Is your website successful?
Before your website can be successful, customers have to find it.
Your site has to show up in potential customers' SERPs (Search Engine Page Results). As we explained in a previous blog, Google now processes 86.39% of searches on all devices and 93.86% of mobile searches. So if you want a successful website, start with Google.
Google says CONTENT is one of the most important factors affecting search rank.
Google stressed the importance of content after an August 1 "broad core algorithm update," Google was bombarded with questions about sites that experienced a drop in search rank. Here's how Google's Danny Sullivan responded on Twitter (@search liaison):
"Want to do better with a broad change? Have great content. Yeah, the same boring answer. But if you want a better idea of what we consider great content, read our raters guidelines."
How Google defines "great content"
Sullivan's tweet pointed to Google's Rater Quality Guidelines (updated July 2018). Those guidelines list the following four items as the "most important" page quality factors:
- The purpose of the page
- Expertise/Authoritativeness/Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
- Main content quality and amount
- Information and reputation of the website and about who is responsible for the website's main content
You can download the 164-page Guidelines (pdf) here. But we'll save you some time by summarizing what you need to know. We'll also provide four Action Steps to help make your website more successful. Ready? Here are Google's four "most important" characteristics of great content.
1. Purpose of the page
Each page in your website should have a clearly identifiable, beneficial purpose. SEO expert Marie Haynes analyzed the effects of the August 1st update (nicknamed the "Medic Update"). Here's what Haynes concluded about "the purpose of the page": "it's not wrong to sell a product on your site. But, Google wants to rank sites that set out with a primary purpose of helping people rather than selling to them." Google's Rater Quality Guidelines are even more emphatic: "Websites or pages without some sort of beneficial purpose, including pages that are created with no attempt to help users, or pages that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users, should receive the Lowest rating" (emphasis in original).
Action step #1—Analyze the purpose of each page in your website.
- Can you easily identify the purpose of each page?
- Does all content on that page contribute to that single purpose?
- Does that purpose benefit people?
If you can't answer yes to all three of those questions, it's time to rethink your site content! Pages with clear, beneficial purposes will help boost your search rank, attracting more potential customers. That's the first step in website success.
2. Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
E-A-T is listed as one characteristic of great content. But Google discusses E-A-T in all four characteristics.
E-A-T is one of Google's highest priorities.
Google instructs raters to consider these factors to evaluate E-A-T:
- The expertise of the creator of the MC (Main Content)
- The authoritativeness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website
- The trustworthiness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website
The About page on your website is hugely important here. What does it say about your company's expertise, authority, and trustworthiness to deliver information on the topics in your website? What information on other pages demonstrates that you are a credible and trustworthy expert on the topics covered by your website pages?
Action step #2—Analyze the credibility of each page in your website.
How well do you establish your E-A-T on your About page and on pages throughout your site? Look at each page as if you were unfamiliar with your company and visiting the website for the first time. Do your pages and your site as a whole establish your credibility (E-A-T)? If not, revise your content—AND the SEO behind it—to improve your credibility.
3. Main content quality and amount
Content quality and E-A-T are closely intertwined. Google's Quality Guidelines state,
"We will consider the MC [Main Content] of the page to be very high or highest quality when it is created with a high degree of time and effort, and in particular, expertise, talent, and skill--this may provide evidence for the E-A-T of the page."
Google gives the highest ranking to sites that offer accurate, original, well-written pages that present "a satisfying or comprehensive amount of very high quality MC [main content] for the purpose of the page." Think about your own experience searching for information on the web. Do you remember finding a page that finally explained the topic clearly and completely answered all your questions? That's the kind of page/website Google rewards with higher rankings.
Action step #3—Review the content on each page of your website. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is your content thorough? Does it offer a "satisfying or comprehensive amount" of information?
- Is your content accurate?
- Is your content well-written? Does it demonstrate an investment of "time and effort . . . expertise, talent, and skill"?
- Is your content original? Can a visitor find answers and information on your pages that are not duplicated on other sites across the web?
Google's Quality Guidelines also discuss preferred structural and stylistic attributes of web content. The best advice here is to make sure your content developer is skilled and knowledgeable about web content. In fact, the very best advice is to hire a professional content developer.
4. Reputation and information about the website and about who is responsible for the website's main content
We're back to E-A-T again. As we noted above, E-A-T is a critical element in each of these four characteristics of high-quality pages. That's why we said E-A-T is one of Google's highest priorities.
Google considers what you say about yourself—AND what others say about you. Positive customer reviews, high-quality external links to your site, external ratings (such as a BBB or other rating), and affiliations with credible organizations also contribute to E-A-T—and to the reputation of your website.
Have you claimed and set up your profile on Google My Business and other relevant reviews sites? Do you respond quickly and expertly to both good and poor customer reviews? Every business gets poor reviews sometimes. Google acknowledges that and doesn't penalize for the occasional poor review. But ignoring reviews damages your credibility and reputation—and can be a factor in a lower search rank.
Remember this: a poor review generally will not hurt you if you respond well. And a good review won't help you if you don't respond well. Ignoring reviews sends the message that you don't care what customers think.
Action step #4—Google your business and yourself.
Step into the role of someone who wants to learn about your company. Google your business name and follow the links that appear in your SERPs (Search Engine Page Results). What do Google and other reviews sites say about your business? What does Google say about you? (If other people are named on your site, you may want to Google them as well.)
Developing effective profiles on reviews sites and responding quickly and appropriately to reviews can be time consuming. That may be the reason so many businesses fail in this important task. If your company doesn't have time and qualified personnel to handle this job, consider hiring a social media manager.
Okay—we know—all this sounds like a lot of time-consuming work.
You're right; it is. And you have a business to run. But to run it well, you need a successful website.