Former Google Rater weighs in on Quality & SEO Analysis

girl telling another girl a secret

If you think SEO is just a matter of good keywords, it’s time to rethink your strategy.

By Syble Harrison, SJ Marketing Conceptor

Before I became a copywriter for SJ, I spent three years as a senior website rater on contract for Google. After a stint behind enemy lines (Google’s not really the enemy, but you get the point), I learned one thing for sure: A high-quality website with a so-so keyword strategy will rank higher than a so-so quality website with an awesome keyword strategy—every time.

Don’t get me wrong. Keywords are necessary (and powerful). But, quality, not keywords, should always be the foundation of your SEO strategy. Here’s why.

Google wants to be useful

The goal of Google Search is to help people find what they’re looking for. And what people are looking for is websites that are useful, not websites built to generate traffic by tricking the search engine with keywords. Your awesome keyword strategy may very well earn you page-one status. But, believe me, Google is always on the hunt to make sure that status is short-lived.

Only high-quality (i.e. useful) sites will take up permanent residence on page one.

High-quality websites have useful pages

The biggest mistake a company can make is to assume “high-quality” means “a pretty design and a solid set of keywords.” Site design does factor in the overall quality score, but its effect is minuscule compared to site usefulness. And a useful site is filled with useful pages.

Useful pages answer questions and solve problems

For example, imagine you’re doing research on fishing, and you enter the search term “fishing techniques.” Now, imagine your first result is a blog post on a fancy fishing gear website. The post is stuffed full of the keyword “fishing techniques,” but it doesn’t provide good info, the writing is bad, and it’s obvious that the point of the post was to get people on the site to buy fishing gear.

On the other hand, imagine your first result is a blog post on a less fabulous-looking fishing gear website. But this post is well-written and informative. And, even though it’s on a fishing gear website, you don’t feel like the point of the post is to trick you into buying something.

Despite the first site’s superior design and more intuitive interface, its landing page would rate as much lower quality than the second site’s landing page.

An otherwise great site with too many low-quality pages will ultimately rank as a low-quality site.

High-quality sites are cared for

Another lesser-known factor in a site’s quality score is whether the site shows evidence of care.

Updated copyright

One of the surest indicators of care is an updated copyright. It may seem unimportant, but a copyright that’s five years old screams abandonment and neglect. Set a reminder to update yours every January.

Working links and forms

This one is huge—and often missed. Broken links and wonky forms are extremely frustrating for users. So, a site with too many such problems is considered too frustrating to be useful. Schedule regular page checks to make sure your interface is in working order.

Fast loading speed

Frustration is the key with this one, too. We all (including Google) know how irritating it is to sit idly in front of a slow-loading page. A site that wastes time is anything but useful. If left unchecked, too many slow-loading pages will significantly ding a site’s quality score. Again, make loading-speed checks part of your regular SEO maintenance schedule.

It’s about balance

Achieving and maintaining the coveted page-one status requires a balanced approach. Definitely, don’t ditch your keyword strategy. Just be sure to apply that strategy to a site built with human beings—not just their pocketbooks—in mind.

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