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Google Updates Search Quality Rater Guidelines

Last week, Google announced that it had updated its ‘search quality rater guidelines’ for the first time in over a year. Here’s what that means, and how it affects SEO agencies and their clients.

What Are Search Quality Raters?

We all know that Google changes its Search system often – more than 4,800 times in the last year. Those changes are generally minor – imperceptible, even – though they occasionally cause significant ranking fluctuations (and anxiety for SEO agencies), such as with the semi-regular Core Algorithm Updates. The goal of every update, in the words of Google’s Public Liaison for Search, Danny Sullivan, is “to make Search work better for you, and to make sure you can find relevant, high quality information when you need it.”

Search quality raters are the team of more than 10,000 people from around the world who help assess the efficacy of Google’s changes. To do this, they compare search results generated by the current system with results generated by a beta-tested system incorporating new improvements. The rater reviews both sets of pages and uses the search quality rater guidelines to determine which is more helpful.

What Are the Search Quality Rater Guidelines?

The search quality rater guidelines are a 170-page, publicly available document that guides the raters’ assessments. They favour ‘high-quality’ information – content imbued with expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) – versus low-quality content, including content spreading disinformation and hate.

The most recent update to the guidelines, the first since October 14, 2020, includes additional information on the Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) category, clarifies how Google thinks about ‘lowest quality content,’ provides a new and simplified definition of ‘Upsetting-Offensive,’ and includes a variety of additional modernizations and updates.

What Does This Mean for SEO Agencies?

While the search quality rater guidelines don’t directly affect search visibility, the raters’ assessments inform whether Google’s changes come into permanent effect. In other words, careful review of the guidelines can deliver insights into Google’s current and future preferences.


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