someone sipping coffee while on google

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines – What You Need To Know

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By Omnizant Team
Law Firm Marketing Agency

As of December 2021, Google has 86.19% of the market share for search engine use on desktops. It is imperative to have your website appear within Google’s search engine results in order to stay competitive. For those who have no idea where to start, Google hasn’t left you totally in the dark. Google has released and continually updates what is known as their Webmaster Guidelines. These guidelines cover things from how to code your website, what type of content to publish, as well as providing common issues that can impact your website from passing Google’s quality assurance.

General Guidelines 

Google’s webmaster guidelines are broken down into three parts. The first is called General Guidelines. The purpose of these guidelines according to Google is “having your site show up and look its best in Google.” 

Some of these guidelines are common sense, such as keeping your URL structure simple so it’s easier to remember, making sure your website is compatible across all browsers, avoiding duplicate content and, of course, permitting Google to crawl the website. Some of the guidelines are more complex, like qualifying your outbound links and making your links crawlable. However, one thing that is consistent is that Google doesn’t actually tell you how to implement any of these guidelines.

They do give you some visual examples to illustrate each guideline. Here is Google’s example of a simple URL structure: 

google url structure recommendation

While the examples are helpful from a visual standpoint, unless you are familiar with the process of web development, you might not be able to easily make this change. But, in the event you hire a web developer or work with a digital agency like Omnizant, you will have the knowledge to ask if they are following Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and be able to visually discern if your web developer or agency is following them as well. 

Content-Specific Guidelines 

You might have heard the phrase “content is king” touted in the digital marketing world. However, many people get the word content confused with the written verbiage on their website. According to Google, content refers to a variety of elements on your website, such as images, videos, media files, search boxes, AMP pages, and recently added Covid-19 resources. 

Each of these specific types of content have their specific set of best practices. For example, the best practices for images include selecting a contextual place to display the image, using images that are HTML-based, not adding text within the image itself, and, of course, keeping the URL structure of the image itself simple. It also recommends adding schema, alt text, and captions, so that the images are responsive and optimized for speed. 

google webmaster alt text example

Some of these best practices are actually quite easy to do, such as changing the alt text on images. A few content management systems, like WordPress, have a field where you can fill in the information. Also, selecting the appropriate place to feature a photo is something that any website owner can easily do. However, other guidelines, like making sure that the photos fit on all screen sizes while also being optimized for speed, will require a web developer to implement. 

Quality Guidelines 

We mentioned earlier that Google controls most of the market share when it comes to desktop searches. At the end of the day, Google is still a business. They want to give their users the best experience possible to prevent them from using a different search engine like Bing. In order to give their users the best experience possible, they need to provide them with the best match possible for their search. And in order to do that, they must ensure the websites that are being displayed on their search engine results page are of a certain quality. 

Your website should NOT contain any of the following: 

  • Scraped content from a third-party website 
  • Invalid redirects 
  • Irrelevant information
  • Thin or non-information content 
  • Paid links, link schemes, or affiliate links
  • Hidden text and links 
  • Doorway pages 
  • Malware and malicious behavior

If your website contains any of these “spammy” elements, your website might be removed from Google’s index entirely. This means that your website will not appear in Google for searches related to your law firm. If you notice any of these elements on your current website, the best course of action is to remove them as quickly as possible. If your website has already been de-indexed, it can be resubmitted for consideration once these elements are removed. If the website hasn’t been de-indexed, it’s still better to remove these elements completely. 

In the event that you do not know how to remove these spammy elements, a web developer will be able to help you. 

Why You Need to Work with An Agency Like Omnizant 

While Google does not expect every website owner to also be a web developer, their webmaster guidelines are for public consumption. With a little bit of knowledge on best practices, you will be able to discern if your current web developer or agency is following the best practices possible. 

At Omnizant, every website we design and develop follows Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. We also stay up to date on any changes, such as the major Core Web Vitals pushed earlier this year, and ensure that all the websites we host continue to follow Google’s guidelines. If you suspect there are any elements on your website that might go against Google’s quality guidelines, we can also come up with a solution to help remove these elements and get your website up to Google’s standards. 

About the Author
Since 2006, Omnizant's team of digital marketing experts, designers, developers and writers has helped over 2,000 law firms develop powerful websites that drive business growth.