Wordpress SEO Guide: How To Optimise Your Blog For Google in 2018

WordPress SEO Guide: How To Optimise Your Blog For Google

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DisclosureThis article is my personal opinion of research based on my experience of almost 20 years. The content is my own and not sponsored. There is no advertising on this page. External links to third party sites are moderated by me. Links to internal pages promote my own content and services. I highlight monitised links in an clear way on this site. This page uses cookies. Your privacy is respected. Disclaimer.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo

My repository of WordPress tips for SEO related activities on your blog. While you are reading these tips you can test your website using my free seo tool.

This is a beginners guide to WordPress SEO.

I will presume you already have a light responsive desktop and mobile theme on only one URL that can be rendered by Google using Fetch As Google.

We can help if you need a new WordPress website designed and developed or you need an old WordPress website updated and maintained. We can also help if you want to migrate your website to WordPress. Some of these tips cover PHP and HTACCESS on Apache servers.

This article starts off focused on technical aspects of optimising a WordPress website and moves to tips about content quality and site quality you will need to be aware of if you want to rank top in Google.

ALERT! Before you do anything to your WordPress site you should perform a full backup of your original site including your CSS, JS and images folders in themes and uploads folder as some of these plugins overwrite existing files. I’ve used every plugin on this list, but follow these tips at your own risk as some of these advanced tips could screw your site up if handled incorrectly.

Table of Contents

Focus on Users First

Make your WordPress site download and render fast:

PLUGINS: How To Speed Up Your WordPress Site

Page speeds and usability results.

A negative page speed rating can hurt your Google rankings. A fast site improves conversion rates. Google wants sites to fast. It is a no-brainer that you should speed your site up as much as you can.

With WordPress, you can install a caching plugin to dramatically improve your site, and you can also install a lazy loader for images on longer pages. Google has historically had a few issues reading some content delivered via lazy loader scripts but in my experience, the benefits of lazy loading outweigh the drawbacks for users (and it doesn’t seem to hurt your primary rankings).

You may want to benchmark your site using a service like Pingdom or Page Speed Insights or Webpagetest.org before you test this as the speed increase from this first step will probably be dramatic. You will want to illustrate performance improvements.

Install the following plugins:

  • Wp Super Cache: https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/wp-super-cache/
  • BJ Lazy Load: https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/bj-lazy-load/

Disable (and delete) all redundant WP plugins on your site.

TIP: Get used to clear the cache in WP Super Cache if you make a lot of edits to your site theme or layout.

TIP: Avoid infinite scrolling themes or sites that rely too much on hiding content via javascript

TIP: Don’t chase perfect scores on third-party tools as it could actually negatively impact real-world download times.

STEP BY STEP: How To Bulk “Optimise Images” in WordPress Quickly

(works with any CMS – but the example is for WordPress /images/ folder and using an Apple Mac with Cute FTP running).

An easy way to bulk compress and optimise images on your WP blog:

  1. Open your FTP client
  2. Download ‘/wp-content/uploads,’ from the remote server to your desktop
  3. Back up, or duplicate /uploads/ folder as this process will copy over the original file
  4. Drag entire /uploads/ folder over to ImageOptim – (imageoptim.com), and watch as the images are compressed one by one
  5. Re-upload the/uploads/ folder to your remote server

PLUGIN: How To “Optimise Images” in New Blog Post Automatically When You Publish

  • Install this plugin: Smush Image Compression and Optimisation – https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/wp-smushit/

You could also use online compression service https://compressior.io if you want to compress the image yourself.

Remember to optimise image ALT Text when publishing your new post. You can fit 16 words in ALT attribute text.

Avoid keyword stuffing.

PLUGIN – Bulk Resize Images Used By WordPress Posts

Getting high page load scores on tools like Pingdom and Google PageSpeed Insights is cool, but the scores do not always reflect real-world load times. This is a real-world problem you are fixing.

Client-side scaling of images isn’t as much as a problem as it used to be due to the incredibly fast image rendering speed capabilities of modern browsers like Google Chrome but it’s still a best-practice to keep image file size to a minimum in as many areas as possible.

Simply put – why upload an image only meant for your website that’s 5000 px wide when the website dimensions your layout confines image widths is 500px wide?

  • Install this plugin: IMsanity – https://wordpress.org/plugins/imsanity/

PLUGIN – How To Automatically Optimise Images For Mobile Users

Fix another real-world challenge and automatically deliver smaller images to mobile users to further increase page load speeds.

QUOTE: “This plugin does not force browsers to render images as if they were smaller. It actually sends smaller images to them.

  • Install this plugin: Adaptive Images for WordPress – https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/adaptive-images/

STEP BY STEP: How To “Optimise Images” in Old Blog Post

  1. Run the page using https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
  2. Once the Page Speed Insights test has run on your single page, there is an option to “Download optimized image, JavaScript, and CSS resources for this page.
  3. Download and copy the automatically optimised new files to your local images folder then
  4. manually re-upload them via FTP, copying over the originals.

PLUGIN: How To Minimise Javascript, CSS & HTML Automatically

Install this plugin – Autoptimize – https://wordpress.org/plugins/autoptimize/

PLUGIN: How to Fix “Render-Blocking JavaScript and CSS” in WordPress

Install this plugin – Autoptimize – https://wordpress.org/plugins/autoptimize/

EXAMPLE CODE: How To Fix “Leverage browser caching” Issues

Place the following code in your htaccess file.

