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Maintaining your website’s SEO

If your site is on Google and you’re familiar with the fundamentals of SEO, there are more things you can do to improve how your site appears on Google. As you manage and maintain your website, you may come across more unique scenarios that affect Google Search. This guide covers more in-depth SEO tasks, such as preparing for a site move or managing a multi-lingual site.

Read our guide to understand how Google Search works; if you don’t understand the crawl/index/serving pipeline well, it will be difficult to debug issues or anticipate Search behavior on your site.

Be sure that you understand what canonical pages are, and how they affect crawling and indexing of your site.

Be sure that any resources (images, CSS files, and so on) or pages that Google is meant to crawl are accessible to Google; that is, they are not blocked by any robots.txt rules and are accessible to an anonymous user. Inaccessible pages will not appear in the Page Indexing report, and the URL Inspection tool will show them as not crawled. Blocked resources are shown only at the individual URL level, in the URL Inspection tool. If important resources on a page are blocked, this can prevent Google from crawling your page properly. Use the URL Inspection tool to render the live page to verify whether Google sees the page as you expect.

Use robots.txt rules to prevent crawling, and sitemaps to encourage crawling. Block crawling of duplicate content on your site, or unimportant resources (such as small, frequently used graphics such as icons or logos) that might overload your server with requests. Don’t use robots.txt as a mechanism to prevent indexing; use the noindex tag or login requirements for that. Read more about blocking access to your content.

Sitemaps are a very important way to tell Google which pages are important to your site, and also provide additional information (such as update frequency), and are very important for crawling non-textual content (such as images or video). Although Google won’t limit crawling to pages listed in your sitemaps, it will prioritize crawling these pages. This is especially important for sites with rapidly changing content, or with pages that might not be discovered through links. Using sitemaps helps Google discover and prioritize which pages to crawl on your site. Read all about sitemaps here.

If your site includes multiple languages, or is targeted at users in specific locales:

On the occasion that you might need to move a single URL or even a whole site, follow these guidelines:

If you move a page permanently to another location, don’t forget to implement 301 redirects for your page. If the move is only temporary for some reason, return 302 instead to tell Google to continue to crawl your page.

When a user requests a page that has been removed, you can create a custom 404 page to provide a better experience. Just be sure that when a user requests a page that is no longer there, you return a true 404 error, not a soft 404.

If you’re migrating an entire site, implement all the 301 and sitemap changes you need, then tell Google about the move so that we can start crawling the new site and forwarding your signals to the new site. Learn how to migrate your site.

Put key information in text, not graphics, on the site. Although Google can parse and index many file types, text is still the safest bet to help us understand the content of the page. If you use non-text content, or if you want to provide additional guidance about the content of the site, add structured data to your pages to help us understand your content (and in some cases, provide special search features such as rich results).

If you feel comfortable with HTML and basic coding, you can add structured data by hand following the developer guidelines. If you want a little help, you can use the WYSIWYG Structured Data Markup helper to help you generate basic structured data for you.

If you don’t have the ability to add structured data to your pages, you might use the Data Highlighter tool, which lets you highlight portions of a page and tell Google what each section represents (an event, a date, a price, and so on). This is simple, but it can break if you change the layout of your page.

Read more about helping Google understand your site content.

If you have specific types of content on your site, here are some recommendations for getting them on Google in the best way:

Providing a good user experience should be your site’s top goal, and a good user experience is a ranking factor. There are many elements to providing a good user experience; here are a few of them.

Google recommends that websites use HTTPS, rather than HTTP, to improve user and site security. Sites that use HTTP can be marked as “not secure” in the Chrome browser. Learn how to secure your site with HTTPS.

A fast page usually beats a slow page in user satisfaction. You can use the Core Web Vitals report to see your site-wide performance numbers, or PageSpeed Insights to test performance for individual pages. You can learn more about building fast pages on the web.dev site. Also consider using AMP for fast pages.

With over 60 percent of the global internet population using a mobile device to go online, it’s important that your site be mobile-friendly. Google now uses a mobile crawler as the default crawler for websites. Read about how to make your site mobile friendly.

Google provides many kinds of search result features and experiences in Google Search, including review stars, embedded site search boxes, and special result types for specific types of information such as events or recipes. See which ones are appropriate for your site and consider implementing them. You can provide a favicon to show in search results for your site. You can also provide an article date to appear in search results.

Be sure to read the articles on how to help Google provide good titles links and snippets. You can also restrict the snippet length, or omit it entirely if you wish. See how to use meta tags to limit text or image use when generating search result snippets.

If you are a European press publisher, tell Search Console.

Search Console offers a broad range of reports to help you monitor and optimize your site performance on Google Search. Learn more about what reports to use.