Google Webmaster Guidelines: Everything You Need to Know & Understand (2023)

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines are fundamental to achieving sustainable SEO results using techniques that are in line with Google’s expectations.

If you don’t follow their guidelines, you can expect to experience either an algorithmic devaluation or an outright manual penalty.

In the most severe cases, you can expect to be banned from Google SERPs entirely.

Understanding the guidelines in full is the only way to avoid potential missteps and future harm to your site. Of course, there’s always more than one way to interpret their guidelines.

Thankfully, Google reps such as John Mueller and Gary Illyes are available on Twitter for most questions about these guidelines.

For the most part, the guidelines are cut-and-dry.

But, you do need to review the guidelines on a regular basis because Google does update them. They don’t necessarily announce changes to them, so you must be on alert.

One of the more recent changes to the guidelines was when Google added a line about making sure you code your sites in valid HTML and CSS, and that it should be validated with the W3C.

This does not necessarily mean that it will help in search (it can through a user experience perspective due to better cross-browser compatibility).

This is a different type of guide than most.

The goal of this guide is to present potential solutions to common problems, so you are armed with actionable advice you can use on your next website issue.

Doesn’t that sound like fun?

What Are the Google Webmaster Guidelines?

These guidelines are separated into:

  • Webmaster guidelines.
  • General guidelines.
  • Content-specific guidelines.
  • Quality guidelines.

Webmaster guidelines are more general best practices that will allow you to build your site so that it’s easier to appear in Google Search.

Other guidelines include those that will prevent your site from appearing in search.

General guidelines are those best practices that will help your site look its best in the Google SERPs (search engine results pages).

Content-specific guidelines are more specific towards those different types of content on your site like images, video, and others.

Quality guidelines include all those techniques that are prohibited and can get your page banned from the SERPs.

If that were not enough, using these techniques can also cause a manual action to be levied against your site.

These guidelines are focused on making sure that you don’t write spammy content and that you write content for humans rather than search engine spiders.

It’s easier said than done, however. Creating websites that adhere to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines is a challenge.

But, by understanding them completely, you have passed the first hurdle.

The next hurdle is applying them to your websites in a way that makes them compliant with these guidelines. But, as with any SEO challenge, practice makes perfect!

(Video) An Introduction to Googles Webmaster Guidelines

Make Sure Your Keywords Are Relevant

Your site should be easily discoverable. One way to determine keyword relevance is to examine the top-ranking sites and see what keywords they are using in their page title and meta description.

Another way is to perform a competitor analysis of the top-ranking sites in your niche. There are many tools that can help you identify how sites are using keywords on-page.

Common Issue

You have a site that has zero keywords. The client has given you a list of keywords, and you want to optimize the site for those keywords. The problem is, you have nothing but branded keywords throughout the text copy, and there has been zero thought given to the website optimization.


The solution here is not quite simple. You would need to perform keyword research and in-depth competitor analysis to find the sweet spot of optimization for keywords based on your target market.

Make Sure That Pages on Your Site Can Be Reached by a Link from Another Findable Page

Google recommends that all pages on your site have at least one link from another page. Links make the world wide web, so it makes sense that your primary means of navigation are links. This can be done through your navigation menu, breadcrumbs, or contextual links.

Links should also be crawlable. Making your links crawlable ensures a great user experience, and that Google can easily crawl and understand your site. Avoid using generic anchor text to create these links, and use keyword phrases to describe the outgoing page.

A siloed website architecture is best because this helps reinforce topical relevance of pages on your site and arranges them in a hierarchical structure that Google can understand. It also helps reinforce topical focus.

Common Issue

You run into a site that has orphaned pages everywhere and within the sitemap.


Make sure at least one link from the site links to every other potential page on your site. If the page is not part of your site, either delete it entirely or noindex it.

Limit the Quantity of Links on a Page to a Reasonable Number

In the past, Google is on record saying that you shouldn’t use more than 100 links per page.

It’s better to have links that are useful to the user, rather than sticking to a specific quantity. In fact, sticking to specific quantities can be harmful if they negatively impact the user experience.

Google’s guidelines now state that you can have a few thousand (at most) on a page. It’s not unreasonable to assume that Google uses quantities of links as a spam signal.

