Christmas had come early for SEO professionals everywhere. In July to be precise as that is when Google issued a revised and updated version of their quality rating guidelines handbooks.
164 pages of pure SEO gold that was previously information reserved for a 10,000 strong network of human raters worldwide was first publicly released in 2013 but Google made a significant update to it in 2018.
Flow20 brings you a condensed version of the handbook, distilling only the most important information and presenting to you in an easy to understand and actionable format.
Time to begin improving your domain’s reputation and improve your SEO.
SEO Tip 1: Reputation matters
For quite some time now Google has paid attention to a website’s reputation and if you want to improve your organic visibility the first thing to do is start with improving your reputation.
Based on the public data available as well as notes from the leaked version of the 2013 handbook, here’s how manual raters may go about evaluating a website’s reputation:
Step 1: Find the home page via the company name search
Step 2: Determine if other versions of the domain exist e.g. subdomain.website.com
Step 3: Look for direct reviews about the company e.g. “reviews website.com”
Step 4: Look for company reviews on review sites such as Yelp, Google Shopping, Trustpilot / Feefo, Google My Business to name a few
From page 14 of the handbook:
“Your job is to truly evaluate the Page Quality of the site, not just blindly accept information on one or two pages of the website. Be skeptical of claims that websites make about themselves. – Guidelines, page 14”
It goes without saying that on your own website you’ll have nothing but good things to say about your business and the offering which is why evaluators are asked to research what independent sources seem to have to say about your company and how well it does its job.
Note: Quality raters cannot alter Google’s results directly. A rater marking a particular listing as low-quality will not cause that page to be banned or lose ranking.
Instead, the data generated by quality raters is used to improve Google’s search algorithms, an automated system of ranking pages. Over time, that quality rater data might have an impact on low-quality pages that are spotted by raters, but the algorithm will also impact pages that weren’t reviewed.
Get your brand reviewed in different places
This is why getting your site listed on review websites and then having a process in place to routinely ask your customers for review is so important.
Ideally, you want to have customers leave reviews for you in a number of different sites and not just one. Often, we have clients asking us if it’s best to get all of the reviews on Google My
Business as that is Google’s own property and that could be a big mistake.
In the real world, you would likely have had people leaving reviews in different places and that is precisely what you want online too.
If anything, having all your reviews on GMB may actually end up doing more harm than good so make sure you diversify!
Pro tip: the keywords and keyphrases used in a review matter so where possible, ask your clients to use the keywords in your review that you want to rank for. For example, if you’re selling accountancy services in London and one of your target keyword is accountants in London, try to get that keyword in your review.
Individual reputation comes into play
The general reputation of a website has been important to Google for quite some time as we’ve covered above.
What is new in the latest update however is that for the first time, the reputation of the individuals behind the brand seems to have taken on significance too.
This new addition to the guidelines has implications for you in 2 ways:
First, make sure that you have an about us section on your website.
As most of you will know, Flow20 doesn’t just do Google Ads and SEO, we build websites too and it isn’t uncommon for clients to want to leave out the about us page for a whole host of reasons (its too ‘personal’, we don’t have good imagery to use, our office doesn’t look great…the list goes on…) and whilst we understand that for strategic reasons, when it comes to SEO and ranking on Google, this is one thing you don’t want to omit.
At the very least, you want to have the names of all the key personnel behind the company and having a picture attached to each will help too. Hubspot has put together a handy article on this to help you get started.
By the way, remember, this isn’t just to please Google: informative and detailed about us pages can also have a positive impact on your visitor-to-lead conversion rates.
Here’s a brilliant about us page
The second thing to note is that just as important as an about us page is, now that Google is taking individual reputation into account, having detailed bio’s of the people behind the company is just as important.
What this means is to have detailed write-ups about each person, suitable imagery and perhaps above all else, including links to any third party websites or pieces of publication that can raise the individual’s credibility.
Although not explicitly stated, it would seem logical that links to a busy Social Media profile should be just as effective in establish authority so if you have those, it should work just as well.
Another thing worth bearing in mind is that depending on the type of business you’re in, the weightage of individual authorship reputation can vary.
Google is likely to give this new factor more importance if you’re providing services such as medical, finance, law rather than say gardening or cooking which of course makes sense – when showing results for ‘what to do if you think you having a heart attack’ Google will want to do all that it can to show the very best result than for ‘how to make pasta bolognese’.
What this means for you is that if you’re providing services of a sensitive nature, improving how your website fares for the individual authorship reputation is very important.
I’m a new business so have no reputation to speak of, what do we do?!
Reputation, whether that is online or offline has to be built over time and we all have to start somewhere don’t we?
The important thing is to have a system in place that is building your online reputation over time – once your business picks up, it’s easy to forget about the marketing aspects with asking for reviews becoming something you do only once a year. Instead, work on implementing a process, e.g. sending an email out to all new customers every month asking for a review can help you streamline the process.
Here are some other things that can help you increase your website and brand’s reputation.
Collaborations & strategic partnerships
Collabs are a proven way to improve your reputation which means it will also help you get better rankings.
No matter what your area of businesses, there’s a good chance that you can approach other businesses in a similar sector where your respective target markets are likely to overlap. If the partner in question is an established brand then that’s even better as some of that brand authority is likely to rub off on your brand during the collab which means more SEO brownie points.
Just as important perhaps, all of this could have a much more beneficial impact to your business’s sales and bottom line over and above improved rankings.
Do you provide IT support to businesses? Do a podcast with a web development agency (cough cough). Are you an accountancy firm? Reach out to providers of serviced offices in your area asking if you could write a detailed post on tax saving tips and publish on their blog. Window cleaning company? Do a video about end-of-tenancy cleaning especially for one of the estate agents in your area.
And if you’re still lacking inspiration or ideas, this article on Forbes should help!
Create and/or give away something of value and make it easy to share
Unless you’re in the field of SEO or perhaps digital marketing, giving away your trade secrets may seem like an awfully daft thing to do.
However, giving away something valuable for free when executed correctly can do wonders for increasing your domain’s reputation. The keyword here is execution and what we mean specifically is the shareability aspect.
Whether its a white paper or a video, an infographic or a blog post, if you can get your content shared it has incredible value because when Google sees that something you created is being shared publicly it is as clear a sign as any that the person to have created the content must be trustworthy.
More trust = improving rankings.
Of course creating something that is engaging enough as to entice users to share is much easier said than done but this guide ought to give you some ideas.
Just as important is to have several ways to allow your content to be shared on as many different Social Media platforms as possible.
Start by having a sharing widget such as Addthis or AddToAny on your website, on all blog posts, videos and infographics.
Embedding a Social Media widget such as the social plugin by Facebook could be another way with the benefit being that for logged in users, sharing (or even commenting) becomes much easier.
Its a good idea to benchmark your before/after rankings and keep a track of them on an ongoing basis to see how all your hard work is making an impact.
Of course, if you need help at any stage, you can always contact us.
Shirish Agarwal is the founder of Flow20 and looks after the PPC and SEO side of things. Shirish also regularly contributes to leading digital marketing publications such as Hubspot, SEMRush, Wordstream and Outbrain. Connect with him on LinkedIn.