Google never been straightforward with its algorithms and how, exactly, it ranks content.
One thing it is straightforward about? It’s Quality Rater Guidelines.
Watch A Video On Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines
In this article, I’ll go over 78 SEO tips that search marketers of all stripes need to know.
Google’s guidelines have been around for years at this point. But given all of the uncertainty around the state of organic search and the countless new additions to the SERPs in 2019 alone, the 166-page guidelines are more important than ever.
In case you need a quick refresher, Google’s Search Quality Raters document was written for their human quality raters.
This team is of contractors (reportedly 10,000+) are given real searches to conduct online. After performing the searches, their job is to evaluate and rate the results that appear. This process serves as a checks-and-balances of sorts to ensure that the algorithms are effectively ranking search results.
The tips I’m about to share range from the basics to the more advanced and aim to help you put your most authoritative, trustworthy face forward. Let’s dive in.
1. Improve Mobile Page Speed
Though mobile page speed only became an official ranking factor a few months back, it’s long been a big deal for usability.
While Google says that the “speed update” will only affect a small percentage of sites, it’s a good idea to make sure that your site runs as fast as possible on mobile and desktop alike. I’ve said this multiple times, but people will bounce away from your site if it doesn’t load right away.
2. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly
Aside from speed considerations, make sure that your site is mobile-friendly on the whole. Google’s Mobile-Friendliness test is a quick way to ID any of the issues that might impact load times.
3. SEO Tips: Work on Your Site’s Readability
Readability is about more than vocab. It’s about making it easy to scan your content through the use of headings, short paragraphs, bullet points, and plenty of white space.
You can use tools like Grammarly or Hemingway, which allow you to make sure that your content is easy to read.
4. Make Sure Metas Aren’t Getting in the Way of Traffic
Are you noticing low-click through rates on specific pages?
If so, it could be your meta descriptions holding you back. Make sure they include your target keyword and that they accurately describe what the searcher will find after the click.
The point is, improved meta descriptions can help you improve your CTRs, and by extension, your SERP rankings.
5. Don’t Forget ALTs
Don’t forget to include ALT attributes before posting content on your site.
Not only is this another opportunity to rank for your target keyword phrases, but it’s also a matter of usability. Visually impaired users, for example, use ALT text to gain more context for what’s on the page.
ALT tags are also used by Google to make sure that your image is relevant to the surrounding content.
6. Install SSL
Security is a key factor when it comes to building trust among users.
Aside from things like testimonials and valid expert credentials, SSL shows that you’re committed to keeping your customers safe online. If you’re having some difficulties getting your traffic back in the wake of Google’s most recent core algorithm update, make sure you check that you’ve got SSL enabled on all of your web pages.
7. Don’t Put Form Fields on Insecure Pages
Speaking of security, SSL enabled pages are even more important when money or data is involved. Never, ever add forms to unsecured pages. Since 2016, SSLs have been required for most sites, with Google Chrome warning users any time they’ve arrived on an unsecured site.
That said, you may want to take things a step further and enable HSTS Secure, which ensures the connection is encrypted and prevents bad actors from impersonating your site and collecting customer information.
8. Compress All Media
The larger the file size, the more time it takes to render, so as you might imagine, as you add more media to your site, failing to compress can slow you down big-time.
So, the smaller the file size, the faster your website will load, and the higher you can rank on Google as a result. But how do you shrink a file size once it’s on your computer?
Before you get started, make sure you check out the file size–if it’s an MB or more, try using a compression tool like TinyPNG or Google’s Squoosh.
9. SEO Tips: Optimize your images
Optimized images are a critical piece of making sure your site loads quickly for visitors. It also makes things easier on Google, allowing the algorithm to identify the images on your site. Make sure that all images are compressed and include descriptive file names and alt text.
10. Use Better Images
Whether you’re angling for a spot in the snippets or hoping for more engagement, images are a big deal for SEO. What’s more, you can’t always ensure that Google will choose the image that you want them to in the SERPs.
Instead, you should make sure you focus on always using the best possible photos in your blog posts, your product pages, and to support your web copy.
11. Use Short URLs
Google tends to prefer its links to be clean, organized, and short. According to a survey from MarketingSherpa, executives are 250% more likely to click organic listings with short URLs, particularly if they appear below a listing with a long URL.
