Google is out with an update to its search quality rater guidelines that includes some new areas of focus for raters. 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.
According to Jennifer Slegg, who has observed and written about the changes to the quality rater guidelines over the years — including a deep dive this year — and has spoken at SMX Advanced on rater guidelines, there are several new notable areas Google wants raters to focus on.
“The most noticeable for content creators is that Google wants their raters to not only look at the reputation of the website itself, but also the content creators themselves,” she wrote in an email responding to questions about the update. “This is one area that many sites fall down on. They might have an ‘About Us’ page, but the bios of their authors are sorely lacking. It also means that those accepting contributions from those not working for the site in question need to keep an eye on the reputation of their contributors as well.
“If content is created by someone with a great reputation, it makes sense for Google to rank that content higher than from someone with a bad reputation since it is generally a better user experience for the searcher. But it means many will also need to brush up on their bios, too. It is also worth noting that this doesn’t apply just to written content, but other types of content as well, such as videos and social media.
“Google’s focus with this addition is on wanting to ensure content that is created by creators with great reputations is ranking well, especially in a world of fake news and conspiracy theories. Great for those creators with great reputations, but does mean some work for those without a great reputation or a limited one.”
Google also appears to be taking aim at more refined, subtle forms of spam that seem to be on the increase. “Google is clearly fighting the war against clickbait, and they are asking raters to rate sites as low where the title is too sensational or doesn’t match the actual content. If it is in the guidelines, Google is looking for a way for their algos to counter clickbait, either currently or in future algos.”
Another big change that Google wants raters to focus on is what it calls “beneficial purpose” of content. “So many sites create content solely for Google, without the user in mind. They just want their content with ‘keyword keyword keyword’ to rank well, and hope the person converts when they get there, whether by clicking an ad or affiliate link, or perhaps going deeper into the site. But Google wants their raters to think about whether a piece of content has a beneficial purpose or not, and this is something that any site owner, content creator or SEO should think about when writing new content or auditing current content on a site.”
Quality raters cannot alter Google’s results directly. A rater marking a particular listing as low-quality will not cause that page to be banned or lose ranking.
Instead, the data generated by quality raters is used to improve Google’s search algorithms, an automated system of ranking pages. Over time, that quality rater data might have an impact on low-quality pages that are spotted by raters, but the algorithm will also impact pages that weren’t reviewed.
Google first made these guidelines public in 2015 and has revised them several times since. Recent changes have focused on topics such as spotting fake news, biased or upsetting content and other factors that Google perceives as problematic when included in search results.
Read the updated Google search quality rating guidelines here.