Google's Search Rater Guide Shares How Google Ranks Websites

By Sarah Stemen | @runnerkik | Account Manager at Hanapin Marketing

On November 12th of this year, Google published a 160-page comprehensive guide used to train search raters at Google. This guide is by far the most complete list of instructions that Google has ever openly published outlining how websites are rated.


Before we dive in, it is important to explain the purpose of this document. Google uses actual human beings, not an algorithm to verify the validity of the search results. Employees at Google scrutinize the algorithm and check that the search results are up to par. The rater’s job is to look at websites that are listed in the experiments Google is running and determine if the experiments are showing high-quality websites.


The search raters at Google are normally not rating the actual search results. The highly evolved automated algorithm that Google consistently uses to crawl websites does this. However, if we analyze this document and break down the information, we can examine how Google views websites, and then apply what we know to make recommendations to our clients who are using PPC as a way to promote their website.


The introduction to the Search Raters Guide covers two main criteria. The two main criteria are the page quality rating (PQ) and the needs met rating (NM).


A search engine should show helpful results for the local and location matching the query.


1. Your Money Your Life Pages (YMYL) – Google flat out states that when it comes to shopping, banking, legal, medical or even child adoption pages they have a very high standard and criteria. The reason the quality criteria is so high in these industries is because non-trustworthy sites could impact YMYL. Basically, Google does not want searchers to click on an untrustworthy page seeking medical advice and get the wrong advice leading to a health issue. Do you notice that high-quality scores for heath sites are harder to achieve in AdWords?


2. Content – The document spends a few pages outlining the content that makes up a page. This is called main content, supplementary content, and ad content. Google flat out states that the presence of ads is not a reason for a low rating, but they make it clear that the ads should not distract from the main purpose of the site. Fortunately in PPC, we will most of the time not be spending paid dollars to send users to a site that is trying to monetize content. However, the fact that Google outlines that websites should have both main content, as well as supplemental content, is important. The key takeaway here is to make sure that landing pages are not too thin when it comes to content. While it is certainly tempting to make a landing page one large conversion button with no escape route, this is not something that is considered trustworthy. Make sure the page has a clear purpose.


3. Who is Responsible For the Website – Make sure your paid search landing pages have a ‘contact’ or ‘about’ section. If the material needs to have a copyright then ensure that the content has the appropriate notations. Google explains this makes users feel comfortable about who they are doing business with and why.


4. Website Maintenance – Does the content on the page look fresh or does it look old and stale? Has the content been updated recently and do dates match up. While this may sound rudimentary. Make sure you are sending your paid search campaigns to current landing pages.


5. Website Reputation – This was a big push in the SEO industry a few years ago. Sites were encouraged to have ratings and reviews. In PPC, there are the seller ratings and review extensions. Having a strong reputation with either ratings or testimonials is recommended and shows reputability of a website. The guide contains a lengthy explanation of reviews, where to search for reputation data, and how it can impact a website.


6. Characteristics of High-Quality Pages – Probably one of the best sections of the guide is where Google outlines the qualities of high-quality pages. Websites should aim to show expertise, authority and be trustworthy (EAT). There are ways to increase this score. Websites may need to increase testimonials, or state credentials, and make sure the site looks like a professional created it.


Warning List


1. Redirects – If you incorporate links to partner programs on your site, be mindful that Google does consider these to be “sneaky redirects”. You don’t want to barrage visitors with those affiliate links or the quality of the website will suffer.


2. Spammy Content – This is simply duplicate or scraped content or auto-generated text.


Search Queries


Google explains “Know Queries” and “Know Simple Queries.” Know Simple Queries are what results in featured snippets, and if they are shown. Know Simple Queries queries with a known answer that 1 or 2 sentences in length. Know queries have longer answers and multiple different answers.


So how is a website considered “Highly-Meets”. The website needs to directly answer and match the search query. It is critical that in PPC your ad matches the query and the website content matches the ad.


Lastly, make sure that your site is mobile friendly. The guide covers mobile and Google states in this guide that mobile-friendly is seen as an indicator of a high-quality website.




Websites should have the highest-quality content that can be found and this content needs to be original and from reputable sources. The higher the observed worth of the website, the higher the quality ratings will be. Although this doesn’t transform a campaign directly, using this information can help you to build a better over all PPC experience, lift quality score your website can be the type of site Google wants to keep in the results.