It's a little known fact that Google has a huge team that helps it determine the quality of sites for its search rankings.
Alongside its well-known algorithm, the tech giant employs some 10,000 living, breathing human beings to go and assess websites for their quality and trustworthiness.
These people are given this 167 page set of guidelines that were updated recently. The analysts are then told to assess manually the reputation and quality of a website. The guidelines themselves give us a useful insight into the type of pages that Google is trying to provide to searchers.
Broadly there are 5 important categories that a page should have to be high quality.
*in this snippet from Google's guidelines, "MC" stands for Main Content - the body content of a page.
A Positive Purpose
This is the most fundamental but most straightforward to achieve of the five criteria. If your page is trying to help users - you are on the right track. Google explains this simply by saying:
"As long as the page is created to help users, we will not consider any particular page purpose or type to be higher quality than another. For example, encyclopedia pages are not necessarily higher quality than humor pages."
What this means for people writing content is that you can't game the system. Do not have pages for the sake of pages, consider everything you put online as existing for one purpose only - to help people. Websites that fail this test are given the lowest rating.
Expertise, Authoritativeness & Trustworthiness (EAT)
A page being helpful is just the first step. Step two is to consider how helpful it is. For this, the army of Google Analysts assesses three criteria:
- The Expertise of the content author
- The Authoritativeness of the author, the content and the website
- The Trustworthiness of the creator, the content and the website
Interestingly, these three criteria are applied to the creator of the content. Not just the brand or the company. These are also assessed in relation to the type of content that you are creating. Google offers direct guidelines for specialist expert content like legal, medical and science.
What this means is that people creating pages need to clearly attribute their content to the right experts in their organisation, build the profile and bio of those people and demonstrate the expertise of those authors in that niche.
These pages also need to be current and regularly updated to reflect developments in the industry.
A Satisfying Amount of High-Quality Main Content
The quality of a page's content is relative to the purpose of the page. Informative pages should be factually accurate, clearly written and comprehensive. Humourous pages should be entertaining and need not be correct.
Likewise, the purpose of a page also determines how much content should be there. A general overview of a topic will have more information than a narrower look at a specific thing.
If you are creating a page, have a clear structure in mind. Make sure that the title and content line up and make sure the page achieves its goal of informing the user. Think about why the user has come to the page and ask yourself - have I delivered what they want?.
Reputation Information About The Author & Site
Google looks at the individual responsible for an article, or in the case that there is no individual author listed or an individual is not responsible for the content, Google will look at the organisation itself. It will consider about us pages, contact pages and bio pages of authors.
Where content is of a professional nature, Google's researchers look at the opinions of other experts. They consider biographical data and other sources of information not produced by the page author they are assessing.
For content creators, it is important to have a well-developed bio, industry links, and affiliations and a clear description of their areas of expertise and qualifications for being seen as an expert in that space.
In the race to the top of Google, it's easy to get stuck on the minutiae of page titles, keyword ratios, and link profiles. What this advice from Google shows is that the bigger picture cannot be forgotten. The things that matter to the search engine, Helpfulness, Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness are the things that should matter to page creators.