If you want to link over and over again, do so at your peril. Even then, John Mueller has stated that they don’t care about internal links, and you can do what you want.

Common Issue

You have a site that has more than 10,000 links per page. This is going to introduce problems when it comes to Google crawling your site.


This depends on the scope and type of site you have. Make sure that you reduce links per page down to less than a few thousand if your site needs it.

Use the Robots.txt File to Manage Your Crawl Budget

Crawl budget optimization is an important part of making sure that Google can crawl your site efficiently and easily.

You are making it more efficient and easier for Google to crawl your site through this process. You optimize your crawl budget in two ways – the links on your site and robots.txt.

The method that primarily concerns us at this step is using robots.txt for crawl budget optimization.This guide from Google tells you everything you need to know about the robots.txt file and how it can impact crawling.

Common Issue

You run into a site that has the following line in its robots.txt file:

Disallow: /

(Video) What are The Google Webmaster Guidelines? Guide of Google | Dopinger

This means that the robots.txt file is disallowing crawling from the top of the site down.


Delete that line.

Common Issue

You run into a site that doesn’t have a sitemap.xml directive in robots.txt. This is considered an SEO best practice.


Make sure you add in a directive declaring the location of your sitemap file, such as the following:


Create a Useful, Information-Rich Site & Write Pages That Clearly and Accurately Describe Your Content

As their guidelines state, Google prefers information-rich sites. This is dictated by industry, so a competition analysis is critical to finding sites that are considered “information-rich.”

This “information-rich” requirement varies between industry to industry, which is why such a competition analysis is required.

The competition analysis should reveal:

  • What other sites are writing about.
  • How they are writing about those topics.
  • How their sites are structured, among other attributes.

With this data, you will be able to create a site that meets these guidelines.

Common Issue

You have a site that is full of thin, short content that is not valuable.

Let’s be clear here, though – word count is not the be-all, end-all factor for content. It’s about content quality, depth, and breadth.

Back to our site – you discover that it’s full of thin content.


A comprehensive content strategy will be necessary in order to overcome this site’s content weaknesses.

Think About the Words Users Would Type to Find Your Pages

When performing keyword research, it is critical to ensure that you figure out how users search for your site. If you don’t know the words that users are searching for, then all of the keyword research in the world is for naught.

This is where effective keyword research comes into play.

When you do effective keyword research, you must consider things like your potential client’s intent when searching for a phrase.

For example, someone earlier in the buying funnel is more likely all about research. They would not be searching for the same keywords that someone who is at the end of the buying funnel would be (e.g., they are just about to buy).

In addition, you must also consider your potential client’s mindset – what are they thinking when they are searching for these keywords?

Once you have concluded the keyword research phase of your project, then you must perform on-page optimization.This on-page optimization process usually includes making sure that every page on your site mentions the targeted keyword phrase of that page.

You cannot do SEO without effective keyword research and targeting. SEO doesn’t work that way. Otherwise, you are not doing SEO.

Common issue

You run into a site that has nothing but branded keyword phrases and hasn’t done all that much to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

Through your research, you find that they have not updated their blog all that much with a variety of keyword topics, and instead have only concentrated on branded posts.

(Video) Google Search Essentials formerly Webmaster Guidelines


The solution to this is quite simple – make sure that you use targeted keyword phrases that are of broader topical relevancy to come up with content, rather than branded keywords.

This goes back to the fundamentals of SEO, or SEO 101: include the keywords that your users would type to find those pages, and make sure your site includes those words on its pages.

This is, in fact, part of Google’s general guidelines for helping users understand your pages.

Design Your Site to Have a Clear Conceptual Page Hierarchy

What is a clear conceptual page hierarchy? This means that your site is organized by topical relevance.

You have the main topics of your site arranged as main topics, with subtopics arranged underneath the main topics. These are called SEO silos. SEO Silos are a great way to organize the pages on your site according to topics.

The deeper the clear conceptual page hierarchy, the better. This tells Google that your site is knowledgeable about the topic.

There are two schools of thought on this guideline – one believes that you should never stray from a flat architecture – meaning any page should not be more than three clicks deep from the homepage.

