Key Learnings from Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines

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We all know that Google has more than 10,000 search quality raters across the globe to evaluate webpages and their search results. Recently, the tech giant updated the Quality Raters Guidelines to help the search quality raters focus on certain page properties that reflect the quality of those pages in a better way. 

These search quality raters cannot directly impact your site’s ranking. However, Google uses the PQ (page quality) rating given by them to determine whether the ranking awarded by the algorithm meets the standards set by them. Further, they help Google predict the possible algorithm trends and come up with the relevant updates. These guidelines simply instruct the raters on what to look for when determining the quality of a page. 

This 167-page Search Quality Rater Guidelines or QRG is one beefy read. Hence, I have enlisted the top learnings that should be considered by digital marketers when building a sound SEO strategy for their website.

  1. A Site’s E-A-T Determines Its Value

When Google thinks of the overall quality of a website, it considers its Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (E-A-T). This is especially true for websites that fall in the YMYL (Your Money Your Life) category. 

As you can see in the screenshot above, Google instructs the quality raters to determine the page quality based on these three parameters carefully. So, higher expertise, authority, and trust will yield a higher PQ rating for your webpages.  

In order to ensure the long-term success of your website, you need to understand how E-A-T rating works and take the necessary steps to meet the standards.

a) Expertise

Google recognizes two major types of expertise, namely formal expertise and everyday expertise. Formal expertise is when the author has the necessary credentials and is recognized in the niche. Most YMYL pages need to have formal expertise. On the other hand, everyday expertise is where the content contributor has first-hand experience in the domain. 

In order to improve the expertise of a webpage, webmasters should try to adopt different methods to exhibit their knowledge in that niche. Websites in the domains of healthcare, finance, and legal should clearly mention the content contributor and their credentials, expertise, and qualifications. 

b) Authoritativeness

Though expertise and authoritativeness are closely related, they are different terms. 

Expertise: The knowledge and personal experiences one has in a particular domain.

Authoritativeness: The knowledge, influence, and position one enjoys in a domain. 

Google instructs the raters to not only pay attention to the expertise but also to assess whether the site is an authority on the topic being discussed. This is because people trust people who are an authority in their vertical. 

So, if you want to improve your site’s authoritativeness, partner with content contributors who are influencers or experts in the domain. Include an impressive author byline or a dedicated author page to show that the content is being contributed by experts, thereby boosting your site’s authority. 

Check out how authoritative online publishing platforms like Medium and Forbes have dedicated author pages for their content contributors. Not only does this establish authority but it also allows readers to get in touch with the site’s authors, thereby winning their trust.

c) Trustworthiness 

Readers read, share, and recommend content they trust. Good-quality, authoritative, and relevant content gives them the confidence that they are sharing accurate and value-adding information in their social circle. 

Hence, Google wants to know whether or not a site is trustworthy enough for the topic being discussed. So, if a website comes across as spammy, Google wants its raters to give it a low-quality rating. Similarly, keyword stuffing, copied content, and scam sites with suspicious download links reduce the trustworthiness of a website. 

Make sure your website comes across as legitimate as possible, otherwise the third-party raters will give you a low PQ rating, giving a negative signal to Google. 

2. Only YMYL-Category Pages with High-Quality Content Will Receive a Good PQ Score

Google instructs its raters to treat YMYL pages differently as these pages directly impact the future happiness, wellbeing, and financial health of its users. Hence, Google wants to ensure that the content provided on these sites is as high-quality as possible. 

In the QRG, these pages have very high PQ standards. Google does not want low-quality webpages in this category to rank well as it could negatively impact the users’ happiness, health, or wealth.

Check out this webpage from Investopedia. It is a YMYL page and hence should present up-to-date and high-quality content to the users. 

The quality raters have been instructed to divide and assess the webpage content based on whether its main content, supplementary content, or advertisements. In fact, in the updated guidelines, Google has included a separate section guiding raters on understanding webpage content and assessing its quality. 

3. Each Webpage Should Serve and Achieve a Purpose

The website is by far the first platform that prospects use to know about a business. Hence, it’s important to determine what you want to accomplish from your site. Unfortunately, too many businesses focus on having an impressive website design with little or no emphasis on offering an awesome digital experience to their audience.

