Google’s Webmaster Guidelines Are Gone, And Search Essentials Are In Their Place

Gary Green
Gary Green
November 16, 2022

Although it may feel like a short while since Google’s Webmaster Guidelines were introduced, in fact they first appeared two decades ago. Since then, a lot has changed in the online world and the original Webmaster Guidelines were no longer fit for purpose. For that reason, Google carried out a full refresh of those Guidelines, and part of that refresh involved them being given a whole new name – Google Search Essentials

Why Did Google Change The Name? 

Not only were Google’s Webmaster Guidelines 20 years old, but an enormous amount of change has taken place since 2002, not only with regard to Google Search, but with the entire internet as a whole. 

The original guidelines were in desperate need of an update, and now the updated version has been simplified and streamlined so everyone can have the clearest possible guidance to help them build websites that can serve users well. Google’s aim in refreshing the guidance was to make it simpler to understand and more useful than ever before in helping website owners focus on the things that are most important to their site. 

Moving The Guidelines

A lot of former guidelines have been moved to different specific sections inside Google Search Central’s website. There are now three different point categories that were covered in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines now in Google Search Essentials including: 

  • Key best practices
  • Technical requirements
  • Spam policies 

It’s important to note that there have been no fundamental changes. If you already have familiarity with the old Google Webmaster Guidelines then you’ll find the same information contained in Google Search Essentials. The primary difference is in the format that it takes. 

What Does Google Search Essentials Include?

Google Search Essentials includes the following: 

Technical requirements – some technical things must be done to your web page if you want it to rank on Google Search. However, Google has been reported as saying most websites pass its technical requirements even without trying. These technical requirements include: 

  • The page must work and not be an error page
  • The Googlebot cannot be blocked 
  • The page must have content that is indexable

Essentially, you simply need to ensure that your content is published in a suitable format for Google to index and access it. However, it isn’t quite as easy to get your web page to rank. That’s where the next section proves to be so important.

Best practices are extra considerations that content creators must keep in mind in order to ensure their content can be easily found by users in their search results. The best practices suggested by Google include: 

  • Creating helpful content
  • Using keywords that people search for, placing them prominently in headings, alt texts, and titles
  • Making links crawlable
  • Telling people all about your website
  • Following the best practices outlined for videos, images, JavaScript and structured data 
  • Enhancing the way that your website appears in the search engine results by using rich snippets 

If you’ve got any content you want to remain unfound by Google Search, you need to make sure you’ve blocked it from the Google crawlers. 

Finally, the section regarding spam policies includes information about tactics and behaviours that may lead to your website or webpage being de-indexed or given a lower rank on Google Search. Google’s policies regarding spam include: 

  • Cloaking
  • Hacked content
  • Doorways
  • Hidden links and text 
  • Link spam
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Machine-generated traffic
  • Malicious behaviours and Malware 
  • Misleading functionality
  • Sneaky redirects
  • Scraped content
  • Automatically generated spammy content 
  • User-generated spam
  • Thin affiliate pages
  • Online harassment removals
  • Copyright-removal requests
  • Frauds and Scams 

Most of these topics have been taken from the former Google Quality Guidelines as well as other existing related guidelines. Specific examples have been provided that have relevance in the modern day in an attempt to help website owners to avoid the creation of content that is hated by search users. 

Which Changes Have Been Introduced?

Although there have been a number of updates carried out across the years to Google’s original Webmaster Guidelines, this latest version is a total overhaul, with many aspects having been altered. The changes include: 

  • The change of name – Google has rebranded Webmaster Guidelines, giving it the new name “Google Search Essentials”. The reason for this is that the term “webmaster” has too narrow a focus and is rarely used today. Google already dropped its “Webmaster Tools for Search Console” back in 2015, so this name change isn’t too much of an unexpected step. 
  • The technical requirements – an entirely new section has been published by Google to enable users to understand the best ways of publishing content in formats that can easily be indexed and accessed by Google Search. 
  • The policies regarding spam – Google has issued updated guidance for its search policies to combat spam. Although a lot of the spam policy content was already in existence, some new additions have been made to give even clearer guidance as well as more concrete examples to demonstrate issues such as link spam, deceptive behaviour, fraud, scams, and online harassment. 
  • Best practices – new guidance has also been published by Google about the best practices people should consider at the time of creating their websites so they can create content which is valuable for users that allows their site to be found more easily via Google Search. 

Some other changes that have been made include organising the content into a structure that is more logical, with similar pages being consolidated, although the content in these areas haven’t been changed to any significant extent.

As the Google Webmaster Guidelines have been the key resource that users could go to in order to learn more about the best practices for SEO in the Google Search engine for the last two decades, it’s easy to see why changing its name and making such significant updates is so important for marketers and content creators. 

Publishers, site owners, marketers, and indeed, anybody who manages or owns a website today should definitely take the time to review the changes made to Google Search Essentials. 

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