The changes to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines are not an everyday occurrence, so even the smallest tweak makes news.
However, this time around there are several updates businesses, site developers, SEO practitioners and others should take a look at. This latest update comes after Google revamped its Webmaster Home with a new look and three new features for the new portal, which include Webmaster troubleshooter, Popular Resources and Event Calendar.
The changes to the layout of the general Google Webmaster guidelines include the addition of three drop-down menus that explain how Google finds and understands your pages, as well as how visitors use your pages. Before you dismiss these changes, it is important to note the language Google has used to emphasize the need to follow the new guidelines.
While in the past Google has said, “Even if you choose not to implement any of these suggestions,” it has now replaced the wording with just, “We strongly encourage you to pay very close attention to the Google Webmaster Quality Guidelines.” This is a not-so-subtle hint you should be following the Webmaster Guidelines with strict adherence.
Barry Schwartz embedded the complete before and after guidelines on Search Engine Land.
The new guidelines direct website operators to:
Help Google Find Your Pages
- Ensure that all pages on the site can be reached by a link from another findable page. The referring link should include either text or, for images, an alt attribute, that is relevant to the target page.
- Provide a sitemap file with links that point to the important pages on your site. Also provide a page with a human-readable list of links to these pages (sometimes called a site index or site map page).
- Limit the number of links on a page to a reasonable number (a few thousand at most).
Help Google Understand Your Pages
- Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.
- Design your site to have a clear conceptual page hierarchy.
- Follow our recommended best practices for images, video, and structured data.
- Make a reasonable effort to ensure that advertisement links on your pages do not affect search engine rankings.
Help Visitors Use Your Pages
- Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links.
- Ensure that all links go to live web pages. Use valid HTML.
- Optimize your page loading times.
- Design your site for all device types and sizes, including desktops, tablets, and smartphones.
- Ensure that your site appears correctly in different browsers.
- If possible, secure your site’s connections with HTTPS.
As always, Google ends any amendments to its guidelines with a warning, and this time is no different, “If your site violates one or more of these guidelines, then Google may take manual action against it. Once you have remedied the problem, you can submit your site for reconsideration.”
Following existing and new guidelines ensures your digital presence will be readily available on the largest browser in the world, and violating them can be a costly mistake.