Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines is a periodically updated document that Google Quality Raters use/reference as they rate websites. These guidelines outline the conditions and elements that need to be considered and how that person should rate the site. The most recent version is a comprehensive read, and Google places their updated versions at the same URL so you can always find the most current version easily.
What is a Google Quality Rater?
Google has hired many individuals worldwide to rate websites and record whether the site is good or bad across various areas. These people do not directly impact the rankings of the sites they rate. However, their role is much more significant than that. They influence the rankings of every site.
Google employs over 16,000 quality raters worldwide, a diverse group of contractors who play a crucial role in shaping Google’s search algorithms. These raters assess search results based on Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG), conducting A/B tests and rating individual pages on scales for qualities like expertise, trustworthiness, and meeting the user’s needs.
Quality raters make quick, subjective judgments of search results based on high-level factors such as the ease of finding main content, site design, level of distracting ads, and page speed. They do not conduct an in-depth analysis of page content and accuracy. Their ratings help train Google’s machine learning systems to identify high-quality, helpful content.
While Google stated in 2018 that rater data was not used for machine learning, recent statements suggest a shift in this stance. The QRG now says ratings improve search engines by providing examples of helpful and unhelpful results for different searches.
Despite their role, Google emphasizes that ratings from quality raters do not directly influence search rankings. Their ratings are one of many signals that control Google’s overall ranking systems. Therefore, if traffic declines after a rater visit, the visit is not the cause. Optimization should focus on overall site quality and user experience, not any page visited by raters.
Google’s quality raters provide valuable real-world feedback that helps improve Google’s algorithms over time. However, their brief subjective ratings are just one piece of the puzzle in the complex world of search engine optimization.
If you’re curious about what it’s like to work as a Google Quality Rater, check out Cyrus Shepard’s article “I Secretly Worked As A Google Search Quality Rater (You Can Too).” It’s a great read!
How Do They Influence the Rankings of Every Site?
The feedback of quality raters is made actionable algorithmically. The raters use a slider to assign values, and this data is then made available to machine learning systems that use it to augment the algorithms based on known signal data. For example, if a site or group of similar sites are consistently rated High or better, the system could review all the signal data from the site(s) to look for commonality. The same would be true for site(s) with Low values.
What are the Raters Looking For?
When looking at the areas the raters are instructed to look at; we’re essentially looking at what Google wants the algorithm to produce. The guide states that the General Guidelines primarily cover Page Quality (PQ) and Needs Met (NM) ratings.
Needs Met is a reasonably straightforward concept… it means intent. R raters would ask themselves in assessing a page: “How helpful and satisfying is this result?” These ratings will then be used to drive changes to improve the results to algorithmically determine which signals or signal combinations are common to the higher rankings results.
Page Quality ratings are based on several factors, all of which interconnect. And the weight given to each is based on the type of site and query. The key ones noted in the guidelines are Your Money or Your Life (YMYL), Content Sections, and E-E-A-T.
Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trust (E-E-A-T)
E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trust. The line between these four can get pretty blurry. Here is a basic outline of each:
The experience of the content creator is related only to the content of the page being judged and not the site as a whole. It does not have to be an author, and the criteria are not set in stone. It’s all about context and addressing the need to be met with expertise.
The expertise of the content is judged by the authority of the content itself and the domain. This would generally be based on external signals to the content and the domain, such as links and link quality, brand mentions, citations, etc.
The authoritativeness of the content is judged by the authority of the content itself and the domain. This would generally be based on external signals to the content and the domain, such as links and link quality, brand mentions, citations, etc.
The trust of the content is judged again by the trust of the content specifically and the domain’s trust. Trust is similar to authority but more pointed. Where authority focuses more on the volume of quality references, trust focuses more on specific signals and sites.
How To Apply E-E-A-T in Your SEO Strategy?
While E-E-A-T is not a direct ranking factor, it plays a crucial role in how Google evaluates the quality of a website and its content. Therefore, it should be a key consideration in your SEO strategy. Here are some ways to apply E-E-A-T principles:
Improve User Experience
Ensure that your website is user-friendly. It should be easy to navigate, load quickly, and be mobile-friendly. The design should be clean and intuitive, and the content should be easy to read and understand. A positive user experience can lead to more extended site visits, lower bounce rates, and higher conversion rates, improving your site’s ranking in search results.
Showcase your knowledge and skills in your field. This can be done through high-quality, in-depth content that provides valuable information to your audience. If you have credentials or qualifications, include them on your website. Share your personal stories and insights if you are an expert through experience.
