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Technical SEO Audits: Tips For Successful Implementation

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According to BrightEdge, 68 percent of all online experiences start with a search engine, and 53 percent of website traffic comes from organic search.

Yet, only 0.78 percent of these searchers click results on the second page of Google.

That means if you’re not showing up on the front page of the SERPs, you aren’t getting traffic.

It’s clear why SEO is a top priority for marketers. In fact, 61 percent say it’s their main focus when it comes to inbound marketing.

If you can get your client’s website to the top of user search, you’ll have a much easier time improving their ROI.

Of course, mastering SEO is no easy task.

There are so many things to consider, from on-page SEO to off-page SEO, copy, content, and even technical SEO.

A truly effective SEO strategy includes all of these strategies, plus regular optimization to ensure consistent returns.

This post dives deep into technical SEO and how you can use it to increase organic traffic, show up in search, and improve your overall site experience.

What Is Technical SEO?

Technical SEO is an area of SEO that covers optimizations that improve search engine ranking by making your site easier for search engines to crawl. For example, improving site load time, checking robot.txt files, and making redirects work properly.

Essentially, it’s the process of ensuring your website can be seen, crawled, and ranked by search engines.

Search engines, such as Google, give preference to websites that meet their webmaster guidelines. The basic principles state your website content should be accurate, easy to access, and user-friendly.

If your website loads slowly, has an unresponsive design, or lacks a secure connection, your content will not meet these guidelines.

This is where technical SEO comes in, as it can help you improve the technical characteristics of your website to improve organic traffic.

Why Is Technical SEO Important?

Imagine you wrote the most amazing content in the world. It’s content that everyone should read.

People would pay buckets of money just to read it. Millions are eagerly waiting for the notification that you’ve posted this new, incredible content.

Then, the day finally comes, and the notification goes out. Customers excitedly click the link to read your article.

Then, it takes over 10 seconds for your web page to load. Readers are annoyed and they don’t want to wait.

For every second that it takes for your web page to load, you’re losing readers and increasing your bounce rate.

technical seo for bounce rate

It doesn’t matter how great that piece of content is—your site isn’t functioning well, and you’re losing precious traffic.

That’s just one example of why technical SEO is so critical.

Without it, Google and other search engines are incapable of finding, crawling, and indexing your site.

If search engines can’t access your site, you can’t rank and you become one of the 90.63 percent of websites that get no organic search traffic from Google. Yikes.

Even if your site can be found, user experience issues, like page load times and confusing navigation, can still negatively impact SEO.

Other issues like mobile optimizations, duplicate content, and site security can cause search engines to rank your site lower.

Elements of Technical SEO

While crawling and indexing are important factors in SEO, there are many more aspects to consider when performing a technical SEO audit. These include:

  • mobile optimization
  • page load speed
  • link health
  • duplicate content
  • schemas
  • crawl errors
  • image issues
  • site security
  • URL structure
  • 404 pages
  • 301 redirects
  • canonical tags
  • XML sitemaps
  • site architecture

At a minimum, a technically sound website should be secure, quick to load, easy to crawl, have clear and actionable navigation, and not contain any duplicate links or content.

It should also have systems in place to engage users even if they do hit a dead end, such as content created for 404 errors and 301 redirect pages.

Finally, a site should have structured data to help search engines understand the content. This can come in the form of schema graphs and XML sitemaps.

When conducting a technical SEO audit, be wary of over-optimizing your website. Too many improvements can work against your best intentions and actually damage your SEO rankings.

What Is an SEO Audit?

An SEO audit is the process of evaluating your website to see how well it is performing on search engines.

SEO audits are a great way to create actionable plans to outperform your competitors, identify opportunities within your website, find and fix exit points, and create better customer experiences.

You should perform technical SEO audits, on-page SEO audits, and off-page SEO audits regularly.

As you go through your audit, you’ll find places where you can improve or optimize your website performance to improve performance and keep site visitors happy.

You may not be able to fix every error at once, but you can figure out what’s going wrong and make a plan to fix it.

What Are the Key Elements of a Technical SEO Audit?

