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When search engine optimization (SEO) first started to emerge two decades ago, marketers rushed to figure out the best ways to ensure that their websites ranked high in search results for keywords that were likely to be used by their customers and prospects.

Very Specific Criteria

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that search engines have very specific criteria when it comes to defining high-quality and low-quality website content. For example, Google has published a 175-page document, Search Quality Raters Guidelines, that explains in detail what they look for when determining the quality of a website’s content.

These guidelines are used by Google Search Quality Raters in gauging Page Quality (PQ) and Needs Met (NM) page ratings. Google updates the guidelines periodically — the most recent update occurred last December.

In a recent issue of her newsletter, SEO and Digital Marketing Consultant Jenny Munn detailed some of these criteria. But she started by venting about one of her biggest SEO pet peeves: what she calls the “just create great content” myth that’s perpetuated by some SEO experts. “While creating great content is the ‘meat’ of SEO, there’s so much more to it than that,” Jenny said.

High-Quality Main Content

According to Jenny, the main thing Google Raters are looking for when gauging the quality of a website’s pages is whether or not they contain a satisfying amount of high-quality main content. “They leave it specifically ambiguous as to what this means for each page,” she said. “It’s dependent on the intent of the query and the purpose of the page.”

However, Google has created an acronym that describes three of the main criteria used by Raters in gauging page quality: Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness, or EAT. “Google wants to rank experts and those who have shown they are trustworthy and can produce authoritative, accurate content,” Jenny said.

While Google can’t guarantee the accuracy of any website’s content, they can design their algorithm so it ranks content with high-quality signals found on authoritative websites. As Jenny put it, “You should be taking a page from the book to build your EAT and show signals to Google that you are the expert in your niche and deserving of Page 1 rankings.”

Jenny offers a few suggestions for optimizing your website pages according to your Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness:

  • Expertise — Jenny believes strongly in sourcing subject matter experts in your website content. “When experts are behind content, it is detailed, nuanced and comprehensive,” she said. “Pair these qualities with a well-formatted page and visual content like media, videos and graphics and you’re well on your way.”
  • Authoritativeness — Whether you think you’re an authority or not is irrelevant. All that matters is whether others in your industry believe you’re an expert and authority. “Backlinks from quality, relevant sources show Google that you’re an authority,” Jenny said. “So do quality citations and brand mentions across social media and other websites.”
  • Trustworthiness — One of the best ways to display trustworthiness is to add fresh, relevant content to your website on a regular basis. Other ideas: Secure your site with “https:” validity, demonstrate your industry credentials, display customer and client reviews, and collect reviews on other prominent sites like Amazon, Google My Business and Yelp.

How Much Content Do You Need?

Aside from the question of what constitutes great content, the other most common question marketers have about SEO is how much content do you need to rank high in the search engines? According to the Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines, this depends on the topic and the purpose of the page.

“The purpose of the page will help you determine what high-quality content means for that page,” states the Raters Guidelines. “For example, high-quality information pages should be factually accurate, clearly written and comprehensive. A high-quality page on a broad topic with a lot of available information will have more content than a high-quality page on a narrower topic.”

Meanwhile, low-quality pages lack at least one important dimension, such as not having enough main content or the creator of the main content not having adequate expertise for the purpose of the page. Other characteristics of low-quality website pages noted by Raters Guidelines include:

  • An exaggerated or shocking title of the main content.
  • A main content title that is misleading and doesn’t reflect the actual content of the page.
  • An inadequate amount of information about the creator of the main content
  • A negative reputation for the website or main content creator.

Keep these criteria in mind and remember the acronym EAT — Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness — as you create search engine optimized content for your website pages.