Example htaccess code:

# Cache 1 Month for static assets
<filesMatch ".(css|jpeg|jpg|png|gif|js|ico)$">
Header set Cache-Control "max-age=2592000, public"
</filesMatch>

PLUGIN – How To Find & Fix “Unnecessary Redirects” On Your Blog

Unnecessary redirects slow your site down. Install this plugin – Broken Link Checker https://wordpress.org/plugins/broken-link-checker/

EXAMPLE CODE: How To You Implement 301 Redirects on Apache Servers

I prefer to manage redirects manually in 2018 where maintenance is prudent. I don’t think it wise to let plugins manage your redirects if you expect the site to be around for a long time.

It takes only a few lines of code to achieve this change of address in some instances. It is usually a simple if sometimes drawn out process.

The time it takes to complete a typical project is dependent on how large and how complex the website is if you are aiming to redirect the entire site, including internal pages, to exactly the correct URLs on the new site.

Success is often dependent on your access to particular files on your host server, or the CMS your website is constructed with.

I can discuss my experience with Apache servers where I use “.htaccess” files and 301 permanent redirects. NOTE – some of this code may need to be modified depending on your setup:

EXAMPLE: Redirecting to a new domain: ( NOTE: on Linux servers, you need the Apache Mod-Rewrite moduled enabled):

Options +FollowSymLinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule (.*) https://www.hobo-web.co.uk/$1 [R=301,L]

EXAMPLE – Redirecting one version of your domain to the WWW version of your domain

Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
rewritecond %{http_host} ^hobo-web.co.uk [nc]
rewriterule ^(.*)$ https://www.hobo-web.co.uk/$1 [r=301,nc]

EXAMPLE – Redirecting one page on a site to another equivalent page on the same domain:

redirect 301 /how-to-do-keyword-research/ http://www.hobo-web.co.uk/how-to-do-keyword-research/

With a 301 permanent redirect instruction at your server level, the age, authority, and reputation of your old website in Google are transferred to this new web address.

With visitors redirected as soon as you apply the 301 redirects, search engines soon notice the change of address. If you have a very large and complex site, it could take a long time for Google to completely forget about your old site.

Upon successful implementation, the new domain ranks where the old domain once ranked.

This method has worked for most professionals for over twenty years and still works today.

You can also tell Google you’ve made the change, too, but Google still needs you to also stick to traditional methods like I describe above as well as registering any change at Google Webmaster Tools (AKA Google Search Console).

 

PLUGIN – How To Find & Fix “Broken Links” On Your Blog

Broken links are a waste of link power, a frustrating user experience and a sign of an undermaintained website. This can be sufficient to get your website a “low rating’ by a human evaluator.

  • Install this plugin – Broken Link Checker https://wordpress.org/plugins/broken-link-checker/

 

PLUGIN – How To Generate An “XML Sitemap” For Your Site

An XML sitemap is one of the fastest ways to get your new content updated on Google SERPs.

  • Install this plugin: https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-seo/
  • Add a link to your XML sitemap in your robots.txt fil
  • Submit your XML sitemap in Google Search console
  • Monitor XML sitemap effectiveness in Google Search Console

PLUGIN: What Is The Best WordPress SEO Plugin?

Wordpress SEO Plugin by Yoast

WordPress SEO is easy to use and powerful.

Yoast has a great free WordPress SEO plugin.

I’m running WordPress SEO on Hobo.

PHP – How to Display Your Blog Is “Maintained” (if it is)

Display date creation or modification dates

People like up-to-date and accurate information. If you try to supply this make it obvious.

Display the date published or date edited in a visible place on the page e.g:

PUBLISHED: NOVEMBER 11TH, 2011

or better, if you update pages often:

LAST UPDATED:NOVEMBER 11TH, 2011

The date should be unambiguous and easy to understand for maximum accessibility, hence why I always include the month in words rather than only numerics. If I did rely only on numbers for dates this date in the above example could end up displaying as 11/11/11.

Google displays these dates in SERP Snippets if machine-readable.

Display automatic date-based copyright notice on your blog

Keep copyright notices up-to-date in your footer using PHP

Example code:

&copy; Copyright 2006 - <?php echo date("Y") ?>

Result:

&copy; Copyright 2006 - 2018

How To Keep Your Blog Up-To-Date & Relevant

Install Search and Replace plugin – https://wordpress.org/plugins/search-and-replace/

When writing your blog copy, some content you write is very probably ‘ever-green’. That is, it will be relevant in 2018,2019 and probably 2020. Recognise when you are writing evergreen copy as some users will modify their search to look for the most up-to-date information by including a date modifier in their search query which you can match in your copy e.g. “how to optimise a WordPress blog in 2018”.

If you use search and replace to find all instances of ‘in 2017’ in your page titles, meta and page content and change it to “in 2018” you can bring your entire blog ‘up-to-date’ and make the entire reading experience more user-friendly.

NOTE: If you abuse this tactic you are a bit of a spammer.

Optimise Your WordPress Theme

 

PHP: How To Add Text To Home Page Only on WordPress Blog

I wanted to add a little snippet of unique text and have it display on my self-hosted WP blog homepage ONLY.

It was actually very easy.

I added this code to my theme index.php:

<?php if(is_home() && !is_paged()):?>write text here<?php endif;?>

Note – I did not want a static homepage for my WordPress blog (I wanted to display all my posts, but on the home page, just have a small piece of text on my blog home and no other pages or posts).

Simple stuff.

PHP: How To List Recent Posts From A Single Category on Posts Within the Same Category

I wanted to display the recent post titles from a specific category to visitors who landed on a post within that specific category (and I didn’t want to use a plugin).

