Google is clear in it's webmast guidelines as to what it wants, and wants us to avoid. Here's what you need to know.
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A Blogger’s Guide to Google Guidelines and Ranking

Google is clear in it's webmast guidelines as to what it wants, and wants us to avoid. Here's what you need to know.

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Lori Ballen is a member of the Amazon Associates Program and earns money from qualifying purchases. Posts contain affiliate links that benefit Lori as well.

Google produces its webmaster’s guidelines for the public to review. Google also has made its guideline for the search evaluators and raters public. Bloggers can use this information to help Google better understand a website, create better content, and build better websites.

These tips are my takeaways from Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Since the early 1990s, I’ve been making a full-time income from blogging, so I’ve seen the SEO evolution first-hand.

To rank on Google today, a blogger requires a website with quality, authority, and in most cases: quantity.

Google writes that the most important thing that a website creator can do is give the user what they are looking for.

When reading Google’s guidelines, it becomes clear. They state exactly what they want.

“Ensure that all pages on the site can be reached by a link from another findable page” – Google.

In other words, a valuable page on a website is one that is referenced by another page on the website (or another website).

Orphaned content is content that is not linked to by any other page on the site. When Google crawls your website, the orphaned pages may not be discoverable due to the lack of links.

After publishing an article, the author should go back through the content and create links to related content on the website. This strategy of internal linking will help prevent orphan pages.

I use Link Whisper, a tool that has an internal link finder. After publishing a page, I can click the internal link button which opens another page. This page lists all of the pages on my website that could be relevant to this new page for links.

Yoast has a tool that will help a creator locate orphan content as well. Link Whisper, in my opinion, is a better option as it has the internal link finder on a page level as well as the orphaned content finder.

Furthermore, Google says to make sure the referring link includes either text or, an alt attribute (image), that is relevant to the target page.

In other words, if the article you are creating is all about blogging, and you want to link to your SEO guide, the link should contain the focus keyword or topic when possible.

Rather than linking the text that says: Learn more about that here, you should highlight the keyword phrase such as: “a comprehensive guide to SEO”.

The text that is hyperlinked is referred to as Anchor Text.

Provide a Sitemap File

A Sitemap is a file on your site that tells Google how to find all of the pages on your website. If you don’t tell Google about all of your content, then it’s possible that they will not be able to see certain pages.

The best tool I’ve found for creating an XML sitemap with tracking (i.e. how many pages were submitted) is the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress.

Once you create a sitemap, you can submit it to Google through Google Webmaster Tools.

In Yoast, you can get the link to your sitemap file through the “General” tab. You can also see all of your submitted sitemaps here.

Google suggests that the total links on any page be kept to a reasonable number. They follow that up with saying, a few thousand and most.

For most websites, then, falling within a reasonable number of links won’t be a challenge.

The challenge will come when a creator is looking for link opportunities. I’ve seen some bloggers create pages that have thousands of links on them. While building a skyscraper link building post is fine, keeping it within the reasonable guidelines is important.

So, how many links on a page is too many?

Having a few thousand links on a page is not as big of a problem as having tens of thousands.

In my experience, avoiding those types of posts will help build your link building strategy in an effective matter. You’ll be able to build links that are relevant, and therefore increase your ability to get more traffic from Google’s search results.

An article on Moz.com says: “The search engines all have a rough crawl limit of 150 links per page before they may stop spidering additional pages linked to from the original page. This limit is somewhat flexible, and particularly important pages may have upwards of 200 or even 250 links followed, but in general practice, it’s wise to limit the number of links on any given page to 150 or risk losing the ability to have additional pages crawled.”

Use Robots.txt To Manage Crawl Budget

Robots.txt is a file on your site that allows you to tell search engine bots how to interact with certain files or parts of files.

The Robots.txt file tells Google that you have content on your website that you do not want indexed.

For example, if you have an eCommerce product that is still in pre-sale, then you do not want search engines to index the page now.

Some content creators use Robots.txt files to block out parts of their website that do not need to be indexed such as a landing page that is meant to build an email list rather than sell a product.

As far as Google’s suggestion to use Robots.txt files to manage crawl budget, most small sites won’t need to be concerned with this.

In the event that a site has thousands of pages, then a Robots.txt file might need to be used in order to help save crawl budget.

Google says this regarding Googlebot:

“First, we’d like to emphasize that crawl budget, as described below, is not something most publishers have to worry about. If new pages tend to be crawled the same day they’re published, crawl budget is not something webmasters need to focus on. Likewise, if a site has fewer than a few thousand URLs, most of the time it will be crawled efficiently.”

Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: What Crawl Budget 

Create a Useful Website

Many websites are built just for show. They are more of a digital business card than content, they have great-looking designs but don’t provide any useful information to the visitor.

A website that is created with a purpose and offers something of value will help Google better understand its content and be able to index it accordingly.

