Jerry Low
Dec 23, 2021 | 15min read

Search is an essential aspect of navigating the Internet, with Google alone processing over 3.8 billion queries daily. Such volume demands maximum efficiency to direct users towards the most relevant content possible.

To aid in this process, Google hires “Search Quality Raters” to provide feedback on selected pages and further improve the search experience. When evaluating a page, Quality Raters rely on the Google Quality Guidelines document

The better the quality of the page, the more likely it will satisfy those sent there by Google. Therefore, by familiarizing yourself with the document’s key highlights, you can potentially increase the search profile for your web pages.

How General Page Quality Rating is Calculated

Google uses page quality ratings to achieve specific purposes. The key objective is to understand what a web page is trying to achieve, then assess if it may in any way be of negative impact to readers.

The rating follows a sliding scale that distinctly identifies nine levels of page quality, from lowest to highest. Raters will assign overall page ratings based on several factors. 

What are High-Quality Pages?

The most desirable rating for web pages is “high-quality.” These are pages that comprehensively meet the needs of the audience. While objectives may vary, the overall outcome should be content that is “extremely satisfying” for consumption.

Pages such as these have a clear purpose: sharing an opinion, entertaining, or even selling a product. Along with content, there are other elements that contribute to the final rating, including;

  • Page structure and design
  • Reputation and authority of the website
  • Social indicators

What are Medium-Quality Pages?

Web pages that don’t meet the stipulated guidelines for a high-quality rating but still meet primary objectives are medium-quality. A medium-quality page may have its rating revised if it’s further improved.

What are Low-Quality Pages?

Given the main points that contribute to identifying pages as “high quality,” much of the opposite is true for low-quality pages. 

At the top of the list for low-quality pages are those designed to spread hate, incite violence, are purposefully deceitful, or otherwise intentionally spread negativity. However, it’s essential to understand that it’s possible for a web page to be rated low quality even if there’s no potential negative impact.

There are many reasons for this, including main content that fails to deliver sufficient value to the intended audience. For example, content that lacks depth in coverage isn’t considered satisfying.

Other reasons include;

  • Page titles designed for excessive impact (e.g., clickbait)
  • Inability to clearly demonstrate E-A-T
  • Excessive volume or poor placement of distractions such as ads
  • Poor reputation or lack of information about the content creators

What Raters Inspect and Why

High-quality web pages have distinct characteristics that are considered “desirable” by Google. As a whole, web pages need to be well structured, serve a clear purpose, display elements of authority and trust, plus exercise caution in certain areas.

We can condense these requirements into five distinct areas of assessment;

  1. Purpose of page creation
  2. Content elements
  3. Your Money or Your Life (YMYL)
  4. E-A-T rating
  5. Website reputation

The most critical general understanding is that Google wants to send users towards relevant and helpful content. At the same time, it will steer users clear of harmful pages, including those inciting hate or with deceitful content.

1. Purpose of Page Creation

Everybody does something for a reason. The same applies to web pages; they exist for a reason. If you browse through Google, you’ll come across a wealth of information that helps to resolve the issues or problems plaguing the minds of many. In short, web pages must contain beneficial information. 

That said, some pages aren’t friendly and have different intentions; they make money at the expense of others, cheat and scam people, or spread lies and deceit. 

Google rewards web pages with helpful content targeted towards the needs of visitors. For example, pages that;

  • Educate – One example of this would be tech websites sharing tutorials, guiding users in resolving problems, or addressing similar needs.
  • Allows expression of opinion – Forums often provide an outlet for communities to express views helpful in gauging sentiment. These can work towards the understanding of needs and wants.
  • Inform – News websites often have web pages containing valid and authentic updates about what’s happening. 
  • Support transactions – eCommerce is a booming industry, and web pages that focus on selling products/services are becoming more popular.

Takeaway

Google assesses how well a web page does in achieving its purpose. If you fail in this, your page automatically receives a low rating. On the other hand, if your web page successfully serves a clear beneficial purpose, you’ll go high up in the ranking factor. 

No matter the nature of your site, always be clear and precise in what you wish to achieve.  It must always benefit the users.

2. Content Elements

Web pages are nothing without content. That’s why it’s no surprise that Google places so much emphasis on the content itself. There are three different types of content :

Main Content

This is the core of the web page. It contains all the content that helps the page achieve its purpose. Therefore, it’s no wonder that Google scrutinizes this part the most. Since this is the portion that the site’s webmaster directly controls, Google expects it to be of high quality. 

