Google’s Gary Illyes answers your LinkedIn SEO questions

Google analyst Gary Illyes offers guidance on large robots.txt files, the SEO impact of website redesigns, and the correct use of the rel-canonical tag.

Illyes takes questions sent to him via LinkedIn direct messages and answers them publicly, offering valuable insights to those in the SEO community.

It’s already news for Google employees to share SEO advice. This is mainly due to Illyes, who is not as active on social media as her colleagues like Search Advocate John Mueller and Developer Advocate Martin Splitt.

Throughout the last week, Illyes has shared advice and provided guidance on the following:

Considering the engagement her post is getting, there will likely be more to come. Here’s a summary of what you’re missing if you don’t follow them on LinkedIn.

Keep Robots.Txt Files Under 500KB

Regarding a previously published poll on robots.txt file size, Illyes shared the PSA for files larger than 500kb.

Screenshot from:, January 2023.

Illyes suggests paying attention to the size of your website’s robots.txt file, especially if it’s larger than 500kb.

Google’s crawler only processes the first 500 kb of files, so it’s very important to make sure that the most important information appears first.

Doing this can help ensure that your website is properly crawled and indexed by Google.

Website Redesigns May Cause Rankings To Go “Nuts”

When you redesign your website, it is important to remember that its ranking in search engines may be affected.

As Illyes explains, this is because search engines use your page’s HTML to understand and categorize the content on your site.

If you make changes to the HTML structure, such as breaking paragraphs, using CSS styles instead of H tags, or adding unnecessary break tags, it can cause the HTML parser to produce different results.

This can significantly affect your site’s ranking in search engines. Or, as Illyes says, it can cause ratings to go “crazy”:

Screenshot from:, January 2023.

Illyes recommends using semantically similar HTML when redesigning a site and avoiding unnecessary tags to minimize SEO impact.

This will allow the HTML parser to better understand the content on your site, which can help maintain search rankings.

Don’t Use Relative Paths In Your Rel-Canonical

Don’t cut corners when implementing the rel-canonical tag. Illyes strongly recommends spelling out the entire URL path:

Screenshot from:, January 2023.

Saving a few bytes using relative paths in the rel-canonical tag is not worth the potential trouble it causes.

Using relative paths can cause search engines to treat them as different URLs, which can confuse search engines.

Spelling out the full URL path eliminates potential ambiguity and ensures that search engines identify the correct URL as the preferred version.

In Summary

By answering questions sent to him via direct message and offering his expertise, Illyes is giving back to the community and providing valuable insights on various SEO related topics.

It’s a testament to Illyes’ dedication to helping people understand how Google works. Send him a DM, and your questions may be answered in a future LinkedIn post.

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