What Advanced SEOs Should Know From The Google Raters Guidelines (SMX Advanced Recap)

During this SMX Advanced session, panelists discussed what SEOs need to know about Google's Search Quality Rating Guidelines, created for the human beings who double-check that the Google algorithm is performing as designed. Columnist Joy Hawkins recaps.

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Back in November 2015, Google first publicly released the guide it provides to human raters who help it determine the quality of search results. Before then, some leaked copies were available online, but this was the first time Google had officially released them. Then, in March 2016, these guidelines were updated.

At SMX Advanced 2016 in Seattle, panelists Jennifer Slegg, Jenny Halasz and Ruth Burr Reedy talked about Google’s guidelines and the insights to be gleaned from them in a session entitled, “What Advanced SEOs Should Know From The Google Raters Guidelines.”

My top 21 takeaways from this session:

  1. Raters don’t impact the actual search results. Instead, Google uses these for experiments to see what needs to be adjusted in the algorithm.
  2. If you are an online store, you are held to the Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) standard, which is the highest standard because it means the pages could have an impact on the current or future well-being of the person viewing them.
  3. Google search quality raters judge pages based on Expertise, Authoritativeness, & Trustworthiness (EAT).
    1. Expertise: Related to the author and how well they know their specific topic. Just because you’re an expert at one subject doesn’t mean you’re an expert in everything.
    2. Authoritativeness: Related to the actual website. The About Us page tells Google a lot about your company. Make sure you keep it updated.
    3. Trustworthiness: Why should a user trust your website? Does the site look sketchy? Looks matter!
  4. The search quality raters look to see if the needs of the searcher were met. Are you giving the searcher what they’re looking for?
  5. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, you automatically fail the “Needs Met” criteria.
  6. If you want to see if your quality is great, read it out loud and see if it sounds funny.
  7. Stop obsessing about how long content is. Can you honestly write 1,000 words on how to hard-boil an egg?
  8. How great is your online reputation? Don’t worry about one or two bad reviews, but rather your overall online presence.
  9. Does your website have a lot of distracting supplementary content? This is basically any junk that is not your main content, like a newsletter popup that makes you hit an “x” that says, “No, I don’t want to make a million dollars.” Google took a lot of references to this out in the updated version of the guidelines in March, which was probably because a lot of this type of content doesn’t exist on mobile (There simply isn’t room for it).
  10. Google uses human raters because the searchers are human!
  11. If you get a medium rating, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong; more likely, it just means that there is nothing special about your website. You’re “fine” but not “great.”
  12. If you’re offering a product or a service, your site should make it obvious how to get hold of you.
  13. Showing customer feedback on your website is great. Use a service like Get 5 Stars.
  14. Make sure your website shows where you are referenced online — news articles, Wikipedia articles and so on.
  15. The guidelines are for how Google wants the search results to look like, not necessarily how they are. It’s optimism vs. reality.
  16. Google hasn’t told us how many raters exist currently.
  17. Think of the rules more as guidelines than actual rules.
  18. Some of the guidelines are weighted more toward the actual page and not the domain itself.
  19. Scraped content doesn’t fool Google.
  20. Trust is built with Google in very small moments. Look for grammar errors, and be careful your ads are not too intrusive.
  21. Expert Roundups don’t raise expertise, authority or trust. They may help you get links, however.

See the full presentations below:



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About the author

Joy Hawkins
Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky, a Local SEO agency in Canada & the USA. She has been working in the industry since 2006 and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove, and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.

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