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On an office hours hangout, Google’s John Mueller discussed a common mistake publishers make when removing content for SEO.

He then focused on the best way to remove content for more traffic.

Can it Help SEO to Remove Pages?

The publisher asking the question wanted to know if removing non-performing pages helped SEO.

The idea is that removing “dead wight” will help Google focus on the pages that matter.

Question:

Can it help SEO by reducing web pages by marking our product pages noindex, which have almost zero impressions in the last 16 months.

Currently 10 to 15% pages are like this and they’re just dead weight on our site.

I was wondering that after noindexing such pages we will submit fewer pages to Google in the sitemap and Google could focus on the rest of our site better.

It Depends on Why a Page Doesn’t Perform

Mueller answered that this is not a yes or no question.

He said that removing pages does not automatically cause the remaining pages to perform better.

John’s answer:

It’s something that I know some sites do.

I think it is not a totally unreasonable approach to say that the pages that nobody cares about I essentially removed from my website.

But it’s something where I wouldn’t just blindly do this.

So if you’re just blindly focusing on the number of impressions that you have for individual products and you drop them from search then it’s very easy to drop things that are actually useful but they’re just not that common.

Ask: Why is a Page Not Performing?

Mueller’s answer means that whether a page it depends on why the page is removed depends on the reason why the page is not performing well.

Mueller explains that maybe not that many people are searching for that particular keyword phrase.

So the metric of impressions isn’t necessarily the best one to use for identifying pages to noindex and block Google from crawling.

John continued with his answer:

It might be that maybe it’s an archived version of a product or page where people after a certain period of time they need to go back there to find instructions for repairing this product or they want to look up historical information about this item.

And that’s not something that happens every day. So if you just purely look at the number of impressions and it’s easy to accidentally include a lot of things that are actually still useful for the web, they’re just not that commonly used.

On the other hand looking at the number of impressions and the types of pages that you have on your website, that can give you a little bit of a better understanding of which types of pages are more important for users.

And that can either guide you to saying, well this type of page is something that maybe I don’t want to provide anymore or perhaps it can guide you into saying, well this type of page is currently not seen as being that useful.

Ask: Can this Page be Improved?

Mueller now touches on the important analysis of whether a page simply needs updating.

For example, if a product has been replaced by a newer and better one, ranking for the old product can be an opportunity to announce that the product is no longer available (good information!) and that a better product is available.

If the new product costs about the same then note that fact to encourage a user to consider the newer product.

This is Google’s John Mueller’s recommendation on removing content:

For informational content it might be useful to see if new techniques, technology, or jargon has changed. Not all informational content is evergreen. If it can be improved then that’s definitely a good thing to consider doing.

Maybe if I significantly improved it, it would be different. And that’s also something where you don’t just go and… blindly look at the number of impressions but rather you have to make a judgment call and look at that and see does it make sense to.. remove this?

Does it make sense to improve it?

And a lot of times it does make sense to improve things on the web.

Fewer Pages Doesn’t Cause Higher Rankings

There is an idea that removing non-performing content will provide lift to the rest of the webpages.

Mueller affirms that this isn’t an automatic outcome.

It may be helpful for some sites and not so helpful for others.

John’s remarks on removing pages for SEO:

With regards to just having fewer pages and those fewer pages then ranking higher, I don’t see that happening so much. It can help for a very large website to reduce the number of pages that they provide just purely from a technical point of view and that if we can like crawl 1/10th of the pages on a website and it’s a lot easier for us to pick up those 1/10th of those pages a lot faster.

That can in turn help us to figure out well maybe these are the pages that are really important for the website. But if you’re just dropping a handful of pages here and there, I don’t think it changes anything for crawling and probably not much for the website in search overall.

The Right Way to Remove Content for SEO

The important consideration when removing content is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for improving rankings.

Removing pages does not automatically help all sites rank better.

Furthermore it’s important to assess whether a page simply needs improvement.

Removing content is an old solution for traffic issues.

There was a related SEO solution for removing content, called Content Cannibalization.

Then somewhere around 10 years later the technique was rediscovered and renamed Keyword Cannibalization.

In this version of the strategy, it was hypothesized that content that was too similar would eat into the rankings of the other pages.

The solution was to remove pages.

The thing is, regardless if one is considering removing similar content or low performance outdated content, it might be useful to consider updating the pages to make them unique or serve a different user intent.

Removing content doesn’t solve all problems.

So take your time and analyze why a page is not performing well and then decide if the page can be improved or serve as an upgrade path for potential clients who need a product upgrade.

