Google’s SEO Starter Guide Gets A Makeover

Almost 16 years since it was initially launched in 2008, Google’s SEO starter guide gets a makeover and this time, with a better focus on a starter audience.
Marie Aquino
February 3, 2024

Almost 16 years since it was initially launched in 2008, Google’s SEO starter guide gets a makeover and this time, with a better focus on a starter audience.

When it was initially launched in 2008, the guide was a 22-page PDF designed to be a one stop resource for common SEO topics during that time. Over time, the PDF expanded to 40 languages, and was then modernized into HTML. Additional topics were also included, with each addition reflecting general advice of the respective era.

The refreshed starter guide is now a pocket-sized version with a better focus on a starter audience – those that they should focus on and why. The guide is not for SEO professionals, but more for new site owners or content creators who would like to learn more about getting their site or content in the search results. As such, SEO jargon has been removed, and only core elements are discussed. It is a more compressed version with some sections deleted entirely from the previous versions. Terms and concepts were also explained in a more approachable and easy to understand way, with elaboration on the “why” behind given topics or best practices.

The compressed sections include:

  • “Are you on Google” sections: Simplified to one section that focuses on a quick way to check if your site is on Google, and on the first steps a site owner should take if they don’t see their site in Google Search results.
  • “Do I Need and SEO” section: We have a standalone doc; no need to repeat it. Compressed it into 2 sentences and linked out to the full guide.
  • Title links and snippets section: Shortened considerably, in favor of the more comprehensive standalone docs.
  • Images section: For a starter audience, alt text is the more important guidance. Those interested can learn more in the image best practices guide, if they are feeling adventurous.
  • “Opt out of Google Search” section: While it’s an important topic that should be mentioned, it’s probably not why the reader is working their way through the guide.
  • Links section: Compressed (without changing the message about them), and highlighted their useful aspects and why linking is helpful for users (and search engines).
  • Promoting a site: Compressed and linked out to Google for Creators, as they have a more detailed guide on this topic.
  • Site structure section: Largely kept it unchanged, however removed:
    • Navigation section: Instead, focused on linking important onsite URLs more aggressively.
    • 404 section: Because we really don’t care about 404 pages and site owners should just do whatever makes sense for their users.
    • Explicit setup for breadcrumbs: This is more of an advanced topic.

Sections removed are:

  • Glossary section: Instead, explained the individual terms in context.
  • Structured data section: It’s a more of an advanced topic that starters don’t have to think about; if someone is using a content management system (CMS) like Wix or Squarespace, they might try using a plugin and not have to worry about learning how to add code to their website.
  • Mobile friendliness section: Most new sites and platforms are already mobile friendly.
  • Analyzing site performance section: This is a next step and more of an advanced topic; likely, it’s something to look into after understanding the basics and making a few changes on your site.

There are sections in the previous versions that lacked the answer to “why should I do this” and “why is this thing not here”, prompting additions to the duplicate content section which now elaborates on what is duplicate content and how to fix it, and a new short section for videos.

new section about common SEO theories and ideas that Google thinks people shouldn’t focus on too much has also been added, plus a section on how long it can take to see impact.

Despite it being a resource for starters, it might be a good idea to look through to refresh ourselves and see what Google has to say. Sort of getting back to the basics as a guidepost to greater things. Check out the refreshed SEO Started Guide here.