Robots.txt 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.
When referring to the homepage, a trailing slash after the hostname is optional since it leads to the same content ("https://example.com/" is the same as "https://example.com"). For the path and filename, a trailing slash would be seen as a different URL (signaling either a file or a directory), for example, "https://example.com/fish" is not the same as "https://example.com/fish/".
The depth of your articles impresses and amazes me. I love all the specific examples and tool recommendations. You discuss the importance of backlinks. How important is it to use a tool to list you on directories (Yext, Moz Local, Synup or JJUMP)? Will Google penalize you for listing on unimportant directories? Is it better to avoid these tools and get backlinks one at a time and avoid all but a few key directories?
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.
Brian, I have a burning question regarding keyword placement and frequency. You wrote: “Use the key in the first 100 words … “. What else? I use Yoast and a WDF*IDF semantic analysis tool to check the content of the top10 rankings. Pretty often I have the feeling I overdo it, although Yoast and WDF/IDF told me I use the focus keyword not often enough.

Many blogging software packages automatically nofollow user comments, but those that don't can most likely be manually edited to do this. This advice also goes for other areas of your site that may involve user-generated content, such as guest books, forums, shout-boards, referrer listings, etc. If you're willing to vouch for links added by third parties (for example, if a commenter is trusted on your site), then there's no need to use nofollow on links; however, linking to sites that Google considers spammy can affect the reputation of your own site. The Webmaster Help Center has more tips on avoiding comment spam40, for example by using CAPTCHAs and turning on comment moderation.

Link building is not JUST a numbers game, though. One link from a “trusted authority” site in Google could be all you need to rank high in your niche. Of course, the more “trusted” links you attract, the more Google will trust your site. It is evident you need MULTIPLE trusted links from MULTIPLE trusted websites to get the most from Google in 2019.


Google used to make much of its ad hoc keyword search functionality available as well, but now the Keyword Planner is behind a paywall in AdWords as a premium feature. Difficulty scores are inspired by the way Google calculates its Competition Score metric in AdWords, though most vendors calculate difficulty using PA and DA numbers correlated with search engine positions, without AdWords data blended in at all. Search Volume is a different matter, and is almost always directly lifted from AdWords. Not to mention keyword suggestions and related keywords data, which in many tools come from Google's Suggest and Autocomplete application programming interfaces (APIs).
There are three types of crawling, all of which provide useful data. Internet-wide crawlers are for large-scale link indexing. It's a complicated and often expensive process but, as with social listening, the goal is for SEO experts, business analysts, and entrepreneurs to be able to map how websites link to one another and extrapolate larger SEO trends and growth opportunities. Crawling tools generally do this with automated bots continuously scanning the web. As is the case with most of these SEO tools, many businesses use internal reporting features in tandem with integrated business intelligence (BI) tools to identify even deeper data insights. Ahrefs and Majestic are the two clear leaders in this type of crawling. They have invested more than a decade's worth of time and resources, compiling and indexing millions and billions, respectively, of crawled domains and pages.

In addition to on-page SEO factors, there are off-page SEO factors. These factors include links from other websites, social media attention, and other marketing activities outside your own website. These off-page SEO factors can be rather difficult to influence. The most important of these off-page factors is the number and quality of links pointing towards your site. The more quality, relevant sites that link to your website, the higher your position in Google will be.
Brian, I have a burning question regarding keyword placement and frequency. You wrote: “Use the key in the first 100 words … “. What else? I use Yoast and a WDF*IDF semantic analysis tool to check the content of the top10 rankings. Pretty often I have the feeling I overdo it, although Yoast and WDF/IDF told me I use the focus keyword not often enough.
All sites have a home or "root" page, which is usually the most frequented page on the site and the starting place of navigation for many visitors. Unless your site has only a handful of pages, you should think about how visitors will go from a general page (your root page) to a page containing more specific content. Do you have enough pages around a specific topic area that it would make sense to create a page describing these related pages (for example, root page -> related topic listing -> specific topic)? Do you have hundreds of different products that need to be classified under multiple category and subcategory pages?
A satisfying UX is can help your rankings, with second-order factors taken into consideration. A poor UX can seriously impact your human-reviewed rating, at least. Google’s punishing algorithms probably class pages as something akin to a poor UX if they meet certain detectable criteria e.g. lack of reputation or old-school SEO stuff like keyword stuffing a site.
Where the free Google tools can provide complementary value is in fact-checking. If you're checking out more than one of these SEO tools, you'll quickly realize this isn't an exact science. If you were to look at the PA, DA, and keyword difficulty scores across KWFinder.com, Moz, SpyFu, SEMrush, Ahrefs, AWR Cloud, and Searchmetrics for the same set of keywords, you might get different numbers across each metric separated by anywhere from a few points to dozens. If your business is unsure about an optimization campaign on a particular keyword, you can cross-check with data straight from a free AdWords account and Search Console. Another trick: Enable Incognito mode in your browser along with an extension like the free Moz Toolbar and you can run case-by-case searches on specific keywords to get an organic look at your target search results page.

Google will INDEX perhaps 1000s of characters in a title… but I don’t think anyone knows exactly how many characters or words Google will count AS a TITLE TAG when determining RELEVANCE OF A DOCUMENT for ranking purposes. It is a very hard thing to try to isolate accurately with all the testing and obfuscation Google uses to hide it’s ‘secret sauce’. I have had ranking success with longer titles – much longer titles. Google certainly reads ALL the words in your page title (unless you are spamming it silly, of course).
Thank you for the great checklist. It is really useful and gave us a couple of new hints on optimization process. We’ve been using WebSite Auditor and found it exremely helpful in site’s structure and content analysis, bringing all the statistical information on the validation errors, social mentions, duplicate stuff, etc. under one roof. Still there is so many different SEO information you sometimes cannot understand what to start with. Fortunately you answered this question. Thank you again!
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