Understanding how to rank your website on Google is often confusing and frustrating. There is an overload of information online about how to increase your organic traffic, leads, and sales with SEO.
Ranking on Google requires more than just keyword stuffing, acquiring spammy backlinks, and writing long-form blog posts (although they help). But, do we understand how Google decides which sites get shown on page one of search results?
Over the past few years, Google has significantly changed its algorithms and ranking process. The main factor that has been preached is to make ‘Relevant’ content. While this is still helpful advice, Google has made it clear that moving forward; they want to show content that is most useful to its users.
Let me clarify that for you – Google’s primary goal in its search engine is simple – to provide searchers with the most valuable answers.
To find the most valuable sites for its users, Google measures the Search Quality Rating of each website or webpage.
Google does not often let the wider public know how they measure the search quality rating of a site. Still, in mid-July of 2022, they released a document outlining how they evaluate a website’s quality and relevance.
The guidelines reflect what Google thinks its users desire and seek when looking for answers online. The document was released to assist webmasters, and business owners in understanding “what Google looks for in websites.”
The behemoth paper doesn’t provide ranking formulas or algorithm secrets, but it does show what Google prioritizes when evaluating a website.
Now, you probably don’t have the time to sift through the document and try to understand what Google is looking for in each website, especially when it is filled with technical SEO jargon. So, I went through the document and simplified it for you.
The Google Quality Rater Guidelines, also known as the Quality Evaluator Guidelines, explain how they assess the quality of websites. In the 175-page document, Google outlines how its search quality rater program works.
The purpose of these recommendations is to enhance Google’s search algorithm and provide users with an even better experience.
Using the Google Quality Rater Guidelines as a reference, quality raters conduct random checks to determine whether the websites presented in search results are relevant and helpful to visitors.
The key takeaways from this document and how it will affect your business or website in 2023 are as follows:
It is not essential for business owners to understand all the technical fundamentals of the Quality Rating Guidelines. Leave those to your search engine optimization professional or agency.
But, business owners and marketers can use these to understand Google’s priorities to allocate budgets and set preferences that are consistent with what Google rewards.
Quality raters are independent contractors that help Google evaluate the websites that appear in its search results. Each year, tens of thousands of landing pages are personally assessed for relevance to the corresponding search query.
They apply rating scales outlined in the Google Quality Rater Guidelines to accomplish this.
The work of quality raters is the foundation for the hundreds of more minor changes that constantly enhance the algorithm and contribute to the production of higher-quality search results.
As mentioned above, Google’s Quality Rating is divided into two main areas:
Google uses a large number of factors to evaluate the page quality (PQ) of a website. But, the three main factors it uses to measure this are:
Every website must have a purpose. It is irrelevant what the objective is; the value generated for the user is what counts. Therefore, websites designated as YMYL must adhere to the highest quality criteria.
YMYL refers to websites that provide information on sensitive subjects, such as health and finances. If a website offers no new value or has the potential to harm the user, it must be assigned the lowest quality rating. YMYL is discussed more in the article.
Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines indicate that quality raters examine the quality of the website’s most important content (Main Content, or MC), be it text, photos, or videos.
Supplemental Content (SC) includes navigational elements, sidebars, and other components that enhance the user experience. The third element pertains to the website’s monetization, such as the placement of adverts. This is not inherently negative, but such advertisements are seen unfavorably if they obscure or disrupt the primary content.
For the past few years, most SEO experts have focused on content improving their E.A.T rating.
E.A.T stands for “Expertise,” “Authority,” and “Trustworthiness” — that is, the expert position, authority, and trustworthiness of the information source.
These elements determine the credibility of the content. This is particularly true for YMYL pages. Continue reading for additional E.A.T information.
Sites are categorized as high-quality websites if they match the following criteria:
The “needs met” aspect focuses on “mobile user needs and… how useful and pleasant the output is for mobile users.”
The Needs Met (NM) rating can be applied to the search engine result page and the accompanying landing page. Needs met is directly tied to the searcher’s intent and the extent to which the search results meet that desire.
A particular rating category applies only to specific searches and responses. So, for example, if you are ‘Fully Satisfied,’ then all or nearly all mobile users would be immediately and completely satisfied by the outcome, with no need to view different results.
If your website scores a ‘Highly Met’ rating, your webpage benefits most mobile customers. However, some users may need additional search results.
Moderately meeting needs means that your site is helpful for many people or beneficial for some mobile users. For example, some users may look for more answers in the search results.
In the Search Quality Rating Guidelines, Google states that the ‘Slightly Met’ score is given to websites deemed “Useful for less mobile users. There is a correlation between the question and the response, but it is neither strong nor satisfactory. Many of the majority of users would like to see more results.”
Your website fails to meet the needs of mobile consumers. Every or nearly every user would like to see different results. Google states that some of the developments in this category may contain pornographic content, result in a foreign language, or have distressing or insulting effects. If you score in this category, you will see a drop in ranking and organic traffic.
