SEO Guidelines 2015

SEO Guidelines 2015

The race to be top of a Google search results page has never been fiercer. With 4 million Google searches activated every minute, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has swiftly become a staple in enhancing online presence.

However, if you want First Place in Google’s race, you have to play by their rules.

Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines document dated March 2014 was leaked into the hands of SEO moguls with one clear message: Google’s search engine algorithm is becoming more and more capable of judging positive user experience. In essence, Google Search is becoming more human and,  just like a human, the search engine does not like to be tricked by quick shortcuts to get to the top. It’s all about user experience. Google wants to optimize their results and provide users with exactly what they’re searching for. In order to do so, harmonic collaboration between algorithm and content provider is key. This dedication to user experience has and always will ensure that Google remains the leading provider in online search.

In this short document we will concisely outline what you can do to ensure your website is in its best possible form based on Google’s latest guidelines. We will show you how you can ensure your website is awarded the Quality Rating it deserves, optimizing your online visibility.


Take note because these words are key to your success.

Purpose. Functionality. Reputation. Authority. Trust. Expertise.

Remember this easy acronym: PerFormance RATE

These will be discussed under four main headings:

  • Content
  • Expertise-Authority-Trust (E-A-T)
  • Reputation
  • Design and Functionality


To be in Google’s top ranking a website must be reputable, trustworthy, and genuinely fulfilling of its purpose. You can now, with a little help, provide that top quality website and perch peacefully in that coveted first result space.






Section 1: Content


What is the purpose of this website and does the website fulfil this purpose?


A Google Search Quality Rater (GSQR – the person who will be rating your website) will look for these fundamental properties in your website’s content. Your website’s purpose should be evident and easily accessible to an everyday user. This is where Main Content (MC) comes into the equation. According to Google, a good homepage will draw a user straight to your MC. MC is your main body of text or pictures and is your chance to answer Google’s questions right off the bat. Make sure your MC is focused on the purpose of your website and that it consistently fulfils its purpose.


What makes high quality content?


Next, a GSQR will value the quality of your websites content. Having good quality content is crucial to success in Google search rankings. Simply put, Search Engine Optimization will only transpire if you have high quality content to optimize.


High quality content has various features
  • Clear and concise
  • Useful
  • Truthful
  • Suitable and relevant for purpose of website
  • Suitably credited
  • From a reliable/qualified source; Trusted
  • Interesting/Entertaining/Informative (depending on purpose/audience)
  • Current and up to date
  • Created to help users
  • Provides what users expect from your website


If you feel your content fulfills this criteria, congratulations! You’ve created great content and should be classed in Google’s high quality content category. Most people, however, will feel they could tick one, two, maybe three of these options with a little work still to do. For Google, the time and skill taken to create content is key to achieving highest quality. Remember, however, that high quality does not always equal grand statements and over-the-top language.  Keep things simple and concise with your content, especially text. Write to communicate, not to impress; especially with informative content; and always remember to credit content where credit is due.


What makes low quality content?


Having viewed examples of low-quality content, it is obvious that there are a few certain things which will instantly lower your content rating.


What to avoid when writing content:

  • Key-word stuffing
  • Lack of human effort and manual curation (for example: template websites)
  • Gibberish
  • Auto-generated text (created by inserting key-words into a content generator)
  • Copy and pasted text


Is the content up-to-date?


How often content should be updated depends on the purpose of the website. A newspaper, for example, would be expected to post updates many times a day but a business may only require an update every few months. An important emphasis is given to Medical, Financial and Legal content. Due to their classing as ‘Your Money Your Life’ (YMYL) sites — websites that have the ability to influence a user’s financial future or health — all information will be especially scrutinised and must be correct and up to date with the latest research and developments. Outdated information is not useful and has the ability to misinform a visitor to the website. Understandably, outdated information provides a negative user experience and will be deemed low quality content.


Supplementary Content and why is it important?


Supplementary Content (SC) provides related and interesting content for the user to help promote engagement. High quality SC has been credited for keeping people on your website (reduced Bounce Rates) due to its direct influence on positive user experience. High quality SC is helpful secondary content that is specifically targeted to the content and purpose of the page. An example of good SC is when you are viewing a product whilst shopping online and you have other relevant or related products suggested at the bottom of your screen.

SC, however is not suitable for all websites, nor is it always necessary. If you do not include SC on your website because it doesn’t fit its purpose, don’t worry. You will not be penalised in Google’s ranking. However, if a lack of SC impacts the purpose or usability of the website, it will be taken into account.

SC, as with everything else mentioned in this document, should always provide a positive user experience. It should not be invasive nor should it distract from the MC. When writing textual supplementary content, rules regarding the MC should always be considered.


A high content rating teamed with average ratings in other criteria can still earn you a High Quality Rating from Google.





Section 2: E-A-T


‘Expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness’ (E-A-T) is possibly the most important new aspect of Google’s Quality Rating Guidelines. Proving that you have expertise and qualifications in your field provides a trustworthy and authoritative website; and, as in everyday life, trust makes for a positive user experience.


