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Why Google Quality Rater Guidelines are vital for boosting performance

If you want to get anywhere in search then it helps to keep Google on side. The search engine, as we reported last week, has announced a new, comprehensive set of guidelines, so what does that mean for the future of search?


Brands and businesses are busy working behind the scenes to ensure that their websites are front of mind, and that they appear at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs), for the terms that are most important and most relevant to them.

The art of this however, is not just about the amount of content that you produce or the amount of backlinks that you gain, it all helps but, in truth, relevancy is the key. The latest set of Google Quality Rater Guidelines are a nod to this, and set out the best practice for businesses that want to impress those making the decisions relating to your site.

Currently, Google contracts with over 10,000 search quality raters worldwide to evaluate its search results. Raters are given actual searches to conduct, drawn from real searches that happen on Google. They then rate the quality of pages that appear in the top results — hence the “quality rater” name.

Over the course of this blog we’ll look at and pull out some of the key takeaways from the latest update.

The purpose of search quality ratings

Search Quality evaluators work on many different types of rating projects. The new guidelines primarily cover Page Quality (PQ) rating and Needs Met (NM) rating; however, the concepts are also important for many other types of rating tasks. Those that compile the ratings, do so in order to evaluate search engine quality around the world.

The primary focus of this is that good search engines need to give results that are helpful for users in their specific language and location.

Security is always a consideration for those that are conducting the searches and ratings and, as such, the new guidelines are specifically aimed at demoting websites that are seen as spammy or that contain malicious links.

Raters are advised to have antivirus software in place and only open documents in the following format:

  • .txt (text file)
  • .ppt or .pptx (Microsoft PowerPoint)
  • .doc or .docx (Microsoft Word)
  • .xls or .xlsx (Microsoft Excel)
  • .pdf (PDF) files

Google’s official line to raters is: “If you encounter a page with a warning message, such as ‘Warning-visiting this web site may harm your computer,’ or if your antivirus software warns you about a page, you should not try to visit the page to assign a rating.

“You may also encounter pages that require RealPlayer or the Adobe Flash plug-in. These are generally safe to download.”

Those pages that, therefore, cannot be accessed and rated will ultimately drop, bringing the end user a better search experience.

 The purpose of a webpage and PQ ratings

There are highest quality and lowest quality webpages of all different types and purposes: shopping pages, news, forums, videos, pages with error messages, PDFs, images, homepages etc.

The type of page does not determine the PQ rating—the rater has to understand the purpose of the page to determine the rating.

Common helpful or beneficial page purposes include (but are not limited to):

  • To share information about a topic.
  • To share personal or social information.
  • To share pictures, videos, or other forms of media.
  • To express an opinion or point of view.
  • To entertain.
  • To sell products or services.
  • To allow users to post questions for other users to answer.
  • To allow users to share files or to download software.

The two main requirements of PQ rating are:

  1. To understand the true purpose of the page. Websites or pages without any beneficial purpose, including pages that are created with no attempt to help users, or pages that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users, should receive the ‘Lowest rating’ and no further assessment is necessary.
  2. If the first point doesn’t apply then the PQ rating is based on how well the page achieves its purpose using the criteria outlined (see below). Pages will be given a rating of ‘Lowest’, ‘Low’, ‘Medium’, ‘High’, and ‘Highest’ quality pages.


According to the latest update the Here are the most important factors to consider when selecting an overall Page Quality rating:

  • The purpose of the page
  • Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (E-A-T): This is an important quality characteristic. Raters will look at the expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness off the author. High E-A-T information pages on scientific topics for example should be produced by people or organisations with appropriate scientific expertise and represent well-established scientific consensus on issues where such consensus exists.
  • Main content (MC) quality and amount: The rating should be based on the landing page of the task URL.
  • Website Information/information about who is responsible for the MC: Raters find information about the website as well as the creator of the MC.
  • Website Reputation/reputation about who is responsible for the MC: Links to help with reputation research will be provided to the raters.

What makes a high quality page?

There are several factors that make a webpage high quality. They are:

  • High level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
  • A satisfying amount of high quality MC, including a descriptive or helpful title.
  • Satisfying website information and/or information about who is responsible for the website. If the page is primarily for shopping or includes financial transactions, then it should have satisfying customer service information.
  • Positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the MC on the page. Positive reputation of the creator of the MC, if different from that of the website

Achieving all of these will; undoubtedly lead to a better user experience (UX) and correlates generally with a better conversion and retention rate.

What makes a low quality page?

Low quality pages may have been intended to serve a beneficial purpose. However, Low quality pages do not achieve their purpose well because they are lacking in an important dimension, such as having an unsatisfying amount of MC, or because the creator of the MC lacks expertise for the purpose of the page.

If a page has one or more of the following characteristics, the Low rating applies:

  • An inadequate level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
  • The quality of the MC is low.
  • There is an unsatisfying amount of MC for the purpose of the page.
  • The title of the MC is exaggerated or shocking.
  • The Ads or SC distracts from the MC.
  • There is an unsatisfying amount of website information or information about the creator of the MC for the purpose of the page (no good reason for anonymity).
  • A mildly negative reputation for a website or creator of the MC, based on extensive reputation research.

Queries with multiple meanings

Many queries have more than one meaning. For example, the query [apple] might refer to the computer brand or the fruit. Google call these possible meanings query interpretations.

Dominant Interpretation: The dominant interpretation of a query is what most users mean when they type the query. Not all queries have a dominant interpretation. The dominant interpretation should be clear to the rater, especially after doing research.

Common Interpretation: A common interpretation of a query is what many or some users mean when they type a query. A query can have multiple common interpretations.

Minor Interpretations: Sometimes the rater will find less common interpretations. These are interpretations that few users have in mind. Google call these minor interpretations.



Another key thing to remember here is that aside from having good content in the first place, you have to refresh it and expand as the business offering changes. Again looking at Apple, in 2007 a searcher looking for the term ‘iPhone will have been shown the iPhone1 yet the same search in 2017 would show the iPhoneX. Same search different results.

The key takeaway from all of this is that if the above blog covers the guidelines that official Google ‘Raters’ will be using to rate your website then reverse engineer the process and make sure that you are doing everything that you can to appear in the right place, at the right time, and to the right audience.


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