SSW Foursquare

Rules to Better Google Rankings and SEO - 41 Rules

googlelogo color 272x92dp
Figure: Google, the most popular search engine in the world

Google is, by a country mile, the most popular search engine in the world. It's popular because it seems to rank pages so accurately and quickly, time and time again. The secret to its success is its top secret Page Rank Algorithm. Google developed its page ranking system in an effort to increase the quality of search results and has left all of its competitors for dead. As a result, search engine optimization (SEO) gurus are always looking to find new ways to increase their Google rankings.

As we all know, a website is a pretty nifty thing to have for a myriad of different reasons. But the truth is that its worth is derived from the people that surf it, and if no one is surfing it, then it becomes useless. So who's the biggest website referrer? The answer is Google in almost every case.

So what's your position for Google rankings? Our SEO consultants have brought together some common strategies to influence your Google rankings and improve your websites Google Friendliness. You can improve your placement by following this expert guide we have collaborated together, which will result in the promotion of your website. There is a plethora of information out there and we've brought it all together to show you some common strategies to influence your Google rankings and improve your website's "Google Friendliness".

Want potential customers to notice you first? Check SSW's Pay per Click consulting page.

  1. Do you know how Google ranks pages in 2024?


    Google's remarkable success in search engine technology is largely due to its sophisticated ranking algorithms. While the original PageRank algorithm laid the foundation, Google's approach to ranking pages has evolved significantly to combat spammy content and ensure quality. Let's explore how Google ranks pages as of 2024, considering the most recent updates and principles.

    Evolution of Google's Algorithm

    The Original PageRank Algorithm

    Formula: PR(A) = (1-d) + d (PR(T1)/C(T1) + ... + PR(Tn)/C(Tn))

    Explanation: PR stands for PageRank, 'A' represents the number of links from page A, 'd' is a damping factor, and 'T' represents pages linking to 'A'. Essentially, when a page links to another, it endorses its quality. More endorsements equate to higher perceived quality.

    Modern SEO Factors
    • While PageRank remains a factor, modern SEO includes numerous other elements:
    • On-page factors: Keyword proximity, frequency, and repetition.
    • Inbound anchor text relevance.
    • User engagement metrics: Time spent on page, bounce rate.
    • Mobile compatibility.
    • Page loading speed.
    • Content quality: Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T).

    Recent Algorithm Updates

    Googles Search updates

    September 2023 Update

    AI-generated Content: Google acknowledged the difficulty in distinguishing between human-written and AI-generated content. Emphasis was placed on content quality adhering to E-E-A-T principles, regardless of the content's origin.

    March 2024 Core Update
    • Timeline: Rolled out between March 5 and April 26, 2024.
    • Objective: To promote or reward high-quality web pages, not to penalize.
    • Global Impact: Affected all regions and languages.
    • Result: Aimed to reduce low-quality, unoriginal, and unhelpful content by 45%.

    Observations: Many websites, especially those mass-generating AI content, saw declines in rankings or were completely deindexed for violating Google's guidelines or employing questionable SEO tactics.

    March 2024 Spam Update

    Timeline: Rolled out between March 5 and March 20, 2024, with a subsequent update on May 5, 2024.

    Objective: To penalize spam techniques that violate Google's spam policies.

    Global Impact: Affected all regions and languages.

    Targets: General search spam, scaled content, expired domain abuse, and site reputation abuse (in May 2024 update).

    Recovery: Sites affected should review and comply with Google's spam policies. Recovery can take many months and is subject to periodic refreshes.Key Principles for SEO Success

    May 2024 Update

    Timeline: Rolled out in early May 2024.

    Objective: To further refine content quality assessments and target spammy websites.

    Global Impact: Affected all regions and languages.

    Results: Quickly after implementation, many sites were heavily penalised or completely deindexed for violating Google's guidelines or using dubious SEO tactics. Websites generating mass AI content for organic traffic saw declines in rankings or were removed from the index.

    Content Quality

    High-quality content that answers user queries effectively and follows E-E-A-T principles is paramount. Ensure your content is thorough, accurate, and created by experts.

    User Engagement

    Monitor and improve user engagement metrics. Content that keeps users engaged and satisfied will rank higher Google calls this "people first content".

    Technical SEO

    Ensure your site is mobile-friendly and loads quickly. Technical aspects like site structure, meta tags, and schema markup are also crucial. Google call this a "great page experience".

    Backlinks and Authority

    Focus on building high-quality backlinks from authoritative sources. Your site's domain strength and the authority of linking sites play a significant role in rankings.


    SEO is an ever-evolving field. Stay updated with Google's algorithm changes and adjust your strategies accordingly.

    Avoid Search Engine-First Content

    Create content for people, not search engines. Avoid tactics like extensive automation, writing on trending topics without value, or changing dates to appear fresh. Focus on adding value and meeting the needs of your audience.


    SEO success in 2024 hinges on creating high-quality content that addresses user needs, maintaining technical excellence, and continuously adapting to Google's algorithm changes. By adhering to these principles, you can improve your site's visibility and ranking on Google.

  2. Do you know if Google has indexed your page?

    First things first. Check if your web page has been indexed by Google. Don't be surprised if Google is already one step ahead of you - its Google bots could have already crawled your site without you knowing. So what's the best way to find out if Google has indexed your web page? Just search for its exact link.

    If you can't find it, go to Google's Search Console and submit your URL.

    sending url to google
    Figure: Sending a website to Google

    Note: Internal pages should be crawled automatically, so you only need to inform the root of the site.


