For many years, entrepreneurs have ranked their websites using great content and links. For many small business owners, their SEO consisted for joining the local chamber of commerce or sponsoring some local events, and/or exchanging links with other like-minded business owners in the same niche.
While this may still work to some extent, Google is now holding the expertise and trustworthiness of a website more closely under the microscope when determining which websites should rank where.
Pay Attention to Content Quality and Authoritativeness
On July 20, 2018, Google release their latest set of search quality rating guidelines. Google uses contractors to help train the algorithm by rating websites they see in search. While the ratings do not impact rankings, the employees at the search giant do take the contractor’s feedback into account for future algorithm updates.
It appears that they are already taking many of these factors in to account. On August 1, 2018, Google announced on Twitter that they just released a “broad core algorithm update”. Shortly afterwards, Google clarified that the key to ranking well is by having “great content”.
A breakdown of the August 2018 broad core algorithm update showed evidence of “great content” winning as many medical and financial sites either gained or lost significant amounts of traffic. Great medical content is not just comprehensive content – this update proves that “great medical content” may be hosted on a site such as Mayo Clinic or Healthcare.gov AND authored by a medical professional, such as a doctor.
That means that websites dishing out information about paleo diets lost traffic, even if those sites told you that vegetables were good for you (or that you can lose weight by eating bacon).
Focus on Website Quality
Entrepreneurs and small business owners will want to focus on website quality by having clear customer service phone numbers, secure checkouts if they accept payments online, about pages which explain who the business is and who is authoring content on the website. While the August 2018 algorithm update seems to have impacted larger scale financial, health and medical sites (the most), we can expect that they will be evaluating smaller sites and niche sites more and more in 2019 and beyond.
Be sure to download and read the latest quality rater guidelines for additional information and to draw your own conclusions. The latest copy is available from Google here.
Small Business Owners – Pay Attention to THIS
SMBs should probably pay special attention to section 2.6 which discusses the reputation of the website and creator of the main content, and section 2.6.3 which discusses customer reviews of stores and businesses. Section 2.6.3 reads:
“Customer reviews can be helpful for assessing the reputation of a store or business. However, you should interpret these reviews with care, particularly if there are only a few. Be skeptical of both positive and negative user reviews. Anyone can write them, including the creator of the website or someone the store or business hires for this purpose…”
“… When interpreting customer reviews, try to find as many as possible. Any store or website can get a few negative reviews. This is completely normal and expected. Large stores and companies have thousands of reviews and most receive some negative ones. It is also important to read the reviews because the content of the reviews matter, not just the number. Credible, convincing reports of fraud and financial wrongdoing is evidence of extremely negative reputation. A single encounter with a rude clerk or the delayed receipt of a single package should not be considered negative reputation information. Please use your judgment.”
Business owners may want to concentrate on accumulating positive reviews from happy customers as well. While most experts agree that reviews do not currently impact organic rankings in search, studies have proven that they can impact rankings in local results and maps results, and they most certainly could impact organic rankings in the near future.