Google recently released an “SEO Starter Guide”. You can download it as a PDF from here.
This is an interesting development, mainly because historically Google has wanted to minimize SEO as a factor in website design and promotion, so that webmasters would focus on quality and users rather than gaming the system for SEO rankings. For Google to give specific advice on SEO is a real shift in policy, though you could see it coming based on other information such as Matt Cutts’ statements over the last couple years.
The guide actually gives some pretty good advice, although it is quite limited in scope and avoids detail guidelines. There are really no revelations here — it is all stuff you will find in most SEO resources. Areas covered include:
- Title tags — how they are used in search results, making sure they are unique, make them short
- Meta description tags — use them, make them unique, keep them succinct
- URL structure — make them descriptive, use keywords (!), keep directory structure simple
- Navigation — use text links, create a good internal link hierarchy, use XML site maps
- 404 Not Found page — use a 404 page to handle bad links
- Quality content — offer good, fresh, relevant, unique content of interest to users
- Anchor text — use keywords in link text
- Headings — use headings appropriately, including use of <h1>, <h2>, etc tags
- Image tagging — use alt tags on images, and use keywords in image file names
- Robots.txt — use robots.txt to manage where spiders crawl in your site
- Use nofollow — use rel=’nofollow’ tag on links to sites/pages you don’t trust, or links you don’t control
- Promote your site — use blogs, social media sites, etc to publicize your site
- Webmaster tools — use the webmaster tools from Google and other search engine for diagnositics and information
All in all, some good stuff. It is interesting to see Google validate some very standard SEO techniques, including keywords in anchor text, keywords in URLs, use of title/meta tags, <Hn> tags for headings, etc. It is also interesting how Google recommends simple, non-dynamic URLs with keywords (which to some extent is contrary to some recent advice they gave — see the post on this here).
One interesting comment I hear regarding this is the idea that “SEO is dead”, since if Google is giving SEO advice, who needs SEO specialists? I don’t agree with this view. While there are some basic “best practices” that have emerged for SEO, and these are being blessed by Google, there is so much more to SEO if you want to compete. This is especially true if lots of websites adopt these basic practices. For sites that want to stand out, they need to go to the next level — beyond these basic practices. For that, they will need expertise from SEO specialists, which means we are not (yet) an endangered species.