Quality website content? Beyond the obvious idea of higher quality content being “better”, you need to understand WHY Google is so focused on the concept of content quality and how this is core to their business model.

Google Hires Human Search Quality Raters

Most people don’t know this. There are over 10,000 of these people worldwide. They rate the quality of web pages and websites that deal with topics they know about. Search quality raters have some expertise in their area, be it law, medicine, car repair, marksmanship, dog training, political comedy, urban planning, nuclear fusion, celebrity gossip, or whatever.

Why Does Google Hire These People?

The engineers at Google who work on improving the Google search algorithm need some baseline of websites whose “quality” is to help them as they work to improve the quality of Google’s search results.

These human search quality raters are creating this baseline of websites. This is an important point. They do not directly affect the ranking of any website, but they indirectly affect the ranking of EVERY website.

How Do They Rank Websites?

These human search quality raters rank websites per very detailed instructions provided to them by Google. Google owns the World Wide Web, the rest of us just live here. It’s not true, but when it comes to having your website found, Google MAKES the rules, and the rest of us need to follow them. For that to work for YOU, you need to understand their rules. That is why the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines are important. They’re the closest thing to “the rules” of search that we got from Google.

Does Google Define What “High-Quality” Content is?

Yes, and in a fair amount of detail. For all practical purposes, they define what quality website content is in a 160-page document and it IS their instructions on how to publish High-Quality content. This post is a summary of that document. At least the rest of this post is. It may save you the need to read the entire 160 pages.

So make some tea, find a relaxing space, and learn why some of the beliefs you’ve been working from are false and how some of the things you’ve been ignoring negatively affect the SEO of your site. Of course, summarizing a 160-page document in a blog post seems like a ridiculous effort, so please bear in mind this will be a 50,000-foot overview of concepts and ideas. Concepts and ideas are critically important to SEO, but “just” concepts and ideas nonetheless.

We also feel the need to warn you that from here on out this article gets pretty boring, but it’s a lot less boring than reading the entire 160-page document.

Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines: Summary

Some of the stuff below will seem obvious. Others not so much.

Needed Definitions

To understand the rest of this article, there are several definitions you need to understand. The terms below are defined directly from the Google Search Evaluator Guidelines.

  • Webpage: A single page on a website that you can open in a browser and is addressed via a URL.
  • Website: A grouping of webpages occupying the same Internet domain.
  • E-A-T: This stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trust. E-A-T is an important factor used by Quality Raters when rating webpages.
  • Main Content: The Main Content is the content that provides the purpose of the website. It allows the visitor to learn something, do something, find something, buy something, etc.
  • Supplementary Content: Supplementary Content is website content that is not Main Content. The sidebar, the Related Posts section, the website header, and the footer, are all examples of Supplementary Content.
  • Advertising/Monetization: This needs no further definition.

Websites and Webpages Have an Identifiable Purpose

How well a website meets its purpose is central to its SEO ranking. A not fully inclusive set of purposes Google identifies for their quality raters are:

  • 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.

What is the purpose of your website? Is it obvious to visitors?

Webpages Have Identifiable Sections

There are parts of a webpage that are related to it meeting its purpose and parts that are not. They are:

  • Main content: That which helps the website achieve its purpose.
  • Supplemental content: That which does NOT help the website achieve its purpose.
  • Advertisements: No need for an explanation.

This distinction matters because the Quality of the page’s content focuses on Main Content.

The Reputation of the Website Owner Affects SEO

Ever heard this before? Google clearly states this in its rule book. More specifically the reputation of the organization that is responsible for the website matters.

For this reason, it’s important for the SEO of your site for you to identify who you are. An about page is necessary but is not enough. No matter what page a user is viewing, it should be obvious who is responsible for the site overall, and who is responsible for the content on the page. Very few people we’ve met think this matters, but per Google, it does.

E-A-T is Important

E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Sites that display higher levels of E-A-T are ranked higher. As a general rule, the more effort you put into creating a web page that answers a question truthfully and completely, the higher the quality rating of that page.

High-Quality Pages

This is what you want to know about quality website content. High-quality pages have the following characteristics: 

  • A satisfying amount of main content.
  • Clear and satisfying website information about who is responsible and how you contact customer service.
  • The owners of the website have a good reputation.
  • The webpage has a high level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
  • The web page cites reputable sources to substantiate the claims being made.

The ONLY thing that separates a High-Quality page from the Highest Quality pages is this.

Does the page serve its intention well (is the main content really good)? Is it obvious who is responsible for the website? Are they trustworthy and reliable? Is it clear how you contact them?

The very high-quality main content is not simply thrown together. It took a high degree of time and energy. It’s really good! The highest quality pages are on websites owned by people or organizations that have won awards or have received recommendations from known experts or professional societies.

For less formal subjects (such as humor or recipes) a rating of Very High-Quality is provided to web pages that are: very popular, have a high degree of engagement, and have a lot of positive user reviews.

Low-Quality Pages

Conversely, low-quality pages DO NOT satisfy their purpose well. For a web page to be rated as Low-Quality, it is sufficient for the Main Content to appear to have been quickly thrown together without much thought or research. The general criteria for a web page to be Low-Quality are:

  • The main content is unsatisfying.
  • The main content is too little.
  • Titles, Supplementary Content, or Ads are misleading.
  • The reputation of the website owner is negative.
  • The author of the webpage has demonstrated a low level of E-A-T.
  • There is insufficient information about the owners of the website.

Lowest Quality Pages

You almost have to try for this rating, but it seems some people do. The rating of Lowest Quality web pages are:

  • Malicious or harmful
  • Lack of a clear purpose
  • Deceptive
  • No Main content or really bad main content
  • The main content was copied from elsewhere
  • No information about the website owner
  • Website is owned by an organization with a negative or malicious reputation
  • The website promotes violence or hate

Mobile Ready: Google is Serious About This

The quality raters are to perform part of their quality rating on their phones. Yet another reason why your site MUST render well on a mobile device. The rating guide devotes 19 pages (out of a total of 160) to “Understanding Mobile User Needs”.

quality website content
Image Source: Souvik Banerjee

Needs Met

Google instructs its quality raters to assign a “Needs Met” rating. It’s a five-level rating and what’s most important here is the Needs Met rating can only be assessed by understanding the intent behind the search query, then assessing how well the web page satisfies that intent. The ratings are:

  • Fully Meets
  • Highly Meets
  • Moderately Meets
  • Slightly Meets
  • Fails to Meet

When your blog posts answer questions well, you can expect those web pages to have a high Needs Met rating.

Various “Flags” or Attributes of Websites

Google instructs its quality raters to set certain “flags” for websites. Some of the flags listed below seem obvious.

  • Porn
  • Foreign Language
  • Didn’t load
  • Upsetting-Offensive

If your website deals in controversial subjects and the contents of your website push against social norms, you may need to be concerned with the upsetting-offensive flag. Their instructions to their quality raters are to flag the following as upsetting-offensive:

  • Promotion of hate or violence
  • Racial slurs
  • Graphic violence
  • Instructions for harmful activities (i.e.: how to traffic humans)
  • Other than people in your area would find it extremely upsetting or offensive

In Closing

The Quality of your website content is less subjective than you might have thought. When designing a website and optimizing it for SEO, you need to understand that per Google:

  • Google rates web pages, not websites per se, but….. the reputation of the website and the owner of the site affect the site’s SEO.
  • Websites and web pages have well-defined purposes.
  • Search queries imply “user intent”.
  • The quality of a web page is defined by how well the web page meets the user intent of the query.
  • When you create content with the above in mind, the content you create will be measurably better, measurably of higher quality.

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