About this time last year, Mace Dynamics in the UK published a brilliant breakdown of Google’s Content Quality Score, for which Google was granted a patent in July 2014. In a nutshell, the patent describes how Google is able to “determine the quality of content on a webpage, and ‘process’ (or rank) pages based on content quality.”
Earlier this fall, the Searchmetrics Ranking Factors Study for 2015 was released, and for the first time, content-specific ranking factors led off this highly-anticipated annual report. Searchmetrics stated that “relevant, holistic content is more important than ever,” and that the “importance of good quality, relevant content cannot be overstated.”
Finally, in Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors, Content Quality is featured in the top upper left spot, focusing on the need for websites to have “well-written pages with substantial, quality content.”
Seeing a trend? Us, too. Over the past few years, much has been written about the need to create substantive, valuable, high-quality content to meet the needs of information seekers and prospective customers wherever they find you online, but especially on your primary website. Here are some key points from these outstanding resources to consider as you review, revise, and create new content.
Google attempts to determine the purpose of your website as a whole, and the purpose of each page on your site. If you are in the healthcare industry, one possible purpose for a page might be to inform visitors about a medical condition or treatment. If you’re a B2B service provider, you probably have a demo page, and its purpose might be to illustrate how your product works, how it integrates with other tools, or how it improves workflow.
Pages are compared to similar pages across the Web, and ranked depending on how well each page achieves its purpose. Your pages can include all kinds of information, in many different formats, but each component should contribute to the overall purpose of the page.
KEY TAKEAWAY: As you’re creating new content, think about how each piece contributes to page purpose.
The Google Content Quality Score examines three different types of content that might be included on a web page.
1. Main Content – Directly impacts how well each page achieves its purpose. Text, images, video, and other elements may all come in to play. If you rely heavily on user/buyer feedback to make a sale, it’s important to note that reviews may be considered as Main Content, too.
2. Supplemental Content – Helps reinforce the page purpose. If you sell insurance, a calculator that helps visitors understand the type and amount of coverage they need to purchase would be considered Supplemental Content. If you sell shoes, information about the colors, material, or sizes available for a single item would be Supplemental Content, as is shipping information. Note that shopping pages are part of a special group known as Your Money or Your Life pages, e.g. pages that provide financial, medical, and legal advice, and may impact a visitor’s health or well-being. For this reason, Your Money or Your Life Pages are held to a higher standard than other web content.
3. Advertisement/Monetization – Content or links intended to monetize the page. It’s important to note that on-page advertising that dilutes or detracts from the overall page purpose may negatively impact your content quality score.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Ensure that each of your pages includes a sufficient amount of Main Content and Supplemental Content, and that content of all types support the purpose of the page.
HOW GOOGLE CALCULATES PAGE QUALITY
Google’s Content Quality Guidelines align nicely with the content ranking factors deemed most important by Searchmetrics, especially in relation to the amount and construction of content.
1. The amount of high-quality main content on each page is important, and longer content has become the standard, according to Searchmetrics. To this end, the top 10 HTML pages in their 2015 study averaged 1,285 words per page. However, more content doesn’t necessarily equate with better content. Searchmetrics urges us to “use information about the structure and context of topics to optimize content.”
This is not to say that your content should be more complex. Rather, Searchmetrics indicated that the complexity of content has decreased in the past year, and that the most successful pages in terms of rank include content that is at an appropriate reading level (aka Flesch reading ease) for your respective audience.
2. E-A-T factors helps determine content quality for Google. If your page, website, and the people contributing content to the pages are considered to be Expert, Authoritative, and Trustworthy, as evidenced by dozens of factors for each element, Google takes this into consideration when assigning a quality score to each page.
WebMD and Wikipedia are good examples of expert, authoritative, trustworthy websites, but there’s no reason your site can’t achieve high marks, too. Enlist in-house experts to contribute to your blog, or to author white pages. Provide valuable, helpful, sharable content and resources to encourage inbound links. Make sure that every page provides a positive user experience, with correct and current information.
3. Reputation matters. The Mace report indicates that “the important thing (for Google) is that the sources used for reputational research are independent of the site being rated, and are not statistical or machine compiled.” Reviews come into play here, as do news articles, Wikipedia entries, forum discussions, and more – any outside information and opinion that presents your website and individual pages in a positive light.
KEY TAKEAWAY: The amount of substantive content on each page, the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness of your website as a whole, and the people contributing content to your pages play a major role in determining how you fare under Google’s content quality magnifying glass.
so, what does this mean for you?
There are dozens of factors to consider when creating new content or improving existing web pages, and this is a very high-level view. Both the Mace report and Searchmetrics Ranking Factors Study provide valuable, practical information and guidance that you can immediately put to use to improve the quality of your web pages, and both are highly recommended by our SEO content team.
Given the importance that Google places on content quality, any time and resources directed to clarifying and strengthening the purpose and value of your web pages will be worth the effort.