More Leaked Google Goodness

This article is a follow up to my previous article and is intended to show you EXACTLY what Google’s manual raters look for when analysing your website and may even provide you with some surprises including how something as simple as forgetting to change a date or sloppy page layout could have a detrimental effect on your search engine rankings.

Google Rating Guidelines

Google have very specific guidelines that the quality rating team must follow when scoring websites, but they are allowed to step outside these guidelines and make their own judgement calls if they feel that a website is high / low quality but fit outside these guidelines.
A Quality Rater must first of all identify the purpose of the page that they have landed on, this seems fairly obvious but if a site has no clear purpose then it will receive a low quality rating.

What content will be checked?

Main Content

The main content of a page is defined by the most important piece of content on a particular page. If it’s an ecommerce category page then this may be the product list, if it is a news site then it may be that specific news article or a list of news articles.
It is important to remember that when this article mentions content it is not just talking about text based content, it could be a game, video or even an inforgraphic.

Quality Raters Judgement

A Quality Rater looks at the quality of content on a page and uses their judgement to decide whether or not it should receive a high quality rating. Say for example you have a page that states ‘Rand Fishkin is a famous online entrepreneur that makes his money by selling fish’ then this piece of content may receive a low quality rating based on it being inaccurate.

Here are another few examples of why a website may receive a low quality rating –

  • Poor spelling and grammar
  • Content is copied from another site – even if it is paraphrased or summarises content found on other high authority sites
  • Content looks auto-generated or is made from a template that is used on lots of other pages even if slight changes have been made
  • Author / website is not qualified to be giving advice in that area (for example if a car mechanic website is giving medical advice)
  • Lots of time and effort may have been put into a certain piece of content, but if it doesn’t match the purpose of the page, then it will receive a low quality rating
  • Lots of content but no real information

The amount of content required for any given page will depend on whether or not that content will satisfy the visitors. A short piece of content that provides what a user is looking can receive a higher quality rating compared to a larger piece of content that takes too long to make a point.

Extra Content

Information that Google considers extra content such as login forms, links, related products / articles, calendars, calculators and sidebar widgets are also checked for quality and these are ranked separately from the main content.


Google states to Quality Raters that Ads are not a bad thing to see on a site and how some websites need them in order to exist. They also talk about the negative side of Ads, like if they are placed in a position to draw too much attention to them or if they are inserted in such a way that they appear to be part of the main content.

Page Layout

This is the part that I find most interesting and I can now confirm that your page layout is something that is taken into consideration when a Google Quality Rater visits your site. So an SEO may require even more involvement during the design process of a website.

Here are a few things that Google Quality Raters look for when judging page layout –

  • Good design should make it entirely clear where the main content is situated and Ads should be clearly separated from the main content (this can be done by labeling or having a clear divide)

  • The main content should be visible when a user opens the page and should be above the fold (this is something that I don’t like as ‘the fold’ would differ depending on screen resolution)

  • Main content and ‘extra content’ should take up the majority of the page

  • The layout of a page should be consistent with the type of page that it is. An ecommerce page will have a very different layout from a news page.

Full Website Checks


Quality Raters also have to check if an individual webpage is congruent with the overall theme of the site, to do this they are asked to browse the rest of the website and get a clear idea of what the site is about and if make sure the content is consistent with the rest of the site.


Does your website look out of date? Then you better do something about it. This is something that Google Quality Raters look at!

How this is judged is determined by what type of site you have, when it was last updated and how ‘cared for’ it looks. If you have a site that looks like it is supposed to review brand new tech products then your website should be updated regularly.

If you have a normal business site then you are not required to update the site as much but things like an outdated copyright date at the footer of your website could result in a low quality rating.
Contact Details
A Google Quality Rater really wants to see contact details on your website, especially if you ask users to provide personal information or you are an ecommerce site. This is something that Quality Raters will specifically look for when vetting your site. They will also try and identify who is responsible for the content of a website so it is important that this is also made clear.

Off-Site Checks

Off-site checks are carried out by Google Quality Raters to determine how they should rate your site.
Quality Raters are asked to search for your site and find content related to its reputation. They are asked to look at review websites, articles written, awards and negative press pertaining to determine what sort of reputation rating your site should receive.


Google Quality Raters are asked to rate pages based on a multitude of factors and do not just rate text content, they also look at videos, images and even games.

They will also look at the layout of your site to make sure that users can find the main content quickly, and if they think that they cannot then a low rating will be applied.

It is unclear how much of the information that Quality Raters provide is fed into Google’s algorithm at the moment, but as Google continue to become more advanced, an increased amount of these tasks will be carried out algorithmically.

If you have any questions please add me to twitter @gorcampbell

Matthew Marley

Matthew Marley is a SEO specialist from Glasgow Scotland with a passion for the web and emerging technologies. With over 9 years experience Matthew specialises in SEO and has worked with some of the worlds biggest brands.

2 Responses

  1. Dave Lucas says:

    Well! An eye-opener! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Andy says:

    Thanks for the nice view behind the curtains – but how do they rate the the crappy low content ‘Ads….’-Sites at outstanding Pageranks – is it just about the money they make ?

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