Google has just released something akin a website ownership manual. This isn’t the first time they’ve done this. The 160 page PDF is a guide for Google employees who rate websites. It’s a guide to how they should score what they find after a variety of queries. Companies who engage in content marketing should follow this to score better in organic rankings.
They’re calling it the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
When I first waded into this behemoth of a document, I wanted to close the PDF file and get back to some light reading like War And Peace. The manual is dry as sawdust. But if you simply look at the table of contents, you’ll see a formula for owning and managing a successful website:
Page Quality – You know what this means by now. Put up content that helps your prospects. You will be judged with social media shares, links, a few more links, and high quality .edu links. You will also be judged by whether or not your content is authoritative.
Embrace Mobile Responsiveness Already – It’s time to embrace that the world is consuming more of the Internet on mobile devices and make sure your content marketing looks good there. As an experiment, I’m maintaining a hobby website that is not responsive just to see how it fares and report on this at a later date. It’s in a non-competitive category, so it will probably fare just fine for a while. I’ll keep you posted.
Understand the Needs of Your Readers – Think like a Google website reviewer and ask yourself if your website content meets the needs of your most likely prospects. If your users have specific needs, like “sports equipment bulk ordering” and your website content doesn’t offer that as a function, then you’ll get a lower “Needs Met” score.
The “Needs Met” ratings get fairly detailed and cover many different points that will effect most websites. For instance, in the case of a restaurant, the guide has a section on “Visit-in-Person Queries and User Location.” But users can also intend to visit any business at all, even a content marketing agency. We’re what you might call “a 2nd floor business,” meaning we’re not retail. Yet people still need to find us, for instance someone interviewing with us. They might use Siri to search “Find ion Leap,” which is clearly a location query, or they might simply use a mobile device to search “ion Leap.” Is that a mobile query? According to section 12.7.5, Google factors in the mobile user’s current location to determine the intent. If they’re 3 blocks from our location in Summit New Jersey, then they are more likely indicating “Visit-in-Person Intent.”
So being mobile-friendly doesn’t just include being responsive, it means you had better have your address on the website in the precise way mobile queries demand it. It means your website functionality had better support the intent of your visitors. If your online store only works for desktop browsers, then your ranking will be dropped for mobile visitors.
Fix Your Mess – This is a wide category, and it happens to all websites from time to time. A big one is the fact that your blog sits unloved for 5 months. Google and your readers expect a blog to change on a semi-regular basis. Even if you delete the time stamp function of your blog, it’s still a blog and Google knows it. I’ve seen websites which are touted as news sites with articles on them from 8 years ago. That’s no longer news.
You know that user ratings matter to Google, and are expected of larger companies. Have you set up all the user rating sites out there like Yelp, Google Reviews, and MerchantCircle? Don’t just set them up, get honest reviews on them.
Does your website have duplicate landing pages? Are your landing pages searchable? Has your WordPress code been updated in the last 8 years? Are all your WordPress plugins up to date? This should be done at least yearly.
Are you focused on publishing high-quality content on the main parts of your website? Is it long enough to be views as valuable? The fashion these days is to keep it short, but Google looks for authority content. While that doesn’t necessarily mean long, it means long enough to be thorough. See section 6 of the PDF.
This could not be more transparent, yet many small and medium businesses won’t follow it fully. These days, with so many companies depending on the Internet for ongoing sales, it’s critical to embrace these simple steps.