Google Webmaster Guidelines: 20 Things to Keep in Mind to Rank Higher

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You don't bite the hand that feeds you!

Google is the feeding hand here and believe it or not, you can't survive online if Google hates you.

Just like any other system, Google has its own set rules in the form of Webmaster Guidelines. If you strongly follow these guidelines, then according to Google, your site tends to rank higher and index faster.

Google suggests a few things to keep in mind as a webmaster. It is a blend of deceptive or manipulative behavior that you should always avoid. Also, a few standards that your site needs to meet.

Below is a TLDR version of all the guidelines. Keep reading if you want to read everything in detail.

Prioritize Users Over Search Engines

It is clearly understandable, whatever you write is going to be read by someone alive. Search engines are just a way to make your idea discoverable.

Focusing users means not abusing the use of keywords on a page and improving your storytelling skills.

Search Engines Vs Users

So, keep your users in mind instead of search engines and search engine rankings will be your reward.

Avoid Thin Content

In terms of search engine marketing, when a content that doesn't bring any value to the table is known as thin content. Or in layman's terms, the content does not help the users in any way.

Internet is full of websites already. Whatever you're thinking of writing today has probably been written by somebody else already.

Thin Content and Search Engines

But that shouldn't stop you because starting first doesn't ensure victory. You can outrank your competition with more valuable content.

No Auto-Generated Content

Bots are available for almost everything. From the Amazon AI bot who you can ask "Hey Alexa, why am I still single?" to web-based bots that can generate content for you, everything is possible.

Google is smarter than any of us in case you haven't figured that out yet.

Their algorithm can tell the difference between automatically generated content and a genuinely rankable content written by some homo sapien.

In a nutshell, never use content generated through bots if you are dreaming of ranking on the top of the SERPs.

No Content Scraping

So, if you think you can steal content from someone else, put it on your blog and hope to rank it, then please don't.

That content is already indexed in Google's database. If you reuse it, you certainly trigger a bad image in front of Google that can even ruin your site's overall health.

Take your time. Come up with some idea. Analyze its feasibility and then start writing.

It may be tough in the beginning, but eventually, you'll get a lot better at writing.

Never Participate in Link Schemes

Boy, this one is so much black hat!

Newbie Disclaimer: That's not racist. Black Hat SEO is actually a thing, and you can read more about it here.

So, as I was saying, link building is a valuable role player for improving ranking on the SERPs.

But when you manipulate this strategy by exchanging links with other sites or purchasing links on high authority sites, then that's called a link scheme.

Can link schemes improve your site's rankings?

Sure, but if you are looking for long term goals, then focus on gaining backlinks and not on building them.

Quality articles often make people link back to you, so never engage in link schemes.

Don't Cloak, Ninja

There are lots of niches that Google doesn't generally prefer seeing on the top of their search results. That includes porn, gambling, drugs, etc.

So, cloaking is when you have an adult page, but you show it as something else to Google so that you gain rankings normally.

That results in poor user experience.

Suppose user was a 12 years old kid looking for a Disney cartoon series and finds a cloaked page that is not relevant to his age.

So, cloaking is against the search guidelines of Google and should always be avoided if you want to gain profits in the long term.

Here's a video by Matt Cutts explaining what Cloaking is:

No Sneaky Redirects

Redirection is the act of sending the user from one URL to another.

Users try to abuse this practice by creating sneaky redirects.

By showing one type of page only to Google, but when the user sees it, he gets redirected to some page he is not supposed to see.

This is just like like cloaking, but with multiple pages involved instead of one.

Avoid this practice at any cost.

Secure Site Using HTTPS

Google introduced this new webmaster guideline a few years back that reads:

If possible, secure your site’s connections with HTTPS. Encrypting interactions between the user and your website is a good practice for communication on the web.

HTTPS is better than the traditional HTTP in many ways. Plus, Google has also mentioned many times that it prefers sites that use HTTPS instead of HTTP.

So, the key takeaway is that your site can easily come in Google's good books if you switch to HTTPs.

You can get an SSL certificate from Let's Encrypt without spending a single penny.

Don't Hide Text & Links

One of the sneaky ways to manipulate the content without ruining the user experience is by hiding them.

People hide the text and links by changing their color to the color of their background, changing font-size to zero, using CSS to place them off the screen, putting them behind an image, etc.

This surely gets that hidden content indexed by Google but doesn't show up on the front-end to users.

Hiding text and links is another act of prioritizing search engines over users.

Shut The Door on Doorway Pages

It is yet another act of cloaking. Doorway pages are those that rank on the SERPs but lead the user to a different page when opened.

This transition can be through delayed redirection or by making the user go to the actual page intentionally.

Stop Being a Thin Affiliate

Affiliate marketing is the primary source of income for a blogger.

But sometimes affiliates copy the content directly from the actual product page and then add their links to it.

If you do this, then you are a thin affiliate and Google hates it.

Irrelevant Keyword Stuffing

Stuffing the keywords in your article that are not relevant to your content is harmful for your search rankings and ruins the quality.

