How Google Assesses Website Quality

If you have been following Google's news and reports as well as updates it has made to its search engine algorithm, you will agree that Google is definitely very serious about website Quality. Of course, Google wants its search engine to represent the best source for finding answers to problems and the only it can maintain its lead in the search engine world is to offer the best quality. Google itself has also provided a guide to what it consider as quality signals. Below is an extract from Google and contain the basic expectations for quality;

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Basic principles

  • Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
  • Don’t deceive your users.
  • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
  • Think about what makes your website unique, valuable or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.

Specific guidelines

Avoid the following techniques:

  • Automatically generated content
  • Participating in link schemes
  • Creating pages with little or no original content
  • Cloaking
  • Sneaky redirects
  • Hidden text or links
  • Doorway pages
  • Scraped content
  • Participating in affiliate programs without adding sufficient value
  • Loading pages with irrelevant keywords
  • Creating pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans or other badware
  • Abusing rich snippets markup
  • Sending automated queries to Google

Follow good practices like these:

  • Monitoring your site for hacking and removing hacked content as soon as it appears
  • Preventing and removing user-generated spam on your site 

From the foregoing, quality is a function of valuable content. When Google speaks of thin content for instance, it is actually talking about content that offer little value. So, it will be good for us to examine Google's recommendations on how to create valuable content, or put in other words, how to create quality content.

Google's Suggestions on how to create valuable content

A section from the Google Webmaster Academy Course tells you how to “create valuable content. Some useful tips can be derived therefrom. Google suggests you avoid: broken links, wrong information, grammar or spelling mistakes, excessive ads and a lot of others. Although the focus is on what to avoid, when put together with the basic guidelines for quality content listed above and many others we shall discuss later, you can impress your readers and Google on quality.

Again, Google provide some clue on how to be really valuable. Google specifically speaks of "high quality" which suggests that your quality can go beyond the usual. Google further provide some tips on how to make your site useful, credible and engaging. That to Google is "high Quality" and this is what Google says about been “more valuable or high-quality.”

As you begin creating content, make sure your website is:

Useful and informative: If you’re launching a site for a restaurant, you can include the location, hours of operation, contact information, menu and a blog to share upcoming events.

More valuable and useful than other sites: If you write about how to train a dog, make sure your article provides more value or a different perspective than the numerous articles on the web on dog training.

Credible: Show your site’s credibility by using original research, citations, links, reviews and testimonials. An author biography or testimonials from real customers can help boost your site’s trustworthiness and reputation.

High-quality: Your site’s content should be unique, specific and high-quality. It should not be mass-produced or outsourced on a large number of other sites. Keep in mind that your content should be created primarily to give visitors a good user experience, not to rank well in search engines.

Engaging: Bring color and life to your site by adding images of your products, your team or yourself. Make sure visitors are not distracted by spelling, stylistic and factual errors. An excessive number of ads can also be distracting for visitors. Engage visitors by interacting with them through regular updates, comment boxes or social media widgets.

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Google’s Quality Update

The Google Panda Algorithm assessed website quality. The algorithm targeted many signals of low-quality sites but again didn’t provide much in the way of useful information for positive signals.

So then, Google came up with the search quality rating guidelines.

Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines

There were a lot of signals for both high- and low-quality content and for websites in the Google Search Quality Ratings Guidelines. We will only try to highlight some important points here:

What makes a High-quality page? A High-quality page may have the following characteristics:

  • High level of Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
  • A satisfying amount of high quality MC (Main Content)
  • Satisfying website information and/or information about who is responsible for the website, or satisfying customer service information if the page is primarily for shopping or includes financial transactions
  • Positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the MC on the page

Google goes on to explain the concept of E-A-T. This provided very useful information on Google's position on content quality for a website generally.

6.1 Low Quality Main Content

One of the most important criteria in PQ (Page Quality) rating is the quality of the MC, which is determined by how much time, effort, expertise and talent/skill have gone into the creation of the page and also informs the E-A-T of the page.

Consider this example: Most students have to write papers for high school or college. Many students take shortcuts to save time and effort by doing one or more of the following:

  • Buying papers online or getting someone else to write for them
  • Making things up
  • Writing quickly, with no drafts or editing
  • Filling the report with large pictures or other distracting content
  • Copying the entire report from an encyclopedia or paraphrasing content by changing words or sentence structure here and there
  • Using commonly known facts, for example, “Argentina is a country. People live in Argentina. Argentina has borders.”
  • Using a lot of words to communicate only basic ideas or facts, for example, “Pandas eat bamboo. Pandas eat a lot of bamboo. Bamboo is the best food for a Panda bear.”

