4 Things Lawyers Should Know About Google’s Search Quality Ratings Guidelines

by Feb 27, 2020

We often encourage attorneys to read through Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to understand how to have a law firm website that succeeds with the search engine.

However, Google also provides other resources that are valuable to attorneys that want to get the most out of their law firm’s website. Google’s Search Quality Ratings Guidelines take an in-depth look at the features that make a high-quality webpage.

Here’s what you need to know about Google’s Search Quality Ratings Guidelines and how you can use them to create law firm webpages that attract more business to your firm.

What are Google’s Search Quality Ratings Guidelines?

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines explain the basics of what Google expects from webmasters.

But Google’s Search Quality Ratings Guidelines take a much more in-depth and detailed look at what goes into a high-quality webpage.

So what, exactly, are Google’s Search Quality Ratings Guidelines?

Google hires thousands of human search quality raters to evaluate the results that appear in search. Google gives these raters specific searches to conduct and then asks the raters to rate the quality of the search results based on specific criteria outlined in Google’s Search Quality Ratings Guidelines. It should be noted that Google’s raters cannot directly impact search results, but that Google uses the data they generate about web pages to improve search algorithms.

While these guidelines were not always publicly available, Google published them to the web a few years ago, giving webmasters much more insight into what Google wants.

Below are the main highlights from the search ratings guidelines. Attorneys who would like to view the guidelines in full can find them here.

Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) are essential to law firm websites.

Google teaches its search quality raters to look for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) in high-quality law firm website pages.

Expertise can mean a lot of different things depending upon the type of page that a rater examines. However, Google notes that formal expertise is important for YMYL topics such as medical, financial, or legal advice.

Google notes that:

“We will consider the [main content] of the page to be very high or highest quality when it is created with a high degree of time and effort, and in particular, expertise, talent, and skill—this may provide evidence for the E-A-T of the page.”

As an attorney, you have a great deal of expertise in your field — how you can represent this to search engines (and your potential clients) and develop your site as an authoritative and trustworthy source is through the creation of high-quality informational content.

As it relates to informational content, Google notes that high-quality content is original, accurate, comprehensive, clearly communicated, and professionally presented.

You can learn more about Google’s take on E-A-T in our blog post, “Google’s E-A-T and Your Law Firm’s Website.”

High-quality page content is about meeting the searcher’s needs.

The best law firm website pages go above and beyond to provide the answer to a question posed to Google by a search engine user. Law firm website pages should go above and beyond to answer the questions that your potential clients pose to the search engine.

Each of the pages on your law firm’s website should be created with a specific purpose: To educate the potential clients who visit your site and inspire them to reach out to you when it’s time to contact an attorney. 

The search ratings guidelines note that a page which receives the special ratings category of “Fully Meets (Needs)” does the following:

  • “The result must be fully satisfying […] requiring minimal effort for users to immediately get or use what they are looking for.”
  • “All or almost all users would be completely satisfied by the result — users issuing that query would not need additional results to fully satisfy user intent.”

As you create the content for each page on your law firm website, ask yourself:

Does your page achieve its purpose? Is it educating potential clients about the question that they have regarding their case or matter? Or does the content read like advertising copy?

Does the page answer the searcher’s query? Is the page going beyond a one or two paragraph answer to provide maximum detail and information? Can potential clients learn everything that they need to know about their question from the page? Will they come away from reading the page with new, important information?

Are you offering a satisfying experience for the search? Are you providing a comprehensive answer to the question your potential client has such that they would not need to visit another webpage to get the information that they need to take action?

Law firm websites are considered “Your Money or Your Life” pages by Google.

Google has a special designation for those webpages which could affect the health, happiness, finances or safety of a search user — Google describes these pages as “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) pages.

There are several YMYL topics, including news and current events, health, and finance — but Google also includes legal issues under its YMYL designation. As a result, law firm websites are held to the highest standard by Google’s search quality raters, because law firm website information can impact the health, happiness, or safety of someone who finds those pages. 

Learn more about Google’s Search Quality Ratings Guidelines

The information in the Search Quality Rater Guidelines should drive home the importance of creating high-quality content on law firm websites for those attorneys who want to drive more business to their firms from their law firm websites.

Law firm websites are held to a different and higher standard by Google because of the impact they could potentially have on a web visitor, and Google wants to return the highest quality results for relevant queries.

To see Google’s guidelines in full, see: Google’s Search Quality Ratings Guidelines.

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