An SEO technique is considered white hat if it conforms to the search engines' guidelines and involves no deception. As the search engine guidelines[18][19][52] are not written as a series of rules or commandments, this is an important distinction to note. White hat SEO is not just about following guidelines but is about ensuring that the content a search engine indexes and subsequently ranks is the same content a user will see. White hat advice is generally summed up as creating content for users, not for search engines, and then making that content easily accessible to the online "spider" algorithms, rather than attempting to trick the algorithm from its intended purpose. White hat SEO is in many ways similar to web development that promotes accessibility,[53] although the two are not identical.
Who is in your target market? - SEO today is not about just grabbing as much traffic as possible, but instead attracting high-value visitors interested in what you offer. In terms of demographics, what is your market searching for? How are they performing web searches? Where are they located? The more specific your answers, the more valuable your investments in SEO become. Google Analytics is a good place to start your investigations!
Users will occasionally come to a page that doesn't exist on your site, either by following a broken link or typing in the wrong URL. Having a custom 404 page30 that kindly guides users back to a working page on your site can greatly improve a user's experience. Your 404 page should probably have a link back to your root page and could also provide links to popular or related content on your site. You can use Google Search Console to find the sources of URLs causing "not found" errors31.
In December 2009, Google announced it would be using the web search history of all its users in order to populate search results.[33] On June 8, 2010 a new web indexing system called Google Caffeine was announced. Designed to allow users to find news results, forum posts and other content much sooner after publishing than before, Google caffeine was a change to the way Google updated its index in order to make things show up quicker on Google than before. According to Carrie Grimes, the software engineer who announced Caffeine for Google, "Caffeine provides 50 percent fresher results for web searches than our last index..."[34] Google Instant, real-time-search, was introduced in late 2010 in an attempt to make search results more timely and relevant. Historically site administrators have spent months or even years optimizing a website to increase search rankings. With the growth in popularity of social media sites and blogs the leading engines made changes to their algorithms to allow fresh content to rank quickly within the search results.[35]
Simple navigation reigns and quality content is king – A user-friendly website, with interesting and easy-to-find information is what will boost your traffic. Each page needs to be built around keyword themes, with unique content, so search engines can easily index yours and rank you higher. Positive behaviors from site visitors is your best bet for a better ranking, so keep the content natural and focused; avoid jargon and keyword stuffing to keep users from leaving the site unhappy and hurting its ranking.
When Googlebot crawls a page, it should see the page the same way an average user does15. For optimal rendering and indexing, always allow Googlebot access to the JavaScript, CSS, and image files used by your website. If your site's robots.txt file disallows crawling of these assets, it directly harms how well our algorithms render and index your content. This can result in suboptimal rankings.
However, that’s totally impractical for established sites with hundreds of pages, so you’ll need a tool to do it for you. For example, with SEMRush, you can type your domain into the search box, wait for the report to run, and see the top organic keywords you are ranking for. Or, use their keyword position tracking tool to track the exact keywords you’re trying to rank for.
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.
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.
Hey Sharon, great post! Re. dwell time – I’ve read conflicting opinions, some saying that Google DOES consider it an ‘important’ ranking signal, and others saying that it doesn’t, because dwell time can sometimes be a misleading indicator of content quality. For example when a user searches for something specific and finds the answer immediately in the recommended page (meaning that the content on the page is actually spot on) so he returns to the SERPs very quickly. I have been unable to locate any definitive statements (written/spoken) from anyone at Google that suggest that dwell time IS still a factor in ranking considerations, but it makes sense (to me, anyway) that it should be. Do you have any ‘proof’ one way or the other re. whether Google definitely considers dwell time or not?

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Love how you just dive into the details for this Site Audit guide. Excellent stuff! Yours is much much easier to understand than other guides online and I feel like I could integrate this to how I site audit my websites and actually cut down the time I make my reports. I only need to do more research on how to remove “zombie pages”. If you could have a ste-by-step guide to it, that would be awesome! Thanks!
Consider your competition. Look at what your competitors are doing and how they are performing in their search marketing before you decide how you can best compete with them. Research what search terms they rank organically for. Consider if you can execute a plan to top their SERP placements. Also, look at what paid terms they are using to drive traffic to their own sites. As you perform this research, look for gaps that you can fill and areas where you will be unable to compete in both paid and organic search.

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.
In February 2011, Google announced the Panda update, which penalizes websites containing content duplicated from other websites and sources. Historically websites have copied content from one another and benefited in search engine rankings by engaging in this practice. However, Google implemented a new system which punishes sites whose content is not unique.[36] The 2012 Google Penguin attempted to penalize websites that used manipulative techniques to improve their rankings on the search engine.[37] Although Google Penguin has been presented as an algorithm aimed at fighting web spam, it really focuses on spammy links[38] by gauging the quality of the sites the links are coming from. The 2013 Google Hummingbird update featured an algorithm change designed to improve Google's natural language processing and semantic understanding of web pages. Hummingbird's language processing system falls under the newly recognized term of 'Conversational Search' where the system pays more attention to each word in the query in order to better match the pages to the meaning of the query rather than a few words [39]. With regards to the changes made to search engine optimization, for content publishers and writers, Hummingbird is intended to resolve issues by getting rid of irrelevant content and spam, allowing Google to produce high-quality content and rely on them to be 'trusted' authors.
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