Sunday, November 22, 2015

Search Quality Guidelines: Find out how Google rates websites

Ever wondered how Google rates websites to determine how they rank in their search engine?

The aim of this post is to:
  • tell you the latest news from Google - it will impact on whether and how often people find your website or blog
  • relate what Google says about how to rate websites to things that artists do on or with their websites. Every so often you will see a TIP.

What's New?

Google did something extremely unusual this month.

For the very first time, Google published the entire document of Guidelines given to people who evaluate websites for the purposes of influencing the factors used in the Google Search Engine algorithm (the thing which determines which websites rank well or badly).

This is because:
  • they've just done an update and 
  • they want more and more people to understand how sites are rated for search queries via mobile devices.
What it also means is that Google are helping us to understand better about what matters, how you can help you website - and how you can mess up!

The reason I take what Google says seriously is demonstrated by the chart below. Nearly 95% of the search queries whioch generate traffic for this blog come via Google.

I haven't read every aspect of the Guidelines as yet - and consequently may come back and update this post.

How search quality evaluation works

Google hires people to evaluate websites according to a very structured and very detailed regime. This assessment regime is detailed in the Guidelines Manual which has now been released in full and fully up to date.

The results of the assessments help Google to determine the weighting of the various factors which are incorporated into the algorithm which actually determines the rankings of websites within the Google Search Engine - in relation to specific queries.

Thus for example it might determine how important how recent new content or relevance to a local context might be.


Updating Our Search Quality Rating Guidelines was the blog post on the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog "Official news on crawling and indexing sites for the Google index"

Some people missed it but buried in the text was a link to a 160 page PDF document titled 'General Guidelines' and dated 12th November 2015.

You can download this SEO Gold Mine for free !

People have described this document as being leaked but I'm not sure how a link in an official blog gets evaluated as being a leak.  I think maybe they just like to call it a "leak" as it makes for a good story!

If you read the blog post, Google makes it quite clear
In 2013, we published our human rating guidelines to provide transparency on how Google works and to help webmasters understand what Google looks for in web pages. Since that time, a lot has changed: notably, more people have smartphones than ever before and more searches are done on mobile devices today than on computers.

We often make changes to the guidelines as our understanding of what users wants evolves, but we haven’t shared an update publicly since then. However, we recently completed a major revision of our rater guidelines to adapt to this mobile world, recognizing that people use search differently when they carry internet-connected devices with them all the time.
Thus the key change is the impact of mobile devices - and this is recognised in terms of:
  • the inclusion of  Part 2 - Understanding Mobile Needs 
  • plus lots of examples in the Guidelines uses the mobile view to demonstrate what they mean

So what do the Guidelines say


The Guidelines define in some considerable detail what they mean by different levels of quality. 

Below are reasons for assessing a page as being of Low Quality. (MC means "main content"; SC means "supplementary content")

If a page has one of the following characteristics, the Low rating is usually appropriate:
  • The quality of the MC is low. 
  • There is an unsatisfying amount of MC for the purpose of the page. 
  • The author of the page or website does not have enough expertise for the topic of the page and/or the website is not trustworthy or authoritative for the topic. In other words, the page/website is lacking E-A-T. 
  • The website has a negative reputation. 
  • The SC is distracting or unhelpful for the purpose of the page.

Below is the definition of what makes a High Quality Page.

Extract from page 20
It needs at least one characteristic out of:
  • a satisfying amount of high quality "main content" (ie MC = what your website is about)
  • The page and author are expert. authoritative and trustworthy for the topic of the page
  • the website has a good repuattion for the topic of the page.

