Understanding Google Webmaster Guidelines

The Google webmaster guidelines are a collection of best-practice guidelines that will help Google to better understand your website, and help to ensure that your site ranks as well as possible without being mistaken for spam or otherwise suffering from penalties or ranking issues.

These guidelines can be used to help people to understand how their site should be structured, how it should look, and the content on it, as well as how link building should be carried out.

If you are hiring someone to build your website for you, then the guidelines can help to ensure that the site is structured properly, and can be a useful set of instructions for any web developer.

What’s in the Guidelines

Google Webmaster Guidelines include content advice and advice about how a site should be structured. Google wants webmasters to ensure that there are no broken links, and that there are no issues with poorly written content. Pages that load slowly or that have broken navigation will frustrate users, and Google does not want to send people with pages like that, because it knows that to many users, the ‘experience’ that Google offers includes the sites that it sends people to – so the search engine looks better if it performs well.

Google also wants webmasters to have pages that load quickly, and that are easy to use on both desktop and mobile devices. This means that the site needs to be hosted not too far from where most of the traffic will come from, so that it loads promptly.

Google has requirements for sites to be accurate, useful and full of unique content. It frowns upon sites that contain either thin content (e.g. sites made for nothing more than hosting ads) and sites that contain a lot of duplicate content. You will need to make sure that your site provides users with information that is useful and up to date, and that was written for your site. Copying content will not help you in the long run.

There are also some guidelines for link building. If you are trying to build up a lot of incoming links then you will most likely find that your site will move up in the rankings – as long as those links are relevant and high quality. Get a lot of spammy links, or get caught buying links from third parties, and you will lose some of that ranking. The reason for this is that Google wants to maintain the integrity of its index. If you are buying links, then you are not earning them through ‘votes’ and Google may think that your site is not actually worthy of those links in reality.

This issue has led to something called ‘negative SEO’ where rival webmasters get people to link to another webmaster’s site from ‘bad neighbourhoods’ – for example having a site that sells trainers linked to from a gambling website. This used to work, but now it is possible for webmasters to disavow links that they do not want to be associated with – so you get none of the ‘useful’ link benefits, but you also don’t get penalized for those links existing.

It is well worth taking the time to learn the Google Guidelines, because they will stand you in good stead when you are ready to promote your website, and they serve as a good framework for getting your site off to a smooth start, so that the SEO will be easy when you are finally ready to do it, and you won’t fall into obscurity through no fault of your own.


When former head of web spam Matt Cutts was at Google, he spent a lot of time communicating with webmasters/site owners about updates. We knew what was coming, when it might be coming, and how severe it would possibly be.

If you woke up in the morning and your traffic had fallen off a proverbial cliff, you could go to Twitter and, based on what Cutts was posting, usually determine if Google had run an update. You could even tell how severe the rollout was, as Cutts would typically give you percentage of queries affected.

Although some believe Cutts was more about misinformation than information, when it came to updates, most would agree he was on point.

So if a site fell off that cliff, you could learn from Cutts what happened, what the update was named, and what it affected. This gave you starting points for what to review so that you could fix the site and bring it back into line with Google’s guidelines.

Why the help?

Cutts seemed to understand there was a need for the webmaster. After all, Google’s Search is not their product — the sites they return from that search are the product.

Without someone translating Google’s desires to site owners, those sites would likely not meet those guidelines very well. This would result in a poor experience for Google users. So, that transfer of knowledge between Google, SEOs and site owners was important. Without it, Google would be hard-pressed to find a plethora of sites that meet its needs.

Then, things changed. Matt Cutts left to go to the US Digital Service — and with his departure, that type of communication from Google ended, for the most part.

While Google will still let webmasters know about really big changes, like the mobile-first index, they’ve stopped communicating much detail about smaller updates. And the communication has not been in such an easily consumable format as Cutts tweeting update metrics.

In fact, very little is said today about smaller updates. It has gotten to the point where they stopped naming all but a very few of these changes.

Google communication in 2017

Right now, the Google spokespeople who primarily communicate with SEOs/webmasters are Gary Illyes and John Mueller. This is not a critique of them, as they communicate in the way Google has asked them to communicate.

