Search engine optimization professionals use Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to choose tactics and strategies aligned with Google’s expectations. This is what you need to know.
To achieve sustainable SEO results, you need to use techniques that are in line with Google’s expectations.
Unless you follow their guidelines, you can expect either an algorithmic devaluation or a manual penalty. In the most severe cases, you can expect to be banned from Google’s SERPs. Only by fully understanding the guidelines can you avoid potential pitfalls and future harm to your site. There are always multiple ways to interpret their guidelines.
Most of the guidelines are straightforward.
You should, however, review the guidelines regularly since Google updates them frequently. They don’t always announce changes to them, so you must stay alert. Recent changes to the guidelines include a line that reminds you to code your sites in valid HTML and CSS and that they should be validated with the W3C. It may not necessarily help in searching (it may improve user experience due to cross-browser compatibility).
It is a different type of guide than most.
As the goal of this guide is to present potential solutions to common problems, you will have actionable advice that you can apply to your next website issue.
What Are Google’s Webmaster Guidelines?
The guidelines are divided into:
- Guidelines for webmasters.
- Guidelines for general use.
- Guidelines specific to the content.
- Guidelines for quality.
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines are more general best practices you can use to build your site so that it appears in Google search results.
Some guidelines prevent your site from appearing in search results. Following these best practices will help your site appear in the Google SERPs (search engine results pages). There may be specific guidelines for specific types of content on your site, such as images, videos, and others. The quality guidelines contain all techniques that are prohibited and could result in your page being banned from the SERPs. These techniques can also result in a manual action being taken against your site. Guidelines are focused on ensuring that you don’t write spam and that your content is written for people, rather than search engine spiders. It’s easier said than done, though. Google’s Webmaster Guidelines are not easy to follow. By fully understanding them, you have already overcome the first hurdle. It is important that you apply these guidelines to your websites in a way that makes them compliant with them. Practice makes perfect, as they say!
Make Sure Your Keywords Are Relevant
Your website should be easy to find. Look at the top-ranking sites and see which keywords they use in their page title and meta description to determine keyword relevance. The other way to do this is to perform a competitor analysis of the top-ranking sites in your niche. There are many tools that can help you identify how sites use keywords on-page.
You have a site with no keywords. You have been given a list of keywords by the client, and you want to optimize the site for those keywords. Throughout the text copy, you have nothing but branded keywords, and there is no consideration given to the optimization of the website.
Here, the solution is not quite straightforward. To pinpoint the sweet spot of optimization for keywords based on your target market, you will need to conduct keyword research and competitor analysis.
Make Sure That Links from Other Findable Pages Can Reach Pages on Your Site
Every page on your site should have at least one link from another page, according to Google. Links make up the world wide web, so it makes sense that they would be your primary method of navigation. You can accomplish this by using your navigation menu, breadcrumbs, or contextual links.
Also, links should be crawlable. Link crawlability ensures a great user experience, and that Google can easily crawl and understand your site. Use keyword phrases to describe the outgoing page instead of generic anchor text when creating these links.
It is best to have a siloed website architecture because it reinforces topical relevance of your pages and arranges them in a hierarchical manner that Google can understand. It also reinforces topical focus.
One day, you run into a website that has orphaned pages everywhere and within the sitemap.
At least one link from the site should lead to every other potential page on the site. If the page is not part of your site, you can either delete it or noindex it.
Limit the number of links on a page to a reasonable number
Google has said in the past that you shouldn’t use more than 100 links per page.
It’s better to have links that are useful to the user rather than stick to a specific number. In fact, sticking to specific quantities can be harmful if they negatively affect the user experience.
You can now have a few thousand (at most) on a page, according to Google’s guidelines. It is reasonable to assume that Google uses quantities of links as a spam signal.
Linking over and over again is at your own risk. John Mueller has stated that he doesn’t care about internal links, and you can do whatever you want.
You have a site with more than 10,000 links per page. This will cause problems when Google crawls your site.
It depends on the type and scope of your site. If your site needs it, reduce the number of links per page to a few thousand or less.
Manage Your Crawl Budget with Robots.txt
Making sure that Google can crawl your site efficiently and easily requires crawl budget optimization.
As a result, you are making it easier for Google to crawl your site. The links on your site and robots.txt can be optimized to optimize your crawl budget.
At this step, we are primarily concerned with optimizing crawl budgets with robots.txt. This guide from Google tells you all you need to know about the robots.txt file and how it affects crawling.
A site has the following line in its robots.txt file:
The robots.txt file disallows crawling from the top of the site down.
That line should be deleted.
Issues that are common
A site doesn’t have a sitemap.xml directive in robots.txt. This is considered a best practice for SEO.
Add a directive that declares the location of your sitemap, such as the following:
Website map: http://www.example.com/sitemap.xml
Write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content and create a useful, information-rich site
Google prefers information-rich sites, as stated in their guidelines. A competition analysis is crucial to finding sites that are considered “information-rich.”
This “information-rich” requirement varies from industry to industry, which is why a competitive analysis is required.
An analysis of the competition should reveal:
- Find out what other sites are writing about.
- What they are writing about.
- Their sites’ structure, among other things.
By using this information, you can create a site that meets these guidelines.
You have a site filled with thin, short content that is not valuable.
Though, let’s be clear – word count is not the be-all and end-all of content. What matters is content quality, depth, and breadth.
