Using Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines to optimize the content

Last week, Google has released the complete version of their Search Quality Rating Guidelines for the first time ever. Earlier versions of the document were leaked a couple of times in the last couple of years and Google even released an edited version back in 2013. Now, they have finally decided to give in and officially release the full 160-page PDF, that was previously only available to Google’s evaluators.

Possibly, it’s their way of saying: There you go kids, have fun.

Believe it or not, there is even more good news – they have announced that they plan to release copies in the future, every time the document undergoes a major rewrite.

Why did Google release their SQRG?


It’s only natural to feel a little bit suspicious. When we are discussing one of the most secretive companies in the world, one has to ask: what influenced this decision? Allegedly, it is because of the recent mobile explosion; their users are on the move more often than ever and they need answers as quickly as possible. Obviously, their smartphones are the way to get their answers. Essentially, Google wants to “provide transparency” for website administrators to assist them satisfy their users’ needs.

So maybe that’s just Google asking: How about a little help guys?

Ok, that makes sense. We are all aware of the mobile expansions increasing rapidly and dictating a completely new set of standards when it comes to internet devices.

So Google just gave away all of its secrets and keys to their ranking algorithm and it’s time to celebrate?

Of course not. This document is made for purposes of being used by Google’s consultants to help them evaluate the quality of the search results; the algorithms do not read these guidelines blindly.

Nonetheless, it provides a great insight into what types of pages Google wants to see in their search results and you can use to get immense SEO knowledge from it. It contains information on how they rank content, how do they exactly identify Low Quality and High Quality content, how its penalty algorithms like Google Panda and Penguin actually work, etc.

A Short Overview


It is an essential read, but at 160 pages, the report is a little hefty; so in order to give you a heads up about what awaits you in this read, here is a short overview coming from the Four Dots SEO team.

Part 1: Page Quality Rating Guidelines (page#7 – page#65)

For anybody that is new to the SEO business, this is the most important part of the document;here you can find the Page Rating Scale. In this part, you will find examples and characteristics of pages that Google deems as Pages of Lowest quality, Low quality, High Quality and Highest Quality. You should especially pay attention on page#58, where Google discusses the Top 3 most crucial Page Quality considerations.

Part 2: Understanding User Mobile Needs (page#67 – page#86)

Brand new to the SQRG is the mobile section, and not only that, it is one of the major emphasesas it was one of the main reasons behind the recent update. Here the document examines Mobile quarries, users and results, and details of important issues of your responsive design. Some of the highlighted problems include small screen sizes, slow and inconsistent internet connectivity and types of pages that are difficult to use on a smartphone.

Part 3: Needs Met Rating Guideline (page#87 – page#149)

Needs met is also new to the Guidelines, it is one of the new ratings for site owners to use when to conclude if their site is of high or low quality. The rating is done by focusing on the mobile users by determining how sufficient and helpful a certain search result is and whether it meets user’s expectations and needs.

The highest score available for the rating is Fully Meets. Google believes that this type of rating will be hard to achieve for many websites. Fails to Meet is the lowest rating, but what is important for all SEO experts to understand is that if your website isn’t mobile friendly or has a number of indexed pages that you’ve simply failed to alter according to this algorithm, expect that Fail label coming your way.


2.3 Your Money Your Life (page#9)

YMYL pages are certain web pages that Google wants raters to hold to a higher PQ standard than other pages. They are called Your Money Your Life simply because they directly influence both: they involve financial transactions, medical advice, taking personal information, etc.  These pages have a direct impact on your health and well-being, so Google naturally believes that the content should be provided by individuals with a high level of expertise and authority.

9.2 The Top Three PQ Considerations (page#58)

According to the text, if you want your page to have a High quality rating, it has to have at least one of these three characteristics:

  • You have to have a substantial amount of high quality MC (Main Content); all of these pages are examined carefully.
  • All of the pages and websites must be E-A-T (Expert, Authoritative, and Trustworthy). This especially goes for YMYL pages, of course.
  • Your website has to have a good reputation, particularly if it demands a high level of trust.

You will also find a great number of examples that will certainly help you with designing and optimizing a website. Still, there are no exact metrics, but it is a clue, Sherlock.


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