Robots.txt is not an appropriate or effective way of blocking sensitive or confidential material. It only instructs well-behaved crawlers that the pages are not for them, but it does not prevent your server from delivering those pages to a browser that requests them. One reason is that search engines could still reference the URLs you block (showing just the URL, no title or snippet) if there happen to be links to those URLs somewhere on the Internet (like referrer logs). Also, non-compliant or rogue search engines that don't acknowledge the Robots Exclusion Standard could disobey the instructions of your robots.txt. Finally, a curious user could examine the directories or subdirectories in your robots.txt file and guess the URL of the content that you don't want seen.
While that theory is sound (when focused on a single page, when the intent is to deliver utility content to a Google user) using old school SEO techniques on especially a large site spread out across many pages seems to amplify site quality problems, after recent algorithm changes, and so this type of optimisation without keeping an eye on overall site quality is self-defeating in the long run.
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: “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.

Love how you just dive into the details for this Site Audit guide. Excellent stuff! Yours is much much easier to understand than other guides online and I feel like I could integrate this to how I site audit my websites and actually cut down the time I make my reports. I only need to do more research on how to remove “zombie pages”. If you could have a ste-by-step guide to it, that would be awesome! Thanks!


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]
Google states, “News articles, Wikipedia articles, blog posts, magazine articles, forum discussions, and ratings from independent organizations can all be sources of reputation information” but they also state specifically boasts about a lot of internet traffic, for example, should not influence the quality rating of a web page. What should influence the reputation of a page is WHO has shared it on social media etc. rather than just raw numbers of shares. CONSIDER CREATING A PAGE with nofollow links to good reviews on other websites as proof of excellence.
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
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.
The depth of your articles impresses and amazes me. I love all the specific examples and tool recommendations. You discuss the importance of backlinks. How important is it to use a tool to list you on directories (Yext, Moz Local, Synup or JJUMP)? Will Google penalize you for listing on unimportant directories? Is it better to avoid these tools and get backlinks one at a time and avoid all but a few key directories?
While that theory is sound (when focused on a single page, when the intent is to deliver utility content to a Google user) using old school SEO techniques on especially a large site spread out across many pages seems to amplify site quality problems, after recent algorithm changes, and so this type of optimisation without keeping an eye on overall site quality is self-defeating in the long run.
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.
For instance, in a recent test (2019), if you have a page title longer than 12 words, all the keywords beyond 12 words evaporated from the page copy. This is a change from the way Google used to work, when the extra words were included as part of the page copy, not just part of the title. So, if you have a 15 word title, the last 3 words will not count towards ranking, if that test result was to be replicated.
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: “The purpose of a page is the reason or reasons why the page was created. Every page on the Internet is created for a purpose, or for multiple purposes. Most pages are created to be helpful for users, thus having a beneficial purpose. Some pages are created merely to make money, with little or no effort to help users. Some pages are even created to cause harm to users. The first step in understanding a page is figuring out its purpose.” Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines 2019
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."
Google states, “News articles, Wikipedia articles, blog posts, magazine articles, forum discussions, and ratings from independent organizations can all be sources of reputation information” but they also state specifically boasts about a lot of internet traffic, for example, should not influence the quality rating of a web page. What should influence the reputation of a page is WHO has shared it on social media etc. rather than just raw numbers of shares. CONSIDER CREATING A PAGE with nofollow links to good reviews on other websites as proof of excellence.
An SEO technique is considered white hat if it conforms to the search engines' guidelines and involves no deception. As the search engine guidelines[18][19][52] are not written as a series of rules or commandments, this is an important distinction to note. White hat SEO is not just about following guidelines but is about ensuring that the content a search engine indexes and subsequently ranks is the same content a user will see. White hat advice is generally summed up as creating content for users, not for search engines, and then making that content easily accessible to the online "spider" algorithms, rather than attempting to trick the algorithm from its intended purpose. White hat SEO is in many ways similar to web development that promotes accessibility,[53] although the two are not identical.
