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.
Understanding the balance of terms that might be a little more difficult due to competition, versus those terms that are a little more realistic, will help you maintain a similar balance that the mix of long-tail and head terms allows. Remember, the goal is to end up with a list of keywords that provide some quick wins but also helps you make progress toward bigger, more challenging SEO goals.

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 2020.
The world is mobile today. Most people are searching on Google using a mobile device. The desktop version of a site might be difficult to view and use on a mobile device. As a result, having a mobile ready site is critical to your online presence. In fact, starting in late 2016, Google has begun experiments to primarily use the mobile version of a site's content42 for ranking, parsing structured data, and generating snippets.

Think about the words that a user might search for to find a piece of your content. Users who know a lot about the topic might use different keywords in their search queries than someone who is new to the topic. For example, a long-time football fan might search for [fifa], an acronym for the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, while a new fan might use a more general query like [football playoffs]. Anticipating these differences in search behavior and accounting for them while writing your content (using a good mix of keyword phrases) could produce positive results. Google Ads provides a handy Keyword Planner34 that helps you discover new keyword variations and see the approximate search volume for each keyword. Also, Google Search Console provides you with the top search queries your site appears for and the ones that led the most users to your site in the Performance Report35.

Keywords are important because they are the linchpin between what people are searching for and the content you are providing to fill that need. Your goal in ranking on search engines is to drive organic traffic to your site from the search engine result pages (SERPs), and the keywords you choose to target (meaning, among other things, the ones you choose to include in your content) will determine what kind of traffic you get. If you own a golf shop, for example, you might want to rank for "new clubs" — but if you're not careful, you might end up attracting traffic that's interested in finding a new place to dance after dark.
QUOTE: “I’ve got a slide here where I show I think 8 different URLs you know every single one of these URLs could return completely different content in practice we as humans whenever we look at ‘www.example.com’ or just regular ‘example.com’ or example.com/index or example.com/home.asp we think of it as the same page and in practice it usually is the same page so technically it doesn’t have to be but almost always web servers will return the same content for like these 8 different versions of the URL so that can cause a lot of problems in search engines if rather than having your backlinks all go to one page instead it’s split between (the versions) and it’s a really big headache….how do people fix this well …. the canonical link element” Matt Cutts, Google 2009
While it is possible to see results from your marketing efforts quickly, the reality is that marketing, especially the type that generates long-term results and referrals, takes time. You're competing in an increasingly crowded and loud marketplace. The better you can connect with your ideal market and develop a relationship with it, the better your results will be. If you provide a great product or service and are attentive to your customers, your customers will provide you with positive reviews, referrals, and testimonials that will help you stand out in the crowd.
A navigational page is a simple page on your site that displays the structure of your website, and usually consists of a hierarchical listing of the pages on your site. Visitors may visit this page if they are having problems finding pages on your site. While search engines will also visit this page, getting good crawl coverage of the pages on your site, it's mainly aimed at human visitors.
However, we do expect websites of large companies and organizations to put a great deal of effort into creating a good user experience on their website, including having helpful SC. For large websites, SC may be one of the primary ways that users explore the website and find MC, and a lack of helpful SC on large websites with a lot of content may be a reason for a Low rating.

You can confer some of your site's reputation to another site when your site links to it. Sometimes users can take advantage of this by adding links to their own site in your comment sections or message boards. Or sometimes you might mention a site in a negative way and don't want to confer any of your reputation upon it. For example, imagine that you're writing a blog post on the topic of comment spamming and you want to call out a site that recently comment spammed your blog. You want to warn others of the site, so you include the link to it in your content; however, you certainly don't want to give the site some of your reputation from your link. This would be a good time to use nofollow.
QUOTE: “The preferred domain is the one that you would liked used to index your site’s pages (sometimes this is referred to as the canonical domain). Links may point to your site using both the www and non-www versions of the URL (for instance, http://www.example.com and http://example.com). The preferred domain is the version that you want used for your site in the search results.” Google, 2018
If you don't know the difference between head terms and long-tail keywords, let me explain. Head terms are keywords phrases that are generally shorter and more generic -- they're typically just one to three words in length, depending on who you talk to. Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are longer keyword phrases usually containing three or more words.
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.

Capturing and keeping attention is one of the hardest parts of our job today. Fact: It's just going to get harder with the advent of new technology and conversational interfaces. In the brave new world we're stepping into, the key questions are: How do we get discovered? How can we delight our audiences? And how can we grow revenue for our clients? Watch this session to learn how to make your marketing and advertising efforts something people are going to want to consume.
Keywords are as much about your audience as they are about your content, because you might describe what you offer in a slightly different way than some people ask for it. To create content that ranks well organically and drives visitors to your site, you need to understand the needs of those visitors — the language they use and the type of content they seek. You can do this by talking to your customers, frequenting forums and community groups, and doing your own keyword research with a tool like Keyword Explorer.
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 dependent on the TOPIC and the PURPOSE of the web page RELATIVE to competing pages on the web.
QUOTE: “Supplementary Content contributes to a good user experience on the page, but does not directly help the page achieve it purpose. SC is controlled by webmasters and is an important part of the user experience. One common type of SC is navigation links that allow users to visit other parts of the website. Note that in some cases, content behind tabs may be considered part of the SC of the page. Sometimes the easiest way to identify SC is to look for the parts of the page that are not MC or Ads. ” Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines 2019
If you're a regular blogger, these are probably the topics you blog about most frequently. Or perhaps they're the topics that come up the most in sales conversations. Put yourself in the shoes of your buyer personas -- what types of topics would your target audience search that you'd want your business to get found for? If you were a company like HubSpot, for example -- selling marketing software (which happens to have some awesome SEO tools ... but I digress ... you might have general topic buckets like:

