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.
What is Search Engine Optimization (also known as SEO)? A broad definition is that search engine optimization is the art and science of making web pages attractive to search engines. More narrowly, SEO seeks to tweak particular factors known to affect search engine standing to make certain pages more attractive to search engines than other web pages that are vying for the same keywords or keyword phrases.

Hi, Brian. Thank you for the great article. I have a question about the part about 4 website addresses. Ours currently is set to https://www., and we would like to change it to just an https:// as the main website. Will this hurt our current link profile, or will everything stay the same? This might be a foolish question, but we are a bit worried. Thank you.
However, if possible, I would like you to expand a bit on your “zombie pages” tip..we run a site where are definitely enough pages to delete (no sessions, no links, probably not even relevant with the main theme of the site, not even important for the architecture of the site)..Nonetheless, I am not very sure what is the best technical decision for these pages…just deleting them from my CMS, redirecting (if there is a relevant alternative) or something else? Unindex them on Search console? what response code they should have? ..
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
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.
TASK – If running a blog, first, clean it up. To avoid creating pages that might be considered thin content in 6 months, consider planning a wider content strategy. If you publish 30 ‘thinner’ pages about various aspects of a topic, you can then fold all this together in a single topic page centred page helping a user to understand something related to what you sell.
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.
By adding schema.org code to your pages in a new and innovative way, we are able to improve how Google, Pinterest and other platforms understand what your page is about. With Yoast SEO, you are now able to tell Google that your WebPage is an Article made by an Organization, and other combinations like that. This is the most convenient way for search engines to retrieve that information, and at this moment, Yoast is the only product or plugin offering this information this way! Others just tell Google it’s a webpage, an article and that there’s a brand, without connecting all together. This leaves a lot for Google to figure out itself. Only we tell the full story. If your website is about yourself (a Person), we’ll tell Google all the details you want Google to know, and also add your social profiles and more via that same schema.org data. This will definitely enhance your personal Knowledge Panel in Google and show these social profiles there as well, increasing your click-through chances due to that complete profile. This unique way of adding schema to your website will also connect with the schema.org data in our Local, Video or WooCommerce plugins, to make it all stunningly effective!
The length of a title tag that Google will show will vary (it’s based on pixels, not character counts) but in general 55-60 characters is a good rule of thumb here. If possible you want to work in your core keyword, and if you can do it in a natural and compelling way, add some related modifiers around that term as well. Keep in mind though: the title tag will frequently be what a searcher sees in search results for your page. It’s the “headline” in organic search results, so you also want to take how clickable your title tag is into account.
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.)
Search engine robots crawl the web and create an index. And it doesn’t hurt to help them a bit. Yoast SEO rolls out the red carpet for the search bots, making it super easy to crawl your site and find everything. Basically, the WordPress plugin takes care of all the technical stuff for you. But hey, if technical tweaking is your thing – more power to you. With Yoast SEO, you can edit your robots.txt and .htaccess files, clean up your URLs and generate and update your sitemaps.

At Yoast, we practice what we call ‘holistic SEO‘. This means that your primary goal should be to build and maintain the best possible website. Don’t try to fool Google, but use a sustainable long-term strategy. Ranking will come automatically if your website is of extremely high quality. Google wants to get its users to the right place, as its mission is to index all the world’s online information and make it universally accessible and useful.

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.
Once you have your keyword list, the next step is actually implementing your targeted keywords into your site’s content. Each page on your site should be targeting a core term, as well as a “basket” of related terms. In his overview of the perfectly optimized page, Rand Fishkin offers a nice visual of what a well (or perfectly) optimized page looks like:
If you take money online, in any way, you NEED to have an accessible and satisfying ‘customer service’ type page. Google says, “Contact information and customer service information are extremely important for websites that handle money, such as stores, banks, credit card companies, etc. Users need a way to ask questions or get help when a problem occurs. For shopping websites, we’ll ask you to do some special checks. Look for contact information—including the store’s policies on payment, exchanges, and returns. “ Google urges quality raters to be a ‘detective’ in finding this information about you – so it must be important to them.
Our online SEO training courses teach you vital SEO skills you can apply immediately. Find out how to outrank your competition and become the best result through our training courses! Whether you’re a blogger, developer, online marketer, or own a business, big or small: we believe in SEO for everyone. We’ve got a great variety of courses, from Keyword Research, Site structure and SEO Copywriting to the more technical aspects of SEO: Structured data, multilingual SEO and Technical SEO training. There’s something for everyone, so be sure to check them out!
QUOTE: “Another problem we were having was an issue with quality and this was particularly bad (we think of it as around 2008 2009 to 2011) we were getting lots of complaints about low-quality content and they were right. We were seeing the same low-quality thing but our relevance metrics kept going up and that’s because the low-quality pages can be very relevant. This is basically the definition of a content farm in our in our vision of the world so we thought we were doing great our numbers were saying we were doing great and we were delivering a terrible user experience and turned out we weren’t measuring what we needed to so what we ended up doing was defining an explicit quality metric which got directly at the issue of quality it’s not the same as relevance …. and it enabled us to develop quality related signals separate from relevant signals and really improve them independently so when the metrics missed something what ranking engineers need to do is fix the rating guidelines… or develop new metrics.” Paul Haahr, Google 2016
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.

QUOTE: “If an off-domain link is made by an anonymous or unauthenticated user, I’d use nofollow on that link. Once a user has done a certain number of posts/edits, or has been around for long enough to build up trust, then those nofollows could be removed and the links could be trusted. Anytime you have a user that you’d trust, there’s no need to use nofollow links.” Matt Cutts, Google 2006

The actual content of your page itself is, of course, very important. Different types of pages will have different “jobs” – your cornerstone content asset that you want lots of folks to link to needs to be very different than your support content that you want to make sure your users find and get an answer from quickly. That said, Google has been increasingly favoring certain types of content, and as you build out any of the pages on your site, there are a few things to keep in mind:


NOTE, in 2020, 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 dependent 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.

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?
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