Google Search Quality Ratings

In November 2015, Google released a 160 page document about Search Quality rating guidelines. This document aimed to help Google Search Quality Raters understand how to rate the search results they are testing. The document was then updated in April 2016. In this article we look briefly at the key points of the November release, and the key changes in the April update.

What, you might ask, is a Google Search Quality Rater? Search quality raters generate ratings that are used to evaluate the quality of search engines around the world. The aim is that a good search engine such as Google will give results that are consistently helpful for users in their specific language and locale.

So what guidelines do Google’s latest documents give about Search Quality ratings? Here is a brief summary of what the November document and April update advise companies to do to ensure that their websites perform well in search quality ratings:

The November document

  • 1. Improve your 404 (page not found) message. Don’t just alert users that there is a problem finding the page but give them help such as possible explanations as to why the page couldn’t be found and provide a list of popular links that may be helpful to them.
  • 2. Provide helpful contact information such as phone numbers and email address(es) rather than just a contact form. This can dramatically increase the perceived quality and reliability of your site.
  • 3. Keep your pages and links up to date. Ensure that page content is maintained regularly to avoid inaccuracy of important information and also that there are no broken links or images, both of which can reduce the perceived quality of a page.
  • 4. Think carefully about the format of any advertisements on a page. Ensure there are not too many and they are not invasive or confusingly placed; also that they do not load before the main content of the page. All these factors diminish the user experience.
  • 5. Check carefully for spelling mistakes and bad grammar. Google cites “writing quickly with no drafts or editing” as a common failing on web pages. You should already be checking for poor spelling and grammar but be aware that Google Quality Raters are looking for them, too!
  • 6. Check your facts! Google’s Quality Raters are instructed to look beneath the surface to see the overall picture not just of immediately obvious page design but also the accuracy or otherwise of facts. Incorrect information is indicative of low quality pages.
  • 7. Avoid the temptation to cut and paste. Quoting content from other acknowledged sources (such as this one relaying information from Google!) is acceptable but just copying chunks of content from other websites is not.
  • 8. Ensure that significant content has an author where appropriate. If your website features articles then make sure that there is also an author name, whether a specific named person or a generic business name.
  • 9. Always implement Google’s 3 PQ (Page Quality) guidelines
    • I. There are three types of page content: Main (MC), Supplementary (SC) and Advertisements. Make sure there is enough MC (main content). It is important that main content reflects adequate time, effort, and expertise, and also that there is an appropriate ratio of MC to SC to ads.
    • II. Maximise the E-A-T levels (Expertise – Authoritativeness – Trustworthiness) of each page and of the website as a whole. This is especially important for so-called YMYL pages (Your Money or Your Life) that offer advice that could impact on people’s financial future or overall well-being.
    • III. The reputation of the website. This is extremely important when the website demands a high level of trust
    • .

  • 10. Looks aren’t everything! Don’t get too obsessed with how the page looks. Content is more important. To quote Google on this: “Are we just giving High quality ratings to pages that “look” good? No! The goal is to do the exact opposite. These steps are designed to help you analyze the page without using a superficial “does it look good?” approach.”

The April Update

There are four main changes in the April update:

  1. Less emphasis is being placed on supplementary content – see item 9I above. Whilst previous guidelines have stressed the key role of SC this is now being regarded as less important.
  2. The Local aspect of search ratings is becoming increasingly important. Google is now referring to this as “Visit-in-Person” in these updated guidelines.
  3. There is even more scrutiny of E-A-T and YMYL pages – see item 9II above. Google is increasing the importance of PQ (Page Quality) even more than when they originally introduced it.
  4. Mobile search listings – reflecting mobile friendly sites – are increasing further in importance and are featured more in Google’s examples and guidelines.

So, how does your website fare according to the above guidelines? Would it perform well in Google’s Search Quality Ratings in its current state or are there improvements you need to make? We hope that this article has helped you identify those changes that you need to make and that you soon see the results of making those changes.

Author: Robert Walker