SEO Blog > Quality Ranking and other Keys to Quality SEO

SEO, 5-Star Quality

The importance of Quality SEO is growing. Last week, we started to talk about what’s inside the Google Quality Ranking manual. Now, we’ll go more in-depth with this important tool so that you can rank higher in Google search.

The Quality Ranking for a Webpage

The Quality Ranking manual describes a series of criteria for judging the quality of a page and site:

Reputation: What do other people say about the site? The raters should review forums and comments. If there are many negative reviews, a site gets a lower ranking. The manual gives examples on how to do this.

Highest Quality: The rating of highest quality goes to websites and webpages with a clear purpose, clear navigation, expertise, professional content, awards, and contact information.

High Quality: A rating of high quality goes to sites with expertise and the cited references.

Medium Quality: The site gets a medium quality rating if it could be better. It should have good contact information.

Low Quality: A site gets a low quality rating if it feels unsatisfactory, there is a lack of expertise, it is not credible or untrustworthy, it has poor layout and broken links or features, or it has a negative reputation (negative comments either on the site or in other sites.)

Lowest Quality: This goes to sites with poor layout, absolutely no information on who created or maintains the site, bad grammar, or an extremely negative reputation.

The reviewers look at the layout. It should be excellent or good. They look at grammar and spelling. They look at the site’s copyright year (e.g., andreas.com © 2016) to see if it is actively maintained. If the site covers items that require fresh or recent information, then they look for recently-updated pages.

And of course, there is a long list of what qualifies as webspam. If the quality raters get a whiff of fraud on a page, the page gets marked as spam and it disappears from the search results. These items include: keyword stuffing (obvious intent to add keywords), hidden text, cloaking, sneaky redirects, too many ads, no main content, parked domains, deceptive content, fake blogs, copied content, auto-generated content, doorways, thin affiliates, and more.

Most of those are obvious spammer tricks. However, two methods are widely used by many people without realizing the danger:

Auto-generated Content: Lots of software allows you to create personal newspapers. These tools collect content from other sites and present them as new pages. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of these content generation tools, along with millions of these auto-generated pages. The perpetrators call this content curation, but curation implies an editor or reviewer who collected the content. In reality, someone adds a series of keywords to a tool and it generates the pages. Google blocks these sites because it’s just copied content.

Parked domains: Many people buy dozens of domain names and point them to another site. That worked in 2002, but no more. Google Quality Raters mark parked domains as junk.

This is obviously not the complete list: if you invent a new scam, Google will add it to the list.

SEO-EAT-expertise-authority-trust-ContentOroLet’s EAT: Expertise, Authority, Trust

Ready for another Google acronym? Google asks its quality raters to look for EAT. This stands for expertise, authority, and trust:

Expertise: The page was written by people who have expertise (experience) in the topic. If the page is about diabetes, then it should be written by leading medical doctors or professors. If the page is about skateboards, then it should be by champion skateboarders.

Authority: The page has authority because other reputable, authoritative websites link to it. If it has links from The New York Times, Stanford, or the CDC, it is respected by experts. Links from non-valuable sites are irrelevant. (This means buying links or link-building has no impact). Authoritative websites will link to you on their own: you can’t pay them or ask them for a link.

Trust: Does the page appear trustworthy? Is it by a real company with real people?

Why such a focus on quality? Users expect good results for a search. If a search engine show spam, users get frustrated and go elsewhere. So search engines give priority to quality pages.

SEO-YMYL-ContentOroYMYL: Your Money or Your Life

Yes, another Google acronym. If a webpage has to do with issues in health, medicine, finance, law, or major purchases, Google calls these Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) issues and tells their reviewers to be extra-critical (they also use this phrase in their manual).

Pages are considered YMYL if they cover the following:

  • Shopping, such as payments, etc.
  • Financial, such as investments, taxes, retirement, home purchase, insurance, etc.
  • Medical and health, incl. any private medical information.
  • Legal issues, incl. wills, divorce, etc.
  • Other, incl. child adoption, car safety, etc.

Google expects especially high standards for YMYL pages. I’ve italicized especially high standards because those are the exact words that Google uses. Quality Raters look at the quality of the webpage. Pages with the most EAT will move to the top.

Criteria for the Highest Quality (HQ) Pages

A webpage can be ranked in several levels, but only one matters: Highest Quality (HQ). There are lower levels, but they don’t matter because they get very little traffic.

Google reviewers give the Highest Quality (HQ) rating to websites with the following:

Credentials: Content is written by experts with professional degrees, licenses, or credentials (doctors, nurses, professors, etc.) from leading universities. Stated credentials on the page.

Authority: The site is approved by the leading recognized association or organization

Expertise: Statements are justified by citing appropriate texts and experts

Awards: The site has industry-recognized awards from valid organizations

Reputation: What do other people say about the site? Raters review forums and comments. If there are many negative reviews, a site gets a lower ranking. Google suggests for reviewers to use the Better Business Bureau (at BBB.org) to check a company. Google also suggests reviewers can use Wikipedia to check on people and organizations.

Freshness: If relevant, show freshness. Add the day, month, and year for conferences, events, news items, etc.

Purpose: The purpose is clear. The site and pages have a clear focus and purpose.

Further Information: Links point to additional external pages of high quality

Navigation: Navigation is clear and easy to use

Design: Good overall design, which includes layout, white space, and graphics

Grammar and Spelling: Appropriate grammar, spelling, and tone

Contact Information: Clearly stated name, email, telephone, fax, and postal mailing address

Evidence of Maintenance: Show active maintenance (such as the creation data, copyright year). It should be clear who is responsible for maintenance.

If your site has any form of registration, transaction, or payment, it should meet as many of the following criteria as appropriate. These should be of high quality and they should work:

  • The “view your shopping cart” link stays on the same site
  • The shopping cart updates when you add items
  • Return policy with a physical address
  • Shipping charge calculator that works
  • Wish list, gift registry, ability to postpone purchase
  • Track FedEx orders
  • User forum that works
  • Ability to register or log in
  • Transaction processing by Yahoo! Merchant, Amazon, Volusion, or Paypal are acceptable

As for mobile pages, the current Quality Rater manual points out that many mobile pages often have less content and limited functionality. In general, mobile pages are often rated as not helpful. If mobile is important to you, make sure your mobile pages are high quality.

Finally, Google also wants to offer a good mix of results. They don’t want to show just a list of ten links. They want to show links, news, photos, and so on. In Google’s Side-by-Side (SXS) quality testing tool (another Google quality rater tool), the quality raters select the search results page with the best mix of formats, which include text, blogs, videos, photos, news, and so on. If your page isn’t showing up on the search results, you can review that results pages and see if there are opportunities. If the results page shows links and news but there are no videos, you should create a video and perhaps Google will add that.

You may have noticed that keywords and links are not in these lists. Quality raters do not look at the standard elements of traditional SEO.

Let’s repeat that. The human reviewers do not look at the standard elements of traditional SEO. Meta-tags, keywords, links, and so on don’t matter for quality review. But it matters for technical evaluation. What’s the difference? Stay tuned…

Next week, we’ll compare Technical SEO and Quality SEO to glean the best from both

Read my last blog, Quality SEO: Improving the Quality of your Content.

Visit my guide: Content Marketing Central, full of insight and actionable tips to improve your content marketing strategy.

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Andreas Ramos

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