Use the most relevant keywords and keep the keyword density between 1-3%.

Don't Spread Malicious Behavior

Again, a practice to increase short-term gains.

Don't create the pages that install malicious scripts or software on user's end or take unauthorized access to their data.

Don't Abuse Rich Snippets

You must have seen these while looking for something on Google:

Review Rich Snippets

Yeah, these are rich snippets or Google's way of summarizing microdata into user-friendly form like reviews, ratings, profiles, dates, etc.

Users try to manipulate rich snippets with irrelevant content.

Mobile-Friendly Design

Usage of smartphones worldwide has been increasing gradually.Google prioritizes sites that can adapt the screen size of any device without breaking the layout.

Mobile Friendly

You can buy a mobile-friendly theme from ThemeForest. Or if you are low on budget, then you can go with Elegant Themes.

Investing in a premium mobile-responsive theme never goes into vain.

You'll always get better search ranking in the long term.

Use rel="nofollow" For Specific Links

Google bots used to be uncontrollable beasts.

They just used to come to your site and index whatever they liked.

NOFOLLOW provides a way for us to tell search engines not to follow or index a specific link.

The use of the nofollow tag is for specific purposes. You use it if you want Google not to follow links that fall in any of the categories:

  • Untrusted Content: If you are linking to a site but don't trust it, then you mark it as nofollow. It simply stops the flow of link juice.
  • Affiliate Links: Merchants provide you with your unique affiliate tracking links. You don't want Google to index then since that can make like a thin affiliate in front of Google.
  • Access Control: If your site has signup or login buttons, then you need to nofollow them. Google bots can't access restricted content, so it is better to control their access to the buttons that lead to private content.

Using nofollow tag is not tricky, but its proper use is important.

Adding nofollow to all the links on the site will stop Google to discover your website.

On the other hand, not using nofollow at all will give Google access to all kinds of content.

You can read the importance of nofollow links for SEO here.

Simple URL Structure

Your site's URL structure has to be as simple as possible. Set a URL structure that is easy for Google to understand logically.

For instance, if you're looking for information about cryptography, which of the following two URLs is appealing:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptography
  2. http://www.example.com/index.php?id_sezione=360&sid=3a5ebc94

I believe the answer is #1.

Google bots do most of the work in determining the positive and negative points for your site's authority.

An unorganized URL structure or the one with no logical significance will prove harmful for your site's rankings.

You can read more about URL structure here.

Canonical Tags

A single page on your site can have many versions.

  1. HTTPS with WWW
  2. HTTP with WWW
  3. HTTPS without WWW
  4. HTTP without WWW

Google treats all the versions of your site differently. Even though they have the same content.

This leads to duplicate content penalty. So, the only approach to fix this issue is using canonical tags.

According to Google:

A canonical URL is the URL of the page that Google thinks is most representative from a set of duplicate pages on your site. For example, if you have URLs for the same page (for example: example.com?dress=1234 and example.com/dresses/1234), Google chooses one as canonical. Note that the pages do not need to be absolutely identical; minor changes in sorting or filtering of list pages do not make the page unique (for example, sorting by price or filtering by item color).

Always use canonical tags on your site. If you are using Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, then it automatically does the job for you.

Change URLs With 301 Redirects

If you ever need to change the URL of a page that is already indexed on search engines without losing its ranking then use 301 redirect.

301 Redirect

You don't need to create a separate page, just change the old URL to the new one and create a server-side 301 redirect.

301 redirects pass most of the link juice. It is the best approach towards dealing with the outdated links.

In WordPress, you can create 301 redirects without writing a single piece of code using the Redirection Plugin.

Fix a Hacked Site

With the introduction of HTTPS only web, Google couldn't be more specific about a secure web.

Hacked sites are a major threat for Google because they never want their search users to land on a page that is not safe.

Result? Google will first mark your site with "This site may be hacked."

This site may be hacked

Then your site will be removed from the Google search index if you don't fix it sooner.

If you have no idea how to fix a hacked site, then Google is your friend. Or you can hire a professional developer who can clean your website for you.

As soon as your site is fixed, go to Google Search Console and request a review in the Security Issues section. Once they make sure that your site is fixed, they'll remove the "This site may be hacked" message.

Verdict

With great power comes great responsibility!

Same is with Google. Being the most used site and search engine in the world, Google needs to maintain some webmaster discipline for best user experience.

If you make sure that you follow all the guidelines I've mentioned above, then I can assure you that your rankings will see a huge jump soon.

If your site is new, then you may need to wait for a few months for Google to understand your content.

For sites that are already ranking in search results, following the Google Webmaster Guidelines will definitely pump your website in search results.

I hope you liked this article. Feel free to share your views in the comments section below.

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Ritesh Saini
Ritesh Saini
I’m a Professional Blogger & Internet Marketer living in India. Started my blogging and online marketing journey in 2013 when I was just 18 years old. You can see my work here on this blog and at criticecho.com

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