As Google marches smartly down the path to total, worldwide domination, what Google thinks of your site becomes more and more important to business owners. Whether it’s Panda, Pigeon, Hummingbird, or Penguin, webmasters everywhere are terrified that the next change from Google will put them out of business. But how does this Borg-like giant — who makes all the rules, with galactic quantities of cash and resources — measure up against the standards they measure all of OUR websites by?

That’s right…it’s time for a site audit of Google. I’m gonna have a bit of fun at Google’s expense, but, I will say that there are some pretty ugly/dumb things in here that they really have no excuse for not fixing.


Photo credit: ClintJCL on Flickr.

Page Speed

Faster is better, of course. If your site is too slow, the user experience sucks, and Google will punish you by pushing you down in the search results. Google has long prided itself (rightfully, IMHO) on the speed at which they return search results. And, they provide some pretty sweet tools to help you you not only measure your page’s performance, but suggest detailed ways to improve things. This is all really great stuff. But, let’s take a look at a couple of examples of Google products that really fall down in the area of page speed:

Google AdWords Keyword tool

The initial load time of the main tools menu, with a total of just 4 options to choose from (pure text, mind you), takes several seconds….AND then loads in such a way that the menu options “jump” down. Sometimes more than once. If I had a nickel for every time I tried to click on one of these options and hit the one just above it…well, I’d buy Google and fire the person who designed this page.


The main page (when I’m logged in) at takes me 6 seconds to load (and I’ve got 70M download speed). Add to that another instance of stuff moving on the page after it begins to draw. I’m playing whack-a-mole chasing the Share box around the screen, trying to catch it so I can share something with the 43 other users of Google+ :-p.

Mobile Search

As everyone knows, this is the year of mobile search. So was last year, and the year before that, but this year is even mobiler. And as we all know, mobile-friendliness is affecting rankings these days.

Ummmm, Google….you still can’t review a G+ page from an iPhone. This has been a known bug for what…TWO YEARS NOW? #FAIL


Scroll all you want, you’re NEVER gonna find a link to review a business. FWIW, Louie makes GREAT pizza.

And, image search in Google isn’t really very mobile-friendly. My biggest gripe is that you can’t pinch/stretch the image search results. And if you wanted to get REALLY picky about it, there’s a heck of a lot of template and whitespace around the content above-the-fold; it wouldn’t do so hot under Panda’s “top heavy” algorithm.


You CANNOT stretch me. Is forbidden.

I’m a big fan of the PageSpeed Insights tool, especially for making your site more mobile-friendly. I ran PageSpeed Insights on a Google image result from a search for “Yugo”…and, well…here yugo:


Yes, Google, you Should Fix.

Backlinks, Penguin, and the Search Quality Team. Oh My.

Let’s run a Link Detox report on


He’s got backlinks from payday loan sites, but my favorite linking domain here is And the anchor text? Littered with “money” terms like “Google is evil” and “guest blogging”.

To be completely serious about this — given Matt’s public position at Google (if he’s ever coming back), it’s not surprising that he gets mentioned in all sorts of shady places like black-hat forums, etc. Having said that, however, what we see from the chart above is that even a legitimate website with no spammy link-building (we presume :-) can easily end up with a litany of stinky links.

Duplicate Content

It seems to me that in the migration from Picasaweb to Google+ photo albums, they neglected to put rel=canonicals in there, so all photos in all albums for all users are duplicated. There’s 9.9 million indexed pages at Dear Google+ photo gallery developers: read this.

And while I’m picking on Google+ photo galleries: really ought to have unique page titles and meta descriptions. Unfortunately, all however-many trillion photo pages in G+ galleries all have the same page title (“Photos – Google+”) and NO meta description. Dear Google+ photo gallery developers: read your own company’s best practices here.

Oh, I’m not done with you yet…if anyone’s wondering why G+ photo albums run so slowly, do a View Source on the page. Here’s a TINY excerpt of the gargantuan pile of inlined CSS style definitions:


The above is from a single-photo page, which has on it the photo, about 10 menu items, a half-dozen words, and maybe another dozen little nav buttons.


The Big G paid $555 to acquire DropCam, a service that allows you to broadcast streaming video full-time of your backyard, your kid’s room, etc., but freaks out over the potential for somebody to know what search terms you used to find their site. Thank you again, #notprovided.

(BTW, I actually really like DropCam, and have two installed outside my house…but it does seem like we’ve got two wacky extremes of privacy going on here.)

Sitewide Links

By now, everyone knows that sitewide links are a no-no, and can draw a dreaded Penguin penalty….but, Google would really like you to link every page on your site to your business’ Google+ profile page.

Contact Info

Google wants you to show your contact info, mark it up with hcard or, click to call tags for mobile users, etc…..but, in almost all cases, Google makes it desperately impossible to get an email, address, or phone number to get some help.

I’ll end on a high note: one FABULOUS exception to the above is Google+ local business phone support. These folks have helped me dig clients out of all sorts of messes with their Google+ business pages.

So that’s my somewhat facetious, somewhat serious critique of bits of Google’s vast real estate — what’s on YOUR list of “do as I say, not as I do” Google issues?


  1. Jim December 9th, 2014

    Ah this is wonderful. I’ve often thought about some of how google structures things from a site architecture standpoint. And it’s always fun to open up console in developer tools on chrome and just click around google properties and watch there errors fly.

  2. Michael Cottam December 9th, 2014

    Thanks Jim! To be fair, some of these best practices as espoused by Google are really aimed at only people who want their pages to rank in search; following those practices will tend to make your pages rank better. But if you don’t really care if a specific page ranks for search (because its purpose is NOT to draw search traffic), then some of the rules really can be ignored. Here are three examples sent to me by Kumail Hemani–identical content:

    No rel=canonical, no robots noindex. But, it’s not a search target, so in this instance, it doesn’t really matter. And it’s not garbage, link farm trickery, etc. And it’s unlikely to damage Google’s domain authority :-)

  3. Kumail Hemani December 9th, 2014

    Thanks for the shout out, Michael! :)

  4. Andy Headington December 10th, 2014

    Ha! Great idea for a blog post and well executed. I’ve also seen many examples of Google doing something to contradict their own guidelines over the years so it’s good/sad to see that they still haven’t sorted themselves out!

    Really like your point about Dropcam v #notprovided but I think most people know (SEOs) that the not provided move was nothing to do with privacy – more to do with a push towards getting more PPC revenue and also to get us thinking more about audiences which they will push more on in the coming years through their G+/user profile data collection of recent times.

  5. Michael Cottam December 10th, 2014

    Thanks Andy….and I agree with your call on the “not provided” move.

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Michael Cottam is an SEO consultant and native of Portland, OR, with addictions to travel, motorcycles, and flying. He serves on the board of SEMpdx, is an Associate at Moz, and is the founder of the travel planning website Visual Itineraries.