Helpful Highlights of Google’s Search Quality Guidelines

Google recently released its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines – breaking down the factors that determine whether a website is considered to be of high quality.

First and foremost, is it meeting the needs of the audience? This question is the most important, and many factors are involved in the answer.

The search giant gives a basic breakdown of how websites work, the types of webpages, URL structure, and how sites appear in its search results. These are things we’re pretty much already familiar with but provide a great reminder, nonetheless – especially since we’re focused on getting an accurate picture of the “search quality rating.”


One of the most interesting areas of the document discusses website reputation. It notes the importance of reviews in determining this factor. It even provides search commands for finding reputation information that excludes what’s on the site URL (basically providing what other ppl are saying about your website). For example, “” – or “ibm reviews –, etc… (Page 17). It also suggests looking for reviews on sites like Yelp, BBB, Google Product Search, & Amazon.

Another important note on the above subject matter: If a small business website doesn’t have any reputation info (reviews), this isn’t necessarily indicative that the site is low quality.

Google later notes, “Reputation is an important consideration when using the High rating. While a page can merit the High rating with no reputation, the High rating cannot be used for any website that has a convincing negative reputation. A very positive reputation can be a reason for using the High rating for an otherwise Medium page.”

High Quality Pages

Google delves into what makes sites high quality. A lot of these factors we’re pretty much familiar with already – I.E. expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness, functional page design, satisfying amount of info, etc.

Low Quality Pages

Google delves into what makes sites low quality. It’s pretty much the opposite of the above. However, other factors include:

  • “Harmful or malicious pages”
  • Pages that are deceptive
  • “Sneaky redirects”
  • “Low quality main content” – keyword stuffing, duplicate content, content that isn’t helpful

Quote from Google: “Pages created with the intent of luring search engines and users, rather than providing meaningful MC to help users, should be rated Lowest.”

Forums and Q&A Pages/FAQs

Google emphasizes that good Q&A pages and forums feature both the question as well as a resulting.

Mobile Users

Google talks about understanding the search query. Factors taken into account include where the user is searching from (I.E. are they looking for “football” in Britain or the U.S.?), explicit language (“I need a hotel for my trip to New York”), and multiple meaning queries (I.E. Apple the company, the fruit, a person’s name, or city).

Meanwhile, query meanings can also change over time. A user in 1994 may have searched for the elder President Bush, but a user in 2004 could be looking for George W. Bush.

Do and device action queries – Google likely interprets “get candy crush game” as “install the Candy Crush Game”. Just one of many fascinating examples provided in this document.

Visit in person of general question?

– Visit-in-person query: “I want to get Chinese food for dinner” VS “How Tall is Tom Cruise”

– Some queries could go either way: visit-in-person intent or non-visit-in-person intent (i.e. Best Buy’s Online Store”)

Understanding queries can help us understand how to optimize websites to meet the users’ needs. There’s lots of good information and examples on Page 67.


There’s a lot of good stuff in this document that warrants further research. We know a lot about what’s discussed already, but the information on reviews and understanding search queries could highly benefit how we approach optimization/content writing and reputation management in the future.