Optimising websites for better rankings is no longer just a case of shoehorning in your keywords into your page content and praying to the Google gods that it will work for you. Suffice to say if your copy isn’t optimised at all or really badly targeted and you add in a few phrases, then this will help but will it really propel you into higher overall positions enabling you to gain more traffic and leads? Not really.
So what to do?
Well Google has kindly released its general Quality guidelines (fully updated for 2015) for its Search Quality Rating Program. I have spent some time pulling out the key information you need to bear in mind if you want to improve your chances of ranking highly.
Page Quality and Needs Met Requirements
Google Raters – people who manually assess webpages to help Google better understand the web – do not directly influence Google rankings, however information in the guide will show you how Google “thinks” and the type of quality content it wishes to serve to its users.
In general you’ll want to bear in mind Page Quality (PQ) and Your Money, Your Life (YMYL) ratings – get to grips with these and you’ll certainly see an increase in traffic and very likely conversions.
So let’s delve in and see what we need to do to make sure Google will see our websites as full of quality content, a phrase that is all too easily thrown around these days!
What Google asks its Manual Raters to check and assess
“Websites and pages should be created to help users.”
A Google Raters job to measure the PQ rating by determining how well a web page achieves its purpose.
So when writing your content ask yourself is this helping people or is it just low quality with the intent or appearance of only making money.
Google considers helpful pages, and I’d say for businesses looking to get ranked, to include information sharing around a specific topic, to express an opinion, to sell a product, for a user to download something or to entertain amongst others.
Your pages must have a purpose.
Now, a term you may not have heard of and one to remember is YMYL. This stands for “Your Money or Your Life” and is an expected standard for online shopping pages, or financial, legal or medical information pages. Google considers YMYL pages to adhere to a much higher standard than other pages as they can affect the happiness, wealth or indeed health of a user. In essence if a page is deemed to be YMYL it can have a direct impact on someone so Google applies an even higher quality standard to the page.
Low quality YMYL pages can have an adversely negative effect on users so Google is careful to ensure these types of pages do not rank as well.
Google asks it’s raters to identify Main Content (MC), Supplementary Content (SC) and Ads (Monetization/Advertisements).
Main Content is as it states – the actual content that helps your users, on product pages it can form part of the product description (text, video or images) as well as User Generated Content (UGC) consisting of reviews or other comments.
It is important for raters to identify Supplementary Content and though in my opinion Google is not exactly as clear as I would like it on this it does give 2 clues by stating:
“Supplementary Content contributes to a good user experience on the page, but does not directly help the page achieve its purpose. “
“One common type of SC is navigation links which allow users to visit other parts of the website.”
In theory I would stick with ensuring your main content is useful to your users, offering Expertise, Authority and Trust (E-A-T) – see below for more details, with supplementary content being links to other parts of your site.
I also like that Google wants raters to look for reputation information about the website the pages are on and look for information about the website on the website itself. As a result, make sure your about us page is detailed and explains why you do what you do.
As a business you’ll want to ensure your content is clearly copyrighted and/or show who the author was. In my opinion and from experience, also including your terms, privacy and address details are also important factors not to miss. Don’t forget to include phone and email contact details too!
Maximise your Reputation
“We consider a large number of positive user reviews as evidence of positive reputation.”
If you’re not going out soliciting reviews from the likes of TrustPilot, (dare I say it) Google+ or indeed Facebook why not? It is never too late to start and it is important you solicit regular reviews to help cement your reputation on an ongoing basis.
Also if you are seen as an expert you should be making certain you are listed on organisations or societies to do with your industry. I’d also add here entering local or national business awards in whatever sector you operate in to also send out the right signals.
It’s important to get others talking about you as this forms an important part of a rater’s research of your website, however Google declares that if your business is a small local business it is unlikely there will be much information on other sites about you. This then should give you an idea that PR is a required activity as a new, small business wanting to increase its online share of rankings and traffic.
Google states that creating the highest quality MC takes a significant amount of expertise, time, talent and effort. It should be displayed clearly as soon as a user opens the page in their browser. It is clear that Google expects high quality websites to be updated regularly so do ensure you are creating content/revisiting existing content on a periodical basis.
Google Raters are tasked to identify poor quality Main Content and flag it accordingly so Google is learning and refining its knowledge of what constitutes rubbish, vanilla content. They are getting much better at this task so if you think that writing a piece of content can be sorted and optimised in under 30 minutes you may well be barking up the wrong tree!
Avoid writing commonly known facts about your topic or padding out simple concepts with more words than necessary. Giving deeper insights than other pieces of content that are ranking online can help make your content stand out and be seen as more authoritative.
To have your content scored as Low quality you really have to try and deceive your users and provide content without purpose and no trust signals on-site (or to the site). One thing a site owner may fall foul of is copying others content and positioning it as MC in a bid to save time; Google frowns on this. This doesn’t mean you can’t quote other content and comment upon it on your pages, just don’t make this a main strategy.
Google asks its raters to test for duplicate content so if this is something you are doing (your SEO should NOT be allowing you though!) then it is something we recommend you quickly stop and take stock of.
If Google considers content to be of 3 standards, High, Low and Medium it is useful to note that MC that it considers to be High Quality but a design that is Low Quality can set a level of Medium Quality. Therefore it is important you use user testing to discover what they actually think of your site. If their opinion is that your design is particularly poor then I would say it’s time to upgrade.
Ensuring Expert, Authoritative and Trustworthy Content
If you can aim for the following standards for your website pages and content you won’t go far wrong! Remember the top 3 below:
- Main Content – does it serve a purpose?
- E-A-T – is the expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness readily apparent?
- A positive reputation is apparent on your site OR from other sites mentioning you.
This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive piece on Google Rating Guidelines but more of a highlight of what you should consider when looking to optimise your website content, you’ll have noted it’s not just about keywords.
If you have a question regarding Google Raters Guidelines and what difference that makes to your SEO rankings then get in touch on 01793 766040.