Jennifer Ledbetter, the author of PotPieGirl.com shared a great blog post last week abut how Google makes its algorithm changes using human raters to rate search engine results.
In a nutshell, Google has an army of humans that guide their algorithm changes by examining the “quality” of websites. Those quality signals eventually become encapsulated into the mathematical algorithm and then roll out into the entire Google index. Your website goes up-or-down based upon your “quality footprint.” The possibility even exists that your site could go up or down as a result of a manual review, outside of an actual algorithm change.
Here is a short video from Google explaining:
Is this scary? We don’t think so. In fact, this really confirms what we have been teaching our clients for years: Focus on making your site the BEST site and your search results will follow.
The most fascinating element of her post is that she shared a “proprietary and confidential” 125 page document from Google that gives step-by-step instructions on how to do a “quality rating.” Unfortunately, Google asked her to remove that link. (you can find it probably by searching for it) Fortunately, we downloaded the document last week and will summarize the important bits for you.
The rating scale for sites are based upon what is most helpful for the users of Google and what their intent was. Sites are broken down into:
- Vital: A special ranking only for “official” pages when a websites should “own” the query. For hotels, that is only a brand name search.
- Useful: A page that is very helpful for most users. Here are some of the words used to describe useful sites: highly satisfying, authoritative, entertaining, recent, well organized, trustworthy, reliable, not spammy, reputable, helpful, well-known, highly informative and popular.
- Relevant: a page that is helpful for many or some users
- Slightly Relevant: a page that may be low quality and or contain less helpful information. They may look nice but have very little genuine helpful content. They may have many links and ads without content to support them. less satisfying, less comprehensive, less authoritative, too narrow or too broad. They have copied content, are disorganized, links don’t work, writing quality is poor and are outdated.
- Off-Topic or Useless. Speaks for itself!
Those are pretty good guidelines! Is your website Useful??
Here are some of the negative indicators that struck me as important. They were often mentioned over and over. Also, each one strikes me as something that could be encapsulated into the algorithm. In other words, the computers over at Google can probably evaluate your website on these factors without much human assistance:
- Copied (or duplicate) content seemed to be a big problem. Clearly unoriginal content is a problem.
- Broken links are bad… but pages with links to helpful websites were given credit.
- Hidden text and keyword stuffing were talked about extensively… don’t overuse your keywords.
- Matching the registrant (owner) of the domain to the business was discussed. Does your domain registration belong to your business?
- Misspelled words, disorganized pages and poorly written copy were negative indicators.
- URLs with keyword stuffed into them and overuse of dashes and slashers were considered spammy. Don’t overdo this!
Other factors were mentioned repeatedly as positive indicators of high quality pages. In the realm of hotels and lodging, here are few that stood out to me:
- Videos and photos were mentioned several times as adding value to pages.
- Original product reviews were also mentioned several times.
- Links to helpful websites received positive mentions.
- Content that is timely and new.
- Contact info, phone numbers and addresses were mentioned as useful content.
If you are serious about better Google rankings, keep your focus on creating the best website for your guests. Fill it with original, valuable and informative content.