Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines: October 2021 Updates


It’s a widely accepted fact that Google owns the lion’s share of the internet’s search traffic. According to recent statistics, Google has a market share of 86.64% and there are at least 5 billion Google searches every day. That comes down to approximately 60,000 searches per second!

Needless to say, that’s a LOT of searches. Of course, Google has many different guidelines, stipulations, and algorithms that ultimately influence how websites rank on the search engine results.

That’s why rankings regularly fluctuate, even for websites with a solid SEO strategy. Just because you’ve reached the first page doesn’t mean the work stops. Search engine optimisation requires constant time and effort to reach the top positions and stay there. However, as pages work on their own strategies for optimisation, it means websites constantly go up and down in rankings for specific competitive keywords.

That said, what exactly goes into rankings aside from a website that’s well optimized? In this article, we discuss Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines and its importance. Moreover, we’ll go over the recent updates that Google implemented to their Quality Rater Guidelines.

What are the Search Quality Rater Guidelines?

Before we delve into the PPC vs. social media debate, let’s first define each strategy.

A PPC ad is a piece of paid advertisement that shows up on various websites. They could be at the top positions on Google search results, on a social media feed page, or even on the side of your screen as you browse through various websites. There are plenty of different options for where PPC ads can show up for users, including your target market.

It’s no secret that Google cares about its users. This is why they constantly make improvements and changes, which are either small tune-ups or big launches, all designed to make Search work better for the engine’s users and to ensure that searchers can find relevant, high-quality information when they need it.

Search quality raters help Google determine if an improvement to Search works well. This is a group of over 10,000 people from all over the world who work on a common set of guidelines used to evaluate the quality of search results.

The search quality rater guidelines are more than 170 pages long. To sum up the guidelines, they simply ensure Search is returning relevant results to users from the most reliable online sources.

At the heart of Search is information quality, and Google’s systems fundamentally work to come up with high-quality information. The rater guidelines help raters assess if a planned improvement or change meets that goal by providing a uniform and clear definition that all raters will use to determine and measure the results they see.

To be more specific, high-quality information is content that demonstrates E-A-T or expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. For instance, a website that posts health-related content written by doctors and experts in the medical industry will have a high level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. The search quality rater guidelines also define low-quality content, such as pages that are misleading or spread hate.

Who Uses the Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines?

As previously noted, the changes Google makes to Search are tested and evaluated rigorously by real people. Their search quality raters provide their internal team with insights by evaluating pages against their guidelines. These help make sure their systems and the proposed changes or improvements are working as intended.

In practice, it looks like a “side-by-side” assessment where raters look at two sets of Search results. One set is from Google’s current version and the other set is from an improvement that they’re testing. The search quality raters will then review the pages in each set of results. Afterwards, they will evaluate if the pages are a helpful match for the queries based on their search quality rater guidelines.

Keep in mind that the assessments provided by the raters don’t have a direct impact on the appearance of a page or site on search results. Instead, they just help the internal team at Google measure how well their systems are working to deliver great content to users.

Search Quality Rater Guidelines Updates

Recently, Google released a new version of the Search Quality Rater Guidelines, just a year after the previous update. The new update brings forth significant changes and clarifications that any SEO agency will find useful when it comes to updating their websites. It will also help them consider the types of sites that Google will want to rank higher in the search results pages.

Person searching on Google

Here’s a list of the new updates to the Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines:

‘Groups Of People’ in YMYL Content

Google has expanded the YMYL subcategory’s definition ‘Groups of People.’ The previous definition of YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) included a section about ‘Groups of People’ pertaining to information related to age, religion, race or ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, veteran status, gender or gender identity. While Google kept those groups in definition, they added the following classifications too:

  • Sex/gender
  • Caste
  • Immigration status
  • Gender expression
  • Victims of major violent events and their family
  • Any other characteristics associated with marginalisation or systemic discrimination

This update shows that the search engine giant is working to expand the notions of YMYL content to include various socioeconomic conditions, identities, and more. As E-A-T is of crucial importance for YMYL content, this update implies that E-A-T is vital when publishing content related to the new groups of people included.

Lowest Page Quality

Google made significant changes to what it considers to be the lowest quality page. Most importantly, they expanded definitions and provided specific examples of what it constitutes for pages to spread hate, cause harm, or misinform users.

Previously, the section was overwhelming as there were so many examples of the different types of pages. With the new update, Google has now included helpful descriptions with each example.

Some examples of the additions in the new update include:

  • Harmful content that can be disproved easily by widely accepted facts.
  • Websites that doxx users.
  • Contant that contains instructions on committing homicide or suicide.
  • Content containing dehumanizing or offensive stereotypes.
  • Insubstantial theories that are not grounded in evidence or facts.

How to Research Reputation Information

Many experts in search engine optimisation have been stressing how important reputation is for websites to be successful. In truth, Google has been actively working on algorithms for several years now. Recently, it changed its language from stating that “stores” frequently have user ratings that provide reputation information to stating that it can now be done for websites. Google also added that a large number of reviews that are “detailed, trustworthy, and positive” can imply good reputation.

Google also removed the statement that reputation research is necessary for all websites. They instead said that reputation research is only essential to the extent that a recognized reputation can be found. This update is important as it indicates that user reviews may be crucial for websites that deal with customers.

In addition, Google removed all references to specific awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize. It now replaced specific awards with more generic terms such as ‘prestigious rewards.’

‘Upsetting-Offensive’ Definition

Google made a complete overhaul of its definition of ‘Upsetting-Offensive’ to make it more brief and concise. The definition still maintains that content should be classified as ‘upsetting-offensive’ if searchers from that locale consider it as such.

It also removed the statement that results should be considered ‘upsetting-offensive’ even if they satisfy the intent of users.

Minor Changes Throughout

Danny Sullivan, Google’s Public Search Liaison, explained in a blog post announcing the updates that they made changes such as refreshing the language for clarity and organization. He further states that what made up most of the October 2021 updates was the inclusion of clarifications on what constitutes lowest quality content, as well as refreshes and modernizations on researching the reputation of websites.

How Often are the Search Quality Rater Guidelines Updated?

As Google likes to make improvements to Search, they update the rater quality guidelines regularly to make sure they work as intended. Some changes are meant to tackle issues they identify in Search, and may include new examples or expanded sections to help guide their raters. For instance, in 2017, they updated their Search Quality Rater Guidelines to provide more detailed examples of low-quality websites that included hoaxes, unexpected offensive results, misleading information, and other pieces of harmful content.

Sometimes, they identify concepts that prove to be extra challenging for raters. They then make improvements to the guidelines to enhance ratings. For example, in 2020, they created a new guide on how to tell if results from an encyclopedia or dictionary would be useful for certain queries.

In a nutshell, Google rigorously reviews, tests and evaluates all changes to ensure the guidelines are helpful and achieve the intended effect. They also have a log at the end of their guidelines made available to the public. The log describes in detail all the changes they make.

If you would like to learn more about the Search Quality Rater Guidelines and how Search works in general, don’t hesitate to contact SEO Services Australia today.

Obstacles to Overcome

  • Declining prominence in organic search results.
  • Competition from new entrants in the consulting industry.
  • Challenges in positioning as a thought leader online.

SEO Solutions in Action

  • Conducted a detailed SEO audit to identify weak points.
  • Revamped website structure to emphasise core competencies and services.
  • Engaged in content marketing to highlight industry expertise and insights.

Results (After 6 months)

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