Internet Marketing Ninjas Blog

New Google Quality Rating Guide: Reputation and Expertise Get Hotter!

Here’s the summarized adapted script of the video:

Thom: We are hanging out with Internet Marketing Ninjas today and we’ve got Jim Boykin, CEO Internet Marketing Ninjas, Ann Smarty who in charge of communities and social for us. My name is Thom Craver. I’m the field development and IT.

And are wonderful guess today is Jen Slegg, search marketing consultant extraordinaire.. Welcome and thanks for joining us!

Jen has been in the industry for fifteen years now. You might know her as @Jenstar on Twitter.

Jen has published the great overview on the new completely rewritten Google quality rating guide: and we will discuss what SEOs need to know about it.

What is quality rating guide and what does it mean for SEOs?

Jen: So Google employs this army of people (these are regular people, people like your mom, your sister…). They’re not people who are tech-savvy, they’re not people who know anything about SEO.

But they go and they quality-rate various web sites.. Google gives them a random list of websites or queries and they have to go to these web sites and to those landing pages and make a rating about the quality of the page based on the whole wide variety of criteria…

So obviously for webmasters this is a really good insight into the things Google is looking for, into what they want to see ranking better or what they want to see ranking not so well.

So that is why SEOs are all over this right now…

Jim: The common thought is that humans don’t directly influence the ranking results but in reality  there is a little bit of human factor with the quality raters… There are thousands of these people rating search result pages for Google.

They are rating the pages that show up in search results based on various factors. Google has thousands of people running the same searches and giving the scores to particular sites. They are using those signals in their algorithm to better their results.

Jen: Well they don’t use directly the results… so you couldn’t just go and get all your competitors low scores… It doesn’t influence the rankings directly but it’s really good insight into the things that Google’s considering…

Jim: Yes… let’s say that 10,000 people ran a search for [car insurance] and let’s say that 9,999 of them have said that “bobs car insurance” is an untrustworthy site and low quality, then I am sure there’s probably a good chance that Google is using those signals.

So it’s hard for one person to really influence it as Google is aggregating results from lots and lots of people.

Jen: Then ideally Google is going go to that “bob’s car insurance” and see “okay people are saying this is a poor-quality website. What are some signals we can take from low-quality sites and build them into the algorithm so more sites like this site don’t come up in the search results for any variety of searches..”

Jim: Yes and the Raters’ guidelines are really good to to get an understanding of the things that Google is looking for….

So those people are known as quality raters… And every so often Google comes up with this quality rater guide, the booklet for those quality raters to see instructions on everything that they’re going to do and their control panel. And this should be noted that this is a confidential document… I would never admit I’ve ever seen it and a good friend came to me and told me all about it.

What is E-A-T?

Jen: E-A-T stands for “expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness”

Google is not only looking at the whole site to evaluate if it’s authoritative – they are also looking at the people who are contributing to the site.

So if I am contributing to a site and I have the authority in SEO field, that would benefit that site.

So it’s not only how authoritative the site is, it’s also how authoritative the people behind the web pages are…

Jim: One of the acronyms Google keeps using across the document is E-A-T, again that’s “expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness”.

We can definitely tell that a lot of things raters are looking at is if that page was written by an expert.

Jen: Yes, and Google is actually asking the person that, if they are unsure, go and do some research, like actually Google that expert or a site. Do they have a good rep? Do they have a bad rep?

It does make some note that not every site is going to have a lot of reputation but they are asking raters to look at overall reputation of the site or the person in question.

Jim: This is something a little bit different from the past versions of the quality rater guidelines.

They talk about reputation and they even give examples of searches for them to run. They are talking about checking if that page is listed in Better Business Bureau. The things that other people are saying about you become so important!

Looking at your reputation is even more important now. Quality raters will be checking if you have a Wikipedia page…

Jen: We are all familiar with negative SEO and with so much weight given to online reputation, we are going to see more negative reputation campaigns…

Jim: I was surprised to see one tool mentioned “Link Trust”. That’s a tool where people can leave ramp-up about the company. Other sites like Glassdoor will be looked at. Anywhere where people can review sites – those are now very important pages.

Positive and negative reviews now can be an SEO factor.

Google says that in some cases, when the reputation is very high, a medium-quality page can actually be rated as a high-quality page.

Jen: There is definitely some flexibility and people will look at the same sites differently.

For example, there’s a not that just because a site is a community, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s a low-quality site. Places like Wikipedia that has a ton of UGC, can be high-quality.

Jim: And Jen has made a good point in her article that it will be crucial to establish the authority of your site contributor.

