Google updated its “General Guidelines” document in May 2017. It helps to better understand Google’s expectations for a good SEO. This 157-page document is used by Search Quality evaluators to determine the quality of web pages and the relevance of search results.
Understanding web pages and websites
Google explains the basics of evaluating a web page. The raters must understand the purpose of each web page and see if the user can be satisfied. If this is the case, the page should be well evaluated. If the site deceives the user, disappoints him, or even if he tries to extract money from him, the page must be badly evaluated. According to Google, here are the different objectives of the pages on the Internet:
- Share information about a topic
- Share personal information
- Share photos, videos or other media
- Express an opinion or point of view
- Diverting the Internet
- Sell products or services
- Allow users to ask questions of other people
- Allow users to share or download files
Google then insists on pages that can impact the happiness, health or financial stability of Internet users (YMYL: you money or your life). The evaluators are called upon to be vigilant when checking these pages:
- E-commerce sites or financial transaction sites
- Financial information sites
- Medical information sites
- Legal information sites
- Sites to obtain official information or inform citizens
- Other web pages YMYL: adoption, road safety.
Evaluate the quality of a web page
To evaluate the quality of the web pages, Google evaluators must be able to identify the content of web pages:
- MC – Main Content: main part to meet the objective
- SC – Supplementary Content: What surrounds the main content (structure)
- Ads: advertisements displayed on the website
They must also be able to easily reach the homepage, identify the website owner and the authors of the content, access static pages such as About, Contact, Customer service. Those who design websites are therefore encouraged to facilitate Access to these pages, useful for Internet users and raters.
The Search Quality evaluators are invited to note many criteria, via a quality rating scale from “Lowest” to “Highest”. According to Google, the most important factors in determining the quality of a web page are:
- E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness). This is one of the most important characteristics. The author’s expertise, his authority over his segment and the reliability of the information are paramount.
- The quality of the “Main Content” and its size with respect to the secondary content and the advertisements displayed on the screen.
- The information to identify the website (pages about)
- The reputation of the website (external sites / labels to prove its reliability)
The identification of sites of good and bad quality
To help evaluators, Google describes in a fairly expected manner the differences between the pages of very good, good, average, bad and very poor quality. The most qualitative pages are:
- Who enjoy a significant EAT,
- Whose primary content overrides the secondary content,
- Which clearly identify information about site managers,
- And who enjoy a good reputation.
Depending on the sites, this information is more or less important. Thus, for web pages identified as YMYL, evaluators must be able to easily locate site managers and easily assess their reputation.
Google also describes the pages of poor quality. Besides the questionable EAT, low ratio and low quality of main content, difficult identification of authors and bad reputation, Google quotes some practices to be banned. Overall, the search engine advises the webmaster to precisely define the zones of their site (main content, secondary, advertisements). Secondary content and advertisements should not impersonate the main content, they should not be too large and should not interfere with the main content. Other dubious practices are also cited:
- Web pages and malicious websites
- Web pages and websites with no specific purpose
- Web pages and deceptive sites: copies of another site, fake news …
- Sites designed to make money without helping internet users
- YMYL pages with little information
- Web pages that disseminate inaccurate information
- Unreliable web pages, designed by an author without expertise
- Pirated or attempting to mislead users (phishing …)
- Pages with an extremely negative or malicious reputation
- Web pages that do not follow Google guidelines
- Pages that promote hatred or violence towards groups of people according to their sexuality, ethnicity, nationality …
Google also denounces sites whose content is automatically generated (RSS feeds …), web pages whose main content is riddled with keywords, and makes a point of honor to the identification and penalization of the duplicate content.
The importance of the mobile and the context
Google devotes part of its document to the importance of mobile and context. Web pages referenced by Google must be adapted to mobile browsing and relevant to the context of the search. The searched keyword is no longer sufficient, the location of the user and other elements of the context are taken into account. On the other hand, the query retains a dominant position, especially when an element replaces the context (example: Dallas hotels must allow access to the list of hotels in Dallas, even if the person doing the search is located in New York).