A few weeks ago, Google has published their official Search Result Quality Rating Guidelines instructing their human raters on how to evaluate Google SERPs.
The guidelines provide lots of insight into how Google defines quality and what they mean their algorithm to understand.
I asked fellow marketers and bloggers to provide their main take-away from the guidelines and here are the answers:
Quality is Equivalent to the Average User's Judgment of Quality
My main takeaway is that Google is looking for pages that help searchers, exactly as it has always said. Quality is basically equivalent to the average user's judgment of quality.
Yes, that is still vague, but we all know a low quality site when we see one. Similarly we all know a high quality one. We might differ in the details, but if we are talking about general perception I think most people will agree.
Keep Your Content Fresh
Google's Quality Rating Guidelines are a reminder for small business, especially e-commerce, to keep their content fresh. The Guidelines give special attention to freshness as a measure of its "High Needs Met" (HNM) ratings.
Page 141 of the report tells us,
"For these queries, pages about past events, old product models and prices, outdated information, etc. are not helpful. They should be considered “stale” and given low Needs Met ratings. In some cases, stale results are useless and should be rated FailsM."
If you are providing product information, make sure it it is well maintained with current data. This should include a review of the on-page SEO factors such as buzz keywords and relevant trends. You can also add value and improve your score in this area by adding fresh content surrounding product updates and new releases by a well maintained blog on your site.
For E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness) websites, (which might include technology blogs or tutorial sites, for example), the freshness scale is less important since a fair amount of content in this field does not change (Think software tutorials or a first aid procedure). But business should still take advantage of the freshness factor and aim for a High Needs Met Rating by updating, improving and adding value to existing, static content from time to time.
YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) Sites Are Held to Higher Standards
According to the guidelines, Evaluators hold YMYL sites to higher standards.
YMYL is short for Your Money or Your Life sites and include medical, financial, health, safety, sites that require personal identification, provide advice on major life issues, even ecommerce sites that sell expensive products or products that have major life implications:
- Online banking pages
- Pages that provide info on investments, taxes, retirement planning, home purchase, buying insurance, etc.
- Pages that provide info on health, drugs, diseases, mental health, nutrition, etc.
- Pages that provide legal advice on divorce, child custody, creating a will, becoming a citizen, etc.
- There are many other web pages that fall under YMYL at the discretion of the Evaluator.
When an Evaluator identifies a YMYL site, they will research its reputation:
- Does the site have a satisfying amount of high quality main content?
- Does the site have a high level of authoritativeness, expertise or trustworthiness?
- Does the site have a positive reputation?
- Does the site have helpful supplementary content?
- Does the site have a functional page design?
- Is the site a well-cared for and maintained website?
YMYL sites must convince Google Evaluators that they possess a healthy level of credibility and online reputation.
Google Strives to Identify "Main Content" on a Web Page
I thought one of the big takeaways for me was Google's emphasis on "main content." Google was clear in instructing raters that they should be on the lookout for, and actively encouraged to, downgrade pages that have a hard time distinguishing main content from ads or other distractions on the page.
To me this is all about user experience and Google's continual desire to make sure their index provides preference to site pages that have a clear separation between advertising and content. Quality raters are encouraged to provide a less than helpful rating on pages where the lines between this separation is blurred. And that, to me, provides a great benefit to users.
Google Does Rely on Humans for Algorithm Evaluation
David Waterman (SEO Rock Star)
Having worked in the SEO industry for over 10 years, the release of the latest Google Quality Rating Guidelines is yet another reminder that Google doesn't rely 100% on bots and algorithms to determine quality online content.
It layers on a human component to ensure the results Google provides are quality and match the true intent of the search query.
Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly
The biggest takeaway for me was to make your site mobile friendly if it isn’t already. A large proportion of the guidelines was focused around mobile and it is clear Google now views this as a sign of a quality website.
If this is the case, it means that anyone producing amazing content on a site which is not mobile friendly is going to be viewed as low quality. This should be avoided at all costs.
Google Wants to "Think" Like Human Beings Do
"Quality" and "relevancy".
It just couldn't be simpler than that.
That's what users are searching for when they use a search engine like Google. That's what Google wants to offer its users.
Google aims at thinking more and more like a human being so that it may "understand", "feel" and "see" what a user understands, feels and sees when he / she visits a website suggested by a Google search.
And what are people looking for? Quality relevant sites or web pages.
Put Your Users First
Put your users first and foremost.
- Write high-quality, in-depth, well-researched articles.
- Write for users. Optimize for search engines.
- Provide helpful navigation-think breadcrumbs.
- Invest in clutter-free, User-friendly, mobile-friendly design.
- Display your address and contact information clearly.
- Create and maintain a positive reputation. Content won't save you if you send hitmen after your customers (true story!).
