There’s no denying that there are lots of differences of opinions among the SEO community. We all have our own thoughts about which techniques work best, how you should come up with an organic search strategy, and where budgets should be spent. However, there are a couple of things we can all agree on: you need to abide by Google’s guidelines, and keep an eye out for any algorithm updates.
You can be producing high-quality content, building a lot of links on reputable sites, and fixing any technical issues to ensure your site offers the best possible user experience but, if you go against Google’s guidelines, it could be a disaster. In fact, it could result in your site being removed from Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) altogether.
To help prevent this from happening, and ensure you’re always well ahead of the crowd, I’m going to give you my five top tips for working in a Google-approved way.
Bookmark Google’s guidelines and check them regularly
Every SEO professional — whether they’re a content creator, link builder, or technical SEO expert — should have Google’s guidelines bookmarked. And, more importantly, you should be checking them on a regular basis.
The search engine giant updates its guidelines every once in a while, and you won’t want to miss any big changes that are made. But you should also keep these guidelines in mind whenever you start work on a new project or make a decision that’s going to affect your SEO strategy. So — even if you think you know Google’s guidelines off by heart — it’s always worth checking in with them before making a move to ensure you’re going in the right direction.
Also, even when you aren’t checking in with the guidelines, you need to remember some of the main techniques or mistakes that could lead to your site being penalised. These include participating in link schemes, abusing structured data markup, having automatically generated content, and having hidden text or links on your pages.
Remember that Google’s guidelines aren’t exhaustive
It’s worth remembering that, while Google’s guidelines are relatively in-depth, they aren’t exhaustive. The company says: “It’s not safe to assume that just because a specific deceptive technique isn’t included [in the guidelines], Google approves of it. Webmasters who spend their energies upholding the spirit of the basic principles will provide a much better user experience and subsequently enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes they can exploit.”
So, if there’s a technique that you’re thinking about trying because Google hasn’t outright condemned it, but you’re aware that it’s on the questionable side, it’s often best to avoid it. Making one poor decision could ruin your rankings and mean that all the hard work you’ve done so far was a waste of time. So, to prevent this from happening, always err on the side of caution. A good rule of thumb is that, if you would feel uncomfortable telling a Google employee about a technique you’re thinking of using, don’t do it.
Check in with reliable SEO news sources and professionals
Just like most other industries, the SEO sector has certain news sources and experts that will help to keep you up to date with the latest goings on. They can also offer advice when any developments mean that you might have to tweak your strategy or the way you work.
Twitter is a great place to go for SEO news and guidance, if you know who to follow. It goes without saying that listening to those who actually work for Google will give you the most reliable information, so look for employees who frequently give their insights. Google’s Gary Illyes and John Mueller are both very active on Twitter, and great sources of insider information. Plus, there are SEO professionals, such as Barry Schwartz, Dr. Pete Myers, and Danny Sullivan who look out for and report on the latest industry news.
There are certain websites that it’s worth checking on a daily basis, too. Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Roundtable, and the Moz blog are all great sources of up to date information.
Look out for official announcements about algorithm updates…
Sometimes, Google will announce that its algorithms have been updated, and may even offer some insight into what has changed or how you should react. For example, at the beginning of this year, the Google @SearchLiaison Twitter account announced that the search engine would be rolling out what they called the January 2020 Core Update. It also shared a post from the Google Webmaster Central Blog, which explained that site owners didn’t really have to do anything in response to this update. They simply advised everyone to carry on, with user experience at the forefront of their plans.
The company will also give more warning if a change they’re planning to make will have a big impact on how people are managing their sites and strategies. For instance, Google rolled out a Speed Update in July 2019, which meant a lot of webmasters had to look at improve their page speed to prevent their rankings from being hit too hard. In this case, the search engine gave everyone advanced notice in January so they would have enough time to make the necessary changes.
It’s important that you always keep an eye out for any Google update announcements. Even if there aren’t any actions you need to take, having as much information as possible could help to give you an explanation if you see your rankings fluctuate.
…but remember that most updates won’t be formally confirmed
While Google has become much more open about its algorithm updates in recent years, many of the changes they make still aren’t officially confirmed. The company has said time and time again that they update their algorithms on an almost daily basis, so releasing announcements about every tweak would be a bit much. However, there will be times when you see your rankings change without an official explanation. Chances are, if you’ve experienced some changes, others around the world will have too, so consult some of the news sources and Twitter accounts I’ve mentioned previously.
Even if Google hasn’t explained what changes they’ve made, SEO experts will often come together after a larger unconfirmed update to decipher how everyone’s been affected. So, checking in with them can help to reassure you and possibly give you some actionable steps to take.
To successfully boost and maintain your Google rankings, it’s important to pay attention to the search engine’s guidelines and keep up to date with all of the latest industry news. Take these tips on board and you should find it much easier to do so.