Beyond the obvious idea of higher quality content being “better”, it’s important to understand WHY Google is so focused on the concept of content quality and how this is core to their business model.
If you have not yet read part 1 of this article, you should do so as it gives you background which helps this article make sense.
That article is “Attention Bloggers: Why Your SEO is Affected by How Google Makes Money”.
Once you have read it, you’ll understand why Google’s business model drives them be seriously focused on content quality, and how they define quality.
Google Hires Human Search Quality Raters
Most people don’t know this.
They rate the quality of web pages and websites that deal with topics they know about. Search quality raters have some expertise in their area, be it law, medicine, car repair, marksmanship, dog training, political comedy, urban planning, nuclear fusion, celebrity gossip, or whatever.SEO Needs Link Building
Why Does Google Hire These People?
The engineers at Google who work on improving the Google search algorithm need some baseline of websites whose “quality” is known, to help them as they work to improve the quality of Google’s search results.
These human search quality raters are creating this baseline of websites whose quality is known.
This is an important point. They do not directly affect the ranking of any website, but they indirectly affect the ranking of EVERY website.
How do they Rank Websites?
These human search quality raters rank websites per very detailed instructions provided to them by Google.
This instruction document is titled Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
How detailed is it? The most recent edition (published on July 27th, 2017) is 160 pages long.
In a Way, Google owns the Web……
I’m reminded of a joke that I’ll retranslate as:
Google owns the World Wide Web, the rest of us just live here.
It’s not literally true, but when it comes to having your website be found, Google MAKES the rules, and the rest of us need to follow them.
In order for that to work for YOU, it’s important you understand their rules.
That is why the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines are important. They’re the closest thing to “the rules” of search that we’ve ever gotten from Google.SEO Needs Link Building
Does Google Define What “High Quality” Content is?
Yes, and in a fair amount of detail. For all practical purposes, that 160 page document IS their instructions on how to publish High Quality content.
This Post is a Summary of That Document
At least the rest of this post is. It may save you the need to read the entire 160 pages.
So make some tea, find a relaxing space, and learn why some of the beliefs you’ve been working from are false and how some of the things you’ve been ignoring negatively affect the SEO of your site.
Of course summarizing a 160 page document in a blog post seems like a ridiculous effort, so please bear in mind this will be a 50,000 foot overview of concepts and ideas. Concepts and ideas that are critically important to SEO, but “just” concepts and ideas nonetheless.
I also feel the need to warn you that from here on out this article gets pretty boring, but it’s a lot less boring than reading the entire 160 page document.
Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines: Summary
Some of the stuff below will seem obvious. Others not so much.SEO Needs Link Building
To understand the rest of this article, there are several definitions you need to understand. The terms below are defined directly from the Google Search Evaluator Guidelines.
Webpage: A single page on a website that can be opened in a browser and is addressed via a URL.
Website: A grouping of webpages occupying the same Internet domain.
E-A-T: This stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trust. E-A-T is an important factor used by the Quality Raters when rating webpages.
Main Content: The Main Content is the content that provides the purpose of the website. It allows the visitor to learn something, do something, find something, buy something, etc.
Supplementary Content: The Supplementary Content is website content that is not Main Content. The sidebar, the Related Posts section, the website header and footer, are all examples of Supplementary Content.
Advertising/Monetization: This needs no further definition.
Websites and Webpages Have an Identifiable Purpose
How well a website meets its purpose is central to its SEO ranking. A not fully inclusive set of purposes Google identifies for their quality raters are:
- To share information about a topic.
- To share personal or social information.
- To share pictures, videos, or other forms of media.
- To express an opinion or point of view.
- To entertain.
- To sell products or services.
- To allow users to post questions for other users to answer.
- To allow users to share files or to download software.
What is the purpose of your website? Is it obvious to visitors?SEO Needs Link Building
Webpages Have Identifiable Sections
There are parts of a webpage that are related to it meeting its purpose and parts that are not. They are::
- Main content: That which helps the website achieve its purpose.
- Supplemental content: That which does NOT help the website achieve its purpose.
- Advertisements: No explanation is needed.
This distinction matter because the Quality of the pages content focuses on Main Content.
