Weekly SEO news: 1 November 2011

Welcome to the latest issue of the Search Engine Facts newsletter.

Last month, Google's latest quality rater handbook leaked. The handbook contains useful information about how Google rates the quality of a website. Is your website good enough for Google's requirements?

Also in the news: old domain names do not guarantee high rankings, how Google detects doorway pages, Google's exact match domain name patent and more.

Table of contents:

We hope that you enjoy this newsletter and that it helps you to get more out of your website. Please pass this newsletter on to your friends.

Best regards,
Andre Voget, Johannes Selbach, Axandra CEO

1. Google's leaked quality rater handbook: 7 helpful tips

Last month, Google's latest quality rater handbook leaked. The handbook contains useful information about how Google rates the quality of a website. Is your website good enough for Google's requirements?

quality guidelines

What is the quality rater handbook?

Google employs so-called quality raters. These are the people who manually check Google's search results to make sure that the ranking algorithm is working as expected.

A quality rater visits the sites that Google returns for a query and then evaluates the results based on relevance. If a website does not fit in the search results, Google's quality raters can mark a website as spam.

The quality rater handbook contains the guidelines that quality raters use to evaluate web pages. Although Google quickly removed the link to the handbook after it leaked, we could take a look at it.

Here are the most important takeaways from the quality rater handbook:

1. Google uses several levels of "relevance"

Google instructs search quality raters to rate the relevance of a website as "vital", "useful", "relevant", "slightly relevant" and "off topic".

In addition to the relevancy, Google prefers pages that are "highly satisfying, authoritative, entertaining, and/or recent".

2. If there is more than one meaning, Google chooses the most popular

For example, Google thinks that most people who search for "apple" are interested in the company with that name. Search results that are about other meanings (for example the fruit) will get a lower relevance rating.

3. Relevant web pages can still be spam

Google makes a difference between relevance and spam. Depending on the intent of a web page, the page can be spammy although it contains relevant content.

If your website uses the following tactics, it might be marked as spam:

  • hidden text or links
  • sneaky redirects through several URLs
  • rotating destination domains
  • keyword stuffing
  • unrelated pay per click (PPC) ads
  • copied or scraped content and PPC ads
  • feeds with PPC ads
  • doorway pages
  • copied message boards with no other page content
  • fake search pages with PPC ads
  • fake blogs with PPC ads
  • thin affiliate sites that only exist to make money
  • lack of original content
  • pure PPC pages with little to no content
  • parked domains

4. Some search results are "vital" for Google

As mentioned above, Google has five relevance categories. The "vital" category is for websites that simply must appear in the search results. For example, apple.com is expected to be the top result for the search term "apple".

The social media profiles of a company (Facebook, etc.) cannot be considered "vital" according to Google's quality rater guidelines.

Generic queries do not have vital results. Some queries like "travel destinations" are always generic. There are no "vital" results for these queries and an exact match domain does not make a website "vital" for that query.

5. Google distinguishes between three search query types

According to Google, search queries can be classified into action queries ("do"), information queries ("know") and navigation queries ("go").

A search query can have only one query type and the query type determines which search results are highly relevant. For example, action-oriented queries ("buy mp3 player") should have action-oriented results.

6. Relevant pages must be error free, in the right language and targeted

If Google thinks that a query was misspelled, the relevance of the results is based on what Google considers to be the user's most likely intent.

Search results that don't match the language of the query get a low relevance rating. If a query includes a specific country, relevant results must match that country.

Result pages should fit the query. Specific long tail queries should deliver specific result pages. Broad queries should deliver broader results.

7. Some search queries are automatically local

Some search queries are automatically local, even if they do not contain a local qualifier. An example for such a query is "ice rink".

Google thinks that the search results for "ice rink" should return local results and that non-local results are either less relevant or useless.

The information in Google's leaked quality rater handbook does not come as a surprise. If you want to get lasting high rankings on Google, avoid spam tactics and use ethical search engine optimization methods. If you give Google what they want, your website will get lasting high rankings.


2. Search engine news and articles of the week

Buying an old domain name does not guarantee high rankings

Google's John Mueller commented in an online discussion:

"It looks like you have a site on a domain that has been used before, and which includes keywords that you're targeting. While that can help, you basically still have a new website.

Having keywords in your domain name does not automatically result in your site ranking first for those keywords. Our algorithms do much more than just look at keywords in a domain name."

GoogleHow Google may identify when sites transform into doorway pages

"Doorway pages tend to have fairly low quality content, and are written primarily to rank well for specific terms or phrases within search engines for the purpose of funneling traffic to another destination. A Google patent application published today describes how it might identify pages that have been transformed into doorway pages to point searchers to other sites. [...]

For example, a site with pages about fishing where its pages lose content on fishing related topics, and now include information about topics that aren’t very related such as weight loss, or travel might be perceived as having become doorway pages."

Google introduces bid-per-call in AdWords

"We'll be rolling out the ability for advertisers to bid for phone calls -- in addition to bidding for clicks -- when they show Google search ads on computers and tablets. [...]

But with bid-per-call, your bid for phone calls and phone call Quality Score can directly factor into your Ad Rank, too. Higher ranked ads are more likely to be seen and can therefore generate more phone calls (and clicks, too)."

GoogleGoogle's exact match domain name patent

"A Google patent, originally filed in 2003, and granted today (with Matt Cutts as one of the listed inventors) describes this problem in more detail and provides some ways that Google could potentially act to lessen the value of keywords included in domain names by recognizing when queries are commercial in nature and using a different ranking algorithm for those queries that might lessen the value of domains with keywords in them. [...]

The process in this patent focuses upon queries that Google might consider to be 'commercial,' so it’s possible that keywords in domains might work better with non-commercial queries than commercial ones if Google follows this patent."

Google and other search engines are ‘failing’ says top Facebook executive

"You can’t search for a piece of luggage just using search if you want the perfect one…I know I have a friend somewhere who does the same amount of traveling and knows the perfect bag for me… and that one recommendation is exactly the one that I want – but it doesn’t show up in search."

Search engine newslets

  • Google offers new ways to deal with duplicate content.
  • Google tests new design of Places results.
  • New Twitter data: optimal link placement for clicks.
  • Loku.com is a new local search provider.
  • Google testing grey Google Places balloons.
  • Google offers translated news.
  • It’s time for Google Places to treat reviews like a grown up.
  • Search engine ixQuick.com now encrypts all searches.
  • News developers worried about new cost to use Google Maps.

Back to table of contents - Visit Axandra.com

3. Success stories

Oliver Knittel"I'm happy to report that I am on Google's first page."

"I purchased the IBP software almost seven months ago and must say it's pretty amazing. I'm happy to report that I am on the first page of Google Germany for ten of my search terms. This of course has brought more traffic to my site and higher page rank. Thank you very much for your product."
Oliver Knittel, www.insure-it.de


Back to table of contents - Visit Axandra.com

4. Previous articles

Back to table of contents - Visit Axandra.com