Google is always experimenting with ideas to improve search results. One of the way they evaluate experiments is by getting feedback from Quality Raters. Their feedback helps Google understand what changes will make its search engine more useful. In order to rate websites and searches, Quality Raters use Google Quality Rating Guidelines.
Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines is a document that Google Quality Raters reference when they rate websites. The document is updated occasionally and, as the name suggests, it provides guidelines regarding the conditions and elements that raters need to evaluate when rating a website.
Google has hired thousands of individuals from all over the work to rate websites and determine whether sites are good or bad. While the Google employees have no impact on the rankings of the site they rate, their work influences the overall ranking of every site crawled by Google.
Raters use a sliding scale to assign values to websites that goes from lowest to highest. That data is collected and made available to machine learning systems that augment the algorithms based on known signal data. Signal data includes website structure, size, backlinks, author signals, navigation, and more. Depending on how Google Quality Raters rate websites, the global algorithms adjust rankings accordingly.
When it comes to what raters are looking for in terms of quality, they consider what Google wants the algorithm to product and what the algorithms will focus on.
Per Google’s Quality Rating Guidenlines:
“As a Search Quality Rater, you will work on many different types of rating projects. The General Guidelines primarily cover Page Quality (PQ) rating and Needs Met (NM) rating; however, the concepts are also important for many other types of rating tasks.”
In order to stay relevant, Google also asks Quality Raters to review the success of mobile interactions.
Before October 2020, the Needs Met section of Google’s Rating Guidelines was fairly sparse. More recently, however, Google has expanded the section as it is viewed as a significant rating factor.
Needs Met refers to intent. Raters ask themselves how helpful or satisfying a website or webpage is during an assessment. Whether the rater visits a single page or a search results page and rates every result, the information is sent to Google about the site structure, device, demographic, and location result difference. Those ratings are then used to improve outcomes to determine which signals are common to higher ranking results algorithmically.
Interpretation is also an element of Needs Met. This refers to the multiple possible meanings a single query could have. Raters consider dominant, common, and minor interpretations to ensure that pages with high intent satisfaction are more likely to appear higher in search rankings.
One way to ensure your websites are rated high in the Needs Met category is to try to address multiple possible intents for a query. If you do this successfully, it is likely your page will naturally satisfy more interpretations.
Page Quality ratings are based on numerous factors. The weight given to each factor is based on the type of website and query. Key factors to make a note of are YMYL and E-A-T.
Google labels websites that can potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, safety, or financial stability as YMYL (Your Money, Your Life). YMYL websites call into the following categories:
Law firms are considered YMYL, so they are rated differently from other websites with Google Quality Rating Guidelines. YMYL websites are divided into three main categories:
E-A-T refers to expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Those categories are related to query intent and subject matter. It is essential to understand that E-A-T is not a ranking factor but instead what Google’s quality raters are guided to look for. Raters use E-A-T as a guiding principle to rate design, content creation, and supporting external signals.
A website’s content expertise is based on individual pages instead of the site as a whole. Expertise is about content and addressing topics to meet searchers’ needs. The criteria vary depending on the subject. In regard to law, if a searcher were looking for information on laws and your website covered specific statutes with links to state government websites, the expertise criteria would likely be filled.
Authoritativeness refers to the authority of the content itself and the domain. This is often based on external signals like links, link quality, brand mentions, and citations to specific content as well as the website as a whole.
Trustworthiness is judged similar to authority but more pointed. It focuses on more specific signals and sites. For example, good ratings based on a significant number of clients could positively affect a website’s trustworthiness.
In addition to Needs Met and Page Quality, Quality Raters are also tasked with rating mobile interaction. Google knows that people rely on their phones for different tasks in different environments. They may want to search the web or tell their phone or device to do something specific. The goal is for mobile smartphones to make tasks easy, so it is imperative that websites are optimized for mobile.
If you yourself are not a Quality Rater, trying to decipher Google’s 172-page guide can seem like a lot. However, it is crucial to have an idea of what SEOs should take away from the guidelines.
To start, pay attention to what other sites say about you. Quality Raters will look for external ratings of your website during their assessment. This could be in the form of Wikipedia articles, blog posts, news articles, or ratings from an independent organization. Take the time to address both positive and negative reviews. Online reputation management is crucial to keeping tabs on reviews—especially bad ones. Instead of ignoring negative reviews, address them directly. This is likely to help your SEO strategy over time and ultimately help attract new clients over time.
It is also important to show off your expertise. When you answer a question that requires expertise, as legal questions do, you cover authority and trust. In terms of demonstrating your expertise, make sure you:
While not every website or legal topic requires the same level of expertise, Google wants its raters to confirm who is responsible for the information on assessed sites. For blog posts and other types of information content, raters look for a specified author with a bio that highlights why they are an expert. It is also important to regularly update your website’s “about” page. This way, users can find out information about your firm and how to contact you.
You can also highlight your expertise by paying attention to keyword intent and freshness. Consider the changing meaning of your targeted keywords and make sure your results maintain some degree of relevance. This is especially important for mobile users, as search intent can change over time or based on the searcher’s location.
Another optimization tip is to ensure your website features work after a few clicks. A high-quality page is not just one that looks good. It also needs to function well. Quality Raters are encouraged to click through features on websites. To ensure your websites functions properly, test your interactive content, watch embedded videos, and, if applicable, go through your check-out or registration process to ensure everything works as expected.
Finally, make sure you avoid any low-quality or “black hat” practices. Avoid overly shocking or exaggerated post titles and avoid duplicate content. While syndicated content is allowed when done correctly, copied content is a major red flag that will hurt your website’s overall rankings.
If you are in the process of learning how you can optimize your website for Google Quality Rating Guidelines, it is normal to feel overwhelmed. It is important to remember the guidelines are important as they tell us what Google wants to see and how you can improve your website. If you are struggling, Law Quill can help.
We are here to help and would welcome the opportunity to visit with you for free regarding your law firm website’s content, and how we can take these tasks off your plate! Schedule a free visit with us by scheduling a quick phone or zoom call at your convenience on our calendar today. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.