SEO Design and Content Guidelines From Google (Pt I)


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Good morning, Internet fans. Ryan Perry here, Simple Biz Support. Today is Thursday, September 10th. I believe it’s the 10th. I forgot to double check my calendar. Virginie is not giggling in the background, so I must be correct. It is Internet Marketing Thursday, therefore I have Virginie Dorn with Business Website Center. Good morning, Virginie.

Virginie Dorn: Good morning and happy Thursday to everybody and yourself. How are you?

RP: I’m doing very good. Thank you. It’s a beautiful day in Sonoma County. I think we’re supposed to hit like 100 degrees again, which I absolutely love and looking forward to it. But I actually, after this call, I’m heading off to the Sierras for a backpacking trip. So I’m really looking forward to that.

VD: I’m envious. I love, you talk about going to South Lake Tahoe, one of my favorite places in the world. So, have fun.

RP: Thank you very much. Before I can do that, though, we need to talk about, we’re going to continue our series on SEO and in today’s series, we’re going to talk, we’re pulling it directly from Google. They actually have webmaster guidelines and I love how you put guidelines as guidelines ’cause Google doesn’t always like to tell you exactly what to do so you can’t play the system. However, they do have recommendations based on user experience what they would like to see from a webmaster when it comes to building, designing, and maintaining your website.

VD: Yes. Truly, it’s a full time job to keep up with their modifications. So they tweak those guidelines frequently and Webmasters, at least the good ones, should be, stay abreast with what’s going with Google. Yeah, a lot of people don’t know when Google puts out their free information for web designers and website owners about what they expect to see in order to get good ranking. The information is there. Sometimes it’s quite lengthy to read through, sometimes it can get quite technical. But they do offer a lot of free information on how to better rank a website. So, this is what we’re going to talk about today. It’s actually going to take us a few weeks to cover all the guidelines they are currently recommending for websites.

RP: Right. And I think it’s a good question, if you’re looking for a web developer or you’re not sure if your current webmaster is doing a great job, ask him about Google webmaster tools and what the recommendations are and what they’re doing to follow them, and if their response is either blank or, “Yeah, we’re taking care of it.”, maybe they’re not aware and therefore they’re not doing everything they could be doing to benefit you and your…

VD: Yes. And again, when we talk about Google, we’re talking about search engine optimization which is how your website is going to be ranked when someone search for very good keywords and relate to your services or product. So it’s very important. I think a great website, good looking, it’s fine and dandy, but if nobody can find it, then you really are wasting money in developing that beautiful website. So, that’s what we’re going to be doing in the next two weeks, is really focusing on SEO and explain to you in normal words what Google is saying you should be doing to your site in order to have that top ranking.

RP: Okay, perfect. So you’ve actually created a… I’ll call it a top ten list ’cause there happens to be ten items in it. We’re going to break it up. Five this week and then we’re going to do five next week. Let’s go ahead and start with number one, though.

VD: Yeah, and this week and next week, we’re only covering section one out of three. Google has three sections, which is Design and Content Guidelines, which they’re called. Their second section they call Technical Guidelines, and the third section is called Quality Guidelines. So this week and next, we’re going to talk about Design Guidelines from Google themselves. So, I’ll go through the list and you can ask me questions, we can discuss it. The first one is to make sure your site has a very clear organization and how the pages intertwine and work together within your website.

VD: It makes it easier for the search engine bots to actually crawl all of the pages of your website giving you a better page to be ranked, not just from the homepage, but for all the dozens and dozens of pages you have spent time created. So again, it’s having that clear organization. We have, the last few years, we have dropdown menus, the multi level dropdowns. Those are quite useful and practical, not just for your website visitors but also for the crawlers. So, that’s their number one guideline, is have clear organization on how all the pages work together on your website.

RP: Right. And I think that’s where a really good menu structure is really important. Especially if you just have one product or one service, piece of cake. But as you kind of evolve beyond that and now you’ve got six services, ten services or products, 15 or 20, it really becomes an issue of how do we make it simple for people to find the information that they want because essentially, that’s what you should be doing. The easier it is people can find the product, or the question, or the answer that they’re looking for, the happier they’re going to be. And Google has great ways of figuring out if people are happy with your website or not.

