Even though Google publically made available this unbelievably valuable document, how many SEOs or marketers took the time to read all 175 pages on this guideline. It can be very few. So this is a summary of key points you should know within the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines document.
Google search quality evaluator guidelines also known as Google’s search quality rating guidelines is a document given to “Search Quality Raters ” employed by Google to rate the quality of the search results and the website ranked. Search quality rater’s feedback helps Google to understand which changes they should make to their algorithm to make search more useful.
But note that they do not directly impact how Google search results are ranked.
Summary of Search Quality Guidelines
Note: Copied as it is from the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines document. My personal comment was also added to this article.
- The general guidelines primarily cover Page Quality (PQ) rating and Needs Met (NM) rating.
- Medical search results should be high quality, authoritative, and trustworthy. Search results for “cute baby animal pictures” should be adorable. Search results for a specific website or webpage should have that desired result at the top. Searches that have many possible meanings or involve many perspectives need a diverse set of results that reflect the natural diversity of meanings and points of view.
- Search results should provide authoritative and trustworthy information, not lead people astray with misleading content. Search results should allow people to find what they’re looking for, no surprise people with unpleasant, upsetting, offensive, or disturbing content. Harmful, hateful, violent, or sexually explicit search results are only appropriate if the person phrased their search in a way that makes it clear that they are looking for this type of content, and there is no other reasonable interpretation of the words used in their search.
- Your ratings will not directly affect how a particular webpage, website, or result appears in Google Search, nor will they cause specific webpages, websites, or results to move up or down on the search results page. Instead, your ratings will be used to measure how well search engine algorithms are performing for a broad range of searches.
- Every page on the Internet is created for a purpose, or for multiple purposes. The goal of PQ rating is to determine how well a page achieves its purpose. Websites and pages should be created to help users. Websites and pages that are created with the intent to harm users, deceive users, or make money with no attempt to help users, should receive the Lowest PQ rating.
- Important: There are the highest quality and lowest quality web pages of all different types and purposes: shopping pages, news pages, forum pages, video pages, pages with error messages, PDFs, images, gossip pages, humour pages, homepages, and all other types of pages. The type of page does not determine the PQ rating—you have to understand the purpose of the page to determine the rating.
- Here is an example (OmNomNomNom Page) of a helpful page where the purpose of the page is not as obvious. At first glance, this page may seem pointless or strange. However, it is a page from a humorous site that encourages users to post photos with mouths drawn on them. The purpose of the page is humour or artistic expression. This page has a helpful or beneficial purpose. Even though the About page on this website is not very helpful, the website explains itself on its FAQ page.
Above is an indication that Google use multiple web page to generate an undestanding about a web page/ website. This is why “About Us” page is important.
Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) Pages
Some types of pages or topics could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety. We call such pages “Your Money or Your Life” pages, or YMYL. The following are examples of YMYL topics:
- News and current events: news about important topics such as international events, business, politics, science, technology, etc. Keep in mind that not all news articles are necessarily considered YMYL (e.g., sports, entertainment, and everyday lifestyle topics are generally not YMYL). Please use your judgment and knowledge of your locale.
- Civics, government, and law: information important to maintaining an informed citizenry, such as information about voting, government agencies, public institutions, social services, and legal issues (e.g., divorce, child custody, adoption, creating a will, etc.).
- Finance: financial advice or information regarding investments, taxes, retirement planning, loans, banking, or insurance, particularly web pages that allow people to make purchases or transfer money online.
- Shopping: information about or services related to research or purchase of goods/services, particularly web pages that allow people to make purchases online.
- Health and safety: advice or information about medical issues, drugs, hospitals, emergency preparedness, how dangerous activity is, etc.
- Groups of people: information about or claims related to groups of people, including but not limited to those grouped on the basis of race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity.
- Other: there are many other topics related to big decisions or important aspects of people’s lives that thus may be considered YMYL, such as fitness and nutrition, housing information, choosing a college, finding a job, etc. Please use your judgment.
YMYL content can be across all the industries, not just health & finance.
- We have very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages because low-quality YMYL pages could potentially negatively impact a person’s happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.
- All of the content on a webpage can be classified as one of the following: Main Content (MC), Supplementary Content (SC), or Advertisements/Monetization (Ads). In order to understand the purpose of a webpage and do a PQ rating, you will need to be able to distinguish among these different parts of the page.
- Content behind the tabs may be considered part of the MC, SC, or Ads, depending on what the content is.
Above is an indication is that tab contente or hidden content not an issue for SEO.
- Main Content is any part of the page that directly helps the page achieve its purpose. Webmasters directly control the MC of the page (except for user-generated content). MC can be text, images, videos, page features (e.g., calculators, games), or it can be user-generated content such as videos, reviews, articles, etc. that users have added or uploaded to the page. Note that tabs on some pages lead to even more information (e.g., customer reviews) and can sometimes be considered part of the MC of the page.