Leading SEO factors according to the Statista survey
Leading SEO factors worldwide as of June 2021 (Source: Statista)

A survey was done in November 2017 on 279 marketing influencers, and it found that 57% of the responding marketers claimed that on-page content was the most effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactic. On-page refers to both the content and HTML source code of a page that can be optimized, whereas off-page refers to links and other external information. 

As such, you have to put a lot of effort and focus on your main content to make sure that it’s consistently relevant and regularly updated.

Supplementary Content

As the name suggests, supplementary content is there to complement the main content. It serves the purpose of helping to improve the user experience; footers, headers, sidebars, comment sections, media handles, internal links to other related articles and others. However, supplementary content doesn’t directly help the page achieve its purpose.

Make sure that your supplementary content isn’t over the top so that the main content still manages to shine through and remains crystal clear.

Ads

Anything that is sponsored or exists to make money on your web page falls under Ads or monetization. This is what keeps a quality website running. However, ads can affect your search ranking. They need to be high-quality, clearly segregated, and marked so that they don’t over-shine and distract your readers from the main topic at hand. 

Takeaway

Google is always looking for relevant and high-quality content which satisfies the needs of the site visitors. Remember, you’re an expert in your field, so be sure to convey it clearly in your pages. Do so by having consistently high-quality and accurate information that is always updated. 

As a result, your site’s visitors will enjoy visiting your site, and they’ll feel more at ease about making a decision about your product or service.

3. Your Money or Your Life (YMYL)

You may feel tickled when you first come across this. But you won’t be feeling the same after learning more about it. Google categorizes any page to be YMYL if it contains information that can potentially affect someone’s future and well-being, be it happiness, health, finances, or safety. As such, these types of pages are subjected to even stricter guidelines.

There are five market areas that fall into YMYL. So, if your site/web pages fall into one of these areas, you’ll want to pay extra attention to this section: 

Shopping/Financial Transaction

This applies to online bill payment and online banking sites, and any online stores or sites that accept orders and payment information. If you fall under any of these classifications, you need to ensure that the whole transaction process is highly secure, encrypted, and seamless. 

Financial Information

These pages focus on financial information that provides financial advice regarding investments, taxes, retirement planning, loans, banking, or insurance, etc to people. Since such information determines a person’s future and happiness, having precise and accurate updated data to support your advice is crucial here.

Medical Information/Safety

There are many sites that provide health and medical information, including medical advice to the public. Google considers pages that cover other areas that go beyond standard medical conditions and pharmaceuticals, such as nutrition and niche health matters. 

As such sites deal with people’s health, overall well-being, and safety, Google subjects these pages to stringent guidelines. So, if you fall in this category, you’re advised to have medical experts contribute to the content and include links to highly recognized medical boards. Having valid and authoritative data to support your content is a great help.

Legal Pages

Google classifies all types of legal information and advice pages as YMYL. This also includes immigration, child custody, divorce, and even construction. Since such rules and regulations may often change with time, make sure you always update your pages and convey only the most updated legal advice to the readers.

News & Current Events

If you run an online news portal, especially more of the mainstream nature, you’ll have to make sure that whatever is posted is consistently accurate, updated, and with integrity. Nobody wants to read stale news; news from the day before becomes unimportant for most. 

Also, nobody wants to read misleading news or news laced with malicious intentions. 

Since what is reported can directly or indirectly impact people’s lives, it’s understandable that this category falls under YMYL. Tread carefully on the accuracy of what you’re sharing and the words used to convey meaning. 

Others

Of course, there’ll be tons of other pages that fall under YMYL that aren’t in any of the above categories. Just remember, as long as they house information that can somehow negatively impact the readers’ safety, happiness, health, or wealth, they’ll qualify. 

Takeaway

Google repeatedly stresses the importance of holding YMYL sites to a higher standard than others. This is understandable since  Google wants to protect its users. So, if Google comes across any pages that contain false information that have a negative impact, you can bet your bottom dollar, such pages will receive the lowest rankings ever.

So, to score highly against the rating criteria, you must never mislead your users; instead, your pages have to be filled with accurate, spot on and relevant content along with strong references to credible sources to back up your data. Roping in experts in the respective field to contribute is always the right move. 

