How to Improve Your Google Search Quality Rating (Step-by-Step)
If you’re like most business owners, you want to rank on the front page of Google.
Makes sense, right?
The higher you rank on Google, the greater your conversions (click-through rates, opt-ins, etc.)
How do you rank higher, you ask?
Through writing original, high-quality content.
But what is original, high-quality content? And more importantly, how do you write it to improve your ranking on Google?
The answer is you need to think like a Google Search Quality evaluator.
And, fortunately, there’s never been an easier time to do it…
On March 28, 2016, Google released their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
This is the manual Google evaluators use to review websites and pages for quality control before and after their algorithms are updated.
At 146-pages, it’s a fairly lengthy read. It’s no surprise, then, few business owners have actually sat down and read it (much less implement it).
The good news, for you, is I’ve done all the heavy lifting and read it from cover-to-cover. Today, I’m going to share with how to improve the quality rating of your pages so they’re Google Guidelines-compliant and best of all…
…optimized to generate more targeted traffic.
Let’s get started.
What is the Google Search Quality Rating Scale?
Google use a sliding scale (slider) to assign the PQ rating to your pages. The overall page quality (PQ) rating scale offers five rating options:
The slider looks like this:
As you can see, Google also uses in-between ratings, such as Lowest+, Low+, etc. Think of these as halfway points between each rating.
There are four important factors Google considers when selecting page quality:
- Main content quality and amount. Simply put: your content is original and high-quality, and therefore, creates the best possible experience for your audience.
- Website information/information about who is responsible for the website. If you’re running an eCommerce website, for example, is it clear who’s running the site?
- Website reputation. Are you reputable in your industry and if so, have you ensured there’s a match between what you’re saying about yourself and what others are saying about you?
- Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (E-A-T). This is influenced by the quality and amount of your main content, your website information, and its overall reputation.
Let’s look at each in detail.
1. Main content quality and amount
There are five areas Google considers when evaluating content quality and amount.
- Useful and informative
- More valuable and useful than other sites
i. Useful and informative
All Google expects from you, as a website owner, is to create the best possible experience for your audience with original, high-quality content.
This is why keyword research is so important: with it, you can write content that solves problems for your target market as quickly and easily as possible.
One example of doing that is helping visitors as soon as they land on your site.
Michael Hyatt, who has more than 600,000 monthly visitors, includes a ‘Start Here’ section on his landing page to help visitors navigate to content that’s relevant to their needs:
ii. More valuable and useful than other sites
In today’s noisy world, writing 400-word how-to articles isn’t enough to get noticed (or please Google).
With more than 2 million blog posts published every day, the online space has become more competitive than ever.
But that’s not to say you can’t get ahead of your competition. To stand above the fray, you need to focus on quality over quantity.
Take Brian Dean, for example.
He publishes on average once a month.
He creates work that is so good, his competitors simply can’t improve on it. (This article alone took 20 hours to write).
If you’re writing a how-to article, make sure you go as in-depth as possible. Include images, step-by-step walk-throughs, and checklists.
Then, invest the time to reach out to influencers who can help you promote it.
Have you ever noticed how websites that include original research, citations, links, reviews and testimonials in their content, tend to get more social shares (and therefore more traffic)?
The reason is they demonstrate credibility.
Google loves websites that boost their search engine’s trustworthiness and reputation—and reward their owners handsomely for it.
Demonstrating credibility is especially important if you’re in an industry that can potentially impact the future happiness, health or financial stability of your readers (more on this later).
Their content was mass-produced and low-quality.
And they paid dearly for it.
As we’ve learned, high-quality content is about solving your customer’s problems—while still providing a good user experience.
James Clear is a great example of an authority who does this. Using what he calls, “a colorful blend of inspirational stories, academic science, and hard-earned wisdom,” James’s content is always of the highest quality because he writes 3,000+ words articles that are well-researched and cited…
…and his hard work pays off:
Content that encourages a conversation between you and your customers is viewed highly by Google.
If you’re inviting readers to comment on your content (like I’ll be doing at the end of this article), minimizing distractions (read: no ads) and presenting your work in a way that’s fun and easy-to-read, you’ll have a much higher chance of increasing your engagement and showing Google your site is buzzing with activity.
Don’t be afraid to tell your readers what to do, either. If you want them to leave a comment or share your article, ask them. Creating a dialogue is a two-way street, but remember: you need to go first.
2. Website information/information about who is responsible for the website
There’s a reason your ‘about’ page is often the second most visited page on your site:
Users want to know who you are and what you do.