There are three key factors to look at during an SEO audit:

  • back-end factors, such as hosting and indexing
  • front-end factors, such as content, keywords, and metadata
  • link quality and outside references

Sometimes, you won’t have the time to address each pain point. So, when deciding which audit insights are worth taking action on, use the 80/20 rule.

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The most important part of your site’s SEO is the part that your incoming traffic actually sees.

That’s all washed away if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, though.

With the introduction of the mobile-first index, you need to make sure you understand how your site performs on mobile to ensure proper placement on SERPs.

What does the mobile-first index mean?

Due to 52.2 percent of global web traffic coming through mobile, Google has adjusted its algorithm to crawl the mobile version of websites.

technical seo - mobile first indexing example

It boils down to this—if your site doesn’t perform well on mobile devices, you are not just losing traffic; your site also looks bad to Google. That can result in lower rankings, and even less traffic.

How to Perform a Technical SEO Audit

SEO guidelines are constantly changing. Every time a major search engine significantly updates its algorithm, SEO has to adapt.

The good news is the frequency of changes in technical SEO tends to be lower.

After all, it’s not like search engines or readers will suddenly decide they’re okay with slower speeds.

If anything, you will see the average acceptable speed continue to drop. Your site simply has to be faster if you want to keep up with SEO demands.

Your website has to be mobile-friendly. This is only going to become more important over time, too.

It has to work without errors, duplicate content, and poor images.

Search engines also have to be able to crawl it successfully.

These things are all crucial to your success on search engines and site visitors. If you want to prioritize your SEO efforts, make sure you tackle the technical aspects first.

1. Crawl Your Website

The most important part of the SEO audit is the crawl.

Before you do anything else, start a crawl of your website. You can use Ubersuggest to make it a simple process. Here’s how you do it:

  • Step 1: Enter your URL and click “Search.”
  • Step 2: Click “Site Audit” in the left sidebar.
technical seo ubersuggest sidebar
  • Step 3: Run the scan. Upon completion, you’ll see this:
technical seo - Ubersuggest audit page crawl

Crawling is useful for identifying problems such as duplicate content, low word count, unlinked pagination pages, and excess redirects. Ubersuggest will even rank issues in order of importance, so you can focus on what matters most.

technical seo audit with Ubersuggest

If you find anything here, click on it for more information and advice on how to fix it. For example, our website has 32 pages with a low word count.

technical seo audit links

You can then review these pages to determine if you need to add more content.

What does this all mean?

In short, it gives you a glimpse into how the Googlebot is crawling your site.

If you don’t use Ubersuggest for your technical SEO audit, you can also search your site manually. We’ll explain that below.

2. Perform a Manual Google Search

A few Google searches can tell you approximately how well your website is ranking. This will help you figure out where to start your technical SEO audit.

How many of your pages appear in relevant search results?

Does your site appear first when you search for it by name?

Overall, where does your site appear in the results?

To figure out which pages are actually being crawled, you can use a “site:rootdomain” search to see what shows up.

Here’s what this looks like in action:

technical seo audit - root domain search

Missing pages don’t automatically mean that your site is un-crawlable, but it’s useful to understand what’s happening behind the scenes.

Your website doesn’t need to be at the very top of your searches, either. By using the site search, it will show you only pages on your own site.

3. Make Sure Only One Version of Your Site Is Browseable 

If your website has multiple “versions” of itself, you send search engines a mixed message about how to crawl your site.

Basically, the crawlers don’t know which one is the right one.

If search engines don’t even know how to show your site to prospective traffic, your site’s SEO ranking will be negatively impacted.

This could be a mobile and desktop version warring with each other, or a duplicate “https” version and a non-”https” version.

The impact of HTTP vs. HTTPS on a site’s SEO is debated in the SEO community. Some sites using AdSense saw a decrease in revenue after making the switch to HTTPS.

For example, Crunchify’s revenue decreased 10 percent after switching to an HTTPS site.

However, it seems that websites without SSL protection are being deprecated on Google SEO moving forward.

Google is even taking steps to make it more known which sites have SSL protection and which do not. Chrome is marking pages as “Not secure” to make it clearer.

technical seo audit http

With this change from Google, it seems you will need to make sure that your website only uses “https.”