“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.
In March 2006, KinderStart filed a lawsuit against Google over search engine rankings. KinderStart's website was removed from Google's index prior to the lawsuit, and the amount of traffic to the site dropped by 70%. On March 16, 2007, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California (San Jose Division) dismissed KinderStart's complaint without leave to amend, and partially granted Google's motion for Rule 11 sanctions against KinderStart's attorney, requiring him to pay part of Google's legal expenses.[70][71]
QUOTE: “The score is determined from quantities indicating user actions of seeking out and preferring particular sites and the resources found in particular sites. *****A site quality score for a particular site**** can be determined by computing a ratio of a numerator that represents user interest in the site as reflected in user queries directed to the site and a denominator that represents user interest in the resources found in the site as responses to queries of all kinds The site quality score for a site can be used as a signal to rank resources, or to rank search results that identify resources, that are found in one site relative to resources found in another site.” Navneet Panda, Google, 2015
QUOTE: “For instance, we would see a lot of low-quality posts in a forum. We would index those low-quality pages. And we’d also see a lot of really high-quality posts, with good discussions, good information on those pages. And our algorithms would be kind of stuck in a situation with, well, there’s a lot of low-quality content here, but there’s also a lot of high-quality content here. So how should we evaluate the site overall? And usually, what happens is, our algorithms kind of find some middle ground……. what you’d need to do to, kind of, move a step forward, is really try to find a way to analyze the quality of your content, and to make sure that the high-quality content is indexed and that the lower-quality content doesn’t get indexed by default.” John Mueller, Google 2014
In March 2006, KinderStart filed a lawsuit against Google over search engine rankings. KinderStart's website was removed from Google's index prior to the lawsuit, and the amount of traffic to the site dropped by 70%. On March 16, 2007, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California (San Jose Division) dismissed KinderStart's complaint without leave to amend, and partially granted Google's motion for Rule 11 sanctions against KinderStart's attorney, requiring him to pay part of Google's legal expenses.[70][71]
Google states, “News articles, Wikipedia articles, blog posts, magazine articles, forum discussions, and ratings from independent organizations can all be sources of reputation information” but they also state specifically boasts about a lot of internet traffic, for example, should not influence the quality rating of a web page. What should influence the reputation of a page is WHO has shared it on social media etc. rather than just raw numbers of shares. CONSIDER CREATING A PAGE with nofollow links to good reviews on other websites as proof of excellence.
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.
The basics of GOOD SEO hasn’t changed for years – though effectiveness of particular elements has certainly narrowed or changed in type of usefulness – you should still be focusing on building a simple site using VERY simple SEO best practices – don’t sweat the small stuff, while all-the-time paying attention to the important stuff  – add plenty of unique PAGE TITLES and plenty of new ORIGINAL CONTENT. Understand how Google SEES your website. CRAWL it, like Google does, with (for example) Screaming Frog SEO spider, and fix malformed links or things that result in server errors (500), broken links (400+) and unnecessary redirects (300+). Each page you want in Google should serve a 200 OK header message.
However, you may encounter pages with a large amount of spammed forum discussions or spammed user comments. We’ll consider a comment or forum discussion to be “spammed” if someone posts unrelated comments which are not intended to help other users, but rather to advertise a product or create a link to a website. Frequently these comments are posted by a “bot” rather than a real person. Spammed comments are easy to recognize. They may include Ads, download, or other links, or sometimes just short strings of text unrelated to the topic, such as “Good,” “Hello,” “I’m new here,” “How are you today,” etc. Webmasters should find and remove this content because it is a bad user experience.
Optimizing a website may involve editing its content, adding content, and modifying HTML and associated coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines like Google ,Yahoo etc.[citation needed] Promoting a site to increase the number of backlinks, or inbound links, is another SEO tactic. By May 2015, mobile search had surpassed desktop search.[3]
QUOTE: “Many SEOs and other agencies and consultants provide useful services for website owners, including: Review of your site content or structure – Technical advice on website development: for example, hosting, redirects, error pages, use of JavaScript – Content development – Management of online business development campaigns – Keyword research – SEO training – Expertise in specific markets and geographies.” Google Webmaster Guidelines, 2020