In my experience, a useful website loads fast, has clear navigation, avoids annoying distractions like pop-ups that won’t close, and has an overall site architecture that Google can crawl, and understand easily.

Read on to learn what Google suggests.

Write Pages that Clearly Describe Your Content

Based on Google’s instructions: “Think about the words users would type to find your pages and include those words on your site.”, describing your content is about keywords.

While Keyword Stuffing is a black hat SEO practice that is no longer useful, placing focus keywords in certain areas of a page are still beneficial.

Most SEO’s agree that the focus keyword should be included in the SEO title tag, the URL, the first paragraph, the first heading tag, and in the final paragraph. Many bloggers and content creators will include the keyword in the image description if appropriate to do so.

That being said, Google is smart. Google can understand content in the way it couldn’t before.

You can rank for many keywords that are never used on the page because they are closely related to the topic.

But when it comes down to comparing two websites, the one that used the same keyword as the user’s query, may appear high on the SERP.

You can also ask Google to crawl your website by using the URL Inspection Tool.

Create a Descriptive, Accurate, and Specific Title

Google posted in their guidelines that a webmaster should ensure that all <title> elements and alt attributes are descriptive, specific, and accurate.

An SEO title tag tells the search engine what is most important about your page, and helps tell Google how it should index your page.

  • If you are using both an <h1> tag and a <title> tag on a single page, make sure that they are different; this will help Google understand the importance of each heading.
  • Avoid Clickbait Titles such as “You’ll Never Believe What This Guy Does In The Bathroom!”. Save those for social media.
  • Write SEO Title Tags that do not exceed 70 characters and use proper capitalization and punctuation.
  • Don’t promise what you cannot deliver. People are more likely to click Google’s “Search by image” results if the title has strong text that describes an interesting photo. However, the users will be disappointed when they get to your site and find out that there is no picture of a kitten riding a bicycle.”
  • Avoid overusing your target keyword in a title or meta description.
  • Google’s instructions: “Make sure that each page on your site has a unique, descriptive title. If the content of your page is similar to other pages on the site, include the main keywords only once in your title.
  • Don’t automatically include words or phrases that are in a web address (URL) or that appear in the browser’s search box. And don’t try to stuff your titles with popular keywords through repeated and excessive use of a synonym.”
  • Avoid including over-exaggeration and unproven facts.

Build a Clear, Understandable Page Hierarchy.

Design your website with a clear hierarchy that Google can understand and rank accordingly.

Your website structure can be described like a pyramid, with the most important content on top and less important content under it.

Specific headings should be used in place of general ones. For example, instead of using the heading “Coffee” use “Types Of Coffee.”

Organize your content so that users can browse through it and find what they need quickly.

WordPress uses a site structure that includes a hierarchy of categories and posts as well as Pages and child pages.

Creating a well structured hierarchy on your website will help Google understand the structure of your content.

Google also suggests that if you are using WordPress or Wix, make sure the website has crawlable pages and links.

Make Important Content Visible

Google requests that your important content is visible rather than hidden by tabs or accordion-style sections.

While Googlebot can crawl hidden text, it considers it less important.

Google has provided ways to note when a link is a no-follow, sponsored, or user-generated-content. The nofollow and sponsored links tell the search engines not to crawl the linked page.

rel=nofollow: lets search engines know that the destination page should not be crawled or considered in your link equity.

rel=sponsored: tells Google that the linked page is a sponsored result.

rel=user-generated: links marked as rel=”user-generated” tell Google and other search engines not to consider the link in ranking or indexing.

In WordPress, you can tag a link in the editor by clicking “link attribute.”

Help Visitors Find Your Pages

Make sure links to all pages are live. I use SEMrush to monitor broken links, but there is also software like Screaming Frog or free plugins like broken link checker for WordPress.

Optimize your page loading times: Even if your website is easy to navigate, it can be difficult for users to find what they are looking for if the page takes too long to load.

Design for all devices:  It’s important that you design a site that works on multiple devices. Check your designs to see how they perform on desktop, smartphones, tablets, televisions, as well as different browsers.

Secure your website with SSL: If you are accepting credit cards or working with sensitive data, then you need to have an SSL certificate on each page of your site that is involved in transactions.

Make your Website’s content accessible: Optimizing images with alt text is an example of making a website accessible for the visually impaired. There is much more on this to learn, and you can view 10 tips for creating an accessible website, here.

Create Quality Content

While this topic is much larger in-depth, it can be summarized in a few points.

  1. Create content for the user, not for the search engines.
  2. Don’t employ deceitful practices.
  3. Avoid SEO “Tricks”

Avoid Black Hat SEO

Google specifically lists the following as techniques that they don’t endorse and suggest you avoid.

