A couple of years ago Google released a 160-page PDF document used by their Quality Raters, this document provided insight into what Google really wants from your website at a user-experience level, not just algorithmic level.
What is a Google Search Quality Rater?
There are over 10,000 people contracted worldwide by Google to evaluate and rate search queries. Google will give these contractors common search queries to use in each location which they then rate the quality of the top results.
Data collected from these raters is used to improve the algorithms (they are not directly responsible for penalising websites). Because of this, we can see that increasing your rank doesn’t stop there – you need to maintain it.
What does a Quality Rater do?
Quality Raters are given search queries to perform (sometimes based on location/locale) and a description of user intent for that query. They are displayed additional information in the SERPs to rate this content, for example:
These slide bars are what the Raters use to evaluate the results, they have a strong emphasis on E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trust). Pages must be up to date, accurate, helpful and authoritative to receive the highest rating.
If the result contains NSFW content, it will also be flagged, for example:
14.6.1 Using the Upsetting-Offensive Flag
Assign the Upsetting-Offensive flag to web results that contain upsetting or offensive content. Please represent users in your locale and use your judgment to determine what constitutes upsetting or offensive content. As a general rule of thumb, Upsetting-Offensive results contain content that is so upsetting or offensive that it should only be shown if the query is explicitly seeking this type of content.
Upsetting-Offensive content typically includes the following:
- Content that promotes hate or violence against a group of people based on criteria including (but not limited to) race or ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality or citizenship, disability, age, sexual orientation, or veteran status.
- Content with racial slurs or extremely offensive terminology.
- Graphic violence, including animal cruelty or child abuse.
- Explicit how-to information about harmful activities (e.g., how-tos on human trafficking or violent assault).
- Other types of content that users in your locale would find extremely upsetting or offensive
This is determined by the Rater which means some people will have different standards when it comes to what is offensive.
What do you need to be aware of?
You can evaluate your website yourself by searching your keywords incognito and having an unbiased view, these are the questions you should ask yourself:
- Does your website stand out in the SERPs?
- Does the Page Title and Meta Description entice the user?
- When the user visits your website, have you met their intent?
- Is your site trust worthy?
- Are the other results doing a better job of answering the query?
Due to the increased risk on websites which involve transactions, they are held to a higher standard when it comes to quality standards. These websites are categorised as YMYL (Your Money or Your Life).
2.3 Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) Pages
Some types of pages could potentially impact the future happiness, health, or financial stability of users. We call such pages “Your Money or Your Life” pages, or YMYL. The following are examples of YMYL pages:
- Shopping or financial transaction pages: webpages that allow users to make purchases, transfer money, pay bills, etc. online (such as online stores and online banking pages).
- Financial information pages: webpages that provide advice or information about investments, taxes, retirement planning, home purchase, paying for college, buying insurance, etc.
- Medical information pages: webpages that provide advice or information about health, drugs, specific diseases or conditions, mental health, nutrition, etc.
- Legal information pages: webpages that provide legal advice or information on topics such as divorce, child custody, creating a will, becoming a citizen, etc.
- News articles or public/official information pages important for having an informed citizenry: webpages that include information about local/state/national government processes, people, and laws; disaster response services; government programs and social services; news about important topics such as international events, business, politics, science, and technology; etc. Please use your judgment and knowledge of your locale. Keep in mind that not all news articles are necessarily considered YMYL.
- Other: there are many other topics that you may consider YMYL, such as child adoption, car safety information, etc. Please use your judgment.
We have very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages because low quality YMYL pages could potentially negatively impact users’ happiness, health, or financial stability.
If you’re running an E-Commerce site, you need to be quite critical on your website and find any areas that could be improved or may not be building trust which should be. Design is an important factor that may be overlooked. If there are 2 websites offering the same product at the same price, people are far more likely to hand over their credit card details to the website which looks more modern.
Will these Raters become more strict?
Google Owl Update
Google’s latest update is targeted towards “fake news” and “offensive” content.
Here is a recently updated section to the User Content document which relates to Google Owl.
14.6.2 Needs Met Rating for Upsetting-Offensive Tolerant Queries
Remember that users of all ages, genders, races, and religions use search engines for a variety of needs. One especially important user need is exploring subjects that may be difficult to discuss in person. For example, some people may hesitate to ask what racial slurs mean. People may also want to understand why certain racially offensive statements are made. Giving users access to resources that help them understand racism, hatred, and other sensitive topics is beneficial to society.
When the user’s query seems to either ask for or tolerate potentially upsetting, offensive, or sensitive content, we will call the query a “Upsetting-Offensive tolerant query”. For the purpose of Needs Met rating, please assume that users have a dominant educational/informational intent for Upsetting-Offensive tolerant queries. All results should be rated on the Needs Met rating scale assuming a genuine educational/informational intent.
In particular, to receive a Highly Meets rating, informational results about Upsetting-Offensive topics must:
- Be found on highly trustworthy, factually accurate, and credible sources, unless the query clearly indicates the user is seeking an alternative viewpoint.
- Address the specific topic of the query so that users can understand why it is upsetting or offensive and what the sensitivities involved are.
- Do not assume that Upsetting-Offensive tolerant queries “deserve” offensive results.
- Do not assume UpsettingOffensive tolerant queries are issued by people who hold upsetting or offensive views.
- Do not assume users are merely seeking to validate an offensive or upsetting perspective.
Here are some examples of how to interpret user intent for queries about possibly Upsetting-Offensive topics.
Query User Intent and Explanation [are women evil], English (US) Users may want to understand why there is discrimination against women or why people may say “women are evil”. [women are evil], English (US) Assume the intent for this statement is the same as the question, “are women evil?” Users may want to understand why people would say “women are evil”. [did the holocaust happen?], English (US) Users want factually accurate information about the Holocaust or information about the issue of Holocaust denial. [christians worship the devil], English (US) Users are looking for information about how Christians and the Christian church view the devil and whether Christians worship the devil. [racist whites], [racist blacks], (etc.), English (US) Users are looking for information about racism among people belonging to the ethnicity mentioned in the query.
It appears that the method Google uses with Quality Raters is required to devalue certain content that has ranked organically. It will be interesting to see how this affects search results in the future – although this targets just a small category, it could be produce interesting results and possibly change the way websites improve organic traffic.
Quotes have been taken from the Google User Content document.