The other school of thought involves siloing – that you should create a clear conceptual page hierarchy that dives deep into the breadth and depth of your topic.

Ideally, you must create a website architecture that makes sense for your topic. SEO siloing helps accomplish this by making sure your site is as in-depth about your topic as possible.

SEO Siloing also presents a cohesive organization of topical pages and discussions. Because of this, and the fact that SEO siloing has been observed to create great results – it is my recommendation that most sites pursuing topically-dense subjects create a silo architecture appropriate to that topic.

Common Issue

You run into a site that has pages strewn all around, without much thought to the organization, linking, or other website architecture. These pages are also haphazardly put together, meaning that they do not have much of an organizational flow.


You can fix this issue by creating a siloed website architecture that conforms to what your competitors are doing. The thought behind doing this being that this website architecture will help reinforce your topical focus, and in turn, improve your rankings through entity relationships between your pages and topical reinforcement.

This topical reinforcement then creates greater relevance for your keyword phrases.

Ensure All Website Assets Are Fully Crawlable & Indexable

You must be thinking – why shouldn’t all assets be fully crawlable and indexable?

Well, there are some situations where blocking CSS (Cascading Stylesheets) and JS (JavaScript) files are acceptable.

  • First, if you were blocking them because they had issues playing nice with each other on the server.
  • Second, if you were blocking them because of some other conflict, either way, Google does have guidelines for this also.

Google’s guidelines on this topic state:

“To help Google fully understand your site’s contents, allow all site assets that would significantly affect page rendering to be crawled: for example, CSS and JavaScript files that affect the understanding of the pages. The Google indexing system renders a web page as the user would see it, including images, CSS, and JavaScript files. To see which page assets that Googlebot cannot crawl, use the URL Inspection tool, to debug directives in your robots.txt file, use the robots.txt Tester tool.”

This is important. You don’t want to block CSS and JavaScript.

(Video) What is Google Search Essentials?(formerly webmaster guidelines)

All elements are critical to ensure that Google fully understands the context of your page.

Most site owners block CSS and JavaScript via robots.txt. Sometimes, this is because of conflicts with other site files. Other times, they present more problems than not when they are fully rendered.

If site files present issues when they are rendered, it is time to create a fully revamped website.

Common Issue

You come across a site that has CSS and JavaScript blocked within robots.txt.


Unblock CSS and JavaScript in robots.txt. And, if they are presenting that much of conflict (and a mess in general), you want to have as clean of an online presence as possible.

Make Your Site’s Important Content Visible by Default

Google’s guidelines talk about making sure that your site’s most important content is visible by default. This means that you don’t want buttons, tabs, and other navigational elements to be necessary to reveal this content.

Google also explains that they “consider this content less accessible to users, and believe that you should make your most important information visible in the default page view.”

Tabbed content – yes, this falls under content that is less accessible to users.


Consider this: you have a tabbed block of content on your page. The first tab is the only one that is fully viewable and visible to users until you click on the tab at the top to go to the second one. And so on.

Imagine Google – they think this kind of content is less accessible.

While this may be a fairly small consideration, you don’t want to do this egregiously – especially on your homepage.

Make sure that all tabbed content is fully visible.

Common Issue

You get a website assigned to you that has tabbed content. What do you do?


Recommend that the client create a version of the content that is fully visible.

For example, turn tabbed content into paragraphed content going up and down the page.

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines Are Really Guidelines

As SEOs, Google’s Webmaster Guidelines are just that, guidelines. It can be said that they’re just “guidelines” and not necessarily a rule.

But, watch out – if you violate them egregiously, you could be outright banned from the SERPs. I prefer remaining on Google’s good side. Manual actions are ugly.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Of course, penalties can range from algorithmic devaluations to outright manual actions. It all depends on the severity of the violation of that guideline.

And, pages and folders can be devalued when it comes to Penguin issues. Don’t forget that real-time Penguin is inherently very granular in this regard.

But, it’s important to note – not all guideline violations will result in penalties. Some result in issues with crawling and indexing, which can also impact your ranking. Others result in major manual actions, such as spammy links back to your site.

