Content quality is of vital importance for search engines. Sending users to the most helpful and relevant content is a key ingredient of user experience, while sending them to sites with inaccurate or deceptive content can harm users and land search engines in hot water with regulators. Here, we look at what factors search engines take into consideration when judging quality and what websites can do to improve it and their ranking.
While the internet is a source of much good and valuable information, it is also plagued by fake news, deception and misleading content. Search engines have a duty of care to ensure that their users are protected from this and to do that, they need to filter out poor quality website content from their search results. According to its Search Quality Rating Guide, Google states that ‘Search results should provide authoritative and trustworthy information, not lead people astray with misleading content.’ For this reason, search engine algorithms are programmed to rank sites that are trustworthy, authoritative and which display expertise.
How search engines look for trustworthiness
How search engines judge authority
Reputation is a decisive factor when judging the authority of a website. Search engines will look at the type of organisation the website belongs to, to find out whether it is a leader in its field. This is why governmental and educational establishments often rank very highly. It will also look to see if the website itself has authority: do other well-respected websites link to it or make reference to its content, for example?
How search engines seek out expertise
While authority comes from the organisation and its website, expertise is more down to the individuals that create the content. Dietary advice from a qualified dietician or medical practitioner is much more likely to rank higher than a blogger writing about how much weight they have lost on various diets. Again, search engines will seek out evidence of reputation and expertise. What are the author’s qualifications and experiences, what organisations are they associated with, what other publications have they written or been mentioned in? Content makers do not need to be world-renowned experts, but they have to demonstrate their expertise to improve their chances of ranking.
When looking for quality content to rank, therefore, search engines look at all three of these elements: trustworthiness, authority and expertise. This is especially the case when the results presented could have an impact on the life decisions of the person conducting the search.
How to improve your quality rating
Search engines are coy about giving precise information about how to improve quality because they are concerned that some websites will try to game the system for their own advantage. They have seen in the past how people have misused keywords or bought backlinks to try and rank higher. However, ask the SEO experts and there are quite a few things they will suggest. These include getting your site’s content listed in the Google knowledge graph; being linked to by other high-authority websites; being mentioned by other experts or on leading websites; having products or services reviewed in leading publications; and having a Wikipedia page.
While these things are quite hard to achieve, there are other, less challenging things that also help. For example, ensuring your site has an SSL certificate, improving the quality of existing content by updating out of date, inaccurate or misleading information; providing more informative About Us pages and author biographies; remove errors and broken links from your website, enable product reviews or let customers review your business. Overall, there are a wide range of small actions that, when taken together, can have a significant impact on a site’s ranking.
The trustworthiness, authority and expertise of your website are important to search engines as they help them provide better and safer results for their users. Hopefully, the information provided here will help you understand why these things are important and show you how to improve your site so it better meets search engine expectations.
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