Google Gives Webmaster Advice for User-Generated Content Sites

    September 15, 2009
    Chris Crum

Google has made some recommendations for "best practices" for sites that allow users to create their own sites. They give the examples of their own Google Sites and Blogger. So in other words, if you run some type of site that allows users to make their own pages, you may want to pay attention.

1. Make sure your users can verify their website in website management suites (like Webmaster Tools).

2. Choose a unique directory or hostname for each user.

3. Set useful and descriptive page titles.

4. Allow the addition of tags to a page.

5. Allow your users to use third-party analytics packages

6. Help your users move around

7. Help search engines find the good content from your users.

Data Liberation Front

When Google says, "help your users move around," they mean let your users access their data. This is a concept that Google has become very big on. As you may have read, Google has started a group called the Data Liberation Front to address data portability, and has created a site dedicated to instructing users on how to move their data to and from the company’s various products. Basically, Google is suggesting you follow suit.

When Google talks about helping search engines find your users’ content, they mean help the crawlers. "Help us find users’ content using XML Sitemaps," says Greg Grothaus, Staff Software Engineer on Google’s Search Quality Team. "Help us to steer clear of duplicate versions of the same content so we can find more of the good stuff your users are creating by creating only one URL for each piece of content when possible, and by specifying your canonical URLs when not."

These may not seem like issues that a lot of people would have to worry about, but you may be (or maybe not) surprised at how often start-ups come and go, which have sites that allow users to create content. Perhaps following these guidelines would cater to an increased chance for a successful platform. More information on the guidelines can be found here.