Google has officially updated its Search Engine Optimization Start Guide, a sign that SEO is far from dead. The revamp was announced on the Webmaster Central blog. This new guide builds on the previous document but also has a few additional sections. It is currently available in nine languages and another 16 will be coming soon.
The main reason for the update is an overlap of content in a few areas between the SEO Starter Guide and Webmaster Academy. After an internal discussion, Google determined that it would be better to remove the old Starter Guide as well as Webmaster Academy and create a new, standalone resource.
What Has Changed in the Guide
The need for SEO
The SEO Starter Guide starts off by explaining to users how they can find out if their website is on Google. If their website does not appear in searches, they can learn how to ensure Google discovers, crawls, and serves their pages.
Right after this information is a tip box recommending users to hire an SEO expert to improve their online visibility. The guide even details what an SEO professional will do for the website owner — and it advises users to hire one as soon as possible.
Adding structured data markup
There is a section of the guide all about structured data markup. It explains how this code communicates the content of pages to search engines and how this leads to content appearing in search results. The guide also presents examples of how users can benefit from markup to appear in rich results. Following the explanation, the guide provides best practices advice about using markup data.
Building mobile-friendly websites
The last time Google updated its SEO Starter Guide was seven years ago. This means the information in the previous version about mobile-friendly websites was irrelevant. Back when the guide was previously updated, it was common to create one version of a site for desktop and another for mobile. There was no information in the guide about responsive designs.
This new guide, however, contains a long section about creating a site to work on any device. It names the various methods you can use — responsive web design (the recommended option), dynamic serving, and separate URLs — plus it details how to configure a mobile site for accurate indexing.
Creating a site for users
As well as providing advice on how to build a site for search engines, the guide points out that the most important factor in optimization is to create content for users. It discusses how to address users’ needs, questions, and wants to deliver the right content.
Sharing the site
The guide talks about how you can promote your site online and offline. There is a short mention of the best ways to use social media and other websites that cover topics related to your own.
Linking to websites
Finally, the guide has an added section about linking to other websites and when this will hurt your reputation. Google explains how to deal with this problem using the nofollow attribute.
How Boostability Aligns with Google
None of this is new information to us. We were already adhering to all advice and best practices discussed in the guide. Just a few examples of how the new recommendations validate what we are already doing include the following:
Getting found on Google
This is one of our main aims when working with brand new websites. We build sites to webmaster guidelines and submit content to Google to ensure that pages are crawled and appear in searches as soon as possible. We rely on the tools provided through Search Console to monitor our progress in search and to become aware of and resolve critical issues as soon as possible.
Optimizing existing content
This is almost our core when we bring on a site. We adapt current content for easier reading — correcting grammar, adding logical subheadings, and improving the flow of writing. We also ensure that there is no embedded text in images or videos, as this stops users from being able to copy the text and prevents search engines from reading the content. And we optimize everything with both users and search engines in mind.
We organize site hierarchies according to the long-standing Google guidelines. This ensures visitors are able to quickly reach the content they want and that search engines understand the role of each page on a site.
Building relevant links
When building links (whether internal or external), we pay close attention to anchor text. We use descriptive terms and keep wording concise. We also format links differently from other content to make their existence obvious to users.
A major focus of our efforts is to ensure that every page has proper markup and enhancement, with the right tags, schema, and parameters.
If you’re new to SEO and you want to understand what it’s all about, why it’s still relevant, and what intricacies are involved, you should check out the SEO Starter Guide. It’s accessible to anyone, including those with little to no knowledge of search engine optimization. By the end, we’re sure you’ll agree with us and with Google: that to handle SEO effectively, you need the support of an SEO expert.