Google quality raters guidelines demystified for SEOs
Every SEO guide tries to figure out what Google’s algorithm is all about. But what if Google provided you with a document outlining how it wants its algorithm to work?
That document is Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines. It’s 172 pages long, unfortunately. So, in the interest of your sanity, I decided to read it all and only tell you what you need to know about Google’s quality guidelines.
What are quality raters on Google?
Google’s quality raters are a group of tens of thousands of employees that the company has hired. They assess how effectively Google’s search results meet a user’s requirements.
Their feedback is used by Google to better understand the impact of algorithmic changes. The standards don’t directly alter the algorithm or ranks, but according to Google, they “fundamentally show what the system should do,” according to a CNBC interview.
What are the quality guidelines for Google?
Quality raters can use Google guidelines for quality criteria to determine how to grade a search result. The 172-page pamphlet contains all of this information.
The document is divided into three sections:
- Guidelines for Page Quality Rating – This section highlights the primary factors that quality raters should look for in search results. These factors include the page’s goal, EA-T signals, content quality, website ownership, and reputation.
- Understanding the Needs of Mobile Users — This section delves into Google’s perspective on mobile engagement.
- Rating Guidelines for Needs Met – This scale measures how effectively a search result meets the needs of mobile users.
What does SEO need to know about QRGs?
The 172-page paper does not contain all section that is relevant to Google SEO guidelines. And the useful bits aren’t readily apparent. However, if you look deeper into what Google has to say about each issue, you can find some useful information.
So here are the essential points to remember:
Take note of what other websites have to say about you.
Google informs raters that “many websites are eager to tell readers how amazing they are” with a mix of scepticism and wit. As a result, Google instructs its quality raters to assess reputation not only on the site but also off-page.
Raters should look for mentions of a site or author in external “news pieces, Wikipedia pages, blog postings, magazine articles, forum conversations, and ratings from independent organisations,” and you should do the same.
A fast Google search for your site -your domain- can reveal what others have said about your company:
You can also use Site Explorer to look at the backlinks to your site to see how and where other websites are mentioning your brand. This practice is beneficial not only for determining how others perceive your site/brand but also for identifying flaws in your products or services.
Respond to both positive and negative feedback.
Keeping an eye on review sites like Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, Amazon, and Google Shopping is another important aspect of online reputation management. In the quality rater guidelines, Google identifies these specific sites as ones that raters should utilise to assess reputation. Rather than dismissing bad comments and reviews, confront them.
Negative reviews can be a useful source of information for ways to enhance your customer service, website information, our overall product offering. This will likely aid SEO and improve your chances of maintaining and recruiting new clients over time.
Show off your knowledge.
Most SEOs may be surprised to learn that EA-T is mentioned frequently in Google’s guidelines. One of the most important indicators of high-quality content is the acronym EA-T, which stands for expertise, authority, and trust. The clearest mandate for SEOs, in my opinion, is Google’s instructions for quality raters.
Consider the page’s main theme. What level of knowledge is required for the page to achieve its goals?
You should automatically cover authority and trust if you appropriately answer the “expertise” question. This could be formal expertise, such as a medical degree if you’re giving medical advice, or hands-on expertise, such as years of experience helping clients rank their websites if you’re giving SEO advice.
Here are a few actionable things Google mentions in their wonderful piece about EA-T in terms of exhibiting that expertise:
- Provide explicit information sources.
- With links to an “author” page or an “about” page, provide background information for the author or website (more on this below).
- In your article, demonstrate your knowledge or excitement.
- Make sure your content is free of easily verifiable factual inaccuracies.
However, keep in mind that not all industries are the same. If you’re not sure what “expertise” means in your business, have a look at the top-ranking sites to see how they display their knowledge.
Determine who is in charge of the information on the page.
Google acknowledges that not every type of website demands the same level of skill. However, quality raters are required to confirm “who is responsible for the information.”
You can accomplish this for blog articles and other informational content by declaring the author of each page and including a brief bio.
Even though a page author does not require “formal” schooling in the field, it should be evident why they are writing about a certain issue and why you should believe them. Make changes to your “about” page.
Not every website has a blog or has author bios to identify who is in charge of the content. Make sure to change your “About” page if your site doesn’t have a space for an author. Users can learn things like who you are and how to reach you this way.
For YMYL locations, add extra EA-T signals.
Your Money, Your Life is a Google-defined page or website type (or YMYL). Sites that “affect a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety” are listed here. These are some of them:
- Fitness and health
- Government or legal system?