12. Use H1 and H2 Header Tags
Headers are a must-have if you want to make sure that your content is readable and user-friendly. What’s more, proper header tag use is also linked to higher search rankings.
See, Google crawls for HTML header tags such as H1, H2, H3, and so on to determine how relevant your content is in the context of the search query. Generally speaking, you should have a single H1 tag per page and multiple H2s and H3s under that H1.
13. Let Google Know if You’re Using Dynamic URLs
If you’re using dynamic URLs (which look like this: www.example.com/?mode=1-list=1), make sure you adjust your parameters in the Google Search Console, indicating how you want Google to crawl your content. This helps reduce any instances of duplicates, as Google won’t catch the same page twice because of shape-shifting URLs.
14. SEO Tips: Make Internal Linking a Habit
With internal linking, you can send new readers to check out your older relevant posts.
Internal linking is a great way to pass link juice to older articles while highlighting new opportunities to learn about a specific topic for your readers.
15. Link to Other Valuable Resources
Linking out to valuable resources, be it a great case study or an in-depth article on the same subject, is another way to show your customers that you care about helping them find the best information–even if it doesn’t always come from one of your people.
Another benefit of stepping up your external linking game is that it shows that you understand how to differentiate quality information from links with low E-AT ratings.
Think about it this way, how might reader perception change if you cite the Harvard Business Review versus a blog about making money online?
16. Get More Backlinks
Yes, in 2019, backlinks are still a big deal for SEO.
Inbound links from high-authority domains (think .org sites, reputable news channels) help bring in traffic and show that your content is credible–after all, you’ve got another credible site vouching for you.
17. But, Also Make Sure these Are Quality Backlinks
Okay, I just mentioned that these incoming links should be high-quality. This means that the focus should be on building and maintaining a backlink portfolio that isn’t just high-authority, but also relevant to your brand and the content that contains the link.
18. SEO Tips: Create Topic Clusters for Internal Linking Opportunity
Topic clusters have become a staple of the long-form content marketing game.
If you’re not familiar with the term, topic clusters are a keyword strategy that spans your website, not just one post. The idea is, you’ll build a series of posts around one core topic.
So, if you’re talking about local SEO, you might also write posts related to sub-categories of local search like Optimizing your Google My Business Account, Local Inventory, and Customer Reviews. Then, you can keep the link juice flowing through your site, connecting related posts to drive more traffic to additional pages.
19. Moderate User-Generated Content
User-generated content can be a really great way to increase your social media presence and connect with your audience.
However, there are some cases where UGC can hurt your E-A-T ratings. If you have a YMYL topic, make sure any forums or comments are closely monitored and come with a warning about taking advice from commenters.
20. Showcase the Expertise of All Contributors
Show off your content creators’ expertise by displaying any credentials they might have under their belt. Authoritativeness is related to the author of the main content, as well as the webpage and the entire website.
Here are a few things that can help you showcase that authority:
- Professional title
- Short bio
- Link to the official website
- Link to full bio
21. SEO Tips: Invest in Your Personal Brand
As mentioned above, the T in E-A-T stands for trust.
As such, it’s smart to invest in personal branding, particularly if you work in fields like real estate, law, medicine, or areas like marketing where thought leadership is a big deal.
Consider posting video content on YouTube and optimizing your LinkedIn SEO–the idea is to build up your reputation across multiple channels. This will help you drive more traffic to your site and improve the “expert and authority” parts of your EAT score.
22. Don’t Forget About “About Us” Pages
SEO experts recommend taking the time to improve your About Us page, by providing contact information, photos, and schema markup, as well as a list of achievements and publications you’ve been mentioned in.
Trust signals you might add to your about page:
- Experience and expert status
- Positive press mentions
- Credentials or other formal qualifications
- Business address and contact details
23. Include Testimonials on Your Site
Testimonials go along way in helping website visitors decide whether they want to make a purchase or even trust a specific brand.
While hand-picked recommendations might come across as though the brand is aiming to avoid neutral or negative reviews, a few well-chosen testimonials by clients that people know can go a long way in building trust.
