Leaked Google Quality Rater Guidelines
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Google employs teams of quality raters to test the effectiveness of their search algorithms. A document dated for June 22 was leaked in September that explained the rater’s guidelines. The document explains how the teams should rate several factors, including relevancy to the user’s query and location.
Perhaps most important, however, are the guidelines for rating the quality of the page. Here are a few important takeaways from the document:
- The quality rating has nothing to do with the user’s query. Instead, it’s quality is based on it’s purpose, such as to educate, entertain, express an opinion, sell a product, etc. The quality raters define the page’s purpose manually, and don’t select it from an existing list of options. In other words, the rater ultimately decides the quality of a page by deciding how well it achieves its purpose.
- The page’s purpose does not determine it’s quality. A student’s dissertation and a list of jokes could receive the same quality score if they are just as good at meeting their respective purposes: to educate and entertain respectively.
- Pages received the lowest quality rating if they have no purpose, have a harmful purpose (such as stealing information), or have a deceptive purpose. The document states “Deceptive purposes are usually created to make money using ads or affiliate links rather than to help users…[and] look as though they have helpful information, but in reality they are created to get users to click on ads.
- Raters divide the page into main content, supplementary content, and advertisements. The main content is created to serve the page’s purpose. The supplementary content is meant to be helpful to the user in other ways, such as by pointing them to related content.
- Rating the main content is the most important part of the process. The raters are asked to “spend a few minutes examining the Main Content.” If there is “a lot of content,” they are asked to spend about 3 minutes browsing through it before assigning a rating. Regardless of the purpose of the page, the raters are told that “creating high quality Main Content takes a significant amount of at least one of the following: time, effort, expertise, and/or talent.”
- Surprisingly, the raters are asked to grade the quality of social networking pages, and are told that social networking content with few or no updates and little engagement or effort should be considered low quality.
- Pages that are clearly scraped or copied are given the lowest rating. The same goes for content that is obviously made up (if it’s supposed to be researched) or states the obvious in an unnecessarily high number of words. Even pages that clearly took a lot of time and effort to complete can be assigned the lowest rating if they lack expertise on a topic where expertise matters.
- The quantity of the main content is rated as well as its quality. Specifically, if there isn’t enough content to meet the purpose of the page, a low or lowest score is given.
- If the supplementary content is distracting, unhelpful, or nonexistent, this can hurt the quality score. Specifically, if the only way to leave a page is by clicking on an advertisement, no supplementary content is a very bad thing.
- The layout of the page is also rated. For example, the main content should be immediately visible, and it should be clear which part of the page is supposed to be the main content. Most of the page space should be taken up by the main and supplementary content. The ads and supplementary content shouldn’t distract from the main content, and it should be obvious which part of the content consists of Ads.
- Notably, despite the rating of the layout, the pages are not rated based on how “nice” they look, just on how useful the layout is.
- The page quality actually goes beyond rating the page itself. The raters were also asked to take some time exploring the website. The purpose of this is mainly to distinguish between “low” and “lowest” or “high” and “highest” quality.
- Pages are rated on whether or not their purpose is consistent with the purpose of the website. They are also rated on whether it’s clear who is responsible for the content, if they have an appropriate amount of contact information, and if the site itself has a positive or negative reputation. This last one is determined by research performed off the site. To distinguish between “popular” sites and reputable ones. For example, a popular medical site that is looked down upon by medical experts would have a low reputation.
- If sites don’t appear to be updated often enough to suit their purpose, this can hurt the score. The guidelines state “Most homepages should be updated at least every few years,” and, of course, news sites should be constantly updated.
- Perhaps most importantly, the guide states that “to give an overall rating above Medium, every aspect of page and website quality you look at must be medium or high.” This means you can’t skip meeting any of these guidelines if you want your pages to receive even decent quality scores.
While we can’t expect Google to algorithmically accomplish all of this, the only way to avoid a penalty or a demotion at some point down the road is to treat your site as if it were going to be reviewed by one of these human evaluators. In fact, if you ever succeed at ranking well for a competitive keyword, odds are good a human actually will evaluate your site.
This may be a leak, but it’s as close as we can get to an official and in depth statement from Google regarding how to organize and construct our pages. Ultimately, your pages must be built with a helpful purpose in mind, and must do everything in their power to meet it, or your odds of long term success are slim.
Do you think your site fits within these guidelines? Are you surprised by some of the things the raters are scoring?