What Counts As A High-Quality Site? 17 Questions Asked by Google When Ranking Your Site

certificate happy men holding a diplomaIn recent months, Google has been focusing on improving their search results by implementing a series of algorithm updates to filter out shallow “low” quality websites. Since February 24th 2011, there have been 26 updates to the Google search algorithms which all fall under the recent Panda 4.0. Google made it clear during Panda 1.0 that their main focus was on eliminating low quality websites known as content farms that were ranking high within the SERP’s decreasing the value provided to users. The aim was to eliminate scraped, aggregated, syndicated and duplicated content by adding a series of updates to the search algorithm after analyzing the way that users engaged with the content on any given page. There are many other factors that distinguish between a high and low quality website but the objective was to provide only the most valuable search results to the user. During this two year period from when Panda 1.0 update rolled out, many reputable websites saw a drop within search rankings because they failed to meet the “high” quality guidelines that Google deemed acceptable.

With that said, it’s important we take a look at Google’s “high quality” guidelines so we can tackle the issue of “poor” quality and be part of the whole improvement movement. So, how does Google define high quality and what factors matter to them the most? The initial problem is that many bloggers have their own definition of “high quality” which might contradict Google’s interpretation.

The focus is obviously high quality content so implementing these changes within your website will dramatically improve your search rankings and generate enormous traffic through organic search. Let’s get started with…

Number 1: Would You Trust The Information Presented Within the Content?

Now don’t get confused, this is a question that you should be asking yourself when publishing your content. If you cannot trust your own content then don’t expect others to trust what’s written. You’d be surprised how many well-educate people with vast knowledge about a topic are skimming through content online. They know a lot about the topic so don’t get yourself caught off guard and once your site loses credibility then it loses its search rankings. Remember, Google does check for user engagement when ranking a website so if you’re information can’t be trusted then user engagement will suffer.

To protect the credibility of your website, do some research before writing on a topic you have no prior knowledge about. If it’s a topic you have knowledge on then refresh your knowledge so you don’t present outdated content to your readers.

Number 2: Does Content Go Into Detail About The Topic or Is It Shallow in Nature?

If you’re an experienced blogger then you’ll know that detailed content creates the most buzz. The longer and more detailed the content, the more value you’ll know is embedded within the words. Another thing to remember is that, more words indicates depth and experience on the topic.

Statistically, people searching online are looking for a solution so when writing content, make sure it’s the best and it provides the complete solution to the reader. Personally, if I can’t find what I’m looking for on a page and I need to go somewhere else then it’s poorly written content which is shallow in nature.

Number 3:  Do You Duplicate, Aggregate, Overlap or Syndicate Content?

Google Panda’s objective is to eliminate websites that don’t produce high quality content. If you’re duplicating content then you’re devaluing the original source. Next, if you’ve aggregated content from around the “web”, you’ve essentially automated the content gathering process. Pre-programmed metadata is in charge of displaying relevant content on your website but this doesn’t mean its “high” quality content and unique. Content syndication follows the same process as aggregating content but its delivery method is through RSS Feeds. Either way, it devalues content and can be poor quality content.

Number 4:  Would You Provide Credit Card Information On The Website?

This applies to websites that have an ecommerce aspect to them, i.e. shopping cart and checkout process. Can your site be trusted and is it secure enough when users type in CC information. Does it look like a website you’ll feel comfortable providing CC information to? How does it look?

Again, these questions will help you determine the security and trustworthiness of your website. You’ll get a better idea of what needs to be improved to enhance user engagement.

Number 5:  Does Content Have Spelling, Stylistic, or Grammatical Errors?

People have often asked if spelling and grammar affects your rankings so we decided to find out what Matt Cutts, head of Google web spam had to say…

“Google has found that sites with top rankings generally have high-quality spelling, which often indicates that the writer spent more time on the content than, say, someone who quickly slapped it together.”

However, you need to remember a search engines way in determining high quality content can be different than ours. Having spelling errors within your content makes it tough to read which may decrease user engagement. Edit your content before publishing or hire someone to do it for you.

Number 6:  Is Content Generated With An Attempt to Rank Higher in Search Engines?

It’s important that your content flows smoothly and sounds genuine. When you’re writing content just to rank well for specific keywords then your quality will suffer in the process. You’ll notice some of the highest ranking content has depth and the writer is genuinely interested about the topic.

