Important Things To Know About Google’s Search Quality Guidelines

Practically all business owners aim to have their company websites at the top of Google’s search rankings. As a result, they try their best to drive quality traffic to their website in order to boost their rankings in search results.

Of course, no matter how strategic or scheming some techniques are in terms of search engine optimization (SEO), Google has taken many precautionary steps to outwit any self-professing SEO expert.

Google search results page

For starters, the search giant hires content quality raters who manually rate the websites that appear in search results and assign scores based on its updated Search Quality Raters Guidelines and Handbook (which is really a mouthful, so we’ll call it “Guidelines” from here on out).

Although not designed for viewing by the general public – because it contains more than a hundred pages! – several versions of the Guidelines have leaked over the years. This search bible of sorts is very important in order to help website owners improve in terms of SEO, website design, and overall inbound marketing strategies.

It is worth noting that even if a quality rater gives a bad score to your website, it will not have any impact on your site’s live rankings. Google will merely use them as a feedback in assessing the quality of content of the pages on their search results. The ratings are designed to enhance Google’s algorithm in order to get more of the good results.

The handbook only gives a glimpse of what Google is looking for but it still does not give an idea of the weight of each component.

If you don’t feel like browsing through all pages in this ultra-comprehensive guidebook, we’re here to help! Here is a summary of Google’s Search Quality Guidelines:

Page Quality

landing page design template

Rankings for search results are based on two categories: Page Quality and Needs Met. The first category checks each page in the search engine rankings page (SERP) and ranks each of them based on several factors. The latter, on the other hand, focuses on mobile user needs and intent, and scores each one based on how helpful and satisfying the results will be for mobile users.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: Google is now setting its sights on mobile friendliness. If you own a website, a bad mobile experience from your users can ruin the potential of your website to rank high in Google search.)

With Google planning to launch the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project, which aims to deliver a faster and more optimized web experience for users. If your website is still behind in terms of mobile user experience (UX), today is the perfect time to speed up your mobile web efforts.

Again, the scores will not have a direct impact on the rankings of your site. However, it will give you a huge insight on what Google is looking for in websites. Following the pointers in the guidelines will help you build trust with your intended audience and get favorable search results placement.

Needs Met

The Needs Met rating is designed for scoring mobile search results. With more people Googling through their mobile phones, your marketing, SEO, and web design strategies should be geared towards mobile search. The name of the game on this aspect is delivering a better mobile UX with the right information.

This particular kind of rating is scored using the following metrics:

    woman browsing a website on her mobile phone
  • Fully Meets: Mobile users get immediate and complete satisfaction with the search results, and would not look for more sources to get the required information.
  • Highly Meets: The results are very helpful and some users may wish to view additional results.
  • Moderately Meets: The results help many or some mobile users.
  • Slightly Meets: The results help a few mobile users. Although there is a connection between the query and the results, the list of results is not strong or satisfactory.
  • Fails to Meet: Results do not completely satisfy the needs of the mobile user.

While the page quality rating does not have a direct impact on website ranking, this rating system cannot be ignored. Google’s primary goal is to deliver the best experience to its users with the best possible search results to any query. In this case, page quality will definitely contribute to the results that will be displayed.

Every webpage has a purpose, and the Page Quality Rating is designed to help websites determine how well their purpose has been achieved. While each page may have different standards, there is one definite requirement: the page must be helpful to its viewers.

“As long as the page is created to help users, we will not consider one particular purpose or type of page to be higher quality than another. For example, encyclopedia pages are not necessarily higher quality than humor pages.” (page 8 of the Guidelines)

The following is a list of the common purposes of a webpage:

    a man and a woman using computer
  • For sharing information about a particular topic
  • For exchange of information, much like a Q&A session
  • For sharing of personal or social information
  • For sharing media files such as pictures or videos
  • For sharing files or downloading software
  • For entertainment purposes
  • For expressing opinions or points of view
  • For marketing products or services

If you think your website does not conform to the abovementioned purposes, there’s one category called Your Money, Your Life (YMYL) Pages where your site may belong to. These pages include sites that can have a potential effect to the future happiness, wealth, and health of users – examples include medical resources, online shops, financial information pages, and legal websites. Google follows a higher set of standards for this category.

YMYL pages are scored based on three main factors that Google wants to use to evaluate a website’s overall value: expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. If your website follows this purpose, you need to cover a lot of ground on these factors to achieve high quality.

Content is King

website wireframe sketch and programming code on digital tablet

While the job of the Page Quality Rater is to determine how well a page has achieved its purpose, page content is still the most important aspect. Your content will be divided into three main categories – Main Content, Supplementary Content and Advertisements / Monetization. The heaviest rating will be on your Main Content, which is the part of the page that helps it achieve its purpose.

Main content

In order to score high on page quality, you should focus on the main content. Here are some tips on how to achieve a high score using your page content:

  • Place the main content above the fold. Don’t make your visitors look for it.
  • Ensure that your main content is the focus
  • Separate advertisements from content

As you need to focus on high quality content, avoid low quality content which can be any of the following:

    Portrait of young businesspeople reads a document
  • Spun or poorly written content
  • Duplicate content
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Too much monetization
  • A lot of “sneaky redirects”
  • Distracting supplementary content
  • Spammy content
  • Outdated website links

Supplementary content

The goal of this content is to support the main content and enhance user experience. It usually contains helpful links to other pages or content behind tabs. This portion of your site should provide your visitors with a personalized experience when they browse through your pages.

Advertisements / Monetization

Advertisements are also important content but they should be separated from the main content. Sure, some pages get published only because of the income that they generate through ads. Just because the page is monetized does not mean you will get a low score, but you should never mislead the users away from the content and towards clicking the ads.

