How Google Thinks

On October 13, PotPie Girl and Search Engine Land released an internal Google document for “Quality Raters.”  This didn’t sit well with Google, and both sites were asked to remove links to the content or just plain take it down to avoid a formal legal demand. So, the bottom line is, you won’t be able to see the primary document, but in the meantime, some pretty interesting insights were seen by Dr. Pete at and PPG herself.

What is a “Quality Rater”?


Image by ivanpw via Flickr

First let’s talk about what a “quality rater” is. As you know, Google’s primary algorithm handles the magic behind which pages appear on the search engine results pages and how pages are ranked. But Google also has a team of people who verify that pages are ranked the way they should be. Basically, they want to assure that no spammy pages are ending up in their SERPs.

Quality raters look ONLY at the page, and not any off-site factors. It’s not up to ONE rater what happens, but a panel of them, and the majority of viewpoints about the ranking factors in your page wins.

Here’s what PotPie Girl has to say about raters:

“So my theory is that Google finds an issue in the organic rankings of their index, comes up with an algo “tweak” to correct it, tests that algo change and hands it off to Google Raters to see if the “tweak” makes a positive difference.”

And then, the tweak is added to the Panda algorithm. (Panda is not the main algorithm. It’s kept on a separate server and run every couple of weeks to polish up results.) If you ever had a page that ranks #1 for a keyword one day and disappears the next, you could have been a victim of the quality raters panel’s swift sword.

Firefox? Really?

The first thing I found interesting is that Google suggests that quality raters handle their jobs using Firefox with the Web Developer add-on. Hmm… Not Chrome? I found that amusing, for sure, because I use both browsers for different things. Firefox is my SEO browser of choice, but Chrome does have an add-on called “SEO Site Tools” that I find to be really helpful when evaluating a website. Check it out, if you use Chrome, or even if you don’t use it all the time, check this extension out. It rocks.

Intent of the Searcher Is Critical 

Number 2, intent of the searcher is a huge deal. For example, if someone types in “couches,” they may not be led to, even though the domain is an exact match. Google classifies search queries as “Action” (meaning Do),  “Information”  (meaning Know), or “Navigation” (meaning Go).  Dr. Pete says,

“This Do/Know/Go model comes up a lot in the document and is a pretty useful structure for understanding search in general. Relevance is determined by intent – if a query is clearly action-oriented (e.g. “buy computer”), then only an Action (”Do”) result can be highly relevant.”

So, you need to think about what searchers intend when they’re looking for your page.  For example… I have a janitorial supply company as my client. When someone types in “cleaning supplies,” they might be wanting to clean, sure, but  you can’t do that online. They  to could want to know more about cleaning supplies, but probably not unless they type “green cleaning supplies” into the search bar. It’s seems fairly clear that searchers who type “cleaning supplies” into the search blank are looking to buy them, especially if they type in “buy cleaning supplies,” so it would be a “go” request.  What Google wants to list on the SERPS page would be places that sell cleaning supplies. At least, that’s how I interpret it. Do you agree?

“Useful” Pages Are Tops

Google wants the results in their SERPs to be “useful” more than relevant. So, even if you have a blog about cleaning supplies, they might not show up on page one, unless they’re also selling cleaning supplies. Make sense?

The item also indicated that local intent is implied. If someone types in “landscaper,” they will probably be served pages that include landscapers in their locale. Why would you hire a landscaper in Pennsylvania, if you live in California? This makes sense.

Landing pages should be specific

Your landing pages should be specific to the query, too. Your pages should be specific to the keywords you’re targeting for that page. I remember listening to Simon Leung  who was a quality rater for AdWords, a few years back. He was asked how pages could be specific for 500 keywords that you’re targeting in AdWords, and he told the audience that each keyword should have a separate landing page of its own. There were lots of groans in the room, but nothing has really changed there.

Misspellings could mis-fire

Misspellings, which were always thought to be important to SEO because well… people can’t spell, are no longer that big a deal. Again, Google is considering “intent,” and if you have misspelled a search query recently, you know that Google fixes things for you and gives you the proper results. This is happening more and more over time, and in fact, having too many misspelled words on your pages can hurt you. The Panda doesn’t like them.

Forget Dr. Obvious

Google doesn’t like to return “Dr. Obvious” answers, either. If you type in “hospital,” you shouldn’t get an encyclopedic result on the first page. Everyone knows what a hospital is. And yet, when I typed it into the search bar just now, Wikipedia came up #1 and just below that, many different hospital choices in my local area.

Money makers are spammers?

Here’s a big quote from the document:  “If a page exists only to make money, the page is spam.”  So, if a squeeze page exists only to collect names and addresses without giving some cool information away, it will most likely be considered spam.  If sales pages have no informational value, they’re most likely to end up in the spam folder, too.  AdSense sites with no useful content? Spam. Link scrapers? Spam, too. But we knew that.

All Google wants in the balance is good, relevant information for their users. Without useful search results, nobody would want to use their search engine. Giving Google what it wants is good for Google, but it’s also good for you.

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