4. E-A-T rating (Expertise/Authoritativeness/Trustworthiness)

This refers to what most would think of as a website’s overall value. The following three questions are often on the minds of readers when reading your site: 

  • Is this site lacking in expertise? 
  • Does the site have enough authoritativeness? 
  • Is the site trustworthy? 

E-A-T is especially important for, but not limited to, YMYL pages.  

According to a survey done by Statista from 12th August to 14th September 2020 on 314 respondents, almost 20% of the senior-level communications and marketing professionals in the United States strongly agreed that users actually read their created content, while another 44% moderately agreed to it.  

This pushes forward the need to develop high-quality ‘E-A-T’ content, as it helps with your website ranking, strengthens your brand reputation, and improves customer satisfaction.

Expertise – You Need to Show & Demonstrate This

You want to show your readers that your site has a great amount of expertise, whether it’s coming from you or contributors. So, in this case, it’s the content of the page being judged. Therefore, if a reader is searching for information on a certain medical condition, an in-depth research study on causes, impact, statistics, trial studies, etc., from a highly credible medical institution or government agency will be helpful.

Or it helps if your site houses a forum where exceptional members of the relevant area of expertise participate in answering queries from the public. This is a good move as it’s all about the context and addressing questions with the right expertise; the need is met.

Authoritativeness – You Need to Have This

This comes from the website’s perspective. The authority of the website comes from judging the authority of the content itself along with the domain. This comes from external factors such as the included links and their quality, brand mentions, citations, etc.

Demonstrating authority through links comes from relevance and quality, not quantity. Don’t clutter your site with an excessive number of them, especially if they aren’t beneficial. Strike a healthy and proper balance and include only the relevant external signals.

Trustworthiness – You Need to Build This

This comes from the readers themselves. When they peruse your website, they’ll start asking themselves if they can trust what they read on your site or if the content gives them a  dodgy feeling instead. Again, the trust factor covers both the content and the domain. 

Also,  when your site is slow or has performance issues, users may take it as a sign that your site isn’t secure (being hacked, distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks, etc). As such their trust in your site will drop. 

Takeaway

For your web pages to have E-A-T, you need to:

  • have content written by the respective experts with a thorough and deep understanding of the given topic 
  • showcase the expertise of all contributing authors (include their bios and credentials)
  • include real-life experiences, for example with a disease; patients’ accounts could be very helpful
  • cite all sources (reputable and credible)
  • have review pages written by people who have actually used the products or services
  • be a reliable platform and source of information trusted by other reputable sources in the same field.

5. Website Reputation

A website’s reputation is based on the experience of users and the opinion of experts in the related field. In short, this is judged based on how others look and think about your website,  company, or business. This also includes the reputation of the content creator and the whole team. It’s the whole package. 

For example, if you’re an IT company selling security solutions, it won’t bode well for you if your website suffers a security breach; your website’s reputation will plummet to the ground. As such, you need to make sure that your web pages are properly secured.

It’s worth noting that Google algorithms currently do not take into account customer reviews. At the same time, reviews do impact the website’s positions in local search. On top of that, to gauge a website’s reputation, search quality raters pay attention to reviews, references to your website or company, expert recommendations, news articles, even awards; all these must be credible.

Takeaway

Your website has to have a  good reputation in order to do well in Google’s rankings. To find out about your website’s reputation, you can check your business’s score on credible and popular review sites to get a feel for the sentiment out there. Make sure you address all negative reviews and resolve them in a satisfactory manner. 

Never remove negative comments or reviews on your website, as Google will penalize you for it. In short, always build a positive online reputation for your brand, business, and employees.

Conclusion

Google wants what users want. Google wants to meet their needs. That’s why Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines came about in the first place. This document is for human raters to help assess and finetune its algorithm better.

From these guidelines, you can find handy tips that will help you rank higher in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). The above are six key areas for you to focus on so that  Google can serve your pages higher in the search results. With all this in hand, you should be able to unlock your website’s full potential.

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  1. so, are these like ranking factors which define page position in serp?

    1. Thanks for your question, Kim. They are not really ranking factors—Google keeps those under the wraps.
      The Guidelines documents was created for Search Quality Raters who manually assess some pages—they are supposed to make their judgments based on the principles set forth in that documents. The document can be of particular use for YMYL websites, which are more subject to manual check.
      However, everyone can benefit from understanding what good quality means for Google as surely the search engine does its best to make its algorithms serve good-quality pages to the users.

  2. Thanks for saving us hours of time—that Google document is really huge 🙂

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