Google’s Webmaster Guidelines Give Way To Search Essentials

Gary Green
Gary Green
December 28, 2022

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines have been rebranded with a new name – “Search Essentials”. This change comes along with a simple refresh that consists of just three sections. Not only has Google made its former Webmaster Guidelines simpler to understand, but it has had another motivation for the refresh – moving away from using the word “webmaster”.

The term “webmaster” has been gradually removed from the Google branding over several years because of the dated nature of the term. After all, two decades is a very long time, particularly in terms of the internet, and Google’s original Webmaster Guidelines date right back 20 years. It’s no wonder, then, that this rebranding has taken place. 

What exactly are the changes to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines?

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines are far simpler and more streamlined as well as having been updated so people have clearer guidance about how to build websites that can serve users well.

Although many updates have been made by Google through the years to its old Webmaster Guidelines, a significant refresh has long been on the cards. The changes include: 

  • The change of name to Search Essentials from Webmaster Guidelines.
  • The technical requirements – a new section has been published so people can better understand how they can publicise their content in formats that can be easily indexed and accessed by Google Search.
  • Spam policies – the guidance has been updated for Google Search’s spam policies so owners can avoid producing content that is unhelpful for those using search. New additions have been added to the policies so guidance is clearer and more concrete examples have been provided for issues such as link spam, deceptive behaviour, fraud, scams, and online harassment. 
  • Best practices – the new guidance also includes new best practices which can be considered by those creating websites so the content they create serves users well and helps their site be found easily via Google Search.

There have been a few other changes too, such as giving the content a structure that is more logical and making sure that similar pages have been consolidated. Let’s take a closer look at the three new sections so you can understand what they contain, the changes they include, and how they could affect your website and content creation.

The Technical Requirements Section 

To get your webpage into the Google Search rankings, there are some technical things that need to be done. Fortunately, most websites will pass these technical requirements with no significant effort. These requirements are: 

  • That Googlebot hasn’t been blocked.
  • That the page functions and isn’t an error page.
  • That the content on the page is indexable.

When put in simple terms, this means that as long as you publish your content in formats that can be indexed by Google and as long as you ensure that your content can be accessed by Google, your webpage will be able to reach Google’s index. 

However, that is just the minimum that you need to do to get your webpage to achieve a decent ranking in the search engine results. You will need to put in a little more effort to achieve that goal. That’s where best practices come in.

Best Practices Section

The Google Search Essentials best practices are extra considerations for you to keep in mind when creating content so that it will be simpler for users to find when they enter a relevant search query. For content to rank highly on the SERPs, you need to adhere to the best practices outlined in this section. 

These best practices are: 

  • To create content that is helpful.
  • To use keywords that people are likely to search for, placing them prominently in headings, alt text, titles, and other key locations.
  • To make all links crawlable.
  • To let people know about your website.
  • To follow the best practices specifically outlined for JavaScript, structured data, video, and images. 
  • To enhance how the site appears in searches by using rich snippets.
  • To block content that you don’t wish Google Search to find from the Google crawlers.

Spam Policies Section

The spam policies section covers tactics and behaviours that could lead to the website or web page being given a lower ranking or even to it being de-indexed entirely from Google’s Search. The spam policies that Google outlines include: 

  • Doorways
  • Cloaking
  • Hidden links and text
  • Hacked content
  • Link spam
  • Irrelevant keywords 
  • Malicious behaviours and malware
  • Misleading functionality
  • Machine-generated traffic
  • Scraped content 
  • Spammy content that is automatically generated
  • Sneaky redirects
  • Thin affiliate pages
  • Copyright-removal requests
  • User-generated spam
  • Fraud and scam
  • Online harassment removals 

The majority of these topics have been taken from the former Google Quality Guidelines as well as other existing guidelines relating to the same topic. The Google Search Quality team have rewritten the full content of the page using more precise language as well as examples that are specific and relevant today. It is Google’s belief that this updated guidance is going to help website owners to avoid the creation of content that users hate.

The New Sections

New sections have been added by Google into its Search Essentials including: 

  • Creating helpful, reliable, people-first content
  • Copyright-removal requests
  • Misleading functionality
  • Scam & Fraud 
  • Online Harassment Removals 

The first of these sections focuses on the latest updates – the September 2022 Core Update and the Helpful Content Update, consolidating the information provided about producing content that works well with these changes. 

Why Is It Important To Understand The Changes?

When it comes to search engine optimisation best practices for Google Search, Google’s Webmaster Guidelines have represented the key source that everyone turned to for more than two decades. Therefore, giving it a new name as well as a complete update is something vitally important for those working in the SEO industry. 

Anyone who manages or owns a website, or who creates and publishes content should review these new Search Essentials to ensure they gain a full understanding of them. With an in-depth knowledge of these changes, it will be possible to not only create a site that Google can access and index, but one that will rank highly too.

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