The Ultimate Guide to Google’s Search Quality Guidelines (Part 1)

The Ultimate Guide to Google’s Search Quality Guidelines (Part 1)

Google Search Quality Guidelines

Last Updated on October 5, 2021 by Alex Miller

This is the first post in a series that will examine and make the most important aspects of Google’s new Search Quality Guidelines easy to understand. When my co-author, Katie Byrd, and I set out to create our ultimate guide, the first question we asked was “what’s the point?” Everyone (and their brother!) has rehashed the instructions Google provides to their search quality evaluators.


Google Tells Us Exactly What They Want… Are You Listening?

Here’s the point – and the reason our guide stands far above the rest.

We’re going to explain how to take the information Google has so generously provided and apply it to your own or your client’s on-page optimization. In essence, you’ll be following Google’s own criteria for high quality authority pages in any niche.

This first post sets the groundwork, so read through carefully, applying the information as you go. Take a step back and look at your site with new eyes, you may be surprised!

Part 1: Page Quality Rating Guidelines

1.0 Introduction to Google’s Page Quality Rating

What is a Page Quality (PQ) rating? And how is “quality” evaluated? Follow along as we explain the factors that make up Google’s Page Quality Rating.

First, let’s lay down some groundwork.

Page Quality, according to Google, is “How well a specific website or webpage achieves its purpose.” They also go on to say that since “different types of websites and webpages can have very different purposes, our expectations and standards for different types of pages are also different.”

That sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it? Don’t worry… we’ll take you through it step-by-step.

Here are a few questions to keep in mind as we break it down. You’ll want to ask yourself these questions about EACH page on your site.

  • What is the purpose of this page?
  • Has that purpose been achieved?
  • If the purpose has not been achieved, what is the page missing? (Content, images, charts, links to additional information, etc.)

Think about it… if a page on your site does not have a purpose, why is it there?

Creating a high quality, authority website does not mean you need to have hundreds of pages. However, the pages you do have need to be valuable to your site’s visitor.

2.1 Important Definitions

To make the most of these Search Quality Guidelines, here are definitions of the terms you’ll need to be familiar with.

Webpage: Viewable through a web browser (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc.) or search app on your computer, phone or other mobile device, a webpage is part of the World Wide Web. Content on a webpage may include text, links, images, videos or other media. A webpage can have many different functions, including (but not limited to) informational purposes, online shopping, games, etc.

URL: A string of characters used by a web browser to locate and display a webpage.

Website (site): A group of webpages available on the World Wide Web and usually containing hyperlinks to each other. This group of pages is generally owned and controlled by a single person, company or organization.

Homepage: This is the first page that loads in the web browser for the website’s URL. This is most often the site’s main page. Example:

Subpage: Any page on a website other than the home page is a subpage. 

Webmaster: Maintenance and updates to a website are done by a webmaster.

2.2 What is the Purpose of a Webpage?

How do you determine the purpose of a webpage? Well, as far as Google is concerned, there are 3 possible purposes:

  1. To help users
  2. To make money with no help for users
  3. To harm users

Obviously, you want all of your site’s pages to fall into the first category – to help users. This purpose can be achieved with any type of page or site: shopping pages, home pages, service pages and even forums, video pages and gossip pages. Let’s take a look at how you can do that.

According to Google, here are some examples of possible page purposes:

  • To share information about a topic.
  • To share personal or social information.
  • To share pictures, videos, or other forms of media.
  • To express an opinion or point of view.
  • To entertain.
  • To sell products or services.
  • To allow users to post questions for other users to answer.
  • To allow users to share files or to download software.

2.3 Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) Pages

Now that you understand the purpose of web pages, we’ll take a look at the type of page that Google has deemed YMYL (Your Money or Your Life).

This includes any page that can affect the users future happiness, health or finances. Obviously, quality standards are higher for this type of page.

Here are some examples of the types of pages that would be categorized as YMYL:

Shopping or financial transaction pages that allow the user to transfer money, purchase items, pay bills, etc. This includes online banking pages and ecommerce stores.

Financial information pages providing guidance, advice and opinions about financial topics. This covers stock and other investment sites, insurance, home and real estate purchases, paying for college and more.

Medical pages with information or advice about health topics including diseases, conditions, drugs, mental health and nutrition.

Legal advice or information pages. These pages can be on many different topics including divorce, estates, citizenship, tax issues, etc.

News pages or official information pages. This can include disaster response services, government programs, social services, international events, technology, politics and scientific news and local, state or national government pages.

Informational pages that can an affect on your life. This area is loosely defined, but would include pages on subjects such as adoption, child safety car seats, etc.

2.4 Understanding Webpage Content

When evaluating your site’s pages, you can break the content down into three areas.

  1. Main content
  2. Supplementary content
  3. Ads / Monetization

The main content is any part of the page “that directly helps the page achieve its purpose.” This can be text, infographics, images, audio, video, etc. Generally, the site owner has direct control over this content. However, it can also be user generated content such as reviews.

Supplementary content is also controlled by the site owner or webmaster and plays a supporting role, helping the main content achieve the page’s purpose. Supporting content can be navigation or supplemental information accessed by opening tabs on the page.

Ads / Monetization on the page should be fairly easy to identify, and in some cases, may add to user experience in a positive way. Ads are defined as any content or links on the page for the purpose of making money.

Until Next Time

That wraps up the basics… In the next installment we’ll take a deep dive into the methods you can use to establish expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness in your main content. Go to Part 2.

Written by
Dustin Bow
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Rob Andrews

Since 2007 Rob Andrews has worked in the SEO and Content Marketing fields and is an established writer and trusted provider of thought-leadership for hundreds of SEO, advertising and marketing agencies worldwide. Read More

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