Google HeadquartersAccording to a new document that has been circulating around SEO blogs over the past couple of weeks, Google has completely rewritten the Quality Ratings Guideline This document is the main resource that Google’s team of quality raters use to apply a rating to visited websites for Google’s rankings.

Typically, Google modifies the existing Guideline every now and then to adjust it to their latest algorithms, however, it appears that this time around, Google’s new Guideline has been completely re-written.  Obviously, there’s a lot of curiosity about this new document and based on a preliminary review, it appears to emphasize their Knowledge Graph style results along with site reputation and authority, which our MGR SEO Team has been promoting for quite some time now.

Google’s New Quality Rating Guide – Click Here to View Video Highlights >

The caveat is that this new document has not been made “officially” public by Google as of this writing.  There are “leaked” versions on certain SEO Blogs and the SEO community has already been able to review the key aspects to start applying them.  But regardless of the nature of the document, the new recommendations are in line with what Google has been promoting over the past year and a half.

So how does this affect your own website SEO and what would you need to do to keep up with the latest guideline?  Here are the key factors to consider.

2014 Google Rating Guidelines InfographicBetter E-A-T for Improved Results

Google’s brand new emphasis in the new Quality Rater’s Handbook is the idea of E-A-T: Expertise – Authoritativeness –  Trustworthiness.

Google likes authoritative content.  No surprise here.  Likewise, Google is also making it clear that websites that don’t show any E-A-T will be given a lower rating.

Be careful about contributed content.  Opening your website or blog to third party content may actually backfire, especially if the contributed content links back to website with low E-A-T rating.  In other words, qualify your contributors carefully.

Qualifying Expertise

According to the report, there are many kinds of experts depending on the particular subject.  However, as an example, you don’t need to be a doctor to be able to provide your own expert opinion about a disease that you have experienced and for which you have acquired a significant amount of knowledge.  If your site is based on third party contributors or contributed content, be sure to pre-establish your writers’ authority to keep your rankings high.

Knowledge Graphs

A lot of emphasis is now given to Knowledge Graphs.  In previous versions of the guidelines, Google talked about Title Link Result Blocks (TLRB) and No Title Link Result Blocks (NTRB) as the way Google differentiates between two distinct styles of knowledge graphs that they use. Once again, this confirms the importance of creating website pages and landing pages that are clearly structured with comprehensive (viewer oriented) content rather than just focusing on keywords and phrases.

Limit Ads for Higher Quality Rating

Along with making web pages more informative, placing ads all over the place that interrupt the flow of the page will result in a lower rating.  In the past, Google already penalized pages with deceptive ads (ads that pretended to be part of the content but they were not), however, the new guidelines also make it clear that over-abundance of ads may also render a lower rating.  It is up to the raters to determine whether the ads are being obtrusive or if they flow naturally with the page content without interfering with it.

As a particular example, placing a banner at the top of the page, as prime position as it may be for your advertiser, it may lower your rating since it causes visitors to scroll down to get to your content.  As always, design your pages with your readers’ in mind and Google will be happy with it too.

Supplementary Content = Higher Rating

Supplementary content is additional content and links that contribute to a greater user experience.  For example, you may have a page that talks about a particular topic and add a few “Related Links” for more information.  Or have a video showing a specific “How to” procedure accompanied by links to related videos.  Some landing pages do not include any supplementary content since they are designed to drive the visitor to JUST one product or offer without further distractions.  Yet, Google now recommends to its raters to look into supplementary content that will enhance the visitor experience even if the content is just taking the viewer to other sections of the site.

Google’s rule of thumb for quality raters on determining what is secondary content: anything on a page that isn’t the main content or advertisements. They consider it important to the overall user experience.

Poor Page Design = Lower Page Value

If your website or web pages were designed with advertising in mind, you may want to reconsider your design layout.  This almost relates to the practice of deceptive advertising.  Make sure that your design is clean.  That doesn’t mean that you cannot have advertising banners.  What Google wants to see is that your design is clear with knowledge and informational areas clearly separated from advertising banners or ad links.  No disguising ads between your copy, adding annoying pop ups, or splashing banners all over the page.  Keep it nice and clean and the raters will like it too.

Shopping Website

If your website is considered an eCommerce or shopping site, Google has some news for you too.  You no longer need to include wish lists, gift registries, or a user forum to make your site relevant for Google.  However, Google raters will be looking for pages including contact information, return and exchange policies and customer service information.  In reality, most merchant processors already require these types of pages to set up new accounts, so you will just need to make sure that these pages and links are clearly visible for the user.

Inline Advertising

If you’re still holding on to those annoying inline advertising ads, well, you’re killing your own website.  Google (and pretty much everyone else) considers these types of ads very distracting and can make the main content on the page difficult to read, which equals a poor user experience. Inline advertising -those double underlined links that pop up an ad when you mouse over the link- were already a thing of the past and Google wants to make sure that you know that too.

Good Reputation

The new guideline’s rating system shows how website reputation has been given a boost and it is clear that Google is putting a greater emphasis on reputation than they did before.  Typically, this factor favors larger companies’ websites with lots of built-in authority over the small business website that tends to lack content and authority.  Now it is more important than ever for the smaller business to build a higher reputation and authority by adding continuous good quality and informational content to its site.  It’s up to the raters now to recognize a small business website that may not have so much content or website presence, but for larger companies, reputable content is now a must.

Likewise, Google stresses that a webpage cannot be given a High rating if the site has a negative reputation and it is asking its raters to give the lowest rating to any page where there is sufficient evidence of fraudulent or malicious behavior on behalf of the website.

Spamming and Cloaking?

One surprising missing section from the new guide is any reference to spamming and cloaking.  Previous versions of the guide had sections describing spam and cloaking techniques that raters would identify.  The new guide has eliminated these sections with only a few references left with regards to spam comments or forums that are being spammed.

Lack of Purpose

Google’s new rating guideline refers to Gibberish when it talks about any auto-generated pages that have lack of purpose.  These types of pages add no value and should always be rated lowest.

“About Us” and “Contact Info” Pages

In the past, Google stressed that pages specific to YMYL sites needed to have a page about the site (“About Us”), contact or customer service information, and who is responsible for the maintenance and content of the website. The new guideline implies that Google now wants all websites to include this type of information and the raters will be looking for it.

Depending on your particular type of website,  a simple email address for contact information may suffice.  But we strongly recommend adding even a basic “About Us” page to comply with this new requirement.

So there you have it!  Again, if you’re one of MGR’s SEO clients, your website is likely to already comply with most of these guidelines. If not, our team will ensure that you’re notified of any adjustments needed when you receive your next monthly report.  If you’re NOT an MGR client and you want to simply have your website checked by our team, simply contact us anytime.

Until next time, this is Manuel Gil del Real (MGR).