Search engines employ several means of detecting if a site is of high quality, average quality, or low quality – and there is a quality score. You should try to tick the boxes for a good score here as it really makes a difference – we have seen smaller, less ‘important’ sites that have very high quality scores easily beat larger and more powerful sites that in theory should have got the top results but missed out on several of these factors. And in any case, as ever, you should base your efforts entirely on improving quality almost to the exclusion of all else, since it is the right way to improve a business.High-quality factors:
- Unique content that is an excellent resource.
- Your product or service presented optimally – this means with time and effort spent on description, photos, or whatever else is required.
- A brand name.
- A dedicated IP.
- Long-term domain name ownership.
- No adverts on the front page.
- High-quality website code that validates and has a good accessibility score.
- A dedicated server.
- A dedicated nameserver.
- Good traffic – especially via SERPs clickthroughs.
- Avoidance of all ‘obvious SEO’ measures on the site or in the content.
- Duplicate content, scraped content, extensive RSS feed content, content with too many ‘possible duplicate’ signals, content with too many ‘low-quality’ signals.
- A low-cost domain such as .info, as these were sold cheaply by the million.
- A shared hosting server with 3,000 other sites on the server.
- Lots of adverts on the front page.
- Low-quality website code which is full of errors, and a poor accessibility score.
- No address and contact details on the site.
What is the relevance of quality factors ?
It’s simple enough: somehow the search engines need to work out which sites are of value and which aren’t. They want to send their customers to absolutely the best sites for any given search term, rated in order of their relevance to that term. It is often written that the page is the only important factor but this is completely untrue. Any examination of test data shows this to be yet another SEO forum myth.A website’s ‘strength’ is a big factor even though it is not easy to measure. TBPR (toolbar PageRank) is one among a hundred factors, and a site with PR1 can easily get #1 search positions. It is mainly a factor when competition gets tough. You need to remember that this process is, in the first instance, entirely digital – no human influence comes to bear unless problems arise. So the SE has to give the right answer in a fraction of a second.Website and web page quality have a big role here, in addition to pure relevance to the term. The algorithm that determines the answer is hundreds of pages long and took years for computer scientists to develop. It is absolutely not a question of keywords and page rank alone.
If your site has all the appearance of a quality resource that provides unique, rich content – is popular with visitors – ticks all the boxes for high quality and none for low quality – then it will score well. One set of factors involved is if the site appears to be of value to the owner and has money spent on it. The opposite is true of disposable spam sites, which commonly use cheap hosting and throwaway facilities in all areas. The theory is that a ‘good’ site will have cash spent on longevity and quality; but a ‘bad’ site, being destined to crash and burn in months if not weeks, has as little as possible spent on it – which since it is probably only one among hundreds or even thousands owned by the same person is simple logic.
Low-quality sites with error-filled pagecode are another sign of a website with lower standards – or a missed opportunity to tick the boxes for high quality – whichever way you want to see it. Another SEO forum myth perpetrated by the ignorant is that this does not matter, and sometimes the ignorant are people who should know better.
Why do SE statements and real data not agree?
An interesting point to ponder, in relation to these sorts of issues, are the statements of search engine representatives versus the data collected as a result of tests. Sometimes these two do not align. One of the best examples is that SE spokespersons may state that web standards compliance is not necessary to achieve good search results. Collected test data, however, shows a different result.
Why do they say one thing but do another? This is a difficult question without inside knowledge but we have to assume it is a question of politics – if many websites appear to be of low quality, even those with good resources, then it may be difficult to admit to a policy that penalises even those with good content. But the data does not lie: look after quality factors and you will do better in search.
The real issue here is not the fact that a commercial enterprise such as a search engine has to maintain some sort of proprietary control over its workings, but that the statements of their publicity departments should be taken as gospel by the more easily-convinced. You will see all over the web, opinions by for example web developers, saying in effect that, “If an SE’s senior representative says I don’t need to worry about web standards, why should I believe you?”. But the thing is, we know exactly why a high-quality site outperforms others; and if you believe politicians then no doubt the tooth fairy is equally plausible. The simple fact is that politicians cannot always tell you the truth because it is unpalatable, and that is not their fault. The truth is easily found if you want to look.
Purchase your domain for at least 5 years. This is because spam sites churn ‘n burn their domains – they buy them for the minimum period, then once they are discovered they are disposed of.Always use a .com unless there are specific reasons not to. The well-known ‘el cheapo’ domains such as .info were commonly sold at 60 cents each, so spammers bought them by the thousand and set up multitudes of disposable spam sites with them, then disposed of them. A 60c domain does not give your business the gravitas it needs.
Using the cheapest possible hosting, with 3,000 other sites on the same server and IP (we’ve seen it) is not a sign of quality. It sends out a clear message: “My site is only worth $3 a month hosting”. Sharing an IP with 3,000 others is not good practice.
Front page adverts
Of course you will see this everywhere, even on top sites. But a smaller site fighting for position should avoid it. It starts to tick the boxes for a site’s membership of the MFA class (‘made for Adsense’), which are among the lowest quality of all websites. Think about it – a website with some form of commercial purpose would never have ads on the front page, as customers would leave before they enter the site. You also won’t see ads on the front page of any ultra-respectable site, of any purpose.
A dedicated server is a very good quality signal. In practice it is hard to different
iate between a dedibox, which has its own unique IP, and a site on shared hosting that has bought a unique IP – but it can be done. You can be sure that if something can be done, a search engine will be doing it.As soon as you can afford it, you should move to a dedicated server. There are numerous reasons for this.
In the same vein, a dedicated nameserver is useful. These are only available to owners of a dedicated server, though.This is also an indicator of a site’s ‘importance’ to its owner, since it is hard to achieve at low cost. In fact it normally costs a lot more than a dedicated IP, since virtually every host can provide dedicated IPs at minimal cost, but few provide dedicated nameservers at all – these are normally arranged for dedicated server clients. Since these start at about £60 a month ($80 in the US) there is clearly a big step up to get one from the more usual $8 a month hosting. It is obvious to all when a site has a dedicated nameserver as this data is given out by the server.So it could be argued that if you have a dedicated server, and a dedicated nameserver can be arranged – it should be. If you change over to one, then in theory it’s another chalk mark on the quality scoreboard that means search engines take you more seriously.
Quality factors aggregated
Each of these, as a single factor, may not amount to much – but when you add all these together you get an aggregation of marginal gains and it does make a difference. We prove it since it’s one of our specialist areas. How else does a small site with 500 links beat every other site except Wikipedia?