Here are 68 Google Webmaster Guidelines You Should Know
Google is the top search right now. These are sets of rules and suggestions that can help you achieve top ranking. If you want to know what Google is looking for, follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines.
Google has an extensive set of webmaster guidelines that helps you not only to rank better but also to provide excellent user experience to website visitors. Now and then, Google would add, remove, or amend this documentation to help website owners understand what Google wants.
Google has been prioritizing mobile-first indexing for a while now and it’s now a must for website owners and developers to check the webmaster guidelines to be in the loop with what has changed. Digital marketing is not the same without Google webmaster tools, after all. This article gives you insight into what is relevant in the Google Webmaster Guidelines to your website’s success.
What Are Google Webmaster Guidelines?
The Google Webmaster Guidelines are divided into two basic sets. These are the General Guidelines and the Quality Guidelines.
The General Guidelines present how you can improve your pages aside from search engine optimization. It also discusses the principles and working mechanisms of how Google understands these pages, and what you should do so that Google can better index your content and the likes. The General Guidelines provides tips and tools that further enhance the user experience.
On the other hand, the Quality Guidelines offer how you can avoid deceptive tactics that Google finds misleading and manipulative. Most of these tactics are often considered grave and severe violations of the Google Webmaster Guidelines.
Are you ready?
Determine Keyword Relevance
Make sure that your website is discoverable. Your website and content should include the keywords that visitors use to search for your pages. You want to tell Google that you are an expert on the topics shown on your website.
Avoid Broken Links
All your links must be active and go to live, working pages so these can be easily crawled. Additionally, your links should have an anchor text related to that linked page
Don’t Break the Rules
Taking shortcuts and using tricks that aim to increase your search engine ranking isn’t going to do your website good. Breaking the guidelines set by Google or utilizing blackhat SEO tactics can get your website blacklisted. Follow what Google recommends for the best practices for adding images, videos, and the likes.
Schema.org Article markup
You should use the Schema.org article markup so that your content can be read by the leading search engines aside from Google.
If your website is geared towards children, you have to inform Google if the entire site is tagged as child-directed or just a section of it. This complies with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This action would not affect your ranking in any way. However, the approval may take some time to effect. Another thing, Google reserves the right to limit the number of domains it covers under the child protection tag.
You should avoid iFrames at all times. Not only can these be problematic for your SEO, but iFrames can also pose a threat to your security. Content inside iFrames are not indexed, so having that content is practically futile. If you intend to add iFrames, you must include text-based links to the content inside these elements so Google can index the content by crawling.
Regional and Language-specific Pages
Use hreflang to signal Google that you have several lingual versions of a particular page. Localized pages happen when you are trying to target an audience using their language. While Google automatically translates and provides localized versions of your page, it is still a better practice to explicitly tell Google of these things using the hreflang tag.
Make Your Site Responsive
Your website should be easily accessible in any kind of device, be it a smartphone or desktop. Using responsive website designs and mobile-friendliness is a ranking factor now that more and more people are using smaller gadgets to access information online. You can check how your website fares with this mobile-friendliness testing tool by Google.
Images add visual appeal to your otherwise ordinary text content. Place them near or beside texts, and you have to make sure that these images are related to the content. Also, place your most significant image near the top of the page.
People use a browser to access your online content. Each browser may have a slightly different way of interpreting your content, so there are a few differences in how your website would look in each browser. As a rule, don’t create your website to suit just one kind of browser. To ensure that your website has cross-browser compatibility, do the following:
- Review your site on several browsers
- Create your website using valid CSS and HTML
- Check your codes using HTML and CSS validators such as Jigsaw and W3C Validator
- Add the character encoding on top of your frame
- Provide text-only alternatives for your videos and images for better indexing
Inform Google immediately that you want to remove the snippet and cached results from the Google Search results. File a removal request, provided that the page where the video is embedded already returns a 404 code, or that video needs login access. Take note that this removal request also works for images and pages. However, if the removal of rich content is about legal information or the copy has some legal issues, use this request.
Submit New Sites and Content to Google
Are you interested in having your new content crawled by Google? First, identify the kinds of content you have. Is it a website? You can submit a sitemap for new sites or update your content so that more visitors can lookup your content.
Are you using your content for business? You can promote your products by informing Google of your product catalogs. Do you want to know more about how Google can help your small business? Or do you want your business on Google Maps and give a virtual tour of your location?
When you have multiple URLs directed to a single page, or various pages containing similar content, it’s best to pick one to be used as the canonical version of those pages. All other pages of the same copy and the likes are to be considered as duplicates. The canonical page is what Google would often crawl but not the duplicates. If you don’t specify which is the canonical page, Google might pick one for you or consider all canonical pages, which can lead to other issues.
