This past week, SearchEngineLand released a leaked document from Google outlining criteria and guidelines for Google’s quality ratings. This document is the handbook used by Google’s quality raters; essentially Google’s fact-checkers who make sure the algorithm is doing its job. In the world of search engine optimization, this is pretty big news. Rather than scour the full 125 page handbook, I read a summary of the takeaways from our friends and SEO experts at SEOMoz. Their post provided sixteen valuable takeaways from the guide.
Unfortunately, the guide does not provide any, Holy Grail worthy, SEO secrets. But don’t stop reading here! There were still a number of surprising, educational and noteworthy findings. The overwhelming theme is Google is doing its best to make its search work and think in the same way that a logical human being would think. Here are some of the takeaways I found most interesting:
First and maybe most importantly, relevance falls on a spectrum. Obviously, since this is a 125 page document essentially all on quality and relevance, relevance is complicated. Google’s raters are asked to place a page’s relevance on a spectrum with five different options.
Another I found interesting was that content and spam are independent of each other. It is surprising but it makes sense. I site can contain a lot of spam even if it contains valuable content. While the site will still be punished in the algorithm for having spam, the quality of the content supersedes it.
Google classifies queries as one of these three: Action (Do), Information (Know), or Navigation (Go). Google calls this the Do/Know/Go model. The search results must reflect the intent of the query. If a query seeks information, a site like Wikipedia should be a top result. If the query seeks action, eCommerce sites should be high results.
Landing page relevance matters. As someone who spent the most of the past week or so developing landing pages, I am thrilled to hear this! The landing page should be specific and should meet the query. Here at inSegment, we like to say it should “continue the conversation.”
Lastly, and this is fairly surprising, the raters at Google use Mozilla Firefox. This is a bit odd as Google has its own web browser with Chrome. It reminds me slightly of Google’s management not using Google+, a topic about which I blogged recently.
This guide may not have contained any revolutionary secrets, but it is always interesting to read how the minds behind Google’s algorithm are thinking. The biggest thing I took away from it for search engine optimization is to think like a search engine. Google continues to do amazing things with their algorithm and SEOs will continue to work to get their pages near the top.