4. Conduct On-Page Technical SEO Checks

When evaluating your site and the results from your crawl, there are tons of things to check. Don’t get overwhelmed! Start by looking for duplicate pages, headers, and title tags.

If you’ve published a lot of content with similar themes, like me, some seemingly unrelated content will show up in your crawl.

That’s okay. You’re looking for duplicates of the same content.

You can use a tool like Copyscape to assess potential technical SEO problems arising from duplicate content.

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technical seo audit plagiarism

From there, closely examine a few key criteria that Google evaluates in their rankings.

Page Titles and Title Tags

A title tag is an HTML code that tells search engines the title of a page. This information will be displayed on SERPs.

It looks something like this:

technical seo audit serp

You’ll want to make sure these are relevant to the content on your page. The content should also answer the questions your users are asking as fast as possible.

The optimal length for title tags is between 56-60 characters. You can use a pixel width checker to make sure that your title isn’t truncated.

Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions don’t directly impact ranking; but they are still incredibly important because it’s the first thing a user sees in the SERPs.

Meta descriptions should be compelling, engaging, and give a taste of what the user will find on the page.

Google recently expanded the limit for descriptions from 160 to 320, which provides even more real estate to draw in a click.

Clear Hierarchy

You’ll want to make sure your content is organized, with a clear hierarchy on the page.

This makes it easy for Google to analyze your site and index it for search.

technical seo hierarchy

Essentially, you want to make sure the placement of pages makes sense—all your service pages should be under your “services” tab, for example. Make sure users don’t have to click through four levels of pages to find best-selling products. The goal is to make it easy for Google —and users—to find the information or products they are looking for.

Keyword Placement

Every page on your site should have a focus keyword included in the first 100 words.

For example, in this post about social proof, it’s included twice in the first 100 words.

technical seo keywords

This helps Google understand what the post focuses on—but don’t stop there.

While keyword stuffing will penalize you, you should be strategic about keyword placement.

Include them, when possible:

  • title
  • alt tags
  • URL
  • subheadings (h2, h3, etc.)
  • meta description

Overall, on-page SEO checks are incredibly important, but they are only one part of your overarching technical SEO strategy. There are also other SEO checks to consider.

5. Manage Your Internal and External Links

Sites with logical hierarchies have improved SEO rankings. That’s why it’s important to check your internal and external links—to make sure visitors can navigate your site intuitively.

Pages might be deleted or moved, which can result in broken links and annoyed site visitors.

Don’t worry; you don’t have to do this manually.

Integrity and Xenu Sleuth can help you identify your broken links on your site. (Note: Integrity only works for Mac.)

While both tools are straightforward to use, I’ll use Integrity as an example.

Once you download it, add your URL in the text bar at the top of the page and click “Go.”

technical seo audit integrity

Then the tool will begin testing all the links found on your site and provide you with the results.

technical seo audit backlinks

In the top-left corner, you see a snapshot of links and how many are bad.

Depending on the size of your site and how many links you have, you might consider viewing the results by link, page, status, or flat view to understand the results.

You’ll want to change any links marked in red with the “404 not found” label. These dead ends can negatively impact your technical SEO.

Google does score clicks from internal and external links differently, although both have their purpose in improving your SEO.

technical SEO audit links tweet

6. Check Your Site Speed

People are impatient. Google knows this.

Your customers don’t want to wait around. The longer your page takes to load, the higher the chance your customer will bounce.

You need to check your site speed, and Ubersuggest can help. Here’s how to get started:

  • Step 1: Enter your URL and click “Search.”
  • Step 2: Click “Site Audit” in the left sidebar.
  • Step 3: Scroll down to “Site Speed.”
Technical SEO - ubersuggest site speed

Ubersuggest displays loading time for both desktop and mobile devices. The results above show my site is in the “excellent” range for both.

In addition to loading time, it also tests:

  • First Contentful Paint
  • Speed Index
  • Time to Interactive
  • First Meaningful Paint
  • First CPU Idle
  • Est. Input Latency

Take action if your website scores less than excellent or good.

