A new SEO factor: QualityRank

Ian Lurie

Ooh! Ooh! Did you see that?! I just made up a new term! I, Ian Lurie, can now put my stamp on the industry. QualityRank. It has a nice ring to it, yes? By tomorrow 10 conferences will invite me to keynote.

Google has talked about ‘quality user experience’ and ‘quality content’ for a long time. But recent algorithm updates really seem to be moving them in this direction. You can read the writing of lots of other smart SEOs on the subject—don’t take my word for it.

Google is literally adding a new factor to rankings: Site quality. They’ve hinted and inched towards it for years, but now it’s here: QualityRank is going to rule SEO for a while.

That’s the last time I’ll use ‘QualityRank’, I promise. Damn. I used it again. OK, NOW I’m done.

Google published More guidance on building high-quality sites back in early May.

Google spills the beans

In it, they write:

”…if you want to step into Google’s mindset, the questions below provide some guidance on how we’ve been looking at the issue…”

And the questions are an easy look at Google’s mindset. The high points:

Question: Would you trust the information in this article?
Translation: Are you full of crap? Are you writing an article about cancer treatments when you have zero knowledge on the subject? If you used other web sites as a guide, you might be screwed, ‘cause they don’t know any more than you do.

Question: Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
Translation: Running your own content farm may not work all that well. Yeah, I know, eHow still lives, somehow. You’re not eHow. So get real writers, and write real articles.

Question: Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
Translation: Hiring 40 people on Mechanical Turk to each write a new version of your article isn’t going to work. You have to produce truly unique content. Or, try your hand at out-coding Google’s best language processing engineers. It’ll be FUN!

Question: Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
Translation: This one is really interesting. Things that make me keep my credit card in my wallet include broken image links, convoluted checkout processes and, biggest of all, broken SSL on carts or expired security certificates. You’ve seen ‘em before—errors like this:

ie8 security warning

Check your site for these errors and fix ‘em. Google can almost certainly sniff out these kinds of things, and it can hurt your site quality.

A few more of my favorites:

Question: Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
Translation: Use a dictionary. Check your facts. Learn to write gooder. If I, Ian Lurie, mediocre programmer, can write a script that checks for verbs and nouns in sentences, you can bet that Google goes quite a bit farther.

Question: Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
Translation: Are you a known quantity? This one kind of pisses me off, actually. Google is once again favoring brands and existing content over new stuff. While QDF may mitigate that somewhat, this is still a major problem in search. If merely existing builds authority, how does great new content climb into the rankings?

Question: Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
Translation: If you’re writing in the SEO industry, the translation is: Are you regurgitating the same useless crap 500 other SEO ‘gurus’ have spouted? Cough. Sorry. I love this one. I wish they’d apply it at conferences and cause offenders to spontaneously combust. Just for a second. We’d put ‘em out after that. I swear.

There are a 23 questions in all in the Google post. You should read them all, print them, and then ask yourself each one of them every time you ponder SEO content strategy. Also, really read the Google Webmaster Guidelines, and then ruthlessly apply them to your own site.

I’m not a Google fanboy. Google’s a profit-seeking enterprise. They have their own interests at heart. But they’re a tiger, and you’ve, at best, got them by the tail. Hang on.

It’s good for you

Conveniently, Google’s guidelines lead to a pretty nice site. So follow their recommendations and you’ll have a better product, even if your rankings don’t improve a bit.

Is there more you can do? Of course. Link acquisition, social media marketing and other SEO techniques will give you a boost. But first, do no harm. Find problems, fix ‘em and get in line with what Google’s asking.

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  1. After reading this, and looking into the explanation by Google, I’m still left wanting a bit. Firstly, how does this differ fully from PageRank? Second, how does Google expect to verify a writer’s knowledge on any one particular topic?
    If they were giving a blog like this one a QualityRank, would each post need it’s own ranking?
    Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  2. Well said, my friend! And most refreshing. It’s always great to read a piece on SEO factors that doesn’t force my eyes to roll back into my head…Thank you! đŸ™‚ Laura

  3. Zach, PageRank basically counts the number of backlinks your site is getting and takes into consideration the PR of the sites that are providing those backlinks. You will see many sites with high PR and no Google rankings or traffic.
    The quality of the content will play a huge roll in the rankings. Google takes into consideration many things to determine the quality. All you need to do is make sure you are producing good content and generating a following. Google will take care of the rest.

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