Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website or a web page to users of a web search engine.
SEO refers to the improvement of unpaid results (known as "natural" or "organic" results) and excludes direct traffic/visitors and the purchase of paid placement.
SEO may target different kinds of searches, including image search, video search, academic search, news search, and industry-specific vertical search engines.
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. 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.
As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, the computer-programmed algorithms that dictate search engine behavior, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines, and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience. SEO is performed because a website will receive more visitors from a search engine the higher the website ranks in the search engine results page (SERP). These visitors can then be converted into customers.
SEO differs from local search engine optimization in that the latter is focused on optimizing a business' online presence so that its web pages will be displayed by search engines when a user enters a local search for its products or services. The former instead is more focused on national or international searches.
If you own, manage, monetize, or promote online content via Google Search, this guide is meant for you. You might be the owner of a growing and thriving business, the webmaster of a dozen sites, the SEO specialist in a Web agency or a DIY SEO ninja passionate about the mechanics of Search : this guide is meant for you. If you're interested in having a complete overview of the basics of SEO according to our best practices, you are indeed in the right place. This guide won't provide any secrets that'll automatically rank your site first in Google (sorry!), but following the best practices outlined below will hopefully make it easier for search engines to crawl, index and understand your content.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is often about making small modifications to parts of your website. When viewed individually, these changes might seem like incremental improvements, but when combined with other optimizations, they could have a noticeable impact on your site's user experience and performance in organic search results. You're likely already familiar with many of the topics in this guide, because they're essential ingredients for any web page, but you may not be making the most out of them.
You should build a website to benefit your users, and any optimization should be geared toward making the user experience better. One of those users is a search engine, which helps other users discover your content. Search Engine Optimization is about helping search engines understand and present content. Your site may be smaller or larger than our example site and offer vastly different content, but the optimization topics we discuss below should apply to sites of all sizes and types.
Here's a short glossary of important terms used in this guide:
Determine whether your site is in Google's index - Do a site: search for your site's home URL. If you see results, you're in the index. For example, a search for "site:wikipedia.org" returns these results.
If your site isn't in Google - Although Google crawls billions of pages, it's inevitable that some sites will be missed. When our crawlers miss a site, it's frequently for one of the following reasons:
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.
We offer webmaster guidelines for building a Google-friendly website. While there's no guarantee that our crawlers will find a particular site, following these guidelines should help make your site appear in our search results.
Google Search Console provides tools to help you submit your content to Google and monitor how you're doing in Google Search. If you want, Search Console can even send you alerts on critical issues that Google encounters with your site. Sign up for Search Console (https://search.google.com/search-console).
Here are a few basic questions to ask yourself about your website when you get started.
You can find additional getting started information on http://g.co/webmasters
The rest of this document provides guidance on how to improve your site for search engines, organized by topic. You can download a short, printable checklist of tips from http://g.co/WebmasterChecklist.
An SEO ("search engine optimization") expert is someone trained to improve your visibility on search engines. By following this guide, you should learn enough to be well on your way to an optimized site. In addition to that, you may want to consider hiring an SEO professional that can help you audit your pages.
Deciding to hire an SEO is a big decision that can potentially improve your site and save time. Make sure to research the potential advantages of hiring an SEO, as well as the damage that an irresponsible SEO can do to your site. Many SEOs and other agencies and consultants provide useful services for website owners, including:
Before beginning your search for an SEO, it's a great idea to become an educated consumer and get familiar with how search engines work. We recommend going through the entirety of this guide and specifically these resources:
If you're thinking about hiring an SEO, the earlier the better. A great time to hire is when you're considering a site redesign, or planning to launch a new site. That way, you and your SEO can ensure that your site is designed to be search engine-friendly from the bottom up. However, a good SEO can also help improve an existing site.
For a detailed rundown on the need for hiring an SEO and what things to look out for, you can read our Help Center article "Do you need an SEO"(https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35291)
The first step to getting your site on Google is to be sure that Google can find it. The best way to do that is to submit a sitemap. A sitemap is a file on your site that tells search engines about new or changed pages on your site. Learn more about how to build and submit a sitemap.(https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/156184)
Google also finds pages through links from other pages. See Promote your site later in this document to learn how to encourage people to discover your site.
