What Every SEO Needs to Know
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What Every SEO Needs to Know

Since the Google Search index contains hundreds of billions of webpages, maximum efficiency is required to direct users toward the most relevant content possible.

Google constantly refines its algorithms to ensure users receive the most relevant and optimized search results. For instance, the November 2023 Broad Core Update was aimed at promoting valuable content and improving its content assessment systems. This update caused many websites to experience significant fluctuations in rankings and organic traffic. Prioritizing high-quality content and greatly enhancing user experience were necessary actions for adapting to this change and seeing a boost in search visibility.

In turn, the March 2024 core update, which is said to be more complex than usual core updates, was aimed at enhancing many different factors within Google’s ranking systems. According to this update, Google will consider a broad range of signals for determining a webpage’s helpfulness instead of relying on a single system or factor. This will enable Google to reduce low-quality, unoriginal content in search results by 40%. The search giant is expected to target unhelpful pages with poor UX, spammy content generated with or without AI tools, as well as pages whose sole purpose is to acquire clicks. 

Apart from updating its algorithms, Google hires Search Quality Raters to provide feedback on selected pages and enhance the search experience. When evaluating a page, Quality Raters rely on the Google Quality Rater Guidelines. 

The Google Quality Guidelines serve as a comprehensive resource outlining the criteria for assessing the quality of web pages and the overall user experience. These guidelines provide insights into factors such as experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, helping website owners and content creators understand what Google considers important for delivering high-quality search results. 

In November 2023, Google updated Search Quality Raters Guidelines for the first time in 11 months. In the video below, Dr. Marie Haynes discusses these updates in detail.

In short, the higher the relevance and quality of the page, the more likely it will satisfy users referred to your site, and therefore, Google. By familiarizing yourself with the document’s key highlights, you can potentially enhance the search profile of your web pages.

How overall page quality rating is calculated

Google uses a diverse set of metrics to assess content. But the final score is calculated based on two ratings: a Needs Met rating and a Page Quality rating. The key objective is to understand a web page’s intent and assess whether it could have any negative impact on readers.

Around 16,000 external Search Quality Raters working for Google assign overall page quality ratings based on several factors. Keep in mind that Search Quality raters may sometimes spend only a few seconds on your website to determine whether it meets Google’s quality standards.

So, make sure it makes the finest initial impression.

When rating pages, Google uses a sliding scale with nine levels based on Page Quality criteria, ranging from lowest to highest. Now, let’s explore the differences between pages with high, medium, and low quality.

What constitutes the highest quality pages?

The most desirable Google web page rating is the “highest quality.” These pages comprehensively meet the needs of their audience. While your objectives may vary, you should aim to create extremely satisfying content. 

The highest quality pages have a clear purpose, whether it’s sharing an opinion, entertaining, or selling a product. For most pages, you can gauge the quality of the main content by considering the level of effort, originality, and talent, or skill invested in its creation. 

In addition to content, other elements affect the page quality rating, including:

  • Page structure and design
  • Reputation and authority of the website
  • Social indicators

To learn how to align your content with your users’ expectations, read our complete guide on SEO for blogs.

What constitutes medium-quality pages?

Web pages that don’t meet the stipulated guidelines for the highest quality rating but still meet primary objectives are considered medium-quality. A medium-quality page can have its rating revised if further improvements are made.

What constitutes low-quality pages?

Considering the key factors that determine high-quality pages, much of the opposite holds true for low-quality pages. 

The lowest quality pages spread hate, incite violence, lie and deceive, or spread negativity. However, it’s essential to note that it’s possible for a web page to have a low-quality rating even if it has no potential negative impact.

There are many reasons for this, one being that the main content fails to deliver sufficient value to the intended audience. For example, content lacking in-depth coverage isn’t considered satisfying.

Some other reasons include:

  • Page titles are designed for excessive impact (e.g., clickbait).
  • Inability to clearly demonstrate E-E-A-T.
  • Excessive volume or poor placement of distractions, such as ads.
  • Poor reputation or lack of information about the content creators.

What’s more, with the rise of AI technologies, some websites have shifted their focus to auto-generated content to simplify the content creation process. Unfortunately for them, Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines state that AI-generated content with no editing, manual curation, and no added value for users should be rated Lowest

The March 2024 spam update also points out that generating large amounts of unoriginal content (through AI tools, human effort, or some combination of both) with little to no value for users will fall under the “scaled content abuse” category. This is considered a spammy practice.