  1. Avoid using automatically generated content: This includes copied text that is commonly used for article spinning.
  2. Avoid link schemes: Sites that link to each other with the purpose of increasing rankings should be avoided as they can get your site penalized, as well as flagged as a spammer.
  3. Avoid thin content: Thin content is pages with little or no original content. Look at the page count on your site to see if you have too many thin pages.
  4. Avoid cloaking: Showing different content to the search engine crawlers than you show to users.
  5. Avoid sneaky redirects: This is redirecting users to other sites without their knowledge, sometimes after they have purchased something.
  6. Avoid hidden text and links: such as using a white text on a white background in order to hide it from the user, but make it visible to a search engine.
  7. Avoid doorway pages: These pages often contain little original content and exist to redirect users, usually with some sort of sales pitch, away from your site.
  8. Avoid scraped content: This is content that has been scraped or copied from another site without permission.
  9. Avoid buying links or participating in link schemes: Links should be given naturally despite financial relationships. If you are paying for links, then this can reduce the trust users have in your site and company. It can also get your site penalized by search engines.
  10. Avoid Affiliate programs with adding value: There was a recent algorithm change that hurt a lot of affiliate website. Google specifically says “sites featuring mostly content from affiliate networks can suffer in Google’s search rankings, because they do not have enough added value content that differentiates them from other sites on the web”. Therefore, if you are building an affiliate website, make sure you are adding different, and unique value. You can learn more about this here. 
  11. Avoid Keyword stuffing: This is when content makes use of the same keyword over and over again. It can make your site appear spammy to search engines, which hurts ranking ability.
  12. Avoid malicious behavior: This includes sites that may install viruses, worms, etc.
  13. Avoid misleading site layout: Such as random ads or content displayed in order to trick users into clicking on them.
  14. Avoid user-generated spam
  15. Avoid getting hacked. (Check out Sucuri)

Glossary

View the entire SEO Glossary here.

  • SERP: Search Engine Result Page.
  • Black Hat SEO: SEO that uses practices that are against search engines’ guidelines.
  • Query: A search.
  • SEO: Search Engine Optimization
  • URL: The web address of a page.
  • Title Tag: The words that come up in the browser tab after visiting your site.
  • Meta Tags: An HTML section on a webpage that describes what is on the page and how it should be displayed (in the SERP).
  • H1, H2, H3 Tags: Are all headings that describe the main topics in order on a page.
  • Indexed: When Google crawls your website and adds a page to it’s database.
  • Crawl: When Google’s bot (spider) visits a website. It reads the HTML and gets an understanding of the page.
  • Site Architecture: The structure that provides the foundation for your website.
  • Orphaned Content: Content that cannot be found by following links from another page on the site.
  • Useful Pages: A page on your website that is important to SEO and can be reached by other pages on the site.
  • Authoritative Links: Links from high-ranking websites that point back to your website or link to a particular page of your website.
  • Anchor Text: When a link contains the words that you would click on if they were just in front of you instead of underlined and blue.
  • Sitemap: An XML file that lists all of the URLs on a website.
  • Keyword: A word or phrase typed into search engines to find something relevant to your query.
  • Pop-ups: Banner ads, modal windows, etc. that appear after you visit a webpage and don’t go away unless you do something about it.
  • Googlebot: The name of Google’s web crawler.
  • Crawl Budget: The number of pages that Googlebot will visit on a website.
  • Crawl Priority: How important the page is to Google’s indexing process.
  • Robots.txt: A file placed on a website to tell Google not to crawl certain pages or folders. This file tells the bot not to read any files with an extension of .txt, which can be used for passwords, etc.
  • SSL: Secure Socket Layer. A protocol used to encrypt data as it travels over the web, which protects users from hackers and other third parties who may be spying on you or trying to intercept your information.

Tools:

These are the tools I use daily to implement the strategies in this article:

  • SEMrush: Gives a good understanding of the keywords your competitors are ranking for. Research keywords. Use an SEO Content template to evaluate on-page SEO. Offers a broken link checker, SEO Audit, and more.
  • Frase.io: An AI writing assistant with an SEO upgrade that helps you better understand what keywords and text the top ranking websites have in common.
  • Link Whisper: I use link whisper to suggest internal links. Link Whisper also reports which pages are orphaned. In other words, they have no internal links, and these should be built.

Sources:

Moz: https://moz.com/learn/seo/internal-link

Google: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/guidelines/webmaster-guidelines

Affiliate Programs | Google Search Central | Google Developers. https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/guidelines/affiliate-programs

Lori Ballen is an entrepreneur who makes money online through blogging, video, social media, and other content marketing strategies. She's a 6-figure affiliate marketer and coaches others on how to make money online. SEO, Search Engine Optimized Content is her specialty. Lori is the creator of Ballen Academy and owns a real estate business in Las Vegas, NV.

Lori Ballen

I teach bloggers how to grow their blog, and make money through multiple streams of income. From affiliate marketing, to building courses, I share 7 income stream strategies through blogging.

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