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What Are Google Web Master Guidelines?

Google Search Essentials, formally called Webmaster Guidelines, are how Google decides where to rank a website.

It helps web developers and SEO practitioners understand what Google wants from a website so that we can serve the best site possible that is more likely to rank.

They cover three parts:

  1. Technical Requirements
  2. Spam Policies
  3. Key Best Practices

Each one of these elements can appear to be simple, but the more you dig into it, the more you uncover.

It’s a bit like a delicious ice cream sundae. You start of full of enthusiasm, and the more you uncover, the more sick you feel. Jokes. We live for this stuff.

Webmaster Guideline 1-Technical Requirements  

So that Google can do the bare minimum and actually crawl the page, it needs three things:

It needs to be able to crawl the page

This makes perfect sense. If the Googlebot can’t crawl a page, it definitely won’t be indexed.

Because the bot can’t see it.

So, the page won’t be crawled if, for example, it is excluded from the site map by a noindex tag or blocked in the robots.txt file.

Also, if the page is blocked from public view because it requires a login, for example, it won’t be crawled.

Now, as with all things in SEO, we love a caveat. So, just because your page can be crawled doesn’t mean it will be indexed. But being crawlable is the bare minimum.

The page needs to actually be live and working

Your server will return various codes. You might have seen a ‘404 Page can’t be found’ message before on a page that isn’t there. There are also 300 codes and 200 codes.

A 200 code means the page has loaded with no errors.

So you want that to happen.

For example, you might have a page with a redirect on (a 3xx server code). This page wouldn’t be indexed. Because whilst it is live, it isn’t visible.

The page has stuff on it that is indexable

Once Googlebot has found the page, it needs to have something on it that is actually indexable.

There is a list here of the types of content Google can index and it is pretty universal, so as long as you aren’t doing anything really wild, you should be ok.

But, here comes that caveat again.

Whilst Google can index anything, it doesn’t mean it wants to. It has quality control around how it indexes and returns a webpage.

It won’t index anything that violates spam policies or is considered thin content, for example.

Webmaster Guideline 2: Spam Policies

Google is really strict on spam. It is partly what first separated it from the old school search engines of yesteryear.

Each year there are several updates released that target web spam. It seems like each time Google tightens up on it, black hat SEO folk figure out how to hack it.

There are loads and loads and LOADS of things covered in the spam policy. Here is an overview:

  1. Cloaking-Optimising a page for 1 thing and the content being about something entirely different.
  2. Doorways- pages that are designed to rank for a specific query that funnel the user onto the actually useful page, for example, having multiple domains or pages for different regions that all lead to one page.
  3. Expired Domain Abuse-Buying up old domains and putting irrelevant content on there to try and fool visitors.
  4. Hacked Content- content that has been added onto a site by force, for example, page injection.
  5. Hidden Text Or Links-such as white text on a white background
  6. Keyword Stuffing-lists of keywords with no value or overuse of keywords on a page
  7. Link Spam-ingenuine backlinks, like reciprocal or bought backlinks.
  8. Machine Generated Traffic-sending fake requests to Google, or buying traffic.
  9. Malware Or Malicious Behaviours-putting harmful bugs on your website designed to deceive or harm a visitor
  10. Misleading Functionality- pretending to offer a function-like adding store credit or being an online calculator, and really it is just adverts or spam.
  11. Scaled Content Abuse-unoriginal content that adds no value to users-scraped feeds, AI generated content with no added value, or lots of pages with no useful content but it contains lots of keywords.
  12. Scraped Content- Copying someone else’s content without adding any value to the end user.
  13. Sneaky Redirects- A bit like cloaking, it is directing people to a different page then the one they thought they were getting. Note, not all redirects are sneaky.

Sneaky redirecting is doing this maliciously in order to either show users and search engines different content or show users unexpected content that does not fulfill their original needs.’(source)

  1. Site Reputation Abuse- When a website with a good reputation posts a page that is irrelevant to its purpose, just to manipulate rankings; for example, a school hosting coupons for an online casino.
  2. Thin Affiliate Pages- Product pages or reviews that have copied the content from the manufacturer or supplier without adding any additional value.
  3. User Generated Spam-This includes spammy comments on blogs or forums.

Basically, don’t do anything that is trying to game the system.

Which leads us nicely onto number 3.

Webmaster Guideline 3: Key Best Practices

Google is actually pretty clear in what it wants: original content that adds value and helps people find the answers they need.

In the Google Webmaster Guidelines section 3, it asks that we:

  1. Create helpful, reliable content for humans, not bots
  2. Use words that people would use to look for your content and display it in the title, heading, image title etc.
  3. Make it crawlable
  4. Publicise the site (on social media or web directories, for example)
  5. Optimise the site so it appears online in a way that fits into the Google Search Engine Results Page.
  6. Tell Google if you don’t want a page to appear.

In A Nutshell: What Are Google Webmaster Guidelines?

So to summarise, Google WMG (web master guidelines) are a set of instructions on how to rank a webpage.

There is a lot of information contained in them and some of it is incredibly technical (and dull), but if you are serious about getting your site to rank, it is something you need to be familiar with.

Or, you can have a chat with us and let us take that off your hands. We are SEO specialists who work with businesses of all sizes and in all sectors to rank them higher on Google for keywords that convert to cash.

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