List posts from a specific category ONLY on pages within specified category:

<?php if (in_category(‘32‘)) { ?>
<div class=”moduletable”>
<h3>Latest Snippets</h3>
<ol>
<?php
global $post;
$myposts = get_posts(‘numberposts=5&order=DESC&orderby=post_date&category=32‘);
foreach($myposts as $post) :
setup_postdata($post);
?>
<?php the_permalink(); ?>”>
<?php endforeach; ?>
</ol>
</div>
<?php }else { ?>
<?php } ?>

NOTE – I’ve bolded

  • 5 (number of posts to display) and
  • 32 – the category ID

These are the items I used in the example :)

PHP: How To Exclude A Category From RSS Feed in WordPress:

You just need to add this code to your WP theme functions.php file:

<?php
function myFeedExcluder($query) {
 if ($query->is_feed) {
 $query->set('cat','-5');
 }
return $query;
}
 
add_filter('pre_get_posts','myFeedExcluder');
?>

In the above example –

-5

is the category ID I might want to exclude. :) – Pretty simple as it turned out.

We’ve built a subscription base of over @40,000 RSS email subscribers with an interest in SEO who expect a certain type of post to a particular schedule as a newsletter – but I also wanted the control of publishing posts that wouldn’t necessarily fit in with the normal SEO related tips, and wouldn’t deluge my current subscribers with content they might not really want.

SO I wanted to be able to exclude a particular category from my RSS feed so I could publish more WordPress, web development and SEO news type posts (like this one). :)

I can always do the odd roundup post to let my subscribers know about this other content.

It could actually give me much greater control – perhaps if I publish something that’s popular, I can then have the option to promote to subscribers. Either way, it’s more spider food for engines.

PLUGIN: How To Redirect WordPress Contact Form 7 To Thank You Page

If you are using WordPress Contact Form 7, you might want to redirect visitors to a thank you page when they successfully fill in your form. Ideal if you track completed goals in Google Analytics.

Go To WordPress dashboard and go to Contact Form 7 plugin settings page (click contact on your dashboard).

Find ‘Additional Settings’ at bottom of your form page and insert the following code:

on_sent_ok: "location.replace('http://www.yourwebsiteaddress.co.uk/thankyou/');"

Save form

Now visitors will be successfully redirected to your custom thank you page when they fill in your WordPress Contact 7 form.

* Noindex/Follow your  “thank you” page to keep it out of Google SERPs using a Robots Meta tag.

 

Corporate Blogging Strategy 101

Graph: Organic traffic to the Hobo blog over the last 5 years

I started blogging in the SEO industry in 2007, when blogging was the “in thing”, and used it to power visits and sales for my company a bit before it was commonplace.

Google has sent this site over 5 million unpaid visitors in 10 years. There’s no single way to blog but here’s what I learned and how I did it if you are totally new to blogging.

Today this blog has

Blog subscribers

subscribers:

On a simple level blogging is just about adding content to your site. The more content you have, the more traffic you’ll get, the more links you’ll attract, the more domain ‘authority’ you’ll build, the more traffic you’ll get and around you go again.

Kind of.

Its a much different environment today that it was in 2007.

Blogging was GREAT for SEO and still is if your blog has a clear purpose beyond just trying to rank in Google for specific keywords.

However – everybody got a blog because it was ‘great for SEO’ and basically the way Google changed meant blogging wasn’t quite as good for SEO.

In fact, blogging can hurt your SEO in 2018 if the content on the blog is of very low quality, completely off topic or the topics are spread too thin across too many pages.

A blog is ALL ABOUT THE CONTENT. If the content is low-quality, and there is no desire to actually create something of value on your site, you probably should not have a blog in 2018.

You will probably just end up creating thin pages on your site for Google to mark you down for.

A Simple Blogging Strategy

I have always aimed to create a destination for Google visitors. I have used the same strategy these past ten years.

Every time I blog I have some simple aim in mind, and on a post by post basis, none are really that clever, but together as a whole, I hope to create, well, a resource of sorts that drives traffic.

  1. Some blog posts are for attracting links from other sites
  2. Some posts are for growing a reputation and influence in social media
  3. Some posts are for giving back, helping those who have helped you, and linking out
  4. Some posts are about the company, but not many
  5. Some posts are about the company’s products, but not many
  6. A lot of posts are designed to rank in Google, but not without ‘value-add’
  7. Some posts are about connecting with industry or niche players
  8. Some posts are about conversation
  9. Some posts are about traffic
  10. Some posts are about increasing subscribers (and losing them)
  11. Some posts I do because I have an affiliate link
  12. Some posts are just to test how Google works
  13. Some posts I do because I like writing and putting ideas down
  14. Some blog posts are for fun – (dumb posts can often do really well in social media circles)
  15. Some blog posts are a bit more serious

Blogging is a simple enough process, but you need to take a long-term approach to blogging.

What I’ve learned in simple terms is most people don’t care about your boring company or products (leave that for the search engine visitors who are looking for your stuff) and most people connect with the individual if the voice behind the blog is at least honest.

Helping others out when you can, seems to be a good way of getting on in the blogging world.

Some savvy marketers might say the biggest mistake I made (probably) was running the blog for years with virtually no ads of any kind, but I introduced some sort of limited affiliate advertising on the site in 2010.

Actually, I think my biggest mistake was blogging for nearly two years not giving a damn about subscriber counts, which is actually my most important metric now even above traffic and search engine positions for this site at least. (I used this article to learn how to increase subscriber counts here and it is still of value today).

I remember being chuffed because I had 100 subscribers. Now I have 80,000 emails as a result of blogging.

Hobo newsletter subscribers

I think the biggest mistake you will probably make is you’ll be scared to link out to other blogs and send traffic to other blogs (even those in the same industry as your company).

And that is a mistake.

If you’re not even a bit generous with your links in articles, and all your links are to internal pages, you’re making it much harder for yourself. I see blogs do this all the time – being stingy with links – it is narrow-minded.