In section 7.0, “Lowest Quality Pages,” Google notes that the following types of pages/websites should receive the Lowest quality rating:

  • Harmful or malicious pages or websites
  • True lack of purpose pages or websites
  • Deceptive pages or websites
  • Pages or websites which are created to make money with little to no attempt to help users
  • Pages with extremely low or lowest-quality MC
  • Pages on YMYL websites that are so lacking in website information that it feels untrustworthy
  • Hacked, defaced or spammed pages
  • Pages or websites created with no expertise or pages which are highly untrustworthy, unreliable, unauthoritative, inaccurate or misleading
  • Websites which have extremely negative or malicious reputations
  • Violations of the Google Webmaster Quality Guidelines

Speaking more specifically about page content in section 7.4, “Lowest Quality Main Content,” the guidelines note that the following types of Main Content (MC) should be considered as Lowest quality:

  • No helpful MC at all or so little MC that the page effectively has no MC
  • MC which consists almost entirely of “keyword stuffing”
  • Gibberish or meaningless MC
  • “Auto-generated” MC, created with little to no time, effort, expertise, manual curation or added value for users
  • MC which consists almost entirely of content copied from another source with little time, effort, expertise, manual curation or added value for users.

And in section 7.2, “Lack of Purpose Pages,” Google notes:

Sometimes it is impossible to figure out the purpose of the page. Such pages serve no real purpose for users. For example, some pages are deliberately created with gibberish or meaningless (nonsense) text. No matter how they are created, true lack of purpose pages should be rated Lowest quality.

Quite clearly, these guidelines clearly state that your page has to be focused. So Google is saying that you cannot be ac of all trade.

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Focus on Customers

Google consistently emphasize the importance of user satisfaction on various pages. Google wants you to understand your customer needs, the question they are asking and for you to be able to provide the information that answers to them.

12.7 Understanding User Intent

It can be helpful to think of queries as having one or more of the following intents.

  • Know query, some of which are Know Simple queries
  • Do query, some of which are Device Action queries
  • Website query, when the user is looking for a specific website or webpage
  • Visit-in-person query, some of which are looking for a specific business or organization, some of which are looking for a category of businesses

Google elaborates on the idea of matching user intent with the purpose of the page. In section 2.2, “What is the Purpose of a Webpage?” lists the following common page purposes:

  • To share information about a topic
  • To share personal or social information
  • To share pictures, videos or other forms of media
  • To express an opinion or point of view
  • To entertain
  • To sell products or services
  • To allow users to post questions for other users to answer
  • To allow users to share files or to download software

That seals it. Google wants you to match the user intent with the purpose of a page and type of content delivered through your website and when that is done in a good way, Google will rate your website as being of high quality.

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What are the Guidelines Set by Google on building high-quality websites

Before Google emphatically rolled out its quality ratings, there was Some clue on Google Webmaster central blog that told us the questions Google engineers asked themselves when building the algorithm.

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic or factual errors?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research or original analysis?
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • For a health-related query, would you trust information from this site?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond the obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend or recommend?
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

Attempting to make your website provide answers along the expectations of your users and in particular trying to match your content with the expectations of Google engineers as above can make your website rating to be very high in respect of quality.

Useful Take Home From Google

In creating your website content, take quality seriously by adhering to these standards:

    Content should be useful and informative

    Try to provide more valuable and useful content than other sites competing for position with your website.

    Build credibility around your content. This you can achieve by using original research, citations, links, reviews and testimonials.

    High-quality content is essential: This will mean unique, specific and high-quality along with the guidelines stated earlier.

    Build an engaging content and website. This has to do with your website color, adding images, photos of team members or yourself.

Remember that your over website quality is dependent on an assessment of your website content generally. Every page indexed by Google has a content quality score assigned to it and so you need not take anything lightly.

It is worthy to note that a page's quality score is not an absolute score, it is a score relative to other pages on the internet that have a similar purpose.

How Google Deconstructs Web Pages

In building your content, an understanding of how Google interpret web pages could help build better, more useful and valuable content that meet Google's high quality standards.

Google classifies all content on a webpage into one of three categories: Main Content (MC), Supplementary Content (SC) or Advertisement/Monetization (ads).

Main Content (MC)

Main content is any part of a page that directly helps the page achieves its purpose. MC can be text, images, videos, or page features such as calculators and games, etc. This content can also be user generated such as reviews or forum posts.

Supplemental Content (SC)

Supplemental content is content that contributes to the overall user experience but does not directly help the page achieve its purpose. Examples will be ads, header and footer navigation, social media buttons, related articles, comment sections, ratings and lots of other less relevant content.

Advertisement/monetisation

Advertisement or monetisation content is content and/or links that are displayed for the purpose of making money from the page. Monetisation does have no effect on a webpages quality score and can further hurt the age if it detracts from the main purpose of the page.

Conclusion

Content quality is something not actively promoted by Google but revelations from Google's posts which can be aggregated along with its clear statements on quality shows that content quality is fundamental in website ranking.

The principal thing is how well users respond to website content Id is engaging, impressive and can be seen as providing the required information. Google uses a lot of signals including the time spent on site as well as bounce rate to assess how well a content meet the expectation of users.

The fact is that Google's ranking algorithm has been kept secret to protect it from manipulation. However, the signals used in the content quality score have been able to make it clearer what Google expects from website owners and you will have no better option than to stick to these guidelines if ranking on the Google search engine matters.

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