24. Know Your Audience
If you want to create the kind of deep-dive content that really speaks to your readers, you need to know who you’re talking to.
We go over persona-building in this blog post, and in another here, but one thing worth mentioning is, it’s critical that you don’t just lean on persona templates alone. Instead, flesh out those stereotypes with real data–look toward your Google Ads audiences, your Facebook Insights, the comments left in your help center–to bring personas to life.
25. SEO Tips: Matching Intent
Okay, user intent has always been a big deal for search, but Google is putting a greater emphasis on quality content–and delivering a more relevant experience to users.
As such, user intent is becoming a bigger part of how the algorithm determines rankings. Your content should match the intent of the searcher’s query. While Google’s close variants make it easier to reach people searching for the information you have, always consider what you want people to get out of your content.
Product pages should always use language that suggests commercial intent, while a long-form post about Instagram ads is probably more in the informational realm.
26. Know Your Page’s Purpose
Aside from figuring out the intent that corresponds with each piece of content, Google’s guidelines also offer up a nice reminder of what each web page “type” is supposed to accomplish.
27. Make it Easy to Get in Touch
It doesn’t matter if its phone, chat, or email, one of the biggest factors in building trust with your users is making sure that it’s easy to get in touch with someone if needed.
The ability to get in touch with a real person can make or break someone’s experience with your brand, so make sure that you invest in training your staff to reach your audience across all relevant platforms.
28. SEO Tips: Know When to Outsource YMYL Expertise
Understanding whether you’re an everyday expert versus a credentialed pro is another big point in the rater guidelines.
As a point of reference, Google defines “everyday expertise,” as areas where the author’s professional credentials aren’t as important. Meaning, someone who is a marketing expert isn’t held to the same standard as a YMYL content creator.
If you run a YMYL site
but aren’t accredited in the field niche you operate in, you might want to consider outsourcing your content to someone who is.
29. Vet Your Content Creators
One of the newer additions to Google Search Rater guidelines is a paragraph containing language about content creator expertise.
This means that you’ll need to ensure that any writers you’re working with are skilled, knowledgable, and ideally, already have a good reputation across other channels.
30. Make Sure All Pages Are Properly Fact-Checked
One of the key things to understand about Google’s quality guidelines is that low-quality content is missing that level of authority to be considered a legitimate resource. Let’s say you have a food and diet website. Your site might be an authority when it comes to healthy recipes, but you’re not a medical professional.
In that case, if you’re posting medical advice, you’ll need to consult with a credible expert and cite them in an article or invite a qualified medical pro to write a guest post. While YMYL sites are held at a higher standard, all content should be fact-checked to ensure that it doesn’t include any untrue or potentially harmful information.
31. Work with Established Writers or Journalists
Writing great content takes time. Why not work with writers that can raise your profile?
Look for writers well-versed in your niche. If you are a news agency, focus on recruiting journalists that have established a reputation in the industry.
32. SEO Tips: Lean on Your In-House Experts
If you have in-house experts, let them shine by getting them involved in your content strategy.
Even if they don’t have time to write blog content themselves, you can ask them for quotes or short interviews that writers can use to boost the authority of their content.
33. Give Those Experts Bios, Too
Again, all contributors should have their own bio page that outlines their credentials. Even if this person isn’t actively writing content, their contributions still add some weight to your business and by extension, your website.
34. Write Better Author Profiles
While having a short author bio at the foot of every article is a good place to start, a dedicated author page is even better. Author pages help identify your content creators and help you build out a reputation as an authority in your space.
35. Know What it Means to Be An Expert
You need to have the understanding, education, and experience in order to be considered an expert—both in a general sense and according to Google’s E-A-T criteria.
36. SEO Tips: Work On Your Off-Page Reputation Management
It’s not just what’s happening on your website that factor into your quality rating.
It’s everything from guest posts and testimonials to inbound links, social media, press coverage, and more. Make sure everything you put out there is high-quality represents your personal or professional brand well.
37. Disavow Spam Links
You should also make sure that you disavow anything that might be considered a spammy backlink. I write about this in more detail over here, but bad backlinks–whether they’re spam comments or low-quality directory links can hurt your site’s reputation.
