A refresher on theme for this series of articles.
Because link acquisition is becoming less and less important these days, there is another factor which is filling the vacuum: engagement rank. Engagement rank is the part of the Google algorithm which affects search results through user engagement. To improve user engagement, there is a process and it’s called trust optimisation. Along with on-site optimisation, link acquisition, there is now trust optimisation which helps you improve your engagement rank. On to the article!
1. What makes a High quality site? A High quality rating requires at least one of the following high quality characteristics:
2. • A satisfying amount of high quality MC.
3. • The page and website are expert, authoritative, and trustworthy for the topic of the page.
4. • The website has a good reputation for the topic of the page.
5. In addition, the page and website should have most of the following:
6. • A satisfying amount of website information, for example, About Us information, Contact or Customer Service information, etc.
7. • SC which contributes to a satisfying user experience on the page and website.
8. • Functional page design which allows users to easily focus on MC and use SC as desired.
9. • A website which is well cared for and maintained.
10. It has good links from trusted domains
11. it’s got brand / url citations from trusted sites
In this final post I assemble all the components that make for a trusted website according to Google. Everything in bold is directly from Google quality rater guidelines 2014.
Google: What makes a High quality site? A High quality rating requires at least one of the following high quality characteristics:
Google: A satisfying amount of high quality MC.
Google use this term ‘satisfying’ regularly in the document. It’s an odd word to me, because it means so much and yet so little. Here’s the definition:
Satisfying: giving fulfilment or the pleasure associated with this.
“these are very satisfying books”
So when Google talk about a satisfying amount of high quality main content (MC) , they are saying in a very subjective way; if the main content they see is good and feels about right, then it’s a good thing.
The question is what is good main content? Of course it’s subjective. However if you go up a couple of levels and and think of the purpose behind your website, satisfying main content will mean what people see is tied in with the purpose of the site as a whole.
Let’s dig into this a little more. In iGaming we have affiliates and they are commission only sales people who try to get users to click through their banner ads and links in order for users to then convert, from which they get an affiliate commission.
There are things known as thin affiliate sites, these are sites with virtually no content which have ranked through aggressive search engine optimisation. Users don’t like these sites and therefore Google doesn’t like them either. The
purpose of a thin affiliate site is not one Google likes.
Let’s take a different scenario. Imagine an affiliate site which has a great collection of specific bonuses. A good example is enhanced odds which are a new type of bonus bookmakers are offering. Let’s say the purpose of this particular website is to be the holdall place for every kind of enhanced bet offer there is. That’s a good purpose. Users want this site because they want enhanced bets and as long as the site gives them lots of choice in an easy to access way, this site is a win.
A satisfying amount of main content is where the purpose behind the site is demonstrated immediately to users.
Google: The page and website are expert, authoritative, and trustworthy for the topic of the page.
Thankfully this is a little less subjective, but still there are lots of ways you can interpret this. What is expert? What is authoritative? And what is trustworthy?
In order to give this some fixed point, let’s go back into definitions again:
Expert: a person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area.
So if you trust somebody or something often it’s because there are expert, i.e they are very knowledgeable and therefore trustworthy. If it’s a website, the site has a lot of really useful information from someone who clearly knows what they’re talking about. Again, it’s massively subjective because if I know nothing about the subject, then I could be led like a donkey in the wrong direction.
I assume Google can’t make a direct judgement on the expertise of a website, but instead they look a whole basket of different signals which leads them to draw a conclusion about the trustworthiness/expertise of your website.
Definition: able to be trusted as being accurate or true; reliable.
It’s a very close relation to expert. How do I know if someone is authoritative? Perhaps they put their name to something and those people having a background, qualifications, third-party citations saying their knowledgeable.
Again, what’s authoritative to one person is low-level to another. If somebody is ignorant on the subject, a highly authoritative opinion may be so inaccessible they think it’s just stupid…durrrrr. Think of Homer Simpson.
I think the best way of demonstrating authoritativeness is by putting the people behind the website first so users understand there is someone serious talking about whatever it is.
Definition:able to be relied on as honest or truthful.
Again, a very close relation to expert and authoritative.
Trustworthiness for a website centres around people believing what you say. A good example of how it manifests itself is through comments and other social feedback on your website.
There’s a thing called social proof, where if someone sees a group of people looking at something, they will look to assuming there is something worth looking at. In other words we park the need to validate something because other people have already done the hard work for us. That’s why reviews are so powerful, because other people have done the work interrogating whatever it is and so it’s one less thing to have to do for ourselves.
Wrapping up on expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness.