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 2020 – and the type of content performance Google rewards is in the end largely at least about a satisfying user experience.
QUOTE: “I think that’s always an option. Yeah. That’s something that–I’ve seen sites do that across the board,not specifically for blogs, but for content in general, where they would regularly go through all of their content and see, well, this content doesn’t get any clicks, or everyone who goes there kind of runs off screaming.” John Mueller, Google 
QUOTE: “For years, the user experience has been tarnished by irritating and intrusive ads. Thanks to extensive research by the Coalition for Better Ads, we now know which ad formats and experiences users find the most annoying. Working from this data, the Coalition has developed the Better Ads Standards, offering publishers and advertisers a road map for the formats and ad experiences to avoid.”  Kelsey LeBeau, Google 2019
QUOTE: “We expect Ads and SC to be visible. However, some Ads, SC, or interstitial pages (i.e., pages displayed before or after the content you are expecting) make it difficult to use the MC. Pages with Ads, SC, or other features that distract from or interrupt the use of the MC should be given a Low rating.” Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines 2019

QUOTE: “One of the difficulties of running a great website that focuses on UGC is keeping the overall quality upright. Without some level of policing and evaluating the content, most sites are overrun by spam and low-quality content. This is less of a technical issue than a general quality one, and in my opinion, not something that’s limited to Google’s algorithms. If you want to create a fantastic experience for everyone who visits, if you focus on content created by users, then you generally need to provide some guidance towards what you consider to be important (and sometimes, strict control when it comes to those who abuse your house rules).”


Search Engine Land defines SEO as “…the process of getting traffic from the ‘free,’ ‘organic,’ ‘editorial’ or ‘natural’ search results on search engines.” Essentially, SEO is the process of optimizing your website through various methods in order to rank higher for certain relevant keywords on search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. With effective SEO, your website will appear higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) due to its positive relationship to that search engine’s particular ranking algorithm.
This relationship between rankings and clicks (and traffic) is strongest amongst the top 3 search results. However, changing layout of the search results pages is constantly changing, with the inclusion of Google’s Knowledge Graph data and the integration of Universal Search elements (SERP Features) like videos, maps and Google Shopping ads. These developments can mean that the top 3 organic rankings are no longer the 3 best positions on the SERP. This has been demonstrated in heatmap and eye-tracking tests.
Consider the average cost-per-click in your industry. Before deciding that SEM is right for your business, research and consider how much you’ll need to spend to show in paid search results. Keywords have varying cost-per-clicks based on competition. If your cost-per-click is low, it might be the right strategy for you. On the flipside, a very high cost-per-click might make you decide you’re better off focusing on SEO.
QUOTE: “You always need textual content on-page, regardless of what other kinds of content you might have. If you’re a video-hosting site, you still need things like titles, headings, text, links, etc. The same goes for audio-hosting sites. Make it easy for search engines to understand your content & how it’s relevant to users, and they’ll be able to send you relevant traffic. If you make it hard for search engines to figure out what your pages are about, it would be normal for them to struggle to figure out how your site is relevant for users.” John Mueller, Google 2019
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.
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 select the best title it wants for your search snippet – and it will take that information from multiple sources, NOT just your page title element. A small title is often appended with more information about the domain. Sometimes, if Google is confident in the BRAND name, it will replace it with that (often adding it to the beginning of your title with a colon, or sometimes appending the end of your snippet title with the actual domain address the page belongs to).
Other research shows that exact-match domains that are deemed to be relevant, valuable, and high-quality can see a ranking boost because of it. However, if you already have an established website, you don’t need to go looking for an exact-match domain for your business; focus on a URL that reflects your business and optimize the heck out of it instead!
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.
You can more strategically target a specific location by narrowing down your keyword research to specific towns, counties, or states in the Google Keyword Planner, or evaluate "interest by subregion" in Google Trends. Geo-specific research can help make your content more relevant to your target audience. For example, you might find out that in Texas, the preferred term for a large truck is “big rig,” while in New York, “tractor trailer” is the preferred terminology.
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.
Use the Keyword Planner to flag any terms on your list that have way too little (or way too much) search volume, and don't help you maintain a healthy mix like we talked about above. But before you delete anything, check out their trend history and projections in Google Trends. You can see whether, say, some low-volume terms might actually be something you should invest in now -- and reap the benefits for later.
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.
Because someone who is looking for something that specific is probably a much more qualified searcher for your product or service (presuming you're in the blogging space) than someone looking for something really generic. And because long-tail keywords tend to be more specific, it's usually easier to tell what people who search for those keywords are really looking for. Someone searching for the head term "blogging," on the other hand, could be searching it for a whole host of reasons unrelated to your business.
Inclusion in Google's search results is free and easy; you don't even need to submit your site to Google. Google is a fully automated search engine that uses web crawlers to explore the web constantly, looking for sites to add to our index. In fact, the vast majority of sites listed in our results aren't manually submitted for inclusion, but found and added automatically when we crawl the web. Learn how Google discovers, crawls, and serves web pages.3
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