You visit our site again and discover that it is full of thin content.
In order to overcome this site’s content weaknesses, a comprehensive content strategy is needed.
Consider the words users would type to find your pages
You should ensure that you determine how users search for your site when conducting keyword research. All of the keyword research in the world will not help you if you don’t know what users are searching for.
Effective keyword research plays a key role here.
When doing keyword research effectively, you must consider your potential client’s intent when searching for a phrase.
For example, someone earlier in the buying funnel is likely to be more concerned with research. They would not be searching for the same keywords as someone who is at the end of the buying funnel (e.g., they are about to make a purchase).
Additionally, you must think about your potential client’s mindset – what are they thinking when they search for these keywords?
You must perform on-page optimization after you have completed the keyword research phase of your project. On-page optimization involves ensuring that every page on your site mentions the targeted keyword phrase associated with that page.
SEO is impossible without effective keyword research and targeting. SEO does not work like this. Otherwise, it is not SEO.
A common problem
A site has nothing but branded keyword phrases and hasn’t done too much to differentiate itself in the market.
After doing some research, you find that they haven’t updated their blog very much with a variety of keyword topics, and instead have only focused on branded posts.
Rather than using branded keywords, the solution to this is to use targeted keyword phrases that are of broader topical relevance to come up with content.
You should follow the basics of SEO, or SEO 101: include the keywords that users would type to find those pages, and make sure those words appear on your website.
This is part of Google’s general guidelines for helping users understand your pages.
Create a clear conceptual page hierarchy for your site
A clear conceptual page hierarchy is what? It indicates that your site is organized by topical relevance.
The main topics of your site are arranged as main topics, and subtopics are arranged beneath the main topics. This is called SEO silos. SESEO silos are a great way to organize pages of a site according to themes.
The more clear the conceptual hierarchy, the better. Google will see that your site is knowledgeable on the topic.
The flat architecture guideline has two schools of thought; one believes that pages should never be more than three clicks deep from the homepage.
The other school of thought stresses siloing – that you should create a clear conceptual page hierarchy that dives deep into the breadth and depth of your topic.
Create a website architecture that makes sense for your topic. SEO siloing helps you accomplish this by making your site as in-depth about your topic as possible.
SEO Siloing also provides a coherent organization of topical pages and discussions. In light of this, and the fact that SEO siloing has been observed to produce meaningful results – I recommend that most sites pursuing topically dense topics create silo architectures appropriate to that topic.
There’s a website that has pages scattered around, without much thought to organization, linking, or other website architecture. Also, the pages are haphazardly put together, so they lack an organized flow.
Creating a siloed website architecture that conforms to what your competitors are doing can fix this issue. This website architecture serves to reinforce your topical focus, and in turn, improve your rankings through entity relationships between your pages and topical reinforcement.
Your keyword phrases become more relevant as a result of this topical reinforcement.
Ensure that all website assets are fully crawlable and indexed
I’m sure you’re wondering – why shouldn’t all assets be crawlable and indexable?
Firstly, if they were blocking one another because they couldn’t get along on the server.
Furthermore, if you were blocking them because of some other conflict, either way, Google has guidelines for this as well.
Google’s guidelines state:
For Google to fully understand the context of your page, all elements must be present.
It is time to redesign your website if site files do not render correctly.
Your site’s important content should be visible by default
Google’s guidelines suggest making your site’s most important content visible by default. Therefore, you don’t want buttons, tabs, and other navigation elements to be necessary to reveal this content.
In addition, Google explains that they “consider this content less accessible to users, and believe that you should make your most important information visible by default.”
Tabbing content – yes, this falls under content that is less accessible to users.
Imagine you have a tabbed block of content on your page. Until you click the tab at the top to go to the second one, the first tab is the only one that is fully viewable. And so on.
Think about Google – they think this kind of content is less accessible.
Although this may be a small thing, you don’t want to do it egregiously – especially on your homepage.
Ensure that all tabbed content is fully visible.
A website with tabbed content is assigned to you. What should you do?
The client should create a version of the content that is fully visible.
Turn tabbed content into paragraphed content that goes up and down the page.
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines Are Actually Guidelines
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines are just that, guidelines. It can be said that they’re just “guidelines” and not necessarily rules. However, if you violate them egregiously, you can be banned from the SERPs. I prefer to stay on Google’s good side. Manual actions are cumbersome. Penalties may range from algorithmic devaluations to outright manual actions. The severity of the violation determines the penalty. When it comes to Penguin issues, pages and folders can be devalued. Real-time Penguin is inherently very granular in this regard. However, it’s important to note that not all guideline violations will result in penalties. This can cause issues with crawling and indexing, which can also affect your ranking. Some result in major manual actions, such as spammy links back to your site. It’s important to remain calm when a manual action occurs. It is likely that you have brought this on yourself through link spam or another type of spam on your site. You should investigate and work with Google to remove the manual action. In general, if you have spent a lot of time getting into trouble, Google expects you to spend the same amount of time getting out of trouble before you are accepted back into their good graces. At other times, the site is so bad that the only solution is to nuke it and start over. Knowing this, you should be able to identify whether certain techniques have caused you to get into trouble. It is definitely worth it to follow Google’s guidelines from the beginning. Even though results are slower than with other, more aggressive methods, we recommend this approach. It will help you maintain a more stable online presence, and you won’t be affected by a manual action or algorithmic devaluation.