December 14, 2015

What Google search rating guidelines teach us about SEO

Google has brought out its 'Search Quality Rating Guidelines', first time since 2013. These are essentially for Evaluators who help in manually checking websites and queries for their quality, relevance, reputation etc that help in improving search experience. However, these guidelines also are very useful for website owners, bloggers and SEO experts. 

Nothing can not be a more credible adviser than Google about what to do to improve quality and searchability of your website; so, we bring a 2-part series on what we found in Google guidelines that could be of great use to our visitors. That will save you the bother of going through the longish (160 pages, no more!) and slightly technical document and taking notes.

It makes us feel especially humble to say that all these years, we have been saying what Google has detailed in this document. We also feel vindicated that the blogs we put in our directories and other listings come high on Google's parameters though many of them do not have the best of design, do not earn money and don't have high viewership. You could visit the 'Blogging Tips'  and 'Directory Compilation' links at the bottom of this page to check what we mean.

The purpose of websites should be to help users, says Google

This is one of the best one-liners that we have seen on the purpose of websites. You can remember it if you are to start a website or blog now. If you already have a website, it would benefit if you examine the website and make amends if needed

Helping, from search quality point of view, is not being helpful and kind as you would be in the real world, e.g. by helping an old man cross the road. It has a wide meaning: being helpful in getting the visitor what he is trying to get. If a webpage on your website (or a post on your blog) is just a collection of photos of your picnic, it serves its purpose by giving this pictorial information to those wanting to get this information. Whether this page ranks high on search engines will depend on many other factors, but it serves its purpose of helping with information as long as you do not show these pictures to mislead people to buy merchandise about that location or some other way.

Your website can 'help' visitors in many ways: 
  • By giving information. Google says, if Wikipedia and forum pages help by giving information, a humor page and a video collection do that too. Sharing personal or social information is fine. 
  • By sharing media in various forms: audio, pictures, video.
  • By sharing opinion on a topic.
  • By entertaining.
  • By selling products or services.
  • By allowing users to download software.
  • By allowing users to ask questions and others to answer them (as in forums or websites like Quora).

Well, you might feel that by this definition, all website would qualify as helping others. No, Google would give a low ranking to websites that 
  • deceive users
  • harm users by putting a malicious code (even inadvertently) or other such actions
  • make money without giving the user the content for which he visited the site

Let's expand the 'helping' bit a bit more before we move further. We'd advise bloggers that, to the extent possible, we should try to help visitors in some bigger way and avoiding such information that might harm them: 
  • By giving solutions to small problems for free (e.g. DIY tips; IT code help; FAQs; best practices).
  • By serving quality information on the theme of the blog.
  • By giving only genuine information and views (e.g. when reviewing products; hotels; books; agencies).
  • By not faking expertise (especially on medical matters, including traditional medicine).
  • By not spreading superstitions, hatred, criminality and other socially harmful thought through main content or comments. 

What determines the quality of a website or webpage?

As you would have guessed, quality of content is of paramount important for searchers and therefore for search engines. 

In Google's eyes, the content gets high quality ratings if it it has been created with a significant amount of at least one of these:
  • time
  • effort
  • expertise
  • talent/ skill
Investment in these four areas results in quality content that is satisfying for the user, and therefore search engines value it highly. Google further explains that quality of a webpage can be high if these four are visible in that, irrespective of the type of content. So, a webpage or website made with a lot of effort (even a humor page) is of high quality and also the one that shows great expertise (e.g. a medical research page). 

If we care for content and consumer, we can't go wrong.
Further, Google says that it rates the content high in quality even if it has everyday life expertise. It also does not pit expertise of a high professional type against that of life experiences. So, a blog with personal experiences, when the content is created with a good deal of time, effort and skill, is treated as high quality content.

Content quality, together with reputation and trust-worthiness give the website a very high rating. We  discuss these and other aspects in the next post on content quality, authority and reputation of websites.