Alan Perkins

Alan Perkins

20th November 2015

How Expertise, Authority and Trust improve SEO for Google

Google has just published the latest version of its Search Quality Rating Guidelines. They give a valuable insight into what Google is looking for in its search results.

Back in 2001, I was a contributor to Google's Webmaster Quality Guidelines.Over the intervening years, those guidelines have helped webmasters around the world to create quality content that ranks well and provides a good searcher experience. One of the things we were trying to achieve with the original guidelines was a simple set of principles for webmasters to follow, rather than pages and pages of rules that tried to second-guess every scenario and question and come up with some kind of definitive answer.

The 160-page Search Quality Rating Guidelines (8.5MB PDF) come closer to the pages and pages of rules approach. Written originally to support the Google Rater Hub that launched in 2004/2005, the guidelines' content remained a closely guarded secret for several years. However, since 2013 Google has made them public, while continuing to label them as "Confidential". These guidelines can help your Google SEO, as they lay out in great detail the kinds of quality webpages and websites that Google is looking to place high in its search results.

Google's human raters rate both page quality (PQ), an evaluation of how clear a page's purposes is, how well the page achieves its purpose and whether that purpose is a good one; and needs met (NM), an evaluation of the extent to which a page satisfies a searcher of a particular query in a particular language on a particular device. The device aspect is important - the reason the guidelines have been updated this time around is to "adapt to the mobile world, recognizing that people use search differently when they carry internet-connected devices with them all the time."

To help raters evaluate page quality, Google classifies parts of a webpage as Main Content (MC), Supplementary Content (SC), or Ads/Monetisation (Ads):

  • Main Content: the part of a webpage that directly help achieve its purpose.
  • Supplementary Content: contributes to user experience, but does not directly help the page achieve its purpose. e.g. a site-wide menu
  • Ads: content and/or links that are displayed for the purpose of making money from the page

SilverDisc's clients generally have websites that fall into two broad categories: "lead gen" and "ecommerce". Ecommerce websites fall under what Google calls "Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) Pages", pages that could potentially impact the future happiness, health, or wealth of its searchers. Google holds such pages to a higher standard. If yours is an ecommerce website, it should be clear:

  • who (what individual, company, business, foundation, etc.) is responsible for the website
  • that the website is being maintained and cared for (e.g. links should work, images should load, content should fresh and relevant)
  • that reputational claims are supported by third parties, not just on the website(s) owned by the parties making the claim

Google defines a high quality webpage as being Expert, Authoritative, and Trustworthy ("E-A-T") for the topic; from a highly reputable website; containing a "satisfying" amount of high quality Main Content; and designed to achieve its purpose without necessarily being "pretty" - functionality and usability trumps style.

The Google Search Quality Rating Guidelines then look at understanding mobile user needs, which revolve around the searcher's query, location and intent. Reading this section will help you to create websites that rank well in mobile search.

Google's search engine algorithm has certainly come a long way since the original 2001 Webmaster Quality Guidelines, and a complete read of the Search Quality Rating Guidelines may help you to appreciate what Google is looking for. We've been doing this for over 20 years and, as contributors to Google's quality guidelines, we have an innate understanding of what Google wants so, if you require some help, please feel free to get in touch.

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