Google’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide is available online and is downloadable as a “.pdf” document. It has been in existence in this title in various versions since 2009. While it can stand alone, it is dependent on numerous web links inside the guide to provide more than just an outline, or overview, of what goes on behind the scenes in search engine optimization, or SEO. Those links can also be found at the end of this summary, along with supplementary links. These will help the reader understand more recent changes in Google keyword searches, which took place in 2011 and 2013. Click Here To Download the Google SEO Starter Guide.
And that means it is clean, sparse, and simple. It is an outline of practical recommendations, best demonstrated practices (BDP’s), and supporting web documentation. Unfamiliar words and concepts are defined at the end of each section. Areas for greater understanding and help are offered via links to Google’s internal blog. For many readers, these links will possibly provide greater understanding of SEO than the Guide itself. This is especially true for people who prefer video to reading. Many concepts in the Guide are “fleshed out” further in YouTube video tutorials accessed via these links. The Starter Guide also links to Google’s greatest online companion for assisting in handling SEO: “Google Webmaster Tools.”
The Guide is essentially an outline of the critical topics which anyone trying to grasp Google and SEO should understand. Each one has some basic recommendations alongside a “Google’s-eye-view” of what it would look like on a computer screen. Then it covers BDP’s relating to that topic. Finally, there are glossary and URL links to enhance understanding. It is practical and simple. When paired with the grater knowledge provided via the useful links, the reader sense of what SEO is, three letters that can be intimidating, but should not be. And Goggle demonstrates this well. These are the seven focus items of the Guide:
- SEO basics: Pages and sites should create clarity. Page titles should be unique for each page and be short, and clear. The title should easily and accurately describe the content of each unique page. Longer summaries of each page should be included for search engines to find. These can be a couple sentences up to a couple paragraphs, but still should be clear and accurate, more than keyword infused. These summaries, or descriptions, are called meta tags. Portions of these tags are seen below the first line of a Google search listing, so repetition and keyword stuffing can confuse a searcher, and result in no click through.
- Improve site structure: Choosing a “domain name” or URL is often an arduous process for new site owners and developers. When the site begins to develop and grow, the new pages must also be coherent and understandable to the search engine. For example, when www.billybobsboats.com creates a special page with new summer special financing rates, that page should be called something like www.billybobsboats.com/financing and not www.billybobsboats.com/page443.
- Optimizing content: Google’s stance is clear: “Interesting sites will increase their recognition on their own.” (page 14) Having creative and useful content is clearly the best solution. It’s what visitors and customers want, and it is what search engines seek out. Ensure content is clear, on topic, and easy to read, for both humans and search robots. Having stated this, the Guide does mention some tips for using Google Adwords and its Keyword Planner. These tools can help determine what words the potential customer uses when searching for products the website offers.
- Dealing with crawlers: Keep control over what is seen and indexed for search using some simple tools and common sense. If there is any secure content on the site, encrypt it. If there are parts of the site that should not be indexed, use “robots.txt” to exclude them from Google search. Combat negativity and spam in customer comment areas with “nofollow” in the link/page HTML code, “CAPTCHA’s” for customers to use, and comment moderation. All of these tools are more complex items, and are not described in detail, but links are provided.
- SEO for mobile phones: While mobile sites are very different, some procedures remain the same. Ensure the site is indexed. Using Google on a mobile browser, enter “site: www.billybobsboats.com”. If it shows up, good. But if not, or to be safe, submit a site map of the mobile version using Webmaster Tools. Some mobile sites are not accessible by anything other than mobile devices. Allow any “User-Agent” to view the site. This will allow “Googlebot-Mobile” to crawl and index the mobile site. Use URL redirects to ensure Google search users arrive at the right type of site. Mobile phone based searches of “Billy Bob’s Boat Specials” need to be directed to the mobile version of the page, not the desktop. Some sites use the same URL for both pages. This is content switching based on “user-agent”, like above. This should be verified, so that users are directed to the right device. Failure to do so might result in unintended redirects. This could be view as “cloaking” by the Googlebot, as it gets served up different page content than what is intended for the website user. This could lead to the site disappearing completely form search results. Again, these are complex items, and the Guide’s links aid in understanding, directing the reader to more information.
- Promote your website the right ways: “Backlinks” are a common SEO topic. These are the links from non-site web pages that link back to the site. A link in a Facebook post, for example, is a backlink. These will develop and deepen over time. Excessive and unwanted backlinks, which can often be created and purchased, do not help SEO if they are on non-relevant sites. Use social media, blogs and email campaigns to create genuine backlinks.
The last revision to this guide was in 2010. There have been a few major and many minor changes in Google, in search, and in SEO since. They are addressed well by the useful links sections in the guide. The guide’s links bring the reader back to more time relative details, and ensure a more complete understanding. Most noteworthy, are the encryption of searches and the resulting decrease in keyword feedback. The first step occurred in 2011, and more encryption went into effect in 2013. The Guide is perfect in handling this change, which many SEO experts felt was a tremendous setback. The Guide often relates back to Webmaster Tools as a good site for further assistance. Webmaster Tools superbly helps website owners still find the important keywords their customers are using in their searches. This allows for keyword based SEO to continue.
Google’s Webmaster Tools site is user friendly, intuitive, and full of screenshots, video and solid advice for anyone concerned about search engine optimization. The SEO Starter Guide, summarized here, shows many case examples of how to use this very effective site to learn about search engine optimization. Creating a Webmaster Tools account, should be the next step for anyone after reading the Starter Guide. If a reader already has a gmail account, then they already have a Webmaster Tools account. The reader must simply sign in to Google, input the URL of the website, and start learning.
Paralysis by Analysis
The complexity and sheer number of decisions someone with a small business website, or someone who is designing one, must make can seem daunting. With so much knowledge available at their fingertips, but so little understanding, there can be a sense of being overwhelmed by it all. Little gets done unless it’s contracted out to a paid firm, or the person pays for classes or e-learning modules. This does not have to be the case.
Google offers up the solutions to those who seek answers. The number of Google’s own Webmaster Blog posts is over 100,000 pages. Finding what is needed can bring back the “paralysis by analysis” scenario, but Google’s Webmaster Blog, Webmaster Tools, and Keyword Planner and used by millions of people every day. They have been revised and revamped and are intuitive for anyone to use. And they are free. The Google Search Engine Optimization Guide is a fantastic starting point for anyone interested in the topic.