    If your website is built on WordPress, make sure you have unselected the "Discourage search engines from indexing this site" option. This can be found under Reading Settings :

    wordpress search engines
    Figure: WordPress has an out-of-the-box functionality to discourage search engines to show the site

  3. Do you know that Content is king?

    Content is essential! If you want to be found in the top results on Google, you must choose the best keywords for your target audience. First, you must do some research on what your target audience is looking for and then focus on making great content for your website that is related to these keywords. This will help your domain to be recognized as an authority (especially if are blogging too). You can use the Google Keyword Planner to help with this, which is a free and helpful tool built into your Google Ads account that can show you how a list of keywords might perform.

    angular rule

    Figure: Good Example – Angular rule updated! Adding new content or updating your webpages gives you good Google juice and it has the main keyword for “Angular” in the title and throughout the content making it easier for a search engine to find. Google loves this!

  4. Tools - Do you know when to use Google Search Console or Google Analytics?

    Both Google Search Console and Google Analytics are crucial tools for understanding and improving your website's performance. Here's how they differ and when to use each:

    Google Search Console

    Specially made to help you improve your SEO, use Google Search Console to manage and monitor your site's presence in Google Search.

    Key features:

    • Search traffic: View queries, impressions, clicks, and average positions
    • Index coverage: Check which pages are indexed and fix any issues
    • Crawl errors: Identify and resolve errors that prevent search engines accessing your website
    • Mobile usability: Spot and fix mobile usability problems
    • Security issues: Get alerts on security problems like hacking or malware
    • Backlinks: Find out which external sites link to yours

    When to use:

    • Monitor search performance
    • Fix indexing issues
    • Check sitemap status
    • Review search query data

    Google Analytics

    If you want to gain insights into your website's traffic and user behaviour, this is the right tool to use.

    Key features:

    • Audience reports: Learn about your visitors' demographics, interests, and behaviour
    • Acquisition reports: Track how visitors find your site (organic search, social media, paid ads)
    • Behavior reports: Understand user interactions, such as pageviews and bounce rates
    • Conversion tracking: Measure the success of your marketing efforts
    • Real-time data: Monitor user activity as it happens

    When to use:

    • Analyze site traffic and user behavior
    • Evaluate marketing campaign effectiveness
    • Track conversion goals and e-commerce performance
    • Understand visitor demographics and interests
    • Improve user experience and content strategy

    In a nutshell… 🥜

    • Google Search Console: Use for search presence management, and for fixing indexing issues
    • Google Analytics: Use for comprehensive traffic analysis, and for understanding user behaviour
  5. Do you monitor your SEO effectively?

    SEO means working with a large amount of data. A single website can have even up to thousands of subpages, keywords, and internal links. If it’s operating in a competitive industry, it needs external links from thousands of domains. What if you’re optimizing several websites? The result? The era of Big Data in SEO.

    What should be monitored in SEO

    1. Organic traffic - Non-paid traffic to your website
    2. Availability (Uptime) - Consistently accessible to users
    3. Loading speed - Page speed matters for both user experience and search engine rankings
    4. Correct functioning - Regularly check for any issues affecting the proper functioning of your website
    5. Domain and SSL certificate expiration - Stay on top of domain and SSL certificate renewals to avoid interruptions
    6. Blacklist status - Ensure your website isn't listed on any blacklists, which can harm your reputation
    7. Robot blockers - Check for any factors that might be blocking search engine bots from indexing your content

    Example SEO processes (used at SSW)

    1. The Marketing Manager checks the SEO monthly and analyses trends in keywords, using the tool SEMrush (see below)
    2. PBIs are created with any necessary changes/investigation
    3. The Marketing Team works with the Website Team to analyze the SEO progress each month or two when the team catches up


    SEMrush connects to Google Analytics and provides an informative and customizable user interface for understanding a website's data. It helps show how a site ranks on Google, what keywords to use, comparisons to competitors and more. Its goal is to help improve online visibility and marketing strategies.

    Figure: SEMrush dashboard shows information we can use to improve our website

    Figure: Easy to understand under what search term our website ranks good/bad

  6. Do you know to report on your SEO results?

    Maintaining a consistent and focused SEO strategy is essential for improving and sustaining your website’s search engine rankings. It’s important to report on your results so you do timely adjustments to the strategy.

    SEO reporting should ideally be conducted on a monthly basis as this frequency allows for a comprehensive view of performance trends.

    The metrics included in this report are vital for several reasons:

    • Website performance overview: Understanding traffic patterns and user engagement helps identify what is working and where improvements are needed.
    • Keyword performance: Tracking keyword rankings and performance is crucial for ensuring that the content aligns with search intent and remains competitive.
    • Backlink analysis: Backlinks are a significant factor in search engine algorithms. Monitoring new and lost backlinks helps maintain and improve domain authority.
    • Technical SEO: A healthy, fast-loading, and error-free site is favoured by search engines. Regular technical audits prevent issues that could negatively impact rankings.
    • Action plan for next month: Setting clear goals and outlining actionable steps ensures continuous improvement and strategic focus.

    Core Monthly SEO Report Template

    Here’s a template you can follow to report on your SEO:


    • Objective: Brief overview of the goals for the month
    • Key Achievements: Highlight major wins, such as ranking improvements and traffic increases

    Website Performance Overview

    • Total Organic Traffic: Compare current month vs. previous month
    • Bounce Rate: Evaluate user engagement
    • Average Session Duration: Assess how long visitors stay on the site

    Keyword Performance

    • Top Performing Keywords: List keywords with the most traffic and highest rankings
    • Keywords Gained/Lost: Highlight significant changes in keyword rankings
    • Total Backlinks: Compare current month vs. previous month
    • New Backlinks Acquired: Highlight significant new backlinks

    Technical SEO

    • Site Health Score: Overview of technical issues affecting SEO
    • Page Speed Insights: Average page load time and recommendations for improvement

    Action Plan for Next Month

    • Key Focus Areas: Define primary goals for the upcoming month
    • SEO Improvements: List specific actions to take, such as technical fixes and link-building strategies
  7. Do you design your webpages for SEO with an SEO checklist?

