What constitutes “quality” for Google?
So Google has some ideas about what’s high quality versus low quality, and a few of those are pretty obvious and we’re familiar with, and some of them may be more intriguing. So…
Google wants unique content.
They want to make sure that the value to searchers from that content is actually unique, not that it’s just different words and phrases on the page, but the value provided is actually different.
They like to see lots of external sources linking editorially to a page. That tells them that the page is probably high quality because it’s reference-worthy.
They also like to see high-quality pages, not just sources, domains but high-quality pages linking to this. That can be internal and external links. So it tends to be the case that if your high-quality pages on your website link to another page on your site, Google often interprets that that way.
The page successfully answers the searcher’s query.
This is an intriguing one. So if someone performs a search, let’s say here I type in a search on Google for “pressure washing.” I’ll just write “pressure wash.” This page comes up. Someone clicks on that page, and they stay here and maybe they do go back to Google, but then they perform a completely different search, or they go to a different task, they visit a different website, they go back to their email, whatever it is. That tells Google, great, this page solved the query.
If instead someone searches for this and they go, they perform the search, then click on a link, and they get a low-quality mumbo-jumbo page and they click back and they choose a different result instead, that tells Google that page did not successfully answer that searcher’s query. If this happens a lot, Google calls this activity pogo-sticking, where you visit this one, it didn’t answer your query, so you go visit another one that does. It’s very likely that this result will be moved down and be perceived as low quality in Google.
The page has got to load fast on any connection.
They want to see high-quality accessibility with intuitive user experience and design on any device, so mobile, desktop, tablet, laptop.
They want to see actually grammatically correct and well-spelled content. So you can have a featured snippet, it’s doing great in the SERPs, you change something in there, you mess it up, and Google says, “Wait, no, that no longer qualifies. You are no longer a high-quality answer.” So that tells us that they are analyzing pages for that type of information.
Non-text content needs to have text alternatives. This is why Google encourages the use of the alt attribute. This is why on videos they like transcripts.
They also like to see content that is well-organized and easy to consume and understand. They interpret that through a bunch of different things, but some of their machine learning systems can certainly pick that up.
Then they like to see content that points to additional sources for more information or for follow-up on tasks or to cite sources. So links externally from a page will do that.
This is not an exhaustive list. But these are some of the things that can tell Google high quality versus low quality and start to get them filtering things.
How can SEOs & marketers filter pages on sites to ID high vs. low quality?
As a marketer, as an SEO, there’s a process that we can use. We don’t have access to every single one of these components that Google can measure, but we can look at some things that will help us determine this is high quality, this is low quality, maybe I should try deleting or removing this from my site or recreating it if it is low quality.
In general, try NOT to use things like:
- Time on site, raw time on site
- Raw bounce rate
- Organic visits
- Assisted conversions
Why not? Because by themselves, all of these can be misleading signals.
So a long time on your website could be because someone’s very engaged with your content. It could also be because someone is immensely frustrated and they cannot find what they need. So they’re going to return to the search result and click something else that quickly answers their query in an accessible fashion. Maybe you have lots of pop-ups and they have to click close on them and it’s hard to find the x-button and they have to scroll down far in your content. So they’re very unhappy with your result.
Bounce rate works similarly. A high bounce rate could be a fine thing if you’re answering a very simple query or if the next step is to go somewhere else or if there is no next step. If I’m just trying to get, “Hey, I need some pressure washing tips for this kind of treated wood, and I need to know whether I’ll remove the treatment if I pressure wash the wood at this level of pressure,” and it turns out no, I’m good. Great. Thank you. I’m all done. I don’t need to visit your website anymore. My bounce rate was very, very high. Maybe you have a bounce rate in the 80s or 90s percent, but you’ve answered the searcher’s query. You’ve done what Google wants. So bounce rate by itself, bad metric.
Same with organic visits. You could have a page that is a relatively low quality that receives a good amount of organic traffic for one reason or another, and that could be because it’s still ranking for something or because it ranks for a bunch of long tail stuff, but it is disappointing searchers. This one is a little bit better in the longer term. If you look at this over the course of weeks or months as opposed to just days, you can generally get a better sense, but still, by itself, I don’t love it.
Assisted conversions is a great example. This page might not convert anyone. It may be an opportunity to drop cookies. It might be an opportunity to remarket or retarget to someone or get them to sign up for an email list, but it may not convert directly into whatever goal conversions you’ve got. That doesn’t mean it’s low-quality content.