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Welcome to part 2 of the Google Search Quality Guidelines! More than half of the guide is dedicated to mobile, and to put it lightly, IT’S COMPLICATED.
It’s no mystery that the Google mobile search algorithm will never be released to the public, but they did finally release the next best thing—the search quality rating guidelines. Google gives the guidelines to Raters, who test/tweak the algorithm.
For mobile, the ultimate goal for the raters is to judge whether the algorithm has met the needs of the user. Rating URLs for mobile search requires lots of moving parts based on the user’s perceived needs.
Below you’ll find a summary of the mobile guidelines along with quick wins for your next mobile SEO campaign.
Part 1 of the Mobile Search Quality Guidelines: Understanding the User’s Needs
The user’s needs are the center of this whole project. Google notes that people rely on their phones for quite a lot these days, and the tasks can range from a simple one like asking the weather to a complex one like finding movie times near them.
The first point Google makes is that phones can be cumbersome; small screens, limited keyboard access, etc. Therefore, mobile smartphones should make tasks easy, even for mobile users with a small screen size.
We live in an era of “now”, meaning we want things immediately. The algorithm is supposed to allow us to find information we want with a minimal amount of work.
Understanding the Mobile Search Query
The raters are given a list of queries to type (or speak), and then they judge the landing page result. Google has an entire section devoted to understanding the query, which we will sum up in a few bulletpoints of the juiciest bits. A few unique aspects of the mobile search guidelines are:
- Voice commands are encouraged.
- It is noted that because users do not have access to a full keyboard, or are speaking, usually in short terms, queries can have more than one intention.
- Different locations can have different meaning for queries—like football in England vs. the US.
- Locations aren’t end-all-be-alls. Some users may want results near their location, some want information that doesn’t matter where it’s from.
- Some search queries are actually Device Action queries, meaning they want the phone or tablet to open an app, schedule something in a calendar, etc.
♦ BLUE CORONA QUICK WINS:
- Optimize your pages for voice commands and human language.
- Have an app? Be sure it’s coded to open at specific voice commands through search.
- Be clear about the purpose of your page. Can the language on it leave crawlers with more than one meaning?
- Is your page extremely location-specific? Be clear about it in the meta data.
Queries with Multiple Meanings
There are different interpretations of any query. These are as follows:
- Dominant Interpretation: What most users mean when they type the query. Not all queries have a dominant interpretation.
- Common Interpretation: What many or some users mean when they type a query. A query can have multiple common interpretations.
- Minor Interpretations: These are interpretations that few users have in mind.
Google notes that queries can change over time, like “Current President of the United States.”
♦ BLUE CORONA QUICK WINS:
- Keep your information updated. If you’re in ecommerce, you may have changed the photo and description of the latest version of a product, but what about the meta data? Keep it tight.
- Don’t try to rank for phrases and keywords that really don’t fit your product or page. The raters are asked to rate the “minor interpretations” results lower than the common or dominant ones.
Mobile Search Quality Guidelines Part 2: Understanding User Intent
Google classifies four different types of queries:
- Know query, of which the purpose is to find information on a topic.
- Do query, some of which are Device Action queries (OK Google, open Candy Crush). The intent of a do query is to accomplish a goal or engage in an activity.
- Website query, when the user is looking for a specific website or webpage.
- Visit-in-person query, some of which are looking for a specific business or organization, some of which are looking for a category of businesses.
Web Search Result Blocks
Google spends a significant amount of time explaining search blocks to the mobile search quality raters. Here’s what you need to know:
- Web Search Result Blocks typically have a title link, a URL and a “snippet” of text describing the page. For many queries, Web Search Result Blocks are the most helpful type of result.
- There are sometimes Special Content Result Blocks (SCRBs), and are frequently the first on the page. Their intent is to show information directly to the user, so the user doesn’t even have to leave the search page.
- Because mobile phones can be difficult to use, SCRBs can help mobile phone users accomplish their tasks very quickly, especially for certain Know Simple, Visit-in-Person, and Do queries.
♦ BLUE CORONA QUICK WINS:
- Is the purpose of your landing page to do something? A contact page, for example. Code the page so the action or answer appears in an SCRB.
- Be sure your title tags and meta descriptions are as helpful and user-friendly as they can be, and make sure your schema is properly marked.
Mobile Search Quality Guidelines Part 3: Needs Met Guideline
Ah, now we’re getting to the real meat of this half of the guide. The Needs Met grid is a guide for raters to categorize how well the specific URL meets the needs inferred from the query. The rating slider looks like this:
*IMPORTANT* When a result has a landing page AND a SCRB, the rater rates BOTH, unless it’s obvious which one is most important for the query.
The Relationship Between E-A-T and Needs Met
E-A-T, or Experience, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, is a HUGE part of the rating process for desktop web pages. But there’s a difference between E-A-T and Needs Met, and one doesn’t always correlate with the other.
While Needs Met depends on the question asked, E-A-T DOES NOT. Good content is good content. However, a Nobel-prize-winning paper on physics doesn’t immediately tell me if my hamburger will bounce. (It won’t, btw.)
♦ BLUE CORONA QUICK WIN: Always have great content, but also make sure it’s immediately relevant for the queries you want to rank for.
Needs Met and Freshness
We can sum this up pretty quick. Some queries demand recent or “fresh” news. Users may be looking for breaking news or information about an important event. Google states:
“When a query demands recent content, only pages with current, recent, or updated content should get high Needs Met ratings. For these queries, pages about past events, old product models and prices, outdated information, etc. are not helpful. They should be considered “stale” and given low Needs Met ratings. In some cases, stale results are useless and should be rated FailsM.”
– Google Mobile Search Quality Guidelines
Many product queries are either Know Queries or Do Queries. For example, people want to see reviews about a product, or they want to buy the product directly. Even though the ultimate goal may be to buy something, there are many other activities that take place first.
High Needs Mets ratings go to results that allow users to research, browse, and decide what to purchase.
*IMPORTANT* Google tells raters that E-A-T results for product results need extra attention. Why? Because they’re frequently Your Money, Your Life (YMYL) pages, and users need high-quality information from authoritative sources.
Google Search Quality Guidelines: Let’s Wrap it Up, Shall We?
So, to sum up important bits,
♦ Mobile is taking over and pages need to be optimized to satisfy not only abbreviated queries and voice queries, results need to be able to immediately satisfy the need of information, or be able to quickly supply it.
♦ What this means is that your mobile schema markup game needs to be on-point, and your meta data better be scoring some touchdowns.
♦ If your page is for a product, be sure to have reviews readily available, as well as options to further research the product.
♦ Make sure your website is mobile-friendly (duh), and make sure your design is also web-friendly, with icons that are big enough for human fingers to navigate.
That about does it for this time around. If all of this seems amazing but way over your head, don’t stress about it. Give us a call and chat us up (we’re all really very nice, I swear), and we’ll help you get your Google search game up to speed.
About The Author: Betsy is the social media lead and a digital marketing expert with Blue Corona. When she’s not managing Blue Corona's digital content campaigns she’s urban exploring, hiking with her dog, or teaching horseback riding lessons. Twitter: @educatedbets
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