    Do you find yourself reworking pages on your website that weren't created with SEO in mind?

    One of the key challenges for a business is ensuring that its webpages are favored by search engines. It's a delicate balance between providing value to your audience and ticking the right boxes for search engine algorithms.

    The best way to make sure your website has good SEO is to ensure that every webpage you create starts with solid SEO. To do this, you should use an SEO components checklist. The checklist below is tailored to incorporate best SEO practices for a new webpage. If you are creating a webpage, you should make sure your page includes all of the elements on the list.

    However, not everybody who wants to create a webpage is actually doing the creation (sometimes they will give the task to a developer). Therefore, to make sure that content does not get lost in the creation process, it is important to have a streamlined procedure. Creating a GitHub Issue is the best way for non-developers to send the request for a new webpage to their developers. So, the best place to keep your checklist is in a GitHub Issue template that exists specifically for requesting a new page on your website. See this rule about GitHub issue templates.

    To see an example in action, see the template for adding a new page to SSW.Website. The user replaces all the placeholders with their information, and when a developer creates the page they will know to include the important SEO components.

  8. Do you know about Brand Power and Social Signals?

    Social signals are human interaction metrics on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, Medium, etc. Some examples of social signals are: likes, dislikes, shares, votes, pins, views, etc. which commonly help to showcase popularity and affinity for a specific piece of content.

    While social media doesn’t directly affect your Google ranking, social sharing does directly increase the visibility of your page. That increased visibility means it may get noticed by a creator of content, such as a blogger, journalist, or an author. That creator may mention it in a subsequent piece of content and if they linked to it, that page is then more likely to rank well.

    Therefore, it’s the combination of good branding and a strong social media presence that will make the difference here. Good engagement, and of course good content, will make your results more relevant to others. So, make sure you link your social media to your website and vice versa.

    Always include your social media signals, on your website so that people can easily connect with you and stay connected.

    sharing Figure: How Social sharing indirectly affects your Google Ranking

  9. Do you design websites and apps to be responsive (aka mobile-friendly)?

    Are you ensuring your websites and apps are responsive, or mobile-friendly? While you might have a high-resolution monitor at your workstation or home, it's important to remember that many users access content through their mobile phones or tablets. 📱

    Your goal should be to create designs that seamlessly adapt to various screen sizes, from small mobile displays to large desktop monitors.

    Responsive design remains crucial in today's digital landscape. It enables websites and apps to dynamically adjust their layout and content presentation based on the user's device, ensuring a consistent and optimal viewing experience across all platforms.

    However, responsive design is just the beginning. To truly cater to mobile users, it's essential to consider factors beyond mere adaptability. This includes optimizing for touch interaction, prioritizing fast page load speeds, and crafting concise and easily digestible content on smaller screens.

    The 10 essential mobile user experience (UX) elements

    When designing for mobile web, several factors are particularly relevant for ensuring a smooth UX. Here are the most important ones:

    1. Responsive Design: Ensure your website layout is responsive and adjusts seamlessly to various screen sizes, resolutions, and orientations, providing a consistent experience across devices.
    2. Fast Loading Speed: Mobile users expect quick access to content. Optimize your website for fast loading times by minimizing file sizes, leveraging browser caching, and optimizing images.
    3. Thumb-Friendly Navigation: Design navigation menus and interactive elements to be easily accessible and operable with the thumb, considering the natural reach of users holding their devices in one hand.
    4. Clear Call-to-Actions (CTAs): Use clear and prominent CTAs that are easily tappable on mobile screens. Ensure they stand out from surrounding content and provide concise instructions for users.
    5. Optimized Content: Tailor content for mobile by using concise and scannable text, high-quality images optimized for mobile viewing, and prioritizing relevant information above the fold.
    6. Gesture Support: Incorporate intuitive touch gestures (such as swiping, pinching, and tapping) to enhance user interactions and provide intuitive navigation within your website.
    7. Cross-Device Compatibility: Test your website across various mobile devices and browsers to ensure compatibility and consistent performance.
    8. Mobile-Friendly Forms: Simplify input forms by minimizing the number of fields, using mobile-friendly input controls, and implementing features like auto-fill and input validation to enhance the user experience.
    9. Page Layout and Content Hierarchy: Optimize your website's layout and content hierarchy for mobile screens, ensuring that key information is prominently displayed and easily accessible without excessive scrolling or zooming.
    10. Accessibility: Prioritize accessibility features such as resizable text, high contrast modes, and screen reader compatibility to ensure that all users, including those with disabilities, can access and interact with your website effectively.

    💡 Tip: Google PageSpeed Insights is a valuable tool for optimizing your website's performance, including its mobile user experience.

    ssw france mobile performance google pagespeed
    Figure: Google PageSpeed Insights provides both lab and field data about your site's loading speed on mobile devices, along with actionable recommendations to improve performance.

  10. Do you have a Schema code on your website?

    Schema is Microdata that helps a search engine read and serve your custom content. The schema markup is in the HTML code of your site. If you’ve ever used rich snippets, you’ll understand exactly what schema is all about.