Expert Content will be Rewarded Irrelevant of the Domain Authority
From what I can gather, one of the main takeaways is that we're coming increasingly closer to a point where quality, expert content will be rewarded irrelevant of the domain authority of a website.
It seems the algo is coming increasingly intelligent and capable of determining the best content, so those that put the effort in sharing details and info will be rewarded. Personally, we're probably still a while away from this as an absolute, but from the look of the guidelines things are going that way.
The Fundamental Principles Are The Same: Provide Quality, Put the User First…
There's really nothing new here, it's very similar to the guidelines leaked (supposedly unofficially!) in 2008, and a few times since. The overall message is the same as it always was – you need to build sites with original, quality content that provides real value to the searcher.
They have defined a quantitative process for assessing this, including Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness, and how well it meets the searcher's needs. The process is interesting, but not revolutionary, it's simply a formal definition of what we all understood anyway
Many people will flock to this document, in the hope it will give some insights into how to 'game' the system, which of course it won't! Although the general principles of the guidelines will be familiar to anybody involved in SEO, it's still well worth a read, just to make sure there aren't any key areas you have missed in your own site. It will show you how to view your site through the eyes of a Google rater, and more importantly, through the eyes of a user.
The Emphasis is on the Quality
It's clear that Google prefers information posted by a human rather than machine generated information to evaluate quality. They also place more emphasis on relevant indicators such as time spent on the website etc. and customer reviews. Again, the emphasis here is on content of the reviews and not the number of reviews.
And what’s your main take-away?
Video is one of the most forgotten aspects of SEO today. We’ve know about the positive effects of incorporating video in your SEO strategy for a long time, but it is still something that a lot of people overlook when trying to rank their sites.
The fact is that video allows you to tap into the second largest search engine (YouTube), helps increase conversion rates, makes your brand stand out in Google search, and make your visitors engage more with your content, both on your site and on social media channels.
The guys over at Shakr, a video ad template startup, created this handy infographic about the 5 most important YouTube SEO tips that will help you rank your YouTube videos in Google SERPs. Have a look:
Featured SEO tool: Video Schema Generator
More on Youtube marketing:
What’s your prediction: What will eventually happen to Google Plus and WHEN will it happen (months? a year? 10 years?)
Jon Wade (Blogger)
What do you think is the future of Google PlusI assume that Google plan to demerge some of their core areas to improve usability and engagement. Few people liked the integration of Youtube and G+ and while many photographers used G+, Picasaweb provided a better platform in many ways.Google will keep Google+, but maybe it will be more geared to networking, hangouts, chat and news sharing. I cannot see it ever going away because Google use it for so many core services now.
How often do you use Google Plus? I use it daily. I will miss it if it goes away because Google is the most professional social platform in the tech / Internet. Discussions are far more civilized and mature than elsewhere. But, I don’t think it will go away in a hurry!
Steve “berto” Bertolacci (The Beard of SEO)
What do you think is the future of Google Plus?My prediction is that G+ will go through another re-branding, but will by and large remain the same. Streams are the new Circles — #amazeballs. One of the needs that G+ fit was the ability to segment a social site based off your own personal interests as you define.So rather than have every connection all jumbled together, you can watch and interact with each Stream individually or as a whole. This need has not really been done better in any other social site, so there’s still a need to keep supporting it.So in terms of re-branding, I’m betting it will happen this summer if not sooner.The real question is what will happen to Twitter.
How often do you use Google Plus? Yes, I use G+ for both personal and work related things. And yes, I would miss it if it weren’t there. G+ fits a niche that doesn’t exist on most other social sites.
What do you think is the future of Google Plus?I’d say about a year we’ll see a further fragmentation and then a disintegration in the most part. Google may split its stronger/ useful parts into new services or use them in different ways. I did a MBU interview on Google Authorship and its future – general consensus was it’s probably dead too. It was a big part of G+ for a lot of us in this industry I’d imagine. All change so!
How often do you use Google Plus? I’m a semi-active Google+ user. It’s was a fine platform in a lot of ways but just lacked the x-factor – an identity. It was a sum of a number of other social media site’s parts. When I think of social media sites this is what I associate:
I think it speaks volumes why it never took off. Then again the last social network I truly loved was Bebo.So, in a few words, no I don’t really care!
- Facebook – the big one I use everyday
- Twitter – the short, trending one for news and up to the second opinions
- Instagram – the retro, cool picture one
- Pinterest – the one with lots of wedding dresses and soft furnishings
- Google+ – the one that’s a bit of all of these that Google (or the SEO communities paranoia) made SEOs obliged to use
Erik Emanuelli (No Passive Income)
What do you think is the future of Google Plus?When Google Authorship was killed, I found it an injustice to users. After all, it is known that Big G has reached an extreme power and their commercial purpose is known to many.Regarding the Google + social platform, I don’t think is going to close, but surely there will be some major improvements.Whether will be the future of Google+, a lesson learned is not putting all your digital marketing eggs in one basket.Relying “just” on Google (its services or traffic) is a bad move, we should become “independent” and include “all things about Google” only as a part of our whole business strategy.
