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Google Webmaster Guidelines Updated – Then and Now

October 16, 2012

Google recently announced updates to their webmaster guidelines.

WSI B2B Marketing is looking at what is in store for marketers and how the new Google webmaster guidelines differ from earlier.

Google announced a new set of webmaster guidelines on October 3, 2012 on their webmaster central blog. According to Google, their motto behind releasing these new guidelines remains the same; to promote high quality websites for both users and Google.

Let’s dig deeper into these guidelines and how they differ from the earlier ones.

Design and Content Guideline

Google makes it clear that they now prefer sites which are rich in information.

“Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.”

Google now emphasizes presenting a sitemap for the human visitors which includes links to important parts of the site.

“Offer a site map to your users with links that point to the important parts of your site.”

Another important takeaway in the new guidelines is about the title text and the alt text attributes. Google urges website owners and marketers to use descriptive text in; attribute and alt tags. Gone are the days when targeting all the keywords in the title tag could get you good rankings. Google has also started showing its own version of titles in SERPs if the site is using un-descriptive titles.

“Make sure that your; elements and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate.”

Google has kept some of the guidelines unchanged. Sites need to have clear hierarchy and at least one static text link to each page. Links on a webpage are to be kept under a reasonable number. Google also suggests targeting keywords along with synonyms which users may use to search for their website.

Technical Guidelines

Google urges website owners to allow the Google bot to crawl their sites without session IDs or arguments that track their path through the site. Google indicates that in failing to do so may result in improper indexing of the site.

“Allow search bots to crawl your sites without session IDs or arguments that track their path through the site. “

 “The access pattern of bots is entirely different. Using these techniques may result in incomplete indexing of your site”

Another technical guideline that is worth mentioning is to block ad networks, such as Google AdSense ads and DoubleClick links, from being crawled via robots.txt.

“Make reasonable efforts to ensure that advertisements do not affect search engine rankings. For example, Google’s AdSense ads and DoubleClick links are blocked from being crawled by a robots.txt file.”

Most of the technical guidelines have remained unchanged such as, use of the lynx browser to examine your site to see the site the way most search engines would see it.  Google has again requested webmasters and website owners to use servers which supports If-Modified-Since HTTP header.  Google emphasizes the use of robots.txt files and using a content management system that creates pages and webpages which can be crawled by search engine bots. Google also stresses testing websites for compatibility with various browsers. Google strongly recommends that you regularly test for site speed as Google pushes further to make the web faster.

Quality Guidelines

Google now allows anyone to submit a spam report against any website which abuses its search quality guidelines.

The biggest takeaway from the quality guidelines is the repeated abuse of rich snippets. Google has observed and banned a large number of websites in the past which have indulged in abusing rich snippets to gain trust and encourage clicks.

Google warns website owners and webmasters against indulging in affiliate programs without using sufficient values. Google has unchanged its stand on black hat techniques such as participating in link schemes, cloaking, sneaky redirects, hidden text or links, doorway pages, scraped content, creating pages with malicious behavior and loading pages with irrelevant keywords.

All these guidelines were updated after Google made it clear that it will be sending more detailed messages of misleading search engines under the webmaster tools.

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