QUOTE: “So it’s not something where we’d say, if your website was previously affected, then it will always be affected. Or if it wasn’t previously affected, it will never be affected.… sometimes we do change the criteria…. category pages…. (I) wouldn’t see that as something where Panda would say, this looks bad.… Ask them the questions from the Panda blog post….. usability, you need to work on.“ John Mueller, Google.
What about other search engines that use them? Hang on while I submit my site to those 75,000 engines first [sarcasm!]. Yes, ten years ago early search engines liked looking at your meta-keywords. I’ve seen OPs in forums ponder which is the best way to write these tags – with commas, with spaces, limiting to how many characters. Forget about meta-keyword tags – they are a pointless waste of time and bandwidth.
If you are just starting out, don’t think you can fool Google about everything all the time. Google has VERY probably seen your tactics before. So, it’s best to keep your plan simple. GET RELEVANT. GET REPUTABLE. Aim for a healthy, satisfying visitor experience. If you are just starting out – you may as well learn how to do it within Google’s Webmaster Guidelines first. Make a decision, early, if you are going to follow Google’s guidelines, or not, and stick to it. Don’t be caught in the middle with an important project. Do not always follow the herd.
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.

When Google trusts you it’s because you’ve earned its trust to help it satisfy its users in the quickest and most profitable way possible. You’ve helped Google achieve its goals. It trusts you and it will reward you with higher rankings. Google will list “friends” it trusts the most (who it knows to be reputable in a particular topic) at the top of SERPs.


Naturally, business owners want to rank for lots of keywords in organic listings with their website. The challenge for webmasters and SEO is that Google doesn’t want business owners to rank for lots of keywords using autogenerated content especially when that produces A LOT of pages on a website using (for instance) a list of keyword variations page-to-page.
QUOTE: “Sitemaps are an easy way for webmasters to inform search engines about pages on their sites that are available for crawling. In its simplest form, a Sitemap is an XML file that lists URLs for a site along with additional metadata about each URL (when it was last updated, how often it usually changes, and how important it is, relative to other URLs in the site) so that search engines can more intelligently crawl the site.”
It’s important to note that entire websites don’t rank for keywords — pages do. With big brands, we often see the homepage ranking for many keywords, but for most websites this isn’t usually the case. Many websites receive more organic traffic to pages other than the homepage, which is why it’s so important to diversify your website’s pages by optimizing each for uniquely valuable keywords.

Heading tags are the title elements that you can use to separate your text content. These headlines give search engines a better understanding of what your page is about. Plus, people tend to go through the headings first to see if your content is what they're looking for before actually reading it. So, you want to use headings to your advantage and make sure they're descriptive and explain what your content is about.

An authority website is a site that is trusted by its users, the industry it operates in, other websites and search engines. Traditionally a link from an authority website is very valuable, as it’s seen as a vote of confidence. The more of these you have, and the higher quality content you produce, the more likely your own site will become an authority too.


Yes, you need to build links to your site to acquire more PageRank, or Google ‘juice’ – or what we now call domain authority or trust. Google is a link-based search engine – it does not quite understand ‘good’ or ‘quality’ content – but it does understand ‘popular’ content. It can also usually identify poor, or THIN CONTENT – and it penalises your site for that – or – at least – it takes away the traffic you once had with an algorithm change. Google doesn’t like calling actions the take a ‘penalty’ – it doesn’t look good. They blame your ranking drops on their engineers getting better at identifying quality content or links, or the inverse – low-quality content and unnatural links. If they do take action your site for paid links – they call this a ‘Manual Action’ and you will get notified about it in Webmaster Tools if you sign up.

I do not obsess about site architecture as much as I used to…. but I always ensure my pages I want to be indexed are all available from a crawl from the home page – and I still emphasise important pages by linking to them where relevant. I always aim to get THE most important exact match anchor text pointing to the page from internal links – but I avoid abusing internals and avoid overtly manipulative internal links that are not grammatically correct, for instance..
QUOTE: “Starting April 21 (2015), we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high-quality search results that are optimized for their devices”. GOOGLE
Smartphone - In this document, "mobile" or “mobile devices" refers to smartphones, such as devices running Android, iPhone, or Windows Phone. Mobile browsers are similar to desktop browsers in that they can render a broad set of the HTML5 specification, although their screen size is smaller and in almost all cases their default orientation is vertical.
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.
Heading tags are the title elements that you can use to separate your text content. These headlines give search engines a better understanding of what your page is about. Plus, people tend to go through the headings first to see if your content is what they're looking for before actually reading it. So, you want to use headings to your advantage and make sure they're descriptive and explain what your content is about.
to avoid throwing link equity away, you might create HIGH-LEVEL IN-DEPTH TOPIC PAGES on your site and redirect (or use canonical redirects) any related expired content that HAVE INCOMING BACKLINKS, to this topic page (and keep it updated, folding content from old pages, where relevant and there is traffic opportunity, to create TOPIC pages that are focused on the customer e.g. information pages)