The Reputation of the Website Owner Affects SEO
Ever heard this before? It is clearly stated by Google in their rule book. More specifically the reputation of the organization who is responsible for the website matters.
For this reason, it’s important for the SEO of your site for you to CLEARLY identify who you are. An about page is necessary, but is not enough. No matter what page a user is viewing, it should be obvious who is responsible for the site overall, and who is responsible for the content on the page.
Very few people I’ve met think this matters, but per Google, it does.
E-A-T is Important
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Sites that display higher levels of E-A-T are ranked higher.
As a general rule, the more effort you put into creating a web page that answers a question truthfully and completely, the higher the quality rating of that page.SEO Needs Link Building
High Quality Pages
This is what you really want to know.
High quality pages have the following characteristics:
- A satisfying amount of main content.
- Clear and satisfying website information about who is responsible and how you contact customer service.
- The owners of the website have a good reputation.
- The webpage has a high level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
- The web page cites reputable sources to substantiate claims being made.
The ONLY thing that separates a High Quality page from the Highest Quality pages is the stuff listed above.
- Does the page serve its intention well (is the main content really good)?
- Is it obvious who is responsible for the website?
- Are they trustworthy and reliable?
- Is it clear how you contact them?
Very high quality main content is not simply thrown together. It was created with a high degree of time and energy. It’s really good!
Highest quality pages are on websites owned by people or organizations that have won awards or have received recommendations from known experts or professional societies.
For less formal subjects (such as humor or recipes) a rating of Very High Quality is provided to web pages that are: very popular, have a high degree of engagement, and have a lot of positive user reviews.SEO Needs Link Building
Low Quality Pages
Conversely, low quality pages DO NOT satisfy their purpose well.
For a webpage to be rated as Low Quality, it is sufficient for the Main Content to appear to have been quickly thrown together without much thought or research.
The general criteria for a webpage to be rated as Low Quality is:
- Main Content is unsatisfying.
- Main Content is too little.
- Titles, Supplementary Content, or Ads are misleading.
- The reputation of the website owner is negative.
- The author of the webpage has demonstrated a low level of E-A-T.
- There is insufficient information about the owners of the website.
Lowest Quality Pages
You almost have to try for this rating, but it seems some people do. The rating of Lowest Quality is assigned to webpages that are:
- Malicious or harmful
- Lack a clear purpose
- No Main Content or really bad Main Content
- Main Content was copied from elsewhere
- No information about the website owner
- Website is owned by organization with a negative or malicious reputation
- Website promotes violence or hate
Mobile Ready: Google is Serious About This
The quality raters are instructed to perform part of their quality rating on their phones. Yet another reason why your site MUST reder well on a mobile device.
In fact the rating guide devotes 19 pages (out of a total of 160) to “Understanding Mobile User Needs”.
Google instructs their quality raters to assign a “Needs Met” rating. It’s a five level rating and what’s most important here is the Needs Met rating can only be assessed by understanding the intent behind the search query, then assessing how well the web page satisfies that intent.
The ratings are:
- Fully Meets
- Highly Meets
- Moderately Meets
- Slightly Meets
- Fails to Meet
When your blog posts answer questions well, you can expect those web pages to have a high Needs Met rating.
Various “Flag” or Attributes of Websites
Google instructs their quality raters to set certain “flags” for websites. Some of the flags listed below seem obvious.
- Foreign Language
- Didn’t load
If your website deals in controversial subjects and the contents of your website pushes against social norms, you may need to be concerned with the upsetting-offensive flag.
Their instructions to their quality raters are to flag the following as upsetting-offensive:
- Promotion of hate or violence
- Racial slurs
- Graphic violence
- Instructions for harmful activities (i.e.: how to traffic humans)
- Other that people in your area would find extremely upsetting or offensive
The Quality of your website content is less subjective than you might have thought.
When designing a website and optimizing it for SEO, you need to understand that per Google:
- Google rates web pages, not web sites per se, but….. the reputation of the website and the owner of the site affects the sites SEO.
- Websites and web pages have well defined purposes.
- Search queries imply “user intent”.
- The quality of web page is defined by how well the web page meets the user intent of the query.
When you create content with the above in mind, the content you create will be measurably better, measurably of higher quality.
SEO Needs Link Building