38. Ask Customers for Reviews
Sometimes, it just pays to ask. While again, you should never pay for customer reviews, you should definitely ask for feedback at the right moments.
Don’t worry about a few bad apples spoiling the bunch, either. Not every brand is fit for every customer. Focus on providing great products and services and following up with satisfaction surveys or a request for feedback.
For local brands, working on your review strategy is essential. Customers can post on platforms ranging from Yelp to Facebook, Google, and beyond–which in turn, should help you get more people in the door.
39. Avoid Soliciting Reviews
While there’s a bit of confusion surrounding this issue, it’s better to avoid soliciting reviews or paying for them. Instead, invest in building out your brand, posting on social media, and following up with customers after key interactions.
You can, for example, let customers know that leaving feedback for a recent purchase enters them into a drawing for a gift card or a giveaway. However, it’s worth pointing out, this approach
40. Stop Building Links on Directories
While directories are important–particularly for local SEO, they shouldn’t be the basis of your link-building strategy. Focus on high-quality directories like Yelp, Yellow Pages, Google, and any directories relevant to your industry and brand.
41. SEO Tips: Get Mentioned
While more links (well, quality links) are always a good thing, backlinks aren’t the only way to boost authority in the SERPs. According to Google, press mentions (link or not) are still considered a sign of authority that can help raise your brand’s profile.
42. Monitor Social Channels
The Google guidelines say that reviews, engagement, and popularity, are all considered “evidence of reputation.”
As such, you’ll need to stay on top of all channels where someone might leave feedback or ask a question. I recommend using a social listening tool like Mention, along with Google Alerts, so that you can set up notifications when someone leaves a comment.
43. Invest in Social Customer Service
Building on that last tip, you’ll want to make sure that you make customer service a multi-channel affair. Consider adding a Facebook Messenger bot to tackle some of the softball questions customers ask.
44. SEO Tips: Localize Your Content
If your business has multiple locations, you’ll need to make sure that you create landing pages for each location and blog content that speaks to each area you serve.
The challenge in creating multilocation content is the risk of duplicate content. Make sure you use a tool like Copyscape to prevent any instances of duplicates from happening.
45. Use Google Local Inventory
If you have a local store, allow customers to browse inventory online before they show up. This feature is ideal for reaching those users who know exactly what they want and don’t want to waste time calling a bunch of stores or visiting multiple locations.
46. Claim Your Google My Business Listing
Local businesses are leaving SEO ranking factors on the table without a Google My Business listing. Make sure you claim your profile, get listed in local directories and work on improving your reputation with online reviews.
47. Fill Out Your GMB Profile in Detail
It’s not enough to have a GMB profile; you’ll also need to make sure you fill it out using keywords, descriptions, and other relevant details that can help local customers find your business.
48. Add Photos to Your GMB Profile
This tip is especially crucial for many local businesses–particularly restaurants, salons, yoga studios, bars, and hotels. People like to get a feel for the experience before they show up.
49. Use Booking Schema
If you’re a local business that takes appointments, make things convenient for your users and allow them to book directly from the Google Maps list. Here, users can see a whole list of local results, with customer reviews and photos offering some social proof. That’s pretty powerful combined with a “book now” CTA that lets you book your next haircut in a couple of clicks.
50. Really Focus on Social
Many website owners might not know this, but your official social media profiles can boost your E-A-T score. As such, you’ll want to treat social as a full-on SEO strategy, not an afterthought.
Google considers social media channels as a barometer for measuring reputation, relevance, and engagement—plus there’s the added benefit of growing your following by focusing on these efforts.
51. Embrace Instagram
This one is for all of those e-commerce brands out there: if you’re not using Instagram, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to expand your reach to new audiences, show off your products, and drive traffic.
52. Optimize for Voice
Voice search is on the rise, particularly for local businesses, as many people search for “near me” results while they’re driving or walking around outside.
Make sure you include full sentences in your website content, as people tend to speak in full sentences rather than choppy keyword phrases they might type into a search bar.
53. SEO Tips: Remove Content with Low E-A-T Scores
Low-quality content can bring down your site-wide rating. While it might be difficult to catch all signs of a low E-A-T piece of content, Google breaks it down with these two examples.