When would this be useful? If your site has a blog with public commenting turned on, links within those comments could pass your reputation to pages that you may not be comfortable vouching for. Blog comment areas on pages are highly susceptible to comment spam. Nofollowing these user-added links ensures that you're not giving your page's hard-earned reputation to a spammy site.
Advertising with Google won't have any effect on your site's presence in our search results. Google never accepts money to include or rank sites in our search results, and it costs nothing to appear in our organic search results. Free resources such as Search Console, the official Webmaster Central blog, and our discussion forum can provide you with a great deal of information about how to optimize your site for organic search.
A page title that is highly relevant to the page it refers to will maximise usability, search engine ranking performance and user experience ratings as Google measures these. It will probably be displayed in a web browser’s window title bar, bookmarks and in clickable search snippet links used by Google, Bing & other search engines. The title element is the “crown” of a web page with important keyword phrase featuring AT LEAST ONCE within it.
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
While most of the links to your site will be added gradually, as people discover your content through search or other ways and link to it, Google understands that you'd like to let others know about the hard work you've put into your content. Effectively promoting your new content will lead to faster discovery by those who are interested in the same subject. As with most points covered in this document, taking these recommendations to an extreme could actually harm the reputation of your site.
It is important you spread all that real ‘PageRank’ – or link equity – to your sales keyword / phrase rich sales pages, and as much remains to the rest of the site pages, so Google does not ‘demote’ pages into oblivion –  or ‘supplemental results’ as we old timers knew them back in the day. Again – this is slightly old school – but it gets me by, even today.
QUOTE: “Consider where user-generated content might appear on your site or app, and what risks to your site or app’s reputation might occur from malicious user-generated content. Ensure that you mitigate those risks before enabling user-generated content to appear.Set aside some time to regularly review your top pages with user-generated content. Make sure that what you see complies with all our programme policies.” Google Adsense Policies, 2018
The biggest advantage any one provider has over another is experience and resource. The knowledge of what doesn’t work and what will hurt your site is often more valuable than knowing what will give you a short-lived boost. Getting to the top of Google is a relatively simple process. One that is constantly in change. Professional SEO is more a collection of skills, methods and techniques. It is more a way of doing things, than a one-size-fits-all magic trick.
We expect advertisements to be visible. However, you should not let the advertisements distract users or prevent them from consuming the site content. For example, advertisements, supplement contents, or interstitial pages (pages displayed before or after the content you are expecting) that make it difficult to use the website. Learn more about this topic.38
QUOTE: “Anytime you do a bigger change on your website if you redirect a lot of URLs or if you go from one domain to another or if you change your site’s structure then all of that does take time for things to settle down so we can follow that pretty quickly we can definitely forward the signals there but that doesn’t mean that’ll happen from one day to next” John Mueller, Google 2016
Do you regularly publish helpful, useful articles, videos or other types of media that are popular and well produced? Do you write for actual human beings rather than the search engine itself? Well, you should. Latest research from Searchmetrics on ranking factors indicates that Google is moving further towards longer-form content that understands a visitor’s intention as a whole, instead of using keywords based on popular search queries to create content.

If you want to *ENSURE* your FULL title tag shows in the desktop UK version of Google SERPs, stick to a shorter title of between 55-65 characters but that does not mean your title tag MUST end at 55 characters and remember your mobile visitors see a longer title (in the UK, in January 2018). What you see displayed in SERPs depends on the characters you use. In 2020 – I just expect what Google displays to change – so I don’t obsess about what Google is doing in terms of display. See the tests later on in this article.


While SEOs can provide clients with valuable services, some unethical SEOs have given the industry a black eye by using overly aggressive marketing efforts and attempting to manipulate search engine results in unfair ways. Practices that violate our guidelines may result in a negative adjustment of your site's presence in Google, or even the removal of your site from our index.
Google is looking for a “website that is well cared for and maintained” so you need to keep content management systems updated, check for broken image links and HTML links. If you create a frustrating user experience through sloppy website maintenance – expect that to be reflected in some way with a lower quality rating. Google Panda October 2014 went for e-commerce pages that were optimised ‘the old way’ and are now classed as ‘thin content’.
Some pages are designed to manipulate users into clicking on certain types of links through visual design elements, such as page layout, organization, link placement, font color, images, etc. We will consider these kinds of pages to have deceptive page design. Use the Lowest rating if the page is deliberately designed to manipulate users to click on Ads, monetized links, or suspect download links with little or no effort to provide helpful MC.

Every page on your website should have a title, a subtitle and so on. When search engines scan your website, they’ll understand your content better if you explain them the text hierarchy. The most relevant part is the title of your page and you should define it as H1 (in the Text’s Editor). The H1 should be descriptive the page’s content and you shouldn’t have more than one H1 per page. Choose carefully and don’t forget to include your keywords. Following your H1, is H2, H3 and so on. The clearer your text structure is, the easier search engines will digest your site’s content.


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.

Your website can show the same content on various URLs, which might confuse Google: this is called a duplicate content issue. Yoast SEO solves this by letting you indicate one URL as the original one – what techies like to call a canonical link. That way, Yoast SEO makes sure that your content is always found under the URL you want it to be found under. Simple.

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