[Note: this post is originally from 2014 and was published by me at the time on the former Catbird Seat blog]
Google has had so-called Google Quality Rater Guidelines since 2008. These are aimed at external employees who assist in the evaluation of websites. According to Google, no websites are penalized on the basis of these ratings, but only refinements are made to the algorithm. At least Matt Cutts denies this – while interestingly Bing confirms that they do use their Quality Rating for manual measures. So it’s hard to imagine Google not using these insights for manual measures at all. But everyone is welcome to form his or her own opinion.
Besides the public version, there is of course also a “leaked” official version with 137 pages.
Since not everyone will have the desire and time to work through these 137 pages, I would like to provide a brief summary of the most important conclusionsin this post. My goal here is not to present the exact process of evaluations and each individual method in detail, but rather to work out what Google means by top quality.
Usefulness and quality
In my opinion, the most interesting guidelines for this purpose are the Utility Rating Guidelines and the Page Quality Rating Guidelines.
Utility rating requires raters to consider the usefulness of a search result (i.e., result block plus associated landing page) with respect to a particular search query, taking into account user intent, user location, and other factors. The utility rating is “query-dependent”, i.e. the usefulness of the result with regard to the respective search query must be evaluated.
„query-independent“ ist hingegen das Page Quality Rating. On the one hand, thequality of the landing page is evaluated here, but also the overall quality of the website. A website that is rated poor overall can thus also have a negative impact on the quality of the landing page.
There are 5 levels of quality assessment:
- Lowest Quality
- Low Quality
- Medium Quality
- High Quality
- Highest Quality
Structure of the content from Google’s point of view
Content plays an important role in the quality of the landing pages being evaluated. Google distinguishes between Main Content (MC), Supplementary Content (SC) and Advertisements (Ads). Main Content is the reason the site exists in the first place and is instrumental in ensuring that the site serves its intended purpose. Supplementary content, on the other hand, contributes to a good user experience but does not directly pursue purpose fulfillment. Depending on the content and purpose of the page, supplementary content is understood to mean, for example. Comments, ratings, related posts, related links, complementary videos or similar features.
Purpose of the Page
A term that comes up again and again in the Quality Rater Guidelines is “Purpose of the Page“. Quality raters should always be aware of the purpose of a site before making their respective ratings. Based on this purpose that a site wants to fulfill, the quality rater must set the bar in the evaluation. A page that, for example. only wants to inform about the current bus connections in a town, must meet different standards than a site whose purpose is to report several times a day about international world events. It is indispensable for high-quality pages that the page has a purpose at all, that this purpose is recognizable and that it is fulfilled with high-quality content. According to Google, creating high-quality content requires a high amount of at least one of the following: Time, effort, expertise and / or talent.
Overall rating of the website
In the site quality assessment, in addition to the landing page assessment, there is an assessment of the entire website to derive the overall quality from both. An overall high rating may only be assigned if both the page level and the website level justify a high rating.
The following points are checked to evaluate the website:
- Is the home page of the website discoverable?
- Is the purpose of the home page consistent with that of the website? Inconsistency here is considered an indication of Lowest Quality and raters should examine these pages closely. If the purpose is missing, not apparent or even deceptive or harmful, all pages should be rated as Lowest Quality by the raters.
- Is it obvious who is responsible for the content of the website and landing page?
- Does the site have sufficient contact information?
- What is the reputation of the website? Award, user ratings, etc. Pages may well have a few negative reviews, as this is natural.
- Is the website homepage updated/maintained? The decisive factor is again the purpose of the page. News sites need to be updated much more frequently than hobby sites about pyramids in Egypt.
Special case YMYL
A special case in the Google Quality Rater Guidelines are the so-called YMYL pages. YMYL stands for: your money or your life. For this type of pages, the page quality represents a special importance. YMYL pages are pages that have an impact on the current or future well-being (physical, financial security, etc.) of the user. YMYL pages usually exist on websites that have a high reputation and whose content has been created with very high expertise. Contact information, reputation and website updates are also extremely important in the overall context. Links from associations and other expert sites, for example, contribute to the reputation. Moreover, YMYL pages must not fail any point of the website assessment.