For Google, this is a really difficult area. They can’t assume the viewpoint of everybody. For one person who knows nothing, what frame of reference to they have on whether something is genuinely authoritative and trustworthy?
For another person who is very knowledgeable, they will only be a few sources of information they would regard as genuinely authoritative and trustworthy. Therefore it’s a really difficult thing to work out.
My best advice; take it all personally. Build a website that you would be happy for your friends to trust.
Google: The website has a good reputation for the topic of the page. In addition, the page and website should have most of the following: A satisfying amount of website information, for example, About Us information, Contact or Customer Service information, etc.
Notice how Google talk about reputation. This ties in with something I talked about earlier; social proof. Ultimately in this context, Google are going off what their raters see as good reputation. Since they are humans, they will look at the Internet in a fairly similar way to the rest of us. So what makes for a good reputation?
Firstly, that somebody is behind the website, or a group of people are. This is why Google talk about seeing a satisfying amount of website information. What is satisfying? How about in the about us page, some useful information about the company or the people behind the website, pictures of the team, real address and phone number, third-party references to the website.
People buy into people. Businesses are groups of people working together. Websites are the manifestations of people’s endeavours. Therefore make the people behind the website fairly prominent.
Google: SC which contributes to a satisfying user experience on the page and website.
SC is secondary content. Google wants to see main content being directly tied into the purpose of the site. Secondary
content is things like headers, sidebars, footers. What Google are saying is that secondary content should support main content. A good example would be having related articles, contact information, Facebook likes block, anything which indirectly supports the main content of the page.
If you are an affiliate, satisfying secondary content would be other similar offers with bookmakers. If you’re an operator and you have a blog, secondary content would be useful articles related to the subject being written about.
What’s not so good is loading up every spare part of the page with run of network ads. There was an update to Google’s algorithm which specifically tackled this: the top heavy update.
Google: Functional page design which allows users to easily focus on MC and use SC as desired.
Google are saying make it easy to focus on the main content and secondary content. A good example is Wikipedia. It’s a simple and clear layout and makes it easy for users to traverse across the site through the secondary content.
A bad example is a website which comes up with an overlay after two seconds asking you to do a survey… Not good, because it hides all the content you want to see. Another example might be a page loaded with video ads combined with a very large header, so everything above the fold is unseen.
Google: A website which is well cared for and maintained.
Question, what is well cared and maintained? I think it’s a mixture of keeping the number of broken links, pages, images down to zero. The second part is newness of content, but that’s subjective because some sites have evergreen content which will have a shelf life of years.
Let’s just cover off maintenance.
Google are very helpful in this respect. In Webmaster tools they will give you data on number of broken pages, which pages are broken broken and any link to anything, i.e. an image, a PDF or whatever. Also it will report on site speed, another really important metric directly related to user engagement and indirectly rankings.
Being cared for
maintenance and being cared for are very closely related. Caring for your website beyond maintenance is making sure it’s up-to-date. Earlier I talked about evergreen content. There are some topics like ancient history, which will not change much from one year to another. Therefore a site covering ancient history should be well maintained, but you might not get a whole lot of new content. It all depends on the nature of the site.
I think it’s unreasonable for Google to gear the algorithm around recency of content, since as I said there are so many site types which will never get fresh content.
as humans, were subjective and our universe shades of grey. For Google to decide what a good website looks like is a computational blackhole.
In the end judging quality comes down to semantic understanding of a website and an intimate understanding of how humans judge quality. The clever part about learning algorithms is they learn… And by training the algorithm to look for certain things, over time it gets more and more sophisticated and more humanlike in its judgement of quality.
Of course Google have to work across vast landscapes on the Internet. Ultimately their greatest constraint is resource. They have to achieve a balance of the best signals to give them search results which reflect what people want balanced by the amount of resource it takes.
Ultimately there are three buckets:
- Engagement rank, the metrics that are kicked off as people do or don’t click on your search results and subsequently do or don’t engage with you
- PageRank, the ‘vote’ given to your website from links
- On-site optimisation, organising your website to work for search engines
To improve engagement rank, you will need to do Trust Optimisation, or in other words build websites people actually want. This has a knock-on effect to link acquisition.
If you have a website people want, getting a link is so much easier. Therefore it’s easier to acquire more PageRank. If you have a site people want, Google will do whatever it can to make sense of your website. I’ve seen this so many times where all the signals line up beautifully, but the site has terrible on-site optimisation, yet still Google ranks that site even off title tags alone
To sum it all up in a sentence: ‘build sites users want and Google will want you too’.
Nick Garner is founder of 90 Digital, the well-known and respected iGaming search marketing agency.
Nick is obsessed with SEO and whatever it takes to rank sustainably on Google.