I keep my blog very much on topic in 2018. I prefer to add content which might be of help to folk, and might get me a link at some point.

The benefit of blogging for us is simple:  we’ve never had to pay anybody for advertising, ever, or had to ask anybody for work, ever. Because of it, the phone goes every day. It takes about an hour a day (usually at night) to do. Not that hard to understand.

One last tip? I think blogging should be at the centre of any social media marketing you employ and I don’t think it’s too late to start – ever, even in 2018.

You should own the platform where you write your thoughts down. You should drive social engagement there. That’s why I mostly blog, and keep off social media, except to share my content.

If you own the platform, when it does pick up natural links, you own the value.

Mentions

How To Blog? What Should YOU write in a blog?

What you do for a day job. That’s what I do, anyway. Outspoken Media came up with a great post for those bloggers who are just starting out and stuck for ideas what to blog about.

I’ve always found writing up my research on this blog in a way I can understand it better drives Google organic traffic to it.

Google Has Evolved and Content Marketing With It

QUOTE: “Panda is an algorithm that’s applied to sites overall and has become one of our core ranking signals. It measures the quality of a site, which you can read more about in our guidelines. Panda allows Google to take quality into account and adjust ranking accordingly.” Google

Google does not work only the way it used to work, and as a result, this impacts a lot of websites built a certain way to rank high in Google – and Google is a lot less forgiving these days.

Is the user going to be more satisfied with an exact match query on a low-quality website, OR a high-quality page closely related to the search query used, published by an entity Google trusts and rates highly?

Google is deciding more and more to go with the latter.

Optimisation, in 2018, must not get in the way of the text or user experience.

Do not optimise for irrelevant keyword searches.

Do not keyword stuff.

The Importance of Unique Content For Your Website

QUOTE: “Duplicated content is often not manipulative and is commonplace on many websites and often free from malicious intent. Copied content can often be penalised algorithmically or manually. Duplicate content is not penalised, but this is often not an optimal set-up for pages, either. Be VERY careful ‘spinning’ ‘copied’ text to make it unique!” Hobo, 2018

From a quality page point of view, duplicate content (or rather, copied content) can a low-quality indicator.

Boilerplate (especially spun) text can be another low-quality indicator.

If your website is tarnished with these practices – it is going to be classed ‘low-quality’ by some part of the Google algorithm:

  • If all you have on your page are indicators of low-quality – you have a low-quality page in 2018 – full stop.
  • If your entire website is made up of pages like that, you have a low-quality website.
  • If you have manipulative backlinks, then that’s a recipe for disaster.

Low-Quality Content On Part of A Web Site Can Affect Rankings For The Same Website On More Important Keyword Rankings

Moz has a good video on the Google organic quality score theory. You should watch it. It goes into a lot of stuff I (and others) have been blogging for the last few years, and some of it is relevant to the audits I produce, an example of which you can see here (Alert! 2mb in size!).

Google Organic Quality Score

One thing that could have been explained better in the video was that Moz has topical authority world wide for ‘Google SEO’ terms, hence why they can rank so easily for ‘organic quality score’.

But the explanation of the quality score is a good introduction for beginners.

I am in the camp this organic quality score has been in place for a long time, and more and more are feeling the results from it.

This is also quite relevant to a question answered last week in the Google Webmaster Hangout which was:

“QUESTION – Is it possible that if the algorithm doesn’t particularly like our blog articles as much that it could affect our ranking and quality score on the core Content?”

resulting in an answer:

“ANSWER: JOHN MUELLER (GOOGLE): Theoretically, that’s possible. I mean it’s kind of like we look at your web site overall. And if there’s this big chunk of content here or this big chunk kind of important wise of your content, there that looks really iffy, then that kind of reflects across the overall picture of your website. But I don’t know in your case, if it’s really a situation that your blog is really terrible.”

Google has introduced (at least) a ‘percieved’ risk to publishing lots of lower-quality pages on your site to in an effort to curb production of old-style SEO friendly content based on manipulating early search engine algorithms.

We are dealing with algorithms designed to target old style SEO – that focus on the truism that DOMAIN ‘REPUTATION’ plus LOTS of PAGES equals LOTS of Keywords equals LOTS of Google traffic.

A big site can’t just get away with publishing LOTS of lower quality content in the cavalier way they used to – not without the ‘fear’ of primary content being impacted and organic search traffic throttled negatively to important pages on the site.

Google is very probably using user metrics in some way to determine the ‘quality’ of your site.

QUESTION – “I mean, would you recommend going back through articles that we posted and if there’s ones that we don’t necessarily think are great articles, that we just take them away and delete them?”

The reply was:

JOHN MUELLER: 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.

Deleting content is not always the optimal way to handle MANY types of low-quality content – far from it, in fact. Nuking it is the last option unless the pages really are ‘dead‘ content.

Any clean-up should go hand in hand with giving Google something it is going to value on your site e.g. NEW high-quality content:

Screenshot 2016-05-25 19.32.25

The final piece of advice is interesting, too.

It gives us an insight into how Google might actually deal with your site:

JOHN MUELLER: “Then maybe that’s something where you can collect some metrics and say, well, everything that’s below this threshold, we’ll make a decision whether or not to significantly improve it or just get rid of it.”

E.g. (paraphrasing!)

You can probably rely on Google to ‘collect some metrics and say, well, everything that’s below this threshold, we’ll “…(insert punishment spread out over time).

Summary

Google probably has a quality score of some sort, and your site probably has a rating whatever that is relevant to (and if you get any real traffic from Google, often a manual rating).

If you have a big site, certain parts of your site will be rated more useful than others to Google.

