The Google Quality Rater Guidelines received a new update in late July. For SEO experts and writers, things suddenly got a bit clearer.
That’s because Google shed some light on their process, as well as on what makes low quality content.
Let’s dig in!
What are the Google Quality Rater Guidelines?I know you’ve heard all about bots and AI. But, lo and behold, Google also has manual raters. Yes, the human kind.
Their main responsibility is to evaluate the Google algorithms. They do so by testing them against different web pages.
When they check to see whether a page has low or high quality content, they always refer back to this document – the Quality Rater Guidelines.
However, you don’t have to think about these raters as IRS inspectors. They don’t make any decision on their own. They simply report all their findings back to Google.
They do, however, play an important part in algorithm creation and updating.
Let’s see what the update is this time!
The definition of low quality pages In a nutshell, the update defines low quality pages as pages that “miss their mark”. In other words, they do not achieve what they set out to achieve.
The two main reasons why this happens are:
Make sure that they know their stuff and that they won’t be stuffing the copy with keywords. Also, link to reputable websites to show you’ve done your research and your content can be trusted.
Other factors that raters are looking at:
Creating a brand in saturated markets is an increasingly difficult task. While adtech is making it easier to target potential customers, producing unique, human-centered content that differentiates the brand remains a challenge for most companies. I deal with this on a daily basis, and constantly work to improve my own brand through updating my website, making sure my content aligns with my audience and connecting through social channels with my followers and customers.
The branding challenge is compounded by the fact that the number of places a brand can be criticized has risen as well. Every person a brand interacts with represents not only a potential customer but also a potential detractor.
Why is it so difficult to connect with customers these days? The following are some of the top reasons.
1. Creating Authentic Content Takes Time
People can spot advertising jargon from a mile away, and the average consumer is practically allergic to inauthentic ads. That means marketers are expected to create unique and timely content to help to connect with real customers.
2. Increased Importance of Visual Branding
Design thinking is becoming a major driver of competitive advantage in today’s digital marketing environment. Research shows that 81 percent of consumers research online before engaging with a brand, which means more and more people experience a brand for the first time online. As a result, the way that brand appears visually matters more than ever.
3. Social Media is Shortening Consumer Attention Spans
Most consumers look at an ad for only two seconds, hardly long enough to process any words. That’s why it’s incredibly important that companies create visually engaging content that makes a connection quickly.
4. Millennials Expect Authentic Branding
Millennials are the largest consumer group ever, everyone knows it. As the first demographic group populated by digital natives, Millennials are driving higher expectations when it comes to authentic brands, and are highly engaged with those that successfully gain their trust.
Marketers that tackle these challenges head-on have a better chance of connecting with their customers in order to build lasting and profitable relationships. Companies that make products that are both beautiful and authentic stand a better chance of cutting through the noise and reaching more customers.
While authenticity is a frequently mentioned priority, the newer, better-defined trend of human-centered design is becoming a popular approach to making a brand more appealing to new customers while retaining existing ones. There are even several free courses that aim to help advance human-centered design in more industries.
In the past, all a company had to worry about was its product or service, but today’s brands have to consider the experience they are creating for consumers, and whether that experience is different enough from their competition.
1. Create More Engaging Visual Content
“Photos are the primary driver of people’s initial experience with a brand. Brands that recognize this can leverage visual storytelling as a powerful tool to help them create enduring relationships with their audience.” In doing so, companies will be able to create stronger buy-in and affinity for the brand.
2. Focus on the Customer at Every Stage of the Design Process
Tim Brown, CEO of human-centered design firm Ideo, shared in a recent blog, “This is a moment of rich opportunity for design thinkers, and we now have evidence that the world at large is taking notice.” As you implement design thinking in your company, keep the customer at the center of every decision.
3. Close the Loop with Engaging Content to Create Customer Buy-In
Don’t just settle for traditional advertising content, focus on generating authentic, meaningful copy to incorporate in all your communications to help your customers feel like they are engaging with an authentic company.
Brands that effectively leverage these tactics will create visually appealing experiences at a fraction of previous costs, avoid costly customer churn and turn customers into more vocal brand ambassadors that will drive continued business.
