September 21, 2023

Refreshed guidelines for site owners  |  Google Search Central Blog  |  Google Developers

refreshed-guidelines-for-site-owners- | -google-search-central-blog- | -google-developers

Thursday, October 13, 2022

In 2002 we launched a page with a set of guidelines for site owners that gave an overview of best practices when it came to building a site. We called this page “Webmaster Guidelines” and it’s been with us ever since. Since then we added a lot of information to these guidelines to help site owners build the site that’s right for their users who visit through Google Search.

A lot has changed since 2002, so today we’re launching a refreshed, simplified version of the Webmaster Guidelines, and we’re changing its name as well.

Googlebot writing the Search Essentials on a laptop while Crawley reads a book

Introducing the Google Search Essentials

We moved away from using the term “webmaster” in the name of this site (stop looking: it’s Search Central) and the only remainder was the “Webmaster Guidelines”. As we mentioned previously, “webmaster” is an outdated term and very few people identify with it. For the new name we wanted something generic, something that’s not focusing on just one slice of our visitors, but rather all creators on the internet who wish to see their content in Google Search. We also wanted the new name to highlight the importance of the points covered on these pages. That’s how we landed on the new name: Google Search Essentials.

What’s changed

The refresh comes with a few changes. Since the whole Search Central site is, by definition, a set of guidelines and best practices, we simplified the site by moving many of the former guidelines to specific sections where they belong. Then, we introduced a categorization of the points covered in the former Webmaster Guidelines:

  • Technical requirements
  • Spam policies
  • Key best practices

A new focused section on the technical requirements

The technical requirements are few and simple: publish content in a format that Google can index, and allow Google to access that content. This is the bare minimum for getting into Google’s search results; we do realize however that there’s more to getting your site indexed and served, and we encourage creators to also think about the key best practices.

Spam Policies: more examples and new topics

The spam policies cover common forms of spam and behavior that could lead to a site ranking lower or not appearing at all in Google web search results. Most topics were taken from the former “Quality Guidelines” and other closely related existing guidelines published on Search Central that were originally stand-alone, like malware and hacked content. The new additions and notable modifications are:

  • New deceptive behavior related-topics such as misleading functionality
  • New section on other behaviors that can lead to demotion and or removal, such as online harassment, and scam and fraud
  • Consolidated topics related to link spam and thin content

We asked the Search Quality team to rewrite the content to address spam that they see on the internet today, and when possible, use more precise language, and add more concrete examples that are relevant in 2022. We believe that they delivered and the new version will help site owners avoid creating content that Search users absolutely hate.

Key best practices for success

Finally, the key best practices are a set of practices that we believe people really should consider when creating sites. While following the requirements can get (and keep!) sites in Search, it’s the best practices that breathe life into sites so they can be more easily found through Search.

You might have also noticed that over the past couple of months we’ve been moving pages around on Search Central. We organized the information into a more logical structure, and consolidated similar pages, but generally we haven’t changed the content.

We hope you find the new set of Search Essentials useful and easier to understand, and that it will help you focus on things that matter for your site. If you have any questions, leave a comment on Twitter or in the Search Central Help forums. You can also send feedback on the documentation page itself by clicking the Send Feedback button.

Posted by Lizzi and Gary, Search team

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