Users will occasionally come to a page that doesn't exist on your site, either by following a broken link or typing in the wrong URL. Having a custom 404 page30 that kindly guides users back to a working page on your site can greatly improve a user's experience. Your 404 page should probably have a link back to your root page and could also provide links to popular or related content on your site. You can use Google Search Console to find the sources of URLs causing "not found" errors31.
While the title tag is effectively your search listing’s headline, the meta description (another meta HTML element that can be updated in your site’s code, but isn’t seen on your actual page) is effectively your site’s additional ad copy. Google takes some liberties with what they display in search results, so your meta description may not always show, but if you have a compelling description of your page that would make folks searching likely to click, you can greatly increase traffic. (Remember: showing up in search results is just the first step! You still need to get searchers to come to your site, and then actually take the action you want.)
A variety of methods can increase the prominence of a webpage within the search results. Cross linking between pages of the same website to provide more links to important pages may improve its visibility.[48] Writing content that includes frequently searched keyword phrase, so as to be relevant to a wide variety of search queries will tend to increase traffic.[48] Updating content so as to keep search engines crawling back frequently can give additional weight to a site. Adding relevant keywords to a web page's metadata, including the title tag and meta description, will tend to improve the relevancy of a site's search listings, thus increasing traffic. URL canonicalization of web pages accessible via multiple URLs, using the canonical link element[49] or via 301 redirects can help make sure links to different versions of the URL all count towards the page's link popularity score.

You likely have a few keywords in mind that you would like to rank for. These will be things like your products, services, or other topics your website addresses, and they are great seed keywords for your research, so start there! You can enter those keywords into a keyword research tool to discover average monthly search volume and similar keywords. We’ll get into search volume in greater depth in the next section, but during the discovery phase, it can help you determine which variations of your keywords are most popular amongst searchers.
QUOTE: “Shopping or financial transaction pages: webpages which allow users to make purchases, transfer money, pay bills, etc. online (such as online stores and online banking pages)…..We have very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages because low-quality YMYL pages could potentially negatively impact users’ happiness, health, or wealth.“
Experience can educate you when a page is high-quality and yet receives no traffic. If the page is thin, but is not manipulative, is indeed ‘unique’ and delivers on a purpose with little obvious detectable reason to mark it down, then you can say it is a high-quality page – just with very little search demand for it. Ignored content is not the same as ‘toxic’ content.
SEO may generate an adequate return on investment. However, search engines are not paid for organic search traffic, their algorithms change, and there are no guarantees of continued referrals. Due to this lack of guarantees and certainty, a business that relies heavily on search engine traffic can suffer major losses if the search engines stop sending visitors.[61] Search engines can change their algorithms, impacting a website's placement, possibly resulting in a serious loss of traffic. According to Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, in 2010, Google made over 500 algorithm changes – almost 1.5 per day.[62] It is considered a wise business practice for website operators to liberate themselves from dependence on search engine traffic.[63] In addition to accessibility in terms of web crawlers (addressed above), user web accessibility has become increasingly important for SEO.
Comparing your Google Analytics data side by side with the dates of official algorithm updates is useful in diagnosing a site health issue or traffic drop. In the above example, a new client thought it was a switch to HTTPS and server downtime that caused the drop when it was actually the May 6, 2015, Google Quality Algorithm (originally called Phantom 2 in some circles) that caused the sudden drop in organic traffic – and the problem was probably compounded by unnatural linking practices. (This client did eventually receive a penalty for unnatural links when they ignored our advice to clean up).
Website owners recognized the value of a high ranking and visibility in search engine results,[6] creating an opportunity for both white hat and black hat SEO practitioners. According to industry analyst Danny Sullivan, the phrase "search engine optimization" probably came into use in 1997. Sullivan credits Bruce Clay as one of the first people to popularize the term.[7] On May 2, 2007,[8] Jason Gambert attempted to trademark the term SEO by convincing the Trademark Office in Arizona[9] that SEO is a "process" involving manipulation of keywords and not a "marketing service."
It’s important to note that Google is responsible for the majority of the search engine traffic in the world. This may vary from one industry to another, but it’s likely that Google is the dominant player in the search results that your business or website would want to show up in, but the best practices outlined in this guide will help you to position your site and its content to rank in other search engines, as well.
Consider the age of your business. If you just opened your business and launched your website, it’s going to take time to develop your SEO and begin to appear organically in the search. While that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put together an SEO strategy, it does mean that you could benefit from an SEM strategy until you build your SEO. SEM is an effective way to drive traffic while building organic SEO.
SEO techniques can be classified into two broad categories: techniques that search engine companies recommend as part of good design ("white hat"), and those techniques of which search engines do not approve ("black hat"). The search engines attempt to minimize the effect of the latter, among them spamdexing. Industry commentators have classified these methods, and the practitioners who employ them, as either white hat SEO, or black hat SEO.[50] White hats tend to produce results that last a long time, whereas black hats anticipate that their sites may eventually be banned either temporarily or permanently once the search engines discover what they are doing.[51]
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