Google is no different.
They want to know who’s responsible for the website they’re evaluating and who created the content on the page.
According to Google’s Search Quality Guidelines, websites that offer multiple ways for users to contact them—email addresses, contact forms, even physical addresses—tend to have higher PQ ratings because they’re easy to contact…
…and that’s a good signal in Google’s eyes.
The type and amount of contact information needed on your site will depend largely on the type of business you’re running.
If you running an eCommerce store, for example (or any type of business that handles money), you’ll need to provide customer service information and ensure it’s easily accessible.
If you have policies on payments, exchanges, and returns, remember to include those pages, too.
3. Website reputation
Your reputation is based on the experience of your users and the opinion of influencers in your field.
Google wants to know what outside, independent sources are saying about your site. If there’s a mismatch between what you’re saying and what others are saying, Google will trust the latter.
Google knows a company can easily fake reviews on their website. But third-party reviews, references, and recommendations by experts are a lot harder to fake.
This is why many websites socially-proof their site with logos of media outlets they’ve been featured in.
Here’s an example of Ramit Sethi from I Will Teach You To Be Rich:
Because Ramit runs a site related to personal finance, it’s especially important he demonstrates his reputation from the offset.
If Google is evaluating a website like Ramit’s, they can easily confirm its validity.
You might be wondering,
“But what if I haven’t been featured in any major media outlets?”
That’s okay, we all have to start somewhere, right?
Another factor that influences reputation is high user engagement on your site or positive reviews from your customers on other websites (Google your company name + “reviews” to see what your customers are saying about you).
You can always include customer testimonials and reviews on your landing page instead.
4. Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
The governing rule is this: high-quality pages possess a high level of E-A-T. Low-quality pages don’t.
To master your E-A-T, you need to consider the following three areas:
The difference between the three is subtle, so let’s look at each in more detail.
To be considered an expert in the eyes of Google, you need to demonstrate your expertise, talent, and skills in your content…
…and that means investing a high-degree of time and effort in the content you’re writing.
Think about it: the longer your content, the more room you have to ‘show off’ your knowledge.
Google loves this.
Remember that their number one priority is helping users. And if you’re contributing to that, Google will look fondly on you for it.
Of course, you still need to have experience with what you’re writing about.
If you writing about how to build a swimming pool on a budget and have no background in the subject, Google will pick you up for it.
Don’t be afraid to flaunt your expertise in your writing. Google wants to see it and your customers do, too.
You might be wondering,
“What’s the difference between expertise and authoritativeness?”
The easiest way to look at it is this:
Expertise is demonstrating your knowledge by writing well-researched, highly-cited content; authoritativeness is evaluated by the number of authoritative domains in your field linking to and citing your content.
The best way to get others to link to you?
As Moz writes,
The landscape of SEO and link building is always changing, and today, the importance of building high-quality links has never been higher.
Authoritativeness is built when websites with high domain authorities (such as influencers in your industry), links to your content from their content.
While backlinking goes beyond the scope of this article, it’s helpful to know that if you regularly publish high-quality content, over time, you’ll naturally pick up backlinks.
A good rule of thumb is to apply 20% of your time to writing content, and 80% promoting it. Authoritativeness is essential in today’s age, so it’s important your carve out time to do it.
To learn more about backlinking and why it’s important, read this article.
As I mentioned before, some types of pages can potentially impact your future happiness, health, or financial stability. Google call such pages “Your Money or Your Life” pages, or YMYL.
- Shopping or financial transaction pages
- Financial information pages
- Medical information pages
- Legal information pages
Google has very high rating standards for YMYL pages, so, if you fall under one of these categories, you need to make sure there’s a match between what your advice and your expertise on the subject.
On the other hand, if it’s an everyday topic, such as cooking recipes or housecleaning, you need to ensure you have experience and everyday expertise if you want the page to be considered trustworthy (this, again, is reflected by the length of your content and what others are saying about it).
If you lack organization or sufficient expertise for the topic, you’re likely to be given a Low rating which, in turn, will affect your ranking (and the amount of traffic your receive).
Google’s algorithm has undergone several big changes in the last few years.
But one thing remains certain: its emphasis on original, high-quality content isn’t going to change anytime soon.
As a business owner, one of the best investments you can make is writing unique and useful content that solves your customer’s problems and positions you as the go-to expert in your field.
Granted, writing content as this level requires a lot of hard work and time on your part, but if you look after your customers, Google will look after you for years to come.
What are you doing to ensure your content is compliant with Google Guidelines? Leave a comment below.