During Google’s most recent English Google SEO office-hours, one of the first questions John Mueller was asked was actually a 2-part question. But basically, it had to do with site quality.
First, the participant mentioned something that John mentioned in past office hours–namely, that a webmaster should remove thin, low-quality pages from Google’s index. (Apparently so that, in Google’s eyes, the overall quality of the site would rise.)
He also relayed that Mueller, in the past, had said that it could take months, or even up to half a year, for Google to recalculate the quality and treat a website differently in search.
“So, question one would be: do you sort of stand by that time frame? …And then, a quick follow-up for question two is, you know, if we’re a small team, and as with SEO being our primary acquisition channel, how would you suggest measuring that that was indeed the problem that we tackled?”
If you listen to his questions in the video, they’re actually blended into part of a larger statement, but I think I can condense his questions into what became the headline of this news item: “If I Improve My Site’s Quality, How Long Until I See Results?”
Alright, so, let’s start at the beginning.
When you hear the phrase, site quality? What do you think of?
Do you think about the most recent Page Experience update?
If so, you’re…partially correct. Partially. You see, site quality is site quality, not page quality. That is, it’s an overall, site-wide concept, not necessarily a page-specific metric.
That said, it is a chicken-and-the-egg sort of thing, because pages make web sites, so you need (mostly) high-quality pages to have a high-quality site.
So, let’s ask…
What Is Site Quality, Exactly?
I think that, since we’re webmasters (or have one on our team), and are speaking from a search engine optimization (SEO) perspective, we should start this definition of site quality by looking at Google’s site quality guidelines.
Site Quality Can Be Guided By These 5 Principles
I’ve glanced through and pondered Google’s site quality guidelines (which I encourage you to do), and if I had to condense them into a few guiding principles, I’d say that there are 5 principles.
Let me just say that when it comes to site quality, there’s a good, heartfelt question you can ask (which you can ask about a lot of business-related issues): If you had to explain what you’re doing to your grand-mother, would she be proud?
With that, here are the 5 principles
Site Quality Principle #1: Lack of Deception
Site Quality Principle #2: Lack of Badware
No malware should be on your pages. Neither should there be such behaviour as the unasked installing of unwanted software or viruses.
Site Quality Principle #3: Lack of Sneakiness or Trickery
No doorway pages, and don’t do sneaky redirects. Don’t do things that visitors (or Google) would not want done.
Site Quality Principle #4: A Lack, or Minimum of, Thin Pages
I understand that, by necessity, you may have some pages that are thin in their word count, such as your contact page. But try to keep those to a minimum.
Site Quality Principle #5: Rich Content Pages That Are Primarily for Humans
It’s been said that longer content is preferred over thinner content. You want to have this content be primarily for humans (with consideration for SEO).
So, it’s a fine balance, but one to keep in mind.
Improving Site Quality, Step By Step
Step #1: Have Low-Quality Pages Removed from Google’s Index
Of course, this is assuming you don’t want organic traffic going to these pages, or the traffic going to these pages is so small that the overall gain in site quality will be worth it.
(But then again, if they’re low quality, they probably don’t have much traffic going to them in the first place.)
Step #2: In the Interim, Use Proxy Metrics to Get an Idea of Your (Hopefully Increasing) Site Quality
Because it can take a period of months to see lasting results from an improvement in your site’s quality, Mueller suggested that, in the meantime, proxy metrics (other metrics that can be used as a sort-of leading indicator) should be considered.
Looking into Google Analytics Engagement Rate is one metric. Time on Site is another.
You should have a before-and-after on whichever interim metrics you use. That is, have before-and-after data, so that after you make quality improvements and a sufficient amount of traffic has come to your site, you can measure the metrics.
While Google may not assess site quality using these same metrics, they can serve as leading indicators to let you know that you’re going in the right direction.
Step #3: Keep Going, and Don’t Just Build the Quality of a Fraction of Your Pages
One thing Mueller advised against was on only improving the quality of a fraction or sub-section of pages.
Because, suppose you do so, wait 6 months, and come to the conclusion that you need to improve a greater number of your pages before the overall site quality is significantly improved.
That would’ve been time wasted–not the act of improving the quality of the pages, but the waiting and the limitation to only a fraction of pages.
Instead, continue doing as much improvement as you can to as many pages as you can.
Yes, I know you may be limited in terms of your team’s size, your budget, and your time, but at least consider that you may have to make quality improvements to a significant percentage of your pages to see an appreciable SEO return from your efforts.
Step 4: Enjoy the Increased Rankings
This is an endeavor that can be ongoing: you may continuously (and maybe feverishly) make improvements for weeks to months, and see no significant improvement in rankings.
But you don’t give up. You continue.
Then, you notice gradual changes–positive results in organic traffic.
And then, you notice that those changes–those positive results in traffic–continue and continue. Maybe incrementally, but they’re there.
That’s probably how it’ll happen.
So, improvement in site quality is an on-going endeavor that takes time, but the results can be long-lasting.
Source: Google Search Central