Ever since the infamous Mayday Update, Google’s been using human “quality checkers” alongside its algorithm to ensure websites aren’t gaming their bots.
The goal of these quality checkers? Make sure the algorithm isn’t letting any spam websites slip through the floorboards. By visiting websites flagged by the bots as potential spam sites, Google quality raters can give the final word on whether or not a website is valuable.
Of course, we’ve all been interested in what types of guidelines these quality raters go by (since they’re likely similar to what the algorithm targets) and now we finally get the chance to see.
In a document leaked earlier this month, Google lays out all of its guidelines for quality raters.
Although this document doesn’t necessarily contain SEO tips (it was designed for quality raters), we can glean some interesting information on how the Google algorithm works. And no – there’s no “magic bullet” algorithm trick in here. Instead, this document supports our hypothesis: Google’s looking for a quality user experience.
As we’ve discussed in past SEOSiteCheckup.com articles, relevance is KEY to ranking high on Google.
Your website must provide valuable information on whatever subject it’s targeting. So if your website’s targeting “goldfish,” if it doesn’t have high-quality information that’s relevant to goldfish, it won’t rank.
But now with this document leak, we can see the five-point scale Google rater’s use to check the relevancy of a website.
4) Slightly Relevant
So what does it all mean? First, let’s talk about Google’s “Searcher Intent” rule.
In the leaked document, Google talks about how it determines what websites to rank for a specific keyword. Some words have multiple meanings, so the algorithm does its best to put the most relevant content.
For example, when someone searches “Amazon,” they could mean a few things. They could mean the website, Amazon.com. Or they might want information on the Amazon Rainforest.
Well, if you do a search for Amazon, you’ll see what Google favors. Amazon.com rankings fill up more than half of the first page of rankings. So through substantial testing, Google’s determined that their users view Amazon.com as the most relevant term for the keyword “Amazon.”
For another example of this in action, do a search for “Apple.”
So now that you understand the intent rule, it’s time to discuss how a site is rated on the quality rater’s scale.
Take the highest rating, vital, for example. A vital website is a website that must rank on page #1 rank #1.
For example, if you search the name of presidential candidate Gary Johnson, you get his website on rank #1. Now, normally when you search the name of someone, you get their Wikipedia page.
So vital is information that the user is DEFINITELY searching for. If they’re searching for “Target,” the vital result is Target.com.
Important note – just because you have an exact-match domain, doesn’t make your website vital. The vital rating is saved for websites that have the highest possible chance of being exactly what the searcher’s looking for.
Down the line, you have the “useful” ranking. Now, this is where quality content comes into play. You could have the best quality in the world, but if your website’s not the vital website for your search phrase, “useful” is the ranking you should be looking for.
A useful website goes above and beyond relevance. Not only does a useful website provide relevant content, it provides additional value to whoever’s reading it. “Useful” websites will have some type of visitor interaction, top quality information, and a thriving community.
Really, this document doesn’t teach us brand new information. We’ve always speculated this was how Google handled rankings – all this document does is support our original ideas. Google cares about quality and relevance.
It’s not enough just to have relevant information anymore. No, you need to be providing value with your content. Enough value that your website could receive a “useful” rating (if “vital” is impossible).
The first page of Google is taken up by “vital” and “useful” websites. By putting your visitors first, you dramatically increase the odds that you’ll be seeing your own website on page #1.
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