Guide to Search Quality Raters Guidelines

SEO professionals are generally accustomed to receiving information from Google in a second-hand capacity as the search giant has a reputation for being rather secretive about its powerful search ranking algorithm. Collective knowledge has essentially been compiled through hints from Google team members and a series of self-conducted experiments so it was a surprise when Google first released its Search Quality Rater’s Guide.

In this blog article, we give you our own guide to Google’s Search Quality Rater’s Guide.

What Are Search Quality Raters?

These are people located around the world who are contracted by Google to evaluate the quality of search results. They replicate authentic search queries and rate the quality of every page that has secured one of the top ranking positions.

It is important to note here that quality raters don’t actually influence the ranking position of the websites they rate. However, their findings can, do and indeed have influenced key algorithm updates. The guidelines essentially represent what Google itself thinks searchers want to see when they conduct a Google search and detail how raters should approach their assessments.

Has Google Revealed Precisely How to Secure a Top Ranking Position?

Although in an ideal world, following every guideline provided should, in theory, propel you to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs), the reality is that there really aren’t any shortcuts when it comes to SEO. Since Google hasn’t revealed precisely how its algorithm operates, these guidelines won’t reveal a magic path to a number one spot. What they will do, however, is assist you in understanding what you should be doing to help yourself get there. Let’s take a closer look.

Page Quality, Type and Purpose

Google’s page quality ranking has five tiers: lowest, low, medium, high, and highest. Before quality is ultimately determined, raters will first look at why a page was created to determine how well it is fulfilling its original purpose.

Your Money or Your Life (YMYL)

Google is very concerned with protecting users’ lives and money. In simple terms, this means that web pages such as health and medical information, financial and legal information and e-commerce websites are held to higher standards than other pages. Google doesn’t want low-quality pages that might impact a user’s wealth, health or happiness to secure a good ranking position, in other words.

Examples of YMYL pages could include:

  • Pages advising on investments, mortgages, insurance, retirement options, etc
  • Public pages providing official information including laws and government programs
  • News articles or investigative journalism

If your site contains any content that falls under the remit of YMYL category, you should be ensuring that the information they contain is up to date, accurate and not misleading to ensure they comprehensively conform to Google’s guidelines. In terms of e-commerce sites, for example, this means ensuring that consumers feel 100% comfortable and confident enough to enter their financial information in order to complete a purchase.

Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)

E-A-T encapsulates how users feel about the overall value of a website. Raters are asked to question whether sites lack authority, expertise and trustworthiness, especially if they also fall into the YMYL group.

Google recognises that some areas will require formal credentials and expertise. It recognises, for example, that legal advice should be given by legal professionals and that technical subjects such as teaching audiences how to play a musical instrument will require a certain level of formal expertise.

Google also recognises topics that don’t require formal credentials, such as:

  • Personal perspectives on parenting
  • Restaurant reviews
  • Home renovation and design

Those areas are life experiences and as such, Google will instead look at how detailed and actionable the content is.

As well as demonstrating authority and expertise it is also important to qualify how you have obtained that expertise, which might be through education, experience or a combination of both. In terms of trustworthiness, finding a way to convey your knowledge in ways that feel authentic and believable is crucial.

If you cannot currently demonstrate that your website has a solid E-A-T value, thinking about how you can enhance these areas is important. This might involve updating ‘About’ pages and author/founder bios or hiring some contributors to boost the quality of your content.

5 Clear Clues that a Page is of Low-Quality

  • The content is of poor quality, with no discernible value to audiences.
  • The volume of content is unsatisfactory to sufficiently uphold the purpose of the page.
  • The page has a distinct lack of E-A-T (ie the website is either not sufficiently trustworthy or the author doesn’t have the correct level of expertise).
  • The site has a negative reputation.
  • Supplementary content is irrelevant, overwhelming or distracting.

The full Guide to Search Quality Raters Guidelines document (PDF) runs to more than 160 pages but is worth delving into if you have the time or encounter a specific problem that requires some troubleshooting. You will almost certainly find many of the takeaways familiar, however, there are excellent examples of practical advice that even the most experienced search professional will find valuable.

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