Google Ups Its Standard for “Quality Content”

Google recently updated its Quality Rater Guidelines.

Did you know they have people read websites, rate their quality, and factor how they perceive content into their algorithm?

We have mentioned it here and there on our blog over the years. And it is, and will remain, part of Google’s algorithm for the foreseeable future (at least until machines can fully understand and analyze like people anyway).

This search will take you directly to the official document raters use. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the link didn’t work!

Anyway, Google has a document that tells raters how to analyze content. It’s just as exciting as reading tax code, or watching paint dry (whichever you prefer).

So, instead of reading a long, obnoxious document, learn the highlights of what’s changed here:

The Standard for “Low Quality Pages” Has Risen

A “low quality” page misses the mark on what it hopes to achieve. Raters are now instructed to give pages low ratings, even if they’re clearly intended to serve a beneficial purpose (which wasn’t the case in the past).

If a page meets one or more of the following criteria in the perception of a rater, then it should be rated “low:”

  • The writer clearly doesn’t have expertise, authority, or trustworthiness in the subject
  • The main content quality seems low
  • The main content isn’t long enough to achieve the page’s purpose
  • The main content has an exaggerated or shocking title (this was added to diminish the rankings of shocking click-bait style articles that contain no depth)
  • Ads and supplemental content distract from the main content
  • There is an unsatisfying amount of information regarding the creator of the page, or the general reputation of the website
  • The main content creator has a generally negative reputation, based on research

What This Means to You

Basically, if you set out to create written content, you must do the best job of it you know how. Or, you need to hire someone who takes it seriously as a profession.That means you need to budget time or money. And if you feel you can’t afford quality content, don’t try to skimp. You’re better off not doing anything at all.

Why?

 

Because Google’s only tightening the standards for the internet. It wants to get at the top of its search rankings exactly what the market (people) wants. People want informative, useful, accurate, and interesting content. They want their time to feel like its been spent wisely.

So aim to give them the best you possibly know how every time. Your business will benefit financially. And you’ll keep your rankings…or watch them rise.

2 Simple SEO Opportunities You’re Overlooking Right Now

 

Truthfully, SEO requires endless ongoing work. You can spend your entire working year on SEO only.

So, that means you always have abundant opportunity for growth. And somehow, you have to focus on the opportunities that can make the most difference for you now.

Here’s another couple ideas to focus your (or your SEO team’s) energy on:

1. Get as Many Reviews as Possible

This could mean Google reviews for your company’s listing when you appear in search. It could also be for specific products as they get listed in search. And you’ll also want reviews all over your website.

Third-party data like this not only boosts your search rankings and your visibility in search, but it also convinces people who don’t know you well yet.

What’s more credible than honest, objective opinions from people who have experienced your product or service?

Worried about negative reviews?

Don’t be.

You can transform them into amazing customer service stories. Simply resolve the issue publicly so other potential customers can see you’ll fix things when they go wrong.

That builds an incredible amount of confidence.

Don’t manipulate your reviews. Follow up purchases and service experiences by email with a link that allows customers to leave honest reviews.

2. Use Customer-Generated Photos

Don’t these frequently look odd and “unprofessional?”

Yes!

…But that doesn’t matter.

Customers don’t want a professional experience on your website that’s completely controlled by your company.

That reeks of bias and lack of objectivity.

Of course, they want your site to look organized and like you care.

But they also want to understand what it’s like to actually experience your product or service.

And posting customer photos makes that far more real and authentic than any expensive professional photo or costly stock image.

Yotpo increased sales by 24% by adding customer-generated photos to their site.

From the SEO side, include phrases that accurately describe what’s happening in the photo using natural language (in the image’s alt text).

This gets you search engine exposure. And then when customers click over to your site and see that photo (instead of an odd, professional, and clearly staged photo like nearly every other business has), you have a far greater chance of winning their business.

Yes. SEO gets creative like this today. And every little edge you can get – the better off you are.

Google Increases Meta Descriptions to 320 Characters – Why Care?

Yep. Another Google change.

This time they increased the length of your pages’ meta description. Strangely enough, this only has a small indirect effect on your rankings.

