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, yo