A lot of people think about Authorship as only about Google Plus, but this document re-affirms how important Authorship is and it’s not just about Google Plus.

Google is crawling the web going from page to page to page and they are looking for these things called “keys” that identify that a page was written by a particular person. Author trust is based on how many documents this person has written, how many pages have cited those documents, how many people have cited those documents.

Authorship and Author Rank are more important as Google is trying to think beyond links… There’s nothing about backlinks mentioned in the raters’ guide.

Jen: It’s going to be more important to set up really good bios for your site contributors.

  • Link to their LinkedIn because you can see their experience and connections there. You can get a very good sense of a person just based on the work experience.
  • Say how much they have been in the industry
  • Mention if they have published articles in other places
  • Link to their Twitter and Facebook account
  • Link to many pages that will show that your contributor is really an expert

You go to many sites and they talk about their writer and all they say that he/she has been writing about gardening for a few years. And that’s it. They are not building up any authoritativeness of the author. They don’t say that that author has published three books on vegetable gardening, for example.

There are many things you can do to convey an expert beyond just linking to their blog. A lot of people are missing out on that.

How does someone become an expert?

Is it the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer?

Jen: I don’t think so… There are ton of people who came of nowhere and all of a sudden everyone is talking about them. There’s definitely a room to grow.

Take the gardening example… Go to your community newspaper and ask if they want to run a weekly column with your local gardening tips… There are tons of blogs. And there’s still a lot of value in guest blogging as well. But you have to think of it as guest blogging for the exposure rather than links. You have to look at the value beyond the backlinks.

Jim: It all starts with writing quality content. The next step is marketing the heck out of it.

Networking with niche influencers and other people is very effective: Twitter, Google Plus, niche forums. A lot of people think that the writer should just be writing for their blog – but that writer should try to get exposure from as many places as possible.

Jen: If you go to conferences and tweet the official hashtag, that always results in lots of interactions (retweets).

Even if you can’t go to the conference, there are tons of Twitter chats. Twitter chats are a great way to get exposure and meet people in your industry.

Ann: There are tons of opportunities to become a recognized expert. If you are just starting out, don’t be discouraged: Reach out to influencers and build connections. There are Twitter chats, webinars, podcasts and forums…

Forums are by the way mentioned in the rater guidelines… And it states that even if the forums are user-generated content, they can still be high-rated pages if there’s enough of authoritative members contributing. So obviously, it’s important how many posts you did at the forum and how useful your contributions are.

Jim: I would highly recommend all website contributors have a bio page. And the bio page should link to their social profiles and describe their expertise. It should also link to articles they have written in other places. It can also link to their forum profile pages.

Jen: That’s a good point when you bring up forum profiles… Almost all forums hide user profiles from search engines or unregistered users. So it’s probably a good time to make those profiles visible (especially if there are some authoritative members).

Ann: You need to also be more consistent with your usernames you are using throughout social media and forum profiles: You should have the same name everywhere. You should also make sure to complete your profiles everywhere for them to look trustworthy.

Also, if you have a company page, make sure it has a very detailed “About page” linking to all the expert contributors of the site.

Jim: In the guidelines, they talk about contact and about pages a few times . They encourage raters to go and check if the contact and about pages look trustworthy and real. So make sure you have a physical address on your contact page, phone number and I would also link to the expert writers from there as well… just to make sure it is easy to find that information.

Jen: For the ecommerce, Google has included “Your money and your life” term in the recent guidelines. It was specifically dealing with the sites where you are giving your bank or credits card information… And it’s very important those sites look trustworthy and real. You need to have your contact information, shipping & returns information, q&a, etc.

They also encourage their raters to go and look up the whois information of the domain name. That’s why it makes sense to make your domain information public: it looks more trustworthy that way.

So is reputation management a MUST for everyone now?

Thom: There was an article that was published on Wired talking about the restaurant: someone sabotaged their Google local page. And the owner had no clue it had wrong information there…

So what would be your advice to some business owners who remain oblivious?

Jen: Especially in restaurant business, online reputation is so important. And we are coming to a point where it’s going to be ignorance not to be paying attention to how we show up online.

Jim: We are past the stage of ignoring online reputation. You’ve got to be searching for your company name (as well as [company name reviews]), you need to be aware of what is there. You can’t ignore unfavorable feedback. If you are just pretending you don’t see it, not only it’s bad for your reputation, it can now be hurting you chance of being ranked in Google. It’s not just looking at reviews, it’s thinking at the back of your mind, “Can these bad reviews over here actually be hurting my rankings”.


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Meet The Bloggers

Jim Boykin
Jim Boykin

Founder and CEO

Ann Smarty
Ann Smarty

Community & Branding Manager