertise, Authority and Trust (see my recent making high-quality websites post) – ANY signal you can send to an algorithm or human reviewer’s eyes that you are a legitimate business is probably a sensible move at this time (if you have nothing to hide, of course).
In particular, the Google web spam team is currently waging a PR war on sites that rely on unnatural links and other ‘manipulative’ tactics (and handing out severe penalties if it detects them). And that’s on top of many algorithms already designed to look for other manipulative tactics (like keyword stuffing or boilerplate spun text across pages).
This Specialization will teach you to optimize website content for the best possible search engine ranking. You'll learn the theory behind Google search and other search engine algorithms; you'll also build practical, real-world skills that you can apply to a career in digital marketing or online content development, including on-page and off-page optimization, optimizing for local and international audiences, conducting search-focused website audits, and aligning SEO with overall business strategies. Each course is intended to build on the skills from the previous course, thus we recommend you take the courses in the order they are listed. The Specialization culminates in a hands-on Capstone Project, in which you will apply your skills to a comprehensive SEO consulting task.

Ideally, you will have unique pages, with unique page titles and unique page meta descriptions . Google does not seem to use the meta description when ranking your page for specific keyword searches if not relevant and unless you are careful if you might end up just giving spammers free original text for their site and not yours once they scrape your descriptions and put the text in main content on their site. I don’t worry about meta keywords these days as Google and Bing say they either ignore them or use them as spam signals.
How do you figure out what keywords your competitors are ranking for, you ask? Aside from manually searching for keywords in an incognito browser and seeing what positions your competitors are in, SEMrush allows you to run a number of free reports that show you the top keywords for the domain you enter. This is a quick way to get a sense of the types of terms your competitors are ranking for.
Another excellent guide is Google’s “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.” This is a free PDF download that covers basic tips that Google provides to its own employees on how to get listed. You’ll find it here. Also well worth checking out is Moz’s “Beginner’s Guide To SEO,” which you’ll find here, and the SEO Success Pyramid from Small Business Search Marketing.
Great guide Sharon! Thank you so much for sharing. I was wondering if off-page SEO is still worth it? Like using Personal Publishing Accounts or other social media where you can share your content. I’ve been trying for some months now to spread around content but still waiting for better results. I’ve read it needs diversity but I still haven’t figured it out yet.
Technical SEO optimizes the non-content elements of a website and the website as a whole to improve its backend structure and foundation. These strategies relate to: site speed, mobile friendliness, indexing, crawlability, site architecture, structured data, and security. Technical SEO improves both user and search crawler experience, which leads to higher search rankings.
I’ve always thought if you are serious about ranking – do so with ORIGINAL COPY. It’s clear – search engines reward good content it hasn’t found before. It indexes it blisteringly fast, for a start (within a second, if your website isn’t penalised!). So – make sure each of your pages has enough text content you have written specifically for that page – and you won’t need to jump through hoops to get it ranking.

If you link out to irrelevant sites, Google may ignore the page, too – but again, it depends on the site in question. Who you link to, or HOW you link to, REALLY DOES MATTER – I expect Google to use your linking practices as a potential means by which to classify your site. Affiliate sites, for example, don’t do well in Google these days without some good quality backlinks and higher quality pages.


