Google’s John Mueller gives SEO advice

In a thread in an online forum, Google’s John Mueller answered a webmaster who was listed on the last page of Google for the majority of the high traffic keywords she used to rank highly for. Here’s John’s advice:

Google's John Mueller

1. Website migration takes time

The webmaster made a lot of changes on the website. John Mueller said that a clean website migration takes time, and that you should aim for the final result. All changes should be consistent.

“You’ve made considerable changes with the collection of sites, some of the domains redirect, not all of them do though. This kind of site-merging will always take time, but you make it significantly harder by not doing the merge consistently or cleanly. Redirect them all, set canonicals, crawl all of your old domain URLs to check, etc. A clean migration takes time, a hacky migration with an attempt to get short-term advantages will just take much longer. Aim for the final result.

2. Benefit from low-hanging fruits

John Mueller recommends that you take advantage of low-hanging fruits. For example, you should use headings in text rather than in images:

“There are almost certainly low-hanging fruits to work on with your website. I don’t know if it would be enough to get it to rank competitively, but simple things like putting headings in text rather than in images can really help. The community here is great at spotting these kinds of items, get their input on that. Individually, most of these things won’t have a visible effect — but collectively they can be pretty big.”

3. It’s not easy in competitive niches

If you’re in a competitive niche, the keywords for which you want to get high rankings should be very specific. If the competition is high, generic keywords do not work well.

“The niche you’re in is competitive, there are big players who have spent a lot of time & effort on this. It won’t be easy even with a clean website. One piece of advice I tend to give people is to aim for a niche within your niche where you can be the best by a long stretch. Find something where people explicitly seek YOU out, not just “cheap X” (where even if you rank, chances are they’ll click around to other sites anyway).”

4. Disavowing links can work

John Mueller said that removing the link target page might also be an option to disavow links, but that won’t work in all cases.

“The disavow file works fine, for links to your site that you want to take out of consideration by our algorithms. Removing the link target page is also an option in some cases, but not in all (for example, you can’t really 404 your homepage).”

In general, you should be careful when you disavow links. Only disavow links if you are sure that these links are spam. Otherwise, you can do more harm than good.

5. Google needs time to reflect the changes

According to John Mueller, it can take considerable time until Google reflects the changes in the algorithms:

“Cleaning up these kinds of link issue can take considerable time to be reflected by our algorithms (we don’t have a specific time in mind, but the mentioned 6-12 months is probably on the safe side). In general, you won’t see a jump up in rankings afterwards because our algorithms attempt to ignore the links already, but it makes it easier for us to trust the site later on.”

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If you want to improve the rankings of your web pages, SEOprofiler has several tools that can help you to do that. For example, the website audit tool identifies technical issues that can have a negative influence on your rankings. The Link Disinfection Tool in SEOprofiler finds bad links that can harm your rankings. The Top 10 Optimizer helps you to optimize your pages so that they get better rankings.

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Johannes Selbach

Johannes Selbach is the CEO of SEOprofiler. He blogs about search engine optimization and website marketing topics at "".