Is "fill in the blank" good or bad for SEO?

The world of SEO can be expansive and complicated. There are many different areas to look into, and nuances to each of them. Given the nature of this field, many people on their SEO journeys will find themselves asking, “Is ______ good or bad for SEO?”

We get this question all the time in a variety of iterations, such as

  • “Are meta keywords good or bad for SEO?”
  • “Is JavaScript good or bad for SEO?”
  • ”Are internal links good or bad for SEO?”

Today, we’ll be going through the answers to the questions above. While we can’t give you every possible answer to the question format “Is ______ good or bad for SEO?” in this post, what we can do is talk about the general guiding principles of SEO that will bring you clarity on many of these questions.

Let’s focus on the positive first, with what can be considered good for SEO.

What is good for SEO?

There are two questions you must ask to determine if something is good for SEO:

  1. Can Google discover your content?
  2. Is your content worth ranking on page one?

If you’re able to answer yes to both of those questions, you’re meeting the basic needs for good SEO and you’re lightyears ahead of most websites. If Google can discover the content on your website, and your content is high quality, you’ve improved your chances at ranking.

With this in mind, everything you do in terms of SEO should work towards making your website more discoverable/easier to find, and improving the quality of your content. This means paying attention to the search intent of your users, and creating content they actually want to see and will find useful.

Now, let’s turn to the negative side and see what is detrimental to SEO.

What is bad for SEO?

Logically, something can be considered “bad for SEO” when it does the reverse of what we just discussed. It covers anything that prevents Google from finding your content, and anything that detracts from your website’s quality.

For example, content that doesn’t render or is buried too deep in your website will not be seen by Google-this won’t help you rank higher, and therefore is bad for SEO.

Your website needs to have great organization to ensure Google can find your content easily; having a sitemap can help immensely. If you’d like to know more about sitemaps, you can check out our post on them here.

Pages that load slowly, or content that is thin, weak, or irrelevant will detract from the user experience on your site and harm your rank.

What counts as thin content? This includes automatically generated content, low-value affiliate content, content that’s copied from somewhere else, and doorway pages. If you want to learn more about thin content, we cover it in this article.

Now that we’ve covered the basics as to what is good and bad for SEO, let’s get into some of the most common questions people have surrounding SEO.

The most common questions we get

For better organization and easier reading, we’ve placed the most common questions into the following three categories: Website platforms, Website elements, and Links.

Website platforms

Is there a particular website platform that is good for SEO?

There are a lot of options for website platforms out there; it can get pretty overwhelming to try to distinguish which one will suit your business’s needs best.

At the end of the day, what really matters is that you are able to answer “YES” to the following questions when asked about your chosen platform:

  • Does the website load quickly?
  • Does it produce a sitemap or allow you to create one?
  • Does it produce a robots.txt file or allow you to create one?
  • Does it allow you to create content and optimize that content for SEO (set a title, meta description, etc)?

While this is a solid checklist that will definitely ensure you have an adequate platform for your site, keep in mind that the best platform really depends on what kind of website you want to create.

Wordpress is a popular and great choice, especially for a blogging website. Be aware that will require some time and effort to set up, and it will need to be updated every so often as well. Wordpress is a software that gets released in versions, which means it needs to be updated every so often. If your Wordpress version is incompatible with a plugin version, you could run into some issues.

However, the upsides to using Wordpress are many because of the vast amount of customization the platform offers, ranging from page layout and file names to site speed. There are many plugins available to help you complete these customizations and improve your SEO, a popular choice being Yoast SEO.

SaaS platforms such as Wix, Squarespace, Weebly etc. can run a website fairly well, but they come with some limitations. While the learning curve for these platforms is much smaller, you may be sacrificing the customization and nuance you can get with a platform like Wordpress. These simplified platforms will follow overall best practices, but they won’t offer you the very targeted SEO tactics that you may want.

If you have an e-commerce website, it will have more complex needs than other sites, such as being customized and updated frequently. Launching an e-commerce site through Wordpress could be quite challenging, so this is a situation where you may want to look to simpler platforms. A platform like Shopify or Magento could provide the functionality you need for your core business, though they may not be the premier option.

