Search Engine Optimization

Google Releases Official SEO Starter Guide

13 Nov , 2008  

Yesterday I noticed a tweet from Matt Cutts announcing the release of Google’s official Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. (Perhaps they released it this week in the middle of Pubcon for a reason, while all the SEOs are out in Vegas?)

Google LogoAs expected, there was really no ground breaking news here – they didn’t release a 3 step guide to getting the #1 result in Google.  But what is interesting is they supported basically all the arguments SEOs have figured out on their own about the Google algorythm – and more importantly (for me at least), everything I’ve been blogging about.  It’s good to be told you’re doing something right every once in a while :)

I don’t want to break down the entire SEO starter guide, since Google really did do a good job on the document, but I will outline some important aspects which I see so many clients having problems with over and over again:

1. Use unique Title tags and Meta Description for each page

Google’s guidelines for a good Page Title tag are simple: Make it accurate, brief and descriptive.  The biggest issue to avoid? Stuffing unnecessary keywords in the titles.  The same goes for Meta Description tags – it’s important to write a description which both accurately describes the page and is enticing to search visitors, since this may be the description displayed in Google’s search results.

One big problem a lot of sites have is duplicate title and description tags repeated across many pages of their site.  Make sure each page has it’s own unique title and description; it also doesn’t hurt to make sure there’s no other pages anywhere on the web which are sharing the same title and description as yours.

2. Search Engine Friendly URLs

Every SEO has been aware of this for a while, but a lot of site owners don’t realize the importance of URLs and filenames which are both easily readable and are also relevant to the page content.  Use URL rewriting to change URLs which look like this:


to this:


Also outlined is the need for unique URLs to each content page.  Having a content page accessible by more than one URL creates duplicate content issues and dillutes the authority and reputation of each page, so it’s no suprise here that Google recommends using 301 redirects if you can’t simply remove the duplicate URLs.

3. Offer Quality content and services

I stress this all the time, but clients simply don’t get it.  SEO needs useful content just as much as your site visitors do.  No one likes a site which is nothing more than a sales pitch.

4. Anchor text in Links

What is interesting here is that Google mentions the importance of internal linking.  Getting other websites to link to you with your competitive keywords as the anchor text is important; but so is linking internally within your own site.  I’ve seen some great results just by changing the anchor text with which you link to your own pages.

5. Semantic Coding and Heading Tags

I’ve said it before; your site will benefit from semantic coding.  Using appropriate heading tags (h1, h2, h3,. etc.) helps Google determine which text is more important on a page, and gives more weight to specific text.  Also use descriptive file names and ALT text for images on your site, and keep those images in their own /images/ directory.

6. Nofollow Links

Google actually used the example of a viagra spam comment to explain the importance of this one!  They only mentioned using nofollow as a method to not pass authority to an unwanted website; they didn’t say anything about using nofollow on paid text links or for internal link power.

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19 Responses

  1. SearchBliss says:

    After reading it, I felt the Google SEO guide was more about Google guidlines then SEO.

  2. Barry Wise says:

    Well, it certainly has to do more with on-page SEO factors than the true overall picture which is Search Engine Optimization. But the guidelines they outline are good for just about any search engine, not just Google.

  3. Colin Waters says:

    This is pretty basic stuff, but helpful nonetheless. For a newbie like me this just helps reiterate how SEO works and makes me look back at my simple Web sites from college and laugh. I try searching them today and at least I now know why they don’t work. Thanks for the find!

  4. Maneet Puri says:

    The reason there has been no buzz about Google’s release is ’cause it just states the very basic facts. Newbies in the industry can sure get good help but professionals can just use it as a checklist!

    It seems you have already discussed all the points mentioned there!

  5. Barry Wise says:

    Almost everything Google discussed in the starter guide can be found elsewhere on the web; the problem is, you can find alot of other bad info also. This guide helped prioritize for the newbie what most SEOs already know.

  6. Maneet Puri says:

    I don’t think there was any gold between the lines. As I said earlier the guide is just for newbies to start of their SEO and professionals to lay back and affirm that what they are doing is right!

  7. I agree with what everyone has stated so far that the guide is basic knowledge that is already out there. But it’s good to know that Google is letting us know we are on the right track with some of our knowledge.

  8. Affordable SEO – Yep ive made that point too and a few more in my blog

  9. randompage says:

    i dont see something new from your outline, but thanks for the updates.
    i will read the google docs later, just in case i can find something new in there.

  10. Barry Wise says:

    @randompage You probably won’t find any groundbreaking news in there, but it is good to hear Google support most basic SEO theories.

  11. vixcious says:

    hmm i think this is the best trick SEO ever.

  12. wow, google are suggesting this information for people? Amazing. Google promoting itself. But this post help some beginner to add some power to their site.
    Thanks for sharing such usefull info

  13. seosoeasy says:

    Really thanks for your update.Nice article and gained some useful information.Moreover it will be helpful for the beginners in promoting their sites.Thank you.

  14. I’ve found that most the information they posted in this starter guide is very basic and for those who don’t know much about SEO. Still important for those beginners.

  15. I am a beginner in the field of seo and and now iam very much motivated and have a clear vision for my future in this arena known as SEO. :)

  16. Tom says:

    There is nothing new in Official SEO starter guide by google. Everybody wants to know that what google thinks about SEO and which are the parameters google considers while crawling website, so I am sure that most of the SEOs have already read it.

  17. I agree with Tom there is nothing new in the starter guide that most of us don’t know and don’t thing so that they’ll release something new because imagine then how many people in SEO business will lose their jobs

  18. John says:

    Leave it to Google to tell you what you already know. All important points. However, this does not represent the full spectrum – there are additional items including files names, anchor tags, image tages, text formatting, etc.

    Here’s another guide that I found helpful which goes in a little more depth.

  19. It’s too late.
    Where is Google 9 years ago ?

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