For clarification, meta descriptions now look like this:

And for once, this change doesn’t have much of an effect on your search rankings.

But smart SEOs and SMBs can still capitalize in significant ways.

Why Should You Care about the Length of Your Meta Description?

So if your meta description’s length doesn’t affect your search rankings, why should you care about it at all?

…Because it’s another opportunity to win more clicks (and sales too). A higher click-through rate for your page does improve your search rankings.

It’s not a huge factor. But it is one nonetheless.

The bigger (and even hidden) opportunity lies in your meta description’s ability to drive more qualified customers to your website.

You can’t jam much value into 160 characters.

But 320 is more than enough.

So, you have more room to include benefits, product and service differentiation, and attractive features about your company (like no contracts, same-day service, limited time offers, or whatever you have).

You can also add another relevant search phrase or two that your customers might use. The keyword they enter, along with closely related terms, appear in bold.

Searchers click listings with their bolded terms more frequently also.

Should You Change All Your Meta Descriptions?

…You don’t need to.

At a minimum, you should at least revisit the meta descriptions for your highest-trafficked web pages.

Make sure they include the primary keyword you target, and possibly a closely related term or two.

Include all the most powerful benefits, differentiation, and product and service features that light customers’ eyes up when considering whether to purchase.

If that doesn’t fill all 320 characters up, no big deal! A long meta description does you no good. But a value-packed one does.

Then, as you have time, work your way down to the pages on your website with the lowest traffic.

You may even ignore your lower traffic pages if you don’t have the time or the money to spend.

Not a Huge Change, But One Smart SEOs and Companies Pay Attention To

In the grand scheme of search, this isn’t a monstrous change.

But, most companies likely won’t prioritize updating their meta descriptions because they exclusively focus on search rankings and know this won’t help them much in that regard.

That means this can be your opportunity to be more persuasive and snatch more customers.

Just like in any other profession, the most successful do all the little things right.

Google Rolls Out Yet Another Core Algorithm Change

You may have heard about Google increasing the length of meta descriptions, which won’t have a huge impact on search rankings.

But they actually said this on their Twitter account about their latest update:

“…It’s that changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded. There’s no “fix” for pages that may perform less well, other than to remain focused on building great content. Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.”

So doesn’t that make you feel kinda helpless?

What if your rankings get completely trashed and you lose 25% of your site’s traffic or so?

Google’s saying you just gotta wait that out?

What if you can’t?

Search Engine Land reported the story.

Wait a Minute! Actually, You Can Do Something About That

So let’s focus on the fact that Google says they’ve rewarded certain pages less than they should have for some time.

Theoretically, for any one keyword or key phrase, you have one page on a website that’s better than all the others.

Truly, the best.

So even though Google tells you to wait, you can actually do a lot to improve your search rankings.

But let’s qualify that statement somewhat: this becomes much more difficult with your services pages that sell what you have.

Because, what’s so special about any single services page?

They all sell practically the same thing anyway.

Well, you can stand out a little by adding a FAQ section to your services page. You could also add video to give your prospects more of an idea of what it’s like to experience the results of your service. You might add a couple images to break up the text and make it faster and easier to read through your services page.

Your real opportunity to climb the search rankings lies in your content. A simple blog post runs a few hundred words – and that’s what you see most frequently at the small and local business level.

However, the leading online experts create posts thousands of words long. And they only make 1-2 of these per month.

They load the posts with useful videos and graphics. And they offer information you simply can’t find anywhere else.

For example, read any post at Conversion XL, a leading website conversion optimization blog (and bookmark it too).

If you mimicked that at the small or local business level and promoted your post like crazy, you’d win all sorts of traffic, links, social media shares, and customers.

…But You Must Have Realistic Expectations

So yes, you don’t have to sit there helplessly if Google begins to push you down the rankings negatively.

At the same time, understand this isn’t an overnight fix. It can easily take more than a year.

And blog posts rarely instantly attract more customers. People don’t read your posts, revel in how amazing they are, and then buy immediately.

Instead, they read, find your post useful, subscribe to your email list, or bookmark your website. They continue to pay attention to you for months, and possibly years.

Some just use your advice to fix their problem themselves. However, many remember your name, trust you because they love what you say, and then they buy from you when they have a problem you solve.

