Has your site ever experienced a drop in Google rankings, and you had no idea why?
Search engine marketing consultant, Dr. Marie Haynes specializes in Google algorithm updates and Google’s recently released, Quality Rater’s Guidelines. She’s been featured on the Moz blog, she writes on Search Engine Watch, and this week she shares her industry expertise on the Sure Oak Podcast.
For anyone who’s worried about the impact of Google algorithm changes or who has experienced a drop, Marie offers insight into Google’s 160-page Quality Guidelines, the three most important factors, how to future-proof your site and more.
Quality Rater’s Guidelines
Google has clear guidelines for website quality. And only in the last couple of years has the public had access to the 160-page book.
Google provides these guidelines to contractors who rate websites for their quality. There are an estimated 10,000 contractors who complete a careful review of websites through an interface.
Many people confuse the role of these raters, thinking that the rater’s assessment impacts website ranking directly. However, these ratings actually feed into Google’s algorithm and machine learning. The raters improve the algorithm’s ability to identify quality in websites and rank them appropriately.
Content Optimization: EAT
So, what does Google consider to be high quality?
“We’ve noticed a lot of attention being paid to is EAT,” explains Marie.
EAT stands for Experience, Authoritativeness and Trust. Sites with these qualities rank higher. Marie noticed Google’s implementation of EAT in February 2017.
While important for all sites, it’s especially important in “your money or your life” sites where people seek information for a financial or medical decision.
For example, if a user is seeking financial information and they have a choice between a site written by:
- a journalist who’s a really good writer or
- a financial advisor who’s been practicing what they’re writing about for years.
Google will put more emphasis on the site from the financial expert.
Google will use on-site information and off-site reputation about the authors to evaluate their level of expertise. To rank higher, Marie advises: “Anything you can do to show to Google that you are the expert is a good thing.”
Find an Expert
If you are not the expert in your industry, you should bring one (or more!) on-board.
Marie shares the story of a client with a medical site whose ranking “dropped like crazy” with the February 2017 update. The sites that were ranking #1 instead had medical expertise on staff on their site. These positions showed they had “tons of medical EAT.”
The client engaged with physicians to review their articles to increase their site EAT. Sure enough, their site ranking increased again.
Future-proofing for Google Updates
Every day, Google’s algorithm has 3 or 4 updates.
There are no longer specific updates from Google, but every once in a while there is a major shift.
Marie has been tracking Google updates for years. From her experience, recent Google updates fall into two categories:
- Core quality
The core quality changes are changing the way Google assesses quality on your website. Though not specified, EAT is a significant feature.
Marie highlights that link updates have really changed. Previously, unnatural links pointing to your site could penalize your site. Now, Google simply ignores these links.
There’s No Faking It
In the past, SEOs could take a mediocre website with the right links and with tweaked on-page features, they could probably make it rank pretty well.
Marie has a clear warning: “These new algorithms, in my opinion, are making it so that the fake stuff doesn’t rank well anymore” It’s harder and harder to get around Google’s algorithm.
To be successful, Marie states, “It all comes down to absolutely creating the best website.” Content that will help your customers is real life should inform your SEO content strategy.
“I think the day will come where SEOs are just building fantastic websites and figuring out how to make it the best choice for the users.”
- EAT: Use experience, be authentic, and build trust. Google’s algorithm is searching for these qualities.
- Focus more on producing a high-quality website than trying to find quick algorithm wins.
- Major Google algorithm updates cover either core quality or links.
- Show Google that you or your staff are experts. On-site staff info and off-site reputation help prove EAT.
- If you’ve had a Google drop, ask someone external to compare your site and your competitor’s who is ranking higher.
- Don’t put too much emphasis on disavowing unnatural links. Google’s algorithm is likely ignoring them anyway.