One of the advantages (and disadvantages!) of what I do is that I pay close attention to whatever Google releases about their algorithms and how they affect ranking of search results. Although we don’t pay for Google’s services, they are a business, and their goal is to provide relevant search results for their customers, who are searchers, so that searchers will use Google’s search services, allowing Google to show them ads that Google gets paid to show.
So Google is constantly changing the details of how they rank sites in search results, continuing to improve the relevance of search results. They’re in competition with other search engines, who are all doing much the same thing. The others keep an eye on Google and try to follow them as well as seeking their own advantages.
Usually what I read from Google isn’t of much interest to my readers of this newsletter, but there were two recent releases that you may find of interest, about two specific techniques. The advice gives you one thing to do, another to not do.
Fix Broken Internal Links
When there’s a site redesign and pages are removed, Google reminds us to make sure that we also remove all links to those pages. Otherwise, our visitors will get 404 (page not found) errors, and of course, so will Google, realizing that our visitors are not having the best possible experience. In addition, page ranking information won’t flow within the site from one page to the other, causing an overall penalty, however slight, in search results position.
One important technique for SEO that’s often overlooked, I’ve found, is internal linking. That is, links from one page to another within the site. This can give a powerful boost to rankings, especially when the linking follows a pattern between different types of pages. For example, one site had both cheese and wine. On that site, I advised them to show wines that went with the cheese on the wine page, and cheeses that went with the wine on the wine page, and to present these pairings as links between the pages. The result of this was a dramatic rise in page rankings, way above all competitors that sold wine and cheese.
A great way to check for 404 errors is to run one of the spider programs on the site once in a while, looking for any 404s, not just internal links. It’s good advice to regard each of them as highly undesirable and fix every one. Just from a standpoint of the experience you want to provide your visitor, a “page not found” for a link the visitor tried to follow because of interest is a negative element that you don’t want in your visitor experience. And if your visitor wouldn’t like it, then it’s fair to expect that Google won’t like it either, and would prefer to direct visitors to sites that don’t give “page not found” errors.
Don’t Relabel Old Content with “2020” Titles
Google believes that their customers are interested in current content, and they seek to provide current content. You may have seen advice to put the current year in your titles so that Google knows that your content is current. All things being equal, as you create new content, putting the year in the title is a reasonable idea. It does tell Google that this is current title, provided that the year is relevant to the content. There is evidence that this is a useful technique.
However, Google is advising us that the technique of relabelling old content to 2020 won’t cut it–that such a method is actually a way to let Google identify low-quality content. John Mueller of Google posted just this opinion in Reddit.
What’s the best approach? Understand that Google already knows about your earlier content. They’ve taken it in, assessed it and indexed it according to their evaluation of its significance for searchers. Simply relabelling old content is just a waste of time, and now, we believe, could be even worse than a waste of time.
Leave last year’s content labelled with last year’s date, and write new, quality content, and label it with the current year.
The Bottom Line
Build your Web content for the visitor. Provide the best possible visitor experience, with regard to the content you provide, how it’s organized, its currency, and its relevance. By doing this, you’ll build an effective site that turns visitors into customers, and you’ll also be giving Google just what it wants to put your site in first place in its listings.
Of course, it’s also not a bad idea to hire an expert in how Google understands things, such as myself, to be sure that your great content is presented in such a way that Google can recognize its greatness!