For non-sensitive information, block unwanted crawling by using robots.txt
A "robots.txt" file tells search engines whether they can access and therefore crawl parts of your site. This file, which must be named "robots.txt", is placed in the root directory of your site. It is possible that pages blocked by robots.txt can still be crawled, so for sensitive pages you should use a more secure method.
You may not want certain pages of your site crawled because they might not be useful to users if found in a search engine's search results. If you do want to prevent search engines from crawling your pages, Google Search Console has a friendly robots.txt generator to help you create this file. Note that if your site uses subdomains and you wish to have certain pages not crawled on a particular subdomain, you'll have to create a separate robots.txt file for that subdomain. For more information on robots.txt, we suggest this Webmaster Help Center guide on using robots.txt files.
For sensitive information, use more secure methods
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.
In these cases, use the noindex tag if you just want the page not to appear in Google, but don't mind if any user with a link can reach the page. For real security, though, you should use proper authorization methods, like requiring a user password, or taking the page off your site entirely.
tag tells both users and search engines what the topic of a particular page is. The
tag should be placed within the
element of the HTML document. You should create a unique title for each page on your site.
If your document appears in a search results page, the contents of the title tag may appear in the first line of the results (if you're unfamiliar with the different parts of a Google search result, you might want to check out the anatomy of a search result video).
The title for your homepage can list the name of your website/business and could include other bits of important information like the physical location of the business or maybe a few of its main focuses or offerings.
Accurately describe the page's content
Choose a title that reads naturally and effectively communicates the topic of the page's content.
Create unique titles for each page
Each page on your site should ideally have a unique title, which helps Google know how the page is distinct from the others on your site. If your site uses separate mobile pages, remember to use good titles on the mobile versions too.
Use brief, but descriptive titles
Titles can be both short and informative. If the title is too long or otherwise deemed less relevant, Google may show only a portion of it or one that's automatically generated in the search result. Google may also show different titles depending on the user's query or device used for searching.
A page's description meta tag gives Google and other search engines a summary of what the page is about. A page's title may be a few words or a phrase, whereas a page's description meta tag might be a sentence or two or even a short paragraph. Like the
tag, the description meta tag is placed within the
element of your HTML document.
What are the merits of description meta tags?
Description meta tags are important because Google might use them as snippets for your pages. Note that we say "might" because Google may choose to use a relevant section of your page's visible text if it does a good job of matching up with a user's query. Adding description meta tags to each of your pages is always a good practice in case Google cannot find a good selection of text to use in the snippet. The Webmaster Central Blog has informative posts on improving snippets with better description meta tags and better snippets for your users. We also have a handy Help Center article on how to create good titles and snippets.
Accurately summarize the page content
Write a description that would both inform and interest users if they saw your description meta tag as a snippet in a search result. While there's no minimal or maximal length for the text in a description meta tag, we recommend making sure that it's long enough to be fully shown in Search (note that users may see different sized snippets depending on how and where they search), and contains all the relevant information users would need to determine whether the page will be useful and relevant to them.
Use unique descriptions for each page
Having a different description meta tag for each page helps both users and Google, especially in searches where users may bring up multiple pages on your domain (for example, searches using the
site: operator). If your site has thousands or even millions of pages, hand-crafting description meta tags probably isn't feasible. In this case, you could automatically generate description meta tags based on each page's content.
Since heading tags typically make text contained in them larger than normal text on the page, this is a visual cue to users that this text is important and could help them understand something about the type of content underneath the heading text. Multiple heading sizes used in order create a hierarchical structure for your content, making it easier for users to navigate through your document.
Imagine you're writing an outline
Similar to writing an outline for a large paper, put some thought into what the main points and sub-points of the content on the page will be and decide where to use heading tags appropriately.
Use headings sparingly across the page
Use heading tags where it makes sense. Too many heading tags on a page can make it hard for users to scan the content and determine where one topic ends and another begins.
