For all businesses, it’s critical to maintain a quality reputation - online and off. For small or local businesses, it’s even more critical. Businesses rely on word of mouth from past and current customers, and recommendations -- or condemnations -- can make or break their bottom line. Now, these remarks often occur via social media and online review sites. Consumers turn to the Better Business Bureau for reliable information on business practices and to access the reputation of businesses they are considering working with. It turns out consumers aren’t the only ones - Google utilizes the BBB too.
Quality Raters’ Guidelines - The Google Textbook
In 2013, Google published their Quality Raters’ Guidelines, a document that provides transparency on how Google works and to help clarify what Google is looking for in web pages. This document is updated regularly as Google refines their processes and addresses issues like SEO tricks and other tactics some use to try to increase their rankings via search.
The latest version of the guidelines was released on December 5th, 2019 (linked above).
While the Quality Raters’ Guidelines (QRG) doesn’t explain how Google’s algorithm ranks results (where you appear on search), it does shows what the algorithm should do, according to Google’s VP of Search, Ben Gomes. One should view the QRG as a textbook to help you (or your webmaster) understand the characteristics of what Google considers high quality pages.
Why is this important?
Because a high quality page has a better chance of ranking higher in Google search, which means more people can find your business, which means you could get more customers. Beyond that, it just makes sense. A website is often the starting point for people find your business - why have one that doesn’t even show up in search or isn’t of good quality? So what makes a high quality page? Here’s a screenshot from the latest edition of the QRG:
How Do I know if My Website Is High Quality?
While most of these characteristics are self explanatory (like making sure your website has information on it that is valid to its purpose), a few points could use some additional clarification.
MC refers to main content, meaning the bulk of your website. It’s the various pages that, for a business, address services provided and information about the company. The reputation of the MC (or author of the MC) should be positive. We’ll discuss how that reputation is determined later.
E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness) essentially applies to all the information about your business online.
There are two types of E-A-T :
one that addresses the author of particular content (such as blog posts or whitepapers)
and one that is applicable to the entire website or the MC.
Written content that is supplemental to your main website should come from a position of authority and relevance. Basically, the author should know their stuff.
Expertise should be relevant to the topic, of course. For example, if you are looking for a guide on how to repair broken shingles, you wouldn’t ask a doctor. If you need to confirm symptoms of shingles, you wouldn’t ask a roofer. This is even more important for websites that Google defines as Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) sites:
Lawyers, financial advisors, and those in the medical field must be especially aware of this, as they most certainly would fall under the YMYL category. However, one could speculate that any site where you are dealing with financial transactions or big life decisions could be considered YMYL. Buying a new house, purchasing a car, or even remodeling your home could fall under YMYL designation.
Even the BBB would be considered a YMYL page - since we provide ‘public/official information pages important for having an informed citizenry’.
Addressing E-A-T: Know Your Reputation
There are simple ways you can address the quality of your webpage. (Interestingly enough, many of the factors that are associated with high quality websites are factors that the BBB recognizes as characteristics of trustworthy businesses). Main Content:
Associate yourself with reputable websites via links and vice-versa.
Don’t have false or misleading information, ads or claims on your site.
Organize your website in such a way it is easy for the user to find information.
If you are creating supplemental content, it should be attributed to an expert on the subject. While it’s fine to work with content writers to edit or fine tune your blog posts, it’s important that you - or an expert in your industry - proof, review and verify the document created, and that it appears under your name or the name of that expert. It goes without saying that the content should be honest and truthful.
Google - Starting With Trust
So how does Google determine who the experts are that are writing the content? How do they know what websites are reputable, and how do they know what parts of the web are trustworthy in the first place to define this?
Expertise of supplemental content can be determined by the amount, quality and type of content associated with an individual or brand.
