In case you missed it, Google recently release an update to their Search Quality Rating Guidelines.
These are the guidelines that they provide to their evaluators who assess the quality of Google’s search results and provide them with feedback. The evaluators base their ratings on these guidelines.
While previous versions of the guidelines have been leaked, this represents the first time that Google officially released them.
Jennifer Slegg has shared some of her initial thoughts at The SEM Post and Moz.
We're still combing through this latest update. As we do, we'll likely post our opinions as they relate to lawyers. One section that has persistent relevance:
2.3 Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) Pages
Some types of pages could potentially impact the future happiness, health, or wealth of users. We call such pages “Your Money or Your Life” pages, or YMYL. The following are YMYL pages:
Shopping or financial transaction pages: webpages which allow users to make purchases, transfer money, pay bills, etc. online (such as online stores and online banking pages).
Financial information pages: webpages which provide advice or information about investments, taxes, retirement planning, home purchase, paying for college, buying insurance, etc.
Medical information pages: webpages which provide advice or information about health, drugs, specific diseases or conditions, mental health, nutrition, etc.
Legal information pages: webpages which provide legal advice or information on topics such as divorce, child custody, creating a will, becoming a citizen, etc.
Other: there are many other topics which you may consider YMYL, such as child adoption, car safety information, etc. Please use your judgment.
We have very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages because low quality YMYL pages could potentially negatively impact users’ happiness, health, or wealth.
"YMYL" shows up 64 times throughout this most recent version of the guidelines. I encourage you to parse through the entire document to understand these types of pages in various quality rating contexts. Here are a few basic takeaways:
- Satisfying Website Information - Make sure that your pages provide clear and satisfying information for their purpose. Which raises another point: Each page should have a purpose (hint: ranking for a query is not a legitimate purpose). Legal websites require a higher degree of trust and need satisfying website information.
- Authoritative and Trustworthy - Have lawyers at your firm earned awards and recognition? These may be used as quality signals by evaluators in determining authority and trustworthiness. However, not all recognition is likely to be treated equally. Don't think of this as an opportunity to plaster your pages with pay-for-recognition badges. On the other hand something like, "According to this Wikipedia article, this law firm is currently regarded as one of the top 4 firms in the United States as rated by U.S. News & World Report," is likely to carry significant quality weight.
- Who Wrote It - From the guideline: "You should consider who is responsible for the content of the website or content of the page you are evaluating. Does the person or organization have sufficient expertise for the topic?" Is the content on your site attributable to a lawyer who is a recognized authority? Or is it lacking attribution altogether? These more nuanced signals are likely to become more heavily weighted in terms of identifying search quality.
Hopefully, much of this is obvious to you. But if you're still trying to "game Google" with pages designed to catch search queries, don't be surprised when those tactics work less of the time.
Is Google perfect? Of course not. In fact, they have a long way to go. But you ought to consider the purpose of your pages. Are they designed for short-term search success? Or are you interested in building a long-term web presence and assets that will earn meaningful attention over many years?
If you answered the latter, it's time to stop acting like we're dealing with search engines from 1997.