In this guide, you’ll learn the various search quality guidelines that Google has published to help raters better evaluate which web pages should be ranked on the SERP. Using these guidelines, a website creator or blogger can improve their content, on-page SEO, technical SEO, and off-page SEO to improve their chances of ranking on Google.
Included with this guide is a glossary of terms to help you with words and phrases that you are not yet familiar with. You’ll also find the full search quality evaluator guidelines listed in the sources below.
Page Quality Rating
Raters give a page quality rating (PQ). The higher the PR, the more likely it will rank well for specific keywords. Specifically, the overall goal is to rate the page for how well it serves its purpose. It’s looking to remove pages that are harmful, untrustworthy, or spammy.
There are 5 sliding scale ratings given for the purpose of pages: lowest, low, medium, high, and highest with different degrees of each.
In order of most important to least, Google is rating web pages based on:
- The purpose of the page
- Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
- Main Content quality and amount
- The reputation of the website and the entity that created it.
Types of Web Pages
The purpose of a page is different depending on what type of page it is. Some web pages are designed to sell a product, others inform, and others entertain.
Product Page: A product page is a landing page where a user would go if they were searching for a particular product. For example, if someone was looking for a new laptop, they might visit Amazon’s site to see all the laptops available.
Information Page: An information page is any page that provides useful information about a topic. It could be an informational blog post or a news article.
Entertainment Page: An entertainment page is any page that is primarily used to provide amusement or entertainment. Examples include YouTube videos or video games.
News Article: A news article is one of many types of articles that appear in a newspaper. They typically contain text, images, and sometimes audio.
Blog Post: A blog post is a short piece of writing that contains original content. Blog posts are often written by individuals who have something interesting to say.
A YMYL page is a page that Google deems risky in that it could potentially affect a person’s well-being: financially, physically, mentally. YMYL is an acronym for Your Money Or Your Life. A Blog post giving financial advice, or medical advice, or parenting advice for example would be a YMYL page.
Google lists these as:
- News and Current Events
- Civics, government, and law
- Health and Safety
- Groups of People
- And any other advice that could impact someone’s life.
Google goes to great lengths to guide the rater to discover contact information, about pages, and details about the reputation of the website’s creator.
“A website’s reputation is based on the experience of real users, as well as the opinion of people who are experts in the topic of the website.” – Google
They explain specifically that the reputation is based on both, the website, and the company it is representing.
The rater is asked to find 3rd party reviews, and testimonials of the company, and the website rather than to use the testimonials provided by the website creator.
Specifically, they are looking for other experts referring to this website and creator.
Google tells the rater to look for 3rd party information about the website’s creator from sources like:
- News Articles
- Wikipedia articles
- Blog Posts
- Magazine Articles
- Forum Discussions
Websites like Alexa.com that provided statistical information rather than specific reputation information are ignored.
Customer reviews are important. That being said, they are only helpful if they are authentic and useful. Negative reviews are acceptable and expected in a small number compared to positive reviews.
Within the negative reviews, comments that refer to financial scams, fraud, or harmful misconduct would be damaging to a reputation. An instance where someone complains about poor customer service, or a lost package shouldn’t have much weight in the reputation evaluating process.
The reputation of websites that create YMYL pages (Your Money Or Your Life) requires a good reputation within the specialty. Google considers YMYL pages to be anything that could affect someone’s well-being: their money, their safety, their life.
If you are going to write about finances, you’ll need to have a reputation that supports your financial skillset. If you are building a website based on health and wellness, you’ll want to be a proven expert in the field.
Links from reputable sites are more valuable than links from low-quality sites. In fact, Google has stated that backlinks from high-quality sites are more important than those from lower-quality sites.
In addition to having a strong reputation within your niche, you should also have a large number of backlinks pointing back to your site.
Lack of Reputation
Google does not necessarily punish a website with a creator that isn’t well known. It specifically guides its search raters to understand that small businesses, and local businesses may not have a prominent reputation. This lack of reputation is not to be considered “low quality”.
It is helpful to have a positive reputation in a specific area of expertise. 3rd party ratings and reviews are important, and it should be a primary focus to earn positive reviews.
For example, a real estate agent may gather 3rd party reviews on Google, Zillow, and Realtor.com.