    When a search engines crawls through your website and find this data, it formats it neatly into a rich snippet that gets displayed in the search results. For example, in a rating rich snippet for a recipe, you'll see a group of stars representing a rating that appears under a websites page title. The number of reviews also shows up beside the stars and the overall rating number. This is just one type of schema; there are many more to explore. provides a list of the most common types of schema markup. You can visit the Organization of Schemas page to see this list. Check out the types that are best suited to your business.

    choc cake

    Figure: Good example. Result from a Google Search of “Chocolate cake.” Not only is it showing you a link to the website, but the Schema Code is showing a small picture of the cake (yum), the ranking in the form of stars, some of the ingredients and the calories, all before you have clicked on any links.

  11. Do you have a powerful domain?

    This is not one of the main ones, but still relevant. Your domain name is important!

    Here are a few things:

    • Using exact word match - Using keywords that closely match your product or service in your domain name can be beneficial for SEO and user understanding. However, it's essential to strike a balance between relevance and the natural flow of the domain name. Example: if you search for the word car, it’s more likely that the first search result will have “car” on it.
    • Maintaining the website's seniority - Older domains may have more authority and trust with search engines. Newer domains can still perform well but may need more time to establish authority.
    • Avoiding dashes - Avoiding hyphens in your domain name is generally a good practice because it can make the domain easier to remember and type. Additionally, domains without hyphens often appear cleaner and more professional.
    • Using auto-renewal - Setting the domain to auto-renew is a smart practice to ensure you don't accidentally lose control of your domain due to expiration. Don’t be like Australian PM Scott Morrison who lost control of his domain name to a prankster.

    Figure: Bad example - What happens when you lose your domain to a prankster and you are the PM

    Figure: Good Example - This website has its main product 'car' in its domain

  12. Do you know PageRank is no longer relevant?

    A few years ago, PageRank was the best way to track the relevance of a website. However, in 2009, Google had removed PageRank from its Webmaster Tools, saying:

    "We've been telling people for a long time that they shouldn't focus on PageRank so much. Many site owners seem to think it's the most important metric for them to track, which is simply not true."

    Another fact confirming this is that PageRank indicator was never available in Google's own Chrome browser - launched in 2008.

    The visible page rank is now updated very infrequently. The last known update was in November 2013. In October 2014, Matt Cutts announced that another visible PageRank update would not be coming.

    Note:  Even though "Toolbar" PageRank is less important for SEO purposes, the existence of back-links from more popular websites continues to push a web page higher up in search rankings.

  13. Do you provide security to your website visitors?

    Google has confirmed that they use HTTPS as a ranking signal, so it’s important that your website is secure. It also helps your users feel safer when using your website especially if they must supply any sensitive data. This is especially true when they are shopping with a credit card.

    To stay secure, you will require a website security certificate. A website security certificate is a validation and encryption tool, part of the HTTPS protocol, which secures and encrypts data going back and forth between the server and the client browser. It is issued by a trusted certification authority (CA) who verifies the identity of the owner of a website.

    Previously you have had to pay for this service, but there is now a free CA called Lets Encrypt that issues free security certificates for 3 months. Renewing every 3 months might be a pain, so we recommend using a certification tool like Certify the Web which will do this for you if you go the free route.


    Figure: Bad example – As you can see, your web-browser will let you know if the website you’re accessing is not secure


    Figure: Good example – SSW’s website is secure and does not share your information

  14. Do you provide a good user experience?

    It’s essential to have a functional website. It must be user-friendly and focused on providing the best experience they could have if they are either shopping or looking for information about your business/service. Keep in mind that your call to action is the gateway to increasing your conversions on web pages, so make them obvious, no one likes to hunt for what they need!

    sweetspot Figure: some tips on how SEO can help your Google Ranking

  15. Do you have a good page speed?

    Page speed remains a critical element for the online user experience.

    The demand for instant information has made faster loading times more crucial than ever. Users today are less patient, and if a webpage takes too long to load, they are likely to abandon it in frustration. This not only results in a lost visitor but also poses a risk to potential conversions. 👎

    💡Tip: To gauge and enhance your website's performance, consider utilizing the free Google tool, PageSpeed Insights, which provides valuable insights into your URL's loading speed.

    Use this free Google tool named PageSpeed Insights to test your URL.

    A website with large, uncompressed images, excessive plugins, and unoptimized code can lead to slow loading times. Visitors may encounter delays, increasing the likelihood of frustration and abandonment. This negatively impacts user experience and potential conversions.

    Bad example - Things that will negatively impact the website UX

    On the contrary, a well-optimized website employs techniques such as image compression, efficient coding, and minimal use of plugins. These optimizations contribute to:

    • Faster page loading
    • Enhancing user satisfaction
    • Increasing the chances of retaining visitors and conversions

    Good example - Good performance will improve the website's UX

  16. Do you know the importance of measuring Core Web Vitals?

    Core Web Vitals are super important metrics to measure how good your page's performance is. It's also incredibly important to how Google ranks page results.

    The most important Core Web Vitals at time of writing is Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), Interaction To Next Paint (INP) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

    Types of Web Vitals

    Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

    LCP measures the time it takes for the largest element in the current viewport to load, i.e. is measuring how long it takes most of the page to load. Read more on Google's page on Largest Contentful Paint (LCP).

    Interaction To Next Paint (INP)

    INP measures the responsiveness of the page, i.e. the latency when you interact with elements on the page. Read more on Google's page on Interaction To Next Paint (INP).

    Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

    CLS measures how much elements have shifted on the page from the first load. For example, adding an element after a fetch call has completed will result in a higher CLS value. Read more on Google's page on Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

    Measuring Web Vitals

    Framework-Agnostic (web-vitals)

    To capture these metrics in most frontend environments, you would use the web-vitals npm package.

    import { onCLS, onFID, onLCP } from 'web-vitals';
    function sendToTracker (metric) {
      // Send to an aggregate of your choice i.e. Azure App Insights, Google Analytics, Sentry, etc.