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.
Many think that Google won’t allow new websites to rank well for competitive terms until the web address “ages” and acquires “trust” in Google – I think this depends on the quality of the incoming links. Sometimes your site will rank high for a while then disappears for months. A “honeymoon period” to give you a taste of Google traffic, perhaps, or a period to better gauge your website quality from an actual user perspective.
That content CAN be on links to your own content on other pages, but if you are really helping a user understand a topic – you should be LINKING OUT to other helpful resources e.g. other websites.A website that does not link out to ANY other website could be interpreted accurately to be at least, self-serving. I can’t think of a website that is the true end-point of the web.
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.
So you have a new site. You fill your home page meta tags with the 20 keywords you want to rank for – hey, that’s what optimisation is all about, isn’t it? You’ve just told Google by the third line of text what to filter you for. The meta name=”Keywords” was actually originally for words that weren’t actually on the page that would help classify the document.
QUOTE: “In place of a pop-up try a full-screen inline ad. It offers the same amount of screen real estate as pop-ups without covering up any content. Fixing the problem depends on the issue you have for example if it’s a pop-up you’ll need to remove all the pop-up ads from your site but if the issue is high ad density on a page you’ll need to reduce the number of ads” Google, 2017
QUOTE: “I think there is probably a misunderstanding that there’s this one site-wide number that Google keeps for all websites and that’s not the case.  We look at lots of different factors and there’s not just this one site-wide quality score that we look at. So we try to look at a variety of different signals that come together, some of them are per page, some of them are more per site, but it’s not the case where there’s one number and it comes from these five pages on your website.” John Mueller, Google
Google and Bing use a crawler (Googlebot and Bingbot) that spiders the web looking for new links to find. These bots might find a link to your homepage somewhere on the web and then crawl and index the pages of your site if all your pages are linked together. If your website has an XML sitemap, for instance, Google will use that to include that content in its index. An XML sitemap is INCLUSIVE, not EXCLUSIVE.  Google will crawl and index every single page on your site – even pages out with an XML sitemap.
Google is a link-based search engine. Google doesn’t need content to rank pages but it needs content to give to users. Google needs to find content and it finds content by following links just like you do when clicking on a link. So you need first to make sure you tell the world about your site so other sites link to yours. Don’t worry about reciprocating to more powerful sites or even real sites – I think this adds to your domain authority – which is better to have than ranking for just a few narrow key terms.

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.
Google will INDEX perhaps 1000s of characters in a title… but I don’t think anyone knows exactly how many characters or words Google will count AS a TITLE TAG when determining RELEVANCE OF A DOCUMENT for ranking purposes. It is a very hard thing to try to isolate accurately with all the testing and obfuscation Google uses to hide it’s ‘secret sauce’. I have had ranking success with longer titles – much longer titles. Google certainly reads ALL the words in your page title (unless you are spamming it silly, of course).
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.
Off-page SEO builds a website’s reputation and authority by connecting it to other high-quality websites. Off-page SEO techniques include: link building (acquiring high-quality backlinks) from other websites and managing local listings and directory profiles. When many websites link to a brand’s website, it shows search engines that the brand’s website is trustworthy, reliable, and reputable, which increases its search rankings.
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Critics will point out the higher the cost of expert SEO, the more cost-effective Adwords becomes, but Adwords will only get more expensive, too. At some point, if you want to compete online, your going to HAVE to build a quality website, with a unique offering to satisfy returning visitors – the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll start to see results.
All sites have a home or "root" page, which is usually the most frequented page on the site and the starting place of navigation for many visitors. Unless your site has only a handful of pages, you should think about how visitors will go from a general page (your root page) to a page containing more specific content. Do you have enough pages around a specific topic area that it would make sense to create a page describing these related pages (for example, root page -> related topic listing -> specific topic)? Do you have hundreds of different products that need to be classified under multiple category and subcategory pages?
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