In the past few days Google released their latest iteration of the Search Quality Rating Guidelines. If you’re interested in how Google evaluates a website from an SEO standpoint this is an interesting read. It doesn’t give any direct secrets out, but does allow us to understand what they are looking for and their evaluation process of a web page.
I did find some of the comments in it a bit strange though in that they seemed biased towards the raters opinion and not really a holistic evaluation of the web page in it self.
Rater’s Personal Bias?
One example of what I mean is on page 30. They are discussing at this point examples of highly rated websites and what factors go into their decision about the rating given. Regarding a webpage on the Food Network website they gave it the highest rating possible and commented:
The website is one of the most popular recipe websites. The page design allows users to easily find the recipe. There are Ads, but it does not interfere with the MC on the page
The item here that stands out the most to me is that they state it’s one of the most popular recipe websites. So what? Based on all of the information Google has presented us previously SEO is about quality of content. Yes, it is also known that quality links pointing to a webpage can positively influence SEO, but this document does not take into account a backlink profile. If I understand correctly, the raters would be non-technical and non-SEO minded people who are simply rating webpages based on the quality guidelines as specified in the document (such as content vs ads, reputation of website, authority of the author, etc.). That said, the popularity of a website should not be a factor in my opinion.
Later on in the document however, while listing webpages that rank with the lowest quality scores, they state something that stood out to me as kind of interesting… On page 39 (and elsewhere) they state:
• Very distracting and unhelpful SC
• Poor page design
Poor page design? Since when has Google taken into account actual page design in their rating factor?!?! Yet later on page 55 (humor listing) there is a page listed as “medium” that I feel could be argued has an equally poor page design, and I feel poor content, yet it got the medium rating. And again on page 56 (information listing) – poor design and they even state:
It’s not clear who is responsible for the content and whether it is being maintained
yet it gets a “medium” rating.
404 Error Pages
404 Error pages are able to be considered pages with the highest quality (page 30). Why Google? Why would you rate these pages? Is a 404 error page really something that you should invest time and effort of the crawl budget into for indexing and ranking purposes?
2 of the 3 pages that were referenced as high quality in the Video category were YouTube pages (page 31). Interesting that they don’t identify more non-Google owned properties as examples of “doing it right”. And what throws me off even more is that for the main content they highlight the video and description area on a page that only had links in the description – no text, just anchors!!! Are you telling me that is really providing quality content?
Who Was This Document Intended For
Now this document was originally written for it’s team of Search Quality Raters. I’m not overly familiar with this team and/or their purporse in the grand scheme of Google, search results, and SEO. Likewise I don’t know anything about how the information the raters provide gets utilized by Google and it’s operations. It could be that the algorithm we all thought Google used is really just a team of human raters and thus all of these SEO “tricks” and tags are essentially a waste of time unless you can predict which rater will come along and rate your webpage. Humm… You know, that sounded crazy in my head before I wrote it, but now that it’s written it starts to make sense and bring some clarity to this world of SEO. ;) (Yes, that last sentence was sarcasm.)
I am curious as to who the raters are and how their data is used by Google. To learn more, I turned to my good friend Google and attempted to learn more. What I did find was this post from Search Engine Land – An Interview with a Google Search Quality Rater.
I was also curious to find if there were any job postings for a Search Quality Rater, and it appears in the Google SERP as though there are.
Though the funny thing is when you click through the link from the Google SERP to Google’s job posting page I got this page as a result:
In the spirit of this recently published documentation by Google, I figured I had no choice but to rate this webpage.
Low Quality Characteristics:
- The MC doesn’t provide much enrichment to my life.
- The webpage tells me that a Search Engine couldn’t find something.
- The SC seems appropriately matched to the MC
I’m not 100% sure what to take from this. This isn’t a publication stating how their ranking algorithm works. So I’m not sure that there is much value in modifying your SEO strategy based off of this document. Instead this document highlights that Google utilizes a human team to define search quality to web pages. What that means in terms of SEO and how it can help us to better do our jobs as an SEO I’m not entirely sure…