There have been quite a few studies recently around improving and removing low-quality web pages. Many have discovered that by removing their low-quality web pages, their entire website receives a boost in the search engine rankings. In this article, we will break down quality guidelines when assigning a page quality score as openly shared by Google.
In case you are a skimmer, here’s a quick summary as to best practices when working to create quality content.
- Know the purpose of the content you are creating
- Create content you are working towards or already proven to be an expert in
- Cover your topics in-depth. Leave no question unanswered if you are creating content that is meant to educate or inform.
- Use Supplemental Content such as links to other related content on or off your website.
- Use Media such as video, and images to support your purpose of the content
- Avoid annoying pop-up ads that can disrupt the experience
- Avoid tricking the user by using deceiving doorway pages that act like one thing and are really another
- If you are giving advice on legal, financial, or health issues, be thorough, prove your facts, and avoid unsubstantiated opinions.
- Do not build templated websites that have no original, value-added content.
- Do not keyword stuff your pages.
- Do not directly copy the content of another source in part or in full without adding significant value to the copy.
- Build your brand reputation through reviews, ratings, and references
- Do not add low-quality pages to your website as it can bring down the scoring of other high-quality pages
- Position yourself as an expert in a particular niche and topics
- Position your website as an authority on a niche with specific topics
- Avoid automatically generated content
Google uses 5 rating options to assign a page quality rating. These include Lowest, Low, Medium, High, and Highest. Some pages may even score in between the rating sets. This would be comparable to a school teacher assigning the grade B + or C- to a student.
In order of stated importance, here are the considerations when a page is rated.
- Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
- Main Content Quality and Amount -Defined as a significant amount of at least one of the following: time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill.
- Reputation. – Google specifically tells its evaluators to not assign a high rating to a page where the website has a bad reputation.
In Google’s Search Quality Evaluators Guide, it encourages the evaluator to discover the purpose of the page. This is a fantastic way for you to begin creating a piece of content. Start with the question “What is the purpose of this page?”.
If the answer is “to rank on Google”, you may have already failed. By identifying a clear purpose, such as “this page to is to educate the reader on how to best patch up a hole in the wall”, you’ll know how to determine if you have accomplished that goal.
Websites and pages should be created to help users. Websites and pages that are created with intent to harm users, deceive users, or make money with no attempt to help users, should receive the Lowest PQ rating. – Google
Google outlines “Purpose” of a page as some of the following
- To share files or download software
- To poll users on a specific question
- To sell services and products
- To entertain
- To share Media (Pictures, Video)
- To share Info on a topic
- To share personal or social information (as in a personal blog, vlog etc.)
- To Express a point of view or opinion
YMYL Pages (Your Money or Your Life)
YMYL Pages are a term used by Google to identify web pages that can affect a users health, finances, or future happiness. Examples of these would be:
- Pages that request payment information
- Pages that give advice on finances such as investments, taxes, retirement, real estate
- Pages that contain or request medical information including info on drugs, disease, mental health and so forth.
- Pages that offer legal information about such topics as divorce, child custody, citizenship, creating a will etc.
- Pages that offer News
Google claims to have very strict guidelines for YMYL pages. If you are building a page around any of these topics, your content will be held to a very high standard. Be careful about stating an opinion, and use plenty of facts and references.
Google classifies content on a page as one of 3 categories.
- Main Content (MC)Main Content, according to Google, is any content on the page that directly assists the page in achieving its purpose. Webmasters, the person who is responsible for maintaining a website, directly control the main content of the page (with the exception of usergenerated content).This would include videos, images, text, resources such as games or calculators, articles, reviews, and other user-generated content.
- Supplementary Content (SC)Supplementary Content or SC is content on the page that adds to a positive user experience, yet is not directly helping the page achieve its goal purpose. This might be a table of contents, links to other areas of the website, an additional supplementary video or blog post, a list of related articles.
- Advertisements/Monetization (Ads)Contrary to the warnings to not display ads on your website for fear of de-ranking, ads may actually contribute to a positive user experience.For definition, Advertisements/Monetization (Ads) is content (including links) that is displayed with the goal of earning money from the page. Including or not including ads is not specifically a reason to increase or lower page quality, Google tells it’s evaluators.
It’s important to note, that although each web page will receive its own page quality score, the website as a whole is also considered and factored. Page Quality ratings are given based on the website that they are part of.
We need to find out what outside, independent sources say about the website. When there is disagreement between what the website says about itself and what reputable independent sources say about the website, we’ll trust the independent sources. – Google
Google looks to discover the experience of actual users of a website. It doesn’t rely on self-proclaimed statements of quality service, products, or standards.
Google looks to the reputation of the organization, company, and website. Google looks outside for independent external sources that agree AND disagree with what the website says about its organization itself.
When the website says one thing about itself, but reputable external sources disagree with what the website says, trust the external sources, says Google to it’s evaluators
Google looks to external sources such as:
- News articles
- Expert endorsements
- Published Awards
- Professional Associations
- Magazine Articles
- Forum Discussions
- Wikipedia Articles
It’s worth noting that Google specifically tells it’s evaluators to skip websites such as ALEXA.com when determining reputation. Alexa monitors traffic, not reputation. Web traffic itself is not an indicator of quality.
As a new business, this may concern you as you have not had time yet to build a positive reputation. This is not considered a negative sign with Google and will not affect your quality scores. This being said, the more proactive about your reputation, the more likely you are to receive higher scores and recognition on the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages).
We consider a large number of positive user reviews as evidence of positive reputation. – Google
Low quality pages are unsatisfying or lacking in some element that prevents them from achieving their purpose well. These pages lack expertise or are not very trustworthy/authoritative for the purpose of the page. – Google
A page that lacks or fits the following would be considered low quality.
- The author is not an expert on the topic
- The website is not trustworthy
- The website is not authoritative on the topic
- The main content quality is low
- The page lacks a clear purpose
- There is disruptive or misleading content on the page
- The page lacks sufficient information
- The website has a negative reputation
What to Avoid
Keyword Stuffed Pages
Don’t create content for the search engines, create content for the user and apply best practices in SEO. Repeating keywords, again and again, may have been necessary with old-school Google. Today, it’s smarter than that and it can determine that you are working to “game” the search engines. This is likely to gain you a low quality score.
Pages created with the intent of luring search engines and users, rather than providing meaningful MC to help users, should be rated Lowest – Google
Automatically Generated Content
In this case, Google is suggesting that a webmaster avoids using a basic template to create hundreds or thousands of pages with syndicated content such as from an RSS feed or API.
Copied Main Content
We do not consider legitimately licensed or syndicated content to be “copied”, says Google
In other words, syndication is an acceptable process. Google defines “copied” as the practice of “scraping” content, or copying content from other nonaffiliated websites without adding any original content or value to users (see here for more information on copied or scraped content).
Google warns of the lowest quality rating if the page is directly copied from another source (meaning you are not that source), has no additional value added (a single comment is not “added” value), and if the page has no unique purpose on its own. It took very little time, effort, expertise, manual curation or additional value.
And this is true regardless of crediting the original source.
To be more specific, Copied content is considered:
- Any content that is copied from another source that is identified. This includes the entire page or just parts. “Stitched” content is still considered copied regardless of the order.
- Even when content is slightly changed from the original after copying, it’s still identified as copied content. Trying to outsmart Google with this method is risky. When identified, it will result in the lowest quality rating.
- Often times, content is created dynamically through feeds and changing sources. Because it changes frequently, it may be harder to detect. If this is copied content, regardless of the fact that it changes, it will still be at risk of receiving the lowest quality score.