- People in groups (specialized groups like disability, nationality, veterans)
According to Google’s quality criteria, raters should pay extra attention to the information quality of these sites. In the health and medical fields, for example, fact-checking articles and displaying review processes are common best practices.
Make certain that your website’s functionalities work after a few clicks.
A high-quality page, according to Google, isn’t merely one that “looks good.” Some websites include features that appear to perform well or look beautiful on the surface but fall apart after a few clicks. As a result, Google encourages quality raters to spend time on each site’s features.
You should do the same and make sure that your site works as intended across all devices. Here are a few suggestions:
- Put your interactive material to the test. Check that any tools or calculators on your site are working.
- Watch the videos that have been embedded. Videos are a common source of user experience problems. Check that any video embeds work as intended and don’t detract from the user experience in any other manner.
- Complete the checkout process. Add items to your cart and complete the checkout procedure to validate that everything works as it should.
Avoid any activities that are of poor quality.
This instruction, which I found on Page 19 of the quality raters rules, sums up most of the bad guidelines:
Websites or pages that serve no useful purpose, such as those produced with no intention of assisting users, or those that may propagate hate, inflict harm, or misinform/deceive users, should be given the lowest grade.
There is a couple of more low-quality practises worth mentioning later in the guidelines:
- Post titles that are overly provocative or overblown (when the page title elicits a click but then still leaves the user confused).
- Main content that has been copied or scraped (see Google’s scraped content standards). This is not to be confused with syndicated content (which, according to Google, is acceptable if done correctly).
Ensure that your advertisements do not detract from your content.
Google’s economic model would be impossible to sustain without advertisements. Ads on a website are fine, according to Google, and are necessary for monetizing certain sorts of websites.
It does, however, require websites to take control of the types of advertising that appear on their pages and how they affect the user experience.
So take your time and go over your website. Understand the many types of ads that are presented and how they affect your users’ overall experience.
Do advertisements obstruct the text on the page? Are they graphically or violently depicted? For raters, these are all low-quality signals.
Make your 404 pages useful.
There are no technical instructions from Google for dealing with 404 pages. However, the quality rater criteria emphasise the necessity of keeping its aesthetic and utility. The standards notably mention this Amazon 404 page, giving it a “medium” rating.
A 404 page that just informs the visitor that the page they were looking for could not be found isn’t very useful. So take some time to personalise your 404 page. To help visitors locate what they were looking for or something similar on your site, you should at the very least provide a search box or related links.
You can’t please everyone with your 404 page, of course. So anything you put in there is always a less-than-ideal solution. The best option is to reduce the likelihood of people seeing your 404, which you may achieve by redirecting 404s to appropriate resources.
You can use Site Explorer in Ahrefs Webmaster Tools for free to find all of your site’s broken pages. Simply enter your domain, go to the Best by Links report, and then apply the 404 filters.
Where possible, redirect these pages to operational, relevant URLs—especially those with backlinks.
Keep keyword purpose and freshness in mind.
In the Mobile User Needs section, Google explains to raters that search intent can change over time or depend on the searcher’s location.
For example, in the United States and the rest of the world, the term “football” has a completely different meaning. Consider the shifting meaning of your keywords as SEOs, and make sure that your results remain relevant (aka quality) at all times.
If you run a hat-selling website, you should be aware that a search for “hats” in the summer in the United States may return a baseball cap, whilst a search in the winter may return knit caps. As a result, you’ll either need to change our inventory or create separate pages for each.
Users will most likely desire the most recent marketing conferences if you have a post on marketing conferences, so keep it up to date.
Because Google is pushing every site to be mobile-first, this is included in the Mobile User Needs section, but it’s worth mentioning that matching your content with search intent is vital across all devices.
In these quality rater rules, Google doesn’t hide much. As a result, you’ll see that a lot of what I’ve said here aligns with Google’s quality recommendations for Webmasters.
After 172 pages, though, a couple of things became crystal evident to me:
Google seeks to encourage high-quality content while avoiding malicious or thin stuff in its algorithm.
High-quality information isn’t simply pretty to look at; it also has to be useful.
Off-page factors are more probable than we expected to have a larger impact on Google’s algorithm than we thought.
Finally, and most crucially, Google recognises the importance of maintaining a human aspect in your content workflow by recruiting humans as quality checkers. It’s easy to fall into the trap of scaling content using a low-cost talent or AI-generated material. But, at the end of the day, Google wants its algorithm to reward content that is generated by humans for humans.