What’s Important in the Search Quality Raters Full Guidelines 2015

Google, in my opinion, is smart to hire human testers to rate their algorithm’s performance. In the past, abbreviated guidelines have been leaked. This year, Google caved and released the full version of the Search Quality Raters Guidelines. It is 160 PDF pages, but you should not be afraid of this linear reading exercise. The information that SEOs and webmasters will find most interesting is in the first 87 pages. The remainder of the Guidelines is about evaluating Google’s mobile search results. If you are too busy to read the Guidelines yourself, I’ve summarized my biggest take-aways in this article.

The first thing that struck me was the reading level. According to the Flesch Kincaid reading level test, the Guidelines are written for testers in second grade! But I don’t believe that for a minute. Anyone in grade 4 could easily read this. But if you have to define a home page and website, maybe these aren’t the testers you want to rate your website quality.

Nevertheless, there’s some common sense standards that we higher-reading-level web “experts” sometimes forget in our rush to sell our products – the goal of a page. This is what the Page Quality (PQ) rating focuses on. The guidelines state:

  • The goal of PQ rating is to determine how well a page achieves its purpose.
  • To assign a rating, you must understand the purpose of the page and sometimes the website.
  • Websites and pages should be created to help users.
  • Websites and pages which are created with intent to harm or deceive users or make money with no attempt to help users receive a very low PQ rating.

We all know that Google’s massively complicated stack ranking algorithm, with over 200 factors which are tweaked over 450 times a year, is aimed at producing one thing – high quality search results that meet searchers’ needs. A quality webpage meets one requirement.

  • Does your webpage have a clear, user-oriented purpose?
  • And does that webpage achieve that purpose?


  • The presence or absence of ads is not by itself a reason for a High or Low quality rating. Ads are fine if they are on the same or related topic as the page topic. So much for remarketing.
  • How well a page is maintained is a factor: Links should work, images should load, content should be added and updated over time, etc. I suspect that page download time is also a factor by inference.
  • External reviews: bad product or customer reviews, complaints, or a bad reputation can decrease the PQ of the website.
  • A Wikipedia article or news article from a well-known site is a sign of the good reputation
  • While the rater is evaluating a single page, the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) of the overall website is also a factor.
  • Even if content is copied but attributed to the author or website, it’s still unoriginal, copied content and therefore down-graded.
  • Thin content pages, which the guidelines refer to as an unsatisfying amount of MC, are not good.
  • Lack of contact information is an indicator of low trust. So make sure your Contact Us page is functional.
  • Design is irrelevant so long as it doesn’t distract from the main purpose of the page.

Of course, for high ranking, you’ll want a high or the highest quality rating. The Guidelines specifically list the characteristics for a page deserving of a high PQ rating. They need at least one of the following characteristics:

  • A satisfying amount of high quality main content (MC). The quality of the MC is one of the most important considerations in Page Quality rating.
  • The page and website are expert, authoritative, and trustworthy for the topic of the page.
  • The website has a good reputation for the topic of the page. In addition, the page and website should have most of the following:
    • A satisfying amount of website information for example, About Us information, Contact or Customer Service information, etc.
    • Secondary content (SC) which contributes to a satisfying user experience on the page and website. Helpful SC is content that is specifically targeted to the content and purpose of the page.
    • Functional page design which allows users to easily focus on MC and use SC as desired.
    • A website which is well cared for and maintained.
    • High quality pages involve time, effort, expertise, and talent /skill to produce.