Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines at a Glance

The key points you need to know.

Google Rater Guidelines is a 167-page-long document that can be very time-consuming to read, so we've selected some of the most important things you need to know. 

Be advised that a thorough reading of the document is required if you intend to use it for evaluation purposes or to support your SEO and Content Marketing efforts.

 Part 1: Page Quality Rating Guideline 

To understand a page, it's important that you first understand its purpose. All pages can be considered of high quality, regardless of their purposes and types, provided that they were not created to harm or deceive users or even to make money with no attempt to help users.

Pages or topics that could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety are taken very seriously by Google. They refer to those pages or topics as YMYL, which stands for Your Money or Your Life. 

Specially for YMYL types of pages, Google has very high Page Quality rating standards, and that’s where another acronym comes in: E-A-T.

EAT stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness and, to be considered of high quality, web pages must present an adequate level of these attributes for their purpose.

All of the content on a web page can be classified as Main Content (MC), Supplementary Content (SC), and Advertisements/Monetization (Ads). Here is an example from the guidelines where MC is highlighted in yellow, SC is highlighted in blue and Ads are highlighted in red.

Each of these page parts has its importance. For example, while the MC directly helps the page achieve its purpose, the SC contributes to a good user experience on the page. 

Regarding Ads, without advertising and monetization, some webpages could not exist because it costs money to maintain a website and create high quality content. Even though webmasters may not always directly control the content of the Ads, the website should always be held responsible for the overall quality of the Ads it displays.

Finding who is responsible for the website and the content on the page is an important part of PQ rating.  Often a business or organization is responsible for the content of a website, not an individual person. In these cases, raters should treat the business/organization as responsible for the content on every single page, as well as for maintenance of the website.

The types and amount of contact information needed depend on the type of website. For example, contact information and customer service information are extremely important for websites that handle money, while some kinds of websites need fewer details and less contact information for their purpose. 

Regarding a website's reputation, it is based on the experience of real users, as well as the opinion of people who are experts in the topic of the website. To evaluate reputation, raters are requested to look for outside, independent information about the website. When the website says one thing about itself, but reputable external sources disagree with what the website says, the guidelines instruct raters to trust the external sources.

The rating scale used for Page Quality tasks has 9 rating levels in total, which are labeled as Lowest / Lowest+ / Low / Low+ / Medium / Medium+ / High / High+ / Highest.

E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness)

For all pages that have a beneficial purpose, the amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness is very important.  There are high E-A-T pages and websites of all types, even gossip websites, fashion websites, humor websites, forum and Q&A pages, etc. 

EAT is specially important for YMYL pages or topics. For example, medical advice should be written/produced by people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation.  Financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, etc., should come from trustworthy sources and be maintained and updated regularly.

Even pages on hobbies, such as photography or learning to play a guitar, also require expertise.  If the person creating the content has the type/amount of life experience to make them an "expert” on the topic, this “everyday expertise” should be valued and the person/webpage/website should not be penalized for not having “formal” education/training in the field.

It’s even possible to have everyday expertise in YMYL topics. For example, there are forums and support pages for people with specific diseases. Sharing personal experience is a form of everyday expertise.

When evaluating the standard for expertise, raters should think about the topic of the page and ask themselves: "What kind of expertise is required for the page to achieve its purpose well?" 

When assessing the E-A-T of a web page, it's important to consider the authoritativeness and trustworthiness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website. Whenever possible or applicable, it's also important to consider the expertise of the creator of the MC.

