The Mid-2019 Google Algo Update: Quality Matters

As a Richmond SEO and web design company, the websites that we build and manage are engineered to be easier to find in search engines… but what happens when Google changes the rules of the game?

Unfortunately, we don’t own Google or have a key to its backend. Helping your website ranking higher in search results isn’t as easy as opening up a back panel and banging around with a monkey wrench until we get the results we want.

In this article, we would like to cover why Google updates its algorithm and how an SEO company like Key Web Concepts stays ahead of these updates.

Technological Checks & Balances in the Information Age

Lucky for the integrity of the information that we rely on for everyday queries, no one person controls the systems in place to determine what shows up for “best taco restaurant in richmond va.” If one person or one entity were capable of changing the results so easily, they would probably choose their favorites. This would either skew public opinion in favor of a personal preference, as people take Google at its word, or skew public opinion of Google as their results show clear bias.

Instead, there is a complex algorithm that is at the heart of what gets ranked on Google. For example, if the query is “what is the best taco restaurant in richmond va?” we would expect Google to weigh each of the tiniest bits of information it has about that particular business and calculate whether it really is the best. Weighing out the complexity of factors that encompass the “best” of anything is a complicated equation.

If you were to brainstorm a list of all the information you could possibly find online to evaluate a restaurant’s quality, it could include lots of information. Some of it might be more relevant than others. Does a food critic’s negative critiques override dozens of satisfied locals? As you can imagine Google has its work cut out for it. With over 200 ranking factors to weigh out in a fraction of a second, a simple search query requires a very complicated algorithm.

Naturally, this algorithm needs a little maintenance from time to time. Warm-blooded human quality testers give feedback on whether Google’s cold, robotic evaluations spit out answers a human could trust. Otherwise, Google would be telling users that horses have six legs and carrots cure cancer. It’s easy to see how this could get dangerous.

Goof-ups in the algorithm show how Google may sometimes confuse popularity with credibility. It could also confuse thorough coverage of a subject with expert knowledge on the subject. Long-windedness doesn’t automatically make you right in the real world but how can Google tell the difference?

According to Google’s announcement on their Webmaster Central Blog on August 1st, the core algorithm update was designed to improve the credibility of search results. The article goes on to explain that websites with quality content have nothing to worry about.

How Does Google Determine Quality Content?

Because we know that Google’s main goal is to curate trustworthy information from around the web relevant to user queries, we have some assurance in even the most significant algorithm updates. There is a baseline goal that provides a compass for every SEO to consistently rank well no matter what trends or updates sway his vessel….

Does the information on this website contribute worthwhile, trustworthy insight to search users?

Every time an SEO-minded web design company creates a new website, they must think of this singular goal of contributing something to the World Wide Web that will be beloved by all, cherished, shared on social media, and possibly even framed on the walls of their most ardent fans.

For different types of websites, conveying both uniqueness and quality looks differently. For informational websites, contributing something uniquely valuable can look like a research paper, a new insight based on statistics, or the expert advice from a published author in the field.

When it comes to business websites, the business owner is already a certified authority of his subject matter in the real world. We just have to convey this in the digital world. This could be accomplished with testimonials verifying your trustworthiness or your list of certifications and experience. Your marketing strategy can determine your unique strengths and what makes your business a go-to place for your most loyal customers. Asking the right questions about your business should generate content for your website that is uniquely valuable to your customers.

Evaluating Your Current Site’s Content Quality

In Google’s blog post, they highlight some helpful questions to determine what they consider to be quality content. I’ve reproduced some of those questions here for you to get a general idea of the high standards that Google would like to see in the websites it ranks.

If you have a website currently, it would be a big help to read some of the questions and ask yourself if your website satisfies these requirements.

Google Content Quality Guidelines

  • Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
  • If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely-recognized as an authority on its topic?
  • Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?
  • Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?
  • Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?
  • Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?

(You can read the full list of evaluation questions on the Google blog post or read the 166-page search quality rater guidelines.)

What Key Web Does to Align With Google’s Quality Standards

As we’ve covered previously, SEO is an industry rife with cheap tricks to try to outwit search engines into placing them at the top. Some of the SEO companies offering these services are somehow able to promise better results for a cheaper price tag than Key Web could ever compete with. Some of their secrets to keeping prices down include:

  • Automation
  • Outsourcing
  • Copy and paste
  • Fluff writing

At worst, some of these companies are cutting corners with hiring non-native English writers from overseas and using copy and paste methods of duplicating websites for multiple clients. At best, they recognize the benefit of unique content but their rates are too low to cover writing well-researched articles.

The problem is that you get what you pay for with cheap SEO companies. To keep costs down, they don’t budget enough time to produce quality work. With maybe an hour or two of time devoted to analyzing rankings and looking for errors throughout your site, only a small portion of that is used to write a blog post. While the blog post counts as new, fresh content on the site Google to crawl, it makes the same common sense points that anyone off the street with only a nominal knowledge of the subject could make. The fluff doesn’t last and it doesn’t establish the site’s authority in Google as a trusted source.

Optimizing Your Website for Uniqueness & Quality

Before ever putting pen to paper or drawing up outlines of your website’s structure, we meet with our clients and make a point of discussing their business’s unique strengths, their marketing strategy as a whole, and how their digital marketing strategy fits into all of this.

Our goal is to consider what it is that the website can say that will be most valuable to the users who visit it. For many of our clients, we recommend a UX Strategy Session to create customer profiles that aid in the user experience of your website.

We also start from scratch with custom WordPress web development and create homepage and subpage designs that are unlike any other out-of-the-box template. This enables us to start with a blank canvas and get creative with your site.

That’s why major core algorithm updates don’t bother us. We know that what we do is solidly rooted in 22 years of combined team experience in SEO and a genuine desire to contribute good content to the web.