Once, if you wanted to increase your organic rankings for certain keywords, you simply needed to add them to your website. Over time though, Google and other search engines created and refined algorithms of their own signatures–and continue to do so–to provide the best search results. Thus, search engine optimization was created.

Although we think of Google search and other search engines as essential tools that we use every day, they are backed by companies offering information in exchange for our visits and browsing history. It is this data that they want so that they can use it for monetary purposes. And, the more visitors that use its search engine the more data it obtains. This makes providing the best results essential. But, SEO analysts have never been able pinpoint what Google might consider when determining the quality of content on a website–until now.

In a recent edition of Whiteboard Friday, Moz expert Rand Fishkin presented the theory that Google assigns a quality score to organic search results, using the type of metrics that it similarly uses for the AdWords quality score–the algorithm that Google uses to position ads and determine costs–and ranking pages based on their performance. But, if you don’t know what those metrics are, then you don’t know where your website is failing and, more importantly, how to improve it.

What Google Considers

Much like AdWords, Google could consider how visitors engage with your website in order to determine where it should rank. It makes sense because Google’s priority is to present the best results to those who are trying to find them. Time spent, bounce rate and pages per session could all be factors that Google studies to define the quality of content that websites provide. This could be across the entire domain or separated by domain and subdomains and even the subfolders on both as evidence points to all three–a website’s domain authority lifting a page with a poor page authority, a subdomain being viewed as separate from the main domain and a new blog post being instantly ranked because it shares the same subfolder as past posts that performed well.

And, speaking of domain authority, a Google representative confirmed that links that point to your website are one of the top signals that Google uses for ranking.

How to Improve Your Website

Although there isn’t definitive proof that an organic quality score exists, it is difficult to deny the signs that something is happening. And, even if you don’t believe, we still encourage you to take the suggested steps to improve your website’s structure and your visitors’ experience.

Add More High-Performing Pages: If you have access to your website’s Google Analytics, study the metrics to see which pages your visitors go to the most and spend the most time viewing, figure out why visitors find them appealing and create more pages like them.

Improve the Quality Score of Existing Pages: If you can see the metrics of your high-performing pages, you can find out which pages are performing poorly for you as well. There isn’t a clear-cut way to know why they don’t perform as well as your other pages, but one way is to see how the content on them contrast to those pages that are doing well. Changes to the navigation and usability and improving the load time and visuals could drastically hold your visitors’ attention longer.

Remove Low-Performing Pages: You might be under the impression that all content is “good” content and that having even one person finding a page organically makes it worth it, but that isn’t the case. Every page on your website contributes to the value of it, but, instead of considering a cumulative value, Google determines your website’s value on the average quality of each page. That means that poor-performing pages dilute your value rather than add to it. Permanently remove the low-quality pages that you don’t need or set the ones that you do as noindex so that Google doesn’t see them, and the rest of your website will perform better.

Organize Your Pages: After you added more high-performing pages and improved or removed poor-performing ones, organize your website into ways that makes sense. Even the simplest websites can be organized; separating your posts from pages by using a subfolder in your permalinks would be a perfect example of this. If you have a series of pages in a drop-down menu of your main navigation, you can take this one step forward by placing them in subfolders, such as /services or /about. Using parent pages in WordPress or the content management system of your choice makes this very easy to do.

Make Pages More Engaging: Whether it’s producing great content to get more websites to link to it or adding call-to-action elements to compel visitors to take action, visitor engagement is critical to your website. Adding buttons and internal links to your content increases your website’s pages per session, leading Google to believe that it is more valuable.

Just like every other aspect of your business, it is best to know how your website is performing. Look at your metrics in Google Analytics, take notice of your best-performing pages, find which ones are performing poorly and ways to improve them or remove them if you can’t. The key is proving great content; with it, visitors stay longer, share it and visit other pages to learn what else you have to share.