Demystifying Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines

Google Search Results2

There’s been a lot of hub-bub about the latest “leaking” of Google’s search quality rating guidelines. But you know what? It’s been leaking for the last couple of years. And Google wants it that way.

Why is Google leaking their secret sauce, you ask?

They are leaking this information to help you. Google is in the business of finding and promoting good quality websites. So it behooves them actually to release these guidelines because they want everyone to know what makes for a high quality website.

Google’s search quality rating guidelines offer 146 pages of good stuff that you can easily read and follow and it will help you. Read the entire PDF right here.

There is no deep secret to ranking a site to number one.

You want to know what to do?

Here’s what you do – you want to make a page that has such good content that Google puts it first.

You want people to think Google was broken if your page wasn’t first.

Being first is easy – just make it the best page. You just want to provide the best answer to the question. What would constitute a good answer to the question?

The trick is to take the implied question and answer that question as thoroughly as you can without rambling on and wasting time – yours and everyone else. Make it clear. Make it easy to read. Easy to navigate. Have good links going out to other reputable sources. If it’s appropriate, have a PDF or video or a podcast.

It’s easy from that perspective.

It’s not rocket science. Google is looking for high quality pages. When Google is ranking a page, it looks at the EAT factor. Not to be confused with the “It” factor. They like pages that have a high level of Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness.

As someone who looks at and analyzes a lot of websites, here are my top 5 recommendations to help you make your page so good, Google has no choice but to make it number one.

#1 Show them the money. There’s always the money question – do we tell people how much our product costs? Most websites don’t tell people how much their product costs, instead they are hoping the customer will call and ask the question.

I see it all the time.

Say you’re looking for a dentist. How much do dental implants cost? If there is no price on the site do you look for other dentists that post that information? I would.

Here’s the thing: the person wants to know how much it costs before they waste their time calling you on the phone.

So just tell people how much it costs. You can give a range if that makes you more comfortable and the factors that push it up or down the payment scale. But you don’t want people to get all worked up about your product and then find out it costs more than they can afford. That’s a threat to your business.

And mostly you want to tell people how much it costs because you are gaining people’s trust. And trust is something that Google highly prizes.

#2 Link Out To LinkedIn: Human raters for Google as well as Google’s secret algorithms love reputation data. So one thing that will help you is having your website linked out to a well written LinkedIn profile.

If you think about it, you will go to LinkedIn first, to check that person out.  You can Google someone’s name and find their LinkedIn profile, it’s a high integrity source that people trust. So why not link to it straight from the website?

The more information you have about the person on the site, the better. It’s always good to have an author blurb on your blog and an About page with a picture of someone but a LinkedIn profile is a good source of professional information. Also make sure your Contact page is well optimized and has all the necessary information and that it appears a tab on the primary menu.

#3 Spelling and Grammar Still Matter: While we may think we have outgrown the need to spell properly in the digital age, in fact, Google is keeping tabs on those kind of quality factors. Grammar is still important! So is spelling. If you want to identify good text, Google is looking to see if something is well written or poorly written, or if it has too much jargon.

Google looks at hundreds of different factors.

Maybe your text has too many long run on sentences. If it’s too wordy no one is going to read it, so break up those run on sentences and clarify as you go. If it’s hard to understand it’s not good for engagement

#4 Mobile Friendly wins the race: Be sure that the humans who do the rating for Google are looking at your site with a mobile device. Period. Especially if the rater is looking at what’s known as a YMYL site, Your Money or Your Life. If the site is about your money or your life, you need to be high quality and if you aren’t mobile friendly you aren’t going to get a high quality score, you just aren’t going to do well. And if you take credit cards, Google will be scrutinizing your site even more severely.

If you want to know what’s going on with your site, look at it with mobile device, take notes and see what is not working with well from the mobile end of things and do what it takes to fix that first. Then look at your desktop version. There are certain things that work better on mobile.

#5 Social Media is Killing Your Website: Ironically while we are trying to optimize our site to speed up loading time, we manage to add back things that kill our speed – don’t do it!

Things like unoptimized image files, complicated designs, even social media widgets.

Yes! Social media widgets!

The code from Facebook is atrocious, they are not prioritizing it and social media is killing your website.

The biggest problem with Facebook is they load a ton of traffic, then they remarket it to users, then they track your users. And your site pays the price.

So do yourself a favor and remove the Facebook widgets from your site, and do it yourself, make your own widget with your own image and link.

Single page websites are not useful. Sorry but it’s true.  It might be nice to have it, they are trendy right now. It functions on a single url, so you force the browser to load everything all at once, and depending on how you load it, you are going to have a big heavy page, so I don’t see what’s being gained by doing this.

People are fine with page transitions, you want the user experience to be good. Single page sites right now are a fad, but if it takes a long time to load it’s not so helpful.

And here are my two cents on slideshows. They are ubiquitous, and I know web designers love to use them because they think it’s re-engaging the user but it’s not. Adding a slider reduces conversion rate. Research is unanimous, sliders do not help conversion rates. Not only are they slow to load but they pull the rug out from underneath the visitor, the person has no control on moving the images forward, it can be frustrating. So if you are going to use a slider at least allow the end user the ability to advance it themselves so it runs at their own rate.

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About The Author

Jonathan Hochman

Jonathan Hochman is the founder of Hochman Consultants. He has two computer science degrees from Yale University and 25 years experience as a consultant. He has broad experience with technology, marketing, sales, business development, and operations. Hochman is chairman of SEMNE, the association of search marketers in New England, and a founder of CodeGuard, the website security company.