October 2021 Google Quality Rater Guidelines Update

The Google Quality Rater Guidelines: October 2021 Updates You Need to Know

Learn how the latest Google Quality Rater Guidelines impact your website

The Google Quality Rater Guidelines were updated in October 2021. This matters to you because these guidelines give you insight into which websites Google prefers to rank.

Google employs search quality raters who use these guidelines to review and evaluate website content for relevance, trustworthiness, and expertise.

You need to know the information and factors these human search quality raters use when looking at your website, content, reviews, and links to determine if this content provides relevant search results.

Google says this about its Quality Rater Guidelines:

These guidelines are more than 160 pages long, but if we have to boil it down to just a phrase, we like to say that Search is designed to return relevant results from the most reliable sources available.

We want you to pay attention to the bolded content in the sentence above – relevant results from the most reliable sources available.

This is exactly why you need to pay attention to and understand the latest updates to the Google Quality Rater Guidelines.

Keep reading to learn:

We get it – the Google Quality Rater Guidelines document is not an easy read. It’s long and detailed. It’s a good idea to have the link to this document available when you’re discussing website changes, content updates, and SEO with your colleagues (and us). But it’s not your job to know these guidelines inside and out – this is our job and what we do for you.

So, read this blog, but don’t sweat the details. We just want you to understand the reasons why we make the suggestions we do about your content, website design, links, and SEO.

What are the Google Quality Rater Guidelines?

The Google Quality Rater Guidelines are used to evaluate the quality of search results.

Google’s search quality raters use these guidelines to help make sure Search is returning relevant results from the most reliable sources available.

Google uses these guidelines to test Search and algorithm updates. Our search quality raters provide us with insights and evaluate pages against our guidelines to help make sure our systems – and proposed improvements – are working as intended.

Read the Google Quality Rater Guidelines here.

What is a Google Search Quality Rater?

A Google search quality rater is a human being who evaluates, tests, reads, and measures your website and its content for relevance, trustworthiness, and expertise.

This video from Google about what search quality raters do is worth watching. It’s only 2 minutes long – watch How Real People Make Google Search Better.

Here is what Google says their search quality raters do:

What that looks like in practice is often a ‘side-by-side’ test where a rater will look at two sets of Search results, one from the current version of Google and the other from an improvement we’re testing. Raters will review the pages in each set of results and evaluate if the pages are a helpful match for the query base on our rater guidelines.

The ratings they provide don’t directly impact how a page or site appears in Search. Instead, they help us measure how well our systems are working to deliver great content.

The bold content is important for you to understand.

Does your content provide the best Search result for Google queries and questions? The best way to do this is to always deliver relevant, trustworthy, and expert content.

These Website and Content Quality Checklists can help you self-assess the relevancy, trustworthiness, and expertise level of your content and website.

Information Quality and the Google Quality Rater Guidelines

You’ve heard us speak about content quality. We stress the importance of high-quality content over and over again on our blog. We do this because it matters – to Google and to your readers.

The quality of your content must be your top priority. Information quality is Google’s top priority.

This is what Google says about information quality:

  • First, we fundamentally design our ranking systems to identify information that people are likely to find useful and reliable.
  • To complement those efforts, we also have developed a number of Search features that not only help you make sense of all the information you’re seeing online, but that also provide direct access to information from authorities—like health organizations or government entities.
  • Finally, we have policies for what can appear in Search features to make sure that we’re showing high quality and helpful content.

The bold content is key. This is what Google’s search quality raters are looking for. And they use the Quality Rater Guidelines to inform their decisions on information quality and your website.

What’s New in the October 2021 Google Quality Rater Guidelines?

These are the 5 new updates to the October 2021 Google Quality Rater Guidelines you need to know:

  1. Expanded the definition of the YMYL subcategory ‘Groups of people’.
  2. Refreshed guidance on how to research reputation information for websites and content creators.
  3. Restructured and updated ‘Lowest Page Quality’ section; reorganized and refreshed examples to reflect new structure.
  4. Simplified the definition of ‘Upsetting-Offensive’ to remove redundancy with Lowest Page Quality section.
  5. Minor changes throughout (updated screenshots and URLs, wording, and examples for consistency; removed outdated examples; fixed typos; etc.).

These descriptions of the updates are pulled directly from the changelog for the Google Quality Rater Guidelines.

We added some extra bold content to draw your attention to what you need to pay attention to.

We understand that at first glance, these changes don’t mean much. This is why we’re here – to explain in plain language what you need to do to give the search quality raters what they’re looking for.

Your Action Items – How to Benefit from the Google Quality Rater Guidelines

These are your 7 action items – do these – make sure your website is in line with the latest updates to the Google Quality Rater Guidelines.

1. Know what others are saying about you. Reputation management is key.

Google’s search quality raters care about what others say about your website. It’s important that reviews, blog posts, articles, ratings, and forum posts all say good things about your site and blog authors.

Do this: search your site on Google to see what others are saying about your brand, products, services, and you. In the Google search bar, type your company name -domain. For example, we type knowagency -knowagency.com.

Read the results. Respond to any negative reviews and comments. Google highlights sites such as Yelp, Amazon, Google Shopping, and the Better Business Bureau and tells search quality raters to use these to determine the reputation of your website, content, and authors.

2. Brag a little bit. Let others know you’re an expert.

Expertise, Authority, Trust or E-A-T is super important to Google and Google talks about E-A-T a lot in their guidelines. Google search quality raters use E-A-T as a clear indicator of information quality and high-quality content.

Do this: ask these expertise questions from Google about your blogs, articles, website pages:

  • Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
  • If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely-recognized as an authority on its topic?
  • Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
  • Does the content have any easily-verified factual errors?
  • Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?