When you say SEO, you automatically think of keywords. Almost every client that contacts my agency, Idunn, to help them with SEO content writing has a huge list of keywords that they want to rank for.
But there are two big problems with such lists: they are usually both useless and nearly impossible to rank for.
Allow me to explain.
I strongly believe that organic traffic is not a goal in itself. It’s a vanity metric. The actual goal is to generate sales. Organic traffic may boost your ego, but it won’t pay the bills.
However, when you choose the right keywords, you can generate sales through SEO.
Let’s say that you have a bakery. You bake the most amazing chocolate cake. Of course, you want as many people to learn about it, to visit your website and to buy it.
What should you optimize your content for? If you said “chocolate cake”, read on.
User intent – the cornerstone of any successful SEO endeavor
Ask yourself this: what does a user who searches for “chocolate cake” really need? Do they want a recipe? Do they want to buy one? Do they want to simply look at what their diet doesn’t allow them to eat?
And there is your problem with broad, generic keywords.
They are not rooted in user intent.
The rise of mobile search and voice-assisted search has taught users that specific queries bring specific results. So, if they want to bake a chocolate cake, they will search for “how to make a chocolate cake from scratch” or “chocolate cake recipe”.
Those who want to buy a cake will search for “best bakery near me” or “best chocolate cake in Tampa Bay”.
Simple queries may bring traffic. However, in competitive industries, this traffic will cost you an arm and a leg.
But more importantly, they will not bring business in through the door. If users in Minnesota see the website of a bakery in Tampa Bay among the top results, will they buy? Of course not! Irrespective of how delicious their products are and how well they are marketed.
When you start your keyword research, always consider user intent.
This is the first step of every successful marketing tactic, SEO included. Learn how your users search and what they search for. Don’t be tricked into optimizing for short keywords that bring you nothing but brand awareness and that cost a fortune.
Optimize for what really matters for your business.
Let’s take a look at some of the tools that can help you do that.
Top tools to refine your keyword research
I cannot stress this enough: tools are there to support you, not to do the thinking for you. In fact, I have noticed that marketers seem to forget that they need to optimize their content for humans, not for Google bots.
Use the tools below, but filter all their results to match what you know about your buyer persona. This is where marketing expertise comes into play. And this is why, at Idunn, we prefer to hire SEO copywriters with marketing background. Anyone can learn how to insert and look for keywords. But only writers who understand marketing know how to make them work for a business.
These are some of the tools we use at Idunn, both for our in-house SEO content and for our clients’ content:
1. Good old Google search
Yes, a plain Google search can make a world of difference. It’s free and it’s very relevant (as long as you do it in a private/incognito window).
Take a look at the first results that pop up when you type in your keyword. Can you write better content than what currently ranks in the top results?
If so, you’re on the right path. If not, you need to find another keyword.
Next, take a look at the “related searches” section at the bottom of the results page. This will show you a few similar searches to your own. You can use those queries as additional keywords in your content.
SEMrush is a paid tool, but even a free account can give you some useful information. Type in your keyword to find related keywords, create a free blog template or check the progress of your website or a certain page.
SEMrush is a very complex tool, so it will take some time to learn how to use it to its full potential. But it’s worth it.
3. LSI Graph
A free tool, LSI Graph helps you find LSI keywords that boost your content’s optimization. Simply input your keyword in the search bar and you will receive a list of more LSI keywords than you can use.
A word of caution: you don’t have to use them all. As I said before, think about your user’s intent. Not all those keywords match your goals and your buyer persona’s needs, so filter them wisely.
4. Google Suite
Google Analytics and Google Search Console are excellent (and free!) tools to monitor your progress.
Here’s a pro tip: go to Google Search Console and find those pages that don’t rank high enough yet. Then use the tools above to come up with additional keywords and information to update those pages or blog posts.
It can take you less than a day to change the ranking of a page.
No tools can substitute a good marketing strategy. At best, you will find yourself with hundreds of thousands of views per day, but no purchases or no leads. And this should never be the goal of SEO. Every marketing tactic should always be aligned with your business goals.
