As SEOs began reviewing the 160 page document that is the Google Search Rater’s Guidelines, we noticed a brand new addition in the ‘Needs Met’ rating, which focuses on determining the helpfulness of search results for users’ search queries. In particular the guidelines state:
“Needs Met rating tasks ask you to focus on mobile user needs and think about how helpful and satisfying the result is for the mobile users. Ratings range from “Fully Meets” to “Fails to Meet”.
Why Is This Rating System Important for Webmasters?
It is important to consider queries that are considered as being unable to be fully met for keyword research and targeting. These principles go back to any basic SEO plan – keyword research. Clients and webmasters cannot target broad queries because the user intent behind these queries are often unclear – targeting of these queries will be wasted effort in SEO and will result in the targeting of terms that are unlikely to provide good conversion rates.
As you create targeted keyword campaigns, consider more than just the search volume and competition, find queries where users will want to find you. This will produce good content, good strategy, and good SEO. As you develop your SEO strategy consider the following keyword types.
What classifies as ‘Fully Meets’?
The page that you have created should completely satisfy the user’s search query. Users should not have to ‘pogostick’ away to other search results to satisfy their search query and should be able to obtain all the information they were looking for on your page.
Examples of queries that can be fully met:
- Branded Queries – “Amazon Kindle”, “Apple iPhone”, and “Samsung S6”
- Action Queries – “Navigate me to Trader Joes”
- Informational Search Queries – “What is”
To create pages that fully meet a user’s search query, you have to think beyond simply matching your page title and headings to their search query. You must create content that both answers their query AND goes further in providing answers to all of the user’s follow up questions or next steps. For more guidance on this, you can refer to our handy landing page guide.
Queries that cannot be fully met:
Broad Queries: these queries cannot be fully satisfied by any single result for all users as different users may seek different types of content to satisfy their query. Examples of this would include broad informational search queries such as “knitting”. It is impossible to confidently know what a user searching for this is looking to find, they could be seeking to learn how to knit or find a knitting company. Subsequently, like a mass of arrows being shot at a bullseye, different types of content will appear in the search results to try and appease a broad range of users.
Ambiguous Queries: These are queries without a clear user intent or dominant interpretation specified by the user. This applies to acronyms for companies or associations such as ADA (“Americans with Disabilities Act”, “American Dental Association”, and “American Diabetes Association”). It is difficult to gauge exactly which association the user was seeking in this query and subsequently, the search results will reflect a broad range in an attempt to appease the user.
What classifies as ‘Fails to Meet’?
These are pages that are unhelpful and do not satisfy a user’s search query. Pages that fail to meet results are often unrelated to the query, factually incorrect, or do not fully satisfy all aspects of the user’s intended search query.
Once again, this emphasizes an importance on not only matching your page titles and headings with the user’s search query but it also stresses the importance of creating content that goes that extra step in providing all the information that the user was seeking in their search query. Pages which leave users still wanting more information and having to click on other results will be classified as “Fails to Meet”.
How does ‘Needs Met’ apply to Product Queries?
Product queries need to be considered with more attention than other types of queries. There is a journey that is undertaken by the user before they eventually purchase a product online.
The journey will include other activities and stages such as researching of the product (information stage), comparison of product models (information comparison stage) that will incorporate brands, pricing and reviews. Users need to be able to access websites that they can trust with authority and quality of information when they are buying important products or products that demand a longer consumer search journey due to their price. Because of this, the guidelines allude to the importance to creating pages that fully consider all aspect of a user’s search query and the search journey that they are on.
An example of this is Magento’s ecommerce platform page that directly addresses their target user’s intent by including information such as technical specifications, consumer reviews, and product comparisons.
How does this apply to Local Queries?
Local queries must be satisfied by content that is relevant and inclusive of the target location that is included in the user’s search query. Webmasters that include geo-specific keywords on their pages, create consistent, uniform local listings online, and ensure that their business category on listings such as Google My Business are far likelier to be successful in local search.
- Content freshness – It is important to ensure that content remains current, particularly for search queries that demand updated content. We can see this in action for blog posts like “Top 50 Albums of the Year”. These pages can be refreshed each year with updated content each year and the page can benefit from its longevity by naturally acquiring links and page authority.
- Top-Heavy Monetization – Are a mass of ads distracting the user from the delivery of your content? Monetization should be minimized or removed to provide the best user experience on your site.
- Pop-Ups – The same concept applies to pop-ups on sites. Pop-ups such as conversion windows, live chats, and offers can greatly distract from a users’ experience and consumption of your page’s content. Pages that utilize these will be categorized poorly in the Needs-Met Ratings.
- Mobile Usability – It’s as important as ever to make your site mobile-friendly. If your site provides a poor experience on mobile devices, it will automatically be classified as ‘Fails to Meet’ the need of the user.
Google’s Search Quality Rater’s Guidelines provide a unique insight into how Google grades content. While Google’s algorithm is an opaque program that can be hard to crack, this manual process forces Google to highlight what it values in a search result. By using this guide, we can be better SEOs (and along the way, also create better content).