    Next.js has a built in custom React hook to track vitals, with additional information relating to Next.js performance such as hydration and rendering time.

    import { useReportWebVitals } from 'next/web-vitals'
    function App {
      useReportWebVitals((metric) => {
        switch ( {
          case "CLS":
          case "FID":
          case "LCP":
          case "Next.js-hydration":
          case "Next.js-render":
            // Send to an aggregate of your choice i.e. Azure App Insights, Google Analytics, Sentry, etc. 
      return <>{/* ... */}</>

    Using Web Vitals Data

    When ingesting Core Web Vitals data, it's important to extract only the important information - as this data will likely be coming from every page visitor.

    The primary focus of optimization work should be focused on the 75th percentile of the worst scores, as that usually represents the average device that users will be accessing your site on. It's also important to focus on improving higher percentiles, such as the 90th (P90), 95th (P95) and 99th (P99).

    There are a variety of services that you can use for collecting data Core Web Vitals data:

    To track this data on App Insights you can use trackMetric:

      { name: "CLS", average: metric.value }, 
      { page: currentPagePath }

    web vitals workbook
    Figure: Good example - Azure Application Insights workbook we use to track Web Vitals on the SSW Website

  17. SEO - Do you have backlinks pointing to your website?

    A backlink is any “incoming” or “inbound” link to your website. Besides the total number of backlinks directing people to your website, the relevance of these links is also important. Quality is key. We suggest using tools like or to check it.

    Who's linking to you is an important question for SEO strategies and one that can be easily answered. To find out how many inbound links you have and where they're coming from, go to and type in "link:" then the URL of your page.

  18. Do you have a Google My Business (aka Places) entry?

    With Google's increased emphasis on local search and promoting local services, it is important that companies have a Google My Business entry so that their businesses can be found easily in searches.

    Login using your business administrator account and add your business.

    Having a Google My Business entry will allow their entries to display when users search for services in a local area.

  19. Do you know the best ways to generate traffic to your website?

    Creating more pages with links to the others is a good way to generate traffic to your website. It follows the rule that having more pages is better than having excessively long pages. For the pages you create, here are some methods to increase their Google performance:

    • Writing Blogs about it (content is king!)
    • Recording videos to be embedded
    • Sharing in social medias, like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram
    • Getting other websites to link to your page
  20. SEO - Do you add attributes to your image HTML?

    What do you do when you want images to link to your site? In the case of images, Google will look for the "alt" text and factor this into the search results. So when you ask someone else to link to your site with an image you should always add attributes like "alt" and "title" into the code. Here's an example.

    Hold the cursor over the image below and see what happens.

    Figure: Bad example - No attributes to the image

    Figure: Good example - Search engines will index this text. Scroll over

  21. SEO - Do you include important keywords where it matters?

    As a general rule, you should try to get all the great keywords in the title, headings and first few paragraphs of your content.

    The SSW Rules to Better Google Rankings and SEO can be taken as an example. We thought about some keywords people would use if looking for some Google tips and tricks on how to increase your rankings. The words used for the URL were also chosen with Search Engine Optimization in mind. Here are some of the keywords we expect to be relevant in searches:

    • "Increase Google friendliness"
    • "Better/Increase Google ranking"
    • "SEO/Search Engine Optimization"

    Note: In Australia, we spell optimization with an "s" (optimisation) but most people searching online would use the American way of spelling it. So this has to be taken into consideration).

    In fact, SSW Rules pages are testimonies to the fact that keywords and content are the keys to better Google rankings. They are usually in Google's first results if you search for "rules to better something". They naturally also rank very well in other search engines.

  22. SEO - Do you make your "title", "h1", and "h2" tags descriptive?

    The <title>, <h1>, and <h2> tags need to be descriptive. They should briefly describe the purpose or content of the page.

    Have a look at the following 2 images. The first image is a bad example as the title bar and page heading are not very descriptive. The second image is a better example as title bar and page heading are more informative.

    bad title headings
    Figure: Bad example - Non-descriptive title/headings

    good title headings
    Figure: Good example - Descriptive title/headings

    We have a program called SSW Code Auditor to check for this rule.

  23. Do you use "301" code to redirect renamed or moved pages?

    Don't lose your Google juice when you rename a file. Do not use META refresh to redirect pages - "301" code is the most efficient and Search Engine Friendly method for webpage redirection. There are different ways to implement and it should preserve your search engine rankings for that particular page. If you have to change file names or move pages around, always use the code "301", which is interpreted as "moved permanently".

    How to do a "301" redirect in .aspx

    Any time you move a page or just delete a page you should add a "301" redirect to a new page or a page for missing pages.

    1. You can add a 301 redirect in code:

      <% Response.RedirectPermanent("NEW PAGE URL HERE") %>

      Although this works well it is difficult to manage the list of redirects and you need to keep the page around.

    2. You can write an HTTP handler
      This is better as you can choose where to store the redirect list, but you still need to manage a custom codebase.
    3. You can use rewrite maps in IIS URL Rewrite to add a number of redirects
      See Storing URL rewrite mappings in a separate file  for an explanation of how to use rewrite maps.

    Note:  If you are using a source control, like TFS, lock the old file so no-one can edit it by mistake.


    WordPress automatically redirects posts when you change the URL (permalink). No further action is required.

  24. SEO - Do you use descriptive links?

    The way your inbound links are worded makes a big difference. They play an important factor for search engine results and for the users.

    Having descriptive links with relevant words improves your website SEO and gives a more friendly experience to users.

