Ranking highly in Google search results is the aim of every website – or it should be. One of the most illuminating presentations at Digital Dealer 25 was that by Dr Marie Haynes on ‘Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines’.
According to this expert on Google, the key is to demonstrate Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness, or E-A-T.
The owner of Marie Haynes Consulting Inc. is obsessed with understanding how Google’s algorithms work. For years she has been known as an expert on Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithms and also on how Google assesses quality.
In her presentation she explained what Google considers a high-quality website and outlined steps you can implement immediately to see increases in your organic search traffic.
Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines is a 160+-page document filled with practical information any website owner can implement to see improvements in organic search traffic. Produced by Google itself, the Quality Raters Guidelines contains thorough documentation outlining what Google looks for in terms of quality in a website. Many recent algorithm updates have either demoted or promoted websites based on the information in these guidelines.
The Guidelines are given to the thousands of people Google hires as contractors, in order to teach these ‘Quality Raters’ how to assess the overall quality of a website. While they don’t have a direct impact on rankings, if several Quality Raters notice sites with quality issues ranking highly, Google engineers tweak the algorithm to ensure lower quality sites or pages don’t rank as well.
Dr Haynes discussed the importance Google places on E-A-T and explained how to demonstrate to Google that your dealership is the authority in your market. She also explained what the guidelines say about the types of ads that could be considered low quality.
She included real-life case studies of websites that improved their quality based on the guidelines, resulting in significant increases in search traffic.
“On March 7, 2017, Google made a number of significant changes to their core quality algorithm. The change was big enough for the SEO industry to give it a name – ‘Fred’,” Dr Haynes said.
“We have reviewed a large number of sites that saw changes on this date. In our opinion, ‘Fred’ brought about changes through which Google became better able to assess true quality, including looking at things such as the experience, authority and trust of the authors of the site.”
Google also made significant updates to its algorithms in September-October of this year, on the back of earlier changes in April and August. It also performs minor tweaks on an almost daily basis, all with the aim of making its results more accurate.
“When the August 1 update happened I was quite certain that this update was connected to E-A-T,” Dr Haynes said. “E-A-T is a bit of a buzz-word in SEO for 2018. In my opinion it is a bigger ranking factor than links.”
E-A-T is covered extensively in Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines. Paid subscribers to Dr Haynes’ newsletter can obtain a copy of her Quality Raters’ Guidelines checklist and summary.
“September 27, 2018 marked what I would call a very large update,” Dr Haynes said. “It wasn’t as big as the August 1 update but it still affected a lot of sites in a very significant way.
“After this we had what seemed to be tremors or smaller updates on many dates in October. October 1 seems to be a date on which a lot of sites saw changes. October 4, 6 and 8 were all dates on which sites saw traffic losses or gains as well.”
Danny Sullivan from Google recently said that while Quality Raters don’t specifically impact rankings, if you understand how to look at sites like they do, you can potentially be seen as higher quality by Google’s algorithms.
“Search raters have no control over how pages rank,” Mr Sullivan tweeted. “Rater data is not used in our algorithms. Rather, we use them as a restaurant might get feedback cards from diners. The feedback helps us know if our search ‘recipes’ seem to be working … If you understand how raters learn to assess good content, that might help you improve your own content – and, in turn, perhaps do better in search.”
Dr Haynes said she believes Google is releasing a very broad change to their core quality algorithm and that all these updates are connected to one thing: Trust.
E-A-T is mentioned 186 times in the guidelines and is listed as the very first characteristic of a high quality page. A lack of E-A-T is listed as the first characteristic of a low quality page.
“Google made changes in how they evaluate whether a website or page is trustworthy and they implemented those changes August 1,” Dr Haynes said.
“It’s possible they started to look even deeper for potential trust problems. This information fed back to the Google engineers and they made tweaks to the algorithm again to refine how they assess trust.
“These changes went live on September 27. As such, we saw several sites that saw big gains August 1 and then, as the algorithm reassessed trust, they saw losses.
“We have seen a lot of sites that saw significant traffic changes starting in the first week of October. We saw a lot of sites that had a pattern like this where traffic plummeted on August 1 and then saw a little bit of a gain on October 1. Other sites saw a significant jump up at another point during the first week of October. These are not seasonal changes. I have no doubt that these sites saw improvements due to a change in Google’s algorithms.”
Ranking highly with Google is vital for any kind of business. AADA urges Dealers to obtain a copy of Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines and E-A-T their way to the top.