QUOTE: “Keyword Stuffed” Main Content Pages may be created to lure search engines and users by repeating keywords over and over again, sometimes in unnatural and unhelpful ways. Such pages are created using words likely to be contained in queries issued by users. Keyword stuffing can range from mildly annoying to users, to complete gibberish. Pages created with the intent of luring search engines and users, rather than providing meaningful MC to help users, should be rated Lowest.” Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines 2017
One of the things Google looks at when ranking a page is the content on that page. It looks at the words on the page. Now picture this, if every word on, for instance, a blog post about a digital piano is used 2 times, then all words are of equal importance. Google won’t have a clue which of those words are important and which aren’t. The words you’re using are clues for Google; it tells Google and other search engines what the page or post is about. So if you want to make Google understand what your page is about, you need to use it fairly often.
Many blogging software packages automatically nofollow user comments, but those that don't can most likely be manually edited to do this. This advice also goes for other areas of your site that may involve user-generated content, such as guest books, forums, shout-boards, referrer listings, etc. If you're willing to vouch for links added by third parties (for example, if a commenter is trusted on your site), then there's no need to use nofollow on links; however, linking to sites that Google considers spammy can affect the reputation of your own site. The Webmaster Help Center has more tips on avoiding comment spam40, for example by using CAPTCHAs and turning on comment moderation.
Sometimes I think if your titles are spammy, your keywords are spammy, and your meta description is spammy, Google might stop right there – even they probably will want to save bandwidth at some time. Putting a keyword in the description won’t take a crap site to number 1 or raise you 50 spots in a competitive niche – so why optimise for a search engine when you can optimise for a human? – I think that is much more valuable, especially if you are in the mix already – that is – on page one for your keyword.
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.
Websites that have extremely negative or malicious reputations. Also use the Lowest rating for violations of the Google Webmaster Quality Guidelines. Finally, Lowest+ may be used both for pages with many low-quality characteristics and for pages whose lack of a single Page Quality characteristic makes you question the true purpose of the page. Important: Negative reputation is sufficient reason to give a page a Low quality rating. Evidence of truly malicious or fraudulent behavior warrants the Lowest rating.
“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.
QUOTE: “The average duration metric for the particular group of resources can be a statistical measure computed from a data set of measurements of a length of time that elapses between a time that a given user clicks on a search result included in a search results web page that identifies a resource in the particular group of resources and a time that the given user navigates back to the search results web page. …Thus, the user experience can be improved because search results higher in the presentation order will better match the user’s informational needs.” High Quality Search Results based on Repeat Clicks and Visit Duration
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.
QUOTE: “Keyword Stuffed” Main Content Pages may be created to lure search engines and users by repeating keywords over and over again, sometimes in unnatural and unhelpful ways. Such pages are created using words likely to be contained in queries issued by users. Keyword stuffing can range from mildly annoying to users, to complete gibberish. Pages created with the intent of luring search engines and users, rather than providing meaningful MC to help users, should be rated Lowest.” Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines 2017
The leading search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo!, use crawlers to find pages for their algorithmic search results. Pages that are linked from other search engine indexed pages do not need to be submitted because they are found automatically. The Yahoo! Directory and DMOZ, two major directories which closed in 2014 and 2017 respectively, both required manual submission and human editorial review.[40] Google offers Google Search Console, for which an XML Sitemap feed can be created and submitted for free to ensure that all pages are found, especially pages that are not discoverable by automatically following links[41] in addition to their URL submission console.[42] Yahoo! formerly operated a paid submission service that guaranteed crawling for a cost per click;[43] however, this practice was discontinued in 2009.
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!
At first glance, the Ads or SC appear to be MC. Some users may interact with Ads or SC, believing that the Ads or SC is the MC.Ads appear to be SC (links) where the user would expect that clicking the link will take them to another page within the same website, but actually take them to a different website. Some users may feel surprised or confused when clicking SC or links that go to a page on a completely different 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.
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.
QUOTE: “So if you have different parts of your website and they’re on different subdomains that’s that’s perfectly fine that’s totally up to you and the way people link across these different subdomains is really up to you I guess one of the tricky aspects there is that we try to figure out what belongs to a website and to treat that more as a single website and sometimes things on separate subdomains are like a single website and sometimes they’re more like separate websites for example on on blogger all of the subdomains are essentially completely separate websites they’re not related to each other on the other hand other websites might have different subdomains and they just use them for different parts of the same thing so maybe for different country versions maybe for different language versions all of that is completely normal.” John Mueller 2017
Optimization techniques are highly tuned to the dominant search engines in the target market. The search engines' market shares vary from market to market, as does competition. In 2003, Danny Sullivan stated that Google represented about 75% of all searches.[64] In markets outside the United States, Google's share is often larger, and Google remains the dominant search engine worldwide as of 2007.[65] As of 2006, Google had an 85–90% market share in Germany.[66] While there were hundreds of SEO firms in the US at that time, there were only about five in Germany.[66] As of June 2008, the market share of Google in the UK was close to 90% according to Hitwise.[67] That market share is achieved in a number of countries.