Ratings and reviews on the creator’s website are likely ignored as they could be created by the website’s owner.
Biography-type articles such as press releases, Wikipedia articles, or news stories are recommended.
The guidelines cover everything from what types of content are allowed in the body of a page to whether or not you should use keywords in your domain name.
Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (EAT)
This is the core of how Google evaluates websites. Specifically, Google is looking for all websites to have some level of EAT but expects to see it more when it comes to YMYL websites and pages.
These websites include:
- Medical advice
- News articles
- Scientific topics
- Home remodeling or anything impacting financial risks, and physical welfare.
- Hobbies that are taught such as photography, musical instruments
Life experience can qualify as expertise in areas where the user’s finances or well-being aren’t at risk. Every-day expertise can replace “formal” education.
For example, someone who has a specific medical condition can share their personal story and experiences of their journey, and be considered an expert based on their life experience. They would cross a line, however, if they started giving medical advice.
The purpose of the page is heavily considered when factoring in the expertise.
Google expects to see information about the website creator, along with contact information. The reputation of the website and its creator are considered carefully.
The degree to which E-A-T is considered depends on the type of website and its content.
Google considers content quality if it accomplishes at least one of these: time, effort, expertise, and skill or talent. For news stories, Google ads in the expectation that it would be factually accurate.
While a particular word count or character count isn’t a rating factor, Google does expect to see more remaining content when covering a broad topic.
If time, effort, and talent were applied when creating content, the “size” of the content is less relevant provided it satisfied the purpose of the page and the intent of the user discovering it.
The highest quality rating is reserved for websites and creators that do not have a negative reputation.
High-quality ratings are given to pages that are written by an expert, either formally or through life skills.
In order for a page to earn a high-quality rating, it must:
- Have a very high level of E-A-T
- Contain a very high amount of main content
- Be created by someone with a very positive reputation
As important as it is to understand what makes content high-quality, is understanding what makes main content low quality.
Google considers low-content to be:
- Not enough E-A-T (lack of expertise, the authority on the topic, or non-secure (trusted) website)
- Low-quality main content
- Insufficient amount of content (thin content)
- Exaggerated or shocking title
- Distracting Ads: Such as interstitial pages, ads that cover elements on a page, ads with no close buttons, etc. (single pop-up with a close button, or ad that is not interfering with the user experience is OK).
- Lack of creator reputation
- Somewhat negative reputation
Pages that are thin, repetitive, or contain little information will receive a lower rating than those that are well-written and provide useful information.
Content that is spammy, deceptive, malicious, lacking a purpose, auto-generated (such as an RSS feed), harmful, hateful, scraped, copied (as in article spinning), or hacked will result in the lowest rating possible.
Google points out that syndicated content is not considered copied content. One example would be products descriptions provided by one source to many that list their products. Another might be when an author publishes his content on multiple platforms without changing it.
Search Engine Journal reports that the best way to syndicate content is to make sure that any site that syndicates your content links back to the original version surrounded by a statement to the effect of “the original article appeared here”.
Medium- Quality Content
Essentially content is rated medium quality when there is nothing special, yet there is also nothing wrong.
It is expected that the majority of the content on a page will likely fall into this category.
Content Strategy: Creating pages that are optimized for specific keywords.
Homepage: A homepage is typically the first page in your navigation when someone visits your site. It’s usually the most important page on your site.
Keywords: Keywords are the words people use to find information online.
Keyword Research: Find keywords that people search for in order to find your site.
Mobile-Friendly: A website that works well on all devices
Off-Page SEO: Off-page optimization includes things like link building and social media marketing.
Page Quality Rating: A score between 1 and 10 that indicates how relevant a page is to a particular keyword.
Page Speed: The time it takes for a page to load.
SERP: Search Engine Result Page
Subpage: A subpage is a page on a website other than the homepage
Technical SEO: Improving a website’s performance by making sure it loads quickly, runs smoothly, and displays correctly across different browsers and devices.
URL: Uniform Resource Locator is a string of characters that identifies an address on the Internet. When you enter a URL into a browser, it takes you to the corresponding webpage.
User: Someone who visits a website.
Website: An online location where users can access information, products, services, etc.
Webmaster: Someone responsible for maintaining and updating a website.