Watch the Google Office Hours Hangout:

Related: How & Why You Must Improve or Remove Your Old Content

You're reading Google Explains How To Remove Pages For Seo

Google: How To Use Search Operators For Seo

Google published an Advanced SEO Help page about using Google search operators to debug a website.

Google search operator search results are not tied to Google’s regular ranking algorithm and the index used is limited and not up to date.

Yet even with those limitations the search operators provide useful information that can be used for search engine optimization related purposes

They aren’t useful for trying to learn about Google’s algorithm. But the search operators are very useful for learning more about a website.

The new documentation contains a statement about the limitations of the data:

“Because search operators are bound by indexing and retrieval limits, the URL Inspection tool in Search Console is more reliable for debugging purposes.”

Search operators can however be used to discover interesting information about a site.

The new documentation covers the following search operators:

site:

cache:

related:

src:

imagesize:

site: Search Operator

The site search operator shows a sample of the pages in Google. It’s not all the pages, as Google’s caveat makes clear when it stated that the search operators “are bound by indexing and retrieval limits.”

Site Search does not use Google’s regular ranking algorithm and only shows a SAMPLE of pages that are indexed.

There’s always been a random quality to all search operators and that make them unreliable in terms of completeness and especially for trying to find out ranking or algorithm related factors.

This has been true for all of the search operators.

I use site: search as a quick and dirty way to find pages with specific keywords in them but I do that with the understanding that there are pages that might be missing.

For example, I had an issue with Users Generated Content where members on Apple devices were cutting and pasting non-UTF letter characters into the web page, resulting in symbols instead of letters.

Using a site: search operator I was able to find many of them and have the site software rewrite the symbols back into letters sitewide.

Google’s new support page says:

“Find search results from a particular domain, URL, or URL prefix. For example:

cache: Search Operator

The cache: search operator shows you Google’s cache of a web page, a copy of what the page looked like when Googlebot last crawled it.

The cache is a great way to figure out if a site is hacked and showing different content to Google (cloaking).

Google’s support page for the cache search operator has a warning:

“The actual cached version might look incomplete or even empty in certain cases.

This might be because JavaScript operations on your page that are responsible for creating the actual layout of the page were blocked by your browser’s same-origin policies.

This is normal and not something that has to be fixed. To see if a JavaScript operation was blocked by the browser, look for errors in your browser’s developer console.”

related: Search Operator

The related: search operator is a nice one. It tells you what other sites Google identifies as related to the site being searched.

The related: search operator can be useful for telling you if there’s something wrong with the content relevance if Google shows wildly unrelated sites as being related.

This is how to use the related: search operator:

Google also has a caveat about this search operator, too:

“The lack of your URLs showing up for related: queries is not an indicator of the quality of your pages, nor any other search signal.

The relatedness of URLs is generally only calculated for the most popular URLs on the internet.

Moreover, the data that powers the related: query operator is not refreshed real time, so recent popular URLs might not show up in results for the related: search operator.

The related: search operator is not a good tool for debugging specific URLs.”

src: The Hotlink Finder

The src: search operator finds pages that hotlink to an image.

This is the example that Google’s src: search operator support page uses:

imagesize:

The imagesize: search operator finds images with a specific size and is typically used with a site: search operator.

The two image search operators also have limitations.

Google’s caveat is similar to previous warnings:

“Because image search operators are bound by indexing and retrieval limits, you might not see all of the results that may appear for a standard search query.”

Use Google Search Operators

Google’s search operators have many uses although not all of the uses might be apparent at first glance.

For example, I’ve never had a use for the imagesize: search operator but there may come a day when I need to know if Google has crawled or indexed an image with specific image dimensions.

Citations Read These Other Search Operator Pages as Well

site: Search Operator

cache: Search Operator

Google Images Search Operators

Google Explains Alt Text For Logos & Buttons

In a Google Search Off the Record podcast, Google’s Lizzi Sassman and John Mueller discuss the best way to handle alt text for logos and image-based buttons.

There are best practices for adding alt attributes to logos and buttons.

The rules can seem a little complicated at first but they’re actually simple to understand.

Getting the alt attributes right is good for users and in the long run it’s great for earnings.

Adding Alt Text to Functional Images

Lizzi Sassman starts the discussion by making a reference to functional images, images that have a functional purpose on the webpage.

She asks if the alt text should describe what the button does or what the image on the button is in the situation in which a button is an icon.

Lastly, she asks if there’s an SEO purpose to adding alt text to functional images like buttons.

