Episode 3: Google Search Evaluator Quality Guidelines

Where can I get a copy?


Who are Search Evaluators and what do they do?

They are basically Google’s secret shoppers. Their job is to get assignments from Google that entail them conducting searches and evaluating webpages/websites. The main intent is for Google to utilize this information to improve their search algorithm. If we understand what Google is evaluating, then we can mirror the way we improve websites to what Google cares about.

What are the Search Evaluator Quality Guidelines?

This is a 164 page document that tells the evaluators how to do their job. The document is complete with definitions and examples. As a marketer, it is a must read to fully understand Google’s intention with the search algorithm.

When was it last updated?

Conveniently July 20, 2018. This was a mere two weeks before Google released the Medic Update. Thus far, it appears the websites that are doing the best post update are those websites that are abiding by these guidelines. More on that next week.

Ok, so what do I need to know as a lawyer?

Quality trumps quantity. Both in terms of the actual content and in the way it is visually displayed. Here are my abbreviated notes on the new release.

  • YMYL (Your Money Your Life)

    • This is a categorization Google uses and lawyers DO fall under this category. The requirements that Google looks for with these YMYL websites is much higher.
      • Just know that google holds you to a higher standard.
  • Main content is any page that helps achieve the main purpose of that page.

    • Helpful titles summarize the MC on the page. Do your page titles do this?
  • Supplementary content is good to have but does not contribute directly to the main purpose.

    • This is a good way to organize your content.
      • Figure out what has to be there and what doesn’t.
  • Google very clearly outlines what the most important factors are:

    • The purpose of your website should be very clear and the content on the page should achieve the desired purpose.
      • This would be very difficult for a lawyer to get flat wrong. But the websites that stand out from the rest will provide more usable information in an easily digestible form.
    • Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (E-A-T) – This is a huge component especially for YMYL websites.
      • Google wants to know that people trust you, that you are licensed to perform your job, and that you have proven results. (More on this later.)
    • Main Content Quality and Amount – The websites that are going to rank the best will not only have the best content, but will have the most of it.
      • Lawyers need to focus on providing useful information and try to provide information that other competitors are not. (More on this later.)
      • A statement that is consistently repeated is that good content requires time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill.
    • It should be clear who is responsible for the website.
      • Almost all lawyer websites do this because the branding is the name of the firm.
      • Some law firms that don’t like to say who they are might have some difficulty. These are typically ‘marketing’ type firms that don’t actually handle cases but refer them out.
      • Similar to the above, there are some websites that appear to be a law firm. But upon further analysis the websites are actually some sort of lead generation website.
    • Website reputation and the reputation of who is responsible for the main content.
      • This is something that can get a bit tricky and will likely create quite a bit of conversation in the near future. Is Google not only looking at the reputation on the firm as a whole but also that of the individual attorneys? And does it matter who the author is of the content? Should we be linking the author line to the attorney bio page?
  • Google is asking the evaluators to conduct an in-depth reputation analysis.

    • This includes looking at reviews on Google and other websites such as AVVO, Facebook, BBB, or Yelp. They also want forums looked at for any complaints or positive interaction. News stories are also highlighted and they want their evaluators to see if there is any positive or negative press.
      • This goes to show that off-line marketing is very needed. GET REVIEWS! GET POSITIVE PRESS COVERAGE! BE A POSITIVE PRESENCE IN YOUR COMMUNITY!
      • It is important to note that Google did tell the evaluators that no reviews do NOT mean bad reviews. So Google is taking a logical approach and understands that smaller businesses cannot attain the same number of reviews and presence that larger corporations can.
      • It is also important to note that websites with a bad reputation will NOT be given a high rating. GET REVIEWS!
      • Finally, YMYL websites that have a mixed reputation will be given a low rating. This is an example where Google is going to hold your website more accountable. You must have a stellar reputation.
  • E-A-T – How do we win at this?

