What Is Google’s ‘Needs Met’ Rating and Why Should Website Publishers Care?
On Oct. 14, 2020, Google released an updated version of its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (SQEG). In it were several updated sections, with one section in particular receiving multiple updates — the “needs met” category. “Needs met” is all about the mobile user, and as we know, Google’s major focus is on mobile.
Because “needs met” is a critical area that website publishers should better understand, I’ll go over the basics of “needs met,” what it means, why you should care, and the new updates around it. Jump ahead if you like:
- How the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines factors in
- What is “Needs Met”
- The relationship between quality and needs met
- Content blocks and needs met
- Sites that don’t load and needs met
- Freshness and needs met
- Location and needs met
- FAQ: What is the significance of “Needs Met” in Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines?
As a reminder, the SQEG is a guide that human raters use to evaluate the search results for certain queries. They then report back to Google what they have found.
This allows Google to better understand if the changes it’s making to its search algorithms are producing quality results. As needed, Google engineers make further tweaks to the algorithm.
In the latest version of the SQEG, Google adds language to clarify this:
Your ratings will not directly affect how a particular webpage, website, or result appears in Google Search, nor will they cause specific webpages, websites, or results to move up or down on the search results page. Instead, your ratings will be used to measure how well search engine algorithms are performing for a broad range of searches.
Takeaway for website publishers: The SQEG is meant to help Google improve its search results. But website publishers have a big hand in that. Aim for quality content that satisfies your target audience’s search queries.
The “needs met” category focuses on “mobile user needs and … how helpful and satisfying the result is for the mobile users.”
The rating scale for “needs met” looks like this:
“Needs met” scale, Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
- Fully meets: “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: “Very helpful for many or most mobile users. Some users may wish to see additional results.”
- Moderately meets: “Helpful for many users OR very helpful for some mobile users. Some or many users may wish to see additional results.”
- Slightly meets: “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: “Completely fails to meet the needs of the mobile users. All or almost all users would wish to see additional results.” Google notes that some of the results in this category would include porn, foreign language results, if the website did not load, or if the results were upsetting or offensive.
The “needs met” rating can apply to both the result on the search engine result page and the landing page associated with it.
“Needs met” is directly related to the intent of the searcher and how well the search results fulfill that intent. The SQEG gives some examples of results that achieve the highest rating:
“Fully meets” search results examples, Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
Takeaway for website publishers: An SEO strategy targets queries (aka keywords) that your intended audience uses in Google. Then you create useful content (aka webpages) that fulfill the intent of that query. It is your job to understand what a person is looking to do when they use a certain keyword or phrase. Is it to learn or buy, for example? Ensure that when creating your webpages around key phrases, you give your potential visitors what they want.
This updated section clarifies how “needs met” and page quality relate to one another. Google says that while the “needs met” rating is based on both the query and the result, the rater should not think about the query when assigning a page quality rating.
In other words, the intent of the search query matters when considering if the result answered the query in “needs met.” But the quality of the page is a standalone rating with its own set of standards.
Google clarifies with some information:
- Useless results should always be rated FailsM [fails to meet], even if the landing page has a high Page Quality rating. Useless is useless.
- On-topic, helpful, but low Page Quality results should get lower Needs Met ratings than on-topic, helpful, and high Page Quality results. The Needs Met scale encompasses all aspects of “helpfulness,” and many users find low Page Quality results less helpful than high Page Quality results. Your ratings should reflect this.
- The HM [highly meets] rating should be given to helpful, high Page Quality pages that are a good fit for the query. The HM rating may also be used for results that are very helpful, medium quality, and have other very desirable characteristics, such as very recent information.
- The HM rating may not be appropriate if a page has low Page Quality or has any other undesirable characteristics, such as outdated or inaccurate information, or if it is a poor fit for the query. We have very high standards for the HM rating.