You might need to optimize your images, minify JavaScript, leverage browser caching, or more.

Ubersuggest will outline just what you need to do to improve site speed.

7. Leverage Your Analytics and Compare Site Metrics

This step determines whether your analytics service (e.g., Google Analytics, Kissmetrics, etc.) is reporting live metric data.

If it is, your code is installed correctly.

If not, your code is not installed correctly and needs to be fixed.

If you’re using Google Analytics, you want the tracker code to be placed above the header of each web page.

Once you have an analytics service up and running, compare the metric data to the results of your earlier “site:rootdomain” search.

The number of pages showing in your metric data should be comparatively similar to the number of pages from the “site:rootdomain” search.

If not, certain pages aren’t properly accepting crawl requests.

Check Your Bounce Rate

Google Analytics can be helpful when assessing your page’s bounce rate.

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A high bounce rate means that people aren’t finding what they are looking for on your site. This means you might have to go back and make sure the content is optimized for your audience.

You can check your bounce rate by logging into your Google Analytics account and clicking on Audiences > Overview.

Compare Metrics With the MozBar

In addition, you can use Moz’s tool called The Mozbar to benchmark between pages.

The MozBar is a tool that provides various SEO details of any web page or search engine results page.

The toolbar adds an overlay to your browser and offers a number of features.

For example, MozBar can be used to highlight different types of links that you view.

technical seo mozbar tool

This is useful on its own, but it also lets you compare link metrics on or between pages.

It also comes with robust search tools to make your life easy.

With it, you can create custom searches by location, down to the city.

Page Authority is also supported by the MozBar.

It ranks each specific page from 1 to 100 in terms of how well it will rank on search engine results pages.

When doing a technical SEO audit, tools like this help you quickly take the temperature of your site’s relationship with search engines.

The less guesswork you have to do, the better quality your SEO audit will be.

8. Check Your Off-Site SEO and Perform a Backlink Audit

Backlinks are critical for SEO success.

This way, Google and other search engines will know that your page is particularly relevant and that other users will find it useful.

Remember that hyperlinks are not the only thing crawlers look for in off-site SEO.

Your site is also crawled for brand mentions. This is why it’s crucial to pay attention to what’s happening both on and off your site.

Perform Your Backlink Audit

Use a tool such as Ubersuggest to perform a backlink audit and assess the kind of backlinks pointing to your site. Here’s how:

  • Step 1: Enter your URL and click “Search.”
  • Step 2: Click “Backlinks” in the left sidebar.
  • Step 3: Review the report.
technical SEO backlinks ubersuggets
technical seo audit new and lost backlinks

Backlink audits are helpful because:

  • You can assess your current link profile and see how it is affecting your site.
  • You can identify areas where you can focus on getting more high-value links.
  • You can assess your competitors’ number of backlinks and work to outperform them.

Don’t just stop with your site’s backlink audit—you’ll also want to see what the competition is up to.

Analyze Competitor Keywords

Your competitors were busy upping their SEO capability while you were sleeping. Now, they rank higher for your most important search terms.

Ubersuggest can also help with this.

It allows you to see what keywords other sites are ranking for. It also shows what backlinks are going to those sites.

Basically, you want to explore your competitors’ backlinks and see how they compare to your own. Here’s how you do it:

  • Step 1: Enter your competitor’s URL and click “Search.”
  • Step 2: Click “Keywords” in the left sidebar.
  • Step 3: Review the results.
technical seo keywords list
ubersuggest technical SEO audit

This provides a clear overview of what your competitor’s site is ranking for. In addition to a list of keywords, you can review:

  • Volume: the average number of monthly searches for the keyword
  • Position: position the URL is ranked in Google search
  • Estimated Visits: estimated monthly traffic the webpage gets for the keyword
  • SD: estimated competition in organic search, the higher the number, the more competitive the term is

Engage on Social Media

Social media is a conduit for consistent backlinks and engagement. You can use it to support your technical SEO efforts.

technical SEO social media chart

You want to figure out which additional social media platforms are frequented by your target audience.