When a manual action hits, it’s important to remain calm. You have likely brought this on yourself through link spam or another type of spam on your site.

The best you can do now is investigate and work with Google to remove the manual action.

In general, if you have spent a lot of time getting into trouble, Google expects the same amount of time to get out of trouble before you get back in their good graces.

Other times, the site’s so terrible, that the only solution is to nuke it and start over.

Armed with this knowledge, you should be able to identify whether certain techniques have caused you to get into some serious trouble.

As an aside, it is definitely worth it following Google’s guidelines from the start.

While results are slower when compared to other, more aggressive methods, we highly recommend this approach. This approach will help you maintain a more stable online presence, and you don’t have to suffer through a manual action or algorithmic devaluation.

The choice is yours.

Featured Image Credit:Paulo Bobita


What are 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.

What are the basic principles of Google's quality guidelines? ›

E-A-T—Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness—is a principle Google's search quality raters use to determine the quality and effectiveness of search results. Quality raters are real people who determine how well Google's search results meet users' needs based on the Search Quality Rater Guidelines.

What two search guidelines are used by Google and recommended as best practice? ›

Key best practices

Make your links crawlable so that Google can find other pages on your site via the links on your page. Tell people about your site.

What is the purpose of Google Webmasters? ›

Google Webmaster tools is Google's collection of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools that help you manage your site in Google Search results. Now categorized and housed under Google Search Console, they provide you with the data your organization needs to rank higher in search.

What are the 7 guidelines for a successful web design? ›

How to design a good-looking website
  • Keep your design balanced.
  • Compartmentalize your design by using grids.
  • Pick two or three base colors at most for your design.
  • Try to make the graphics go well together.
  • Improve your website's typography.
  • Make elements stand out by adding white space around them.
Jan 25, 2023

What are the three design guidelines of Google Webmaster? ›

The guidelines are based on three central aspects. Webmasters should support Google in finding websites (crawling). Secondly, webmasters should help Google to classify and "recognize" the content (indexing). Thirdly, webmasters should support the users of the websites in their use (usability and user experience).

What are Google's 10 core values? ›

Ten things we know to be true
  • Focus on the user and all else will follow. ...
  • It's best to do one thing really, really well. ...
  • Fast is better than slow. ...
  • Democracy on the web works. ...
  • You don't need to be at your desk to need an answer. ...
  • You can make money without doing evil. ...
  • There's always more information out there.

What are the 3 key ranking factors that Google uses in their algorithm? ›

What Are the Key Ranking Factors in the Google Search Algorithm?
  • Meaning and Intent. Within Google's search algorithm, understanding and clarifying the meaning and intent of the search query is the key first step. ...
  • Relevance. ...
  • Quality. ...
  • User Experience. ...
  • Context.
Oct 7, 2021

What are the 4 main components of Quality Score? ›

How to check your Quality Score
  • Quality Score.
  • Landing Page Exp.
  • Exp. CTR.
  • Ad Relevance.

What are 3 methods to get better Google searches? ›

8 Tips to Help You Use Google, Other Search Engines More Efficiently
  1. Be specific with what you want. ...
  2. Use + and - ...
  3. Put key phrases in quotes. ...
  4. Use tabs to specify what you're looking for. ...
  5. Advanced search tips. ...
  6. Look for something on social media. ...
  7. Add website info into search. ...
  8. Definitions, equations, language translations.
Nov 1, 2021

What are the 3 main categories people use for search? ›

It is commonly accepted that there are three different types of search queries:
  • Navigational search queries.
  • Informational search queries.
  • Transactional search queries.
Sep 24, 2022

What are the 3 fundamental components of the search framework? ›

3-steps of Search Engines: Crawling, Indexing, and Ranking.

There are 3 main areas to understand when looking at search engines: Crawling, Indexing, and Ranking.

What is Google Webmaster called now? ›

First it was known as Google Sitemaps, then Google Webmaster Central and now it is Google Search Central.

What is the difference between Google Analytics and Webmaster? ›

One of the best ways to explain the difference between Google Webmaster and Google Analytics Tools is this: Google Analytics reports on how website users interact with your site, while Google Webmaster Tools reports on how search engines interact with your site.