    For example, if a website had millions of inbound links that described it as "Movies for Free", when someone searches for "free movies" on Google, it would point to this website.

    So what does this mean? All those links that are pointing to pages on your website displayed as 'More', 'Link', 'This' or 'Click Here' aren't doing you any favors when it comes to increasing your Google rankings.

    "For tips and tricks to increase your Google Ranking click here"

    Figure: Bad example #1 - Generic words on links won't help your website rankings

    "Check out this link for tips and tricks to increase your Google Ranking"

    Figure: Bad example #2 - Generic words on links won't help your website rankings

    "For tips and tricks to increase your Google Ranking read this"

    Figure: Bad example #3 - Generic words on links won't help your website rankings

    Also, if you make your the link the entire URL, it won't be very readable to users. You should replace it with a descriptive sentence using relevant words.

    "For tips and tricks to increase your Google Ranking go to"

    Figure: Bad example #4 - Whole URL on links won't help your users

    "For tips and tricks to increase your Google Rankings go to Rules to Better Google Rankings"

    Figure: Good example - Descriptive links will help your website rankings and the users

    You can also use links to give people a chance to investigate further on a topic. In which case, give the hyperlink enough and consistent info so they know what exactly they're clicking on.

    "China is a booming market and now is the time to take advantage of this growing user base. If you have a successful application that you would like to bring to the Chinese market, then working with SSW can help streamline your entry into this market. More on SSW Chinafy."

    Figure: Good example - Give users context with a link at the end to get more information on the topic

  25. Do you use dashes in your URLs?

    For maximum readability and SEO use kebab-case (dashes) in your URLs and make them short and friendly.

    Learn more on Best Practices for URL Structure.

    Figure: Bad example - No kebab-case in URL

    Figure: Bad example - PascalCase (better readability and still works in small caps, but other people might share it without the MixedCase) on word documentation

    ...will become

    Figure: Bad example - spaces it will show up in your URL structure as 20%, which is bad for readability and SEO

    Figure: OK example - underscored (snake_case) URLs have good readability but are not recommended by Google

    Figure: Good example - kebab-case is recommended by Google. Note: Don't use any uppercase

    Not for domains! This is only for pages and documents. Domains are bad when they have dashes in them.

    Read more on SEO 101: Hyphens vs. Underscores in URLs.

    More info

    You can install the IIS URL Rewrite Module for IIS7 you can make ugly URL's much more friendly.

    friendly url rule
    Figure: Rewrite both the HTML in the page and the incoming URL's to be friendly

    The caveat here is that it will only work if the URL is in the clear on the page.

    Note: This could only be done with certain links as others are postbacks as well.

  26. Do you make your data-driven pages easier to find?

    Google crawls data-driven websites. There are a few considerations when it comes to optimizing a data-driven website. The best way to get your database-driven website crawled by Google is to have an index of your dynamic pages so that the Google bots have a singular point of reference to your dynamic pages. It's a slow process, but it will be well worth it.

    Take a look at how we tackle this issue. We have a knowledge base with hundreds of pages and we list them all here on our Knowledge Database index page. We know that Google has crawled them because it shows up on Google results. We applied a sitemap.

    Figure: It is hard for search engines to know which option from the drop down field they should go into. Here we add a link to our Knowledge Base Index

    Figure: By default the dynamic pages behind this page would be invisible to Google. You need to provide a link that will make them visible to Google

  27. Do you give the written text when you publish an image with text in it?

    This is one of the most common errors tech bloggers do. Most bloggers do not think (or remember) to add more than just the image of the error screen capture.

    If you add the text of the error message it will help others when they search, and help their Google juice.

    Let's look at 3 examples:

    Figure: Bad Example - this image gives no context of the surrounding areas, and without the text as well you get no google love

    Figure: OK Example - this image is great because it gives context by including the surrounding area, but you still need the text for SEO benefits

    Figure: Good example - if you add the image and this text above, you get full marks

  28. Do you avoid the temptation of link farms?

    There are some SEO techniques that are quick and easy fixes, like being in a link farm. To join a link farm people pay to be part of a collection of web pages where their sole purpose is to provide interconnecting links and harvest pages ranking amongst members. Many of these "get ranked quick" methods have some serious repercussions. If you are caught in a link farm or have hidden text in your pages, you'll eventually get caught and sentenced with the Google "death penalty". In some cases, entire domains were removed from the search engine indexes in order to prevent them from influencing search results. So after all is said and done a safe and sure way to increase your website's ranking is to provide useful information that other website s will want to link to. Google's concept of the Internet is that it should be filled with web pages that have high-quality information and based on this ideal, it rewards high-quality content and penalizes crud.

    Many of these link farms and websites that subscribe to them have been identified and banned by Google so you should never be lured into the temptation of quick easy SEO solution. Employing dodgy optimization techniques is a gamble; you're gambling that the smart people over at Google aren't as smart as you.

  29. Do you avoid using frames on your website?

    Websites that use frames often don't get crawled by search engine spiders. The web was designed in such a way that every URL is supposed to correspond to a web page, and with framed websites, this is not the case. We recommend that you avoid frames altogether.

    Here is what Google says on "framed sites":

    "the Navigation Summary and Site Overlay reports for sites with frames is not likely to provide useful information, since every frame with tag on it will be recorded as a separate pageview. Additionally, the order of these pageviews will depend on the order in which the frames are loaded, instead of the actual navigation path taken by your users."

  30. Do you avoid having important content in JavaScript?

    JavaScript is becoming more and more in common the sites we build everyday. We use them for fancy menus, dropdowns or scroll overs, even the whole website can be written in JavaScript.