A lot of optimisation techniques that are in the short term effective at boosting a site’s position in Google are against Google’s guidelines. For example, many links that may have once promoted you to the top of Google, may, in fact, today be hurting your site and its ability to rank high in Google. Keyword stuffing might be holding your page back. You must be smart, and cautious, when it comes to building links to your site in a manner that Google *hopefully* won’t have too much trouble with, in the FUTURE. Because they will punish you in the future.
Google, in many instances, would rather send long-tail search traffic, like users using mobile VOICE SEARCH, for instance, to high-quality pages ABOUT a concept/topic that explains relationships and connections between relevant sub-topics FIRST, rather than to only send that traffic to low-quality pages just because they have the exact phrase on the page.
Search engines use complex mathematical algorithms to interpret which websites a user seeks. In this diagram, if each bubble represents a website, programs sometimes called spiders examine which sites link to which other sites, with arrows representing these links. Websites getting more inbound links, or stronger links, are presumed to be more important and what the user is searching for. In this example, since website B is the recipient of numerous inbound links, it ranks more highly in a web search. And the links "carry through", such that website C, even though it only has one inbound link, has an inbound link from a highly popular site (B) while site E does not. Note: Percentages are rounded.
Are you just launching your first website and creating your initial online footprint to promote your product or service? Then you’ll likely need immediate visibility in search until you build up your organic credibility. With a strategic PPC campaign, you'll be able to achieve this. What you shouldn't do, though, is rely strictly on PPC over the long-term while ignoring organic SEO. You still need to create great content that visitors will want to engage with once they get to your website.
SEM results show to a select target audience. SEO results do not. While successful SEO and SEM strategies are driven by a plan to connect with a select audience, you can only specify that target audience through SEM. Through SEM, you can (depending on the publisher) select what audiences you want to see the search results by assigning filters based on age, location, income, habits, and more. Through SEO, you cannot specifically choose who will see your search results.
QUOTE: “Ultimately, you just want to have a really great site people love. I know it sounds like a cliché, but almost [all of] what we are looking for is surely what users are looking for. A site with content that users love – let’s say they interact with content in some way – that will help you in ranking in general, not with Panda. Pruning is not a good idea because with Panda, I don’t think it will ever help mainly because you are very likely to get Panda penalized – Pandalized – because of low-quality content…content that’s actually ranking shouldn’t perhaps rank that well. Let’s say you figure out if you put 10,000 times the word “pony” on your page, you rank better for all queries. What Panda does is disregard the advantage you figure out, so you fall back where you started. I don’t think you are removing content from the site with potential to rank – you have the potential to go further down if you remove that content. I would spend resources on improving content, or, if you don’t have the means to save that content, just leave it there. Ultimately people want good sites. They don’t want empty pages and crappy content. Ultimately that’s your goal – it’s created for your users.” Gary Illyes, Google 2017
Wow! This was so helpful to me. I am new to the blogging world and have been feeling really frustrated and discouraged because I lacked the knowledge of getting my post to rank in search engines. I know there is a lot more I still need to learn but this has layed a foundation for me. I am bookmarking it so I can return and read it again. Thank you for writing!
Google expects pages to “be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis” especially if they are for important issues like medical information, and states not all pages are held to such standards, but one can expect that Google wants information updated in a reasonable timescale. How reasonable this is, is dependant on the TOPIC and the PURPOSE of the web page RELATIVE to competing pages on the web.

Early versions of search algorithms relied on webmaster-provided information such as the keyword meta tag or index files in engines like ALIWEB. Meta tags provide a guide to each page's content. Using metadata to index pages was found to be less than reliable, however, because the webmaster's choice of keywords in the meta tag could potentially be an inaccurate representation of the site's actual content. Inaccurate, incomplete, and inconsistent data in meta tags could and did cause pages to rank for irrelevant searches.[10][dubious – discuss] Web content providers also manipulated some attributes within the HTML source of a page in an attempt to rank well in search engines.[11] By 1997, search engine designers recognized that webmasters were making efforts to rank well in their search engine, and that some webmasters were even manipulating their rankings in search results by stuffing pages with excessive or irrelevant keywords. Early search engines, such as Altavista and Infoseek, adjusted their algorithms to prevent webmasters from manipulating rankings.[12]


QUOTE: “So there’s three things that you really want to do well if you want to be the world’s best search engine you want to crawl the web comprehensively and deeply you want to index those pages and then you want to rank or serve those pages and return the most relevant ones first….. we basically take PageRank as the primary determinant and the more PageRank you have that is the more people who link to you and the more reputable those people are the more likely it is we’re going to discover your page…. we use page rank as well as over 200 other factors in our rankings to try to say okay maybe this document is really authoritative it has a lot of reputation because it has a lot of PageRank … and that’s kind of the secret sauce trying to figure out a way to combine those 200 different ranking signals in order to find the most relevant document.” Matt Cutts, Google

The errors in technical SEO are often not obvious, and therefore one of the most popular. Mistakes in robots.txt and 404 pages, pagination and canonical URLs, hreflang tags and 301 redirects, http vs https and www vs non www versions: each of them can seriously spoil all efforts to promote the site. One quality SEO website analysis is enough to solve all the main problems in this part forever.


Ever since its April 2015 update, Google is now taking the user's mobile experience into consideration in its search results. This means that when a user is doing a search on a mobile device, Google's search results will favor websites that are mobile friendly over the ones that aren't. If you want to capture that mobile search audience, you will need to have a mobile version of your website in addition to your desktop version.