Indeed, they have been very helpful over the past few years. Mueller holds Webmaster Central Office Hours Hangouts to help answer questions in long form. Illyes answers similar questions in short form on Twitter and attends conferences, where he participates in various AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions with interviewers.

All this is helpful and appreciated… but unfortunately, it is not the same.

Highly specific information is difficult to find, and questioners are often are met with more vagueness than specifics, which can at times feel frustrating. Google has become obtuse in how they communicate with digital marketers, and that seems to be directed by internal company processes and policies.

This lack of algorithmic specificity and update confirmation is how we wound up with Phantom.

Welcome, Phantom

Google has many algorithms, as any SEO knows. Some, like Penguin and Panda, have been rolled into Google’s core algorithm and run in (quasi-) real time, while others, like the interstitial penalty, still run, well, when they run.

Big updates such as Penguin have always been set apart from the day-to-day changes of Google. There are potentially thousands of tweaks to core algorithms that run every year and often multiple times a day.

However, day-to-day changes affect sites much differently than massive algorithm updates like Panda, Penguin, Pigeon, Pirate, Layout, Mobilegeddon, Interstitial, and on and on. One is a quiet rain, the other a typhoon. One is rarely noticed, the other can be highly destructive.

Now, Google is correct in that webmasters don’t need to know about these day-to-day changes unless someone dials an algorithm up or down too much. You might not ever even notice them. However, there are other algorithms updates that cause enough disruption in rankings for webmasters to wonder, “Hey Google, what happened?

This was true for an algorithm update that became known as Phantom.


There was a mysterious update in 2013 that SEO expert Glenn Gabe named “Phantom.” While it seemed to be focused on quality, it was not related to Panda or Penguin. This was new, and it affected a large number of sites.

When “Phantom” ran, it was not a minor tweak. Sites, and the sites that monitor sites, would show large-scale ranking changes that only seem to happen when there is a major algorithm update afoot.

Now, there was one occasion that Google acknowledged Phantom existed. However, aside from that, Google has not named it, acknowledged it, or even denied Phantom when SEOs believed it ran. Over time, this string of unknown quality updates all became known as Phantom.

The word “Phantom” came from the idea that we didn’t know what it was; we just knew that some update that was not Panda caused mass fluctuations and was related to quality.

Not Panda quality updates

The changes introduced by Phantom were not one set of changes like Panda or Penguin, which typically target the same items. However, the changes were not completely disparate and had the following in common:

  • They were related to site quality.
  • They were not Panda.
  • They were all found in the Quality Raters Guide.

We don’t use the word “Phantom” anymore, but from 2013 to 2016, large-scale changes that were quality related and not Panda were commonly called Phantom. (It was easier than “that update no one admits exists, but all indicators tell us is there.”)

Read more: https://searchengineland.com/the-trouble-with-fred-283343




How To Create Quality Content For SEO Purposes

Creating content for SEO purposes is key to getting your website ranking as high as possible on the search engines. In order to get your website ranking in the search engines, not only do you need to produce and share quality content, but the content has to be both relevant and unique as well. Thus, you are going to need to be sure that you have strategies in place that will allow you to create such content on a regular basis. Below, we will be going over some of the key tips that you can use in order to create quality content for SEO purposes.

Creating Quality Content:

1. Outsource Your Content Creation.

One of the best ways to consistently create high-quality content is by outsourcing it to a third party. Finding a good content creation company or even an individual writer to create custom content for you will allow you to be able to achieve a certain level of consistency that you might be unable to do if you were to try to attempt to create all of the content on your own. Creating content on your own can get difficult due to the fact that it takes a lot of time and effort to do so consistently. Therefore, by outsourcing it, you should be able to save a lot of time throughout the entire process.

2. Do It Yourself.

Another good way to create quality content is to do it yourself, particularly if you have expert knowledge in your field. While it does take a lot of time and effort, it is something that you will benefit from if you do it yourself because it will ensure that you are able to achieve a certain level of consistency and quality each and every time. Outsourcing your content creation is a good idea for those that are looking to save time and scale the process to a certain degree, but some might feel uncomfortable with it at first. Therefore, if you want to begin by doing it yourself, it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad idea.

