If a webmaster wants to learn about what to do and what not to do in their SEO practices, the first stop should be the Google Webmaster Guidelines. Like any guidelines, these are updated from time to time, and Google usually makes sure we all know about it — but not this time. The latest update to the General Guidelines section has slipped out without any fanfare.
What Has Changed?
Most of the updates in the General Guidelines involve giving us extra examples. These include the best ways to make your web pages visible to Google, how to make it easier for Google to identify what the pages are about, and how to ensure that your pages offer visitors to your website a good experience.
One of the more subtle changes is the removal of one phrase from the passage:
Following these guidelines will help Google find, index, and rank your site. Even if you choose not to implement any of these suggestions, we strongly encourage you to pay very close attention to the “Quality Guidelines.”
The passage now reads:
Following the General Guidelines below will help Google find, index, and rank your site.
We strongly encourage you to pay very close attention to the Quality Guidelines below…
A small change, but it increases the implication that the General Guidelines are essential.
Before and After
The Quality Guidelines section has been left unchanged, but the update for the General Guidelines has been quite extensive, even though nothing is substantially different. What Google has done is to add a lot more content, including examples and links to resources. The list has also been reorganised, so that now it’s more relevant to what the end user needs.
These before and after screenshots of the page show how much has changed:
This doesn’t seem to be an isolated change, but maybe connected with the recent update of the Webmaster Portal. In recent times, Google has made a number of changes to the Webmaster Guidelines, and we can safely assume that this won’t be the last.