“Following the General Guidelines below will help Google find, index, and rank your site.” – This is the very first line of the Webmasters guidelines.
Indeed, when it comes to ‘guidelines for site search improvement’ can anyone beat Google? Yes, the set is long; you’d perhaps yawn at the very sight of it. As of now, the part to worry is, these guidelines have been UPDATED!
Wondering why worry? Well, Google Webmasters updates have always been intriguing. My, the things they change and put in all the time!
Come, let’s review the latest additions.
- To HTTPS or not to HTTPS?
Here’s the first new thing in the Guideline list. Google says, you should secure the connections of your website with HTTPS, if you can. It believes it’s good to encrypt all interactions between the site and the end user.
This is a positive change. After all, haven’t we been eager to shift our sites to HTTPS all this while? Further, the Search Engine giant seems like it wants to consider websites not HTTPS as unsafe, and smirch them.
- The fondness for mobile-friendliness:
Google wants us to craft websites for every kind of device type existing. A site has to be compliant to desktops, laptops, smartphones, and tablet PCs. Even, a litmus test has been suggested to check the mobile-friendliness of the webpages; a feedback will be offered based on which certain things need to be mended.
You shouldn’t be surprised about this addition because we’ve already had MOBILEGEDDON last year. Mobile-friendliness was to become a ranking signal sometime or other. In fact, what’s surprising is, it has come up only now.
- Accessibility is the talk once again:
In fact, the entire update is accessibility intensive. Google suggests that we should make the significant content of our websites visible by default. Of course, the Search Engine is able to crawl all the HTML content which lies within the elements of navigation.
But, this, in no way, means that the same is fully accessible to an end user as well. This is why it site owners should present vital information to utmost visibility on the home page itself.
- Focus on image SEO precision:
The new guidelines also talk about the alt text optimisation for images. Google wants you to be extremely particular about the same. It suggests that you should put up ‘descriptive, specific, and accurate’ alt text only.
The same goes for page title tags as well. This update is targeted at those masses that use automated software and plug-ins to add alt text to images. In most cases, a post’s title is used in the text, which has no relevance to the image.
What about the existing things that have been updated?
- Findability of links and page hierarchy:
Earlier, Google asked web designers and developers to build sites that depict page hierarchy and proper text links. It said, each webpage should be accessible from a static link. This old statement has been updated.
Now, the search engine says that all webpages should be accessible from a link on a findable page. This link can be anything ranging from text or an image with alt attribute, provided it is relevant to the target page.
In a way, Google has called anchor text a significant aspect and is harping on the ‘findability’ of links. It has talked about ‘conceptual’ page hierarchy, pointing that anchor text should not be hidden in the website’s sitemap anymore.
- Human-readable sitemaps:
A visible sitemap is what Google desires. Earlier, the Search Engine only stated that a site owner must provide a sitemap file that contains all the links to vital webpages.
However, now, it stresses on a ‘human-readable’ sitemap and has asked us to segregate the sitemap into two or more pages, if the number of links is huge. This apart, a lot of technical changes have also been made, most of which can do without a discussion.
What has NOT changed?
Explain Google Webmasters to a common man, and he would understand no further than the definition. However, experts will have to puzzle out the part that asserts about QUALITY.
You’ll be happy to know that the Quality Guidelines have remained more or less the same. Here, you’ll find what ‘spam’ according to Google is, and all those canons that can get your website banned from search.
So, what’s the bottom line?
“And then ultimately what I tell the kids is: coaches can give you information, they can give you guidelines, and they can put you in a position. But the only person who can truly make you better is you.” – Brandi Chastain.
Indeed, these are only guidelines. Your website’s health on the Search Engine will depend exclusively on your work. It is you, and only you, who can refine and make it the best.
Google, currently, is obsessed with User Experience more than anything else. And, this is going to be the mainstream for a long time it seems. So, better gear up.
Information source: Yoast