If Google pushes you down in search a little, it’s impossible to always know exactly why.

But you can absolutely increase your rankings at any time with the right approach.

Frightening New Negative SEO Attack Makes it Almost Impossible to Find the Attacker

 

Yes, negative SEO attacks, where someone who really wants to see you fail and takes active action to ruin your search rankings, happen.

They don’t get publicized a lot. Most competitors also realize it’s more worth their time and effort to increase their own SEO instead of ruining yours.

However, you still have situations where someone with a bad attitude decides to lash out. And in this case, its’ nearly impossible to detect them.

How This New Attack Was Discovered

Bill Hartzer of Hartzer Consulting discovered exactly this attack, which was later reported by Roger Montti at Search Engine Journal.

A client approached Bill concerned with a sudden drop in their search rankings. Bill found links to an odd site, but the client themselves didn’t actually link to that site.

So, Bill investigated that unusual site. And that led him to discovery of the source of the negative SEO attack.

Just How Does This Attack Work?

To destroy your search rankings, unscrupulous attackers copy the entire header of your web page. Then they find a spammy, crummy, horrible, awful website that Google doesn’t like – and they paste your header into that website’s code.

Included in that code is a “rel=canonical” tag. This tag tells Google that this page is the primary version of the website – and that it should ignore the web page it came from when figuring the search rankings.

Google then follows right along and considers the spammy version of your web page to be the primary version. And your rankings get trashed.

How Do You Stop This Attack?

Unfortunately, it’s absurdly difficult. In this case, the SEO consultant was able to identify the source site of the attack because of a tool called Majestic. However, attackers don’t always leave evidence of their actions behind. So sometimes the exact same thing happens – and you have absolutely no clue who did it or why.

Your only recourse in such a situation is to use Google’s Disavow tool. With this, you can tell Google to ignore specific links pointing back to your website. However, it takes time to do, and you don’t always fully recover your rankings.

The other defense is good content. This makes you easy, and desirable, to link to.

For now, that’s the best you can do. Ideally, Google takes action and changes how canonical tags work so this issue doesn’t happen anymore. But, they haven’t said anything about it yet.

So for the time being, make sure you have a SEO company you really trust. Monitor your search rankings closely for any changes, and react fast if they do!

When Optimizing Google Ads for Quality Score Doesn’t Make Sense

Quality Score.

It’s Google’s way of determining the ranking position and cost per click of your PPC ads.

Quality score can be a step in helping you achieve your business goals. But sometimes, it doesn’t always work in your best interests.

Remember, Google makes most of its money from its ads. Last year, they raked in $95.38 billion of their $110.9 billion in total revenue (86%) from their ads.

While Google has done a superb job of perfecting how Quality Score works so it gives searchers the best experience, this hasn’t necessarily led to making it easier for you to drive real business results. For example, you might look at ROI, leads generated, revenue generated, and so on.

So if you set your sights on perfecting your Quality Score, you can actually sometimes also be shooting your business results in the foot. For example, it does happen in campaigns where you increase CTR (click through rate), which also increases your quality score. However, conversions may not increase.

So, you’ve just increased your costs – with no associated increase in your sales.

The Best Uses of Quality Score

One helpful way to look at your Quality Score lies in its relationship to your keywords. Let’s say one of your keywords generates a high number of total conversions. However, it has a lower rate and lower Quality Score. In this case, you’ll more than likely improve your conversion rate by also improving your Quality score.

You might also find your Quality Score so low that you don’t get any real business results from certain keywords. In this case also, it makes sense to focus your time and effort on improving your Quality Score.

Clearly, experience and professional judgment play a role here. If you don’t have much of either, how can you know the relationship between Quality Score and the business metric you’re looking at, and whether you should focus on Quality Score or not?

 

You Don’t Need to Fear Quality Score

Despite Quality Score’s imperfections, it’s not something to be ignored. It simply shouldn’t be the measure of success. It shouldn’t be your goal.

Your business goals should be written down. And Quality Score should be seen as a step on your journey to online advertising success.

As long as you keep that perspective, you’ll do just fine in your PPC campaigns.