VD: Oh, yes. They’re very smart in their own way.

[chuckle] A little scary. So, let’s go to their second recommendation which has to do with site maps. We already are familiar with site map, which are like a very typical file we put on a server, they’re now only made for the crawlers, those bots then crawl your website to index it. In the old days, we had site map for visitors. That was a page where you listed all your links and all the pages you had on your website. For some companies, that can be a very big page, especially if they have 100 or more pages.

VD: For a while, this went out of favor with Google. They said it was not needed. But recently they put it back as a second recommendation. And they wanted again, to see that sitemap for visitors on your webpage. And on that page, they wanted you to show, especially the most important pages of your website. So that was a surprise to us. And again, because that is back in favor with Google. It’s kind of like fashion and mullet hair and once in a while they come back and you just open your eyes. And also, taking the sitemap a bit further, they want that page to be called sitemap.html or sitemap.php. So, it’s telling me something about recent algorithm changes is taking into consideration that unique page again.

RP: Right. The sitemap has never gone away completely in the sense that you should always have a sitemap file. What’s unique in the fact is that Google wants a visible sitemap for the actual user so you can kinda click on it. And I think that kinda ties in with number one, especially if you have a large website, a number of pages. Sometimes having a sitemap, and all I sitemap is is kind of like a roadmap that says hey, here’s the homepage and off the homepage we’ve got these different options, and then you’ve got this page and this has got these different options. So it kinda gives you that 30,000 foot elevation where you get to see all the different options, all the different links and pages, all at once. It is kinda interesting that it’s coming back because I don’t know how many people would actually look at the sitemap.

VD: Yes.

RP: Although, if you think about it, if you go to a big mall, like Mall of America, they have the directory where it lists all the different places and then it breaks it down by food and clothing and whatever else the different categories are. They are beneficial. So I don’t know. I think that one’s kind of interesting.

VD: Oh, yes.

RP: Ultimately though, if Google is recommending that you have a visual sitemap for the end user, it’s pretty simple to put a little link down in the footer or hide it somewhere. Not hide it, but it doesn’t have to be on the main menu bar. I don’t think.

VD: No. You’re absolutely correct. It’s add it in, just put it somewhere. Make Google happy. That’s the ultimate goal so you can get that page one ranking for your website. Now the third recommendation has to do with keeping the number of links on any given webpage to a manageable amount. It seems like Google is telling us it doesn’t like when you put 600 links on one page. It doesn’t think it’s user friendly, doesn’t think it brings any value. It may confuse their bots. So again, their word is, “manageable amount of links on any given page.” So if you have such page and for some reason, at one point you thought it was a great idea to have 100+ links listed, why don’t you reconsider that page. Maybe breaking it down, if it’s that important to you, into multiple pages so it’s again a manageable number of links.

RP: Right. I think there’s two schools of thoughts. One is, as business owners, we always want to tell everybody everything we do, even though one of those services or products we might only sell once a year. And yet, as a business owner, it’s like, “Oh, but I might miss out on the sale”. Just focus on the core part of your business and don’t worry about that 1 or 2% of your business that really shouldn’t be the core focus. So don’t create a lot of clutter on your website as far as creating links. The other thing I was thinking of is, can you imagine trying to scroll through a 100 links on a page on this thing?

VD: It makes no sense. No.

RP: No. Alright. A 100 links. I think that’s a no-brainer. What’s number four?

VD: Well, once again we are mentioning that content is still king in their vocabulary. We are in the business of delivering high-quality and rich content to their members. That’s all what Google does. You type for something and they give you content. So, again, as a fourth guideline, they mentioned it again. So it has not gone away. Content. Unique, fresh content that is not a duplication from another page elsewhere is what they’re looking for. So that’s their guideline which makes sense to all of us, of course.