Consider checking existing content for issues like poor spelling or grammar, spun content (i.e. paraphrased from another source), or articles that fail to provide the answers promised in the title.
54. Beyond Intent, Content Should Be Enjoyable
As per a study on ranking factors by SEMrush, website visits, bounce rate, time on site, and pages per session were among the top ranking factors. What this means is, your site should be relevant, enjoyable, and full of valuable information.
Think about it this way–every page should answer the questions your visitors are searching for. What might someone want to know about this topic? What information does someone need to achieve a goal?
Ensuring that your content is easy-to-read and is designed with a specific goal in mind means that visitors will stay on your site longer, look at more pages, and come back again later.
Back to my earlier point about readability, you’ll want to write content in a way that makes any topic, complex or not, approachable and easy to grasp. From there, build in humor or a conversational approach to connecting with your audience.
55. Plan Content Around Keywords
Many people write web copy and blog content without considering keywords, instead, making guesses as to what topics their audience is interested in.
Dive into keyword research and actively seek out those that relate to your expertise–for example, if I were to begin this process, I might start my research by looking for the top searches related to Facebook Ads. One post might cover Facebook Ads basics, and from there branch out into carousel ads, messenger ads, and so on. Over time, I’ll begin to position myself as an expert in my industry.
57. Address Specific Needs of Your Target Audience
Beyond diving into the interests of your audience, you’ll also want to think about what your personas need.
For best results, you’ll want to make sure that you dive deep into your customer journey maps and identify what information someone might need at every touchpoint.
For example, someone arriving on your site for the first time might want some basic information about what your company does, whereas a repeat visitor might be interested in downloading an e-book or booking a demo.
58. Use Data to Power Your Content
Your primary goal is to deliver well-researched, factual information. So, data goes a long way here, helping brands reinforce their points by citing original research, credible studies, and other data points.
59. Embrace the Formatted List
Google loves a good list, be it a series of steps, bullet points, numbers, and anything that can be formatted with tags like <table>, <ol>, and <ul>.
60. Run a Content Audit
If competitors are ranking for your keywords, work backward, and fill in the blanks of your content. I recommend running an audit every few months or so, reviewing the keywords related to your content and looking for missing information you can use to add more value to your article.
61. SEO Tips: Ditch or Rewrite Thin Content
Long-form content isn’t inherently better than shorter blog posts, but it tends to get better results because you’ll have more space to go into detail about a specific topic. Look closely at your analytics reports to identify underperforming content.
From there, check out the top posts for the keywords you were targeting–what information is missing? What questions do top posts answer that yours does not? Once you’ve identified some areas for improvement, make changes.
For those topics that don’t have much traction, in general, consider removing them unless there’s a significant tie-in to your brand.
62. Don’t Spin Content
There’s a fine line between spun content and content inspired by what’s already out there. The latter is 100% okay, whereas spun content is bad news and worse SEO. Content spinning is when you take existing content and replace words with synonyms or slightly different phrasing so that it doesn’t register as plagiarism. While the ethics are murky here, the main problem is spinning results in some pretty bad content.
63. Review and Refresh Older Content
Look, new content is great, but old content can still be a great driver for traffic.
When you run content audits on your site, revisit your older, top-performing posts and make sure that you update them with new information. There’s nothing worse than looking for SEO information and finding a bunch of info for articles posted in 2016.
64. Avoid Duplicates or Scraped Content
Make sure you check your site for duplicate content, whether that means there are repeats within your site or blog posts that appear around the web, you’ll want to make a point of removing duplicates you have control over.
Should you find that you have duplicate content on other sites, make sure you email the webmaster to get it taken down or add that link to your disavow file.
66. Review Drop-Off Pages
Maybe you have the opposite problem, and you’re seeing a lot of bounces or people leaving specific pages at a higher-than-average rate.
Check your analytics account to see if high bounce rates can be tied to specific pages and consider revising those pages to increase the time spent on your site.
67. SEO Tips: Skip the Stuffing
Keyword stuffing has been a no-go for a long time, but it seems that Google has cracked down on the practice more in recent months.
Keyword stuffing is the practice of including your target keyword as many times as possible, sacrificing readability in an effort to rank. These days, it’s better to focus on writing as you speak.
