If you own, manage, monetize, or promote online content via Google Search, this guide is meant for you. You might be the owner of a growing and thriving business, the website owner of a dozen sites, the SEO specialist in a web agency or a DIY SEO expert passionate about the mechanics of Search: this guide is meant for you. If you’re interested in having a complete overview of the basics of SEO according to our best practices, you are indeed in the right place. This guide won’t provide any secrets that’ll automatically rank your site first in Google (sorry!), but following the best practices will hopefully make it easier for search engines to crawl, index, and understand your content.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is often about making small modifications to parts of your website. When viewed individually, these changes might seem like incremental improvements, but when combined with other optimizations, they could have a noticeable impact on your site’s user experience and performance in organic search results. You’re likely already familiar with many of the topics in this guide, because they’re essential ingredients for any web page, but you may not be making the most out of them.
You should build a website to benefit your users, and gear any optimization toward making the user experience better. One of those users is a search engine, which helps other users discover your content. SEO is about helping search engines understand and present content. Your site may be smaller or larger than our example site and offer vastly different content, but the optimization topics in this guide apply to sites of all sizes and types. We hope our guide gives you some fresh ideas on how to improve your website, and we’d love to hear your questions, feedback, and success stories in the Google Search Central Help Community.
Are you on Google?
Determine whether your site is in Google’s index
Do a site: search for your site’s home URL. If you see results, you’re in the index. For example, a search for site:wikipedia.org returns these results.
If your site isn’t in Google
Although Google crawls billions of pages, it’s inevitable that some sites will be missed. When our crawlers miss a site, it’s frequently for one of the following reasons:
The site isn’t well connected from other sites on the web
You’ve just launched a new site and Google hasn’t had time to crawl it yet
The design of the site makes it difficult for Google to crawl its content effectively
Google received an error when trying to crawl your site
Your policy blocks Google from crawling the site
How do I get my site on Google?
Google is a fully automated search engine that uses web crawlers to explore the web constantly, looking for sites to add to our index; you usually don’t even need to do anything except post your site on the web. In fact, the vast majority of sites listed in our results aren’t manually submitted for inclusion, but found and added automatically when we crawl the web. Learn how Google discovers, crawls, and serves web pages.
The Search Essentials outline the most important elements of building a Google-friendly website. While there’s no guarantee that our crawlers will find a particular site, following the Search Essentials can help make your site appear in our search results.
Google Search Console provides tools to help you submit your content to Google and monitor how you’re doing in Google Search. If you want, Search Console can even send you alerts on critical issues that Google encounters with your site. Sign up for Search Console.
Here are a few basic questions to ask yourself about your website when you get started.
Is my website showing up on Google?
Do I serve high-quality content to users?
Is my local business showing up on Google?
Is my content fast and easy to access on all devices?
Is my website secure?
Help Google find your content
The first step to getting your site on Google is to be sure that Google can find it. The best way to do that is to submit a sitemap. A sitemap is a file on your site that tells search engines about new or changed pages on your site. Learn more about how to build and submit a sitemap.
Google also finds pages through links from other pages. Learn how to encourage people to discover your site by Promoting your site.
Tell Google which pages you don’t want to be crawled
For non-sensitive information, block unwanted crawling by using robots.txt
A robots.txt file tells search engines whether they can access and therefore crawl parts of your site. This file, which must be named robots.txt, is placed in the root directory of your site. It is possible that pages blocked by robots.txt can still be crawled, so for sensitive pages, use a more secure method.
# brandonsbaseballcards.com/robots.txt# Tell Google not to crawl any URLs in the shopping cart or images in the icons folder,# because they won't be useful in Google Search results.User-agent: googlebot
You may not want certain pages of your site crawled because they might not be useful to users if found in a search engine’s search results. Note that if your site uses subdomains and you wish to have certain pages not crawled on a particular subdomain, you’ll have to create a separate robots.txt file for that subdomain. For more information on robots.txt, we suggest this guide on using robots.txt files.
Letting your internal search result pages be crawled by Google. Users dislike clicking a search engine result only to land on another search result page on your site.
Allowing URLs created as a result of proxy services to be crawled.
For sensitive information, use more secure methods
A robots.txt file is not an appropriate or effective way of blocking sensitive or confidential material. It only instructs well-behaved crawlers that the pages are not for them, but it does not prevent your server from delivering those pages to a browser that requests them. One reason is that search engines could still reference the URLs you block (showing just the URL, no title link or snippet) if there happen to be linked 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 to see.
In these cases, use the noindex tag if you just want the page not to appear in Google, but don’t mind if any user with a link can reach the page. For real security, use proper authorization methods, like requiring a user password, or taking the page off your site entirely.
Help Google (and users) understand your content
Let Google see your page the same way a user does
Recommended action: Use the URL Inspection tool. It will allow you to see exactly how Google sees and renders your content, and it will help you identify and fix a number of indexing issues on your site.
Create unique, accurate page titles
A <title> element tells both users and search engines what the topic of a particular page is. Place the <title> element within the <head> element of the HTML document, and create unique title text for each page on your site.
<html><head><title>Brandon's Baseball Cards - Buy Cards, Baseball News, Card Prices</title><metaname="description"content="Brandon's Baseball Cards provides a large selection of
vintage and modern baseball cards for sale.
We also offer daily baseball news and events."></head><body>
Influencing your title links and snippets in search results
If your document appears in a search results page, the contents of the <title> element may appear as the title link for the search result (if you’re unfamiliar with the different parts of a Google Search result, you might want to check out the anatomy of a search result video).
The <title> element for your homepage can list the name of your website or business, and could include other bits of important information like the physical location of the business or maybe a few of its main focuses or offerings.
Accurately describe the page’s content
Choose title text that reads naturally and effectively communicates the topic of the page’s content.
Using text in the <title> element that has no relation to the content on the page.
Using default or vague text like “Untitled” or “New Page 1”.