Recently, Google made some updates to its Google Webmaster Document, seen by many in the web development community as the holy grail of guidelines when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). The updates and revisions of the document seem to be part of the Google Webmaster Home revamp, which comes with three new tools and a brand new design.
Although there are a number of changes, one of the most notable is that is it no longer just a single long page, but rather is broken down into blocks of expandable content – something which Google doesn’t actually recommend. Google has made several changes and revisions to this document over the years, but it is rare that the whole document undergoes such a significant change. However, this update not only includes several clarifications, there are also entirely new guidelines added, separation and combinations of former guidelines, and even complete guideline removal.
Making sure that your site is secure with HTTPS is a big focus for the new guidelines in the revised document. Google has recently been cracking down on unencrypted websites, and plans to make sites that aren’t secured with HTTPS less visible to users. Google have now added HTTPS encryption to their official guidelines, leaving no grey area when it comes to encrypting your site.
Mobile SEO has also been added as a significant update to the document. Google recommends that you should design your site for all types and sizes of device, including desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. This is the first time that the official Google guidelines have mentioned being mobile-friendly, but it’s no secret that it’s something they have been backing for a while.
Accessibility has long been absent from Google’s official webmaster guidelines, but the new addition of a guideline which recommends web developers and designers ensure that their sites and pages are useful for readers with visual impairments leaves no doubt that accessibility for all users is now receiving the importance which it deserves. Testing the screen with a screen-reader, using a larger font, or providing an option for users to enlarge fonts if needed are just some ways to do this, and there is no doubt that Google will favour those sites which do.
Prioritise Important Content
Following up on the ‘content in tabs’ debate, Google has made it clear with a new guideline that they consider the initially visible content to be of greater importance than content found in tabs or other less visible elements. The new guideline advises webmasters to ensure that their website’s important content is visible by default and make it as easily accessible to users as possible.
Google has also altered some of the original guidelines, including the importance of ensuring that all pages on the site can be reached by a link from another findable page, and that a sitemap file with links leading to the important pages on the site, along with a site index are provided. The alterations to the guidelines have, in many cases, made them easier to understand.