Google publishes a 160+ page document called the Search Quality Rater Guidelines, often abbreviated as the QRG.
This document is used by Google’s quality raters, which are people who work for Google and evaluate the quality of the search results.
Although these quality raters don’t influence rankings directly, their feedback is used to inform the development of Google’s algorithms.
The quality raters review pages from the search results and rate them from lowest to highest quality.
In the guidelines, various factors on web pages are said to be signs of either low- or high-quality.
Google likely optimizes the search ranking algorithms to show pages that have fewer low-quality factors and more high-quality factors.
I previously wrote about the many low-quality factors mentioned in the Quality Rater Guidelines.
But today, I look at the other end of the spectrum — the factors needed for a web page to be considered “high” or “highest” quality.
The 5 factors needed for a “high” or “highest” quality rating
In part 3.1 of the Quality Rater Guidelines, Google says that the following five high-level factors are most important when considering page quality:
- Page Purpose: The purpose of the web page.
- E-A-T: The expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness of the author and website.
- Content: The quality and amount of main content on the page.
- Information: The information about the author and website.
- Reputation: The reputation of the author and website.
But the guidelines also make a distinction between “high” and “highest” quality, which is useful to consider.
Here’s what the guidelines say is required for a high-quality rating:
A page can be high-quality if all of these factors are in order. If one is lacking, then that may be sufficient to prevent a page from being seen as high-quality.
Here’s what they say is required for a “highest” quality rating:
The highest rating puts an even greater emphasis on high-quality content, with a big emphasis on content accuracy, originality, and comprehensiveness.
Below are more details about each of the five high-level quality factors.
1. The page fulfills a beneficial purpose
In part 1.0 of the Quality Rater Guidelines, Google says:
“Ultimately, the goal of Page Quality rating is to evaluate how well the page achieves its purpose.”
Google does make it very clear that web pages should have a “beneficial” purpose. That is, they should be made for the purpose of being helpful for users in some way.
They also say that pages with no beneficial purpose, or even a harmful or malicious purpose, should always receive the lowest quality rating.
In part 4.1 of the guidelines, Google says:
“A High quality page should have a beneficial purpose and achieve that purpose well.”
They also say that web pages can have vastly different purposes and that high-quality pages exist for almost any beneficial purpose.
However, the expectations and standards can vary greatly depending on the page’s purpose. For example, the requirements are completely different for a medical website and a humor website.
If you have trouble ranking your site, try thinking about the purpose of your web pages and your website as a whole.
Are you making content that provides information? Gives people the news? Enables them to buy something online?
Consider the purpose of your web pages and try to put yourself in the shoes of average Google searchers looking for the keywords and topics you are targeting.
Your pages should have a beneficial purpose and fulfill that purpose better than the pages you are competing with.
2. A high amount of E-A-T
E-A-T is a term that is mentioned all over the quality rater guidelines.
It stands for “Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.”
There is some controversy in the SEO community about the significance of E-A-T as a ranking factor. But given how prominent it is in the guidelines, I think that it is probably really important.
This is particularly true for so-called YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) websites. These are websites that cover important topics that can affect the health, finances, safety, or happiness of users.
In part 3.2 of the guidelines, the quality raters are encouraged to consider the following factors when evaluating E-A-T:
- The expertise of the author.
- The authoritativeness of the author, content, and website.
- The trustworthiness of the author, content, and website.
There are different standards for E-A-T, depending on the topic of the website.
For example, a medical site will need a high amount of E-A-T. The content needs to be written (or reviewed) by a credentialed expert, and the author and website need to be authoritative and trustworthy.
On the other hand, some types of topics may only need “everyday expertise.” No formal credentials are required as long as the author clearly understands the subject matter well.
A satisfactory amount of E-A-T for the purpose of the page is needed for a high-quality rating.
The quality raters are encouraged to use their judgment about what level of E-A-T is required for different pages to be considered high-quality.
Here’s a quote from the guidelines (QRG – part 3.2):
Think about the topic of the page. What kind of expertise is required for the page to achieve its purpose well? The standard for expertise depends on the topic of the page.
To sum up, your content should be made by people with an appropriate level of expertise for the types of topics you are covering. Plus, the author and website as a whole must be considered authoritative and trustworthy.
3. Enough high-quality content
Not surprisingly, the quality of the main content on a page is important for its quality rating.
