Google Updates Search Quality Rating Guidelines: The Highlights
Some of the data that Google uses to improve their search algorithm comes from the feedback of thousands of search quality raters. These raters conduct actual searches and rate the top quality pages according to a publicly available set of guidelines.
Data from these quality raters don't directly impact search rankings; instead, Google uses their ratings to inform the search algorithm. Nevertheless, it's good for content creators to know some of the main things that these raters look for. Google's update of the guidelines last week provide insight into the most important things to consider when creating search-friendly content.
The Most Critical Updates
"High E-A-T" Replaces "High Quality"
When determining page quality ratings, Google's raters use a metric called E-A-T, which stands for expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. In the new guidelines, "high E-A-T" has replaced the phrase "high quality" in many instances, meaning that Google is being more specific about what "high quality" means.
What this means for you: Your content may have to go beyond simple markers of quality such as grammatical correctness and good readability. In order to be considered the highest quality, you'll need to develop your brand and execute strategies that allow your company to be perceived as a trustworthy authority - while also consistently providing expert information. (Some great ways to improve authoritativeness can be found here.)
Personal Reputation of Content Creators Matters
As you might expect from the increased focus on E-A-T, Google's quality raters are now instructed to look into the reputation of content creators themselves - not just the reputation of the website or company publishing the content. This shouldn't necessarily come as a surprise to content creators, though, as Google has been emphasizing the importance of personal reputations since implementing authorship markup seven years ago. And while authorship no longer exists, many SEOs have stated that the authority of an author can often be considered a ranking factor in Google's search results.
What this means for you: If you've been neglecting your About Us page, now's the time to fill it out and add details that show the credibility and accomplishments of your authors. You may also want to expand this type of information in your authors' bylines in their blog posts, as well as examining and improving the social profiles of your authors (especially on platforms like LinkedIn).
New Emphasis on Avoiding Clickbait Titles
Google has expanded their guidelines in relation to low-quality, clickbait-style headlines. Essentially, content that does not fulfill the promise of its sensational title will be considered low quality. Here's how Google puts it:
Exaggerated or shocking titles can entice users to click on pages in search results. If pages do not live up to the exaggerated or shocking title or images, the experience leaves users feeling surprised and confused. Here is an example of a page with an exaggerated and shocking title: "Is the World about to End? Mysterious Sightings of 25ft Sea Serpents Prompt Panic!" as the title for an article about the unidentified remains of one small dead fish on a beach. Pages with exaggerated or shocking titles that do not describe the MC well should be rated Low.
Important: The Low rating should be used if the page has Low quality MC [main content].
What this means for you: It can be tempting to give in and start creating content with overly sensational headlines, especially when it seems like clickbait-style titles get tons of traffic and even respectable publications are guilty of it. However, you should definitely stay away from this strategy to maintain good quality ratings in Google's eyes. You of course want to create good, catchy, intriguing headlines that grab a reader's attention, but you also want to make sure that your content delivers on the promise of its title.
Every Page Should Have a "Beneficial Purpose"
A new concept in the rating guidelines is "beneficial purpose." Google is asking their raters to determine whether or not a given page can be helpful to its viewer in some way. This doesn't necessarily mean every single page on a site needs to be educational, though. A page can have a beneficial purpose if it's intended to entertain a reader, for example.
What this means for you: Stop creating content for the sole purpose of ranking for specific keywords. With every piece of content on your site, ask yourself what a reader stands to gain from spending time with it.
Characteristics of Quality Content
Google provides this quick roundup of what raters should look for when determining high quality pages:
High quality pages exist for almost any beneficial purpose, from giving information to making people laugh to expressing oneself artistically to purchasing products or services online.
What makes a High quality page? A High quality page should have a beneficial purpose and achieve that purpose well. In addition, High quality pages have the following characteristics:
- High level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
- A satisfying amount of high quality MC [main content], including a descriptive or helpful title.
- Satisfying website information and/or information about who is responsible for the website. If the page is primarily for shopping or includes financial transactions, then it should have satisfying customer service information.
- Positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the MC on the page. Positive reputation of the creator of the MC, if different from that of the website.
Of course, it's important to remember that Google's raters don't impact your rankings - they simply help Google make positive changes to the search algorithm. Nevertheless, these quality rating guidelines reinforce the number one rule when it comes to creating content that gets results in search engines and otherwise: provide value.