Goodbye Webmaster Guidelines, Hello Google Search Essentials

search essentials rebrand banner

The term ‘Webmaster’ has dropped out of fashion at Google after a complete refresh of what used to be its old Webmaster Guidelines.

Two decades is a long time, in our industry it’s a lifetime. It’s staggering to believe that’s how long in the tooth Google’s original Webmaster Guidelines were.

What has replaced them is something a little fresher and a lot more relevant.

Why change now?

The obvious answer is their age; everything has changed since 2002 both with the web and Google’s presence within it.

There is also an element of Google following their own advice for site builders too, with a more streamlined and simplified range of resources “to ensure people have clear guidance for how to build sites that serve people well.”

What has changed?

Of course, the search giant hasn’t just allowed their 2002 content to remain dormant for twenty years; it has been updated, tweaked and refined in the Google tradition.

Clearly though, the decision was made to make a bigger refresh and here is an overview of the main areas that have seen the biggest changes:

  • Best practices: Aimed at those creating sites for their consideration, in order to create content that serves an audience well and helps the site to get found in SERPS
  • Technical requirements: This is a section that was missing previously, aimed at helping people to understand how best to publish content in formats that make it easy for Google to understand and index
  • Spam policies: This has had a major overhaul with information from elsewhere in Google Search Central added to new additions to provide clear guidance and examples of issues such as scamming, fraud and deceptive behaviour
  • A change in name: The term ‘Webmaster’ is not used much these days and was always a term with a narrow meaning. Google Search Essentials just feels better and early feedback suggests it is!

Other changes include new sections around topics such as online harassment removal, copyright removal requests and misleading functionality.

You can see the full range of changes here.

Why do I think the changes matter?

Anyone in our industry who pays attention to SEO best practice probably had the old Webmaster Guidelines bookmarked. They were after all, the go-to resource for doing things the Google way for more than two decades.

That’s a long time so the changes in name and content will be a big deal for many of the world’s webmasters (sorry...SEOs!)

Their usefulness stretches beyond that though; practically anyone, from site owners, site publishers and anyone else responsible for managing or owning a website should take some time to have a look at the new Google Search Essentials.


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