RP: Yeah. And the one thing I want to tell people on this is that don’t get lazy. One of my very first clients is an estate attorney. She’s still a client of mine and she spent a lot of time and energy, built a beautiful website. And it took a… Just mentally it exhausted her. Just everything cause she built it from scratch. Now needless to say, new website, she had zero visibility on Google. When I went through the website I’m like, “We have a problem. You’re an estate attorney and you have a single menu”. At the top she’s got multiple menu items, but she only had one for services and if you clicked on the service page, it listed all the different services that she did: Estate planning, probate, elder care, and some other stuff. But it was all on one page.

RP: So the problem is, you’re diluting your message when you put multiple services on one page because Google doesn’t know exactly what this page is about. If you did a Google search for a probate attorney, as an example, and Google indexes your website and it goes, “Oh look, I found this page that talks about probate attorney, but it also talks about elder care and it also talks about estate planning and it also talks about a couple of these other legal things that she does,” it’s not an exact match. And Google’s looking for an exact match. So the recommendation that I made to her is that we need to break out your services page and then have a separate page for estate planning, a separate page for probate.

RP: She wasn’t able to do that initially, simply because she was just mentally exhausted from building this beautiful website. I said, “Hey, not a problem, there’s other things I can do”. Three months went by, we went from zero visibility… I was able to get her on page four or page five of Google but it stopped and it wasn’t going anywhere. And I said, “We need to break these pages up”. She’s like, “Hey, not a problem. I’m ready, I got energy for this”. We went ahead and we broke up the pages, had to create new content, new images, restructured the menu, and within two weeks she was on the first page. So you want to be very specific. Now, if you have 100 different products but only five products generate 80% of your business then just create content for those five products, you don’t have to do it for everything.

VD: No, your point is very well made and actually it ties in directly to the fifth guideline from Google which has to do with keywords and content. Again, that’s old news but it’s, again, one of their top five guidelines when it comes to design of a website, which they want you to know what keywords you want to be found for each page and they want you to develop the content with that keyword in mind. So just like you mentioned, probate and estate planning. If you’re doing an estate planning page you have to know that’s what you want to be found for. And include the keywords and similarly meaning keywords into the content in a way that makes sense for people who read it, but also something that makes sense for their software so that truly grabs the essence of the page, therefore indexing it number one on page one of Google. So again, they talk about quality content and also keyword and powered content.

RP: Correct. And if you happen to be a local business owner, your target audience is within, say, 20 miles, one or two cities of you. You also need to think about geo-targeting which is, “Hey, if I’m in Rohnert Park as an example, I need to make sure Rohnert Park is mentioned in my website. Now, the estate attorney was in Petaluma and so obviously, with her address, we got her address in the footer so it says Petaluma. But, you know what, there was a lotta people in Novato that need an estate planning attorney. So we made sure that we also included Novato, San Rafael, other cities, because if you don’t list those cities then Google can only know that, “Hey, you’re in Petaluma, so you’re only relevant to Petaluma.”

VD: Well, again, another point well made by Mr. Perry.

RP: I learned from you, I learned from you.

VD: Thank you. So we’ve covered today the five main guidelines from Google in their first section. And next week there’s going to be five more for you and I to review together.

RP: Alright, perfect. And with that we’re actually, we’re outta time. So a lot of great information. Virginie, as always, I appreciate the time and energy that you put into this in providing great information for our guests. Next week guys we’re going to be continuing this conversation with six through 10. And remember, these guidelines come directly from Google. This is not, “Oh, well we feel, or SEO experts in the industry say”, this is coming directly from Google so this is good, good information. Virginie, have a great day and I will see you next Thursday.

VD: That was lovely, take care.

RP: Alright. Take care everybody, we’ll see you next Thursday.


About the Author:

Ryan Perry is the founder and CEO of Simple Biz Support, Inc. Ryan started video blogging in 2009 as an alternative to written blogs to create visibility and credibility online. During the workweek, he enjoys helping small business owners harness the power of video to grow their companies. On the weekends, he enjoys hiking and searching out waterfalls throughout the state of California.


  1. […] « SEO Design and Content Guidelines From Google (Pt I) […]

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