An SEO plan targets Google queries (also known as keywords) that your target audience searches for.
Then, you produce content (webpages) that fulfills the search query’s intent, which your user will find helpful. Your responsibility is to comprehend a user’s intent when searching for a specific keyword or phrase.
For example, is the searcher looking to learn something or to purchase a product or service? When designing web pages based on keywords, you want to ensure you provide potential visitors with what they desire and will find helpful.
Is your website truly optimized for mobile?
All websites and apps must now receive a passing grade on Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. In addition, you must ensure that actions are simple to complete on a mobile device.
Here is a checklist you may use to evaluate how well your website functions on a smartphone, based on Googles Quality Rating recommendations:
E-A-T is one of the most important criteria for assessing a web page’s high quality.
As discussed above, EAT refers to the website content’s expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. Therefore, to rank on Google, you must consider this concept in your writing.
E-A-T is essential for the YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) pages that we will discuss shortly.
Although there is no EAT score, you should consider the following to determine if your website is meeting the E-A-T criteria:
For your website’s content to be regarded as high-quality, it must be created by someone with in-depth subject knowledge. In addition, all contributing authors’ credentials must be verified, and the page or website must be a credible source of information.
Are the advertisements and links on your website relevant to the page’s purpose?
Google’s Quality rater guidelines declared that the presence or absence of Ads is not a factor in and of itself for a High or Low-quality rating because Google recognizes that many websites and apps rely on ad revenue for survival.
However, Google will hold a website accountable for the overall quality of the displayed advertisements. Monitor the volume and utilization of affiliates, display, and other forms of advertising. Ensure that ads do not overpower each page’s more valuable primary material (and additional information, if any).
Does your website appear active and regularly maintained? Googles Quality raters are asked to dig through a website to determine if it is being held. Your organic traffic and rankings may suffer if it is not updated regularly.
Google expects to see the following signals on a well-maintained, high-quality website:
Google’s ranking algorithm considers “recentness” as a ranking factor for various query types. Therefore, your site needs to have consistent content that is regularly updated to satisfy this criterion.
For dated blog entries and other content, do not attempt to cheat the system by configuring a program to modify dates to make things appear current automatically; Google is aware of this technique.
Raters must also personally research questionable dates using the Wayback Machine to determine whether the information is copied or original. However, Google’s algorithm does not require the Wayback Machine to identify original content, so do not attempt to cheat.
A website that is in good health routinely adds new information and changes old content to keep things fresh and relevant for site visitors.
When inspecting your site, Search Quality raters will first examine the motivation behind a page’s creation. After determining the purpose, raters determine whether the page serves a worthwhile goal. For example, a page is good if developed to assist people.
Whether your website sells spare car parts, features informative blogs about medical issues, or shares funny memes about current events, it can be helpful. A page is deemed high quality when its objective is met. For instance, if you own a website that informs users about sporting news, the purpose and page type should correspond.
Google’s raters assess the goal and usefulness of a web page to determine which additional relevant factors to consider when evaluating the page. For instance, if the purpose of a page is to provide investment analysis and stock recommendations, it will be categorized as a Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) page and scored accordingly.
How high-quality are the YMYL pages on your website?
Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) pages can influence an individual’s “future happiness, health, or wealth.”
Google adopted this notion for the first time in the 2014 Search Quality Rating Guidelines, which held these pages to a significantly higher bar across all quality metrics. Examples include pages for online shopping, financial information, medical assistance, and legal guidance, among others.
Your website must satisfy the “Needs Met” metric if you launch a YMYL site.
News Websites: Not all news is YMYL (e.g., sports, entertainment, and everyday lifestyle topics are generally not YMYL). But if you share information about Politics, Science, Investments, or recent technology, it will be deemed YMYL.
Government or Law Websites: Information crucial to keeping the public informed about civics, government, and law, such as details about voting, public institutions, social services, and legal matters, are deemed YMYL pages.
Financial Websites: Websites enable consumers to make purchases or send money online, particularly those that provide financial advice or information about investing, taxes, retirement planning, loans, banking, or insurance.
Shopping sites and Ecommerce Stores: Information or services connected to the research or purchase of products or services, particularly web pages that allow individuals to make online purchases.
Health and Medical Websites: Advice or knowledge regarding medical issues, drugs, hospitals, emergency readiness, the dangers of activity, and so on.
Cultural or Societal Webpages: Information or assertions regarding people groups, including but not limited to those grouped based on race or ethnic origin, religion, handicap, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity.
Other YMYL sites: There are various topics connected to an individual’s health, wealth, and future happiness. These include health and nutrition sites, websites about renting or housing information, and websites to help users choose a college or find a career.
If you need assistance optimizing your site following the Search Quality Rating Guidelines, I am here to help!
For over a decade, I have worked as an independent SEO specialist, assisting businesses to rank higher on search engines and increase their revenue.
Hopefully, this article has clarified what Google is looking for when ranking websites on page 1! If you need any help improving or maintaining your website for 2023, contact me here for a free 15-minute consultation.