When Google was first founded, back in the Dark Ages of SEO, the most important factor in SEO and page rankings were keywords. The more keywords you could stuff into your webpage, the higher you might rank. This resulted in a lot of pages that were really good at gaming the system ranking first and websites that were actually more relevant to a user’s query losing out because of it.
Google has been steadily updating its algorithm to fix this ever since. Some sites have had to change their approach in order to meet the new SEO strategies, while those who have been creating high-quality content the entire time have already got the right kind of content for ranking highly with Google’s latest updates.
How Does Google Measure Content Quality?
In the past, Google measured content quality by looking at UX signals. This included a variety of factors such as bounce rates and conversion rates. Sites that had a lot of visitors who stayed on the site for a long time (dwell time) clearly had the type of content that the visitors were looking for.
Focusing on high-quality content is important, but as Google gets even better at interpreting user queries and directing them to the best possible results, it’s not the only thing. Relevance is now the key feature and it’s established through authority.
Relevance Is Key
The key to ranking high on Google’s SERP is relevance. High-quality content doesn’t matter if it’s not relevant to the user performing the search query. A web page about tennis rackets is not going to rank for the keyword “coffee.” Even a web page about Google’s Panda update won’t rank for searches about the giant pandas in China because Google can, thanks to BERT and other updates, interpret what the user really means when they search, providing the most relevant results.
Google doesn’t just want to provide the most relevant information, however. The company wants to provide the most authoritative of those relevant webpages.
What Is Authority?
Authority is how trustworthy the information on the webpage is. Google uses authority to differentiate the quality of multiple websites that are about the same content. One will need to rank higher than the others, even if the pages are equally relevant to the user’s query.
Authoritativeness includes a variety of factors that make your webpage a trusted source for a given topic. This can include ensuring that your information is factual. and answers questions that users may have. It also means that users trust your site and that you are an authority on that subject.
How Is Authority Established?
But how can you establish that your website is an authority on your subject? Backlinks. This includes both links to your website on other sites and the links you chose to include on your own site. You need to ensure that you link to quality references within your own content. In addition, if others view your site as authoritative and trustworthy, they will link back to you.
Write for the Users, Not for Google
Google has aimed from the beginning to push sites that optimize for search engines instead of users down in rankings. All of its algorithm tweaks haven’t been arbitrary; they’ve been to improve user experience online. It’s more important to produce content that users will see as high-quality and relevant, not what search engines will think is good.