Here are a few examples given depending on the type of content (QRG – part 4.2):
- Informational content should be comprehensive and clearly written. It should also be factually accurate, as well as supported by expert consensus when possible.
- Shopping content should make it easy for users to find and purchase the products they want.
- Humor and satire should be entertaining.
The “main content” is anything that directly helps the web page meet its purpose. For example, it can be text, a video, an online game, a shopping feature, to name a few.
The quality raters are instructed to consume the main content on pages before making a decision — as in, read the article, watch the video, play the game, add the product to the cart, etc.
Depending on the type of content, they also want it to be factually accurate and supported by expert consensus (whenever such consensus exists).
The titles of your web pages should also be accurate and descriptive. Google does not like misleading or clickbait titles.
Your content needs to be of a high quality for your page to be considered high-quality. You also need a satisfying amount of main content, which varies depending on the topic.
For example, an encyclopedia article could need a very high word count to be considered high-quality, while the same may not apply for a simple how-to article.
Google’s primary purpose is to give people answers to their search queries. They want people to find exactly what they are looking for.
Because of this, it is absolutely necessary that your pages fulfill the intent of the people typing their keywords into the search box.
Think about what it is that Google searchers are looking for and make sure that your content is a high-quality answer to their queries.
The reader should never have a reason to hit the back button and click on the next search result.
Google wants websites to show clear information about those who are responsible for the individual pages, as well as the site as a whole.
Depending on the purpose of the site, they may also need varying levels of contact information.
Most websites should have a simple contact form so that users can reach the person who manages the site.
But other types of websites need much more detailed contact information. For example, shopping sites need to have clear customer service information.
Shopping websites should also have pages that clearly outline the terms of service, return and refund policy, as well as other information required for shoppers to make informed decisions.
Your website will need to have a satisfying amount of this type of information to be considered high-quality.
Examples of things to include are:
- About page: A page that tells users about the website and the individual or company responsible for it.
- Contact page: A page that has a contact form or different contact options like phone number, mailing address, etc.
- Author pages: It can be useful for each author to have a page that provides details about the author’s expertise.
For pages with content, it helps to have a byline under the title that shows the published or updated date and the name of the author. The author’s name should link to the relevant author page.
It should be easy for readers to learn more about the author and website as a whole, so these pages and features should be prominent and easy to find.
5. Positive reputation
Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines put a big emphasis on reputation.
The raters are instructed to look at various sources to learn more about the reputation of the author, website, and company.
For example, they may look at online review sites like Yelp, as well as third-party organizations like the Better Business Bureau. They may also look at Wikipedia or various high-quality news sites.
The raters are also instructed to do Google searches for the author, website, and company to look for reputation information.
To be considered high-quality, it is necessary to have a positive reputation.
That said, many smaller websites don’t have any evidence of reputation from third-party sites. A lack of reputation does not make a page low-quality.
If your website or company has earned awards or recommendations from known experts or professional organizations, then that can help inform a “highest” quality rating.
The chances are that Google uses signals from other sites in their algorithm to determine reputation.
If many trusted sources are saying bad things about your website or authors, then that will probably make it harder for you to rank in Google.
Because of this, you should be honest and always try to do right by your readers and customers. Don’t give people a reason to say bad things about you online.
Also consider managing your reputation on review sites like Yelp, Trustpilot, BBB, and others.
Respond politely to the negative reviews and do everything you can to fix whatever caused you to receive such reviews in the first place.
Keep in mind that occasional negative reviews are not something to lose sleep over. All big sites get a few of them, but as long as the majority of reviews are positive, then a few negative ones won’t harm you.
Google is much more specific about “low-quality”
Google’s advice about “high” and “highest” quality is pretty general.
Your pages and website need to 1) fulfill their purpose, 2) have great content, 3) strong E-A-T, 4) clear about and contact information and 5) positive reputation.
Depending on the type of content, you may need to satisfy all five factors for your pages to be considered high-quality.
However, Google is much more specific about the factors that constitute a low-quality page or website.
I found a total of 40 different signs that Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines specifically labeled as “low” or “lowest” quality.
You can read about my review of these factors here: 40 Signs of a Low-Quality Website According to Google
If your website avoids the low-quality factors but has a lot of high-quality factors, then it is likely to rank higher.
You will also be more likely to gain traffic from future algorithm updates.
That’s because the algorithms will continue to get better at surfacing the types of high-quality web pages described in the Quality Rater Guidelines.