Making total sense of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines has never been easy. Not least because they are so incredibly long and complicated, compounded by the fact that they are being amended and updated on a near-constant basis.
Consequently, indications that the Google Webmaster Guidelines could be radically overhauled this year could be seen as good or bad news. Word on the street is that not only is Google planning a huge update to its Webmaster Guidelines, but also that the whole thing is set to be renamed.
For some, this represents a long overdue overhaul. Google’s own Gary Illyes, for example, admitted that the Webmaster Guidelines are not just confusing, but in some instances quite badly outdated.
During a recent ‘Search Off the Record’ podcast, he said that Google had fallen into a habit of “putting more stuff into it whenever there was a push for something like, for example, HTTPS that ended up in the Webmaster Guidelines. When it was speed, then it ended up in the Webmaster Guidelines. When there was something else, then it ended up in the Webmaster Guidelines,”
“And that’s not necessarily good, because the Webmaster Guidelines is– it should be more about what are the basic requirements for you to get into Search,” he continued.
“Speed is not one of them, HTTPS is not one of them, so what are they doing there? And the other thing is that many of the quality guidelines were created, how many years is that? 15 years ago at least. And some of the things that we have in our Webmaster Guidelines don’t even exist anymore.”
He went on to explain how the inadequacies of the current Webmaster Guidelines could be understood by taking a look at “doorway pages.”
“If you take a look at that page, it explains what doorway pages are, but it’s very general,” he said.
“And for example, if you have a site for every single state in the US, because you have shops in all those states, then technically, that’s a doorway page. But does it violate our guidelines? I don’t know. It depends on other factors, like are you trying to manipulate the search results or not?”
When asked whether the time had come to split the Webmaster Guidelines into a series of separate guides, he indicated this could indeed be the case.
“I wonder if we should at some point kind of split them off into more technical guidelines, like what you need to do, and separate out the kind of the spam, low quality, manipulative stuff a little bit more,” he said.
“Because then, from a technical point of view, the developers would still have enough to look at and be like, “Oh, I’m fulfilling all of these requirements.”
He also acknowledged the fact that “people freak out” at the mere mention of even a modest update to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, suggesting that any major overhaul could lead to outright panic.
Google’s tendency to move the goalposts at the worst possible time is notorious, making nervousness like this perfectly understandable.