More Factors Affecting Page Quality Rating

Aside from the content and the purpose of the page, here are other factors that can impact the rankings of your page on search results:

Website owner and content creator

about us page concept

Google likes to personalize the web browsing experience, and one of the best ways for any website to do this is by revealing an author or creator of the page content. Most blogs have this kind of luxury because they can put a name (and social media links) on each page published.

One effective strategy for any kind of website is to publish an About Us page, which indicates who is behind the website, among other information about the business or company. In this manner, you’re building up on being trustworthy to your target market and to Google.

Updated website framework

Your website should be functional, regardless of the platform where it is viewed. Likewise, you should ensure that your links are not broken and that the codes are clear. Content should be continuously updated and must be accurate.

This is where your knowledge of on-page SEO comes in and works to your advantage. A poorly maintained website is a reflection that the owner or webmaster does not care. On the other hand, a frequently updated website grows its value over time and will satisfy users and search engines.

Online reputation

Businessman is selecting Reputation on the virtual screen

Building your reputation is another great way to boost page quality rankings for your website. If you say something about yourself or the company, make sure that you can stand up for it. Avoid exaggerating or placing yourself in a position where it appears that you are cheating your users.

A bad reputation is enough to bring your page quality rank crashing down. This is where having a customer review page can also help. A lot of free online tools and plugins are available to help you generate customer reviews conveniently.

While bad reviews can hurt your reputation, having fake “good reviews” can hurt your rankings even more. Put integrity at the top of your values, and you will definitely see your reputation gradually climbing.

Features of a High-Quality Page

High quality pages are designed to serve their purpose and should satisfy users. To achieve high rankings for your website, it should have the following characteristics:

High Quality Main Content

The quality of the main content is one of the most important contributors to overall page quality. Regardless of its category, you need to devote your time, expertise, talent, and effort into creating amazing content.
The amount of content needed to earn high quality rankings will depend on the topic and purpose of your page. The broader the topic, the more content is needed.

Unparalleled Expertise, Trustworthiness, and Authoritativeness

The Guidelines specifically state this on page 21: “High quality pages and websites need enough expertise to be authoritative and trustworthy on their topic.”

Good Reputation

Businessman is selecting Reputation on the virtual screen

Your reputation in the industry will have a huge bearing when Google grades your page quality. A bad reputation will hurt your page ranking, so make sure to maintain your integrity at all times.

Having a high rating can also be achieved through the following strategies:

  • A huge amount of relevant information in key pages. This may come in the form of pages such as “About Us,” “Contact,” and “Customer Service”. You want to ensure customers of your availability when they need you for any concerns.
  • Several supplementary pages that add to your website’s main purpose. Although the absence of supplemental pages does not mean you will have low rankings, they might play to your advantage.
  • Website design focused on the main content. The design and layout of your site should organize content well. It should be focused on putting the main content on the spotlight, and should be easily viewed by any user.
  • Proper placement of advertisements and supplementary content. Everything should be properly arranged in a way that the pages will not be distracting to the users.
  • Frequent update and maintenance. The purpose of the website somehow dictates the frequency of updates needed. For example, a news website requires real-time updates, while the website for a local bakery might need static pages only.

Spotlight: Mobile Friendliness

With more people now going mobile, you should focus on making your website compatible with mobile devices as well. Not doing so can have serious repercussions on your site, particularly due to the fact that Google has now included mobile friendliness as a ranking signal.

The following mobile-related factors will have an impact on your page quality ranking:

    Designer's desk with responsive web design concept
  • Convenience when entering data
  • Readability (or the need to scroll to be able to read content)
  • Ease of navigation
  • Adjustment of image to fit screen size
  • Presence of incompatible media players and related technologies
  • Website performance with unreliable or slow Internet access

The Guidelines give users a glimpse of how Google works internally. Summarizing the multi-page document into a single sentence can be a real challenge, but it really boils down to one thing: giving users the best online experience.

Getting high quality content is all about understanding exactly what search engine users are looking for. Because of this, you should go above and beyond what is expected to ensure the delivery of high quality content.

In addition, rather than focusing on complying with Google’s complex algorithm, you should instead set your sights on building a website for human users. When you focus on usability, you are not only delivering user satisfaction but also satisfying Google as well.

Additional tip: ‘Know Queries’ on Google

In order to understand user intent and give them what they are looking for, Google has developed two new kinds of queries: Know, and Know Simple.

    Google logo on the keyboard
  • Know refers to a general search for information about a certain topic. A user will search for something because they want to gain knowledge about a specific query. Know queries often start with “who” or “when”.
  • Know Simple is a special kind of Know query that provides more specific but straightforward answers that can be displayed on even a small mobile screen. Most search results that get displayed with this query are in the form of charts, tables or diagrams.

How does this information help you as a website owner? In a nutshell, Know queries are extremely relevant for search engine optimization. If your website is able to provide answer to these types of queries, you are likely to get high quality rankings based on the search keywords entered by the user.

Key Takeaways

From the standpoint of an online marketer or business website owner, the overall takeaway of the Guidelines is not to let the goals of your business interfere with user experience. Your overall goal should be to connect with visitors by providing them with information that they are looking for on their search queries. However, you should do this without allowing page design, advertisements, or supplementary content to ruin page quality.

Successful business woman with arms up

Likewise, bear in mind that users can choose from a wide range of websites for the content they are looking for. Your main goal is not to give them a reason to search for the content they are looking for instead of yours.

The bottom line is to make the users think of you as an authority on various topics. More importantly, you should maintain the cleanliness of your site and ensure that your content is updated while maintaining a positive reputation.

These are important strategies that can help your business meet Google’s search quality guidelines. This way, you can gain the trust of your potential customers and drive more traffic to your website. This will figure well in your desire to rank high on Google’s search engine rankings.

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