If you’ve done any reading on SEO and how to rank well on Google, you likely heard of the Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. These guidelines help website owners understand what Google is looking for when ranking websites in search results. As a website owner who is practicing SEO, it’s very important to understand these guidelines. This blog post is going to cover what you need to know about Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
The “General Guidelines” portion covers how to ensure Google can find and understand your webpages, and how to make your webpages easy to use. All three of these qualities are capable of having their own blog post, so keep in mind that we are summarizing. To best understand how to achieve these things, you should look to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines or other blog posts. The rest of this blog posts explains concepts presented in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. First, let’s look at how to get Google to find your website in the first place.
Helping Google Find Your Website
Before trying various methods to get Google to crawl to your website, you should check to see if they already have. It’s very likely they have crawled your your website and it already ranks. To check to see if your website is in Google’s search results, you have to conduct a simple search. Type “site:[your domain name and top-level domain]” to see results from only your website. For example, we would type “site:jjlyonsmarketing.com” to see if our website is indexed by Google. If you find your website has not been indexed by Google, it has either not been crawled by Google, or it has been blacklisted.
Before asking Google to crawl your website, you need to check on a few things. When a website is of poor quality, Google may decide to completely eliminate it from search results altogether. You can also get your website blacklisted by practicing blackhat SEO tactics. To avoid getting blacklisted, pay close attention to the rest of this blog post. You should also ensure that you have high-quality content and include some SEO elements. Once you have made any necessary changes, you should request Google to crawl your website.
Help Google Understand Your Website
To help Google recognize that you have a high-quality website, you should include elements to break up your content. These elements include headings, subheading, images and videos. Your website should also be organized and clean. Keep in mind that Googlebot, Google’s web crawler, is a robot and it needs to read your website easily. A complicated and cluttered website can be marked as low-quality if Googlebot cannot easily crawl it.
Try to have important content front and center on your website, as it is recommended in the guidelines. While you will not be penalized for using tabs and sections, Google does prefer you to have content on a default page layout. One way around this is to have your homepage include the most important information or content on your website. This allows you to have an organized website and have important content easily accessible.
Help Website Visitors Use Your Website
One of the most important goals for your website should be to make it user-friendly and resourceful. If it is too difficult to navigate, your users will be less likely to stay on your page. Google understands this, so they rank easy-to-use websites higher than complicated and confusing websites.
Update your website to make it more user-friendly by making sure it is fast. 40% of people will click off of a website if it takes over three seconds to load. Avoid people leaving your website by checking its speed using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. You should also make sure your website is mobile-friendly, as this is very important to both your website visitors and Google. You can use another one of Google’s tools called the Mobile-Friendly Test to see if your website works on mobile devices.
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Website content is very important for informing Google on how to rank a website. There are many ways you can improve your content so you rank better in search engines, but we will only cover a few. We also have an entire blog post called 10 Content Creation Tips to Consider, which provides even more information regarding website content.
Publish Your Own Unique Content
Some website owners will publish auto-generated content or duplicate content thinking it will help their rankings. This cannot be further from the truth. Google looks to see if content was written by a human, for humans and if it’s original. Publishing duplicate content can damage your search result rankings and can even lead to legal consequences. When publishing content, make sure it’s original and that it’s high-quality so you can rank well in search results.
Use Follow and No-Follow Links
Backlinks are very useful for increasing referral traffic and also increasing the position of your website in search engines. When you add a hyperlink over text in your content, you are either adding value or hurting your website. The website you link to in your content must be of good quality, or else your rank may be negatively affected. To avoid being negatively affected by a website, you can use a no-follow link.
A no-follow link tells Google to “ignore” a backlink on your page. These links come in handy when you absolutely must link to a website whether that be for credit or to use as an example. Keep in mind, you should almost always use a follow link unless you are absolutely sure a website will hurt your rankings. Follow links can build credibility and are usually seen as positive signal by Google.
Use Great Photos
As mentioned above, images are an excellent way to break up text in lengthy portions of content. When including images on your website, they should be clear and of good quality. Google does not want to display websites with blurry pictures on the first page of search results. They want to feature high-quality websites with professional photos that relate to the topic of the content.
You do not have to go out and buy a top of the line camera to rank well on search engines. Most smartphones have cameras that are good enough quality for SEO practices. You can also use royalty free photos that can be retrieved from dozens of websites. Just be sure you can legally use the photos you have, and they are high quality and relate to your content.
A large portion of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines revolves around quality. Quality is so important to Google that there is an entire section on its help center dedicated to quality guidelines. Google wants to serve its users the best websites in search results, so having high-quality content is important. This blog post would be too long if we touched on every point specified, so take this as a brief summary.
Avoid Blackhat SEO Tactics
As stated above, it is possible to get blacklisted from Google’s search results. You should not take risks or be sneaky when practicing SEO. We recommend looking at Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to see all of the techniques that should be avoided. If you are interested, you may want to read our blog post, Buying Links and Other Blackhat SEO Tactics That Will Get You in Trouble, where we discuss tactics and guidelines that may get your website removed from search results.
You are responsible for the spam left in the comments of your webpages. Regularly monitor your comments to make sure there is no spam on your website. To prevent these comments, you can set up an approval process where you approve each comment that is left. You can also place a reCAPTCHA on your website to prevent bots from leaving comments.
Rule of Thumb
Google heavily stresses that website owners should create content for humans and not search engines. Your primary focus should be to answer your website visitors’ questions and to provide value. While you should make efforts to rank on search engines, that shouldn’t be your only goal. Focus on what humans like and then practice SEO tactics. Then you will be on the right path.
Learning Google’s Webmaster Guidelines
The guidelines that Google lays out for website owners are extremely helpful when practicing SEO. It’s a great idea to refer back to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines when you have a question about SEO expectations and ethics. Make sure you are not taking any risks with your SEO tactics, and always remember to check the guidelines laid out by Google.
If you have any questions about Google’s Webmaster Guidelines or SEO, please fill out the form below so we can contact you. We will set up a time to speak with you one-on-one and address all of your questions.