Google’s SEO Announcement: What it Means for your Website

By: Fran Murray January 20, 2017 4 mins read

Fran is Big Dog's big dog. He runs a tight ship but don't worry, a quick scratch behind the ear and he'll roll right over!

Getting your website to the number 1 spot on Google - especially in a competitive industry - can seem next to impossible. There are just so many factors to take into account when planning your strategy. However, with one of Google's most recent announcements, it may have just got a little easier.

In November, Google officially released their Search Quality Rating Guidelines. These guidelines set out, in detail, the essential criteria that Google’s content reviewers use to judge the quality of your website. These evaluations are then used by Google when determining the search ranking of your website.

This release, needless to say, is a significant one. Over the past two months, SEO specialists and web developers around the world have been studying these guidelines and assessing their implications. And the Big Dog team is no exception. Here’s what we learned.

The Google Search Quality Guidelines - Essentials:

Your Money or Your Life Pages (YMYL)

When the guidelines were first leaked, web designers and SEO specialists were first introduced to this concept of YMYL sites. Basically, these are sites that Google categorises as websites that can have an impact on a user’s life and overall welfare. These are websites that provide information to visitors that impact an individual’s happiness, health and overall well-being. For example, a website offering medical advice, legal advice, or any other form of life advice would fall under this category.

According to the guidelines, Google holds YMYL websites to a higher standard than other sites. Because the information provided by these sites is so important and has real-life consequences for its visitors, Google scrutinises the quality, reliability and authority of this information - and thus the website. Let’s take an example. If you own a website offering legal advice, but the information is of low-quality (it lacks authority, reliability, is poorly written, is misleading or has other failings), Google will rank your website poorly. Conversely, if your website provides high-quality content, your website will rank highly.

An important fact to keep in mind, additionally, is that Google categorises any website that allows customers to purchase products or services online as a YMYL website. And so, because of this, it judges the quality of your online store based on the security of your checkout system. If, for example, you run an online store - but your checkout system is poorly secured or managed, you will receive a low rating. These guidelines further emphasise the importance of customer data security when running e-commerce websites.

For a full list of site types that Google considers as YMYL, see page 9, section 2.3 here:

At this stage, you might be wondering: how exactly does Google determine the quality of these websites? What criteria does it use to base its assessments on? The answer to that question is: E-A-T( Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness)

E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness)

The acronym E-A-T sums up some of the core criteria used to judge a website’s overall quality and determine its ranking. When evaluating a website, the reviewer evaluates the content on the website according to its level of expertise, its authoritativeness and its trustworthiness.

So what exactly does this mean?

Let’s start with expertise. If you run a website providing legal advice, for example, or simply have a business page for your law firm, with regular blog posts providing tips or advice, you need to
demonstrate that you have the expertise necessary to provide this advice. What makes you qualified to give this advice? Do you have the educational background? Do you have relevant professional experience? Whatever the case, you need to demonstrate your qualifications and your relevant expertise - and make sure these are indicated on your website. Add author bios below your blog posts, for example, and include detailed bios of the people behind your website in your ‘About Us’ pages. These are all great ways to demonstrate your expertise.

What about authoritativeness? This is similar to expertise. Basically, the reviewer is looking at your website - as a whole - and determining what factors give it authority. Do the writers of the content have the authority to provide this information? If it’s a forum website, what’s the overall quality of the content provided by the contributors?

Trustworthiness, again, is fairly self-explanatory. Not only does Google want to know that the information you provide is high-quality and backed up with the relevant experience and authority, but they also want to ensure that any information the visitor or customer provides is in safe hands. So, if you have an online checkout system for selling products or services (as we mentioned above), this needs to be totally secure. In addition to that, moreover, the visitor to your website needs to feel safe in general. Do your design and content inspire confidence in your visitors? When a visitor accesses your website, do they feel like they are safe and that you are a company or entity to be trusted?

Additional Considerations

Mobile-friendliness & Responsive Design

Again, the release of these guidelines only confirms what most web designers have known for awhile: mobile-friendliness is essential. These days, Google judges the quality of a website based on whether or not it’s properly accessible and easy-to-use across a variety of platforms.

Page Design

Another important factor when determining the quality of a website is its page design. This can include your homepage, your ‘About Us’ page or ‘Contact’ page, or your blog posts. Basically, the idea here is that Google rewards user-friendliness and easy-to-navigate design, and punishes difficult to read, poorly designed, or hard to navigate pages.

Your Reputation

This should come as no surprise, but the reputation of your website, company or business plays a role in how Google chooses to rank you. Although the occasional negative review is inevitable - and won’t hurt your website’s ranking - a large number of negative reviews will certainly hurt your standing with Google. By providing your customers with great customer service, a quality product or service, and an overall positive experience, you will inspire positive reviews - and you will build a stellar reputation. And for this, Google will reward you with a higher quality score and higher rankings.

This assessment, it should be noted, is only the tip of the iceberg. There are a large number of additional considerations to take into account. To see the full set of guidelines, and learn about Google Search Quality Rating system in more detail, visit their official site here: