Peeking Behind the Curtain: Examining the Search Quality Rating Guidelines

Peeking Behind the Curtain: Examining the Search Quality Rating Guidelines

Online MarketingSearch Engine Optimization

Digital marketers and SEO professionals have long tried to anticipate and adjust to search engine ranking systems and their constant updates. The task has been made much harder by the levels of secrecy that have always shrouded the particular algorithms and rating systems employed by these engines, particularly Google. While it has long been common industry knowledge that Google uses an international selection of human raters to help measure the quality of search results, rankings, and experiences, it has never been revealed exactly what criteria these raters use to evaluate webpages.

Until now:  just last month, Google raised the veil on this process by issuing the Search Quality Rating Guidelines document, a self-proclaimed “Cliff’s Notes” version of the instructions and rubric Google-employed raters use to review pages. While by no means exhaustive, the document lays out the basic process by which a rater assesses a URL:

“In a URL rating task, a rater is shown a search query from their locale (country + language) and a URL that could be returned by a search engine for that query. The raters “rate” the quality of that result for that query, on a scale described within the document.”

The Search Quality Rating Guidelines document describes several different types of URL rating cases that a Google rater can encounter, and breaks down the individual rating process for these use cases in an effort to educate users on how a page is ranked. The action of releasing this manual demonstrates Google’s commitment to increasing user experience in two distinct ways:

This rating system emphasizes Google’s interest in delivering quality search results by replicating human search patterns. By incorporating human raters, and by creating a robust set of ranking criteria that takes into account both the query and user intent, Google continues to try and serve an optimal user experience. Following on the heels of the Hummingbird algorithm introduction, which uses a semantic search system that more closely resembles a typed or spoken search query, and the removal of keyword data from Google Analytics, the release of the Search Quality Ratings Guidelines further stresses the importance Google places on creating high quality, relevant search results.

The release of these documented examples to the public also demonstrates a commitment to quality, and also shows that Google wants SEO professionals to understand what is needed to succeed. Many industry professionals have seen Google’s updates as “punishments” for black-hat methods, and feel that Google and other search engines are unfairly “out to get” SEO practitioners. However, by finally lifting the curtain on part of the SEO grading tools, Google is trying to prove that they want SEOs to succeed, and to succeed by creating useful, relevant, rank-able content consumers want and use.

While helpful in several ways, the Search Quality Rating Guidelines are only part of SEO success; they only describe one means of how ratings are checked, and for all of the insight they provide, human raters do not directly impact search engine rankings. In order to successfully apply SEO best practices to your digital marketing strategy, you need a comprehensive strategy. Our team at inSegment has the knowledge and experience to craft a robust, integrated and proven SEO strategy for your brand; contact us today to get started.