    However, sometimes search engines can't read JavaScript in all of our pages. It's known that Google can index some content inside JavaScript, but not all. If you keep important information that should show up in Google searches, you must make sure it is placed inside normal HTML so that you know it will be indexed. This keeps the code clean and helps search engines index pages.

  31. Do you submit all your software to download sites?

    As suggested a great way to increase your websites search engine rankings is to get inbound links towards your website. Being a software vendor we do this by submitting our products to freeware/shareware download sites like Shareware River and Tucows. So if you find a site that accepts software submissions make sure you submit your entire product range, not just one.

  32. SEO - Do you use Robots.txt file effectively?

    If you decide to use the redirect method when linking to external pages from your site, it's a good idea to have a robots.txt file in your root directory. In the "robots.txt" file, you specify that the robot (or spider as they're sometimes known) should not look in the redirects folder. This will avoid the problem that can sometimes occur, where a Google search will incorrectly display content from another site as if it was from your site.

    Also, this avoids incorrect hits on your redirects, mucking up your statistics which is one of the main reasons you would use redirects in the first place!

  33. Do you keep your files under the Google file size limit?

    A maximum file size may be enforced per crawler. Content which is after the maximum file size may be ignored. Google currently enforces a size limit of 500kb.

    Regarding other files:

    • All files larger than 30MB will be completely ignored.
    • HTML, the search appliance indexes up to 2.5MB of the document, caches it, and discards the rest.
    • A non-HTML format, the search appliance:
    • Downloads the non-HTML file.
    • Converts the non-HTML file to HTML.
    • If the converted content is less than 4,000,000 bytes, indexes the first 2MB of the HTML file. (Take note that 4MB=4,194,304 bytes.) If the converted content exceeds 4,000,000 bytes, the document is not indexed. However, the document and a link to it do appear in search results.
    • Caches the first 2MB of the HTML file.
    • Discards the rest of the HTML file and the non-HTML file.
  34. Do you register your domain for a long time?

    If you own a domain and want Google to instantly recognize it as a permanent domain then register the maximum (10 years for .com depending on the domain provider) you can in one go. Google will assume it is permanent and rate you higher sooner.

    Figure: Good example - Domain registered for 10 years

  35. Spelling - Do you use US English?

    Did you know that all pilots around the world must speak English? Back then, the decision of what language to use was English, since the US invented the first plane. Like the sky, in the web world, it is better to use one version of English. Since the US invented the web, let's go with that.

    If you are an Australian or British this rule is controversial, but it is worth it for the following reasons:

    • Aim for the majority. Most web traffic is from American users and they expect American (most probably will assume anything different is an error)
    • SEO - On the practical side, more web searches are going to be returned for US spelling of words.

    Figure: Good example - the US English is the selected language

    Don't forget to check your pages for spelling errors after making edits.

  36. Do you use meta description tags?

    One of the easiest ways to get the ball rolling with your web pages and being noticed by search engines is to use HTML <meta> tags. Years ago, many webmasters took this as an opportunity to abuse the <meta> tags and the search engines found that the quality of search results was suffering. Today, search engines don't give the <meta> tags much weight - Google announced in September of 2009 that neither meta descriptions nor meta keywords affects Google's ranking algorithms for web searches.

    However, it's still beneficial to complete this quick and easy task.

    There are a few <meta> tags you should use, and these are the most common:

    • META DESCRIPTION - Search engines will use the information in the <meta> description tag as well as the <title> to display a brief summary of your site that goes along with its link on search results. SEO experts recommends it to have between 50–160 characters. A well-crafted meta description can improve click-through rates from search results. Learn more on Meta Description
    • TITLE TAG - The title tag is crucial for SEO as it tells search engines what the page is about. It's also the headline that appears in search results. Keep it under 50-60 characters to ensure it displays properly in search results. Include primary keywords relevant to the page content, and ensure your title aligns with what users are likely searching for and addresses their needs or queries. Each page should have a unique title to avoid duplicate content issues and ensure each page can rank for different queries.
    • HEADER TAGS (H1, H2, H3 etc). - Header tags help structure content and signal to search engines the hierarchy of information. The H1 tag should contain the primary keyword and clearly describe the page content. Use H2, H3, etc., to organize subheadings and support the main topic.
    • ALT TEXT FOR IMAGES - Alt text provides a description of images, helping search engines understand the content of the images. Use relevant keywords but avoid keyword stuffing. Alt text also improves accessibility for visually impaired users.
    • CANONICAL TAG - The canonical tag helps prevent duplicate content issues by specifying the preferred version of a webpage. It tells search engines which version of a URL to index and rank.
    • ROBOTS META TAG - This tag controls how search engines index and follow links on your page. Common values are "index, follow" (default), "noindex" (do not index the page), and "nofollow" (do not follow links on the page).
    • META KEYWORDS (less important) - This tag was used to help search engines classify your content. However, major search engines like Google no longer use meta keywords for ranking purposes. It's generally unnecessary to include them. Learn more on Meta Keywords: Should You Use Them?

    View more on <meta> tags

    We have a program called SSW Code Auditor to check for this rule.

  37. Do you know that you should use subdirectories, not domains?

    If you're building a website today, and your business needs to create addresses for different online directories, it can be hard to figure out the best way to go about it.

    There’s a lot of debate about this topic on the internet, so the question to ask yourself is: “Should I use subdirectories or subdomains?”

    Figure: Difference between subdirectories and subdomains

    The general consensus is that if you are starting from scratch, it’s better to use subdirectories as they’re easier to maintain and less time-consuming in the long-term. However, if you already have a domain and a lot of legacy structures in place, using subdirectories could be a big change and might not be worth it. You would need to update your properties in Google Analytics, your Google Search Console settings, a lot of redirects, and much more.