Improving the quality of your content certainly works to improve traffic, as does intelligently managing your content across the site. Positive results from this process are NOT going to happen overnight. I’ve blogged about this sort of thing for many years, now.

Google are going together better at rating sites that meet their guidelines for ‘quality’ and ‘user satisfaction’ here – I am putting such things in quotes here to highlight the slightly Orwellian doublespeak we have to work with.

What Are The High-Quality Characteristics of a Web Page?

QUOTE: “High quality pages are satisfying and achieve their purpose well.” Google Quality Evaluator Guidelines, 2017

The following are examples of what Google calls ‘high-quality characteristics’ of a page and should be remembered:

  • A satisfying or comprehensive amount of very high-quality” main content (MC)
  • Copyright notifications up to date
  • Functional page design
  • Page author has Topical Authority
  • High-Quality Main Content
  • Positive Reputation or expertise of website or author (Google yourself)
  • Very helpful SUPPLEMENTARY content “which improves the user experience.
  • Trustworthy
  • Google wants to reward ‘expertise’ and ‘everyday expertise’ or experience so make this clear (Author Box?)
  • Accurate information
  • Ads can be at the top of your page as long as it does not distract from the main content on the page
  • Highly satisfying website contact information
  • Customised and very helpful 404 error pages
  • Awards
  • Evidence of expertise
  • Attention to detail

If Google can detect investment in time and labour on your site – there are indications that they will reward you for this (or at least – you won’t be negatively affected when others are, meaning you rise in Google SERPs when others fall).

What Characteristics Do The Highest Quality Pages Exhibit?

QUOTE: “The quality of the MC is one of the most important criteria in Page Quality rating, and informs the E­A­T of the page. For all types of webpages, creating high quality MC takes a significant amount of at least one of the following: time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill.” Google Quality Evaluator Guidelines, 2017

You obviously want the highest quality ‘score’ but looking at the guide that is a lot of work to achieve.

Google wants to rate you on the effort you put into your website, and how satisfying a visit is to your pages.

  1. Very high or highest quality MC, with demonstrated expertise, talent, and/or skill.
  2. “Very high level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (page and website) on the topic of the page.”
  3. “Very good reputation (website or author) on the topic of the page.”

At least for competitive niches were Google intend to police this quality recommendation, Google wants to reward high-quality pages and “the Highest rating may be justified for pages with a satisfying or comprehensive amount of very high-quality” main content.

If your main content is very poor, with “grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation errors“, or not helpful or trustworthy – ANYTHING that can be interpreted as a bad user experience – you can expect to get a low rating.

QUOTE: “We will consider content to be Low quality if it is created without adequate time, effort, expertise, or talent/skill. Pages with low-quality (main content) do not achieve their purpose well.” Google Quality Evaluator Guidelines, 2017

Note – not ALL thin pages are low-quality.

If you can satisfy the user with a page thin on content – you are ok (but are probably more susceptible to someone building a better page than yours).

Google expects more from big brands than they do from your store (but that does not mean you shouldn’t be aiming to meet ALL these high-quality guidelines above.

If you violate Google Webmaster recommendations for performance in their indexes of the web – you automatically get a low-quality rating.

Poor page design and poor main content and too many ads = you are toast.

If a rater is subject to a sneaky redirect – they are instructed to rate your site low.

What Are The Low-Quality Signals Google Looks For?

QUOTE: “Low quality pages are unsatisfying or lacking in some element that prevents them from achieving their purpose well. These pages lack expertise or are not very trustworthy/authoritative for the purpose of the page.” Google Quality Evaluator Guidelines, 2017

These include but are not limited to:

  1. Lots of spammy comments
  2. Low-quality content that lacks EAT signal (Expertise + Authority + Trust”)
  3. NO Added Value for users
  4. Poor page design
  5. Malicious harmful or deceptive practices detected
  6. Negative reputation
  7. Auto-generated content
  8. No website contact information
  9. Fakery or INACCURATE information
  10. Untrustworthy
  11. Website not maintained
  12. Pages just created to link to others
  13. Pages lack purpose
  14. Keyword stuffing
  15. Inadequate customer service pages
  16. Sites that use practices Google doesn’t want you to use

Pages can get a neutral rating too.

Pages that have “Nothing wrong, but nothing special” about them don’t “display characteristics associated with a High rating” and puts you in the middle ground – probably not a sensible place to be a year or so down the line.

Pages Can Be Rated ‘Medium Quality’

QUOTE: “Medium pages achieve their purpose and have neither high nor low expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. However, Medium pages lack the characteristics that would support a higher quality rating. Occasionally, you will find a page with a mix of high and low quality characteristics. In those cases, the best page quality rating may be Medium.” Google Quality Evaluator Guidelines, 2017

Quality raters will rate content as medium rating when the author or entity responsible for it is unknown.

If you have multiple editors contributing to your site, you had better have a HIGH EDITORIAL STANDARD.

One could take from all this that Google Quality raters are out to get you if you manage to get past the algorithms, but equally, Google quality raters could be friends you just haven’t met yet.

Somebody must be getting rated highly, right?

Impress a Google Quality rater and get a high rating.

If you are a spammer you’ll be pulling out the stops to fake this, naturally, but this is a chance for real businesses to put their best foot forward and HELP quality raters correctly judge the size and relative quality of your business and website.

Real reputation is hard to fake – so if you have it – make sure it’s on your website and is EASY to access from contact and about pages.

The quality raters handbook is a good training guide for looking for links to disavow, too.

It’s pretty clear.

Google organic listings are reserved for ‘remarkable’ and reputable’ content, expertise and trusted businesses.

