When returning search results for a given query, Google tries to present the most relevant and highest quality web pages. A high quality web page can improve the search rankings of your page and help attract potential prospects to you via Google and other search engines. How does Google assess the quality of your web page? In November 2015, Google released the full version of its search quality rating guidelines in a ~150 page document. These guidelines are given to search quality raters to help them evaluate search engine results from Google’s experiments with search algorithms. Ratings from these human raters are not used to determine actual page rankings but these guidelines provide valuable insights on Google’s approach on the assessment of web page quality.
In previous posts, we discussed the importance of on-page factors, keyword choice and social signals in improving search engine rankings. In this article, we highlight key points from Google’s Page Quality ratings guidelines (updated as of March 2016) to gain insights on how Google might assess the quality of your web page.
Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) Pages
When assessing the quality of a web page, certain pages are to be held to a higher standard by raters. Pages that may “potentially impact the future happiness, health, or financial stability of users” will be classified as “Your Money or Your Life”, or YMYL pages, and subject to “very high” standards. YMYL pages include those which enable shopping or financial transactions or provide medical or legal information etc. Financial information pages with advice or information about retirement planning, investments, taxes, insurance purchase and home purchase will be classified as YMYL pages.
The Most Important Factors affecting Your Page Quality
The quality of a web page is very much tied to the quality of the web site to which it belongs. The following 4 factors are to be used by raters in assessing web page quality.
- Quality of main content on web page and its amount
- Information on person or organization responsible for the website
- Reputation of website
- Expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness of web page / website
Page quality grades used include “very high”, “high”, “medium”, “low”, or “very low”. A page which merits neither a high nor low quality rating, or a page which has a mix of convincingly high and mildly low quality characteristics may be rated “medium”.
One – Quality of main content on web page and its amount
An important measure of page quality is the quality and the amount of main content given the purpose of the page. In assessing content quality, different standards are to be applied to “large, professionally-produced business websites” versus “small amateur, hobbyist or personal websites”. Further, a page with a broad topic is expected to have more content than one with a narrower topic.
- A high quality page will have a “satisfactory” amount of high quality content which is created with a “significant amount of at least one of the following: expertise, talent, time and effort”
- A low quality page will have content which is created without “adequate expertise, talent, time or effort”, or without “satisfactory” amount for the purpose of the page
- The presence of ads on a page in itself will not warrant a lower quality rating. However, a page which contains “disruptive or highly distracting or misleading ads and supplementary content”will be rated low quality
- Copied or auto-generated content with “no expertise, manual curation, time, effort and value-add” will result in a very low page quality rating
Two – Information on person or organization responsible for the website
Information on those responsible for a website, or specific content on a web page is to be considered when rating page quality. Such information can often be found in the “about us” or “contact us” pages. Those responsible can either be an individual or an organization. The amount of website information expected varies for different types of websites. Users of YMYL websites are expected to require more information versus users of certain non-YMYL websites.
- A high quality page will have “clear and satisfying” information which creates trust in the website
- YMYL pages with no website information or non-YMYL pages with completely inadequate information for the purpose of the website will be rated very low quality
Three – Reputation of website
A website’s reputation amongst users and relevant experts is to be used to rate page quality. The following independent sources may be used to assess site reputation
- User and customer reviews, references, forum discussions and recommendations by experts
- News articles, Wikipedia articles, blog posts, and magazine articles
- Awards and ratings from independent organizations such as Better Business Bureau (BBB)
For certain topics requiring less formal expertise, popularity and user engagement may be used to gauge reputation.
- A very high quality page will have “very positive” reputation which is often based on “prestigious awards or recommendations from known experts or professional societies on the site topic”
- A page with no website reputation may receive a high quality rating based on other criteria. However, a page with a “convincing negative website reputation” will not be given a high quality rating
- A page will be rated low quality if there is credible evidence of negative reputation
- Malicious or financially fraudulent conduct will warrant a very low quality rating
Four – Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (“E-A-T”) or web page / website
Finally, another important factor in rating page quality is whether the web page or site has sufficient expertise to be authoritative and trustworthy for a given topic. Content quality, website information and reputation all contribute to the assessment of a page’s expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness (“E-A-T”), which is particularly important when rating YMYL pages. Certain topics need less formal expertise and authors with “life experience” in the topics may be deemed to have “everyday expertise” in them.
- A page will be rated high on E-A-T if it shows “sufficient” expertise on a topic to demonstrate authority and trustworthiness. The standard used for rating expertise will depend on the topic. For topics such as finance, law or medicine, high quality advice will require experts and regular updates
- A page will be rated low quality if it is deemed lacking in appropriate E-A-T for the given topic
- Also, YMYL and other pages which require a high level of trustworthiness will be rated low quality if there is an “unsatisfying amount of customer service information, contact information or information on who is responsible for the site”
What this means for you
Your web page on topics covering financial advisory, insurance, tax, accounting, real estate or mortgage may be held to a higher standard by Google when assessing its quality. Doing the following may increase your web page quality and its search rankings:
- Generate a satisfactory amount of quality content on the page
- Provide clear information on those responsible for the site or page
- Have a positive website reputation, or at the minimum, do not have a negative reputation
- Show sufficient expertise, authority and trustworthiness on content topic