There are two critical elements that form the foundation for any successful SEO initiative: high quality content and a user-friendly site. These concepts are not new, but some fairly recent changes at Google have reiterated the importance of these two components:
Given that many sites have suffered as a result of the new algorithm updates, and considering the increased importance of mobile that a second index will ensure, it’s a good time to review Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines. These guidelines detail procedures used by the company’s quality raters to evaluate search results, and contain an almost behind-the-scenes look into how the search engine defines quality when determining search rankings of a site and its content.
One of the largest tasks assigned to quality raters is determining the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) of both a site and its content. To give search results an E-A-T ranking, raters evaluate both general site authority and the quality of specific content pages based on three factors: reputation, qualifications, and quality.
Factor 1: Reputation
In the same way that inbound links from authoritative sources boost SEO, positive feedback about a website and the organization that operates it—from reputable, external sources—are influential in determining the reputation of a website. Quality raters determine reputability by reviewing what external sources say about a site/business, as well as feedback from its users and patrons.
To demonstrate reputability:
Factor 2: Qualifications
Regardless of a site’s topic, the authors who contribute content to the site should be authorities in their fields. Life experiences and formal qualifications can both be used to determine an author’s qualifications as an authority, though some topics—health, financial, and parenting advice, for example—require contributors to meet higher standards.
To highlight qualifications:
Factor 3: Quality
The quality of page content plays a huge part in determining E-A-T. Quality ratings consider how well the content fulfills the purpose of the page. Length of content is less important than comprehensiveness, and the highest quality content is dependent, in part, on an evaluation of the time, skill, and expertise that were put into creating the content.
While the main content of the page plays a large part in determining the quality of the page, supplementary content, user experience, and functionality are also considered.
To emphasize quality:
It’s rare that someone conducts lengthy research on a mobile device. Generally, mobile users are looking for specific information and need to do so within a limited timeframe. (Although this trend may be changing, given the rise of mobile-only users.) For this reason, Google’s quality raters perform an additional set of testing on mobile search results to determine how fully those results meet the needs of the search query.
To make this determination, quality raters must interpret the intent of the query.
Is the user looking for a direct answer to a simple question, or is he looking for more detailed information? Is she trying to perform an action, visit a specific website, or make a purchase? Or is he looking for location-based information, trying to find a shop or restaurant nearby? Quality raters will ask these questions when rating how well a result meets user needs on mobile.
To improve your mobile search rankings:
The clear and unsurprising takeaway from all 146 pages of Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines is that the most important thing you can do to succeed in search is provide accurate and comprehensive content that satisfies searcher needs and is easily accessible on every device. If you dedicate your SEO efforts to meeting that goal, you’ll have nothing to worry about in the future when algorithms continue to change and indexes split.