Avoid Unnatural Links
Unnatural links are those links that have been placed but not approved by the site owner. These can also refer to link activities that manipulate page ranking using inbound and outbound linking acting activities—doing this a severe violation of the Webmaster Guidelines. These activities include buying or selling links and sending free products so the other can promote your products in their sites and links back to your website, among others.
Image Meta Data
Your image should contain enough description and related keywords so that Google can also identify your image. This can help in your ranking on Google.
Provide Good Context for Your Image
Your images included on your web pages should be relevant and connected to the content these images represent. Use the alt attribute to include descriptions. Whenever possible, include your relative keywords in the alt tags for these images.
Check If All Pages Are Linked
Make sure that all your pages linked from another page. An orphaned page or a page that doesn’t contain any link is a big no-no since bots can’t find it through indexing. You can’t rank these said pages; they won’t show up in search results.
Image Alt Text
Your alt texts should be able to describe the image to which these tags are attached. If you can, use your keywords as your alt text provided that those keywords contextually describe the content. One of the bad practices of image alt text includes stuffing the alt text with your keywords and lack thereof.
Avoid Text in Images
Google can’t index images, so adding text to these images won’t do your webpage any good. Besides, images with text take a lot of time to load. Instead, use text to showcase important events, names, and links. Should you need to add images, make sure you use the alt attribute to include some descriptions for them.
Combine HTML with AJAX
Use only HTML for your structure and navigation when you are in the initial stage of your website development as Google better understands HTML code. Once you have everything in place, you might want to reconsider adding AJAX to create dynamic pages that liven up your website’s appearance. Be careful when implementing AJAX because, with improper implementation, this can cause issues with Google crawling your content and following your navigation. Combining HTML with AJAX makes your website crawlable as well as provides a better user experience to your audience.
Image Landing Pages
Sometimes your images can be hard to detect by Google. You can help Google track of these images by providing the former more information using Google image extensions. To group your images, you can use a separate sitemap for them or insert the codes for the images on your existing sitemap.
Use hreflang to tell Google what language to use explicitly. This is useful when your website uses several languages to suit specific markets. You have to take note, though, the local versions of the pages are considered duplicates unless there is a translation of the main content. That being said, consider creating a canonical tag when the pages are considered copies.
The schema markup makes user experience and online searching better across the major search engines. A video schema markup standardizes your videos so major search engines can rank these. Instead of leaving all the details to Google, you can actively provide video information and all their characteristics by using VideoObject. After doing so, your video can now appear in search results as well as Google Discover. Other video enhancements include BroadcastEvent to add a live badge, Clip structured data to show the salient points of your video.
You can use anti-hotlink to protect your images to a considerable level. But, adding the anti-hotlinking may not be enough, depending on the circumstance. If, for example, another website is using your images, and you want to disallow the use of such images, you can remove those said images from Google search results. Check Google Removal Policies to know if your concerns fall under Google requirements.
When you have content targeting different languages, make sure that they can be easily found. For every different language, use different URLs too. However, you must use the hreflang annotations so that Google could make the right adjustments. Also, inform Google that you have different language versions.
Don’t be evil
Creating damaging content, changing user information, and distributing malicious content are severe violations of Google Webmaster Guidelines. Examples of such behaviors include phishing, the inclusion of unwanted files during download, installation of malware, among others.
Make Webpages Accessible.
Your webpage accessibility shouldn’t only be limited to visual readers; it should also be readable for visual impairments. For Google to be able to crawl everything, make sure that you include alt text on your images. Try to avoid clutter and flashy texts. Your website should still be navigable and accessible even without the use of a mouse.
Avoid Computer-Generated Content
Google considers webpages with little to no added value, in terms of content, which is a huge violation. Computer-generated content is one such example. Since the material is created using a program, more often than not, this does not aim to help readers but to exploit rankings. These types include content that contains keywords but makes no sense and content created from combining content from other websites but without the inclusion of additional information.
HTTPS protects your website’s integrity, information, and privacy, and your users and readers. Aside from this, HTTPS is a requirement of many apps and Chrome extensions and features.
Secure Your Site
When you see hacked content on your site, remove it immediately. Hacked content is any content that was added to your site because of a breach in your security. Google does not include hacked content in its search results. To clean your website, you need to look for the support resources, manually remove the new URLs added by the hacker, and contact Google. Then, clean your servers. Make sure that the cleaning is done thoroughly before putting your website back online.
