Insights

Google Announces Definitive List of Search Quality Rating Guidelines

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Sophie Monks

Senior Social Specialist

Ever wondered how Google rates a webpage or site domain? Well, we’ll let you in on a secret: Google has recently released a full version of its Search Quality Raters for the first time! And we have the full scoop here:

Google Search Quality Raters

Let’s face it, we’d all like to know what goes on in the mind of Googlers, but not all of us have the time to read a 160 page PDF guideline document. This handbook that was released online in November is an SEO professional’s dream as it takes readers through Google‘s process when testing and rating search results, providing insight on how to best optimise these pages.
In the past, multiple versions of these guidelines have been leaked, including handbooks in 2001, 2008 and 2012. However, after the October 2015 version of the document was leaked, Google decided to take action and put out an official release.
Google’s Mimi Underwood, Senior Program Manager of Search Quality, told Search Engine Land,
“ratings from evaluators do not determine individual site rankings, but are used help us understand our experiments.”
“The evaluators base their ratings on guidelines we give them; the guidelines reflect what Google thinks search users want.”
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What Does the Document Reveal?

 
So, what exactly has the Google Search Quality Raters guidelines revealed? Here are the main points we took away from the read:
 
Consider YMYL Pages – ‘Your Money or Your Life’ pages is a term given by Google to pages that must be held to the highest standards due to their great impact on the reader’s life. These include pages covering subjects such as:
• Shopping or financial transactions
• Financial guidance
• Medical information
• Legal guidance
• Other – safety, adoption, well-being etc.
These pages are scrutinised by Google to a higher standard than regular pages because of the impact they can have. Low quality pages on this topic will not rank well as Google may fear they could negatively impact on a person’s financial or personal life.
So, if you have any websites or pages that cover these kinds of topics you’ll want to do everything by-the-book. This will include any site that has an online store. If you want your page to rank well, safety and trust are very important.
 
Focus on E-A-T Pages – Another great acronym, E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. We have long stressed to our clients the importance of trust factors to become an authoritative site, but Google has further stressed the significance of this in its guidelines.
Include Supplementary Content – Supplementary content is a bit of a touchy subject, but more and more developers are recognising the importance of it and are providing the design space required.
You want your pages to have enough keyword rich content on them, but at the same time you don’t want to compromise the design of the site. That’s where supplementary content comes in handy in the form of sidebars, related articles or images.
Plug-ins may be the answer for many, as they will suggest complementary content. But it is important to make sure this content is ‘helpful’. The use of suggested article ad networks are seen as the opposite and therefore may affect your rankings in a negative way.
Don’t Forget Page Design – Once upon a time, as long as you had the copy on the page somewhere, that’s all that mattered, however times are changing. User experience is more important than ever and the focus of a page is now considered in ranking testing.
This ‘focus’, the main copy and image, should be what Google describes as ‘front and centre’ so that it takes precedence on a page. Users should not have to scroll down to read copy and images should be responsive so that they fit a page in full. Ads in the first fold should be minimal too.
But don’t worry if your site isn’t the prettiest. Ugly doesn’t necessarily mean poor rankings; as long as the site is easy to use and does what it should, it’ll rank just fine.
View the Google Search Quality Raters guideline overview below or click here.

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By

Sophie Monks

Senior Social Specialist

Sophie has over 6 years of experience in the social media and content space, working in both in-house organisations and agencies. She has worked with exciting established brands in her time such as Campari, Aperol Spritz, Oppo Ice Cream and PayPal Australia. She enjoys the content creation process – from mapping out the shot and…

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