- SM [slightly meets] is often an appropriate rating for low quality but on-topic pages. However, a page can have such low Page Quality that it is useless for nearly all queries. Gibberish pages are a good example of pages with low Page Quality that should be rated FailsM. An exception to this is queries with clear website intent, where the target website should be rated FullyM even if the page has low Page Quality.
- Remember that if a page lacks a beneficial purpose, it should always be rated Lowest Page Quality – regardless of the page’s Needs Met rating or how well-designed the page may be. Please review Section 7.0 for a summary of other types of Lowest Page Quality pages.
Takeaway for website publishers: Both Google and websites have a responsibility to meet user needs. That said, “needs met” is a lot about how good Google is at serving results that meet the needs of its users. Many times, Google serves a result that doesn’t meet the needs of a particular user. But that doesn’t mean the webpage in question is not high quality. Remember, though, that low page quality may not meet the needs of your target audience and may not rank. So get to know some of Google’s quality indicators, like E-A-T.
Example of when a result “fails to meet” query needs but is still considered a quality landing page, Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
Content blocks, according to Google, can be:
- A special content results block, like a featured snippet, direct answer in Google’s answer box, or something else
- A web search result block, like the content contained within the results snippet
- A device action result block, like when a command prompts an action on the mobile device (think: making a phone call to a local store)
When it comes to rating “needs met” for content blocks, Google says the following:
For Needs Met rating, you will assign a rating to each result. Each result includes the content inside the result block and landing pages associated with the result.
But this depends on the type of content block:
Types of content blocks, Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
Google gives examples of queries and how to approach content block ratings:
Queries and content block examples, Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
Takeaway for website publishers: Any time your website has the potential to be involved in a “content block” that’s being evaluated by your potential visitors, think about how that content block is showing up. Don’t ignore the importance of your meta tags and optimizing them for the search results. You also want to consider how to rank for featured snippets, and some of the things you can do to optimize those.
When a webpage fails to load in some way, it fails the “needs met” rating. According to Google:
All result blocks must be given a Needs Met rating. If the landing page truly doesn’t load, assign the Did Not Load flag and rate the page FailsM. True Did Not Load pages are useless.
However, having a custom 404 page, for example, that directs visitors to another helpful page could mean that the need is still met:
Sometimes the page partially loads or has an error message. Give Needs Met ratings based on how helpful the result is for the query. Error messages can be customized by the webmaster and are part of a well-functioning website. Sometimes these pages are helpful for the query.
Takeaway for website publishers: This category is all about maintaining the technical back end of your website. Make sure it’s accessible to search engines and visitors. Monitor for errors. Ensure you are properly implementing 301 redirects as needed. Customize a 404 page that helps your visitors dig into more useful information on your site if they happen to get a “not found” page from the search results.
Some queries deserve fresh content. Google recognizes this and, at one point, changed its algorithm to reflect that. Examples of queries that deserve freshness include breaking news and current event queries.
Query examples that require fresh results, Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
Google wants us to keep in mind, however, that some queries will require both evergreen content and news content to satisfy a need:
For some queries, there may be “newsy” or recent information user intent, as well as more “timeless” information user intent. Users issuing queries for celebrities or politicians may be interested in biographical information, or users may be looking for the latest news or gossip.
Takeaways for website publishers: If you are a website publisher that creates fresh content for some of the categories above, make sure that it is able to compete in the search results. If appropriate, optimize your site for Google News, including having a news sitemap. You’ll also want to think about creating webpages with fresh or evergreen content for certain queries that may warrant either.
Some queries have a local intent and require local results. It’s Google’s job to serve up the best results for a query based on the user’s location, and that can vary a lot depending on the intent. Google explains:
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] with a user location of Boston, MA, 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. For example, most people are not willing to travel very far for a gas station, coffee shop, supermarket, etc. Those are types of businesses that most users expect to find nearby.
However, users might be willing to travel a little farther for certain kinds of visit-in-person results: doctors’ offices, libraries, specific types of restaurants, public facilities like swimming pools, hiking trails in open spaces, etc. Sometimes users may accept results that are even farther away, such as a very specialized medical clinic.