What are webmasters called now? ›

They're more likely to call themselves Search Engine Optimizer (SEO), online marketer, blogger, web developer, or site owner, but very few "webmasters".

What are the 7 C's of website design? ›

The 7C's of Website Design stand for Creativity, Consistency, Clarity, Content, Continuity, Compatibility and Customisation. These 7 steps provide you with a foolproof process for creating the best website design for your business.

What is the golden rule in web design? ›

Place users in control of the interface. Make it comfortable to interact with a product. Reduce cognitive load. Make user interfaces consistent.

What are the six 6 principles of web design? ›

6 Usability Principles for Effective Web Design
  • Every page element should fulfill a purpose. ...
  • Calls to action should be clear. ...
  • Conversions should always be a top priority. ...
  • Navigation should make sense. ...
  • Designs and page elements should stand out and be memorable. ...
  • Elements should facilitate engagement.
May 30, 2012

What are the 5 principles of design used in Google? ›

Principles of design
  • Balance.
  • Alignment.
  • Proximity.
  • Repetition.
  • Contrast.
Feb 27, 2019

What are the 5 basic values? ›

The Human Values of Love, Peace, Truth, Right Conduct and Nonviolence are latent in every human being, they are our very natural and true characteristic.

What is Google's 20% policy? ›

Enter: Google's “20% time” rule, a concept made popular when Google went public in 2004. “We encourage our employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google,” founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page wrote in their IPO letter.

What is the number 1 goal of Google? ›

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

What are the three 3 most important SEO and website metrics? ›

These SEO metrics help measure whether your current strategies are working, how effective they are, and where there's room for improvement. Some of the most common SEO KPIs include rankings, organic traffic, backlinks, and pages indexed.

What are the 3 pillars of quality? ›

These are our '3 Pillars of Quality': integrity, honesty and courtesy.

What are 5 pillars of Total quality system? ›

Product, process, organization, leadership, and commitment--those are the five pillars of TQM.

What are the 3 principles of total quality? ›

Total Quality Management (TQM) is a management philosophy or approach that is grounded on three core principles: a focus on the customer, participation and teamwork, and continuous improvement.

What are webmaster responsibilities? ›

  • Build functional and easy-to-use websites.
  • Test websites across browsers, operating systems and devices.
  • Maintain, configure and troubleshoot servers.
  • Ensure site security by setting up firewalls and login pages.
  • Optimize loading speeds and capacity.
  • Debug pages and fix broken links or images.

What are web design guidelines? ›

Design guidelines are sets of recommendations on how to apply design principles to provide a positive user experience. Designers use such guidelines to judge how to adopt principles such as intuitiveness, learnability, efficiency and consistency so they can create compelling designs and meet and exceed user needs.

What makes a good webmaster? ›

5 Personal Skills Every Webmaster Needs
  • Webmasters need to have people skills. Normally, being a webmaster is a solitary profession. ...
  • Webmasters must have patience. ...
  • Webmasters need to have top-notch research skills. ...
  • Webmasters need to have humility. ...
  • Webmasters must be persistent.
Apr 5, 2021

What is a webmaster example? ›

A webmaster is a person responsible for maintaining one or more websites. The title may refer to web architects, web developers, site authors, website administrators, website owners, website coordinators, or website publishers.

What are the desired skills for a webmaster? ›

Required Skills/Abilities:

Highly proficient with HTML/CSS; working knowledge of XML, SQL, JavaScript, and other programming languages. Excellent verbal and written communication skills. Proficient with Microsoft Office Suite or related software. Strong analytical, troubleshooting, and problem-solving skills.

How much is a webmaster paid? ›

How much does a Webmaster I make in the United States? The average Webmaster I salary in the United States is $85,100 as of January 26, 2023, but the range typically falls between $75,200 and $96,700.

What does a webmaster get paid? ›

How much does a Webmaster make? Webmasters make $62,413 per year on average, or $30.01 per hour, in the United States.

Do webmasters do SEO? ›

Technical search engine optimization (SEO)

Technical SEO is also big for webmasters, and understanding how Google ranks your website and what content will get penalized is important,” Cardenas says. This part of the job is usually a big expectation from clients as well.


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