Who is the webmaster, author or owner of this website?


GSQR will be searching for the name(s) that own, author and update your website. Having this information readily available on your website will make it easier for both the GSQR and the user. Creating an ‘About Us’ page and/or ‘Contact Us’ subpage is an easy way to achieve this. Providing the expected and demanded contact/biographical information including for example, an easily accessible Privacy Statement (depending on the nature of the company) will greatly improve your E-A-T standing.


Is this website’s author credible and a good representative of E-A-T?


For ‘Your Money, Your Life’ websites, this is particularly important due to the nature of the information they provide, but E-A-T is still vital to all websites. As part of their Quality Rating investigation, a GSQR will investigate a website’s sources and contributors to decide if they have what is required to be trusted as an expert/authority figure on their topic. Proof of qualifications and further expertise in their field allows Google to conclude that they are in fact a sound source of advice. Credibility and E-A-T can also be evaluated in the written style of content. Medical advice, for example should be information written in a professional style by a qualified medical professional and edited and reviewed before publication on a website. This information should then be reviewed and updated on a regular basis to ensure it remains relevant to current developments. This will ensure a top E-A-T ranking.

What about informal expertise?


Classing an expert in fields without formal qualifications can prove quite difficult. These situations arise in forums or discussions where users are free to contribute to the website’s content regarding everyday tasks such as getting a stain from a blouse or perhaps good gardening tips. In their rating scheme, Google values that people can be experts in certain areas due to life experience.

It is important to note the distinction between professional expertise and personal experience. Google will acknowledge both in delivering a website their E-A-T rating but it must be relevant and fitting to the purpose of the website.


E-A-T may sound like a complicated concept but when you look into your own company, you can easily identify who would be classed as an expert of professional and personal experience.


A high E-A-T rating with average results in every other category delivers you a High Quality Rating from Google.





Section 3: Reputation


What is my online reputation?


Think of your website’s online reputation just like you would your personal reputation walking into an interview. You hand your prospective employer references; people that can confirm your abilities. Online, these references come in the form of website links. You’re mentioned as an excellent company for a particular service in an online article, the writer of that article has provided your website with a reference for your GSQR interview. The customer/journalist/blogger has now added to your website’s positive reputation.


What sources will a GSQR accept?


  • External reviews
  • Forums
  • Wikipedia articles with credible citations (Note: be careful; anyone can edit a Wikipedia page)
  • External blogs
  • News articles
  • Magazine articles
  • Independent user ratings
  • Connections/Links from other websites (including companies of the same sector)


References to your site from other websites, often referred to as linking, is important in building your online reputation and should be promoted. Build strong relationships with other companies, particularly of the same industry, and reference each other on your respective websites. Just as in traditional marketing, networking is key.


What qualities do ideal sources possess?


  • By a person – human response
  • Independent from the company (Note: Google searches will be performed with results directly from your company website omitted from the results page)
  • Credible


These sources provide the GSQR with an external, human response to a website but don’t worry if you have an on-site review system. These results will also be considered. Information from your own website won’t be enough to establish a reputation but will certainly not be ignored. It is important to note, however, that external reviews and opinions will always be trusted above your own claims.


What if I don’t have an Online Reputation?


A lack of online visibility will naturally lead to the lack of an online reputation. Fortunately, in this case, having no online reputation will not place you directly in the lowest category. However, if you are a company interested in benefitting fully from SEO then increasing your online presence should be prioritized.

A High Reputation Rating with average results in every other category delivers you a High Quality Rating from Google.

Section 4: Design and Functionality


A High Quality Rated website serves its purpose with ease.  The amount of content necessary for each page of a website is entirely dependant on the purpose. Clear, concise, high quality information should be easy to access and easy to read.


What Qualities are seen in Well-Designed, Functional pages?


  • Well organised
  • Uses space effectively
  • Functional overall layout
  • MC placed ‘front and centre’
  • Clear font type at an easy-to-read size
  • SC and Ads can be easily ignored – specific labelling and page organisation helps with this
  • SC should not overshadow MC
  • Ads should not overcrowd or distract from the MC
  • All images should load efficiently and all links should be unbroken

Ensuring your website has the ability to function with current updates is an essential element of functionality. System and browser updates are always evolving and improving. It is our responsibility to ensure our websites grow with these advancements to guarantee a positive user experience.


Remember the acronym:
PerFormance RATE

Purpose. Functionality. Reputation. Authority. Trust. Expertise.

Take note because these words are key to your success.



Google’s search engine algorithm is becoming more human with every update, prioritising positive user experience above all else. Google is aiming to give their users exactly what they want and, to fulfill that goal, they need you to share the same intention.

We have outlined to you the steps you need to present your website in its best possible form, ensuring it will be awarded the Quality Rating it deserves. With this, your online visibility will increase and you can race to that coveted top result spot.


Just remember: to win First Place in Google’s race, you have to play by their rules.

 Produced by Sorcha Kelly and Grace Kelly on behalf of Magictime, June 2015.