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.
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.
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
If you are improving user experience by focusing primarily on the quality of the MC of your pages and avoiding – even removing – old-school SEO techniques – those certainly are positive steps to getting more traffic from Google in 2019 – and the type of content performance Google rewards is in the end largely at least about a satisfying user experience.
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.
Optimizing the page for keywords is quite simple if we follow the basics mentioned in this article. As said above, use keywords in URL, meta description, Title and headings. I think it doesn’t matter how many times we use keyword in a page, but where we use keywords matters. In the blog content we can use LSI keywords which are probably the best keyword ranking approach in 2018.
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.
Disclaimer: “Whilst I have made every effort to ensure that the information I have provided is correct, It is not advice.; I cannot accept any responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions. The author does not vouch for third party sites or any third party service. Visit third party sites at your own risk.  I am not directly partnered with Google or any other third party. This website uses cookies only for analytics and basic website functions. This article does not constitute legal advice. The author does not accept any liability that might arise from accessing the data presented on this site. Links to internal pages promote my own content and services.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo
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.

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..

I think it makes sense to have unique content as much as possible on these pages but it’s not not going to like sync the whole website if you don’t do that we don’t penalize a website for having this kind of deep duplicate content and kind of going back to the first thing though with regards to doorway pages that is something I definitely look into to make sure that you’re not running into that so in particular if this is like all going to the same clinic and you’re creating all of these different landing pages that are essentially just funneling everyone to the same clinic then that could be seen as a doorway page or a set of doorway pages on our side and it could happen that the web spam team looks at that and says this is this is not okay you’re just trying to rank for all of these different variations of the keywords and the pages themselves are essentially all the same and they might go there and say we need to take a manual action and remove all these pages from search so that’s kind of one thing to watch out for in the sense that if they are all going to the same clinic then probably it makes sense to create some kind of a summary page instead whereas if these are going to two different businesses then of course that’s kind of a different situation it’s not it’s not a doorway page situation.”
Google WILL classify your site when it crawls and indexes your site – and this classification can have a DRASTIC effect on your rankings. It’s important for Google to work out WHAT YOUR ULTIMATE INTENT IS – do you want to be classified as a thin affiliate site made ‘just for Google’, a domain holding page or a small business website with a real purpose? Ensure you don’t confuse Google in any way by being explicit with all the signals you can – to show on your website you are a real business, and your INTENT is genuine – and even more important today – FOCUSED ON SATISFYING A VISITOR.
QUOTE: “Returning a code other than 404 or 410 for a non-existent page (or redirecting users to another page, such as the homepage, instead of returning a 404) can be problematic. Firstly, it tells search engines that there’s a real page at that URL. As a result, that URL may be crawled and its content indexed. Because of the time Googlebot spends on non-existent pages, your unique URLs may not be discovered as quickly or visited as frequently and your site’s crawl coverage may be impacted (also, you probably don’t want your site to rank well for the search query” GOOGLE
Google ranks websites (relevancy aside for a moment) by the number and quality of incoming links to a site from other websites (amongst hundreds of other metrics). Generally speaking, a link from a page to another page is viewed in Google “eyes” as a vote for that page the link points to. The more votes a page gets, the more trusted a page can become, and the higher Google will rank it – in theory. Rankings are HUGELY affected by how much Google ultimately trusts the DOMAIN the page is on. BACKLINKS (links from other websites – trump every other signal.)

QUOTE: “Google Webmaster Tools notice of detected doorway pages on xxxxxxxx – Dear site owner or webmaster of xxxxxxxx, We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Specifically, your site may have what we consider to be doorway pages – groups of “cookie cutter” or low-quality pages. Such pages are often of low value to users and are often optimized for single words or phrases in order to channel users to a single location. We believe that doorway pages typically create a frustrating user experience, and we encourage you to correct or remove any pages that violate our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results. If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.” Google Search Quality Team
One of the things Google looks at when ranking a page is the content on that page. It looks at the words on the page. Now picture this, if every word on, for instance, a blog post about a digital piano is used 2 times, then all words are of equal importance. Google won’t have a clue which of those words are important and which aren’t. The words you’re using are clues for Google; it tells Google and other search engines what the page or post is about. So if you want to make Google understand what your page is about, you need to use it fairly often.
When Googlebot crawls a page, it should see the page the same way an average user does15. For optimal rendering and indexing, always allow Googlebot access to the JavaScript, CSS, and image files used by your website. If your site's robots.txt file disallows crawling of these assets, it directly harms how well our algorithms render and index your content. This can result in suboptimal rankings.
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