There were a lot of signals for both high- and low-quality content and websites in the Google Search Quality Ratings Guidelines. It is worth reading in its entirety multiple times, but I pulled out some of the important parts here:
What makes a High-quality page? A in4-quality page may have the following characteristics:
- High level of Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
- A satisfying amount of high quality MC (Main Content)
- Satisfying website information and/or information about who is responsible for the website, or satisfying customer service information if the page is primarily for shopping or includes financial transactions
- Positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the MC on the page
They expand further on the concept of E-A-T. This was the part of the guidelines I found the most interesting and relevant in determining quality of content (or a website in general).
6.1 Low Quality Main ContentOne of the most important criteria in PQ (Page Quality) rating is the quality of the MC, which is determined by how much time, effort, expertise and talent/skill have gone into the creation of the page and also informs the E-A-T of the page.Consider this example: Most students have to write papers for high school or college. Many students take shortcuts to save time and effort by doing one or more of the following:
- Buying papers online or getting someone else to write for them
- Making things up
- Writing quickly, with no drafts or editing
- Filling the report with large pictures or other distracting content
- Copying the entire report from an encyclopedia or paraphrasing content by changing words or sentence structure here and there
- Using commonly known facts, for example, “Argentina is a country. People live in Argentina. Argentina has borders.”
- Using a lot of words to communicate only basic ideas or facts, for example, “Pandas eat bamboo. Pandas eat a lot of bamboo. Bamboo is the best food for a Panda bear.”
I found the part of about large images amusing. I’m not a fan of hero images unless they are exceptional. Unfortunately, most end up being generic. Some publications make it worse and use generic hero sliders. Remember, there is an algorithm for “above-the-fold,” and I feel like hero images are completely against this. Most hero images provide little to no useful content without having to scroll.
In section 7.0, “Lowest Quality Pages,” Google notes that the following types of pages/websites should receive the Lowest quality rating:
- Harmful or malicious pages or websites
- True lack of purpose pages or websites
- Deceptive pages or websites
- Pages or websites which are created to make money with little to no attempt to help users
- Pages with extremely low or lowest-quality MC
- Pages on YMYL websites that are so lacking in website information that it feels untrustworthy
- Hacked, defaced or spammed pages
- Pages or websites created with no expertise or pages which are highly untrustworthy, unreliable, unauthoritative, inaccurate or misleading
- Websites which have extremely negative or malicious reputations
- Violations of the Google Webmaster Quality Guidelines
Speaking more specifically about page content in section 7.4, “Lowest Quality Main Content,” the guidelines note that the following types of Main Content (MC) should be judged as Lowest quality:
- No helpful MC at all or so little MC that the page effectively has no MC
- MC which consists almost entirely of “keyword stuffing”
- Gibberish or meaningless MC
- “Auto-generated” MC, created with little to no time, effort, expertise, manual curation or added value for users
- MC which consists almost entirely of content copied from another source with little time, effort, expertise, manual curation or added value for users.
Finally, in section 7.2, “Lack of Purpose Pages,” Google notes that:
Sometimes it is impossible to figure out the purpose of the page. Such pages serve no real purpose for users. For example, some pages are deliberately created with gibberish or meaningless (nonsense) text. No matter how they are created, true lack of purpose pages should be rated Lowest quality.
I love how these sections are all basically saying that your page needs to have a purpose and be understood. I’ve seen many marketing pages that use so much lingo, jargon or marketing-speak that even people at the company can’t tell you what the page is about. What’s worse is when good content is stripped away to make more of these kinds of pages.
There are also some interesting snippets regarding the different elements and signals of trust that might need to be included based on the type of website. This information is extremely important, and it’s easy to brainstorm the different website elements that a local business would need (such as “about us” or “contact”), compared to an e-commerce store that might need reviews, pricing and so forth.
The point is that you need to understand the questions your customers are asking and provide that information to them.
12.7 Understanding User IntentIt can be helpful to think of queries as having one or more of the following intents.
- Know query, some of which are Know Simple queries
- Do query, some of which are Device Action queries
- Website query, when the user is looking for a specific website or webpage
- Visit-in-person query, some of which are looking for a specific business or organization, some of which are looking for a category of businesses
The above is very similar to the standard “informational, navigational and transactional” system, but I like this better.
Google elaborates on the idea of matching user intent with the purpose of the page elsewhere in the document — section 2.2, “What is the Purpose of a Webpage?” lists the following common page purposes:
- To share information about a topic
- To share personal or social information
- To share pictures, videos or other forms of media
- To express an opinion or point of view
- To entertain
- To sell products or services
- To allow users to post questions for other users to answer
- To allow users to share files or to download software