Most Effective Ways to Improve Site Quality and Rankings

Quality and relevance are different things, yet we often discuss them as if they were the same. SEOs have been optimizing for relevance all this time, but are now being asked to optimize for quality. This post will discuss what that means and how to do it, with a focus on what I believe to be the single most effective and scaleable tactic for improving your site’s overall level of quality in most situations.


First, let’s establish what we’re talking about here, which is quality. You can have relevancy (the right topic and keywords) without quality, as shown here:


It doesn’t matter how relevant the page is. The only way to get that page to rank these days would be to buy a lot of links, but then you’re dealing with the added risk. After a certain point, it’s just EASIER to build a better site. Yes, Google has won that battle in all but the most hyper-competitive niches, where seasoned experts still find the reward:risk ratio in their favor.


OK, now that we’ve established that quality and relevance are different things, but that you need both to rank, how do you optimize for quality?

Quality Indicators

Tactics (How to Optimize for Quality)

  • Grammar, spelling, depth Hire a copy editor. Learn to write better.
  • Expertise, Authority, Trust (EAT) Make content deep and useful. Call out your awards, certifications, news coverage, and use trust symbols. Make it easy to contact you, and easy to find policies like terms of service, returns, and privacy.
  • PageRank (PR) from links Build high-quality links. There are thousands of great articles out there about it.
  • Reviews Ask your best clients/customers.
  • Short-clicks Improve Out-of-Stock pages with in-stock alerts and related products. Be less aggressive with your pop-up strategy. Also see query refinements, pages per visit, and dwell time.
  • Query refinements Only attract the “right” audience and deliver what you promised in the search results. Choose keywords by relevance, not just volume. Think about query intent.
  • Dwell time on site Make your pages stickier by improving the overall design. Add images and video. Run GA reports on the stickiest traffic sources and develop a strategy to increase traffic from those sources.
  • Pages per visit Improve internal linking, suggest related content, customize 404 pages. Split up long posts into a series.
  • Conversion rates Do A/B testing, make your messaging very clear, follow CRO best practices.
  • Ad placements No ads above the main content on the page and do not have an annoying amount of ad blocks or pop-ups.
  • CTR from SERPs Craft better title tags, URLs, and descriptions. Grab attention. Gain trust. Make them want to click. Add schema markup when appropriate.
  • Page speed Visit
  • Mobile experience Responsive and/or adaptive design, less text, easy navigation, loads lighting fast, shorter forms.

There are many ways to improve the quality of your site. Some are obvious. Others are more abstract. All of these quality indicators together make up your site’s overall level of quality. For more, check out the keyword agnostic ranking factors and the engagement metrics from SimilarWeb areas in the Moz Search Engine Ranking Factors report.

We’ve already established that Google knows the relative quality of a page. Let’s assume — because it is very likely — that Google also knows the relative quality of your entire site. And let’s call that your sitewide QualityRank (QR) (h/t Ian Lurie, 2011).


What’s the most effective, scalable, proven tactic for improving a website’s QR?

Learn more about it here. Pruning requires doing a content audit first, which you can learn more about here. It’s nothing groundbreaking or new, but few clients come in the door that can’t substantially benefit from this process.

Sometimes pruning is as easy as applying a noindex tag to all pages that have had zero organic search traffic over the course of a year. You may be surprised how many enterprise-level sites have huge chunks of the site that fit that criteria. Other times it requires more analysis and tougher decisions. It really all depends on the site.




Author: Everett Sizemore