Google often shares some tips, news, and warnings with the SEO community, but is the company’s advice the best answer to the burning SEO issues? In this post, I wanted to analyze the loudest announcements and see whether we should follow the company’s instructions in each case.
Google’s warnings & tips on content & onpage optimization
The first portion of warnings I’m going to look at deals with content and onpage optimization. These activities are the foundation of any search engine optimization campaign, so it’s better to stay aware of the nuances.
1. User-generated content: good or bad for SEO? It depends.
In 2017, Google expressed some thoughts on user-generated content and spam. At the very beginning of the year, you could have seen this post on Google’s Webmaster Central blog. The post explains how users can protect websites from user-generated spam. In case you missed it, here are the key techniques:
- Keep your forum software updated and patched.
- Add a CAPTCHA.
- Block suspicious behavior.
- Check your forum’s top posters on a daily basis.
- Consider disabling some types of comments.
- If possible, change your settings so that you disallow anonymous posting and make posts from new users require approval before they’re publicly visible.
- Consider blacklisting obviously spammy terms.
- Use the “nofollow” attribute for links in the comment field.
Interestingly, Google doesn’t mention your website can actually get penalized if this kind of spam gets detected.
After reading a post like this, an SEO might start thinking: “Why should I bother with user-generated content at all? If it may cause serious issues for my website, wouldn’t it be better to get rid of UGC once and for all?” It seems, no.
In March, Gary Illyes of Google tweeted this:
Bang! The words “quality” and “signal” work like magic in the SEO community and folks started to debate on whether they should bring comments back. Leaving aside the emotions and guesses, here’s what you should keep in mind:
1. Poor comments can be indexed just like any other type of content, and yes, they can impact your search engine ranking.
2. To check whether your comments do count, go to your Search Console account and use the Fetch as Google tool. If the comments show up in the code, then they do count.
3. If you don’t have resources to moderate and manage user-generated content on a regular basis, it’s better to disable it.
2. Read out loud your site’s content. If it sounds strange, it may not rank well.
Okay, Gary enjoys the do-you-know tweets a lot, you must have already grasped it. And that’s great because it’s always handy to get some additional tips from the official guys.
Gary suggested we should read page content out loud, and if it sounds weird, it may not rank well.
How can we interpret this? I have a couple of thoughts:
- After Google introduced its Hummingbird algorithm, search has become much more conversational. So maybe Google wants to see more content optimized for voice search?
- Or that could be just another way to identify low-quality content. If it was spun and automatically translated, it’ll be really hard to read it out loud without stumbling.
Another interesting point is that this recommendation applies to any language, which makes me think Google has well advanced with their localized versions of the search engine.
So, if your landing page reads like: “Buy black shoes, black shoes are #1 trend, as only black shoes make you look your blackest” — you have to do something about it asap and this content quality audit guide might come in handy!
3. Review site architecture to stay away from penalties.
If you’re as curious about SEO tips from Google as I am, you must have sometimes watched or reviewed the official Google Webmaster Central hangouts with John Mueller and co. After watching this episode, I’ve learnt that Google Panda looks at your site’s architecture to identify the site’s quality:
If you’re lazy to watch the video, here’s the direct quote (the question asked was: “Does Panda take site architecture into account when doing Panda score or would fixing those categories make no difference at all?”):
“When we look at Panda we see that as something that is more like a general kind of quality evaluation of the web site and it takes into account everything around the site. So that is something where if we find issues across the site where we think this is essentially affects the quality of the web site overall, then that is something that might be taken into account there. So if you are saying that your category pages are really bad and that is something you really can improve then that is something I’d work on, I’d work to improve.”
As usual, the answer’s a “bit” vague, but on the whole, it looks like “yes, poor site architecture can cause a Panda penalty.” How do you check your site’s architecture? Fire up WebSite Auditor and let the tool analyze your site’s skeleton. In a minute, you’ll see your site’s pages analyzed in detail under Site Structure, Pages. For a more convenient view of the structure, you can switch to the tree view.
Things to check at this point include:
1. Crawlability. If your site’s not crawlable, you won’t achieve high rankings no matter how hard you try. In your WebSite Auditor’s project go to Site Audit, Crawlability and check the HTTP status codes of the pages. Also, make sure these pages are not blocked from indexing by your robots.txt.
2. URL structure. Work on a simple and consistent URL structure. When you group pages logically in categories and subcategories, you help both users and search engines reach your content.
3. Mobile-friendliness. Although Google’s mobile-first index is not coming soon, it’s better to make sure your website looks good on mobile devices. You can check this in the Page Auditmodule (switch to the Technical factors tab and look through the Page usability (Mobile) factor issues).
4. Site speed. Google indicated many times that site speed is one of the signals used for ranking pages. Speeding up your website is important for user experience, too. To check factors that can impact page speed, go to the Content Analysis module, Page Audit and switch to the Technical factors tab. Review all factors under the Page speed (Desktop) section.
If your site’s architecture is top-notch, make sure you also check the layout of your main landing pages. Earlier this year, Gary confirmed that Google’s page layout penalty “is still important”. So, it won’t hurt to check how big the ads on your website are and where they are placed.
Continue Reading at Google’s SEO Warnings and Tips- Part 2
Adapted from link-assistant.com