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The Google guidelines

Patrick Sexton

by Patrick Sexton

The Google webmaster guidelines are a set of suggested practices provided by Google. The most basic step of SEO is to follow them. The articles on this page explain SEO terms and concepts mentioned in the Google guidelines as well as describing each actual guideline.


What is Googlebot?

Googlebot is the webcrawler used by Google to discover web pages and update their search index.

googlebot and robots.txt file

The robots.txt file

The content of your robots.txt file tells search engine crawlers how they should visit your site. Don't block Google by mistake.

clock and webpage

Optimize for speed

Optimize your page loading times. Fast sites make users happy and improve the overall quality of the web (especially for those users with slow Internet connections).

person loving a webpage

Make pages for users

Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.

phone, tablet, desktop

Mobile / multi-device

Design your site for all device types and sizes, including desktops, tablets, and smartphones.


What does rel= mean?

You may have heard of rel=nofollow. rel=canonical, rel=stylesheet, etc. but what does "rel" mean? How many "rel"s are there? We cover the main ones here.

html file

Use valid HTML

Web pages that follow the grammar, vocabulary and syntax of the HTML language properly are better understood by users and search engines.



Use of rel=nofollow indicates that a link should not be followed by a search engine crawler because the author either does not endorse that link or to indicate it is a paid link.

connected webpages

Clear hierarchy & text links

Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.

googlebot looking at a tab

Default visible content

Default visible content is the information displayed on a webpage that can be seen without user interactions like tabs or "click to expand".

map on a webpage

Give users a map

Offer a site map to your users with links that point to the important parts of your site.

googlebot and resource files

Don't block resources

If Google can not see or understand your webpages, they can not be ranked right. Make sure your pages are understood by Google.

a title on google

Titles and alt tags

Make sure that your <title> elements and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate.

paid links on a webpage

Paid links and Ads

Paid links and advertisements should not pass pagerank. If it does on your webpages, you will likely be penalized.

affiliate webpages

Add value to affiliate pages

Affiliate web pages need to have original useful content to rank well in Google results. Content provided by another website adds no value.

webpages blocked by robots.txt

Block unuseful pages

Blocking pages that do not add much value can really boost your rankings. Every page Google has indexed from your site should be amazing.

auto generated pages

Avoid Auto generated pages

Auto-generated pages or content will not rank well in Google. Make sure your information is original and useful.

avoid link schemes

Avoid link schemes

Who you link to and who links to you affects your ranking in the Google results. Make sure you are not in any bad neighborhoods. Link relationships are described in depth.

avoid ranking tricks

Don't try to trick Google

Spend time improving your webpages, not on SEO tricks or shortcuts. If you use tricks or shortcuts, you will be ranked lower than your competitors.

avoid cloaking

Don't cloak

Cloaking is sending users to a different place than Googlebot or other search engine spiders. Make sure you are not doing this as this behavior is heavily penalized by Google.

sneaky redirect

Avoid sneaky redirects

Hiding redirects in javascript or other manipulative methods is bad. Users should always be sent where they expect to go.

hidden text

Don't use hidden text or links

Using hidden text or links on your webpages is easily detected by Google. Your site will be penalized if you do this.

webpages leading to one web page

Avoid doorway pages

Doorway pages are webpages that are "optimized" for particular keyword phrases and only exist to capture that keyword phrase in search engine results.

copied content from another webpage

Don't use scraped content

Using scraped or stolen content is against the Google webmaster guidelines and it is also against the law. Not a good idea.

googlebot confused over webpage

Session IDs and tracking

Don't confuse Googlebot with session id's and other tracking methods.

words on a webpage

Choose words wisely

Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.

spammy rich snippet

Don't abuse rich snippets

Misleading or false information in your rich snippet mark up will result in lower rankings.

chain link

Use the right amount of links

Too many links can overwhelm a user. Make sure every link has a truly good reason to be there.

shady character

Don't deceive users

Users hate being deceived. You hate being deceived. Google hates it too.

user frustrated by 404 error

Check for broken links

No one enjoys clicking on a link that seems to be exactly what they are looking for only to find that no web page is there.


Text links are more reliable

Text is well understood by search engines, images are not. If you use images for important links on your page, they might not be understood or recognized as well as text is.

if modified since 304

Support if-modified-since

Make sure that your web server correctly supports the If-Modified-Since HTTP header. This feature directs your web server to tell Google if your content has changed since we last crawled your site. Supporting this feature saves you bandwidth and overhead.

webpage standing out

Be clearly better

Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.

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