Simply put, social media can improve your SEO by:

  • Increasing the number of your backlinks. Those who discover your content on social media might be more likely to link to it.
  • Increasing brand awareness, which can help with search queries including your brand’s name.

Social media is an opportunity to increase traffic and mentions beyond what people are searching for on a search engine.

Social media saturation is also simpler than putting together a link-building campaign.

Use the Facebook Sharing Debugger to see what your web content looks like when shared on Facebook.

This tool also allows you to check your Open Graph tags.

Technical SEO: Final Thoughts

There are three different aspects of SEO, and technical SEO is the most important of the three.

It won’t matter how amazing your on-page SEO is if you fail at technical SEO.

It also won’t matter how great you are at off-page SEO if you’re horrible at the technical stuff.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the idea of it being “technical” or complex. Start with the big, critical aspects discussed above and tackle them one problem at a time.

How have you found success with technical SEO on your site?

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Are Local Citations (NAP) A Google Ranking Factor?

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Are Local Citations (NAP) A Google Ranking Factor?


In local SEO, a citation is a mention of key business information – your name, address, and phone number (NAP) – anywhere else on the web.

Local citations might appear in directories, on social networking or review sites, in apps, and on all kinds of other websites.

Clearly, these are an important part of a searcher’s experience; NAP info is how a local consumer will find their way to your store or give you a call.

But do citations help you rank higher in Google Search results?

The Claim: Local Citations As A Ranking Factor

Some citations allow only for the location’s name, address, and phone number.

However, you may be able to add a website link, business description, photos, and more, depending on the directory or platform.

The idea here is that each of these optimizations will help you rank higher in local search results:

  • Having your NAP info appear on more external sites.
  • Ensuring the accuracy of your citations.
  • Optimizing each one by adding as much supporting detail as the fields on that site allow.

WhiteSpark’s industry survey on local ranking factors provides a good framework that illustrates the variety of considerations in play when we talk about local citation signals. Citations are evaluated based on:

  • Consistency.
  • Quality/authority.
  • Quantity.
  • Enhancement/completeness.

The Evidence For Citations As A Ranking Factor

Citations have long been widely accepted by SEO professionals as a key local ranking factor.

“Consistency of citations” came in at #5 in Moz’s 2020 industry survey of what SEO pros believe are local ranking factors. (They were ranked fifth in the 2018 survey, as well, for both Local Pack/Finder and Localized Organic search results.)

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However, what it is about citations that matter most has been the subject of debate over the years.

When BrightLocal surveyed the industry in 2016, 90% of respondents said citation accuracy was “very important” to “critical” for local search rankings. What’s more, 86% said the quality of those citations was more important than quantity.

In this video, Google confirms that local results are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence.

And while you cannot control all of these factors, they say:

“First, make sure all of your business information is complete. It’s important to have accurate information including your phone number, address, and business category.”

Google also recommends that in order to ensure the accuracy of your GMB listing and “help you stand out”, you should:

  • Double-check that hours of operation are accurate.
  • Use special hours for holidays.
  • Add photos of your location, services, or merchandise.
  • Verify your location to tell Google you are the correct owner of the business.

In their “Improve your local ranking on Google” help resource, the advice is clear:

“Local results favor the most relevant results for each search. Businesses with complete and accurate information are easier to match with the right searches.”

The Evidence Against Local Citations As A Ranking Factor

You could argue that citations are too difficult to maintain and therefore not a reliable signal.

And you would be right.

It’s incredibly difficult to ensure that all citations across the local search ecosystem are kept up to date.

With so many aggregators, user suggestions, manual errors, and other elements wreaking havoc with citation information, how can Google trust that the information they’re finding about any one business location is accurate?

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This is precisely why local listings management is so important, and providing Google a single source of truth through your GMB profile is key.

Monitoring for citation errors is essential so you can correct them before the wrong information is picked up by aggregators and more widely distributed.

Citation inconsistencies can happen for countless reasons:

  • Businesses move to new locations.
  • Brands open and close stores.
  • Staff and owners create listings without documenting them, and they grow outdated as the business evolves.
  • Consumers create duplicate listings by making spelling mistakes when trying to leave a review.
  • Google searchers suggest listing edits with the best of intentions but the wrong information.
  • And more. A lot more.