Reputable websites overall are a bit more complex. Google is constantly updating their QRG and algorithms. There’s a lot of complexity that goes into their algorithm updates. To summarize one of the latest algorithm update, there seems to be ‘seed’ pages - ones known to be trustworthy and reliable - that Google uses to judge the quality of overall links to and from those pages. If a web page is linked to or has a link from one of these sites, it can help increase the quality of that page. Of course, these are different for different industries or topics, and Google’s magicians have figured out which pages are authorities and trustworthy along those verticals. The algorithm can also recognize (most) fake links of authority too, so links to dummy sites that share stories about how wonderful your services are aren’t going to help you.
Making your E-A-T tastier. The BBB can help
The BBB works very hard to provide quality information to the public - on businesses, potential scams, and other issues dealing with marketplace trust. We operate from a position of neutrality, following strict standards which we rate businesses on. We verify the information we receive and provide an honest assessment of business practices.
We think Google recognizes this as well. In fact, the BBB is mentioned numerous times in the QRG, and it’s even mentioned as a source for researching reputation information on businesses:
There is even a mention about BBB ratings as evidence of either positive or negative reputation:
While involvement with the BBB does not directly correlate with your rankings in search, it’s pretty clear - it’s probably a good idea to always pay attention to the reputation of your business online. Reviews, ratings and the general perception of your business on the web matter. You should be looking at the whole picture, including other review sites. But, because the BBB is specifically addressed as a research source in the QRG’s for determining reputation, it can only be of benefit to do the following for your business’ online reputation. And guess what? All of these things are totally free.
Way to Increase Your Positive Online Reputation w/ the BBB
1) Connect with us - claim and update your business listing on BBB.org. Mentions and links to reputable, authoratitative sites are helpful for your webpage. If you haven’t yet, claim your page on BBB.org. (Not listed at all/new business? Create your listing here.)
You can add details about your business, the services your provide, images and more. You don’t have to be an Accredited Business to claim your page, but Accredited Business do have the option to load additional images and video to their profile. If you are an Accredited Business, it’s important to make sure that you utilize your Dynamic Seal.
This seal is embedded on your website, and offers a direct link to your business listing on BBB.org. This is an additional way to create increase the number of beneficial links on your webpage, showcase your BBB Accreditation and provides a way for your customers to easily review your business.
2) Request reviews. Get good reviews. Get good, verifiable reviews.
You’ve claimed your business on the BBB’s website, now encourage your customers to visit your business listing to share their experience.
3) Keep an eye on your BBB rating & respond to complaints:
Just like a positive reputation is an indicator of high quality pages, a negative reputation can be an indicator of a low quality one:
So what constitutes a low quality/low reputation page? Here are some examples:
“...consider very low ratings on the BBB site to be evidence for a negative reputation.”
Because of the quality Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) of the BBB website and the reputation of the brand, Google is looking at your BBB business rating - so make sure you are too. It’s important to note a few things about this:
1) Google is looking at your ratings. It is NOT looking at your accreditation status.
2) BBB Ratings are NOT affected by Business Accreditation. You can’t buy an A+ rating from the BBB.
We want all businesses (accredited or not) that are trustworthy and transparent in their operations to be successful. If you search for your business and notice a low rating or unresolved complaints, make sure you contact your local BBB to address these issues.
All businesses can and should respond to complaints. We do our best to make sure that we contact a business when a complaint occurs (which is why it’s important to claim your business page to make sure all your contact information is accurate).
For a deep dive into the BBB Rating /Google connection, Marie Haynes’ excellent blog post is a good starting point.
Connecting the Dots - We All Value Trust
We want to work with all our stakeholders to honor our mission - a marketplace where businesses and consumers trust each other. Anything we can do to facilitate that trust is important to us.
Ultimately, Google is providing a service, and is doing its best to make sure that the service it provides is high quality for their customers. It’s quite clear that Google has decided honesty and trustworthiness are important factors for them as well.
If your company operates within these standards, it’s easy to gain some edge on the competition. Simply continue to be the ethical business you already are, and utilize the BBB to help share your trustworthy services with others.
We hope this information helps you become a better business.