The optimal website platform will depend on your website’s needs, and the amount of time, money, and expertise you have available to you. There’s no one right answer to this question, so don’t be afraid to try out different platforms until you find what works best for you.

Is blogging on Medium/Substack good for SEO?

It’s become popular in startup circles to use Medium and Substack as blogging platforms. It has an attractive interface and reports to get around 100 million monthly users. With the potential to reach so many eyes through a beautiful publication, it’s no wonder hopeful business owners have gravitated toward blogging on the website.

However, let’s consider again the question at hand: is blogging on Medium/Substack good for SEO?

The short answer is no.

Let’s dive into why.

Although you may be able to grow an audience on Medium, this accomplishment will do nothing to help the SEO of your actual website.

Any traffic that you get on Medium will only work to improve Medium’s own rankings and authority. Google can’t distinguish a random grouping of pages on Medium as yours, and in turn it will not be able to reward you either. Meanwhile, as Medium benefits from your posts, your own website will get nothing.

Google weights domains by how authoritative they are, with the more authoritative websites ranking higher more easily. That’s why it’s so important to focus on building your own domain’s authority.

If you really want to use Medium, here’s how to do it and actually benefit:

Using Medium’s import feature to enter a URL from your website, you can create a post draft with content pulled from that web page. This post will have a canonical URL for the one you entered, and this will allow the traffic the story gets on Medium to actually get back to your website and boost it.

Website elements

Are meta keywords good for SEO?

This one has a simple answer: not any more.

But if meta keywords are so frequently talked about in the SEO community, and everyone knows that keywords and SEO are inarguably linked together, then why is it that meta keywords don’t matter?

First, what are meta keywords?

Meta keywords are different from regular keywords because they work “behind the scenes”; they exist in the source code of the page that is not seen on the live page itself. The are a type of meta tag in the HTML code that tells search engines what the page is about-the page’s topic. Meta tags are generally pretty important, such as the meta description that Google displays in each search result.

A while back, meta keywords were used to tell Google what your web page was about. However, this practice quickly was abused and used as a spamming method, with people stuffing as many keywords as they could in there in the hopes of showing up for more searches. Thus, search engines were forced to abandon meta keywords as a ranking factor.

While this isn’t necessarily true for ALL search engines (such as Yandex and Baidu outside of the US), if you’re optimizing for Google or Bing, meta keywords have no effect on SEO.

Are modals good for SEO?

Modals are elements that appear in front of all other content on the webpage, and when they are displayed they deactivate the rest of the page’s content.

Often used to direct the user’s attention to an important piece of information or to spur action, these elements will not go away until the user engages with the modal or closes it.

While they’re very effective at communicating a certain message to your users, are modals good for SEO?

Like many cases in SEO, it depends. You’ll need to investigate these questions: Is the content visible to Google? How is the content rendered?

If Google is able to see the content and index it, then you’re golden. However, for modals, this is not always the case. Google is slowly getting better at JavaScript, but there’s not guarantee the search engine will be able to understand it.

However, you can check what Google is “seeing” on your website through Google Search Console. By submitting a sitemap and testing individual URLs, you’ll be able to view a screenshot of what Google sees, and you can check if it’s properly executing the JavaScript or not.

Once you’ve conducted tests on Google Search Console, you’ll know whether the modals are helping your SEO or not.

Speaking of rendering, let’s talk about JavaScript.

Is JavaScript bad for SEO?

Similar to the answer to the last question, this one also depends on a few factors, with one of those being: Can Google see the content that is being rendered by JavaScript?

JavaScript is a powerful programming language used to create complex features on a web page; it’s what makes websites and apps interactive. For years, JavaScript has helped websites go from static brochures to dynamic experiences.

If you see elements like content updates, animated graphics, or interactive maps, you can bet JavaScript is responsible for it. JavaScript can immensely improve the user experience of your site.

But is JavaScript good or bad for SEO?

Search engine bots process web pages, including Javascript web apps, by crawling, rendering, and then indexing them.

During crawling, search engines will crawl only static HTML at first due to limited time, resources, and computing power. Search engines will crawl content rendered via JavaScript in a second wave, but this could take days or weeks to complete.

Search engines have, historically, not been the best at rendering JavaScript. When this happens, the search engine is not able to understand what’s on the page, and it will not be able to index the content accordingly.