    • There is going to be a lot of debate on this topic. But this is where I would start.
      • What is the definition of each of those? (Merriam Webster)
        • Expertise – expert skill or knowledge in a particular field.
          • This can be proven by content. Whether that is on your own website or other third-party websites. Create content that is useful or be part of content that is useful.
          • Google specifically mentions that the quality of the main content is a factor in determining E-A-T.
        • Authority – the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.
          • Lawyers can show this by having a JD and being licensed. Be sure to get links from the bar associations that you belong to. Consider having those links go to your bio page.
        • Trustworthiness – the ability to be relied on as honest or truthful.
          • Get reviews and awards.
          • The guidelines specifically mention that very high E-A-T websites will have prestigious awards.
  • High E-A-T websites should have clear information about the website.

    • Be transparent about who you are and how to contact you. It would also be a good idea to have the normal disclaimers and site policies easily accessible.
  • The guidelines also discuss what will cause the content to be rated low.

    • In addition to everything else, make sure that your website is easy to navigate and does not trick people or have intrusive popups.
      • Most lawyer websites will not have a problem with this. E-commerce or website that make money off of ads will be more affected by this. But make sure your website chat box is not intrusive, though Google did say that a single popup that can be easily closed is not a problem.
    • Grammar and punctuation.
      • Make sure your content is well written and on the appropriate education level for your readers.
    • Too much fluff.
      • Say what you want to say in as few words as possible. Google doesn’t want to see a bunch of meaningless text.
    • Content lacks important information.
      • Look at your competitors. Do they include information on their pages that you do not? This might include helpful advice but it might also be testimonials or case studies.
      • Obviously if you are giving bad advice, this will harm your rankings.
    • Incorrect page titles.
      • Google doesn’t want to see keyword stuffed titles. They want the title of the page to be descriptive.
  • Google also provides information on what the lowest of the low quality websites will look like.

    • It is very unlikely that most attorneys will have websites that fall under this category but nevertheless, don’t do these things:
      • Spread hateful messages.
      • Have harmful webpages that could spread viruses or malware.
      • Pages that link out to malicious websites.
      • Have misinformation on your website.
      • Try to deceive your website visitors.
      • Do not have a clear purpose for your website.
      • Don’t give any thought to quality or reputation.
      • Websites that do not have any content or thin content.
      • Content is too difficult to understand. (This could apply to some lawyer websites. Don’t write content that is more like a law school term paper.)
      • Plagiarized or duplicate content.
      • Auto-generated content.
      • Main content that cannot be used because of the functionality of the website.
      • Unmaintained websites.
      • Websites that ask for more information than is necessary from the user.
      • No sources are given.
      • No date is provided for content that may have a lifespan.
      • Keyword stuffed pages.
  • Take the time to ensure your website is as helpful as possible.

    • The example given is to make your 404 error pages more helpful. These are the pages that are shown when content has been removed or an erroneous address was typed in. So Google wants you to help people get to the page that will be most helpful when they have lost their way.
  • From a mobile perspective, Google wants you to ensure that your website is still usable.

    • Entering data should not be cumbersome.
    • Small screen sizes can make it difficult to read some items. The content on a small phone should be usable.
    • Internet connectivity on phones is not always the greatest. Websites should load quickly on phones.
    • The navigation of the website on a phone should be easy.
  • Understand that people search for content in different ways:

    • Implicit – Personal Injury Lawyer
      • This person probably wants a lawyer that is close to them.
    • Explicit – Personal Injury Lawyer In Seattle
      • This person wants a lawyer that is in Seattle, regardless of where they are.
  • Google is looking for keyword phrases that might have different intentions.

    • So Google wants to display information differently based on what they believe the intention/s are.
      • Some people may want to visit the office in person.
      • Some people may want to visit your website.
  • When a search query demands fresh content, then only pages that have been updated or created recently will show.

    • Freshness is not a consideration of E-A-T.
      • News queries are generally going to be the most common type of query that needs fresh content. But law firm websites should still keep the content on their pages up to date. (Preferably monthly.)
  • How close is ‘near’ and how does Google change the results?

    • Google does mention that people who are looking for certain types of businesses will want to only see locations that are very close. But other types of businesses are OK if they are across town. It appears that the closeness of professional service companies is on the larger end of this spectrum. So attorneys are going to be less susceptible to distance from the searcher.
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