…The level of care in which we spend on the visual asset, we should also put the same level of energy into the words that describe that asset as well. Which I think is great.

Another category of images is like the functional thing, which sometimes could be a button.

Like it’s a graphic that also functions as something.

So should the alt text tell me what’s about to happen?

It could be like an image of something, that then also functions as a button.

And do you describe the function, or like also it was, I don’t know… like an arrow picture?

And also, does it matter for SEO?

Yeah. I think…

It could be like a logo.

For accessibility, that probably makes sense, to just do something around that.

But for SEO, people are not going to search for the checkout button, or something like that.”

Alt Text on Buttons Are For Accessibility Not SEO

John Mueller makes it clear that there is no SEO purpose for adding alt text to buttons.

But he also observed that the alt text for these kinds of images are mainly for accessibility reasons.

Lizzi continued the discussion:

But it’s also, “Oh, it’s a logo.”

So do you say, “This is the logo for Google Search Central.”

Sure.

Or like what would be descriptive text.

It’s Googlebot in the logo, but is the thing that’s most important to know about the image the fact that it’s a logo?

Or what the logo looks like?

I guess from that angle, people are probably looking for the logo.

Yeah.

Lizzi Sassman:

Like what is the logo for X company, maybe?

Yeah. I mean it goes back to kind of that strategy that we’re trying to avoid.

What do you want to be found for?

Yeah, but that’s the most important question, I guess, because then it sort of steers…

I can get carried away with all these rabbit holes, so it sort of, I don’t know, prioritizes what are the things that we should be thinking of, because you don’t necessarily need to write all the things for these things, I guess.”

The Proper Use of Alt Text on Logos and Buttons

The right way to use alt text on images like logos actually depends on if the image is a link or not a link.

If the logo image functions as a link back to the home page then it’s correct to label that image with the function that it has, so that a site visitor using a screen reader can no that this logo is a link to the home page.

The official HTML standard making body, The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) publishes an explainer on how to handle logos.

Logo Homepage Link

A logo that functions as a home page link should contain alt text that tells a screen reader user that the logo is a homepage link.

The W3C uses this example of the code:

The above code is for a logo that one might encounter at the top of the page that also serves as a link back to the home page.

The example alt text provided by the W3C simply says, “W3C home” but it could be more descriptive if you want.

Logo and Text Homepage Link

There are other kinds of logo links where there is an image logo and a text right next to it or underneath it and both the image and the text are coded within the same link code.

In other words, there aren’t two links such as one link for the logo and one link for the text, it’s just one link for both the logo and text together.

In that case, because the text describes the function of the link, it would be repetitive to repeat the function of the logo link.

So for that case the best practice is to use a null alt text.

This is the example that the W3C provides:

Note how the alt attribute is coded for the image:

img src="w3c.png" alt=""

The empty quotation marks for the alt text is called a null alt attribute (or null alt text). A screen reader will simply skip it.

The reason a null alt text is good is because there is text that describes what the link function is:

W3C Home

Alt Text for an Icon Link

Sometimes a link is in the form of an icon, with no text to explain what it does, for example an icon in the form of an envelope (representing email or message) or a printer (which indicates the link activates a printer).

For this situation it’s a bad practice to describe what the image is (like an envelope or a printer).

The best practice is to describe what the image does (initiate an email or print a webpage).

The W3C uses the example of a printer icon with the following code and alt text:

As you can see, the icon in the shape of a printer has the words “Print this page” as the alt text. It tells what the icon does. That’s helpful.

Alt Text for a Button

Similar to the example of the icon, the alt text for a button image should describe what the image does.

The W3C uses the example of a search box that has a magnifying glass for a submit button.

The bad way to do it is to use the alt text to describe that the image is a magnifying glass.

The best practice is to use the alt text to describe what the image does.

This is the example code that the W3C shows as an example:

As you can see, the alt text for the search button is the word, “Search” which describes what the function of the button is.

Alt Text for Buttons and Logos

Lizzi and John didn’t get into the details of how to handle the different scenarios for logos and buttons.

However John did point out that there is no SEO value for alt text for buttons and logos, it’s for accessibility.

It’s a best practice to appropriately serve webpages that are functional for users that access webpages with screen readers.

So it’s good for the bottom line to use accessibility best practices.

Citations

Learn more about accessibility for buttons and logos at the W3C

Functional Images

Combining adjacent image and text links for the same resource

Using alt attributes on images used as submit buttons

Listen to the Search Off the Record Podcast at the 15:57 minute mark:

Featured image by Shutterstock/Evgeny Atamanenko

Google’s John Mueller Explains Why Expired Product Pages May Become Soft 404S

Google’s John Mueller addressed an issue some site owners might run into where expired product pages are reported as soft 404s.