A high bar to meet – and one that is designed for you to never quite meet unless you are serious about competing, as there is so much work involved.

I think the inferred message is to call your Adwords rep if you are an unremarkable business.

If you are creating content for blogging purposes, consider the following:

  1. Long Tail Traffic Is Hiding In Long Form Content
  2. Google Demotion Algorithms Target Low-Quality Content
  3. Low-Quality Content Is Not Meant To Rank High in Google.
  4. Are Keywords – and Keyword Research –  Dead?
  5. Editorial & Informative In-depth Content
  6. How Much Text Do I Need To Write For Google?
  7. How Many Words Can I Optimise A Page For?
  8. How Often Should Important Keywords Appear On Your Page?
  9. What Is Keyword Stuffing?
  10. Should I Rewrite Product Descriptions To Make The Text Unique?
  11. How Does Google Rate ‘Copied’ Main Content?
  12. Tip: Beware Keyword Stuffing E-commerce Website Category Pages To Rank For Various Other Keywords in Google
  13. Can I Just Write Naturally and Rank High in Google?
  14. Do You Need Lots of Text To Rank Pages In Google?
  15. Are Poor Spelling and Bad Grammar Google Ranking Factors?
  16. How Do You Improve Web Content in 2018?
  17. Google Featured Snippets: Optimising For The New Opportunity
  18. How Long Does It Take To Write Seo-Friendly Copy?
  19. Repurposing Content
  20. Specific Advice From Google On Low-Quality Content On Your Site
  21. Optimising For Topics And Concepts
  22. Optimising For User Intent Satisfaction
  23. Optimising For The Long Click
  24. Does Google Prefer Fresh Content?

TIP: If You like Writing & Sharing Your Knowledge, Start a Blog!

This advice is sound even in 2018. A blog is a great way to build content into a website. If you have a purpose to build a great resource online then you should do it!

There are many and varied benefits of blogging. If, however, you hate writing, have no interest in creating informative content on your site about your industry or art, and do not have the resource to invest in professional copywriting team, I’d avoid blogging if you are a small business.

Blogging for business is a long-term business decision and should only be attempted if the person writing your blog has E.A.T. (Expertise, Authority & Trust) in your topicality, or has a yearning to build this authority over time.

TIP: Use Your Blog To Curate Content & Develop ‘Evergreen‘, ‘In-depth Content‘ Pieces

I like to curate content in my blog posts. I’ll create in-depth pages on a topic and link to other sources that discuss it. For instance, I link a lot to Google as I quote them a lot.

Some call these type of blog posts in-depth content, evergreen content or cornerstone content, Basically – you focus on a topic and aim to create the best information-rich article available on the topic.

My search engine optimisation tutorial is an example of evergreen, in-depth content. It ranks for 100s of seo-related terms, generates backlinks and drives hundreds of visitors a day to the site.

Here are some examples of longform resources:

TIP: Create In-depth Content & Keep It Updated Every Year

I update my content at least every year.

In certain niches, you can use content on your blog to create in-depth evergreen content resources on your site.

These following images illustrate that Google will send you traffic if you create useful content and keep it updated every year:

SEO: The effects of continually improving a page over time SEO: The effects of keeping in-depth content up-to-date and fresh

TIP: Do I Put A Blog in Sub-Domain or Sub-Directory on Main Site? Which Is Best for SEO?

If you have the choice, I would choose to house content in a subfolder on the main domain. Recent research would still indicate this is the best way to go:

QUOTE: “When you move from Subdomain to Subdirectory, you rank much better, and you get more organic traffic from Google.” Sistrix, 2018

Subfolders or Subdomains for google seo in 2018

For most, putting a blog on a subdirectory of your main site is of most benefit, if of course, you are actually going to spend time making the blog a useful destination. Neither is a quick win – both include a lot of work, but making something of value usually does.

Ultimately it’s the quality of WHAT you put WHERE, rather than WHERE you put it.

I’d never put a blog on a separate domain, and I’d never go with the even easier option of hosted blogs on domains I don’t own.

I’d use WordPress for my blog, and I’d respect the license.

TIP: Automatically Post Your Blog Posts To Twitter, Linkedin & Facebook

QUOTE: IFTTT stands for If This, Then That, and the name is practically self-explanatory. If one of the several triggers you setup happens, then the service activates whatever multiple commands you designate.” IFTTT

When I publish a post on this blog, ideally I want it to automatically be shared to the Hobo Facebook page, Linkedin, Google Plus and Twitter profiles. If you haven’t heard about it, ifttt.com is very useful.

You can even use IFTTT to control automation at home.

It’s FREE, too.

If This Then That

Ifttt has been about for a while, is a joy to use, easy, and can actually automate a lot of other social services, not mentioned in this post –  and potentially save you loads of time:

See here for more.

UGC (“User-Generated Content”)

User-Generated Content Is Rated As Part of the Page in Quality Scoring

QUOTE: “when we look at a page, overall, or when a user looks at a page, we see these comments as part of the content design as well. So it is something that kind of all combines to something that users see, that our algorithms see overall as part of the content that you’re publishing.” John Mueller, Google

Bear in mind that:

QUOTE: “As a publisher, you are responsible for ensuring that all user-generated content on your site or app complies with all applicable programme policies.” Google, 2018

Google want user-generated content on your site to be moderated and kept as high quality as the rest of your site.

They explain:

QUOTE: “Since spammy user-generated content can pollute Google search results, we recommend you actively monitor and remove this type of spam from your site.” Google, 2018

and

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).”

and

QUOTE: “When I look at the great forums & online communities that I frequent, one thing they have in common is that they (be it the owners or the regulars) have high expectations, and are willing to take action & be vocal when new users don’t meet those expectations.” John Mueller, Google

TIP: Moderate Comments

Some examples of spammy user-generated content include:

QUOTE: “Comment spam on blogs” Google, 2018

User-generated content (for instance blog comments) are counted as part of the page and these comments are taken into consideration when Google rates the page.