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What raters inspect and why

High-quality web pages have distinct characteristics that are considered desirable by Google. Web pages generally need to serve a clear purpose, be well-structured, display elements of authority and trust, and exercise caution in distinct areas.

These requirements can be condensed into five distinct areas of assessment:

  1. Purpose of page creation
  2. Content types
  3. Potential to cause harm
  4. E-E-A-T rating
  5. Website reputation

It’s most generally understood that Google prefers to send users to relevant and helpful content. It steers users clear of harmful pages, including pages that incite hate or display deceitful content.

Purpose of page creation

Everybody does things for a reason. When users perform searches, they have specific goals or objectives in mind. This could be anything from finding information and seeking answers to looking for solutions. No matter what the goal may be, aligning your content with user intent is key to providing valuable and relevant information.

Users come from diverse backgrounds with varying characteristics, including age, gender, race, religion, and political affiliations. By considering this diversity, you can create content that resonates with a wide range of users and addresses their specific needs and interests.

It’s also important to consider the user’s locale, including language and region. Different regions may have unique preferences, cultural nuances, and language variations that should be considered when creating content. Additionally, user location, such as a city or state, can provide more relevance to content that matches the specific needs of users in that area.

Depending on the intent of the user’s query, Google can reward web pages whose content is aligned with a specific goal. For instance, it could be:

  • To educate: If a user wants to learn how to address a problem, you should provide how-to content, tutorials, and so on. If this content also has a transactional intent, Google will unlikely reward it.
  • To share opinions: Forums are some of the best places online for users who want to express their points of view or engage in conversation. Also, if you host an active forum, you don’t need to “educate” your audience with expert blog posts, guides, and so on.
  • To inform: Users who are looking for information on a particular topic benefit the most from news articles, scientific publications, government websites, or articles sharing personal experiences for particular topics, etc. 
  • To support transactions: People who are ready to make a purchase look for content that answers their specific questions, addresses their concerns, and showcases its value proposition in a relatable way. Also, this type of content should give clear explanations of further steps. It should also make the purchase process convenient.

Google assesses how well a web page achieves its purpose. If you fail at this, your page will automatically receive a low rating. On the other hand, if your web page succeeds at serving a clear beneficial purpose, you will get a higher mark. 

No matter the nature of your site, always be clear and precise about what you want to achieve, ensuring your goals doubly benefit your users.

Content types

Most websites feature several different content types. This could include the header (the top part with the logo), navigation, main content, sidebar, and footer. Google categorizes them into three different types of content:

  1. Main content
  2. Supplementary content
  3. Ad content

Getting to know all three and learning how to optimize for each type is crucial, as Google places heavy emphasis on content alone. 

Let’s dive right in!

Main content

Google pays the most attention to the main content.

The main content is the core content of a web page, serving the page’s purpose and drawing the most scrutiny from Google. This is the portion of the page that the webmaster directly controls, so Google expects it to be of high quality.

Google is always looking for relevant and high-quality content that caters to the needs of site visitors. As an expert in your field, be sure to convey your expertise clearly. Achieve this by having consistently high-quality and accurate information that is always updated. Visitors will naturally enjoy their site experience and feel more at ease about making decisions regarding your product or service.

In addition to matching your primary content with a specific user intent, you also need to optimize it in accordance with the best SEO practices. 

SE Ranking’s Content Editor is an invaluable tool for creators who want to craft high-quality content. With its intuitive interface and comprehensive features, the Content Editor not only allows users to optimize their content for search engines but also ensures it meets the quality expectations of their target audience. The tool offers real-time suggestions for enhancing readability, keyword usage, and overall content structure, allowing users to craft engaging and informative content.

Supplementary content

As the name suggests, supplementary content complements the main content. It includes footers, headers, sidebars, comment sections, media handles, internal links to other related pages, and more. In other words, supplementary content doesn’t directly contribute to achieving the page’s purpose but should aim to improve the user experience.

Make sure that your supplementary content isn’t overwhelming, allowing the main content to shine through and remain crystal clear to users.

Use SE Ranking’s On-Page SEO Checker (and the tips it provides) to identify and address UX issues that could be affecting your web pages. In particular, this tool can help you find broken internal/external links that point to nonexistent or inaccessible pages. It can also analyze page experience signals like page load time, Core Web Vitals, mobile-friendliness, HTTPS, safe browsing, etc.