Structured data is code that you can add to your sites' pages to describe your content to search engines, so they can better understand what's on your pages. Search engines can use this understanding to display your content in useful (and eye-catching!) ways in search results. That, in turn, can help you attract just the right kind of customers for your business.
For example, if you've got an online store and mark up an individual product page, this helps us understand that the page features a bike, its price, and customer reviews. We may display that information in the snippet for search results for relevant queries. We call these "rich results."
In addition to using structured data markup for rich results, we may use it to serve relevant results in other formats. For instance, if you've got a brick-and-mortar store, marking up the opening hours allows your potential customers to find you exactly when they need you, and inform them if your store is open/closed at the time of searching.
You can mark up many business-relevant entities:
We recommend that you use structured data with any of the supported notations markup to describe your content. You can add the markup to the HTML code to your pages, or use tools like Data Highlighter and Markup Helper (see the Best Practices section for more information about them).
Check your markup using the Rich Results test
Once you've marked up your content, you can use the Google Rich Results test to make sure that there are no mistakes in the implementation. You can either enter the URL where the content is, or copy the actual HTML which includes the markup.
Use Data Highlighter
If you want to give structured markup a try without changing the source code of your site, you can use Data Highlighter which is a free tool integrated in Search Console that supports a subset of content types.
If you'd like to get the markup code ready to copy and paste to your page, try the Markup Helper tool.
Keep track of how your marked up pages are doing
The various rich result reports in Search Console shows you how many pages on your site we've detected with a specific type of markup, how many times they appeared in search results, and how many times people clicked on them over the past 90 days. It also shows any errors we've detected.
Correct structured data on your pages also makes your page eligible for many special features in Search results, including review stars, fancy decorated results, and more. See the gallery of search result types that your page can be eligible for.
Search engines need a unique URL per piece of content to be able to crawl and index that content, and to refer users to it. Different content - for example, different products in a shop - as well as modified content - for example, translations or regional variations - need to use separate URLs in order to be shown in search appropriately.
URLs are generally split into multiple distinct sections:
Google recommends that all websites use https:// when possible. The hostname is where your website is hosted, commonly using the same domain name that you'd use for email. Google differentiates between the "www" and "non-www" version (for example, "www.example.com" or just "example.com"). When adding your website to Search Console, we recommend adding both http:// and https:// versions, as well as the "www" and "non-www" versions.
Path, filename, and query string determine which content from your server is accessed. These three parts are case-sensitive, so "FILE" would result in a different URL than "file". The hostname and protocol are case-insensitive; upper or lower case wouldn't play a role there.
A fragment (in this case, "
#info") generally identifies which part of the page the browser scrolls to. Because the content itself is usually the same regardless of the fragment, search engines commonly ignore any fragment used.
When referring to the homepage, a trailing slash after the hostname is optional since it leads to the same content ("https://example.com/" is the same as "https://example.com"). For the path and filename, a trailing slash would be seen as a different URL (signaling either a file or a directory), for example, "https://example.com/fish" is not the same as "https://example.com/fish/".
The navigation of a website is important in helping visitors quickly find the content they want. It can also help search engines understand what content the webmaster thinks is important. Although Google's search results are provided at a page level, Google also likes to have a sense of what role a page plays in the bigger picture of the site.
All sites have a home or "root" page, which is usually the most frequented page on the site and the starting place of navigation for many visitors. Unless your site has only a handful of pages, you should think about how visitors will go from a general page (your root page) to a page containing more specific content. Do you have enough pages around a specific topic area that it would make sense to create a page describing these related pages (for example, root page -> related topic listing -> specific topic)? Do you have hundreds of different products that need to be classified under multiple category and subcategory pages?
A breadcrumb is a row of internal links at the top or bottom of the page that allows visitors to quickly navigate back to a previous section or the root page. Many breadcrumbs have the most general page (usually the root page) as the first, leftmost link and list the more specific sections out to the right. We recommend using breadcrumb structured data markup when showing breadcrumbs.
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.