- The MC also includes the title at the top of the page (example). Descriptive MC titles allow users to make informed decisions about what pages to visit. Helpful titles summarize the MC on the page.
- Store product page: the purpose is to sell or give information about the product. Content behind the Reviews, Shipping and Safety Information tabs are considered to be part of the MC.
- Supplementary Content contributes to a good user experience on the page but does not directly help the page achieve its purpose.
- One common type of SC is navigation links that allow users to visit other parts of the website. Note that in some cases, the content behind tabs may be considered part of the SC of the page. Sometimes the easiest way to identify SC is to look for the parts of the page that are not MC or Ads.
Main Content & Supplementary Content
Understanding the Website
- Pages often make more sense when viewed as part of a website. Some of the criteria in Page Quality rating are based on the website to the page belongs to. In order to understand a website, look for information about the website on the website itself. Websites are usually very eager to tell you all about themselves!
- You must also look for reputation information about the website. We need to find out what outside, independent sources say about the website. When there is a disagreement between what the website says about itself and what reputable independent sources say about the website, we’ll trust the independent source.
Finding Who is Responsible for the Website and Who Created the Content on the Page
Every page belongs to a website, and it should be clear:
● Who (what individual, company, business, foundation, etc.) is responsible for the website.
● Who (what individual, company, business, foundation, etc.) created the content on the page you are evaluating.
- Most websites have “contact us” or “about us” or “about” pages that provide information about who owns the site. Many companies have an entire website or blog devoted to who they are and what they are doing, what jobs are available, etc.
- On some websites, users create the MC of many pages, while the business or organization itself maintains the website. The company Facebook is responsible for the Facebook website, but individuals create the content on their personal Facebook pages. The company Wikipedia is responsible for the Wikipedia website, but individuals create article content. Other websites with user-generated content include YouTube, Twitter, other social networking websites, other article publishing websites, Q&A websites, forums, etc. For these websites, you must look at each page to determine the author(s) or creator(s) of the content on that page.
- Finally, there are some websites that show licensed or syndicated content. This means that the website has paid money or has some business relationship with the creator of the content. In these cases, we will consider the website to carry responsibility for the quality of licensed or syndicated content, even if it wasn’t created by the website itself.
Finding About Us, Contact Information, and Customer Service Information
- Contact information and customer service information are extremely important for websites that handle money, such as stores, banks, credit card companies, etc
- For shopping websites, we’ll ask you to do some special checks. Look for contact information—including the store’s policies on payment, exchanges, and returns. Sometimes this information is listed under “customer service.
- Keep in mind that websites often represent real companies, organizations, and other entities.
- Therefore, reputation research applies to both the website and the actual company, organization, or entity that the website is representing.
The reputation of the Website or Creator of the Main Content
A website’s reputation is based on the experience of real users, as well as the opinion of people who are experts in the topic of the website..
Many websites are eager to tell users how great they are. Some webmasters have read these rating guidelines and write “reviews” on various review websites. But for Page Quality rating, you must also look for outside, independent reputation information about the website. When the website says one thing about itself, but reputable external sources disagree with what the website says, trust the external sources.
Reputation Research ( Important )
- Use reputation research to find out what real users, as well as experts, think about a website. Look for reviews, references, recommendations by experts, news articles, and other credible information created/written by individuals about the website.
- Stores frequently have user ratings, which can help you understand a store’s reputation based on the reports of people who actually shop there. We consider a large number of positive user reviews as evidence of a positive reputation.
- Many other kinds of websites have reputations as well. For example, you might find that a newspaper (with an associated website) has won journalistic awards. Prestigious awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize award, or a history of high-quality original reporting are strong evidence of a positive reputation.
- When a high level of authoritativeness or expertise is needed, the reputation of a website should be judged on what expert opinions have to say. Recommendations from expert sources, such as professional societies, are strong evidence of a very positive reputation.
- Any store or website can get a few negative reviews. This is completely normal and expected. Large stores and companies have thousands of reviews and most receive some negative ones.
- It is also important to read the reviews because the content of the reviews matter, not just the number. Credible, convincing reports of fraud and financial wrongdoing is evidence of an extremely negative reputation. A single encounter with a rude clerk or the delayed receipt of a single package should not be considered negative reputation information.
Above discuss most of the EAT factors to consider.
How to do Reputation Research on Google
Using ibm.com as an example, try one or more of the following searches on Google:
● [ibm -site:ibm.com]: A search for IBM that excludes pages on ibm.com.
● [“ibm.com” -site:ibm.com]: A search for “ibm.com” that excludes pages on ibm.com.
● [ibm reviews -site:ibm.com] A search for reviews of IBM that excludes pages on ibm.com.
● [“ibm.com” reviews -site:ibm.com]: A search for reviews of “ibm.com” that excludes pages on ibm.com.
● For content creators, try searching for their name or alias.