Google strives to offer the best results to its users. Hence the QRG clearly states that a webpage should serve and achieve a beneficial purpose. Refer to the screenshot below. 

A page is considered to be achieving its purpose when the content aids or guides users. Hence, the quality raters are asked to determine the true purpose of the webpage and assign a PQ rating based on whether the page meets the intended purpose.

On the other hand, pages promoting hate, deception, or self-harm, having no clear purpose, or contradicting a well-established expert consensus will receive the lowest PQ score. Ask yourself these questions to design a website that serves a clear purpose.

  • Have you defined a purpose for your website? Do you want to drive conversions, offer customer support, or educate your audience? What brand message do you want to put across?
  • Do you understand your target audience well enough? 
    • How are they finding your website? (through a search engine or a pay-per-click ad) 
    • What are the keywords they are using to look for your business? 
    • What does a person who visits your website for the first time want to know? Are you delivering that? 
  • Is the content on every page complete/ relevant/ useful to your audience? 

The answers to these questions will help you build a website that conveys a specific purpose and offers helpful information to your readers, allowing them to learn something new or understand a subject better.

4. High-Quality Main Content (MC) Build Trust and Authority

The main content helps the webpage achieve its purpose. Therefore, the quality of the MC is a critical criterion in the Page Quality rating. In fact, in the latest QRG, Google has added an extra note explaining what it means to create “Very High-Quality Main Content.” 

For instance, for news sites, the quality raters should consider the originality of the content. The central purpose of a Fox News webpage is to share the latest news. So, the main content on every page of Fox News will feature a news article or the live coverage of the latest events. 

Similarly, for This Week in Startups, a weekly podcast for budding entrepreneurs, the main content comprises of videos. 

The main content of your webpages should be the highlight of the page. Include these main content tips in your content marketing strategy to boost the PQ rating of your webpages. 

  • It should offer searchers with the information or answers they are looking for.
  • It should live up to the title of the article.
  • Avoid posting thin content. Make sure your content is suitably lengthy, answering all the user queries and serving the purpose of the page.
  • It should demonstrate your site’s E-A-T.
  • Avoid making the user scroll all the way down to see the content. Place the MC in the center of the page so that the user can read it with ease. 

Finally, make sure the supplementary content on the page supports your main content and contributes to awesome user experience. 

Supplementary content is especially important for websites belonging to the YMYL category. In such webpages, you need to take extra care to support your main content with other relevant content like similar articles, expert opinions, and references. 

5. A Positive Website Reputation Can Get You There

As you can see in the above screenshot, having a positive website reputation is one of the core characteristics needed to get the ‘highest’ PQ score. Further, your site’s reputation determines the E-A-T. These signals are used by the quality raters to determine your site’s PQ score. 

Google goes a step further to warn the raters not to assess the website solely based on what the webmasters say. In fact, they should see what other reputable external sources say about a website. 

This paragraph from the QRG sums it up well. 

Thus, as a webmaster, it is critical that you conduct thorough reputation research of your site to understand what your end users and industry influencers are saying about your website. So, if an influencer mentions your business, it is a positive reputation signal for your website. 

Use the simple tips shared below to improve your website’s reputation. 

  • Engage your loyal customers and ask them to leave reviews for your business.
  • Publicly respond to negative reviews and grievances. 
  • Encourage and share user-generated content.
  • Partner with influencers and encourage them to contribute to your business blog.
  • Strengthen your presence across all major platforms, namely Yelp, Google, Bing, social media, Yellow Pages, and Better Business Bureau. 
  • Use online reputation management tools, such as Google Alerts, Social Mention, Rankur, and Trackur to track what people are saying about your business. 

Over to You! 

Google wants to offer high-quality and relevant results to searchers. It uses the quality raters to determine the quality of a webpage. The recent version of the QRG offers several interesting insights on how Google wants the quality raters to rate websites. Though these quality raters cannot directly influence your site’s ranking, the data mined from their assessment is used to improve Google’s algorithm. 

So, go ahead and use the topmost takeaways of Google’s latest QRG to improve your site’s PQ rating.

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