Google’s search engine algorithm is notoriously secretive. In fact, the entire SEO industry is built on trying to figure out exactly what helps a website rank higher in the search results.
So, when Google released its “Search Quality Evaluator” guidelines back in 2015, marketers across the world were pleasantly surprised. Since then, Google has kept updating these guidelines. Today, they’re one of the most comprehensive and authoritative resources on SEO out there.
It’s not like these guidelines tell you exactly what’s in Google’s search algorithm — of course not. But they provide very important insights into what Google sees as a “high-quality” webpage. And in the midst of so much speculation and conjecture, these guidelines are the most authentic and accurate source of information.
So in this post, we thought we’d break down Google’s Search Quality Raters to tell you how to create a high-quality website that ranks up there.
What makes a high-quality page?
The first question is “What does Google see as a high-quality page?” For starters, there’s a basic definition:
- The webpage has a “beneficial purpose” — in other words, it’s designed to benefit users
- It achieves that purpose well
Apart from this fundamental definition, there are some main characteristics of a high-quality page:
A satisfying amount of high-quality main content
What does this really mean? High-quality main content is one into which either time, effort, skill, or expertise has gone in. But the definition of high-quality main content depends on the nature and purpose of the webpage. So for instance:
A news webpage should have information that’s engaging, factually accurate, and comprehensive. There should also be a fair bit of expert consensus around it.
For a satire webpage, factual accuracy isn’t important. The content needs to be hilarious — that’s the biggest determinator of its quality.
A functional website — for instance, an e-commerce page — needs to be high on functionality. So a big indicator of quality would be how easy it is to actually purchase an item off the page.
Also Read: How to Check Website Content Quality?
Naturally, webpages which are more broad-based in their purpose would have to have more content than those that are narrower to be classified as high-quality.
For instance, this page about a Siberian Husky may not have a lot of content but would still be classified as high-quality main content because the topic itself is quite narrow. Similarly, this e-Commerce page is another example of high-quality main content because it has everything you need to know to make an informed purchase decision — user reviews, shipping and returns information, item details, product specifications etc.
Clear and Satisfying Website Information
Building trustworthiness is a big part of creating a high-quality webpage, and clear information is a big part of that. How much information is required depends on the nature of the webpage.
YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) pages
These are webpages that tend to have a direct impact on either your financial situation, your health or your safety. So these pages naturally require a lot of details — who is the owner of the website, detailed customer service information, and so on.
These pages usually need less information — an email address may be sufficient in some cases.
So based on the purpose of your website, make sure you’re giving users all the possible information they need to be able to trust you and make a more informed decision.
Online reputation management is a big part of SEO. The guidelines say that a positive reputation definitely helps when it comes to classifying page quality as “high”. Having said that, the reputation is not as important as factors like quality of main content. Which means that a page which doesn’t have a positive reputation can also be marked as a high-quality page.
Also Read: Know About the Future of SEO
Having said that, a negative reputation is a big no-no. Having a negative reputation will automatically disqualify a webpage from having a high-quality ranking. That’s why a large part of online reputation management will involve mitigating negative reputation. Here are some of the most common ways your webpage can acquire a negative reputation:
Negative Press: This is especially tricky if the content is long-form as opposed to a small paragraph or mention somewhere. The severity of the damage also depends on the Domain Authority of the news site.
Government Notices: Government sites are considered trustworthy and tend to rank high — so a Government notice can be bad news.
Bad Reviews on Neutral Sites: These can really damage your reputation, especially when they start to gain traction, and people post one after another.
Bad Reviews on the Website: These are easier to manage but should still be few and far between.
Litigation, Criminal Records, Tax Default: These usually appear on reputed government sites. They also contain a lot of text which leads to a higher ranking.
Negative Mentions on Social Media: Reddit threads and Facebook groups tend to rank high since they fulfil the purpose they are created for. Negative reviews here means your reputation is likely to take a hit.
Both news articles and opinion articles tend to rank very high riding on the reputation of the site on which they are published. However, reputation for different sites is measured differently. For instance, an article on a humour website could also rank highly because of the website’s reputation for creating humorous content. In other words, your reputation is built in the context of your website’s overall purpose. If you’re an entertainment website, you won’t be measured against stringent factual accuracy, whereas a news website would.
The E-A-T Level
Finally, a website will only have a high-quality rating if it has a high level of E-A-T (Expertise- Authoritativeness-Trustworthiness). Again, building expertise for a website depends entirely on the purpose of its creation.
For instance, a forum for satire would be judged based on the reputation of the satirists participating. A page around scientific information, on the other hand, should represent a scientific consensus on a particular topic (provided it exists).
Here’s an example of a local fish-and-chips restaurant that gets a high-quality rank simply on account of E-A-T. Here’s a bathroom decor page which also gets this high-quality rank largely on account of the high E-A-T vis-a-vis the purpose of the page.
According to Google, there are 27.8 billion more queries from mobile than the desktop. Google has now made its entire algorithm mobile-first. So Google ranks web pages based only on the mobile versions of the website. This happens even when the search itself is happening from a laptop or desktop.
So what does this mobile-first shift mean for marketers? It means that the mobile experience has become more important than ever before. Your website has to be perfectly mobile optimized— in terms of loading speed, navigation, user interface, design, and user experience. A perfectly optimized mobile experience would include:
- Loading resources on mobile devices
- Fast loading speed
- Internal links and redirects that work
- All content is visible on the mobile version of the site
- A user experience that optimized across devices
Search Intent is one of the things that probably tops the list of Google’s Search Quality parameters. Search intent is how effectively a piece of content fulfils the search intent of the user. Search intent is of many different types — informational, commercial, navigational, and transactional.
Also Read: Optimizing your Website For Voice Search
But what does it really imply? Let’s say you want to make an eggplant recipe that’s quick. So you search for “eggplant recipe”. If the first search result is an eggplant recipe that’s delicious but takes over an hour to prepare, you’ll go back and look at another result. If this recipe takes 10 minutes, chances are you’ll roll with it. And over time, this is the recipe that will climb to the top of the search results. That’s exactly why you need to craft your content in a way that will specifically satisfy the search intent behind the targeted keywords.
Another popular metric that Google uses is how well a particular piece of content meets the needs of the person who is searching. It uses 3 main parameters to discern this:
- CTR (Click Through Rate) — What percentage of users click through to a particular page after typing a particular search query.
- Pogo Sticking — This refers to a process where a user clicks on a result, clicks on the back button, clicks on a different result, clicks the back button again, and so on. This is a clear indicator that the user isn’t able to find what they’re looking for.
- Dwell Time — This is considered in addition to pogo sticking. So if someone presses the back button eventually, but if they stay there for a few minutes before they do, then this is a signal that they have probably found useful information.
The Bottom Line
The Search Quality Evaluator guidelines are by no means the only thing to keep in mind during SEO. Having said that, they come straight from the horse’s mouth. Which means that these guidelines are the bare minimum that every website needs to work towards. As long as you tackle each aspect of achieving a high-quality rating, and stay with it consistently, you should soon be able to see a marked difference in your rankings.