Google recognizes that all of these issues can impact citation accuracy, which is why it relies on such a wide array of sources to determine whether the information is trustworthy.

Local Citations As A Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

Bottom line: It is all but confirmed officially by Google that Google uses local citations as a ranking signal in Local Pack/Finder and localized organic search results.

Google’s aim is to provide the best, most trustworthy answers to every searcher.

Citations are an important signal as to whether key business information is correct and that location is the best answer for a local searcher’s relevant query.

If you’re just getting started, check out John McAlpin’s Citations & Local SEO: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide.

Ready to get more advanced? Make sure your citations are accurate and complete on as many relevant sources as possible. WhiteSpark’s free Top Local Citation Sources by Country finder enables you to pull a list of the top directories, networks, websites, etc. in 15 countries.

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And if you really want to step up your local strategy, you’ll want to download Local SEO: The Definitive Guide to Improve Your Local Search Rankings.


Featured Image: Paolo Bobita/Search Engine Journal





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Is It A Ranking Factor?

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Is It A Ranking Factor?


Quickly gaining a lot of links from other sites sounds like it should be a positive thing for any website.

But could it actually hurt, rather than help, your rankings?

Or does link velocity not matter at all to Google? Is it, in fact, just some made-up SEO term?

Read on as we investigate the origins of link velocity and whether it’s something you need to be genuinely concerned about in SEO.

The Claim: Link Velocity As A Ranking Factor

Link velocity refers to a theory that the speed at which a website gains links has the potential to impact rankings, either positively or negatively.

Link Velocity = Good

Years ago, having a high link velocity in a short period of time was viewed by some as a good thing in the SEO industry, one that could positively influence your Google rankings.

Link velocity was mentioned in articles and during conference sessions – because in those days link building was more about quantity than quality.

Want to get a webpage to rank quickly? Build a whole bunch of links to it fast.

But the idea of quantity over quality changed after Google launched the Penguin algorithm.

Link Velocity = Bad

The belief here is that gaining links too fast can cause a website to get penalized or demoted in search results.

It is based on the idea that Google will interpret a quick increase in inbound links as a sign that the website is trying to manipulate its search rankings.

Understandably, the idea of link velocity can be concerning for everyone who is averse to getting inadvertently penalized for acquiring links.

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The growth of a website’s link profile is largely out of its control.

If a site publishes a great piece of content, for example, many other sites may reference it within a short time frame, resulting in a number of links gained all at once.

Were link velocity to work as SEO experts claim, the website in the above example could receive a penalty because it gained an influx of inbound links through no fault of its own.

The Evidence: Link Velocity As A Ranking Factor

The origins of link velocity in the SEO community can be dated back to the discovery of a Google patent that was filed in 2003.

The patent, Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data, includes ideas about how a search engine should treat a website based on the growth of its link profile.

In particular, the idea of link velocity can be traced back to this passage:

“While a spiky rate of growth in the number of backlinks may be a factor used by search engine 125 to score documents, it may also signal an attempt to spam search engine 125. Accordingly, in this situation, search engine 125 may actually lower the score of a document(s) to reduce the effect of spamming.”

Search Engine Journal’s Roger Montti has picked apart SEO experts’ interpretation of this patent, noting how they ignore parts of the patent which disprove their own theory.

For instance, the patent goes on to define what a “spiky rate of growth” is and how it can be the defining characteristic of unnatural link building.

The patent isn’t about penalizing websites that see a rapid increase in inbound links.

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It’s about demoting websites that exhibit a pattern of unusual spikes in inbound links over extended periods.

According to Montti:

“What that patent is really talking about is the smooth natural rate of growth versus a spiky and unnatural rate of growth.

A spiky rate of growth can manifest over the course of months. That’s a big difference from the link velocity idea that proposes that a large amount of links acquired in a short period will result in a penalty.”

The evidence doesn’t add up to what experts claim about link velocity.

Link Velocity As A Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

There is no evidence to suggest that Google uses a signal known as link velocity that can negatively impact rankings.

Link velocity is not a term Google officially recognizes.

