On 20th October 2011 leaked Google Search Quality Rating Guidelines started circulating the web after it was picked up at the blog of Pot Pie Girl. It is a confidential 125 pages document dated March 30, 2011 used to educated Search Quality Raters working for Google.
The last 5 pages of the document provide a summary that you can start reading and then dig into details in areas that are of special relevance for you.
Most of the information in the document is merely confirming common SEO knowledge but it can still be worth a reading to further understand how Google reasons in regards to quality and spam. I will here sum up some of the key takeaways from the document.
The most important aspect of search engine quality is how helpful the page is for the user intent. The intent is divided in 3 categories:
- Action Intent – “do” queries where users want to accomplish a goal or engage in an activity
- Information Intent – “know” queries where the users want to know something
- Navigation Intent – “go” queries where users want to navigate to a specific page
Google uses a rating scale divided in 6 categories:
- Vital – A page that is the official homepage of a person, place, business etc. Social Networking sites for companies are NOT considered vital
- Useful – A page that is very helpful for most users. Usually have some or all of the following characteristics: highly satisfying, authoritative, entertaining, and/or recent
- Relevant – A page that is helpful for many or some users, being on-topic
- Slightly Relevant – A page that is not very helpful for most users, but is somewhat related to the query. Some or few users would find this page helpful
- Off-Topic or Useless – A page that is helpful for very few or no users
- Unratable – Pages that doesn’t load or that are in a foreign language
Google is also assigning flags in 5 different categories:
- Not Spam – if page has not been designed using deceptive web design techniques
- Maybe Spam – if the page is spammy but you can’t with confidence say that it has been designed using deceptive web design techniques
- Spam – if the page has been designed using deceptive web design techniques. It will be considered spam if “pages only exist to make money and not to help users”, i.e. there needs to be an added value and information/help for the user
- Porn – all pages with pornographic content, when there is a query that could have both porn and non porn interpretation the non porn interpretation will be dominant
Google take a few different steps to discover sites considered SPAM:
- Identifying hidden texts
- Identifying keyword stuffing – it will not be flagged SPAM if keyword stuffing appears only in the meta tags
- Identifying sneaky redirects
- Identifying sites obviously created for advertising
- Identifying sites that has been automatically mass produced
In order to determine if pages with ads are spam or not Google look at content that is considered helpful for users such as:
- Price Comparison functionality
- Product Reviews
- Lyrics, quotes, proverbs, poems etc.
- Contact Information
- Coupon, discount and promotion codes
- Ability to register/login
- Ads clearly marked and not distracting
In order to determine if a page is a “thin affiliate” or not Google look at:
- Click buttons on the page – Trying to click on “more information” or “make a purchase” to see if they are taken to a different domain
- Properties of images on the page – right clicking on image and looking where image originates
- Original or duplicate content – content copied from other webpages will be considered as a thin affiliate factor
- Domain registrants – if clicking on a button and coming to another page the “who is” is checked to determine if registrant is the same (if same not considered thin affiliate)
Google is doing all checking Firefox browser and every task will be rated by a group of raters each working independently. If raters disagree by a wide margin task will be reevaluated.
Any Surprises? No, but many good examples that will further make you understand how Google reason in their search for a qualitative search result.