Some page titles do better with a call to action – a call to action which reflects exactly a searcher’s intent (e.g. to learn something, or buy something, or hire something. THINK CAREFULLY before auto-generating keyword phrase footprints across a site using boiler-plating and article spinning techniques. Remember this is your hook in search engines, if Google chooses to use your page title in its search snippet, and there is a lot of competing pages out there in 2019.
Consider the length of your typical customer buying cycle. If your products and services have a short customer buying cycle, meaning your customers know what they want, search for it, and buy it, you may benefit from SEM ads that put your product right where customers will see it. Longer buying cycles, where customers research and compare for weeks or months, may not perform as well with SEM, as there isn’t an immediate buy after seeing one ad.
After a while, Google will know about your pages, and keep the ones it deems ‘useful’ – pages with original content, or pages with a lot of links to them. The rest will be de-indexed. Be careful – too many low-quality pages on your site will impact your overall site performance in Google. Google is on record talking about good and bad ratios of quality content to low-quality content.
Some search engines have also reached out to the SEO industry, and are frequent sponsors and guests at SEO conferences, webchats, and seminars. Major search engines provide information and guidelines to help with website optimization.[18][19] Google has a Sitemaps program to help webmasters learn if Google is having any problems indexing their website and also provides data on Google traffic to the website.[20] Bing Webmaster Tools provides a way for webmasters to submit a sitemap and web feeds, allows users to determine the "crawl rate", and track the web pages index status.

A lot of optimisation techniques that are in the short term effective at boosting a site’s position in Google are against Google’s guidelines. For example, many links that may have once promoted you to the top of Google, may, in fact, today be hurting your site and its ability to rank high in Google. Keyword stuffing might be holding your page back. You must be smart, and cautious, when it comes to building links to your site in a manner that Google *hopefully* won’t have too much trouble with, in the FUTURE. Because they will punish you in the future.
QUOTE: “If you want to stop spam, the most straight forward way to do it is to deny people money because they care about the money and that should be their end goal. But if you really want to stop spam, it is a little bit mean, but what you want to do, is sort of break their spirits. There are lots of Google algorithms specifically designed to frustrate spammers. Some of the things we do is give people a hint their site will drop and then a week or two later, their site actually does drop. So they get a little bit more frustrated. So hopefully, and we’ve seen this happen, people step away from the dark side and say, you know what, that was so much pain and anguish and frustration, let’s just stay on the high road from now on.” Matt Cutts, Google 2013
Ever wonder how major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo rank your website within their searches? Or how content such as videos or local listings are shown and ranked based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users? Welcome to the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This course is the first within the SEO Specialization and it is intended to give you a taste of SEO. You will be introduced to the foundational elements of how search engines work, how the SEO landscape has changed and what you can expect in the future. You discuss core SEO strategies and tactics used to drive more organic search results to a specific website or set of websites, as well as tactics to avoid to prevent penalization from search engines. You will also discover how to position yourself for a successful career in SEO should this subject prove interesting to you. We hope this taste of SEO, will entice you to continue through the Specialization.
For me, when SEO is more important than branding, the company name goes at the end of the tag, and I use a variety of dividers to separate as no one way performs best. If you have a recognisable brand – then there is an argument for putting this at the front of titles – although Google often will change your title dynamically – sometimes putting your brand at the front of your snippet link title itself. I often leave out branding. There is no one size fits all approach as the strategy will depend on the type of page you are working with.
“Sharability” – Not every single piece of content on your site will be linked to and shared hundreds of times. But in the same way you want to be careful of not rolling out large quantities of pages that have thin content, you want to consider who would be likely to share and link to new pages you’re creating on your site before you roll them out. Having large quantities of pages that aren’t likely to be shared or linked to doesn’t position those pages to rank well in search results, and doesn’t help to create a good picture of your site as a whole for search engines, either.
A poor 404 page and user interaction with it, can only lead to a ‘poor user experience’ signal at Google’s end, for a number of reasons. I will highlight a poor 404 page in my audits and actually programmatically look for signs of this issue when I scan a site. I don’t know if Google looks at your site that way to rate it e.g. algorithmically determines if you have a good 404 page – or if it is a UX factor, something to be taken into consideration further down the line – or purely to get you thinking about 404 pages (in general) to help prevent Google wasting resources indexing crud pages and presenting poor results to searchers. I think rather that any rating would be a second order scoring including data from user activity on the SERPs – stuff we as SEO can’t see.
Make it as easy as possible for users to go from general content to the more specific content they want on your site. Add navigation pages when it makes sense and effectively work these into your internal link structure. Make sure all of the pages on your site are reachable through links, and that they don't require an internal "search" functionality to be found. Link to related pages, where appropriate, to allow users to discover similar content.
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