What You NEED to Know About the Google Quality Raters Guidelines #SMX

The Google Quality Raters Guidelines offer unique insights into what Google sees as high quality and what it doesn’t. Leading digital marketing ladies Jennifer Slegg, Ruth Burr Reedy and Jenny Halasz have all studied the Quality Raters Guidelines (PDF) extensively and are here to share their insights on this once-classified Google document at SMX Advanced 2016.

Speakers at SMX Advanced 2016
From left: Ruth Burr Reedy, Jenny Halasz and Jennifer Slegg

Jennifer Slegg: Why are the Guidelines so Important for SEOs to Know?

Jennifer Slegg, founder and editor of The SEM Post, opens by telling us we must pay attention to the guidelines. They show us very clearly what types of sites Google wants to rate the highest. Now, it’s important to know that raters do not directly impact rankings

Your Money, Your Life

These sites are held to the highest standard. They include:

  • Shopping or financial transaction pages
  • Financial information pages
  • Medical information pages
  • Legal information pages

If you are any kind of online store at all, you are being held to the YMYL standards.

Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness: E-A-T

This is the cornerstone for how Google determines the quality of any webpage.


Expertise is determined by author. Any author can have expertise. Being an expert does not equate to expertise in another. Any market area can have authors with expertise, from celebrity blogging to SEO.

Show author’s expertise by including author biography, show off citations, and show credentials, such as speaking engagements. Also, you can perform detailed reviews, post on forums, etc.


This pertains to the website itself. Why should someone trust it? Why is it an authority in is market?

Show authority by including a robust About Us page. Show off important publications that have linked or quoted the site. Showcase your employees’ speaking engagements and publications.


Why should a visitor trust your site or page? Looks matter here. If you have a weird font and flashing text and appears sketchy, this will hurt you.

5 Signs of Low Quality Content

  1. Main content quality is low
  2. Unsatisfying amount of main content
  3. Not enough E-A-T
  4. Negative reputation
  5. Distracting supplementary content

Should SEOs Look at the Google Quality Rater Guidelines

Next up is Ruth Burr Reedy, the director of strategy at UpBuild.

First question raters have to ask: Why are you here? Is this page relevant? This is especially important for YMYL pages.

Fix your low-quality pages. No discussion even needed. Just do it.

Google has a phrase to describe medium-quality pages: Nothing wrong, but nothing special. Get special.

Make your content better. Are you sick of hearing it? Again, just do it. Don’t neglect your product and services pages. They’re much less interesting, but they still need good content. And that doesn’t mean long content, but a satisfying amount of content.

In the November version of the Quality Raters Guidelines had the sentence: A very positive reputation can be a reason for using the High rating for an otherwise Medium page. That was omitted from the March version. However, Reedy asserts that this was removed only because too many raters were probably ranking pages High because of this sentence.


Who are the other experts in your industry? Can you get them to talk about you? Google is increasingly able to know who these experts are. Interact with them. It’s also a very human readable signal.

Build Your Brand

Build it online. Build it offline. Be active in your community. Promote your company. Be good at marketing.

Jenny Halasz Dives into Trust

Jenny Halasz, president at JLH Marketing, rounds out the session.

Top 3 Considerations

  • Quality/content of main content
  • Reputation
  • Level of E-A-T

Don’t think that doing an expert roundup, though, will satisfy expertise. Roundups are usually useless.

Don’t try to re-post or scrape content. You won’t fool Google.

Measuring Trust

We all have a human connection to trust. Brene Brown said “Trust is built in very small moments” and Halasz thinks this applies to digital marketing.

  • The way the page is designed
  • Content or lack thereof
  • Intrusive ads
  • Low Better Bureau Business Ratings or negative news articles
  • UGC spam

Google Quality Rater Guidelines: Hidden Gems

Halasz points to these points from page 65-66:

  • Expertise does not equal expert
  • Quality scale should not vary according to topic
  • Ads should not be intrusive
  • There is so sweet spot amount of content

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Kristi Kellogg is a journalist, news hound, professional copywriter, and social (media) butterfly. Currently, she is a senior SEO content writer for Conde Nast. Her articles appear in newspapers, magazines, across the Internet and in books such as "Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals" and "The Media Relations Guidebook." Formerly, she was the social media editor at Bruce Clay Inc.

See Kristi's author page for links to connect on social media.

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4 Replies to “What You NEED to Know About the Google Quality Raters Guidelines #SMX”

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