There is a joke among web developers that the best place to hide a body is on Google’s second page. That’s not far from the truth since 95% of web searchers never go past the first page of results! So how do you make it onto the first page? With quality content.
But what does that mean, and why is it important? The short answer is that quality content means what Google says it does, and it’s essential because, well, Google says it is. This is no flip answer since, as of 2020, Google controls 86% of the search engine market. Being one of the top-rated sites on a Google search equals a significant increase in web traffic that amounts to substantial increases in revenue. But what does it mean to create “quality content” in Google’s eyes?
How Google Searches Evaluate Quality
Search engine optimization (SEO) has shifted dramatically in the last five years, from a focus on keywords and latent semantic indexing (LSI), which are essentially descriptive chains that relate to your topic, to complex algorithms amongst whom Google’s is the industry leader.
In fact, SEO is split into two ideas: on-page SEO, which is the things on your website you can do to optimize traffic; and off-page SEO, which is the strategies used off-site to increase the trustworthiness and authority of your web page by building strong inbound links and creating a social media presence.
Getting back to our central question, Google doesn’t release the exact elements of its algorithm. Still, some features are very clear as far as what it evaluates to decide on quality content. First, it is crucial to understand how the process works. Google uses bots called spiders that creep the web evaluating websites from two viewpoints: one spider that poses as the average desktop web browser, and another spider that poses as a mobile device user.
These spiders evaluate the content from both vantage points based on Google’s algorithm. Some of the metrics on which they assess range are:
- The security and accessibility of your site are crucial. While Google claims “https” protocols don’t factor highly in their analysis, it is a good starting point for your site.
- Page speed. Remember that speed relates to mobile devices as well as desktop traffic.
- Mobile-friendliness. Let’s face it, e-commerce and e-communication have taken over — particularly in the mobile world. With mobile devices taking an ever-increasing share of the market, it is crucial that web pages convert clearly to mobile devices and that ads don’t block information.
- Content quality. We’ll deal with this one in more detail later.
- Rankbrain results. This is Google’s way of measuring the user experience by looking at the click-through rate, which is how many users click on your site from a search. Bounce rate, which is how many users click on your site and then immediately clicks out to the search page. Dwells time, which is how long a user remains on your site after clicking there.
- Domain age. You’re more likely to be ranked higher if your site has been around for longer than a year.
- Freshness. Keeping content current is essential (notice Google’s featured content ranked by recency– ”two hours ago”).
So back to that slippery term “quality.” What does quality mean to Google? It’s important to note that Google doesn’t merely leave this analysis to an algorithm. The search engine giant employs human searchers who act as quality raters to examine factors as well.
Google uses three major factors to prioritize the quality of its pages: expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. One of the first ways they evaluate this is through authoritative backlinks. In other words, trusted websites that link to your information, thus suggesting your site as credible.
There are, of course, other metrics that influence this analysis. The clarity of your site’s purpose is part of the evaluation, as is the expertise of those who create its content. You are better off employing those who are knowledgeable in their fields who have strong research and writing skills for higher rankings. Length and depth of content are also factors. The standard suggested by Google is that content pieces should be roughly 2,000 words. However, merely filling out content with fluff may decrease scores. The depth of analysis is thus equally important. Finally, it is essential to have clear information about your organization and its contributors. There should be several means by which users can contact your organization, and the standards should be readily available.
Right or Wrong?
While scoring highly on the Google algorithm doesn’t necessarily indicate quality, the purpose of a website is to generate traffic for the business. No other search engine does that as well as Google. So trying to understand how you can move up their rankings is not so much a matter of right or wrong; it’s a matter of business. Certainly, Google seems to be a forerunner in finding new and more effective ways of connecting users with the content they need and evaluating that content. Once a user lands on a site, they are more likely to find that content useful.