A few weeks ago, Google released The Document for SEO experts: the Search Quality Rater Guidelines Handbook.
What is the Search Quality Rater Guidelines Handbook (besides a mouthful)?
It’s an inside peak into how Google search works.
See – these guidelines are given to a group of Googlers who have officially been dubbed with the title of “Rater.”
This group of raters has to master the guidelines and perform thousands of Google searches a day by hand.
They rate all the content they search – websites, landing pages, subpages, website structure, etc, etc, etc – using criteria within the guidelines and their own intuition.
Then, they give all this data to Google, helping the monstrous search engine continue to perfect its algorithms.
Why does this handbook matter to you?
It shows you what factors Google considers when ranking your website.
If you know what Google thinks is important, then you can develop a site that satisfies…and ranks even higher.
Warning: this is not a quick 10 step solution for ranking #1 on Google.
Think of it as a detailed best practices guide.
Since it’s a whopping 160 pages long, I don’t recommend reading all of it (unless you have a couple pots of coffee).
Here are the two most important takeaways for you as an independent insurance agent.
(1) Be Mobile-Friendly
On April 21, 2015, Google announced that mobile-friendliness would be part of their ranking algorithm.
The recent release of their Search Quality Rater Guidelines Handbook emphasized this mobile shift even more.
Desktops/laptops used to be Raters’ primary tool. Now, Google has told Raters to perform searches on their phones, unless otherwise instructed.
Page 86 states: “Occasionally, you may be assigned some of these rating tasks on a desktop computer, but please rate from the perspective of a mobile user unless otherwise instructed.”
The handbook also now includes rating criteria like how many downloads a business’ app has, in-app content in the search results (accomplished through deep-linking) and more.
All of the example screenshots are from a phone, not a desktop.
Finally, if a Rater comes across a site that is not mobile-friendly, it automatically receives the lowest rating.
Clearly we’re past the warning stages now – Google is requiring you to take mobile seriously.
With almost half of searches performed on mobile devices and increasing reliance on mobile devices in every day life, that move makes sense.
If you need to check the mobile-friendliness of your site, use this Google tool.
If you know your site isn’t mobile-friendly and need to update it, follow the steps in our previous article: Google’s Mobile Update – What You Need To Know.
(2) High-Standards For Insurance Content
Some content has greater impact on individuals than others.
Instructions on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich aren’t as important as instructions on planning for retirement.
It won’t be the end of the world if I don’t put jelly on my sandwich tomorrow, but not having enough money to buy a jar of jelly when I’m 70 would be rough.
Google recognizes this content hierarchy and has placed more robust guidelines on content that has more of an impact on someone’s life.
The content is called Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) and per page 9 it includes:
- 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.
Did you see that?
Buying insurance is on the list.
Honestly – this is great for insurance agents. As insurance experts, you can put out high quality content.
But reiterating your extensive personal knowledge on the world wide web is just the start.
When ranking YMYL content, Google also considers:
- Expertise/Authoritativeness/Trustworthiness (aka E-A-T) shown through factors like the amount of high quality content, consistency in publishing quality content, detailed reviews, shared experiences, trusted contributors, etc;
- Helpful Supplementary Content like sidebar tips, suggested content and visuals;
- Positive Reputation shown through factors like backlinks from related authoritative sites;
- User-Friendly Page Design;
- A Well Cared For and Maintained Website.
So, don’t just publish amazing content – make sure your amazing content will be seen.
The more boxes you check, the closer you are to the top.
If you still want to read all 160 pages, I won’t stop you: here you go.