Google’s website guidelines – page quality and rankings

With a couple of big algorithm updates released by Google in recent weeks, it’s never been more important to pay attention to Google’s website guidelines on page quality.

Getting great website rankings – and keeping them – requires ongoing effort, and while there’s no magic formula (and Google tends to play its cards close to its chest), it’s simply madness not to follow the guidelines they released at the end of 2015.

What can you do to improve your website rankings?

We’re committed advocates of content quality here at AMA, as our clients well know! But we don’t keep banging that drum just for the sake of it – we say it because it’s absolutely essential if Google’s going to take you seriously and give you positive website rankings.

While Google’s page quality guidelines cover all kinds of factors, we can’t cover all 160 pages here (!), so we’re going to look at content for now, as this is the main element that the recent integration of Panda into the main ranking algorithm focuses on.

Google’s page quality guidelines – 5 key takeaways

The websites that are more likely to be in Google’s firing line for ranking penalties this year are those that are ‘thin’ on content, deliver a poor user experience, or have low quality content.

Here are 5 things you can do that will keep you in line with Google’s guidelines – they’re pretty easy wins, and a great starting point for any further efforts…

1. Update your existing content – if you’ve got web pages or articles that may have out-of-date information, a little time spent refreshing them could pay big in the long run. This is particularly important for sites that carry legal information, but could also apply to other industries. If you have any posts or pages that receive a lot of traffic, it’s also worth reviewing them too, to see if you can revitalise the content with any new information.

2. Don’t rush – think of Google like your web marketing tutor and create content that will get you an A*! Invest time to ensure your work is well researched, well structured and pre-empts and answers searchers’ queries. Don’t copy someone else’s work or you’ll be ‘marked down’, and make sure your grammar and spelling is on-point!

3. The weight of words – like it or not, the days of sparsely worded web pages is a thing of the past. Of course you don’t need high content levels on all pages, but Google wants to see that the words on your page are providing a decent amount of information in context to its keywords. Images, widgets and ads are all ok to have on there, but Google wants a high ratio of ‘main content’ compared to ‘supplementary content’ and monetised content. Make it look good, but focus on the words!

4. Turning bad into good – a good user experience means ensuring that anyone engaging with your website is totally clear about where they are, where they can find the information they want, and why something isn’t working if it should be. Therefore, make sure that you have a ‘page not found’ or 404 error message that doesn’t just state the obvious, but offers an alternative route to information that might help the user. Tell them why the page isn’t there (if you can), offer links to other pages that may be useful, and give them direct access to a search tool – but keep this light and clear, it doesn’t need to be too wordy in this instance.

5. Contacts and creators – again, we’re focusing on providing information that helps to evidence your trustworthiness, validate your business and back up your expertise. Make sure that the author of any content is referenced if possible – and link to their bio or maybe LinkedIn profile so the reader can learn more about them, and why their knowledge can be trusted. The contact details on a website can often be lacking too – so provide as many avenues to help as you can, including all office/outlet addresses, phone numbers and email addresses for different departments if possible (such as customer services), and perhaps even some contact details for your webmaster, or main content contributor – all of these things will help give Google the confidence that your website is of high quality.

We could go on, but the above points will give you some insight into how following Google’s website quality guidelines can start helping you to achieve better rankings – when you have some spare time, it’s worth ‘dipping in’ to the full version and implementing further changes accordingly.