Characteristics of Each Page Quality Rating

High Quality Pages

page 19 of the guidelines
  • High level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
  • A satisfying amount of high quality MC, including a descriptive or helpful title
  • Satisfying website information and/or information about who is responsible for the website. If the page is primarily for shopping or includes financial transactions, then it should have satisfying customer service information
  • Positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the MC on the page
  • Positive reputation of the creator of the MC, if different from that of the website

Highest Quality Pages

page 25 of the guidelines
  • Very high level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
  • A very satisfying amount of high or highest quality MC
  • Very positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the MC on the page
  • Very positive reputation of the creator of the MC, if different from that of the website

Low Quality Pages

page 32 of the guidelines
  • An inadequate level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
  • The quality of the MC is low
  • There is an unsatisfying amount of MC for the purpose of the page
  • The title of the MC is exaggerated or shocking
  • The Ads or SC distracts from the MC
  • There is an unsatisfying amount of website information or information about the creator of the MC for the purpose of the page (with no good reason for anonymity)
  • A mildly negative reputation for a website or creator of the MC, based on extensive reputation research

Lowest Quality Pages

page 37 of the guidelines
  • The page potentially spreads hate
  • The page is potentially harmful
  • The page potentially misinforms users
  • The page potentially deceives users
  • The page lacks purpose
  • The page just partially achieves its purpose

Medium Quality Pages

page 53 of the guidelines
  • The page achieves its purpose but does not merit a High quality rating, nor is there anything to indicate that a Low quality rating is appropriate
  • The page or website has strong High quality rating characteristics, but also has mild Low quality characteristics. The strong High quality aspects make it difficult to rate the page Low

Part 2: Understanding Mobile User Needs

People rely on their phones for many different tasks in different environments. Users may want to search the web or may want to tell the phone to do something specific.

Important definitions:

  • Query: This refers to the word(s) and/or number(s) that a user types or speaks into a mobile phone. There are many different types of queries because users ask their phones to do many things, from opening an app to calling a friend to searching the web.
  • User: The user is the person trying to accomplish something by typing or speaking into a mobile phone with a small screen (i.e., size of a smartphone, not a tablet).
  • User Intent: When a user types or speaks a query, he or she is trying to accomplish something. The guidelines refer to this goal as the user intent.
  • Locale: All queries have a locale, which is the language and location for the task.
  • User Location: This tells raters where the user is located, and should be inferred from the map provided.
  • Search Engine Results Page (SERP): The page a search engine shows after a user enters a query in the search box. The SERP is made up of result blocks.
  • Result Block: This is an individual “block” that appears on the user’s phone in response to the query. The result block may display information in the block itself or contain links, or may do both.
  • The Landing Page (LP) is the page you see after you click a link in the result block.
  • Device Action query: Specific type of query where users ask their phone to perform an action. These are frequently spoken commands used to complete actions that would normally require interaction with the screen or the device's controls.
  • Device Action result: The phone may respond to a Device Action query by performing an action, such as calling a phone number, etc.

Understanding the query is the first step in evaluating the task. All queries have a task language and task location (referred to in rating tasks as the "Locale"). The locale is important for understanding the query and user intent. Users in different locations may have different expectations for the same query.

For many or most queries, the user location does not change our understanding of the query and user intent. To understand if the user location important in understanding query interpretation and user intent, you should ask yourself: “Would users in one city or country be looking for something different than users in another city or country?”

Many queries have more than one meaning. For example, the query [apple] might refer to the computer brand or the fruit. The guidelines call these possible meanings query interpretations.

Dominant Interpretation: The dominant interpretation of a query is what most users mean when they type the query. Not all queries have a dominant interpretation. The dominant interpretation should be clear to you, especially after doing a little web research.

Common Interpretation: A common interpretation of a query is what many or some users mean when they type a query. A query can have multiple common interpretations.

Minor Interpretations: Sometimes raters will find less common interpretations. These are interpretations that few users have in mind. The guidelines call them minor interpretations.

We will assume users are looking for current information about a topic, the most recent product model, the most recent occurrence of a recurring event, etc., unless otherwise specified by the query.

It can be helpful to think of queries as having one or more of the following intents:

  • Know query, some of which are Know Simple queries
  • Do query, some of which are Device Action queries
  • Website query, when the user is looking for a specific website or webpage
  • Visit-in-person query, some of which are looking for a specific business or organization, some of which are looking for a category of businesses

The intent of a Know query is to find information on a topic. Users want to Know more about something.