68. Really Invest in Quality Content
Having great content is one of the best ways to boost both traffic and search rank. While that might come across as a no-brainer statement, what I’m getting at is–you no longer can get away with sleeping on blog content.
Those companies that want to improve their quality rating need to understand that long-form, well-researched content costs money and takes time. As such, you’ll need to dedicate resources–whether that means hiring someone or doing it yourself–toward content creation.
69. Answer Questions with In-Depth Responses
Boost your chance of landing a spot in the snippet by delivering clear, authoritative answers to questions people might search for in relation to your business.
What this means is targeting question keywords like, “How to Optimize for Google’s E-A-T Guidelines?” or “How to bake a chicken in the oven?” And from there, you might write a blog post that answers the original question, followed by related questions.
A good place to find related questions is on the site, Answer the Public or in Google’s bottom-of-the-page “people also search for…” section.
70. Use Question and Answer Schema
Beyond answering questions in-depth and including them in your headers, you’ll want to make sure you include FAQ or Question and Answer schema markup. The reason for this is that it helps Google quickly identify the content on your site–and lets the algorithm know that you’d like to be considered for the snippet.
71. SEO Tips: Avoid Spelling Errors and Mistakes
This is another one of those no-brainer tips, but part of building quality content is making sure it reads as professional. You can’t expect your readers to identify you as an expert in your industry if your content is loaded up with typos.
72. Avoid Leaning On Clickbait
Clickbait might seem like a harmless way to drive traffic, but it’s a relic of the last generation of the web that just comes off as misleading these days. Today’s users are fed up with the bait and switch approach and will bounce away from your site if they feel they’ve been deceived.
73. Don’t Neglect Your Supplementary Content
Most pages include what Google calls “supplementary content” or SC. This includes things like navigation links, media, images, sidebar content, article recommendations, and more. Essentially, SC is anything that surrounds your main content or MC.
Per Google, SC can help a web page achieve its purpose, or it can detract from the overall experience. Make sure that your SC supports the MC–and points users toward completing their original goal.
74. Write Guest Posts
Build more authority for your site and your writers by getting featured on other sites with a high reputation.
Google’s algorithm picks up on the appearances you make away from your website–so guest blogging can help you raise your profile while generating relevant backlinks in the process.
75. Be Careful with Ads and Sponsored Links
If affiliate links and ads are your money-makers, you likely took a pretty big hit when Google released the latest core algorithm update. Now, you can still use these methods as part of your strategy, but keep in mind, being useful to your readers should be the priority over pushing products in exchange for a kick-back. Make sure any sponsored posts and affiliate links are labeled as such and keep ads to a minimum.
76. SEO Tips: Make Sure Ads Follow Coalition of Better Ads Standards
If you run ads on your website, make sure that they don’t undermine its trustworthiness.
Head over to betterads.org for a breakdown of the most and least preferred ad types on both web and mobile. They do a nice job giving website owners an overview of which ad types are appropriate for different content environments.
As a general rule of thumb—avoid bombarding users with flashing advertisements, overusing pop-ups, or crowding your digital space with too many ads.
77. Add Any Necessary Legal Pages to Your Site
Depending on the type of business you’re in, you may need to add certain pages to your site for legal reasons. Think privacy policies or terms and conditions.
While Google’s documentation isn’t super clear on how legal docs impact your rankings, it’s still another way to show visitors that your site can be trusted.
78. Measure and Track Content Performance
SEO is a lot of work–you’re juggling various metrics and trying to create content that delivers top-tier results on a consistent basis. Because your main goal is to generate organic traffic, you’ll want to seek out tools that allow you to track incoming traffic, as well as how pages rank according to the keywords they target.
SEO is a process–one that’s changed a lot in the past few months due to algorithmic changes, voice search, and a shifting Google UX.
But at its core, Google is all about is putting your users first, and looks for websites that do that. Content should be on the internet for a reason, and it should be easy to find a business online, and quickly understand what they’re all about.
Keep in mind, creating a high-quality, EAT-perfect website isn’t something you can do overnight.
Start by committing to creating a trustworthy, credible online presence and focus on how you can protect users, make things easy for them, and deliver something valuable.
Over time, all of that hard work will pay off in spades–or rather more traffic and happier customers.