    Keep in mind, Google is now smart enough to work this out for you – it's just an extra step for Google’s bots. Watch the official video from Google Webmasters below on YouTube to find out more about this:

    Video: ubdomain or subfolder, which is better for SEO? (2 min)

    The impact of sub-directories and sub-domains on your SEO performance

    Say you want to launch a new blog on your website... learn the pros and cons of sub-directories vs sub-domains and how they affect your Search engine optimization (SEO).

    Here's a quick snap shot of the pros and cons:

    ✅ Integrates much better with the main-site for better user-experience
    ✅ Easier to track with Google Analytics
    ✅ Backlinks and social mentions generated from this link (e.g.: a blog) is better for Google juice
    ❌ Does not help generate backlinks for which the anchor text that you control (e.g. editorial links within a blog copy)

    Sub-domain e.g.

    ✅ Verify sub-domains separately
    ✅ Might be technically easier to create
    ✅ Track performance per sub-domain
    ❌ Will not rank highly or as quickly as a sub-folder
    ❌ Needs to establish its own rep/credibility through backlinks from other sites
    ❌ Visits to sub-domain are not included in your original sites website visits (not included in Google Analytics)

    In short, you may use the set-up that works for you and think about the long term plan. For SEO purposes, sub-folders are the recommended way to go.

  38. Do you track website heatmaps?

    The user experience on your site is crucial to ensuring that you are effectively converting your leads into clients, but what if this isn’t happening?

    How can you work out where your site is going wrong and why? One key way to track how users are viewing your site is heatmapping, which tracks the behaviour of your users on your site through mouse tracking and eye tracking techniques.

    This information allows you to determine areas of our site are performing efficiently and areas we need to adjust for better performance.

    ssw heatmap
    Figure: Heatmap from the SSW Consulting page

  39. SEO - Do you tag external URLs with rel=”nofollow”?

    Dofollow and nofollow links look almost the same to the regular web user. The difference between the two is only noticeable when you dig into the HTML code – the addition of the rel="nofollow” tag is what differentiates both links. The rel attribute defines the relationship between a linked resource and the current document.

    Google sees the buying or selling of links that pass PageRank as a violation of their Webmaster Guidelines aiming to reward earned links, and not paid links. As this still plays an essential role when it comes to SEO, all paid links should be tagged as “nofollow”.

    According to Google:

    rel="nofollow": Use this attribute for cases where you want to link to a page but don't want to imply any type of endorsement, including passing along ranking credit to another page.

    Other link attributes that provide webmasters with additional ways to identify to Google Search the nature of particular links are:

    rel="sponsored": Use the sponsored attribute to identify links on your site that were created as part of advertisements, sponsorships or other compensation agreements.

    rel="ugc": UGC stands for User Generated Content, and the ugc attribute value is recommended for links within user generated content, such as comments and forum posts.

    When to use “nofollow”

    As per Search Engine Journal, you are supposed to tag URLs with nofollow when the other two rel attributes mentioned above, sponsored and UGC, aren’t relevant and you don’t want the link to pass PageRank.

    Tip: It’s possible to automatically tag all links as “nofollow” on a webpage by placing a robot’s meta tag with the value “nofollow” in the header. However, the nofollow tag is more usually favoured as it allows one to nofollow some links on the page while leaving others followed, as an example if you add links pointing to your own website.

    <a href="">Azure</a> 

    Figure: Bad example - Nofollow rel tag is not present on the link above

    <a rel="nofollow" href="">Azure</a> 

    Figure: Good example - Nofollow rel was added to the URL to make sure it does not impact the landing page

  40. Do you use lowercase URLs?

    When creating URLs, it's important to stick to lowercase letters. Some search engines and servers see URLs as case-sensitive, which means you cant use uppercase and lowercase URLs interchangably.This is especially problematic when URLs that only differ in case lead to the same page, this can hurt your site's search ranking as search engines often penalize duplicate content.

    Also, using mixed case URLs can add confusion for users.

    If you need to use uppercase letters, make sure they're used consistently across your site to reduce potential issues.

  41. Do you use canonical tags to prevent duplicate content?

    Using canonical tags is essential for SEO as it helps prevent duplicate content issues, which can negatively impact your website's search engine rankings.

    Why Canonical Tags Are Important

    When multiple URLs on your website (or external sites) lead to the same or very similar content, search engines might see this as duplicate content. This can dilute your SEO efforts, as search engines may not know which version to index or might divide the value of that content between multiple pages. To resolve this, the rel="canonical" link element is used to specify the "canonical" or "preferred" version of a web page.

    Implementing Canonical Tags

    1. Identify Duplicate Content: Start by identifying pages on your site that have similar or identical content accessible through different URLs. This could be due to URL parameters, session IDs, or printer-friendly versions of pages.
    2. Choose the Preferred URL: Decide which version of the URL you want search engines to treat as the authoritative one. This is typically the version you want visitors to see.
    3. Add the Canonical Tag: On each version of the duplicate pages, add a canonical tag in the <head> section pointing to the preferred URL. For example:

      <link rel="canonical" href="" />
    4. Apply Across Your Site: Ensure every page has a canonical tag, even if there are no current duplicates. This future-proofs your site against potential duplicate content issues.

    Handling External Duplicate Content

    If other sites are reproducing your content (with permission) or if you have multiple domains, use canonical tags to point back to the original content on your site. This helps search engines consolidate ranking signals to the original content.

    Video: Canonical URLs: How Does Google Pick the One? (4 min)

We open source. Powered by GitHub