Here is the latest updated version!

Google recently updated its Search Quality Rating Guidelines intended primarily for its Quality Raters (Search Evaluators) that scan and score search results to optimize the performance of its algorithm. Here is an access to the complete updated document as well as an overview of the changes made in one of the last major versions.

Updated 07/29/2022 : Google has once again updated its Search Quality Rating Guidelines, you will find the latest PDF version in this location.

Original article from 2016:

The search engine has just updated its Quality Rater Guidelines, a document intended for its Search Quality Raters who rate the websites on which they browse on behalf of the Mountain View firm.

What are the main changes in the 2016 version of the Search Quality Rating Guidelines?

Google released its Search Quality Rating Guidelines in 2015 for the first time officially. The mountain view firm has just updated the document sent to all its Quality Raters operating worldwide. Among the changes, here are the most important:

  • The type of page has no influence on the quality score of a page, the quality rater must understand the purpose of the page before rating it and put aside its prejudices (ex: a Wikipedia page is necessarily of quality). In other words, if a page with a simple video comes up on a request of the type “video…”, the Quality Rater is not instructed to indicate that it is of poor quality (even if no additional content is is associated with it).
  • Google has clarified the term “Wealth” in the “Your Money Your Life” section replacing it with “financial stability”. If a page could impact someone’s financial stability, then the criteria is much stricter.
  • Content in tabs can now be considered Main Content (main content). Google considers that in certain cases (customer reviews for example), this content has a non-negligible informational interest for the Internet user.
  • Google clarifies that User Generated Content (UGC) is not always managed by webmasters (so they shouldn’t be penalized for something they don’t directly manage). Webmasters therefore have control over the Main Content of the pages, apart from UGC according to Google. This change will be of interest, for example, to forum editors.
  • UGC can be considered Main Content and it can take different forms (not just text). A user’s review video can be considered Main Content. An image posted by a user about a product as well (photos on TripAdvisor for example).
  • Google indicates that advertisements can contribute to a good user experience! This addition is probably the most surprising of all. Google specifies that the presence or absence of advertisements is not a criterion that should influence the quality score assigned to a page. Google goes even further by explaining that the creation of quality content is expensive and this justifies the addition of advertising to finance this creation.
  • Google has removed its section on updating websites. No official details have been provided but this could mean that a site with the appearance of an outdated site can still have very good quality content online without this posing a problem for Google and the Internet users.
  • Google asks its Quality Raters to spend more time checking the authority and reputation of sites before writing them down.
  • Google says that almost every site has bad reviews, so Quality Raters need to take a step back when rating a site’s reputation and not be swayed by a few bad reviews.
  • Google warns Quality Raters about SEOs who read these Search Quality Rating Guidelines and use them to try to improve their rating
  • Google has added the 4 main quality criteria of a page according to him : the quality of the main content and its length, information on the site and its managers, the reputation of the site, the expertise of the site and its authors
  • Google is increasingly emphasizing the EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness Trustworthiness) as a criterion have a great influence on the quality score of a page (an article written by a recognized expert is much more likely to be well rated than the same article written by an unknown person)
  • Supplementary Content is now less important to Google. The entire section about “Helpful supplementary content” has been removed. This may mean that Quality Raters need to focus even more on Main Content.
  • Google removed the “Functional page design” part. This modification would be due to the massive arrival of responsive sites and mobile sites.
  • Sites that do not have means of payment no longer necessarily need to have an “about” or “contact” page according to the new guidelines (eg personal blogs).
  • Videos can now be considered an important factor in determining a site’s authority and expertise (ex: detailed test videos).
  • Google specifies the 3 main criteria that make a page of poor quality : the advertising which prevents access to the Main Content, the author’s lack of expertise and the site’s lack of reliability.
  • Google says sites should be rated for what they are (expectations are not the same for the corporate site of a CAC40 company as for a small personal blog without a budget).
  • If the content of a page is of high quality but the advertisements or the SC prevent the user from accessing it, Google recommends rating these pages as low quality pages.
  • Consistency of advertisements with the content is now more important (ads for poker on a site dedicated to young mothers can be enough to assign a poor quality score)
  • The “Poor page design” section has been removed
  • A non-mobile friendly site that is difficult to use on a smartphone will automatically be put in “Fails to meet”
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If you want to download the latest version of the Search Quality Rating Guidelines, it’s here.

This article is partly based on the very good analysis of Jennifer Slegg.

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