Ads

Anything that is sponsored or exists to make money on your web page falls under Ads or monetization. Often, this is what helps running a quality website. On the other hand, ads can adversely affect UX if you aren’t careful. 

This has become especially important after the release of the September 2023 Helpful Content Update. SEO experts have noticed that this update not only targets low-quality, auto-generated content but also websites with excessive amounts of ads. Many SEOs believe that the goal of the September 2023 Helpful Content update is to reward websites that provide a natural combination of high-quality content and good overall user experience. 

Apart from producing content that aligns with the Helpful Content system, you should assess whether the ads you use have a negative impact on UX. Make sure they are clearly segregated, can be easily closed, and don’t distract your readers from the main topic at hand.

Potential to cause harm

If a page contains information that can significantly affect someone’s future, well-being, happiness, health, finances, or safety, Google classifies it to be YMYL. For this reason, Google performs a more meticulous analysis of YMYL content.

There are four areas that fall into YMYL, according to Google Quality Guidelines. If your site or web pages fall under any of these areas, you’ll want to pay extra attention to this section: 

Health or Safety: Topics that can affect well-being or safety

Websites that could potentially harm users’ mental, physical, and emotional health or safety, whether physical or online, fall under the YMYL category.

If your website, for instance, provides information related to online safety practices, back up your claims with credible and authoritative sources, such as cybersecurity experts, law enforcement agencies, and government organizations. 

Also, be extremely mindful when providing health and medical information, including medical advice. Google also considers pages that cover other areas beyond standard medical conditions and pharmaceuticals, such as nutrition and niche health matters.  If your website falls under this category, it’s generally advised to have medical experts contribute to the content and include links to highly recognized medical boards.

Financial Security: Topics that have an impact on financial stability

These pages focus on financial information, providing financial advice on investments, taxes, retirement planning, loans, banking, insurance, and more. Since this information directly affects a person’s future and happiness, it is crucial to have precise and updated data to support your advice.

This doesn’t mean that all topics around financial security strictly fall within the YMYL category. Google assesses each individual page’s intent rather than the general topic area that it falls under. 

Here are some examples of financial security topics within YMYL:

  • 5 Best Cryptocurrencies to Invest in 2024
  • When Is The Right Time To Buy Stocks

Here are some examples of financial security topics outside YMYL:

  • My Experience With Diversifying My Investment Portfolio (sharing personal experiences without giving recommendations)
  • The Power of Compound Interest (explaining the concept without suggesting specific investments)

Society: Topics that can potentially impact groups and public trust

Google classifies all types of legal information and advice pages as YMYL. If you run an online news portal, particularly one with a mainstream focus, you’ll have to make sure that whatever is posted is consistently accurate, updated, and written with integrity. Nobody wants to read stale news, especially since the news cycle is so quick. Fewer and fewer people are reading news from the day before. Misleading news or news laced with malicious intentions is also unappealing to readers, for obvious reasons. 

Given that the information reported can directly or indirectly impact people’s lives, it’s understandable that this category falls under YMYL. Carefully tread on the accuracy of the content and the language used to convey meaning.

Other: Topics that can affect individuals or society

There will always be countless other pages that fall under YMYL and don’t fit into any of the above categories. Examples include immigration, child custody, divorce, and even construction. As rules and regulations in these areas may often change with time, it’s crucial to always update your pages and provide readers with current, data-backed insights. Just remember, as long as sites house information that can somehow negatively impact the readers’ safety, happiness, health, or wealth, they will qualify as YMYL. 

Google Quality Rater Guidelines repeatedly highlight the importance of holding YMYL sites to a higher standard than others. This approach is reasonable since Google aims to protect its users. If Google finds any pages both containing false information and having a negative impact, such pages are likely to face ranking demotions by Google.

To achieve a high rating, never mislead your users. Instead, your pages have to be filled with accurate, spot-on, and relevant content supported by references to credible sources. Involving experts in the respective field to contribute to your content is always the right move.

E-E-A-T rating (Experience/Expertise/Authoritativeness/Trustworthiness)

This concept refers to what most people consider a website’s overall value. Readers will often ask themselves the following four questions when reading content on your site: 

  • Is the content on this page based on real experience?
  • Is this content lacking expertise?
  • Does the site/author have enough authoritativeness? 
  • Is the content trustworthy? 

