As you already know, Google is constantly changing its page ranking algorithm. However, the internet giant is transparent in communications. After a slew of updates to the ranking factors (Google E-A-T, page experience, etc.), Google has recently published an extensive document covering search quality guidelines.
These guidelines are mainly intended for Google’s search quality raters, individuals who are in charge with the evaluation of the relevance of search results. The 170+ pages document is very detailed and it contains useful information for webmasters and business owners. In this article we will look over some of the most important information contained in the new search quality guidelines.
The Importance of the Search Quality Guidelines for Your Business
Now, why do we put so much importance on a set of guidelines for independent testers who will evaluate Google search results? Just like with any other announcements, Google has hidden a few Easter eggs in the search quality guidelines.
The document covers not only current changes in the ranking algorithm, but also work in progress and future updates. We believe that forewarned is forearmed, especially in view of the tough competition you are facing. Thus, we will point out aspects that can really impact how well your website will perform in Google searches. We hope this will give you time to audit your site and make any necessary updates and improvements.
The First Change: There Are More YMYL Categories
Here is one of the biggest changes to the ranking algorithm detailed in the new search quality guidelines. The YMYL (your money or your life) list of sensitive business categories is longer.
These categories cover topics that can potentially impact a person’s decisions on critical aspects such as health, finances, safety and wellbeing. The updated YMYL list contains:
- News and current events
- Civics, government and law
- Health and safety
- Groups of people
- Others: fitness and nutrition, job seeking, finding a house.
“Groups of people” is the new addition, and refers to any kind of claims about people grouped by:
- Sexual orientation
- Immigration status
The aim of the search quality guidelines is to eliminate discriminatory and marginalising content from being shown in Google search results.
Contact Information Builds Domain Reputation
The guidelines dedicate a complete section to the identification of the owners of a website. Search quality evaluators are instructed to look for About Us and Contact Us pages in order to determine the reputation and quality of a web page.
As you know, these pages are important for your visitors. They can discover your brand history and values and select the most convenient contact options when they want to get in touch with you.
The new search quality guidelines shed a new light on these pages. They are now important for Google, as well. By crawling and indexing these pages, the search engine can:
- Confirm that you are the legitimate owner of the website
- Confirm the location you use on Google Maps and on Google My Business
- Determine that the content you publish is relevant for your field of activity.
Thus, you should check the About Us and Contact Us pages on your site and confirm that:
- They contain the relevant main keywords you want to rank for
- They offer detailed information about your business
- They contain the accurate and complete identification and contact data for your business.
How to Check the Reputation of Your Website
Domain name reputation is one of the most important ranking factors. But how can you know how you stand? The search quality guidelines offer valuable insights in this sense.
The document indicates several ways of checking the reputation of a website, by performing the following Google searches:
- Domain name –site: domainname.com -> this will show results for your business name excluding the actual web pages of your site
- “domainname.com” –site:domainname.com -> this will return results for your website name excluding the pages of your site
- Domain name reviews – site:domainname.com -> you will find reviews about your business that exclude those published on your site
- “domainname.com” reviews –site:domainname.com -> you will find reviews about your website.
Each of these searches will display other websites that mention your business name or website. If they are reputable sources, such as industry leaders, authorities, reputable institutions or media outlets and independent organizations, then the reputation of your page is good.
If you find few results, then you should consider putting in more efforts in your linkbuilding strategy.
How Google Labels Low Quality Pages
For now, we focused on Google wants to see in pages eligible for ranking. But what exactly represents a low quality page? Here are the details included in the search quality guidelines:
- Inadequate level of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness
- There is little main content
- The main content has a low quality
- The title is exaggerated or shocking
- The page contains ads that distract the user from reading the content.
A long list of examples of web pages with a low quality ranking further details what Google is looking for when excluding these pages from its search results:
- Unprofessional writing
- Grammar and typing errors
- Factual inaccuracies
- Misleading titles, the content does not explain the premise
- Little original research and useful information for the reader
- Poor editing and organisation of the text.
Once again, high quality content is the pillar of good SEO. You may have the right keywords and a fast loading site, fully optimised for mobile. However, if your content offering is not of the highest quality, your site will not have a good page rank.
Deceptive Pages Will Be Excluded from Ranking
Finally, the search quality guidelines show that Google has caught up with most black hat SEO tactics. The following type of pages will be penalised for having a deceptive purpose or design:
- Pages that impersonate other websites (phishing sites, copied web design, logo, etc.)
- Money making websites disguised as independent review sources
- Domain names that have nothing to do with the actual content
- Ads disguised as main content
- Pages that trick users into clicking on links.
Google’s new search quality guidelines show that the bar is set higher than ever for websites. If you want to see your site on the first page of Google search results, you have to maintain a high level of quality, integrity and expertise in everything you publish on your website.
Continue to follow our blog and stay true to your business mission, and you will be able to pass the strictest rules set by Google.