Quality content: what Google wants to see on your e-commerce website

Fernando Maciá

Written by Fernando Maciá

Content is king, but only quality content. Over the past years there’s been an on on-going discussion about what characteristics should a content have to be considered relevant by search engines and get good rankings. While they were supported by real-life experience and various experiments, these characteristics were nothing more than reflections: in reality, no one knows how Google’s algorithm works, in addition to the fact that it is ever-evolving. For that reason, when in November 2015 the Google Search Quality Guidelines were published, we finally had first-hand information on what Google understands as ‘quality content’.

Even though some more or less informal versions of this guide have been circulating for years, this was the first time Google provided a link to the official document, putting it at the disposal of the general public. A detailed analysis of this guide, and the changes it continues to include in subsequent versions (the latest one is for March 2016), this enormously valuable information can be useful for at least verifying whether our content is following the guidelines Google sets for its own raters.

Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) pages

First of all, Google distinguishes specific categories of websites for which it has some specific quality demands, because they can impact the users’ happiness, health or finances. They are websites carrying information and advice on health, legal information, financial information and investments, electronic banking and online shopping websites.

What are the quality requirements Google expects us to meet on this type of pages? First, it should be clear who or which company is responsible for the website’s content and each page in particular. For that reason, it should be easy to find information like “About us”, customer care or contact data on your website. In this case, it can even be organised by each department and the names of each person responsible.

For e-commerce websites, Google specifically recommends to verify the existence of payment method information, the possibility to exchange products, and returns policy applied in each case. Customer reviews are seen very positively. However, to be taken into account as a quality indicator, they should be credible and be sufficient in number. Google expects to find both positive and negative opinions.

Improve the information on who is behind your website:

  • Include an “About us” section, with information about the person or the company the website belongs to. If it’s a business entity, include legal information such as business name, business register, business address…
  • Include a section detailing the accepted payment methods and security measures implemented on the website to guarantee security and privacy of the user data: use of certificates, https, trust seals, etc.
  • Make sure to inform your users how they can exchange the acquired products and returns policy in force: conditions, times, etc.
  • Create a section for customer reviews and incentivise your users to leave their thoughts after buying their items. Send e-mails several days after the product was delivered to them, encouraging them to review it. Use gamification techniques to distinguish and award the most active users.
  • You don’t need to link these sections from the menu. Given that you don’t need them to rank very well, placing these links at the footer will be enough to ensure that the search engine will crawl this content.


Types of content: main, supplementary and advertising

Google classifies the content of a web page into:

  • Main content: its purpose is to sell and provide information on the product. Additionally, analyses, reviews, opinions, shipping information or transaction security are also considered to be main content. Google considers that the main content is what helps the pages to meet their goal and the reason a page exists.
  • Supplementary content: this content allows the navigation to a different part of the website. It can contribute to the page’s goal, but it can also hamper it.
  • Advertising content: it’s any type of advertising content focussed on website monetisation.

Improve the content and the primary goal of each page:

  • Websites that get better rankings are usually those where the main content clearly dominates over the supplementary or advertising content.
  • Include specifications, technical characteristics and multiple pictures of the product. Write an original and selling description for it, highlighting as its advantages features that cater to purchase motivations of the user. Include reviews and comments from authorised sources… Link the information regarding shipping, payment methods and returns.
  • Verify that the purpose of each page of your website is obvious, that the conversion goal is clear. A purposeless page deserves the lowest quality rating, according to Google.
  • Avoid, above all, including too much advertising inside the above-the-fold, which is the first visible block of your page, because Google can detect it, and it will apply penalties if you put an excessive amount of advertising within this area.
Above the fold
The main content should dominate over supplementary content, and together with advertising they should never hamper the web page’s goal.

Build a reputation and go to sleep

The third most important factor for a quality content is the reputation and authority of the website or the author supporting the content. A domain or a brand mentioned on highly reputed sites gives us authority. Mentions on authoritative websites like Wikipedia or online media outlets (news websites, newspapers, magazines) of proven quality contribute with their reputation and authority to a domain they’re linking.

For that reason, the content marketing of such websites can be focussed on user guides, comparisons, product analyses, practice examples, etc., all of which would contribute to generating a reputation as industry experts and a benchmark for other websites. This will lead to mentions, links…

Google measures this authority through the discovery of mentions and links on other websites. We can check whether we have these types of mentions by looking up “yourdomain.com -site:yourdomain.com” on Google:

How to discover mentions to our website
We can discover mentions to our website via this search on Google.

For that reason, we must ensure that the above search query allows us to discover relevant mentions:

  • Mentions on reputed websites, namely Wikipedia.
  • Mentions on online media outlets (news websites, newspapers, magazines), of proven quality and related to our industry.
  • Mentions on social media, preferably from profiles belonging to opinion leaders, influencers, bloggers with authority within our field…
  • Mentions in specialty forums.

Quality content: the best foundation for good rankings

In the end, the rules determining the quality of an online content are not too different from what we experience in physical stores: abundant and pertinent information offered just in the right moment; knowing who or which business to enquire for answers in cases of problems; what to expect, in case these issues arise; and what reputation or brand image the place has been able to build over the years.

While content is king still, it is clear that not anything goes these days. The quality standards we can see in Google’s guidelines set the course towards which we should focus our efforts. And, the best thing of all: algorithms aside, it is clear that each of these recommendations is also in line with the user’s interests, ultimately resulting in collateral effects, like an improvement in conversions, customer loyalty, and their role as active specifiers and recommenders of the website.

Get to work, I mean, to the code!

This article was included in the Revista MKT, titled “7 Experts Talk About Online Marketing”, published in Spanish by AulaCM. You can download the full magazine in PDF (and in Spanish) here.

Fernando Maciá
Autor: Fernando Maciá
CEO of Human Level. He's an expert in SEO, online marketing plans and web internationalisation. He's also a digital marketing teacher and an accomplished writer, having published several books on web positioning, social media marketing, and strategies to earn customers on the Internet.

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