This topic came up during a recent Google Webmaster Central hangout where the following question was asked:

“Google is reporting our expired product pages as soft 404. These URLs redirect to a relevant, alternate product with a message saying the product they wanted is unavailable.”

When content is no longer available, it’s standard practice to redirect it to an equivalent page.

That’s exactly what this site owner is doing, so why is Google reporting the expired pages as soft 404s?

Mueller explains that it likely has to do with the messaging on the page that users are redirected to.

Googlebot may crawl the page, see a message that says “no longer available,” and assumes that applies to the page itself.

Mueller says that’s an issue which is not entirely avoidable.

If a new product is replacing the old one, Mueller says the site owner should consider redirecting the page without the “no longer available” message.

However, if the product is gone completely, then it may make sense to treat it as a soft 404.

Hear the full question and answer below, starting at the 11:23 mark.

“I suspect what is happening here is that our algorithms are looking at these pages and they’re seeing maybe there’s a banner on the page saying “this product is no longer available.”

And [our algorithms] assume that applies to the page the user ended up on. So that’s sometimes not really avoidable.

If you’re really replacing one product with another it might make sense to just redirect.

If one product is gone completely and is no longer available then you could put it in this soft 404 state where you say this product is no longer available.”

More Resources

How To Remove The Chromecast Icon From Google Chrome.

Related: How to make website exceptions for ‘delete all cookies on close’ in Firefox.

Screencasting from one device to another is one of the quickest and easiest ways to broadcast content from one device to another. It’s also a really easy way to watch content from a small screen on a big screen, however, If you don’t have a casting device connected to your PC, the casting icon / option in Google Chrome can be more annoying than beneficial. So you might as well remove it.

Quick steps to remove the casting icon from Google Chrome:

Update Google Chrome.

Open Chrome and type or copy and paste chrome:

Use the search box to search: Load Media Router Component Extension.

When it appears change the drop-down option from Default to Disabled.

Next, use the search box to search: Cast Media Route Provider and change it from Default to Disabled.

After you have changed both settings to Disabled , Restart Chrome and the changes will take effect.

Note: The steps shown below will work for Chrome on Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.

Now that Chrome is up to date open the browser and type or copy and paste chrome:

Here you will see a search box near the top of the page where you need to search: Load Media Router Component Extension.

When it appears highlighted in yellow, use the drop-down option to the right to change it from Default to Disabled . Now do the same for: Cast Media Route Provider , then Restart Google Chrome and the changes will take effect.

Remember that just about everything in Chrome settings can vanish or stop working at random. Google has a long history of adding and removing features from Chrome and Chrome flags. Sadly we’ve seen a lot of cool features come and go before their time before they have had a chance to be something great. The same has happened for terrible features though so it really can go either way.

Does Domain Extension Affect Seo? Google’s John Mueller Explains

Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller answers whether your domain extension affects SEO, and other questions related to the search impact of domain choices.

These questions are answered in the latest intallment of the Ask Googlebot video series on YouTube.

Mueller addresses questions related to how dot-com compares to other domain extensions, gTLDs vs ccTLDs, www vs non-www, and more.

Here are all the questions answered in the video, along with Mueller’s full responses.

Are .Com Domains Better?

The first question is one of the most common, especially among people registering a domain for the first time.

The person who submitted the question also asks if it’s acceptable to use a newer extension, like a .space domain.

Mueller says:

WWW Or Non-WWW Domains?

Is it better to use a www or non-www version of a domain name?

Mueller says:

“You can use whichever you prefer. Google’s systems have no preference either way. Sometimes there are technical reasons to go one way or the other, but often it’s just a matter of your personal preference.”

Rel=Canonical On Different Domain Types

Is it possible to use the rel=canonical link element across different TLDs? Such as gTLDs (generic top-level domains) and ccTLDs (country code top-level domains).

Mueller says:

“Yes, you can do this. The rel=canonical link element is not limited to the same domain name.”

Country-Specific Domain Extensions For Global Website

Can ccTLDs work for a global website?

Mueller says:

“The answer is yes. While a country code domain name helps our systems to geotarget for that country, it still allows for global visibility.

The only limitation is that you can’t specify other countries for geotargeting. For example, if you have a .fr website for France, you could use that globally. But you wouldn’t be able to explicitly geotarget users in Brazil.”

See the full video from Google below:

Featured Image: Screenshot from chúng tôi January 2023.

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