In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was that of Google, Lord of Search. At first all was void and chaos, then Google moved its force over the Internet, and separated the bad from the good. It did punish with low rankings and lists of blackness those that flouted its search maxims: the link farmers, the spammers, and the content duplicators. Yet Google did reward the worthy – the generous givers of valuable, rich, original content that users beheld with joy.
The Word of Google was discerned by many to be a rigorous set of rules; by others, as precepts with scope for interpretation. Amidst the uncertainty of digital times, so it came to pass that in its beneficence, Almighty Google did distribute Webmaster Guidelines – or commandments – to those who would hear the Word. And yet, many of Google’s 200+ ranking factors remain sub rosa – arcane knowledge possessed only by the illuminated few.
As a reader of this blog you are no doubt one of the worthy, one who seeks to engage users with high quality content. Therefore, as humble disciples of Google’s Word, we reveal to you the good news: Google has updated their Webmaster Guidelines.
Thou shalt encrypt thy site
In essence, Google’s new encryption guideline makes what had previously been mere recommendation more official. Though Google has advocated HTTPS for some time it has now been explicit in stating, ‘If possible, secure your site’s connections with HTTPS. Encrypting interactions between users and your website is a good practice for communication on the web.’
Therefore ‘secure’ sites are no longer the dominion of ecommerce pages, but extend to all data that may exist within any given site.
Thou shalt not favour certain devices
As the ways in which we access our information changes, it stands to reason that Google’s guidelines formally acknowledge the transition from laptop to mobile by creating sites that are fit for purpose across devices. Google says, ‘Design your site for all device types and sizes, including desktops, tablets, and smartphones. Use the mobile friendly testing tool to test how well your pages work on mobile devices, and get feedback on what needs to be fixed.’
To those of you who have long been aware of the importance of making content pan-device friendly this advice might appear quaintly behind the curve.
Allow thy content to be seen
The accessibility theme is continued with a new guideline specifically aimed at creating sites accessible to those who are visually impaired. Google says, ‘Ensure that your pages are useful for readers with visual impairments, for example, by testing usability with a screen-reader.”
Hide ye nothing
Google is able to crawl HTML content hidden inside navigational elements such as tabs or expanding sections, but make your site’s important content visible by default. Google says, ‘We consider this content less accessible to users, and believe that you should make your most important information visible in the default page view.’
Ironically Google includes this advice in hidden tabs, making it non-searchable. But perhaps Google can flout its own rules because it is already Lord of the Search Kingdom.
Though several changes in the latest guidelines expand upon existing recommendations, the above are the four main new additions.