- Look for articles, reviews, forum posts, discussions, etc. written by people about the website. For businesses, there are many sources of reputation information and reviews. Here are some examples: Yelp, Better Business Bureau (a nonprofit organization that focuses on the trustworthiness of businesses and charities), Amazon, and Google Shopping. You can try searching on specific sites to find reviews. For example, you can try [IBM site:bbb.org] or [“ibm.com” site:bbb.org].
- For content creators, look for biographical data and other sources that are not written by the individual.
Just like search engine quality evaluators use these signals, note that Google replicate the same methods for their algorithum as well. Author Bio is important if you are publishing blogs.
- Frequently, you will find little or no information about the reputation of a website for a small organization. This is not indicative of a positive or negative reputation. Many small, local businesses or community organizations have a small “web presence” and rely on word of mouth, not online reviews. For these smaller businesses and organizations, lack of reputation should not be considered an indication of low page quality.
Page Quality Rating: Most Important Factors
Here are the most important factors to consider when selecting an overall Page Quality rating:
● The Purpose of the Page
● Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness: This is an important quality characteristic. Use your research on the additional factors below to inform your rating.
● Main Content Quality and Amount: The rating should be based on the landing page of the task URL.
● Website Information/information about who is responsible for the MC: Find information about the website as well as the creator of the MC.
● Website Reputation/reputation about who is responsible for the MC: Links to help with reputation research will be provided.
Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
● The expertise of the creator of the MC.
● The authoritativeness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
● The trustworthiness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
- High E-A-T medical advice should be written or produced by people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. High E-A-T medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis.
- High E-A-T news articles should be produced with journalistic professionalism—they should contain factually accurate content presented in a way that helps users achieve a better understanding of events. High E-A-T news sources typically have published established editorial policies and robust review processes (example 1, example 2).
- High E-A-T information pages on scientific topics should be produced by people or organizations with appropriate scientific expertise and represent a well-established scientific consensus on issues where such consensus exists.
- High E-A-T financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, etc., should come from trustworthy sources and be maintained and updated regularly.
- High E-A-T advice pages on topics such as home remodelling (which can cost thousands of dollars and impact your living situation) or advice on parenting issues (which can impact the future happiness of a family) should also come from “experts” or experienced sources that users can trust.
- High E-A-T pages on hobbies, such as photography or learning to play the guitar, also require expertise
- If it seems as if the person creating the content has the type and amount of life experience to make him or her an “expert” on the topic, we will value this “everyday expertise” and not penalize the person/webpage/website for not having “formal” education or training in the field.
Characteristics of High-Quality Pages
What makes a High-quality page? A High-quality page should have a beneficial purpose and achieve that purpose well.
In addition, High-quality pages have the following characteristics:
● High level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
● A satisfying amount of high-quality MC, including a descriptive or helpful title.
● Satisfying website information and/or information about who is responsible for the website. If the page is primarily for shopping or includes financial transactions, then it should have satisfying customer service information.
● Positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the MC on the page. Positive reputation of the creator of the MC, if different from that of the website.
- For news articles and information pages, high-quality MC must be factually accurate for the topic and must be supported by expert consensus where such consensus exists.
- High-quality information pages should be factually accurate, clearly written, and comprehensive.
- High-quality shopping content should allow users to find the products they want and to purchase the products easily.
- The amount of content necessary for the page to be satisfying depends on the topic and purpose of the page.
|Narrow Topic||Shopping Page||Movie Review|
|The Siberian Husky (a breed of dog) is a narrow topic. Although this encyclopedia landing page has less MC|
than some encyclopedia pages on broader topics, it has a satisfying amount of clearly written, high-quality MC
|This shopping page on a reputable shopping website has a satisfying amount of high-quality MC. The page|
provides the manufacturer’s product specs, as well as original product information, over 90 user reviews,
shipping and returns information, multiple images of the product, etc. Note: Some of the MC is behind links on
the page (“item details,” “item specifications,” “guest reviews,” etc.). Even though you have to click these links
to see the content, it is still considered MC.
|This movie review written by a movie critic has a satisfying amount of high-quality MC. Time, effort, and|
talent/skill went into writing this movie review.
Highly recommend checking the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines document from pages 22-25 to see examples of high-quality pages.
The distinction between High and Highest is based on the quality and quantity of MC, as well as the level of reputation and E-A-T.
What makes a page the Highest quality?
In addition to the attributes of a High-quality page, the Highest quality page must
have at least one of the following characteristics:
● Very high level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
● A very satisfying amount of high or highest quality MC.
● Very positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the MC on the page. Very positive reputation of the creator of the MC, if different from that of the website.
The next set of pages are related to low-quality content pages, which I have not added here.
Other than page quality guidelines, Google also explains about “Needs Met Rating Guideline” especially related to mobile user experience. Recommend checking pages 86 and above if you are interested.
Tharindu is a passionate digital marketing specialist with over 14 years of experience planning and executing cross-channel digital media campaigns in the Asia Pacific and Australia. He is also known as the SEO wizard due to his extensive knowledge and technical skill in SEO.