When asked about it, Google search representatives say a website’s links are assessed on their own merits, not by how many are gained in which length of time.

Here’s an example of such a response from Google’s John Mueller:

“It’s not so much a matter of how many links you get in which time period. It’s really just… if these are links that are unnatural or from our point of view problematic then they would be problematic. It’s like it doesn’t really matter how many or in which time.”

Google’s Gary Illyes put it more bluntly in a Reddit AMA, calling link velocity a made-up term.

Whether links are gained fast or slow, what really matters is the quality of the individual links and the manner in which they were acquired (naturally or unnaturally).

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Featured Image: Paolo Bobita/Search Engine Journal





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Google’s Help Documents Aren’t Always Up To Date

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Google's Help Documents Aren't Always Up To Date


Google admits its help documents aren’t always up to date and says it’s worthwhile doing your own research on recommended best practices.

This topic is discussed during the latest episode of Google’s SEO & Devs web series on YouTube, which is all about whether official help documents can be trusted.

Martin Splitt of Google’s Developer Relations team, and Michael King, founder and managing director of iPullRank, get together to talk about how Google’s documentation can lead developers to not trust SEO professionals.

SEOs provide recommendations to developers based on the information in Google’s official documents.

Google aims to keep those documents accurate and trustworthy, but the information sometimes lags behind what’s actually working in SEO, and what’s no longer relevant.

A specific example they addressed is a situation that came up in 2019, when Google revealed it stopped supporting rel=”next” and rel=”prev” years before telling the search community.

That meant SEOs were telling developers to use pieces of code that were no longer relevant to Google Search.

Rather than making an official announcement about it, Google simply removed the documentation related to rel=”next” and rel=”prev”.

It wasn’t until Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller received a question about it on Twitter that anyone from the company told the search community about this change.

Some SEO professionals and developers may have come to that conclusion on their own after noticing Google understood pagination just fine without the use of rel=”next” and rel=”prev”.

That’s one example where doing your own research could help you learn how Google Search works, rather than relying solely on official documentation.

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Splitt shares background information about this situation, and the difficult choices Google had to make when it came to communicating the changes to the search community.

Why Aren’t Google’s Help Documents Always Up To Date?

Google Search changes quickly, so Splitt cautions against looking at the company’s documentation as the single source of truth.

Regarding the rel=”next” and rel=”prev” situation, Splitt says:

“The docs are not always in phase. We’re doing our best to work with the teams and help them to keep their documentation updated, but it does every now and then happen in this case like a bunch of engineers in search quality figured out — ‘hey, hold on, we actually don’t really need the rel-next and rel-prev links anymore to figure out that there’s like a pagination going on. We can figure that out from other things on the page by themselves.’”

When it was discovered the code was no longer needed, Google’s engineers removed support for it.

Splitt explains the decision making process behind communicating this change to SEOs and developers.

“… What do you do? Do you either update the docs to just quietly remove that part because it no longer is relevant?

Or do you go like ‘Hey, by the way, this is no longer necessary. And truthfully speaking it hasn’t been necessary in the last six months.’

Knowing very well that people are reading the documentation, making recommendations based on it to other people, and then these people then invest work and time and money into making that happen.”

Splitt goes on to say the choice was either to remove the documentation and come clean about rel=”next” and rel=”prev” being obsolete, or keep the documents up knowing the code wasn’t necessary anymore.

“And the alternative would be to let it live there in the documentation, even though it’s wrong it doesn’t hurt.

So we went with the full frontal way of going like — ‘Okay, here’s the thing. This has been removed a while ago and we’re sorry about that, but now our docs are updated.’

And I think none of the choices are easy or necessarily perfectly good, but it’s just what happens. So I think we’re trying to keep the docs updated as much as possible.”

So there’s the story behind rel=”next” and rel=”prev” and why Google handled the situation the way it did.

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The key takeaway from this story is to always be testing and doing your own research.

Figuring out what works on your own may be more reliable than Google’s help documents.

If you believe something isn’t necessary, even though Google recommends it, your instincts may be correct.

See the full video below:


Featured Image: Screenshot from YouTube.com/GoogleSearchCentral





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