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Search Engine Optimization according to Google

November 14th, 2008 by mdmcginnis

When the world’s largest search engine releases a starter guide for search engine optimization, which Google did this week, it tends to evoke a certain respect. When Google mentions that following their suggestions “could have a noticeable impact on your site’s user experience and performance in organic search results,” webmasters tend to take notice.

When I began working in SEO full-time in 2004, Google tried to act as if there was no such thing as SEO. They basically tried to say, “Just create good websites, and let us decide how to rank them. Stop trying to figure out how we do it. And certainly don’t try to figure out how to get us to rank them higher.” Of course, that didn’t work. Google still insists that webmasters should focus on pleasing human visitors, not search engine spiders. But their starter guide, which began as an internal document, sets out what’s important to them and their spiders.

I’ve gone through the document and simply cut and pasted all the headlines for you below. We’ll continue to elaborate these issues ourselves in the future, but if you want to hear it from the horse’s mouth, download Google’s PDF document.

Edit: Google released an updated version of the SEO Starter Guide in September 2010.


Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide

Create unique, accurate page titles
Good practices for page title tags

  • Accurately describe the page’s content
  • Create unique title tags for each page
  • Use brief, but descriptive titles

Make use of the “description” meta tag
Good practices for description meta tags

  • Accurately summarize the page’s content
  • Use unique descriptions for each page

Improve the structure of your URLs
Good practices for URL structure

  • Use words in URLs
  • Create a simple directory structure
  • Provide one version of a URL to reach a document

Make your site easier to navigate
Good practices for site navigation

  • Create a naturally flowing hierarchy
  • Use mostly text for navigation
  • Use “breadcrumb” navigation
  • Put an HTML sitemap page on your site, and use an XML Sitemap file
  • Consider what happens when a user removes part of your URL
  • Have a useful 404 page

Offer quality content and services
Good practices for content

  • Write easy-to-read text
  • Stay organized around the topic
  • Use relevant language
  • Create fresh, unique content
  • Offer exclusive content or services
  • Create content primarily for your users, not search engines

Write better anchor text
Good practices for anchor text

  • Choose descriptive text
  • Write concise text
  • Format links so they’re easy to spot
  • Think about anchor text for internal links too

Use heading tags appropriately
Good practices for heading tags

  • Imagine you’re writing an outline
  • Use headings sparingly across the page

Optimize your use of images
Good practices for images

  • Use brief, but descriptive filenames and alt text
  • Supply alt text when using images as links
  • Store images in a directory of their own
  • Use commonly supported filetypes

Make effective use of robots.txt
Good practices for robots.txt

  • Use more secure methods for sensitive content

Be aware of rel=”nofollow” for links

Promote your website in the right ways
Good practices for promoting your website

  • Blog about new content or services
  • Don’t forget about offline promotion
  • Know about social media sites
  • Add your business to Google’s Local Business Center
  • Reach out to those in your site’s related community

Make use of free webmaster tools

Take advantage of web analytics services

Helpful resources for webmasters

Friday, November 14th, 2008 Search, Usability
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17 Comments to Search Engine Optimization according to Google

  1. […] we’ll begin a long series of posts on search engine optimization (SEO), initially based on Google’s own guidelines, and branching out into other insights I’ve gained from the SEO industry, in which I worked […]

  2. Introduction to Search Engine Optimization | Aggie Webmasters on January 6th, 2009
  3. […] in our search engine optimization series: offering quality content.   addthis_url = […]

  4. Here be dragons: make your site easier to navigate | Aggie Webmasters on January 20th, 2009
  5. […] in our series on search engine optimization: what’s in a name, and how many do you need?   addthis_url = […]

  6. Better Web URLs - moving to an upscale address | Aggie Webmasters on January 20th, 2009
  7. […] use the same name for your Web page January 21st, 2009 by mdmcginnis Continuing with our series on search engine optimization, we ask: how many names can a single Web page have? Or to put it another way, how many times are […]

  8. Always use the same name for your Web page | Aggie Webmasters on January 21st, 2009
  9. […] our next installment on search engine optimization: what is “lorem ipsum” and why shouldn’t you care?   addthis_url = […]

  10. Eight Keys to Good Web Content | Aggie Webmasters on January 27th, 2009
  11. […] our next thrilling installment on search engine optimization: the weighty subject of anchor text.   addthis_url = […]

  12. Lorem Ipsum: is content for dummies? | Aggie Webmasters on January 28th, 2009
  13. […] in our series on search engine optimization: how to use heading tags effectively.   addthis_url = […]

  14. The link magic of anchor text | Aggie Webmasters on January 29th, 2009
  15. […] in our series on search engine optimization: helping search engine robots see your images.   addthis_url = […]

  16. Headings are your outline | Aggie Webmasters on January 30th, 2009
  17. […] search engine robots see your images January 2nd, 2009 by mdmcginnis It’s not surprising that Google’s list of best practices for Web images say nothing about the images themselves, but only about what to call them and how to label them. […]

  18. Helping search engine robots see your images | Aggie Webmasters on February 2nd, 2009
  19. […] time, as we finish our discussion of the official Google tips for search engine optimization, we’ll talk about the best ways to promote your website.   addthis_url = […]

  20. Controlling non-human website visitors with robots.txt | Aggie Webmasters on February 4th, 2009
  21. […] might be a good time to review all the main points we’ve discussed from Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide, or download it yourself from Google.   addthis_url = […]

  22. Ready to promote your website? | Aggie Webmasters on February 5th, 2009
  23. […] at heart. And truth be told, many business communicators are poets or essayists at heart. But search engine optimization requires you to take off your journalist’s hat or your poet’s beret, at least […]

  24. Search engine optimization is not communications. | Aggie Webmasters on March 25th, 2009
  25. […] come to an obvious conclusion – we can’t do this by ourselves. All keyword research and search engine optimization requires a balance between what’s desirable and what’s possible. Sure, we’d like […]

  26. Whose website is it anyway? | Aggie Webmasters on March 27th, 2009
  27. […] things first on your web page April 23rd, 2009 by mdmcginnis Search engine optimizers believe that the first words that appear on a website will be given the most weight on search […]

  28. First things first on your web page | Aggie Webmasters on April 23rd, 2009
  29. […] may be exaggerating a little, since some search engine optimization mistakes can be fixed more easily than others. But I submit that, in fact, you have not finished […]

  30. It’s easier to optimize your site for search before you go live. | Aggie Webmasters on May 4th, 2009
  31. […] in our series on search engine optimization: how to use heading tags effectively. Want to […]

  32. The link magic of anchor text | Aggie Webmasters on December 22nd, 2010
  33. […] time, as we finish our discussion of the official Google tips for search engine optimization, we’ll talk about the best ways to promote your website. Want to […]

  34. Controlling non-human website visitors with robots.txt | Aggie Webmasters on December 22nd, 2010

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