As everyone has the ability to create a website, made easier with sites such as WordPress and Shopify, how does Google manage all of them to make sure they are useful to all users?
This is done with the ‘Google Rater Guidelines’. Ben Gomes, Google’s former head of search has stated “You can view the rater guidelines as where we want the search algorithm to go”.
The search algorithm influences which pages appear in search engine results pages (SERP’s).
The Google Rater Guidelines can be split into 4 sections, Needs met, Page quality, the E-A-T update and “Your Money or Your Life” pages.
Using the guidelines Google determines how beneficial the page/website is to the users search term via the Google algorithm and with help from the Google raters. For Google to understand if these updates are providing the results they are hoping for they use ‘quality raters’. Google contracts over 10,000 search quality raters worldwide to assess Googles own search results to see if the algorithms implemented are delivering the results intended. These raters conduct pre-defined searches and mark any page or site that appears which is not supposed to be appearing and highlights them for Google. These raters can influence whether further adaptation of the algorithm is needed.
Needs met and Page quality
Google is always trying to determine the quality of a page and show the most relevant and useful website/website pages to meet the needs of the user. Google rates each page with a ‘Needs met’ slider and ‘Page quality’ slider. Needs met rating is based on both the query and the result, from ‘fails to meet’ to ‘fully meets’. Pages are assigned a rating on whether the content meets the needs of the user, for example if looking for a carbonara recipe and everything from the ingredients to preparation and cooking were shown on a page then this would meet the needs of the user. Page quality is based on the result and does not factor in the query, it is based on how well the page achieves its purpose, rated from highest to lowest. For example a certified doctor who had wrote a page on cancer diagnosis would be rated highly, whereas the same page written by someone with no knowledge of the subject would likely be rated very low.
Also, a step towards understanding the quality of a page is to understand the purpose of the page. Sites which are created to mislead, spread hate or deceive users have no real purpose and offer no value being shown in Google search results. As such, receive the lowest page quality score possible. This is where the search algorithm comes into play, it pushes these pages as low as possible in the SERP’s. The algorithm has always been intimidating for publishers and search engine optimisers as it has a heavy effect on the way they conduct work. For example, each Google algorithm update can mean a loss or boost in visibility of pages and websites, which effects search ranking and click through rate, this is needed for an online site or business to generate views and/or purchases.
The guidelines highlight the E-A-T algorithm update which was implemented in Spring 2018. This stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness.
Expertise refers to the writer’s level of knowledge regarding the main content on the page. For example, a certified physician or doctor who has written a page discussing the symptoms of a disease will be regarded as an expert. If the creator of the main content on the page does not have sufficient expertise on the subject, for instance, giving someone medical advice when they have no clear expertise in this subject, Google would not rank this site high on SERP’s.
Authoritativeness describes the level of authority the writer or the content on the page has. For example, writing an advice page on how to fix a car, if someone (particularly someone in an authoritative place such as head mechanic at a reputable garage) links, recommends and mentions this advice to others and it is credible advice, it acts as a vote of confidence for the page which showcases the content. Google sees these links and will push the page higher in search results. An example of bad authoritativeness is if the website is not a confident source for the topic on the page, for instance medical information on a mechanics website.
Trustworthiness refers to how reliable the writer is for the content on the page, for example a SEO executive creating a page discussing cancer treatment would not be considered trustworthy as they have no certification on the subject. Another example of poor trustworthiness is a checkout page which does not have a secure connection, Google would not rank this page as high as another with a secure checkout process.
Lacking E-A-T on a page will often class it as low quality by Google and so will not rank as high as they were before the E-A-T update.
“Your Money or Your Life” pages
The guidelines state some types of pages or subjects on the internet could potentially affect a person’s happiness, future, finances, health, or safety. For example, news pages, governmental, financial, shopping, and other pages which could impact any of these areas. These are referred to as “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) pages. The E-A-T update affects these pages much more than other pages because they can affect a person outside of the internet. A lot of YMYL sites were hit hard when this update arrived because Google is striving to only rank the highest quality YMYL pages in SERPs. Such as, a lawyer giving financial advice or an ecommerce site.
The guidelines are very extensive, but integrating and understanding these 4 pillars to the Google quality guidelines can give a website the best chances for success in the long term on the internet’s most popular search engine, more information on the guidelines can be found here – Google Quality Guidelines