PLUS Google also wants to see:
  • who you are and how you can be contacted
  • Supplementary Content (SC) which makes for a satisfying a user experience on the page and website
  • a website which is designed in such a way that the user knows what is main content and which is supplementary - and it allows people to navigate between the two
  • "a website which is well cared for and maintained" (i.e. updated from time to time and not ignored e.g. old and out of date content is removed)

In terms of the best content....
We will consider the MC of the page to be very high or highest quality when it is created with a high degree of time and effort, and in particular, expertise, talent, and skill. Very high quality MC may be created by experts, hobbyists, or even people with everyday expertise. Our standards depend on the purpose of the page and the type of content. The Highest rating may be justified for pages with a satisfying or comprehensive amount of very high quality MC.
TIP: In terms of artists, first-person experience is considered to be one way of defining expertise. Hence artists who write extremely detailed and helpful reviews of products or places are likely to give their websites or blogs a boost!
When it comes to rating a website or blog this is what the Guidelines say (Page )
The top three most important PQ considerations are:
  • Quality and quantity of Main Content. Examine the MC carefully. Given the purpose of the page, evaluate the quality and quantity of MC. 
  • Level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) of the page and the website. The level of E-A-T is extremely important for YMYL pages. 
  • Reputation of the website. The reputation of a website is very important when the website demands a high level of trust.

New Topics in this Version

The guidelines have a NEW emphasis on 'mobile'.  Thus we have Part 2: Understanding Mobile User Needs

There is also something called "Needs met". This aims to distinguish between pages which deliver a very fast and appropriate response on recent events - which must be fresh - and older authoritative websites which might only update occasionally (ie authoritative information doesn't tend to change every five minutes)

New approaches

The quality raters will be testing via mobile devices as well as from a desktop.
TIP: The emphasis on mobile means the opening sentences of pages and blog posts are now extremely important. They should signal the content of the page. You'll notice how I very often in the first paragraph say:
  • what the blog post is about
  • what the blog post contains
I do the same thing on the websites I'm building. The aim is to waste people's time as little as possible. My sites may not be the ones they're looking for - but I do want people to leave with a favoruable impression.
and another thing
TIP: It's absolutely essential that your website or blog can be read easily via a mobile device. If you've not yet implemented a responsive template which adjusts what content looks like for the size of the screen - now is the time to do so!

Important concepts

EAT is an important concept. (This was a new introduction last year - and it's still important.)

It stands for 'expertise, authority and trustworthiness' i.e. all the reasons why you would choose to read one website rather than another.
TIP: From an artist's perspective it's about what might they be writing about or hoping to promote which demands that they are experts and trustworthy.
EXAMPLE: One example might be people offering art tuition. 

People evaluating websites for classes or workshops where money changes hands might well be looking for indicators of:
  • indicators of expertise (eg training; qualifications etc)
  • length of time they have been doing this (eg no. of years of experience as a tutor)
  • number of people who reference (link to them) them as the "go to" art tutor
  • indicators of trustworthiness re money (e.g. detailed contact details; use of appropriate mechanisms which are safe for customers; security certificate for the site)

and finally

I was very pleased to see this on page 66!
Art pages do have a purpose: artistic expression. Pages created for artistic expression do not deserve the Low quality rating simply because they have no other purpose. Artistic expression, humor, entertainment, etc. are all valid page purposes.
I'm interested to know what you make of the Guidelines. (Do bear in mind they are a Technical Manual for people employed to do a job). Do please leave a comment.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting news, Thank you
    This news gives blog reading a new perspective.

    What does Google say about page ads?
    The increase in ads creates an uncomfortable reading experience on more than one blog that I read. In the past I searched for new blogs for the fun of it. Today, I search to find blog pages that don't jump around loading, load quickly, don't startle me with blaring ads and/or sound, and, provide interesting content. I don't mind a reasonable amount of ads, and will click on them to support the blog. How ads factor into a website rating will be interesting to read about.

    Another point is the communication factor. There are blog writers that encourage readers to email/develop a closer relationship between audience and blogger. There are bloggers that don't encourage contact as part of their blog reader experience. How accessible a blogger is to their audience, I feel, shouldn't be that important to a blog's rating because the style differences.


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