Alternate Language Sitemap
It’s one of the best practices to explicitly tell Google if your website has different variations of a single page because of different languages. The alternate language sitemap is used when you want Google to know all the language variants you have for a particular page.
Add the element <loc> for the URL, one for each version, and <xhtml:link> for the child entries. Say, if you have two languages, you’d have two <loc> entries with two child entries each.
By default, Google would still choose the best alternate version for language based on the location of the reader. This is particularly effective when you only translate some of your page’s main elements, but the content remains in one language. One such example is a forum. Another example is when the content remains in one language but can have regional variations such as English, where it can be American or British. Using the alternate language sitemap is a great strategy when you want your content to be translated into different language versions.
Geotargeting or targeting content to a particular country or region can improve your rankings for that specific region, but it may affect the results in other areas. You can use hreflang or sitemaps for the target region. You can also report to Google of your target area via the International Targeting report, only if you are targeting one country. It may look illogical to target France when your website features French cuisine in Quebec, Canada.
Make Sure the Page Language Is Obvious
Google determines the language of the site by checking the visual content of the page. Try to avoid a mix of languages on a single page. Relatively, use the same language for the content and the navigational elements for each of the pages Google crawls. If you just translate the duplicate content and the rest retains the original language, like that of forums, your website can be tagged with a bad user experience.
Product Content Cloning
Google wants websites to provide added value to the content. While most sites offer additional information to users, those that belong to the affiliate website sector should take note of this as these websites often feature almost the same descriptions across the network. As a remedy, avoid replicating the content entirely on the network. Provide product reviews and comparisons so you can still provide additional information to your readers.
Optimize Your Page Loading Times
It’s a given fact that a faster page loading time can increase user experience. To know whether your page loads slowly or fast, use Google PageSpeed Insights and to check the loading time. Also, images are the most significant contributors to slow page loading. That being said, optimize your images for better web performance.
Avoid Doorway Pages
Doorway pages are misleading pages aimed to increase a website’s ranking. These pages are not great for user experience and can be considered spammy since they lead to multiple pages containing almost the same content. An example of a doorway page is creating multiple pages include having several domain names that lead the visitors to a single page.
Create a website that would describe the services or products you offer. You should always provide added value to your offers, whether for your products or content. Google emphasizes the importance of user experience, so you should make your site engaging.
Locale-Aware Crawling by Googlebot
You should be wary if your page is set to a specific region or a particular language because Google may not be able to completely crawl and rank your content, especially if your website blocks a visitor from another location. For example, if you only want visitors from France and your IP address is also from there, but Google came from the US, which means the Googlebot won’t crawl your page because you are blocking all that are not from France.
Keep your URLs easy to understand to your readers. It’s better to use readable words over number combinations.
Avoid keyword stuffing or putting a lot of keywords into the content in the hopes that these words can improve the website ranking. The incorrect application of keywords to the content can actually lead to the website’s ranking being downgraded. Instead, create content that can contribute to the reader’s knowledge. Check your grammar, too.
Avoid Scraped Content
Avoid republishing content from other websites without adding value to it. Rehashing those contents and adding them to your website is a violation of the Webmaster Guidelines.
Avoid Hidden Text or Links
Google considers hidden texts as spammy because the search engines can read them, but humans can’t because some photos are covering them, using CSS to move the texts out of the screen, or the font color is the same as the background. Remember that Google wants to improve user experience, so having hidden texts can get you penalized.
Prevent Crawling of Infinite Spaces
When your website contains a high number of URLs in your site, it is called infinite space. These Infinite loop structures may look like paginations but should be avoided. Doing so causes Google to consume large amounts of bandwidth and may not be able to index your site altogether. One solution is to use robots.txt to remove those infinite loops or use the nofollow attribute.
Do not deceive your visitors by including content that tricks them from giving you their confidential information. Deceptive activities include adding content that tricks the user by divulging confidential information and phishing. If Google finds out about such activities on your site, it may warn future visitors that you have a deceptive site.
Don’t Scrape Results
Avoid scraping results or sending Google automated keyword searches to check for ranking without expressing intent first.
Create Quality Content
SEO information from Google Webmaster Guidelines tells you to create informative and original content that adds value to your website visitors. Your webpages should also contain the necessary information needed by your viewers.
Make Sure That Your Webserver Correctly Supports the If-Modified-Since HTTP Header
The If-Modified-Since HTTP header informs the server to tell Google that there have been some changes in your content. Also, make the client-side caching to work as this only requires little resources but provides a better user experience.