Number 7:  Is Content Original, Provide Original Research and Analyses?

Google has various methods they use to determine “high” quality websites. Sometimes if you provide original or unique content, it adds value to your website. You’ll notice some of the websites ranking high within the SERP’s provided original content through research, case studies or even through analyzing data. These types of content are rare so are given an extra boost up the ranking latter.

Number 8:  How Does The Quality of Content Differ Between You and Your Competitor?

When creating content you’re going to have competition so it’s important you provide more value than your competitor. When two websites provide relevant content, Google will use several factors to differentiate between both pieces of content. The EXACT factors are a secret but it’s widely believed that user engagement, bounce rate and social activity might play an important role.

Number 9:  How Much Quality Control Is Done on The Website?

It’s important to keep validating, checking, and testing your content. If you’re blog provides “list” style content, it’s always a good idea that you update the list as time goes by. These types of content are time sensitive and outdated content can hurt your credibility and decrease user engagement.

Number 10:  Does Content Provide Both Sides of the Story?

This applies to websites that review products and generate content based on their experience. The best reviews have been noted to provide the positive and negative aspects of the product.

Number 11:  How Often New Content Added to The Website?

Continuously adding new content indicates to Google that the website is active and updating regularly. Google scores these websites differently because they are more “authoritative” and have older domains with large link profiles. Overtime these websites have built a solid following of people who share content produced with others. These websites have more user engagement then those that don’t update quite frequently. Many SEO experts have said there should be at least 20%-30% new pages added to your site each year.

Number 12:  Is The Website An Authority On The Topic?

Is your website authoritative in your niche and the content well respected by other big players within the industry? Does your content provide information your visitors are looking for and are they glad they landed on your page? The more respected your content and well-liked by industry experts, the more likely it will be linked to and shared on social networks. Remember that authority sites publish trustworthy information and link to other trustworthy places on the web.

Number 13:  How Well is Content Edited, Formatted and Structured?

When content is well structured and easy to read, it will increase user engagement improving bounce rate and user retention. Providing a breakdown to the visitor about what to expect within the content is a great way to increase readership. Structure content by providing introduction, breakdown, subtitles and conclusion so that you’re visitor can skim to the sections they are most interested in.

Number 14: Was the Content Insightful and Did it Go Beyond the Obvious?

When writing on a topic, it’s normal to state the obvious information however it’s a good idea to provide your readers with even more information. For example, if writing about “effective link building strategies” you can provide the most effective strategies but go more in-depth by stepping outside the box. It would be great to provide a list of FREE article directories that accept external links or blogs that allow links to be placed within the comment box. You can provide a guide to setting up your one way links correctly or how to use anchor text within your links.

Number 15: Would You Bookmark, Share and Recommend the Content to Friends?

Ask yourself after publishing your content…

If this was a piece of content you landed on through Google search results, would you bookmark, share and recommend the content? If the answer is NO, then you’ve done a poor quality job putting together this content and should go back and improve it until you can answer the question – Yes! If the content is NOT good enough to recommend then it’s NOT good enough to publish on your blog. This should be done for every piece of content written for your website so that the quality threshold stays consistent.

Number 16: Is the Website Easy to Navigate and Well Structured? Can Content be Easily Located?

The easier it is to find content on your website, the more you can increase user retention, social shares and engagement. Make sure your website is NOT cluttered because this slows down your loading speed. Google has said numerous times it does take into account the speed at which a page loads on your website. If content can be located easily on your website, you’ll significantly improve your bounce rate.

Number 17: How Highs is the Complain Rate of Your Website?

Google is quick to remove websites from the search results which violate the privacy, copyright and terms. If you’ve been flagged several times for copyright infringement or providing misleading information, you’ll be removed from the search results immediately. Google relies heavily on a smooth user experience and providing the best content to people searching through Google. Produce unique high quality content staying clear from misleading information or taking credit for other peoples work.

Final Thoughts…

Google has done a great job providing us with a breakdown of what they consider “high quality”. Even though the EXACT ranking factors won’t be released to the public for obvious reasons, these questions above will steer you in the right direction.


Low quality content on specific parts of your website can impact your whole site’s ranking, so removing, improving or even merging content can help boost your search rankings.

If you have any questions, please post them in the comment box and let’s get a discussion going on how we can work together at improving our website and content.