Create a naturally flowing hierarchy
Make it as easy as possible for users to go from general content to the more specific content they want on your site. Add navigation pages when it makes sense and effectively work these into your internal link structure. Make sure all of the pages on your site are reachable through links, and that they don't require an internal "search" functionality to be found. Link to related pages, where appropriate, to allow users to discover similar content.
Use text for navigation
Create a navigational page for users, a sitemap for search engines
Include a simple navigational page for your entire site (or the most important pages, if you have hundreds or thousands) for users. Create an XML sitemap file to ensure that search engines discover the new and updated pages on your site, listing all relevant URLs together with their primary content's last modified dates.
Show useful 404 pages
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 page 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" errors.
Creating descriptive categories and filenames for the documents on your website not only helps you keep your site better organized, it can create easier, "friendlier" URLs for those that want to link to your content. Visitors may be intimidated by extremely long and cryptic URLs that contain few recognizable words.
URLs like the one shown in the following image can be confusing and unfriendly.
If your URL is meaningful, it can be more useful and easily understandable in different contexts.
Lastly, remember that the URL to a document is usually displayed in a search result in Google below the document title.
Google is good at crawling all types of URL structures, even if they're quite complex, but spending the time to make your URLs as simple as possible is a good practice.
Use words in URLs
URLs with words that are relevant to your site's content and structure are friendlier for visitors navigating your site.
Create a simple directory structure
Use a directory structure that organizes your content well and makes it easy for visitors to know where they're at on your site. Try using your directory structure to indicate the type of content found at that URL.
Provide one version of a URL to reach a document
To prevent users from linking to one version of a URL and others linking to a different version (this could split the reputation of that content between the URLs), focus on using and referring to one URL in the structure and internal linking of your pages. If you do find that people are accessing the same content through multiple URLs, setting up a 301 redirect from non-preferred URLs to the dominant URL is a good solution for this. You may also use canonical URL or use the rel="canonical" link element if you cannot redirect.
Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed here. Users know good content when they see it and will likely want to direct other users to it. This could be through blog posts, social media services, email, forums, or other means.
Organic or word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build your site's reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content.
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 Planner 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 Report.
Consider creating a new, useful service that no other site offers. You could also write an original piece of research, break an exciting news story, or leverage your unique user base. Other sites may lack the resources or expertise to do these things.
Write easy-to-read text
Users enjoy content that is well written and easy to follow.
Organize your topics clearly
It's always beneficial to organize your content so that visitors have a good sense of where one content topic begins and another ends. Breaking your content up into logical chunks or divisions helps users find the content they want faster.
Create fresh, unique content
New content will not only keep your existing visitor base coming back, but also bring in new visitors.
Learn more about duplicate content
Optimize content for your users, not search engines
Designing your site around your visitors' needs while making sure your site is easily accessible to search engines usually produces positive results.
Users feel comfortable visiting your site if they feel that it's trustworthy.
A site with a good reputation is trustworthy. Cultivate a reputation for expertise and trustworthiness in a specific area.
Provide information about who publishes your site, provides the content, and its goals. Shopping and other financial transaction websites should have clear and satisfying customer service information to help users resolve issues. News sites should provide clear information about who is responsible for the content.
Using appropriate technologies is also important. If a shopping checkout page doesn’t have a secure connection, users cannot trust the site.
Expertise and authoritativeness of a site increases its quality. Be sure that content on your site is created or edited by people with expertise in the topic. For example, providing expert or experienced sources can help users understand articles’ expertise. Representing well-established consensus in pages on scientific topics is a good practice if such consensus exists.
Creating high quality content takes a significant amount of at least one of the following: time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill. Content should be factually accurate, clearly written, and comprehensive. So, for example, if you describe your page as a recipe, provide a complete recipe that is easy to follow, rather than just a set of ingredients or a basic description of the dish.
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.
Write good link text
Link text is the visible text inside a link. This text tells users and Google something about the page you're linking to. Links on your page may be internal—pointing to other pages on your site—or external—leading to content on other sites. In either of these cases, the better your anchor text is, the easier it is for users to navigate and for Google to understand what the page you're linking to is about.
