Google rating guidelines mean changes for business websites

Getting a look into the mind’s eye of how Google rank business websites is a rare, but incredibly useful experience. One of the key documents in understanding web rankings is the Search Quality Rater’s Guidelines and following a leaked copy appearing online, Google have released the entire document for all to see.

Who are Search Quality Raters?

Search Quality Raters work for Google and assess the quality of search results, and the websites that people click on. They do not decide the ranking for a website, rather give feedback to Google that search algorithms are working right; based on Google’s set criteria.

What is the Search Quality Rater’s Guidelines document?

The Search Quality Rater’s Guidelines document is important as it gives strong clues into how Google’s search algorithms work. Search Quality Raters are given copies of the guidelines to assess rankings and website content. Google use the document to make sure search results match Google’s criteria for relevant sites on a particular search.

What can SMEs learn from the Search Quality Rater’s Guidelines?

There is a great overview of the lessons to learn from new guidelines available at Moz (written by Jennifer Slegg). We recommend reading her full list as she goes in to much more depth than is available here.

In short, SMEs need to be aware of the following Google criteria to achieve high website rankings:

  • Your Money or Your Life (YMYL)pages — A YMYL website is one that has a major impact on a person’s life. Examples include medical information, legal information, and, importantly for businesses, shopping or financial transaction sites. If you’re selling online your website needs to include items like testimonials, expert opinions, and supplementary content for your products or services.
  • Expertise / Authoritativeness / Trustworthiness (E-A-T) — Is your business an expert in its sector? Is the business trustworthy? Businesses that match E-A-T criteria rank higher so make sure your website emphasises your skills, qualifications, and experience.
  • Needs Met — Does the landing page from a search result match the search need. For example, if a person searches for product information, is the landing page giving them the details they need, or has the website gamed their SEO to make a non-relevant page appear in the results?

What changes should SMEs make to a website to improve search rankings?

When updating a business website it’s essential to keep in mind YMYL, E-A-T, and Needs Met. Items to consider include

  • Product reviews / testimonials — What have others said about you and your services?
  • Authoritative articles — Provide content that helps others or explains key terms.
  • Up-to-date contact information — Make sure people can easily see how to contact you.
  • Show industry leadership – Have you been recognised by your peers?
  • Emphasise expertise — Include company certifications and key individual achievements.
  • No keyword stuffing or spammmy content — Make every page focused and relevant.
  • Original content — Don’t cut-and-paste from other sites.
  • Fresh content — Update your website regularly, older pages may be considered ‘abandoned’.

In wider terms, you may need to look at your site design to make it display nicely on mobile browsers, and reduce redirects (where the page shown in search results is automatically changed to somewhere different on your site)

As is often the case, the best way of approaching SEO is to follow Google’s best practice guidelines. They are the largest search engine, and their algorithms make a massive difference to a business website’s traffic. So stay on top of Google recommendations and make sure you stick to them.

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