Are you considering building a multilingual website or are you thinking about expanding your existing site into additional languages? I don’t blame you! After all, a lot fewer people speak English than we might think. Only 1.5 billion people speak English. That’s about 20% of the world. If we just look at native speakers, in the meantime, it’s only 360 million, which is less than five percent.
And as most of us prefer to listen, read and search in our native language, that means if you only stick with an English website, you’re only going to be able to access a small slice of the world’s population.
But before you embrace a multilingual website you need to weigh up the pros and the cons. So let’s weigh up the big ones.
Con: It’s a lot more work
On the flipside, translating is a big job. Everything that you do suddenly becomes double. And though translating is perhaps not as much work as thinking it all up to begin with, it still means sitting there and going over every text twice if you’re using two languages (And obviously more if you’re going to use even more).
It isn’t just that you need to create every new text twice over, either. Whenever you’re going to edit or change anything on your website, then you’re going to do that change in all the languages that you’re site is in.
Pro: You’ll expand into new markets
Making your content available in another language means that you get to access that other 80% of the pie that all those English websites leave lying. That’s very enticing – particularly as many of these other languages haven’t yet been as saturated by websites as the English speaking world has. It’s a big difference too, with Wikipedia stating that 51% of the internet is English.
That means that if you offer your website in other languages as well, you’re going to find it easier to get the traffic of that language, as the competition is almost by definition less fierce.
Con: You have to speak the additional language
And you can’t just speak it a little bit. You have to speak it well. Otherwise you’re going to find it very difficult to translate your material over. Even if you don’t want to do the translation service yourself – and that’s a real option today, as there are a lot of localization services to help you out – you should still speak the language.
After all, translators might make mistakes (accidentally or otherwise) and if you can’t read what they’re putting up, then you’re going to be in a situation where you look ridiculous for the longest time while being none the wiser.
Pro: You’ll be able to compete for a wider range of keywords
As you probably know, if you want to do well on Google, then you need to rank well for certain keywords. That’s the basis of SEO. The advantage of having a site in multiple languages is that you can try to rank versions of the same page for keywords in different languages.
That can be a huge advantage – particularly as the competition in these other languages will often be far less fierce than it is in English. In that way, you can draw a lot of extra traffic to your site. Even better, it is possible that your success at drawing traffic in one language will actually contribute to you climbing the rankings in English as well.
This is down to the fact that Google most certainly looks at the success of other pages you’ve got to determine if the new page should have a shot. Therefore, the better your pages are doing in one language, the more of a boost they’re going to get elsewhere.
Con: Keywords aren’t direct translations
Of course, that does bring a problem with it and that is that you can’t just translate a search term across from one language to another and hope for the best. People don’t search for the same things in the same ways. They use idiosyncrasies of their language, euphemisms and ways of speaking that mean that if you don’t do your research, you might well not get any traffic from Google for your newly translated page.
And that is obviously not the point.
So, if you want to use a multilingual website, you’ll have to do twice the keyword research and then apply what you’ve learned to the different pages in order to get them to actually draw in traffic. Note that applying these different keyword phrases will also make things more complicated for building up pages, as it means that you can’t just translate directly across and will instead have to doctor each headline and page to fit the keyword strategy you’re trying to apply.
Pro: You’ll be part of the shift
The world’s economic center is shifting. It’s moving away from the west and more towards the east. That means it’s moving away from the English speaking world and towards a range of other languages, including Chinese as well as Spanish as these economies catch up and possibly even surpass the west.
Now, that might make some people uncomfortable, but that doesn’t change that it will happen. That again has to do with the fact that most people don’t speak English and aren’t westerners. And so, as they get a more equal share of the economic pie, the balance will shift in their favor.
By making your website multilingual, you’re preparing for that. You’re making sure that you’re there to catch the spending of these growing economies, so that as the economic center keeps shifting your situation doesn’t worsen.
And sure, you might say, I’ve got time. The thing is, that translating your website across isn’t something you can do one two three. You’ll have growing pains. You’ll have unforeseen problems to overcome. So, wouldn’t it be better to do that gradually? Then, when the east is the place to be, you’ll already be in place.
Roland G. Cardoza