QUOTE: “For this reason there are many ways of securing your application and dis-incentivising spammers. 

  • Disallow anonymous posting.
  • Use CAPTCHAs and other methods to prevent automated comment spamming.
  • Turn on comment moderation.
  • Use the “nofollow” attribute for links in the comment field.
  • Disallow hyperlinks in comments.
  • Block comment pages using robots.txt or meta tags.” Google

TIP – Moderate Forums

QUOTE: “common with forums is low-quality user-generated content. If you have ways of recognizing this kind of content, and blocking it from indexing, it can make it much easier for algorithms to review the overall quality of your website. The same methods can be used to block forum spam from being indexed for your forum. Depending on the forum, there might be different ways of recognizing that automatically, but it’s generally worth finding automated ways to help you keep things clean & high-quality, especially when a site consists of mostly user-generated content.” John Mueller, Google

If you have a forum plugin on your site, moderate:

QUOTE: “Spammy posts on forum threads” Google, 2018

It’s evident that Google wants forum administrators to work harder on managing user-generated content Googlebot ‘rates’ as part of your site.

In a 2015 hangout John Mueller said to “noindex untrusted post content” and going on says  posts by new posters who haven’t been in the forum before. threads that don’t have any answers. Maybe they’re noindexed by default.

A very interesting statement was “how much quality content do you have compared to low-quality content“. That indicates Google is looking at this ratio. John says to identify “which pages are high-quality, which pages are lower quality so that the pages that do get indexed are really the high-quality ones.

John mentions looking at “threads that don’t have any authoritative answers“.

I think that advice is relevant for any site with lots of content.

TIP: Moderate ANY User Generated Content On Your Site

You are responsible for what you publish.

No matter how you let others post something on your website, you must ensure a high standard:

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). When I look at the great forums & online communities that I frequent, one thing they have in common is that they (be it the owners or the regulars) have high expectations, and are willing to take action & be vocal when new users don’t meet those expectations.” John Mueller, Google 2016

and

QUOTE: “… it also includes things like the comments, includes the things like the unique and original content that you’re putting out on your site that is being added through user-generated content, all of that as well. So while I don’t really know exactly what our algorithms are looking at specifically with regards to your website, it’s something where sometimes you go through the articles and say well there is some useful information in this article that you’re sharing here, but there’s just lots of other stuff happening on the bottom of these blog posts. When our algorithms look at these pages, in an aggregated way across the whole page, then that’s something where they might say well, this is a lot of content that is unique to this page, but it’s not really high quality content that we want to promote in a very visible way. That’s something where I could imagine that maybe there’s something you could do, otherwise it’s really tricky I guess to look at specific changes you can do when it comes to our quality algorithms.” John Mueller, Google 2016

and

QUOTE: “Well, I think you need to look at the pages in an overall way, you should look at the pages and say, actually we see this a lot in the forums for example, people will say “my text is unique, you can copy and paste it and it’s unique to my website.” But that doesn’t make this website page a high quality page. So things like the overall design, how it comes across, how it looks like an authority, this information that is in general to webpage, to website, that’s things that all come together. But also things like comments where webmasters might say “this is user generated content, I’m not responsible for what people are posting on my website,”  John Mueller, Google 2016

and

QUOTE: “If you have comments on your site, and you just let them run wild, you don’t moderate them, they’re filled with spammers or with people who are kind of just abusing each other for no good reason, then that’s something that might kind of pull down the overall quality of your website where users when they go to those pages might say, well, there’s some good content on top here, but this whole bottom part of the page, this is really trash. I don’t want to be involved with the website that actively encourages this kind of behavior or that actively promotes this kind of content. And that’s something where we might see that on a site level, as well.” John Mueller, Google 2016

and

QUOTE: “When our quality algorithms go to your website, and they see that there’s some good content here on this page, but there’s some really bad or kind of low quality content on the bottom part of the page, then we kind of have to make a judgment call on these pages themselves and say, well, some good, some bad. Is this overwhelmingly bad? Is this overwhelmingly good? Where do we draw the line?” John Mueller, Google 2016

There’s a key insight for many webmasters about modern SEO in understanding managing UGC.

Watch out for those who want to use your blog for financial purposes both and terms of adding content to the site and linking to other sites.

QUOTE: “Think about whether or not this is a link that would be on your site if it weren’t for your actions…When it comes to guest blogging it’s a situation where you are placing links on other people’s sites together with this content, so that’s something I kind of shy away from purely from a link building point of view. It can make sense to guest blog on other people’s sites to drive some traffic to your site… but you should use a nofollow.” John Mueller, Google 2013

TIP: You Must Moderate User-Generated Content If You Display Google Adsense:

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

and

QUOTE: “If a post hasn’t been reviewed yet and approved, allow it to appear, but disable ad serving on that page. Only enable ad serving when you’re sure that a post complies with our programme policies.” Google Adsense Policies, 2018

and

QUOTE: “And we do that across the whole website to kind of figure out where we see the quality of this website. And that’s something that could definitely be affecting your website overall in the search results. So if you really work to make sure that these comments are really high quality content, that they bring value, engagement into your pages, then that’s fantastic. That’s something that I think you should definitely make it so that search engines can pick that up on.”  John Mueller, Google 2016

You can also get a Google manual action penalty for user-generated spam on your site, which can affect parts of the site or the whole site.