If you can answer yes to these questions, then your content and website are also communicating trust and authority.

Use our Content Self-Assessment Checklists to make sure your content is communicating E-A-T.

3. Who wrote the content? Make sure it’s clear who your experts are.

The Google search quality raters need to know who is responsible for the information. This is essential to determining relevancy, trustworthiness, and expertise.

Do this: make sure every single blog or article on your website has an author bio. Scroll to the bottom of this blog to read my bio and use it as an example.

Update your About Us page. Make sure it clearly explains what you do, why you do it, and why you’re qualified to do it. Include reviews and testimonials from your clients. Remember, Google cares about what others say about you.

4. Is your site a Your Money Your Life (YMYL) site? If so – what are you doing about it?

Google really cares about websites that may impact your money or your life. Does your website impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety?

Does your website provide information relevant to any of these YMYL categories?

  • News and current events
  • Civics, government, and law
  • Finance
  • Shopping
  • Health and safety
  • Groups of people
  • Other (fitness and nutrition, housing information, choosing a college, finding a job, etc.)

Remember, in the latest updates, Google changed the definition of Groups of people.

If your website has information or makes claims related to groups of people, including but not limited to those grouped on the basis of age, caste, disability, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, immigration status, nationality, race, religion, sex/gender, sexual orientation, veteran status, victims of a major violent event and their kin, or any other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization – your website is a YMYL site.

Do this: make sure your content and website are communicating expertise, authority, and trust. Read all your author bios, review your About Us page, make sure your contact us information is available on every page, make sure your content can be verified and proven to be true.

Make sure your content does not negatively impact a person’s happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.

5. Test your website. Is it easy to use? Do the buttons, links, menus work?

A positive user and page experience is critical for Google. It’s so important to Google that their latest major algorithm update was called the Google Page Experience update.

Google Page Experience is a set of metrics that measures the user friendliness of web pages. The better the user page experience and content quality, the better your chance of a positive Google ranking.

Do this: download our Google Page Experience checklist and use it to optimize your pages and content for usability and friendliness. You need to:

  • Test your web pages and website on multiple mobile devices.
  • Read your content and make sure there are no typos and that all buttons, menus, links, and videos work properly.
  • Disable ads and pop-ups that make it hard for people to access your content.
  • Enable HTTPS and make sure your site does not include false information, malware, or social engineering content.

6. Read for information quality. No filler pages. High-quality content is a must have.

High quality pages must be your top priority. Google and the search quality raters are on the lookout for filler content, pages with thin content, or pages with misleading titles that do not provide the promised content.

Here is what Google says in section 4.1 Characteristics of High Quality Pages:

A High-quality page should have a beneficial purpose and achieve that purpose well. In addition, High quality pages have the following characteristics:

  • High level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
  • A satisfying amount of high-quality main content, 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 main content on the page. Positive reputation of the creator of the main content, if different from that of the website.

Do this: read your content, use our content self-assessment checklists to ensure your content meets Google’s standards for content and quality, expertise, presentation and layout, and quality when compared to your competitors.

7. Keywords and search intent must be fresh and relevant.

Search intent and the keywords vary throughout the year, location of the user, and the device being used. This means you need to understand the search intent of your users, how they typically search for information, and then use keywords and language that fit these two criteria.

Do this: review your keywords – keywords are not static. Make sure you’re using the right keywords for the right time. For example, think about how people started searching for information at the start of the pandemic versus now – the language and intent behind these searches is much different.

Make sure you know the search intent of your users. Search intent is the problem, question, or query a person wants solved. This drives the terms the enter or ask Google. The device being used can also impact search intent.

Search intent is a big topic. To make it easier for you to understand search intent and to optimize for it, we wrote a guide on search intent. Read What is Search Intent? Your Complete Guide to Search Intent. In this guide we explain the 4 types of search intent, how to determine search intent, and how to optimize for search intent.

Refreshing and updating content regularly is a great way to keep your keywords relevant and to deliver content that meets search intent.

Your Next Steps

Yes, this is a lot. We know this. But the Google Quality Rater Guidelines are important. You don’t need to read all 172 pages of the guide. But you do need to understand why we ask you to do the things we do.

For example, we may ask you to refresh your About Us page content. This could be because the page is outdated and doesn’t reflect what your company does or because it is missing client testimonials. And as a result, is not demonstrating E-A-T.

Or we may ask you to create longer and more detailed page content. This is not because we like long pages. It’s because most topics and areas of interest need more than 500 words to explain them fully.

Think of your users and the problems they have and then think of how much you would tell them if you could talk face-to-face. This is exactly what you need to do with your page content – answer all the questions, provide background information, use examples, and really give the user everything they need to make an informed decision. 

Doing this helps you demonstrate expertise, authority, and trust. It helps you create high quality pages – especially for YMYL sites. It prevents filler content. And it ensures you’re meeting search intent, delivering a quality page experience, and generally giving Google, the search quality raters, and your users what they want.

We are here to help you with this. This is what we do. We want you to ask us your questions about Google, search quality raters, E-A-T, search intent, SEO, keywords, and what is better – pie or cake (cake always wins).

Contact us or call us. We promise to help you.

About the author
Jane Phelps is the CEO/Partner at Know Agency. Jane leads client SEO strategy and handles all aspects of in-house SEO demands. This includes providing SEO training, competitive analysis, keyword research, algorithm analysis, and the review of all new content to ensure SEO best-practices are followed. Jane holds a Master’s Certificate in Online Marketing from the University of San Francisco and is BrightEdge Certified.