No-follow Your Ads
Connecting to another website through the links you add allows you to grant some of your reputations to the site you used as the link. The nofollow attribute can be used when you don’t want Google to crawl, endorse or pass your ranking credit to the linked citations on your content or on the third party widgets you use on the website for some reason. While the nofollow may not be able to stop the spam, it does prevent spammers from marking your website.
Minimize Hidden Content
The only time that hidden content is not considered deceptive is when you use text for things that Google finds difficult to crawl, such as images and Flash. When you have these things on the website, the best way to include them for indexing is by using text to describe them. Otherwise, all other content on your website should be viewable by default.
Sculpt Page Rank
If you don’t want to pass your influence or endorse any kind of ads with the links you add to your site or content, add the rel=nofollow to signal Google that you don’t want to boost the PageRank of the linked site. Take note that Google has also added two more link attributes to provide Google with better link identification. These are rel=” sponsored” or to classify the link as a sponsored link and rel=” ugc’ as link added in comments and posts.
Avoid Placeholder Pages
Once you already have your content and pages in place, delete the placeholder pages that were originally included on your website. These pages often contain little to no original content, and it does not offer additional value to your users.
Use Valid HTML
Using valid HTML is a safe bet so that your website displays correctly and fast across all kinds of devices and browsers. By using validated HTML, your site becomes more accessible to visually impaired readers, and Google would not misinterpret these codes. With better user experience, you have a greater possibility of better rankings.
You should optimize your content, so these can be seen as in-depth articles. That being said, you should use markups for the heading, the meta description, and the content itself. Make sure that the images you use on the pages are indexable.
Google adds thumbnail images to featured content on Google Discovery. If you want to be featured in this product, you need to optimize your content as well. Thumbnails should be of high-quality with at least 1,200 pixels wide. Also, ensure that Google has the display rights for these high-quality images.
Your image sizes will depend on the three kinds of images: the profile photo, cover photo, and other types of photos. The cover photo should be 250 pixels x 250 pixels. For the business cover photo, it should be around 1080 pixels x 1080 pixels, and for other kinds of photos, it should 720 pixels by 720 pixels. Ideally, these images should be in PNG or JPG formats.
Avoid Sneaky Redirects
Redirects can be used to trick search engines or web visitors by displaying content that is different from that which is available to Google. It’s deceptive in the sense that what the search engine can view can be entirely different from that of the website visitors. If this happens, the original page is indexed, but the other one doesn’t.
Google emphasizes the need to provide a great user experience. The best way to create this is to follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines. You should produce quality and informative content and optimize your pages and all the elements therein.
Use Canonical Tags
When you have multiple versions or URLs of similar pages, you can bump into issues. To help Google sort out which among the versions is the original, use the rel=” canonical” attribute to identify the original page from the copied versions.
Design for Accessibility
Ensure that all the important content is visible to readers by default, including inside expanding sections. Also, remove URL parameters and other factors that may hinder Google search bots from crawling your site thoroughly.
Accurate Titles and Attributes
Ensure that the title tags of your pages and alt attributes of your images are “descriptive, specific, and accurate”. Your alt attributes and title tags should clearly describe the image or the headline. Avoid using plugins that automatically use your title as its alt attribute for images.
Don’t Fake Schema Data
Avoid using the markup for rich snippets in shady ways. Google will warn you, and you’d receive penalties for the misuse of the schema data.
Avoid Session IDs and URL Parameters
For Googlebot to efficiently crawl your site, you must avoid using URL parameters and session IDs. These two can create a massive number of URLs on your website, which may also cause Google to consume larger bandwidth while indexing.
Avoid allowing users to add any kind of content to your site without your permission. Make sure you check your user’s credibility before you allow them to add anything to your site. What you can do to avoid Google from calling you out because of user-generated spam is always to check and remove spam content as soon as possible. Also, use anti-spam tools and nofollow attributes to keep these malicious activities at bay.
One of the best practices from Google Webmaster Guidelines you can follow is to use descriptive, human words as part of your image filenames. Ensure that the filenames describe the image itself.
Avoid Text in Images
As much as possible, avoid embedding text inside your images because Google can’t crawl and index these words. For better accessibility for non-visual readers, add alt description to your images.
You can add a video sitemap to further describe to Google what your videos are. This also helps Google find where the video content is located on your site. A video sitemap can be added to the existing sitemap, or you can create a separate sitemap for videos altogether. Also, you can post the video sitemap and wait for the periodic crawling of Google of your site. However, to expedite things, you can notify Google of the changes in the video sitemap so it can crawl your site again.
We have provided you with what you need to know about the Google Webmaster Guidelines in the most accessible and understandable way possible. ITDwebdesign.com is here to help you develop your online business. Give us a call so our professional team can guide you on your journey.