Once again, Google has decided to make changes to its search quality guidelines. A few days ago, we also covered a major overhaul made to Google AdWords, now called Google Ads, and other products included in the family.
The search quality guidelines Google publishes ensure that only the best, high-quality content and pages are shown in search results. It’s important to be aware of these guidelines to help make your website and content better. In a time where there’s more misinformation spread on the internet, these guidelines act as a first-line defense to protect users from being misled.
We’ve always loved how Google takes steps like this to fight against spammers online. SEO has come a long way since the days where anyone could rank high by flooding their website with spam content and links, but those days are long gone, leaving more room for legitimate content creators to shine.
Here are some of the most important things you need to know about Google’s updates to its search quality guidelines in 2018 and what it could mean for your website’s SEO and search engine rankings. You’ll be able to check to see your site is following these guidelines and make appropriate changes.
How Google’s Search Engine Quality Guidelines Work
Google has hundreds of people who rate pages and websites for content, especially ones that rank on the first and second page. They look at not only written content, but videos, pictures, and social media signals on your site too.
From looking at this information, the search engine rater, or “search quality evaluator” rates your website according to Google’s general guidelines. Your pages can be ranked anywhere from lowest to highest on their scale. While their ratings won’t have a direct impact on your SEO, they will have a long-term impact on Google’s search algorithm.
Your website won’t be banned from appearing in search engines if there’s a page that received a low-quality score. However, this does mean that users can weed out low-quality content, especially from fake news websites, a contentious topic which has been discussed heavily in the news since the 2016 elections.
Search Engine Guideline and Ranking Score Basics
Google has a 164-page PDF with more detailed information on its guidelines and what is factored in their rating system. We’re going to cover some of the most important highlights from this document, so you don’t have to go through the document yourself. There’s a lot of information about evaluating the quality of the content creator, what is considered low quality, and what qualifies as spam.
Google has been paying close attention to the rise in the number of people who browse websites from their mobile devices. As part of their guidelines, they’ve also included ratings focused on satisfying needs of mobile users. There are five ratings which are used:
• Fully Meets
• Highly Meets
• Moderately Meets
• Slightly Meets
• Fails to Meet
There are also in-between ratings the search engine evaluator uses if they believe your website falls in between one of these categories. A website that fully meets Google’s mobile rating standards is one that:
• Fully satisfies the search engine user as far as requiring little effort to access your site.
• Matches with what the search engine user is looking for.
• Nearly all of the people visiting your site would be satisfied with what they found after performing a Google search.
• The information on your website is accurate and supported by expert consensus.
Here’s a quick example of a situation of a website meeting this standard set by Google.
Let’s say you wanted to watch a show on the Netflix app, and you typed “Netflix app” into Google. The first thing you see is a search result with a headline of “Netflix app” and a meta description describing what you’re going to see when you click on the result. Under Google’s guidelines, a page like this would likely fully meet their guidelines because it closely matches what the search engine user wanted to find.
Legitimacy of the Content Creator
One of the most striking changes to Google’s search engine guidelines has been a greater push to identify who’s behind the websites that are displayed on their search engine. Google wants to be sure that the people behind the content on a website are real. Information on the “About Us” page along with contact and business information and forms are factored into the reputation of a website according to Google’s guidelines.
As another way to verify that the claims on a website are correct, search engine evaluators are also asked to look at independent sources of information. Google doesn’t want its search engine evaluators to blindly take what a website has to offer at face value, so external sources of information like social media profiles and news articles are used.
This gives us a valuable insight on how Google might rank a website for SEO. It may not be enough to have good content or a beautiful web design. Social proof is also needed to make sure your website ranks well. If you’ve had a chance to look at our article on local SEO, we recommend that you do so.
The information in Google’s search engine guidelines lines up with the trends we’ve been seeing in local SEO and how social media signals and website reviews on third-party websites are making a difference in how well your website can rank.
SEO has become a combination of having strong on-page fundamentals with social media marketing, promotion, and signals. You have to look at SEO from all of these angles and do all you can to position yourself as an authority through these various means.
Spam, Clickbait, and Plagiarized Pages
Google’s search engine guidelines also take a harder stance against spam and clickbait pages on a website. These fall onto the “Lack of Purpose” page category.
If you have pages on your website that don’t serve a clear purpose for the user and have a lot of nonsense and spam, those pages will receive the lowest quality score on the scale.
Plagiarized and copied content and content that’s difficult to read will also score very low on the scale, which is why you need to use tools like Copyscape and the Fleisch Ease Reading Test to keep your website content in the best shape.
Sometimes, Google makes so many changes to its search engine guidelines, products, and algorithm to where it’s hard for someone to decipher what’s going on. As a business owner, you shouldn’t have to stress about what’s happening with Google because there’s a team of search engine optimization experts in Atlanta ready to help you!