Know Simple queries seek a very specific answer, like a fact, diagram, etc. This answer has to be correct and complete, and can be displayed in a relatively small amount of space: the size of a mobile phone screen.

The intent of a Do query is to accomplish a goal or engage in an activity on a phone. The goal or activity may be to download, to buy, to obtain, to be entertained by, or to interact with a website or app. Users want to Do something.

Device Action queries are a special kind of Do query. Users are asking their phone to do something for them.

The intent of a Website query is to locate a specific website or webpage that users have requested. This single webpage is called the target of the query.

Users carry mobile phones with them throughout the day, and one reason to carry a mobile phone is to have help with Visit-in-Person queries, such as finding coffee shops, gas stations, ATMs, restaurants, etc. Because mobile phones are often used for Visit-in-Person queries, raters should make sure to consider visit-in-person intent as a possibility for mobile phone users.

Many queries have more than one likely user intent. Please use your judgment when trying to decide if one intent is more likely than another intent.

Part 3: Needs Met Rating Guideline

There are many different kinds of queries and results, but the process of rating is the same: Needs Met rating tasks ask you to focus on mobile user needs and think about how helpful and satisfying the result is for the mobile users.

The rating scale used for Needs Met tasks has 9 rating levels in total, which are labeled as FailsM / FailsM+ / SM / SM+ / MM / MM+ / HM / HM+ / FullyM.

Fully Meets (FullyM): A special rating category, which only applies to certain queries and results. All or almost all mobile users would be immediately and fully satisfied by the result and would not need to view other results to satisfy their need.

Highly Meets (HM): Very helpful for many or most mobile users. Some users may wish to see additional results.

Moderately Meets (MM): Helpful for many users OR very helpful for some mobile users. Some or many users may wish to see additional results.

Slightly Meets (SM): Helpful for fewer mobile users. There is a connection between the query and the result, but not a strong or satisfying connection. Many or most users would wish to see additional results.

Fails to Meet (FailsM): Completely fails to meet the needs of the mobile users. All or almost all users would wish to see additional results.

In-between ratings can be assigned if raters think the rating of a result falls between two labels.

The Porn, Foreign Language, Did Not Load, and Upsetting-Offensive flags must be assigned to result blocks when appropriate. Some rating tasks may ask raters to identify Not-for-Everyone results. All flags are query-independent, meaning that they do not depend on the query.

When giving Needs Met ratings for results involving different query interpretations, raters should think about how likely the query interpretation is and how helpful the result is.

  • A very helpful result for a dominant interpretation should be rated Highly Meets, because it is very helpful for many or most users. Some queries with a dominant interpretation have a FullyM result.
  • A very helpful result for a common interpretation may be Highly Meets or Moderately Meets, depending on how likely the interpretation is.
  • A very helpful result for a very minor interpretation may be Slightly Meets or lower because few users may be interested in that interpretation.
  • There are some interpretations that are so unlikely that results should be rated FailsM. We call these “no chance” interpretations.

Some queries have two possible strong intents: Go to the website intent and Visit-in-person intent. We know the user intent is to accomplish one or the other, but it is unclear which one the user wants. For these queries, result blocks that only satisfy one intent should NOT get a Fully Meets rating.

When a query demands recent content, only pages with current, recent, or updated content should get high Needs Met ratings.

For obviously misspelled or mistyped queries, raters should base their rating on user intent, not necessarily on exactly how the query has been spelled or typed by the user.

For queries that are not obviously misspelled or mistyped, raters should respect the query as written, and assume users are looking for results for the query as it is spelled.

When there is a user location for a visit-in-person intent query and a location has not been specified in the query itself, such as [chinese restaurants], results in or near the user location are the most helpful.

How close is “near”? The type of business and/or entity should be taken into consideration when deciding if the distance of the visit-in-person result is too far. When we say users are looking for results “nearby,” the word “nearby” can mean different distances for different queries. As always, please use your judgment.