|The future of Google's webmaster guidelines|
After this most recent update, I'm wondering if there is any future or point to Google's webmaster guidelines.
For many years now, I for one have stifled my creativity and the way my site has evolved due to fear of violating these unofficial laws of the internet laid down by Google. In the end, it has got me absolutely nowhere seeming like the further I followed the rules, the further my rankings slipped.
Back in the old days, designing and running a website was a fun and exciting thing to do - you could link to whom you liked, put what you liked on your pages and all without some sword hanging over your head all the time.
Now I know that things have moved on from then and there are a lot more bad guys around, but as a designer I absolutely hate being told what to do. The web has become a very, very boring place due to this fear of being creative and how Google may penalise you for anything they don't like.
Google have based their whole ranking system on who links to your site with one hand, and on the other they are constantly driving home about not passing PR meaning that practially every webmaster I know automatically nofollows every link by default. They have taken every aspect of the web and twisted it to their own ends and this makes me mad.
If following these guidelines rigidly has gotten most people nowhere at all, what is the point in having them - why should we bother when Google don't?
I think the guidelines are a good starting point especially for people brand new to SEO. As veteran SEOs we know that the guidelines do not always perfectly match the ranking algorithm. The intent of the guidelines does match the intent of the algorithm.
I would not advocate rigidly following the guidelines. I would suggest you follow their intent of promoting quality content & good user experiences.
Imagine if you give away a free widget repair ebook on your widget site. That you will make your users happy and also gain backlinks from relevant sites. This is a win-win and allowed by the guidelines.
|The future of Google's webmaster guidelines |
My prediction is they will continue to be clarified with generalized fuzziness...
|Google have based their whole ranking system on who links to your site with one hand, and on the other they are constantly driving home about not passing PR meaning that practially every webmaster I know automatically nofollows every link by default. |
Meet more webmasters, problem solved! lol
Actually, it's true though ... The most recent I heard on the situation was in a Matt Cutts video and he said it may seem there are way more nofollow links than there really are, because their stats say the nofollowed links are a very small percentage of the web-graph they have ... One thing he didn't mention though is external nofollow links and what the percentage of those are nofollow relative to 'follow' external links, which would be interesting to know, imo ... I could see where the 'web-graph as a whole' snapshot could be skewed since I would think there are many times more internal links than external and those would generally all be 'follow' links.
|Back in the old days, designing and running a website was a fun and exciting thing to do - you could link to whom you liked, put what you liked on your pages and all without some sword hanging over your head all the time. |
You still can, just don't worry so much about ranking in Google, and don't focus on their guidelines as much as following goodroi's advice and going with the 'principle' of those guidelines ... I think if you get caught up in following the guidelines you forget about building a great site ... IMO you should do it the other way around: Build a great site and then have a look at the guidelines to make sure you didn't accidentally do anything to keep your site from ranking.
Basically, I know if I go and build a great website it'll rank in Google ... (As much as you can know it will rank that is ... lol ... Maybe, 'I know it has a great chance to rank.', is a better way to put it?) ... Sure it might need a 'nudge' here and an 'adjustment' there, but for the most part, I know if I focus on building a great site, generally when I'm done it ranks fairly well without any huge 'gotta do it to rank' changes.
|I would not advocate rigidly following the guidelines. I would suggest you follow their intent of promoting quality content & good user experiences. |
I see what you mean, and I do try to do this, but even when writing new content, I have a nagging concern about things like have I mentioned 'red widget' too many times and will be penalised for keyword stuffing.
It's things like this that concern me - things that benefit the end user, like a comprehensive navigation system that could end up causing your site to tank just because Google says no.
Google will not ban your site if you mention "red widgets" 10 times on page and it also wont derank you because you only mentioned it 4 times. I suggest you do some testing. Google can be quite flexible. They tend to target the extremes. If you are close to the middle you shouldn't have any issues.
Here is another example taken from the Panda discussion thread:
Last year someone had a penalty reversed because an iframe generated a false positive for their "too much white space" metric. It was documented on Google's own forum, and JohnMu got involved to place a flag on the site, in case it ever triggered that penalty again.
Again, Google are dictating exactly what you can and can't do with page design.
|Again, Google are dictating exactly what you can and can't do with page design. |
No, they are passing an editorial value-judgement on white space. It's their algo, they're allowed to.
I imagine they did studies on user behavior and plotted it against white-space size/proportions and built the SIGNAL into their algo. Users don't like X amount of white-space, so users dont get served sites exceeding said value. Makes 100% sense.
I don't want to get into an argument, but white space is a very important design consideration.
To quote Wikipedia :
|White space should not be considered merely 'blank' space — it is an important element of design which enables the objects in it to exist at all, the balance between positive (or non-white) and the use of negative spaces is key to aesthetic composition. |
White space is the foundation of minimalist design - take a look here for a good explanation [graphic-design.com...]
By Google's standards, a key visionary like Bill Bernbach would be slapped with an instant penalty.
Sure it's their algo...
I'm not sure he would. There are plenty of minimalist sites out there. Google's homepage used to be one of them.
My reading of the off-site reference was that it was excessive white space- or rather, the incorrect detection of such- which triggered the penalty.
The definition of "excessive" is going to be subjective, but I bet its backed up by empirical testing.
LOL at shaddows - "Used to be one of them" - exactly.
To understand googles control - you have to be a big thinker. If you are a small thinker - you will agree with googles actions without question - and even when you question - you wont realise that you are not really questioning.
You dont know what you dont know - and dont google know it.
Here is another, very basic example of a design concept that has been used in print, but would also raise an instant ban in Google.
The concept is this basic typographical presentation. Picture a page filled with the phrase 'red widget' in a small font, in red naturally, repeated to fill the whole page. In the middle of this page, in a huge font is the phrase "blue widget" in a huge font, and in blue.
The message of this is "our widgets aren't red like everyone elses, they are BLUE"
Cue instant Google ban.
Now obviously that raises many points about search algorithms in general, but to a human this says that the site is all about "blue widgets" - we can ignore the red, they don't want to sell those.
Why do you say that would "raise an instant ban on Google"?
By the way, the whitespace algortihm test was checking for a spammer method that hides text from visitors but shows it to googlebot. It was not for dictating some aesthetic guideline.
Maybe I am generalising too much, but the gist of the whole thing (and maybe it's my own fault for treating it thus) is that when designing a website, I seem to spend an unhealthy amount of time considering what will please/displease Google rather than on what works best visually.
And to bring the thread back on focus, as Panada seems to have thrown a lot of other factors into the mix, should we still be striving to avoid penalties by following the guidelines to a T, or should we just disregard them an just do what works best for the site in question without worrying.
|should we just disregard them an just do what works best for the site in question without worrying. |
Very much so. Village Idiot SEO.
As goodroi stated above, the guidelines are there to stop you unwittingly tripping a penalty. It's a basic recipe for beginners, not the canon of best practice.