How often do you use Google Plus? I’m not a Google+ addicted, as I post updates in my profile just once every week.Surely I will not miss it if it’s going to be removed.My favorite social media channel for marketing still remains Twitter.
Jason Quey (Gamification Marketer)
What do you think is the future of Google Plus?Personally, I don’t see Google+ really going away. Although Google has been detaching itself from the project, there is a large enough user base that someone will finally find the right use for it.I’ve noticed a lot of teens have started to gravitate toward using G+ over Facebook, perhaps because they enjoy the exclusivity away from their parents prying eyes, but without the debauchery of SnapChat.
How often do you use Google Plus? I currently use G+ about once a week, but I see a lot of potential value in it. The two biggest upsides to it is segmenting your users and creating/joining a community that can also let the users know about what’s happening in their inbox.There’s also some value in having your search results pop up with your name and picture to those you’ve connected with too.
Todd Mumford (Founder & CEO of Riverbed Marketing)
What do you think is the future of Google Plus?Google + never received the kind of traction, nor attracted the audience it was intended to capture. This was mostly because it wasn’t innovative or disruptive enough and other social media networks like Facebook have a deep and meaningful market share. My feeling is that Google + will be a distant memory, probably by 2016.Social communities are building at the experience level now, independent of specific networks. Facebook is likely the last to market for large scale social startups. The new trend is social experiences, on the toes of the “Internet of Things”. Social networks will ultimately be a thing of the past as “social networks” are absorbed into “social experiences” and baked into the product, service and living level.
How often do you use Google Plus? I see Google+ more as a necessary place that you should have a presence on, so long as it’s live. It’s Google’s owned social entity and this fact should not be ignored. Despite the lack of participants it could still be a disadvantage to not be there. I’ll make sure we have a presence there so long as it’s available, but I would not miss it if it was canned tomorrow.
David Leonhardt (President, THGM Writers)
What do you think is the future of Google Plus?I am not totally sure what the implications of splitting the social network from the photo galleries could be. Perhaps Google wants to do something more with the photo galleries. Google Plus is much bigger than predecessors like Google Buzz, so I am wagering that they won’t close it down. With Communities, Circles and Hangouts, it is also a richer experience that FaceBook and LinkedIn don’t match. My money (and time and effort) is on Google Plus remaining for the long haul.
How often do you use Google Plus? I love Google Plus and I use it more than any other social network. I have over 40,000 followers, and I have put a lot of effort into building those connections. I would miss it terribly if it was closed down.
Brian Lang (Small Business Ideas Blog)
What do you think is the future of Google Plus?I don’t think Google will completely kill of Google Plus. This isn’t the first time Google’s tried to create a social network, so it clearly sees value in that. And they already have a sizable group of active Google Plus users.Instead, I think Google will morph it into something else that aligns with its own goals. I would guess that they would make changes so that they can incorporate ads easier. But more importantly, they will also make changes to try to attract new users.It’s hard to say when these changes will occur, but considering the recent announcement from Bradley Horowitz, I think something will happen sooner rather than later.
How often do you use Google Plus? I’d say I’m a semi-active G+ user. I would miss it if it went away as it does provide another platform to connect with others.
Don Sturgill (Writer, Dreamer, Believer)
What do you think is the future of Google Plus?The future of G+? It will continue to mean less and less. Devotees will move elsewhere. And — if Google keeps showing its monster face — the whole deck of cards will tumble behind it.This year… Google+ becomes the home of Google fanboys and girls. Everyone else moves to Ann Smarty’s new social media platform: Don’t be evil (really) 🙂Here’s the rock and hard place: Entreprenuers start off with visions of saving the world. Successful startups end up being either sold off to the highest bidder or taken over by corporate cogs.All you have left is the once-trusted brand name. But the core becomes rotten. Such is life…
How often do you use Google Plus?I had big hopes for Google+… I bought into the hype about it being the hub of Google, the importance of authorship, how any writer not on G+ was headed towards obscurity.We now know it was all hogwash.It’s just like the “Don’t be evil” motto. At one time, it was believable. Before long, it became obvious Google is committed to no one but Google.Another dream burst.
