Google Search Quality Guidelines

Posted on by in Google, SEO

After reading an excellent post over at PotPie Girl, which linked to a set of guidelines for Google search reviewers, we thought we would write an abridged version here. Basically, Google have a group of reviewers who rate websites based on these guidelines. It is estimated that a website cannot rank well for a keyword without having a reviewer compare these guidelines against the website. Firstly the query and user intent are compared to the result and the quality of the page listed. So if a user is looking for “download antivirus software” the top results should allow you to do that. Then the websites are ranked on the following scale;

  1. Vital – A special rating category
  2. Useful – A page that is very helpful for most users.
  3. Relevant  – A page that is helpful for many or some users.
  4. Slightly Relevant – A page that is not very helpful for most users, but is somewhat related to the query. Some or few users would find this page helpful.
  5. Off-Topic or Useless – A page that is helpful for very few or no users.
  6. Unratable  A page that cannot be evaluated.
  7. The following flags may also apply: Not Spam, Maybe Spam, Spam, Porn, and Malicious.

Vital Web Pages

The Vital rating is used for these very special situations: 1) The dominant interpretation of the query is navigation, and the landing page is the target of the navigation query. 2) The dominant interpretation of the query is an entity (such as a person, place, business, restaurant, product, company, organization, etc.), and the landing page is the official webpage associated with that entity. You can imagine the pages that would be classed as vital, such as Facebook.com for “facebook log in” type queries, and people pages for queries about a person. In most cases, as an SEO Consultant, you can either deliver on this or not.

Useful Pages

This would be the most interesting, or important, category for SEO consultants. If you can create pages that an indipendant reviewer would class as “Useful” then you a) are not likely to be classed as spam and b) might actually be providing your users with interesting content. Google classes this as pages that are very helpful for most users. They rate these pages as highly satisfying, authoritative, entertaining, and/or recent (such as breaking news on a topic). If someone is searching for “buy tickets for foo fighters concert sydney” then the results would have to show ways to purchase these tickets.

Relevant Pages

Google assigns a rating of Relevant to pages that are helpful for many or some users. Relevant pages have fewer valuable attributes than were listed for Useful pages. Relevant pages are helpful for users, in addition to being on-topic. The examples of this sort of page would be travel guides for cities, or wikipedia pages for people. The information might not be 100% on topic, but it would be interesting or useful.

Slightly Relevant Pages

A rating of Slightly Relevant is assigned to pages that are not very helpful for most users, but are somewhat related to the query. Slightly Relevant pages may be low quality and/or contain less helpful information. Slightly Relevant pages may serve a minor interpretation, have outdated information, be too specific, too broad, etc. to receive a higher rating.

Off Topic or Useless

A rating of Off-Topic or Uselessis assigned to pages that are helpful for very few or no users and have no relation to the search query. These pages usually warrant the Spam flag. Some other key points from the guidelines that are worth noting;

  • Search engine results pages should be rated just like other landing pages
  • The query location is an important consideration, as are queries that include locations
  • A page is Spam if it is created using deceptive techniques
  • Google will not penalize a message board because someone has put spam posts up
  • If the page has copied content but is legitimate (lyrics, poetry, etc), this is not spam.
  • If the page has copied content but exists only to make money, then it is spam.
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