YMYL sites include, for example.
- Pages used for monetary transactions
- Sites that provide medical or health-related information that may affect the user’s physical well-being
- Sites that offer advice on topics that can significantly affect life, e.g. sites about investing, marriage, raising children, buying real estate, etc.
Before a rater evaluates a page, they must always ask themselves whether or not the landing page is a YMYL page.
Landing page view
When evaluating the landing page, the respective page is checked by the raters for the following criteria:
- Identify the purpose of the page
- Identify main content, supplementary content and advertisements, especially is main content immediately and clearly recognizable?
- Evaluate main content with regard to the purpose of the page
- Determine amount of helpful main content
- Determine the benefit of the Supplementary Content
- Evaluation of the layout/space usage on the page. It is not important that the design is “beautiful”, but that the layout and space allocation contribute to the purpose of the homepage.
How not to design your page?
You can also learn a lot from negative examples. For example, how not to design your page. That’s why it’s worth taking a look at how Google defines Lowest Quality Pages. Thus, you should not create a page without definable or even with deceptive / harmful purpose. Google also negatively evaluates pages that have a purpose but do not fulfill it at all. Lowest quality pages are also pages that provide insufficient main content or even no main content at all. As soon as a page fails the website level checks, for example does not contain contact info, this will result in a lowest rating. Overall, Lowest Pages contribute little to the Internet; in many cases, users would be better off without them.
And what about ads?
As long as a page has helpful Main Content (MC), ads are not considered spam. The situation is different for pages that exist primarily to make people click on ads. The following pages with ads are classified as spam: no MC, deceptive or useless MC, copied MC and auto-generated MC.
Highest Quality Pages
Highest Quality Pages, on the other hand, meet the following criteria according to Google and should be considered in this respect when creating and designing websites:
- Have an obvious purpose and fulfill this purpose very well or satisfy the user to the highest degree.
- The Main Content (MC) is created by experts in the subject. The author does not necessarily have to be known by name. If the website is of very high quality, it is assumed that the articles are written by experts.
- Have a very satisfactory amount of MC
- The layout makes the MC immediately visible
- The space is very well used.
- The Supplementary Content (SC) is helpful and leads to a very satisfying UX
- Have almost professionally created quality content
- Often appear on high quality websites, which have a very positive reputation in their subject area.
If one follows the Google Quality Rater Guidelines, then it is fundamentally important for every website that the homepage in particular is regularly maintained, that contact information and the person responsible for the website can be easily found. This is particularly important for online stores. It does not matter whether the contact person is an individual or a company. This is probably an indication that the topic of authorship will also become increasingly important in the future. Especially for YMYL pages, where Google already requiresthat the content comes from experts and authorities on the page.
Likewise, the website’s reputation is highly relevant when viewed as a whole. Depending on the purpose of the page, these are, for example, numerous customer reviews in the case of stores, and links and mentions of other recognized medical professionals, research institutions and the like in the case of medical pages. At the same time, reputation should not be confused with business success. A site can have a lot of traffic, but still have a bad reputation.
At the page level, it is extremely important that thepurpose of the page is immediately apparent, that the main content is immediately recognizable, and that the supplementary content contributes to a good user experience. The main content should solve the user’s problems and be professionally created. Of course, this looks different depending on the page type and purpose. However, you never have to worry that your content might be too good. Even if there are currently only weak pages in a niche, even the best of these weak pages will be classified as weak, since it can be assumed that at some point there will also be a very high-quality page in this niche. From this, we can conclude that it will always be advantageous to create high-quality content, no matter how weak the current market environment still is. Regarding supplementary content, you should always try to supplement the actual main content with useful additional content, such as videos for cooking recipes, comments for blog articles, further product recommendations for online stores, and so on. It’s also interesting to note that ads aren’t officially bad across the board for Google either, as long as they aren’t the actual purpose of the page or upstage the main content. Simply put, you should focus on high-quality, benefit-generating content and a good user experience.
What is your situation? Who has also studied the Google Quality Rater Guidelines? What conclusions do you draw from this?
- Public short version of the Google Quality Rater Guidelines
- http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.de/2011/05/more-guidance-on-building-high-quality.html (Panda Criterias)