3. Create Video Content.

One of the best ways to create high quality, relevant, and consistent content is by creating videos. A lot of people enjoy watching videos on a daily basis. This is why YouTube is the number one most visited website in the world. With that being said, creating videos might be easier to scale and less time consuming than creating purely written content. This is a good idea to not only get more out of the content that you create on a daily basis but also to allow you to save time and scale it in a way that is going to allow you to do it much more consistently.

Overall, there are plenty of tips that you can use in order to properly create high-quality content consistently. By using some our suggestions, you should be able to maximise your ability to craft high quality and relevant content on a regular basis.


Late in 2015, Google confirmed what many of us had already suspected: mobile search had officially surpassed desktop worldwide.

Smartphones and tablets have completely disrupted and forever altered what was once a fairly linear buyer’s journey. These days, a consumer might drop into your funnel at any point, from any channel, and it might be after an unknown number of touch points across platforms and devices that you didn’t see happening.

They’re reading reviews, are exposed to organic and paid social, are searching for nearby answers for their immediate needs and more. Increasingly, consumers are doing all of these things from a mobile device.

Recent research at BrightEdge (my company) shows that 57 percent of all online traffic now comes from mobile and tablet. Pair this consumer insight with the knowledge that Google’s mobile-first algorithm is coming, and we marketers have some work to do.

In this column, I’ll share the results of our recent Google SERPs Mobile vs. Desktop research, and you’ll learn how to Google-proof your SEO and content marketing strategies to prepare for what’s next.

As the shift to mobile has picked up speed, we’ve discovered some new ways to determine what that actually means in terms of real, measurable impact on businesses.

One such insight gleaned from our recent research helps us assess the extent to which mobile matters to Google. We’ve been tracking Google’s experimentation with the mobile-first index since it was announced in 2016, and what we learned might surprise you.

We tracked SERP listing data for nearly 25 million keywords, and what we discovered is that 79 percent of listings have a different rank on mobile and desktop devices. For listings in positions 1-20, 47 percent had mobile and desktop rankings that were not the same.

Furthermore, we found that 35 percent of the time, the top-ranking URL of a domain for a given query is different on desktop than on mobile.

Preparing for mobile-first

Back in 2016, Google first announced their development of a mobile-first algorithm, a direct response to the rising use of mobile across its consumer base. Now, the search giant has begun experimenting with this new algorithm — a test that’s attracted the attention of marketers across all sectors.

It’s impossible to estimate the impact of such an algorithm, yet it’s safe to say you need to start preparing now. Brands that are still looking at their marketing strategy through a desktop view in a mobile-first world are likely to misunderstand the opportunities and threats affecting them (most likely on the mobile side, and in their largest channel — organic search — which accounts for 51 percent of traffic, on average).

But mobile-first isn’t mobile-only, either. Those who come out ahead through this upcoming mobile-first update will have separate strategies for each and will be tracking performance across both. Carlos Spallarossa, director of SEO for cosmetics giant L’Oréal (a client of my company) says,

“Mobile traffic is huge for us and our industry — above the 57 percent [this survey] is reporting. We are developing content with a mobile-first perspective to connect with our users with info, user advice, and reviews – especially when they are near a store where they can easily purchase.”

Winning in this rapidly evolving environment requires a keen understanding of user intent, how your customers use mobile and how your site appears on mobile devices.

Google interprets each user’s most likely intent through micro-moments, which impact how the SERP is constructed and the types of content that appear. For example, if the search engine believes the searcher wants to find a restaurant, the local 3-pack will appear. If the person seems to express an I-want-to-know micro-moment, then a Google Quick answer will appear. Google also varies the number and placement of videos and images on the SERP depending upon the likely intent.

Site developers and marketers must recognize how mobile users interact in these micro-moments and how their intent differs between mobile and desktop. Only then can you ensure that the content created matches both the intent and the device.

For example, a consumer searching for “how to contact KOA” has an “I want to know” query. On mobile, that person is more likely to click-to-call than to type out an email, which is the exact opposite of the desktop searcher.

Read more: http://searchengineland.com/mobile-desktop-seo-different-results-different-content-strategies-281643