Peter Lunn (Digital Marketer, Cracking Media UK)
What do you think is the future of Google Plus?Despite the continual flow of incorrect and misplaced assumptions by the press on the demise of Google+, I do think Google need to work harder at marketing Google+ and working with the many committed and active users to make it work better for a broader audience.An example is that they re-branded Google Places nearly a year ago to bring Google+ more front and center into Google My Business. But nearly a year on, adoption by business is slow, because most businesses don’t know about it! There’s an initiative for Google My Business in the USA called GYBO, but nowhere else. So in the vacuum of information, the press fills the void with Google+ is dying/dead articles – and people believe them because they don’t know any better.I don’t think we will see decoupling of the products in the way it’s been suggested, but Google will need to do a better job of bringing businesses and people into the “Google+ experience” through marketing the different Google+ products better. When will this be? Of course I don’t know, but I think unless they do so in the next 12-18 months then it may be that Google+ as we know could well be unrecoverable.
How often do you use Google Plus? Yes, I am and have been so for the last 18 months. For me Google+ is the closest social networking experience to offline face-to-face networking. There is a depth and breadth to relationships and engagement that I have not seen before on any other social networking platform
Greg Coopers (Helping small and medium sized businesses use LinkedIn to grow)
What do you think is the future of Google Plus?It would make no sense for Google to “desocialise” it’s properties so although Google+ will like other platforms evolve I think it is here to stay in one form or another. In my experience in the UK there is an upsurge of interest in Google+ from the business community who appreciate both the search and local marketing benefits.
How often do you use Google Plus? I am an active G+ user. I have used G+ to build a strong international network and build my personal brand. I don’t believe that G+ will go away it is part of the fabric of what Google do linking together all the key properties. It may however be re-branded and the Google+ name could disappear.
What do you think is the future of Google Plus?I am a follower of Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s a social media all-around guy, and when he talks about social media, I listen. Carefully.He said that by 2020, there are two major social media sites that will be shutdown: Google+ and Tumblr (I’ve written about this on one of my posts)GV says that the main reason for the extinction is that both are owned by big corporations, and big corp politics don’t suit social media platforms. So, in my opinion, Google Plus will disappear – just like any other social media platforms before it: Mixx, BusinessWeek’s BX, Chime.in, and so on.To note why I trust GV: He said it on late 2014, and it’s happening right now. So… I think I will have to agree with GV: Google+ will be gone in 5 years time.
How often do you use Google Plus? I’m basically using G+ for broadcasting my blogs’ recent updates. So I don’t think I will miss it. I was one of the first movers and gained some following – easily, so…There are some benefits of getting into G+, but it’s not as significant as before. IMHO, I think Google made a mistake by adding G+ as a perk for SERPs. There are marketers who joined G+ for the wrong reason (read: for SEO) The perk has been pulled out, and what’s left now is plenty dead, fake accounts. Not good.
Denisa-Alexandra Cinca (MyBloggingThing)
What do you think is the future of Google Plus?I don’t think that Google Plus will ever go away, it’s just my opinion as I don’t see it happening in the near future. I think Google+ will continue to evolve in the future but I’m not sure how things will be in the next years, will just have to wait and see.
How often do you use Google Plus? Yes I am an active Google+ user, usually I share my blog posts on my Google+ profile and in a few communities. If it goes away, yes I think I will definitively miss it.
Jan Kearney (Local Search Consultant)
What do you think is the future of Google Plus?I’m in the Google+ is Google camp. I really don’t think G+ will go away.People have said G+ is dying since 2011, I think it’s because they view it purely as a social platform something like Facebook. That thinking quickly leads to disappointment because people tend not to live their lives out on G+. Public feeds aren’t as cluttered with passive aggressive updates, checkins and pointless statuses saying how people feel today. There’s still cats though…For the average person on the street (like many people I work with) the silence is deafening. They’ll post a few updates and wander off back to Facebook without exploring the idea of posting to specific circles or joining communities – the more social part of G+Yet G+ is still working away in the background via the services they use everyday – Gmail, YouTube, Maps, Chrome and more. Silently collecting data, Google really doesn’t care if you are social or not!No, I don’t think G+ will go away. No doubt it will continue to evolve and change. I would expect a re-brand and relaunch of the social aspect of G+ at some point over the next year or so.
How often do you use Google Plus? On a personal level, I’m not the most active G+ user. Of all the “social” sites it is my favorite and I pop in most days to scan communities and comment.On a business level, Google Places is now Google My Business and an integral part of G+. My days are spent grappling the Google and I’m often logged in clients GMB accounts rather than my own!Will I miss it if G+ goes away? Of course I will, but I don’t think G+ is going anywhere any time soon.
How often do you use Google Plus? Google+ is the only platform I enjoy and use with any regularity.. so yeah, I’ll be a little pissy if they shutter it.
What do you think is the future of Google Plus?You can also find out much more about Google Plus and how to set up your own map using our guide for Google Maps Marketing.The data that Google gains from having their own social layer is something they’ve wanted for many years in order to keep up with Facebook and the other networks.Google+, although smaller than the other networks, provides that value and it is a well designed platform that people truly enjoy using. G+ may not be the Facebook killer many were predicting, but unless there’s a cost to running it that I don’t see, G+ is here to stay.