Quality Matters: What The Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines Mean For Your Content Marketing & SEO

A business person is about to look for more information about Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines to know how it affects the content marketing and SEO of the business. In March 2024, Google updated its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines to clampdown on “Untrustworthy Webpages or Websites” (p35, section 4.5). As the first update since November 2023 (a near lifetime in Google terms), the new update underlines the central place of trustworthiness and user satisfaction in the way that Google prioritises websites when delivering search results.

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The Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines span 170 pages and, quite honestly, make quite dense reading in places. It’s not quite ‘Jack Reacher’ but does have important implications for how businesses create and present content as part of a content marketing or SEO strategy. In this article, we’ll summarise the most important aspects of the update and what it means for your business.

What Are The Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines?

It’s no secret that Google favours ‘quality content’ in search results, which is why quality is such a central part of SEO content marketing. The guidelines document provides a framework for Google’s Quality Raters when assessing the quality of search results, and deals with everything from reporting illegal images to plagiarism, spam advertising, and content with ‘no added value’ (p40). It’s a comprehensive handbook on search rankings, covering all bases. Incidentally, the criteria for the ‘highest quality pages’ can be found on pages 68 to 69.

Quality what?

Quality Raters are humans hired by Google to evaluate the quality of their search results by providing feedback on search algorithms and how well individual search results meet user needs. Quality Raters don’t directly impact search results, but their input does help Google to refine its search algorithm updates to deliver more relevant and useful content.

The latest quality evaluator guidelines focus on evaluating the trustworthiness of websites, ensuring that only high-quality information is surfaced in the search results pages. As a search marketer, it’s always a stomach twisting moment whenever Google publishes a new set of guidelines, not knowing exactly what they’re going to include next. However, the latest updates actually simplify a lot of the evaluation criteria used by the search engine and its Quality Raters, which should make it easier for businesses to achieve stronger search results without as much guesswork.

Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (EAT)

At the heart of the latest guidelines is Google’s conception of trustworthiness. While by no means a new concept, the latest update is clearer about the importance of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (EAT) as a measure of content quality, and what this means for rankings.

  • Expertise – Google favours content created by individuals or businesses with expertise in their field. This includes qualifications, accreditation, experience, and a clear understanding of their subject matter. To demonstrate expertise, businesses should include relevant technical detail in their content, use a consultative and helpful tone, and include links to their qualifications, accreditations, and memberships on their website.

  • Authority – what makes a website ‘authoritative?’ By Google’s definition, authoritative websites have a reputation for providing reliable and accurate information. This can be demonstrated by back links from other reputable sites, citations in relevant publications or websites, and industry recognition (including social shares).

  • Trustworthiness – trust is crucial in content marketing for establishing credibility with your customers. For Google, trustworthiness means publishing factually verifiable information, being transparent about your sources, and ensuring adequate data privacy and security on your website. Websites with strong security certificates, clearly cited sources, and consistent information may be favoured with a higher search rank.

Streamlining The ‘Needs Met’ Scale

Another important change relates to Google’s Needs Met scale. The Needs Met scale is used by Google’s Quality Raters to assess how effectively a website answers a user’s search query. The recent changes have streamlined the scale to make it easier for Raters to evaluate individual pages and sites, the goal being more straightforward and consistent ranking criteria. 

The update also includes new guidelines on ‘auto-generated content’, emphasising the importance of careful manual curation. This excerpt from p39 is insightful:

“Creating an abundance of content with little effort or originality with no editing or manual curation is often the defining attribute of spammy websites. One way to do this is to use "auto-generated" content… Pages and websites made up of auto-generated content with no editing or manual curation, and no original content or value added for users, should be rated Lowest”.

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If you’re interested in finding more about search marketing and how you can improve your Google search results, please get in touch with one of our SEO and content marketing specialists today by clicking here.
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