Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide

If you own, manage, monetize, or promote online content via Google Search, this guide is meant for you.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide

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 website owner of a dozen sites, the SEO specialist in a Web agency or a DIY SEO expert 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. We hope our guide gives you some fresh ideas on how to improve your website, and we'd love to hear your questions, feedback, and success stories in the Google Search Central Help Community.

We hope you will enjoy the content and we hope to hear and integrate your feedback via our Google support Forums

Feel free to save, print off the guide responsibly and re-share it: let's improve the quality of the web.

Happy reading!

Signed,

The Google Search Quality team

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.

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:

  • The site isn't well connected from other sites on the web
  • You've just launched a new site and Google hasn't had time to crawl it yet
  • The design of the site makes it difficult for Google to crawl its content effectively
  • Google received an error when trying to crawl your site
  • Your policy blocks Google from crawling the site

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.

Here are a few basic questions to ask yourself about your website when you get started.

  • Is my website showing up on Google?
  • Do I serve high-quality content to users?
  • Is my local business showing up on Google?
  • Is my content fast and easy to access on all devices?
  • Is my website secure?

You can find additional getting started information on https://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 https://g.co/WebmasterChecklist.

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.

Google also finds pages through links from other pages. Learn how to encourage people to discover your site by Promoting your site.

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.

# brandonsbaseballcards.com/robots.txt
# Tell Google not to crawl any URLs in the shopping cart or images in the icons folder,
# because they won't be useful in Google Search results.
User-agent: googlebot
Disallow: /checkout/
Disallow: /icons/

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 guide on using robots.txt files.

Read about several other ways to prevent content from appearing in search results.

Avoid:

  • Letting your internal search result pages be crawled by Google. Users dislike clicking a search engine result only to land on another search result page on your site.
  • Allowing URLs created as a result of proxy services to be crawled.

A robots.txt file 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.

When Googlebot crawls a page, it should see the page the same way an average user does. 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.

Recommended action: Use the URL Inspection tool. It will allow you to see exactly how Googlebot sees and renders your content, and it will help you identify and fix a number of indexing issues on your site.

Reference Resources https://developers.google.com/search/docs/beginner/seo-starter-guide