QUOTE: “Google has detected user-generated spam on your site. Typically, this kind of spam is found on forum pages, guestbook pages, or in user profiles. As a result, Google has applied a manual spam action to your site.” Google Notice of Manual Action 

TIP: Be Careful Syndicating Content Via RSS

Be VERY careful how you syndicate content. In my experience, syndicated content usually ends up on very low-quality sites made to get some free traffic from Google without much value add.

If you have links pointing to your pages, and your posts appear on lots of low-quality sites, you could end up with a manual action on unnatural links. If you leave a credit link in your RSS feed – perhaps you nofollow it.  I do. Building links via RSS feeds is not as useful as it once was and may telegraph an intent to use spam to rank.

Google doesn’t like you using spammers to help you improve your own blog rankings.

TIP: I Still Recommend WordPress For Blogging

QUOTE: “WordPress is a state-of-the-art … personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability.” WordPress

WordPress is one of the most popular blogging platforms in the world, and in my opinion, it’s the best for small companies. It’s easy to install, easy to configure, easy to integrate into any website design and it’s quite simply a joy to use. For the small business owner, it makes editing your website very fast and easy. You can have a new page in 2 minutes, you can change the navigation structure easily, you can even change the ‘look’ of the website with one click.

Once you have “proved” the site is to be trusted in search engines when you publish a new article, it can appear in Google immediately – and at the top of Google results, if your site is really ‘trusted’ in its niche.

TIP: I Still Use Feedburner To Syndicate My Feed & Manage Subscribers

Feedburner does not have the latest plugins to manage your subscribers, but it is FREE. After 10 years, I still use Feedburner to manage my RSS feed and email subscriber database.

Syndicating RSS using Feedburner (Google owns this) is still one of the fastest ways in 2018 to get pages into Google SERPs (search engine results pages).

QUOTE: “an RSS feed is also a good idea with RSS you can use pubsubhubbub which is a way of getting your updates even faster to Google … so using pubsubhubbub is probably the fastest way to to get content where you’re regularly changing things on your site and you want to get that into Google as quickly as possible an RSS feed with pubsubhubbub is is a really fantastic way to get that done.” John Meuller Google

Feedburner could be phased out at any time though, so you need to have a backup plan (and most of them are paid).

What People Say About This Blog

I turned off blog comments on this blog to concentrate on working on the actual content.

I archive below some comments people had about this blog over the years:

QUOTE: “I’m a know-it-all web dev with a heart for usability, and I was pretty convinced that SEO and SEOs were all magic smoke and fraud. I can’t remember how I stumbled on Hobo, but it’s really made me realize that there exists a sliver of SEO where the people are intelligent and balance logical SEO optimizations against steadily improving content for people. I can’t emphasize enough how refreshing it is to be able to read useful, logical tips about SEO that aren’t 99% “Google updated and they lowered my PageRank and Google is wrong…” Your month of tips was amazing

and

QUOTE: “Your style of writing is easy to read and understand and usually backed up with evidence and personal experience. The current series of SEO tips I’ve found very useful, not only confirming what I believe to be the case but also making me rationalize and so think more about the why and wherefore.”

and

QUOTE: “I’m sure you hear this all the time but I have to say this is the best SEO blog I have ever seen.

and

QUOTE: “I have to admit I read a lot of SEO blogs around the net. I find I keep coming back to this one though. It’s by far the most original and informative. So many people recycle the same old stuff”.

and

QUOTE: “I always read your blog when I lived in the US now I am back in Blighty (Devon) I still do and am amazed (but not surprised) when people in the biz say they have heard of you guys”

and

QUOTE: “I have worked in IT since 1991 and the information that you provide is FANTASTIC. Generally, in a niche such as SEO, the experts are the ones that can drive the content forward continually as they know what the changes / challenges etc are. You are doing a VERY good job at providing a happy balance of tips and information”.

and

QUOTE: “I’ve been reading your newsletters regularly. Their content is excellent. The style in which you write makes for easy reading (and understanding) especially good for someone like me whose mother tongue is not English.”

and

QUOTE: “The Hobo SEO Blog played a big role in helping me build up the SEO side of our business to the stage where it provides as much revenue as the other areas of our business and has a healthy client base of its own. I read quite a few blogs these days but Hobo has always been one of my favourites. You have an excellent balance between very well thought out theories, tested facts and with a bit of attitude thrown in to make it all very enjoyable to read.

and

QUOTE: “Well before introducing myself I will say a few words on your “little SEO blog” Well I would not call it little. it is one of the best SEO resources in the world and is a good source of information to all categories of users.

and

QUOTE: “We run a small online store in Australia and found the budget to hire a SEO for our huge product range beyond our budget. Whilst our business grew using google ppc I spent a year trying to get a grip on what SEO was about….when I started I had zero understanding. After 12 months part-time research and culling 100s and then 10s of other “advisors” I decided to use your free booklets and blog articles as the source for my DYI foray into SEO. Why you? Plain speaking, to the point, non-techical advice that was easy to read and more importantly understand! The results? I started, again part-time, SEO on my website about 3 months ago. I have increased my natural search from 2% to 18% of my traffic in 12 weeks.

Blog Roll

A hat-tip to various blogs I’ve followed over the years, who are still going strong:

Disclaimer

Disclaimer: “Whilst I have made every effort to ensure that the information I have provided is correct, It is not advice.; I cannot accept any responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions. The author does not vouch for third party sites or any third party service. Visit third party sites at your own risk.  I am not directly partnered with Google or any other third party. This website uses cookies only for analytics and basic website functions. This article does not constitute legal advice. The author does not accept any liability that might arise from accessing the data presented on this site. Links to internal pages promote my own content and services.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo


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