With appropriate anchor text, users and search engines can easily understand what the linked pages contain.
Choose descriptive text
The anchor text you use for a link should provide at least a basic idea of what the page linked to is about.
Write concise text
Aim for short but descriptive text-usually a few words or a short phrase.
Format links so they're easy to spot
Make it easy for users to distinguish between regular text and the anchor text of your links. Your content becomes less useful if users miss the links or accidentally click them.
Think about anchor text for internal links too
You may usually think about linking in terms of pointing to outside websites, but paying more attention to the anchor text used for internal links can help users and Google navigate your site better.
Be careful who you link to
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.
Another example when the “nofollow" attribute can come handy are widget links. If you are using a third party's widget to enrich the experience of your site and engage users, check if it contains any links that you did not intend to place on your site along with the widget. Some widgets may add links to your site which are not your editorial choice and contain anchor text that you as a webmaster may not control. If removing such unwanted links from the widget is not possible, you can always disable them with “nofollow" attribute. If you create a widget for functionality or content that you provide, make sure to include the nofollow on links in the default code snippet.
Lastly, if you're interested in nofollowing all of the links on a page, you can add the tag inside the
tag for the page. You can find more details about robots meta tag on the Webmaster Blog.
Combat comment spam with "nofollow"
Setting the value of the "rel" attribute of a link to "nofollow" will tell Google that certain links on your site shouldn't be followed or pass your page's reputation to the pages linked to. Nofollowing a link means adding rel="nofollow" inside of the link's anchor tag, as shown here:
http://www.example.com" rel="nofollow">Anchor text here
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.
Automatically add "nofollow" to comment columns and message boards
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 spam, for example by using CAPTCHAs and turning on comment moderation.
Use HTML image elements to embed images in your content.
Use the HTML or elements.
Semantic HTML markup helps crawlers find and process images. By using the element you can also specify multiple options for different screen sizes for responsive images. You might also use the
loading="lazy" attribute on images to make your page load faster for your users.
Using CSS to display images that you want us to index.
Use the "alt" attribute
Provide a descriptive filename and alt attribute description for images. The "alt" attribute allows you to specify alternative text for the image if it cannot be displayed for some reason.
Why use this attribute? If a user is viewing your site using assistive technologies, such as a screen reader, the contents of the alt attribute provide information about the picture.
Another reason is that if you're using an image as a link, the alt text for that image will be treated similarly to the anchor text of a text link. However, we don't recommend using too many images for links in your site's navigation when text links could serve the same purpose. Lastly, optimizing your image filenames and alt text makes it easier for image search projects like Google Image Search to better understand your images.
Use brief but descriptive filenames and alt text
Like many of the other parts of the page targeted for optimization, filenames and alt text are best when they're short, but descriptive.
Supply alt text when using images as links
If you do decide to use an image as a link, filling out its alt text helps Google understand more about the page you're linking to. Imagine that you're writing anchor text for a text link.
An Image sitemap can provide Googlebot with more information about the images found on your site. This increase the likelihood that your images can be found in Image Search results. The structure of this file is similar to the XML sitemap file for your web pages.
Use commonly supported filetypes - Most browsers support JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP and WebP image formats. It's also a good idea to have the extension of your filename match with the file type.
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 content for ranking, parsing structured data, and generating snippets.
Understand the difference between devices
Our recommendations are geared toward smartphones, but we encourage multimedia and feature phones site owners to follow the same advice where they feel appropriate.
There are multiple ways of making your website mobile ready and Google supports different implementation methods :
After you have created a mobile-ready site, you can use Google's Mobile-friendly test to check if pages on your site meet the criteria for being labeled “Mobile-friendly" on Google Search result pages. You can also check out the Search Console Mobile Usability report to fix mobile usability issues affecting your site.
If your site serves lots of static content (like blog posts or product landing pages) across multiple pages, consider implementing it using AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). It's a special flavor of HTML that ensures your site stays fast and user friendly, and can be further accelerated by various platforms, including Google Search.
Regardless of which configuration you choose to set up your mobile site, there are key points that you should take note of: