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Webmaster Guidelines

Webmaster guidelines are guidelines that are set out by search engine providers such as Google or Bing.

These regulations provide webmasters with guidance on how websites can be optimized so that they are optimally found by search engines. At the same time, webmaster guidelines define what webspam is and which consequences webmasters can expect when violating the guidelines.

What is in the Google webmaster guidelines?

The guidelines of the Google search engine for webmasters are also called Google SEO guidelines or simply Google guidelines. Google divides its guidelines for webmasters into two large sections: General guidelines and quality guidelines.

  • General guidelines: Google breaks this section down into three large areas that can be briefly summarized as crawling, indexing and usability. In crawling section, Google gives tips and tricks on how the Google crawler  can better find the URLs. In the indexing section, Google lets webmasters know what they should look out for so that Google can better recognize and index content. This includes, using suitable title tags for a website as well as ALT tags for an image. It also includes research for suitable keywords. The usability section deals with measures that serve a secure and simple use of the website and includes mobile optimization as well as reference to good website performance with a short loading time.
  • Quality guidelines: Google is very clear in its definition of quality guidelines. Google provides clear guidance that SEOs should not occupy themselves with counting on finding and exploiting bugs in the search engine. Rather, every webmaster should be concerned with following the quality guidelines. Google explicitly indicates the possibility of reporting alleged spam measures of websites. The basic principles of search engine optimization laid out in the quality guidelines are important. According to Google, websites should be predominantly created for users and not for search engines. Users should not be deceived. Furthermore, the goal should be that every internet site be unique and different from others. Consequently, under “concrete recommendations”, various spam methods are listed that violate the Google webmaster guidelines. This includes, for example, cloaking or the participation in link exchange programs. Copied (aka duplicate) content or doorways are also considered measures countered by Google in search engine spam . It is clearly indicated in the guidelines that the list is not exhaustive. That’s why methods that are not explicitly listed there can also be interpreted as spam by Google.

The search engine company from Mountain View has put together concrete information on search engine optimization in the Google SEO starter guide . This SEO starter guide contains the central aspects of the optimization of websites. Several of these tips and optimization aspects can be found in the Bing webmaster guidelines.

What is the purpose of the guidelines for webmasters?

With the publication of general guidelines for webmasters, search engine providers specify the framework for compliant search engine optimization. Those who keep to these rules can expect that their website will not be penalized and the site can consistently attain good rankings.

The broader purpose of the guides lies in the fact that it is in the interest of the search engines to link to “good” websites in the search result . The better the sites that are referenced in the SERPs, the more satisfied the users are. This satisfaction, in turn, increases the trust in the search engines. As they predominantly earn money with advertisement as part of organic web search, search engines benefit from high-quality websites.

Even if there are clear specifications in Bing and Google webmaster guidelines on what is allowed in online marketing and what isn’t, the algorithms of the search engines remain a secret of the respective provider. This is to prevent SEOs from only optimizing for the ranking within the search engine and therefore the user intent is neglected.

What happens if SEOs or webmasters violate the guidelines?

If websites violate the guidelines of Google or Bing, individual sites, a directory or the entire domain can be given a penalty. In practice, this means that the ranking of the corresponding sites significantly worsens and therefore visibility in the search results falls. The penalty is mostly temporary and can be removed by elimination of the webspam. One possibility of offpage optimization is, for example, to devalue incoming backlinks  via the Google Disavow Tool. However, if it is a question of very serious spam activities, these can lead to the exclusion of the domain from the search engine index .

Where can I find the webmaster guidelines for Google and Bing?

Google and Bing have each published their own guidelines for the optimization of websites.

How do the guidelines help me with search engine optimization?

The instructions give webmasters and SEOs a guide by which they can orientate themselves in the optimization of their sites. The search engine providers define what is allowed and what isn’t. This at least makes it clear which measures may not immediately, but nevertheless inevitably will lead to ranking losses and failures with domains.

Those who, for example, find that the search queries and visits to their site are significantly falling, should check whether the content, the links or other areas of an individual website or the entire domain is violating the rules of the search engines. Above all Google has become better and better in the detection of webspam with its algorithms and its quality rater. It does not pay for SEOs to count on short-term successes by choosing spam measures that have not yet been detected by Google.

Against webspam and inferior content

According to Google, the following should be avoided by webmasters if they want to meet the quality guidelines of the search engine.

  • Texts and other content that is automatically generated
  • Websites with little or no content
  • Link exchange and link purchase
  • Cloaking
  • Hidden text
  • Hidden links
  • Doorways
  • Plagiarism
  • Affiliate sites without added value for the users
  • Use of irrelevant keyword on the target site
  • Fraud websites with malware, phishing software or sites that infect the devices of users with viruses
  • Abusive inclusion of markup for the generation of rich snippets

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