Establish your credibility and recognition in your field. This can be done by getting high-quality backlinks, getting mentioned in reputable publications, and receiving positive reviews. Participate in your industry community, contribute to discussions, and collaborate with other experts in your field.
Be transparent and honest with your audience. Provide clear information about your website and the content creator, and make sure your content is accurate and reliable. Secure your website with HTTPS and comply with all legal and ethical standards. Trustworthy websites are more likely to gain the trust of users and Google, leading to higher rankings in search results.
E-E-A-T is a fundamental concept in Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines. By understanding and applying E-E-A-T principles, you can improve the quality of your website and its content, enhance your SEO strategy, and increase your chances of ranking higher in Google’s search results.
Monitor Your Online Reputation:
Google’s quality raters are instructed to evaluate a site’s reputation not only based on the site itself but also by looking at external sources. Regularly check what others say about your brand online and promptly address any negative remarks or reviews.
Avoid Low-Quality Practices:
Google’s guidelines highlight several low-quality practices to avoid, such as overly shocking or exaggerated post titles, copied main content, and distracting ads. Make sure your site avoids these practices to maintain a high-quality user experience.
Customize Your 404 Pages:
In its guidelines, Google mentions the importance of maintaining the appearance and usefulness of 404 pages. Customize your 404 page to offer a search bar or related links to help visitors find what they want.
Consider Keyword Intent and Freshness:
Google explains that search intent can change over time or based on the searcher’s location. Regularly update your content to ensure it remains relevant and aligns with the changing meaning of your keywords.
Maintain a Human Element in Your Content:
Google’s use of human quality raters underscores the importance of maintaining a human element in your content. The content that Google wants its algorithm to reward is content created by human beings for human beings.
Update Your “About” Page:
Some websites may not have a blog or a section for author bios, making updating the “about” page significant. This will help users learn more about you and how to reach out to you, even if no specific author is listed for the information on the site.
How Does Google’s Quality Raters Guideline Describe Helpful Content?
Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines provide a detailed framework for what constitutes helpful content. The guidelines emphasize the importance of high-quality content with experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T). Here’s how the guidelines describe helpful content:
Purpose of the Page:
Every page on a website should have a clear purpose. Whether it’s to inform, entertain, sell products or services, or allow users to post questions or comments, the goal should be evident to anyone visiting the page. Pages without a clear purpose or pages created with deceptive intent are considered low-quality.
Experience, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T):
High-quality pages need enough expertise to be authoritative and trustworthy on their topic. The level of E-A-T required depends on the topic of the page. For instance, medical, financial, or legal advice should come from authoritative sources in those fields and be based on accurate information.
Main Content Quality and Amount:
The quality of the main content (MC) is one of the most critical considerations in Page Quality rating. The amount of content necessary for the page to fulfill its purpose can vary depending on the topic, the purpose of the page, and the type of content.
Website Information and Information about the Content Creator:
High-quality pages should have clear and satisfying website information, such as who is responsible for the website and who created the content on the page. If an individual makes the content, a high level of E-A-T is necessary.
Website Reputation: A website’s reputation is based on the experience of real users and experts in the topic of the website. Raters are asked to do a bit of reputation research when looking at the website of an unfamiliar company or organization.
The content should meet the needs of users based on the intent behind their search query. This means the content should be helpful and satisfying, providing a comprehensive answer to what users seek.
Helpful content, according to Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines, is content that serves a clear purpose, demonstrates a high level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, provides a sufficient amount of high-quality main content, includes clear information about the website and content creator, has a positive reputation, and meets the needs of users.
Google’s quality rater guidelines are pretty transparent, and you’ll notice a significant overlap with the quality guidelines provided by Google for Webmasters. After thoroughly reviewing the 176-page document, several vital insights became evident: Google’s primary objective is to ensure its algorithm favors high-quality content while avoiding thin or malicious content. High-quality content is not merely about aesthetics; it must also provide value and be helpful to the reader. The reputation of a site extends beyond the site itself. Off-page factors likely significantly influence Google’s algorithm more than previously assumed.
Lastly, and crucially, Google’s decision to employ human quality checkers underscores the importance of maintaining a human touch in content creation. It’s tempting to scale content production with inexpensive talent or AI-generated text. However, the ultimate goal is to produce content that resonates with human readers – content created by humans, for humans. Google aims to reward this type of content through its algorithm.