How Google Quality Raters Affect Site Rankings

Posted on September 25, 2018 by Kevin Richards

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Google has shared their vision for what the next 20 years of search will look like. In doing so, Google also discussed how their systems work today.

It is in this part of the article that they reveal a very interesting piece of information that both supports my previous quality raters hypothesis (raters can help or hurt site rankings), but also sheds additional light on a key aspect of the ranking process.

What are Google Quality Raters anyways?

The major call out from this article is that the author, Ben Gomes (VP Search, News, and Assistant), identifies one way that Google uses its quality raters. Quality Raters are Google employees who look at search results and provide search quality rankings. Those rankings are then used to guide the algorithm. For a long time, I've believed that Raters have the ability to rank a site based on pre-defined quality guidelines, and that this ranking results in either promotion or demotion of the site in Google's search results rankings.

I've often likened this to turning the volume of your site up or down, like audio volume on your TV or radio. Raters can lower the volume, raise the volume, or even possibly mute your site's "voice" entirely (although Google's Danny Sullivan said "we do not use that way" in a tweet). Even if only one page of your site is reviewed by a rater, that rating (probably) sticks with your entire site, although the weight may dissipate based on many factors (total number of pages, proximity of reviewed page to home page, site hierarchy, depth of content, etc.).

In Google's The Keyword blog post today, Mr. Gomes says that "Last year alone, we ran more than 200,000 experiments that resulted in 2,400+ changes to search."

This statement provides additional insight into how the quality raters choose which sites to review. If your site falls within an experiment, and appears within the top 5-10 results, your site might be lucky enough to get a quality review. Previously, it was unknown how sites might fall within the cross-hairs of quality guidelines raters. It is important to remember that this is just one way that raters can find your site and impact your search rankings. There may be, and probably are, quite a few more ways that raters can find your site.

What does this mean for your site?

Given this insight into the algorithm, or, more accurately, a major component that shapes the algorithm, a focus on overall site quality is becoming more important than ever before. Twenty years ago, we could easily use a technique, today it's called "keyword stuffing," to affect the search results and drive our clients into the number one spot. We were overnight geniuses. Then, when this technique no longer worked, we migrated over to inbound links. When Google determined that this didn't work either, and Google got smarter, we made the shift to quality content and awesome user on-site experience (site usability via awesome design and content).

It is the role of a website's chief marketing officer to ensure that the content on the site, the overall message, and the user experience all guide the Rater to giving at least a neutral score, but at best, a positive score.

Googling any of the concepts discussed here will certainly result in contradictory opinions about how Google uses their Quality Raters. it is important to remind ourselves of the black box that is "the algorithm." Google is so huge that no one fully knows exactly how search rankings are produced in every scenario, and this is by design as well as by necessity. Google itself points to the algorithm and constantly references Machine Learning and AI.

This discussion wouldn't be complete without at least a reference to Rankbrain and how it interprets and replies to the 15% of never before seen queries that Google receives daily. With Google busy indexing the world's information, that leaves a lot of room for interpretation of how to best help your site rank in those search results for your desired keywords and phrases.

What should be your key takeaways?

  • First, figure out the questions that your audience will be asking and answer them (good content).
  • Then, be sure to answer those questions in a way that is easy to use and understand (good design).
  • Then, never quit learning, searching, and thinking about how to make your site better for your users (good website).

Now, let's PUMP UP THE VOLUME on your site! Get started today.

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