In recent years, Google and Bing have both been making many improvements to the rendering capabilities of their bots. However, these improvements come with no guarantees. Search engines may still not crawl your JavaScript content due to blocks in the robots.txt file, timeouts, or errors.  

If your website is built on a JavaScript framework (such as using the applications Angular, React, or Vue), then you’ll need to be especially careful. Often, when you look at the HTML document of a site built on one of these applications, it will be devoid of any content-most of the page’s contents will be dependent on JavaScript to be loaded.

This means that core content may be rendered to users, but not to search engines. Like we said earlier, if the search engine can’t see your content, it won’t help your SEO!

To see if your website is being affected by JavaScript SEO issues, you can visualize pages using Google’s Webmaster Tools. This way, you can see what Google sees.

The site search operator allows your to check Google’s index; this is how you can make sure your JavaScript content is being indexed properly.

Finally, you can fix any issues using Chrome’s built-in dev tools. By comparing and contrasting what human users and bots are seeing, you can make sure they generally align.

JavaScript is a useful but complicated language, and thus many SEO issues can arise with it. You’ll want to take the time to ensure that your site’s JavaScript is not working against you.

Links

Are internal links good for SEO?

Internal links are links that bring a user from one page on your website to another. And yes, they are good for SEO!

Both users and search engines use internal links to find their way around your site. A page can’t be found unless there’s a link to it.

Therefore, you’ll want to structure your website well and strategically use internal links, so no pages are hidden. This involves trying to reduce the number of clicks someone has to go through to find a page, especially for the pages you wish to rank.

There are different kinds of internal links, and you’ll want to have a combination that makes sense and helps your user navigate the site as easily as possible. The basics include links on your homepage, menu, post feed, etc. However, you can also create pillar pages that connect related pages, and add links within your content as contextual links, connecting users to more related and valuable content.

A high quantity of links signals to Google that the page is important, and it increases your potential of ranking higher, therefore improving your SEO.

Are PBNs bad for SEO?

PBNs, or “Private Blog Networks,” are a hotly debated topic in SEO due to the fact that they are technically against Google’s Terms of Service. Before we can get into their ethics or effect on your SEO, we need a quick primer on them.

A PBN refers to a network or group of websites that all link to one another in an attempt to boost one or more up in rank and authority. They do this because backlinking is highly valuable in SEO. The greater the number of high quality backlinks to a webpage, the better that page will rank in the search engine algorithm.

When marketers own multiple websites for this sole purpose, it’s seen as a way of gaming the backlinks system. Back in the old days, PBNs were very effective, too (and to some black hat SEOs, they still are). Someone could soar past their competition in the ranks all with a successful PBN.

However, building crappy websites to spam yourself with links just to get ahead has no real value or merit to it, and that’s why PBNs have generally been frowned upon in the SEO community. They’ve even been categorized as a gray/black hat SEO tactic.

Those traditional PBNs that rely on crappy websites are not so effective anymore, since the release of the Google Penguin update. However, that doesn’t mean PBNs are gone; they’ve just evolved.

Nowadays, marketers will use websites with original, high-quality content in their networks, and make sure to use credible, trustworthy links as well. With this combination, PBNs can still boost your SEO and they will be much harder for search engines to detect and penalize.

This sort of PBN takes a lot of time and effort, so it may not be the best move for smaller businesses. However, just because you don’t use one doesn’t mean your competitors aren’t. This is the reality of the SEO world we live in, and it’s important to be aware of these issues.

Officially, PBNs go against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. It’s always a bad idea to rely on spammy tactics to boost your website, but you also must be shrewd to what is effective in the modern SEO landscape.

Conclusion

SEO is a highly nuanced and complicated field. New questions arise every day as the world of web development and e-commerce grows and changes. No one has all the answers, but there are a few universal principles to SEO that will always be true.

You want to do everything in your power to provide original and valuable content to your target users, and make that content as easily accessible as possible.

You also want to help search engines find your content easily, and show search engines how valuable and authoritative your content is so that the search engine will, in turn, show that content to more people.

With this in mind, we hope we answered at least a few of the questions you had about SEO today. The important thing is to keep asking, keep learning, and keep improving to make it in the SEO space.



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