• author: Google Search Central

Title: Google SEO Office Hours - Answers from the Search Quality team

In the latest episode of Google's SEO Office Hours, Google's Search Quality team answered a diverse set of questions on SEO and Google Search. In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the topics covered, including penalized domains, URL inspection, off-page SEO, back-end websites, image crawling, and spam backlinks.

Here are some of the key insights and takeaways from the experts:

  1. Penalized domains affect outbound links: When a domain gets penalized, outbound links from that site are not trusted by Google, and it affects the quality of anchor signals for search rankings.

  2. Different ways to generate HTML in URL inspection and Rich Results testing tools: While the HTML generated in these tools is generally the same, there are two ways to create them using the indexing pipeline or live testing, and depending on the tools used, timeouts can happen that will affect the rendered output.

  3. Off-page SEO to directories and social bookmarking sites is not effective: The experts suggest not wasting time with directory submissions and social bookmarking, as they don't help with search rankings.

  4. Back-end of a website does not affect ranking: While the back-end of a site doesn't generally matter, its performance and behavior do. If the server is slow, it can impact ranking.

  5. Words in URLs have a minimal effect on search: Generally, words in URLs have minimal impact on search, and the only recommendation is to be consistent so that you don't accidentally link to the same page in different ways.

  6. Google can crawl and index images with many levels in the URL: Having many levels in the image URL doesn't affect the crawling and indexing of images.

  7. Spam backlinks can be ignored: The experts recommend ignoring spam backlinks, as Google's algorithms are good at recognizing and ignoring them, and users can also use the Disavow tool in Search Console.

These are just some of the insights and recommendations shared by the experts in the latest episode of Google's SEO Office Hours. Stay tuned for more updates from SEO and Google Search experts. use the last modification date and priority tags in a sitemap can still be important for SEO. Here are some best practices to consider when using these tags:

  1. Last modification date: This tag can indicate to search engines when a page has been updated and crawled. This can be particularly important for pages that may not be updated frequently. However, if your website has regularly updated pages like a blog or news section, it may not be necessary to use this tag in your sitemap.

  2. Priority: This tag can indicate to search engines the relative importance of a page compared to other pages on your site. However, it is not a ranking factor and should be used cautiously. If you have pages that are more important than others, you can use this tag to signal it to search engines. But keep in mind that it may not make a significant impact on ranking.

When it comes to hreflang URLs, it is important to make sure that all pages in the set are included and that the correct language and region codes are used. Otherwise, it may cause confusion for search engines and users who speak different languages. Overall, while sitemaps can help improve website crawling and indexing, it is important to use them strategically and understand their impact on SEO.

Understanding crawl budget and managing hreflang annotations

In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), there are numerous technical aspects to consider when optimizing a website. One of the most important of these aspects is managing crawl budget and ensuring that hreflang annotations are set up correctly. In this article, we will summarize some insights from the videos of John Mueller and Gary Illyes, two webmasters analysts from Google.

Managing crawl budget

It is important to understand what a crawl budget is first. Crawl budget refers to the amount of time Googlebot will spend crawling a website. As search engines crawl a site, they discover new and updated content which subsequently gets indexed for inclusion in search engine results pages (SERPs). It is important to manage crawl budget to accommodate changes in a site's pages, which is particularly important if your site has changed often. Having a system in place to manage crawl budget can ensure that website pages are crawled more efficiently and effectively.

In this regard, John Mueller and Gary Illyes agree that disallowing or preventing Google from crawling certain sections of a website through robots.txt can save crawl budget. However, they added that even if you don't block them with robots.txt, affiliate links are already recognized and ignored by Googlebot. Nevertheless, robots.txt disallowing them could make things easier and save crawl budget.

Hreflang annotations

Hreflang annotations are basically tags within an HTML code that indicate to Google which language version of a page is intended for which audience or country. This is a crucial element in improving a website's international SEO and ensuring that users land on the right language version of your website.

When it comes to hreflang annotations and managing crawl budget, John Mueller emphasized that annotating them in a sitemap tells Google to crawl that annotation on the localized pages. However, he advised that understanding when to crawl a URL is essential. For crawling, Google looks at the last modification date as one of the potential signals. Nevertheless, last modification date is just one of many signals, and more crawling does not necessarily mean better ranking.

Overall, managing crawl budget and hreflang annotations is a critical component of SEO, and it is essential to ensure that they are set up correctly. In our next part of the article, we will delve into why hreflang annotations are essential and how to implement them for maximum benefit.

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