E-E-A-T is especially important for YMYL pages, but it also applies to other pages as well. By developing high-quality E-E-A-T content, you will bring more value to your users. This, in turn, strengthens your brand reputation and improves customer satisfaction increasing your chances to rank higher.

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Experience: You need to showcase this

In the E-E-A-T concept, Google emphasizes the significance of content based on firsthand or relevant life experience. This adds credibility and usefulness to the page content. Demonstrating a wealth of knowledge and experience, whether it comes from you or contributors, is highly important. Draw from personal experiences to provide unique insights and practical advice that go beyond generic information.

When crafting content that leverages your experience, consider the specific needs and interests of your target audience. Address their pain points, answer their questions, and provide practical solutions based on your personal knowledge and experience.

Expertise: You need to demonstrate this

To establish your site’s expertise, you must showcase to your reader your (or your contributors’) wealth of knowledge. It’s essentially the content of the page that is being judged the most. For instance, if a reader is searching for information on a certain medical condition, providing an in-depth research study on causes, impact, statistics, trial studies, etc., from a highly credible medical institution or government agency, will be helpful.

Authoritativeness: You need to have this

This involves both the authority of the website itself and/or content creator. External factors, such as referring links, their quality, brand mentions, citations, and more, can contribute to the authority. Especially if they are relevant and from trusted sources.

Thus, focus on creating content that relevant and high-quality resources will want to cite. This way, you’ll send Google a signal that you can be trusted as a go-to source for the topic.

Trustworthiness: You need to build this

This comes from the readers themselves. When they peruse your website, they’ll start asking themselves if they can trust what they read on your site or if the content makes them feel uneasy. Again, trust covers both the content and the domain. 

Slow or underperforming websites can raise red flags, especially for web development agencies or businesses claiming expertise. Users may interpret poor performance as a lack of reliability, fairness, or even competence. Consequently, their trust in your site can diminish significantly, ultimately impacting engagement and conversions. To maintain user trust and credibility, focus on prioritizing website optimization and delivering a fast, seamless browsing experience.

That said, to ensure your web pages comply with E-E-A-T, you need to:

  • If a topic requires, have content written by niche experts with a thorough and deep understanding of the topic at hand. 
  • Showcase the expertise of all contributing authors (include their bios and credentials).
  • Include real-life experiences, for example, with a disease.
  • Cite all sources of data (must be reputable and credible).
  • Ensure review pages are written by people who have actually used the products or services.
  • Be a reliable platform and source of information that is trusted by other reputable sources in the same field.

Website reputation

A website’s reputation is formed by the experience of users and the opinion of experts in the related field. Essentially, it is how others look and think about your website, company, or business. This includes the reputation of the content creator and the whole team. Simply put, it’s the whole package. 

For instance, an ecommerce store with a majority of negative reviews is unlikely to have a solid website reputation. Similarly, when authoritative sources claim that, let’s say, a particular bank institution sells or leaks client personal information, it will most likely lead to severe reputational consequences for the bank.

To evaluate a website’s reputation, search quality raters pay attention to reviews, references to your website or company, expert recommendations, news articles, and even awards. All these sources must be credible and reliable.

As far as website reputation goes, it’s assumed that Google gives high priority to user-generated content like customer reviews. A recent 2023 study showed that review signals (first & third-party reviews, review quantity, review velocity, etc.) account for 16% of local ranking factors.

Having a good reputation is one of the keys for your website to perform well in Google’s rankings. To gauge your website’s reputation, you can check your business’s score on credible and popular review sites to get a feel for the sentiment out there. Make sure you address all negative reviews and resolve them satisfactorily. 

Never gate or remove negative reviews on your company because Google can penalize you for it. Instead, work on building a positive online reputation fairly and responsibly.

To manage your online reputation effectively, consider using SE Ranking’s Local Marketing tool, which allows you to easily manage your online presence, monitor reviews, and even track performance. Plus, check out this guide on how to use the Local Marketing tool to optimize for local search.

Conclusion

Google wants what users want. Google also wants to meet their needs, which also happens to be why Search Quality Rater Guidelines came about. This document was made to help human raters assess content in order to finetune Google’s algorithm.

By referring to these guidelines, you can get clear insights into Google’s standards for high-quality content. Use them as a framework to improve your existing content pieces and craft new content that resonates with both humans and search engines. This will help you gain more search visibility and establish your website as a reputable source of information.

منبع: https://seranking.com/blog/page-quality-rating-guideline/