In other words, 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.
Takeaway for website publishers: Make sure your website is doing local SEO right. Ensure that you are giving Google accurate signals about your local business so that it can appear in the search results when your target audience is looking for what you offer.
Will Google always get it right when it comes to “needs met”? No. And that’s where the SQEG comes in so that Google can improve its search algorithms.
Meeting the needs of your intended audience starts with creating a quality, well-optimized website. This primes your content for ranking in Google’s search results.
Want expert help with your SEO? Contact us today for a free consultation and quote.
The “Needs Met” concept within Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines is pivotal in evaluating the effectiveness of search results. This guideline emphasizes meeting user intent and satisfaction by ensuring search queries receive accurate, relevant, and comprehensive results. When users perform searches, they have specific needs—whether it’s seeking information, purchasing a product, or finding entertainment. Google’s algorithms aim to align search results with these needs.
In essence, “Needs Met” assesses whether a search result fulfills the user’s intention. This involves analyzing the content’s relevance, depth, and usefulness. For instance, if a user searches for “best budget smartphones,” the search results should list various smartphones and provide details that address the budget aspect. Websites that successfully achieve “Needs Met” understand the user’s query context and tailor their content accordingly.
User experience lies at the heart of this concept. Google strives to offer search results matching the query and satisfying experience. This means not only meeting the immediate need but also anticipating related needs. Websites that comprehensively address user queries tend to rank higher as they enhance user satisfaction, leading to longer engagement and repeated visits.
To ensure your content aligns with “Needs Met,” focus on understanding your target audience. Conduct thorough keyword research to grasp the intentions behind search queries. Develop content that answers questions and goes beyond by addressing related topics, catering to a wider range of user needs. This user-centric approach not only aligns with Google’s guidelines but also establishes your website as a reliable source of information.
The “Needs Met” criterion in Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines is a guiding light for content creators and SEO experts. It underscores the importance of user satisfaction, relevant content, and a seamless search experience. By prioritizing fulfilling user needs, websites can optimize their content to rank higher in search results, driving organic traffic and establishing themselves as authoritative sources in their respective domains.
Step-by-Step Procedure: Significance of “Needs Met” in Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
- Understand User Intent: Analyze the purpose behind different search queries to grasp user intent accurately.
- Comprehensive Research: Conduct thorough keyword research to identify relevant search terms and user needs.
- Create High-Quality Content: Develop well-researched content that directly addresses user queries and provides in-depth information.
- Contextual Relevance: Ensure your content is contextually relevant and covers related aspects of the user’s query.
- Optimize for Keywords: Incorporate target keywords naturally into your content while maintaining readability.
- User-Centric Approach: Prioritize user satisfaction by crafting content that genuinely helps and informs users.
- Clear and Concise Writing: Present information clearly, avoiding jargon or overly complex language.
- Mobile-Friendly Design: Make sure your website is responsive, providing visitors with an optimal mobile experience.
- Fast Loading: Enhance user satisfaction by increasing website load speed.
- Use Structured Data: Implement structured data to enhance your content’s appearance in search results.
- Internal Linking: Include relevant internal links to guide users to related content on your site.
- External References: Link to authoritative external sources to support your content’s credibility.
- Regular Updates: Keep your content up to date with the latest information and trends.
- Engagement and Interaction: Encourage user engagement through comments and social sharing features.
- Visual Content: Use images, videos, and infographics to enhance the visual appeal of your content.
- Diverse Content Formats: Provide content in various formats to cater to different learning preferences.
- Address User Questions: Anticipate and address potential follow-up questions for users.
- Avoid Clickbait: Craft accurate and honest titles and meta descriptions for your content.
- Analytics Monitoring: Regularly monitor user engagement and behavior on your website using analytics tools.
- Continuous Improvement: Learn from user feedback and search analytics to refine your content and meet evolving user needs.
By following these steps, you can effectively ensure that your content aligns with the “Needs Met” criterion in Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, enhancing your website’s search ranking and user satisfaction.