When the original search quality rating guidelines came out, SEOs gobbled them up, scrutinizing over every detail, analyzing the example sites (the good, the bad and the ugly). Every little bit of information that could be gleamed from that document was hashed out on private forums, in instant messages and mulled over at the bars at conferences.

Well, a brand new version of the guidelines for Search Quality Raters has been leaked, this one from June 22, 2012 (Ver 3.27) and has plenty of new information. But while I was reading it, one thing struck me – what if Google, knowing webmasters would go over the document with a fine tooth comb when (not if, but when) it was leaked, what is stopping Google from putting in some items designed with the sole intention of scaring webmasters into cleaning up some specific aspect of SEO that Google sees as being too prevalent or something that they are having trouble dealing with algorithmically.

One of the things detailed in the rating document is figuring out the reputation for a website and the kinds of specific searches one can do to determine the reputation.  (For reference, this is from page 99)

Try one or more of the following searches on Google:
[homepage reviews]
[homepage complaints]
[homepage -site:homepage.com]
[“homepage.com” -site:homepage.com]
[“homepage.com” -site:homepage.com reviews]

Yes, you should be doing that right now on all your moneymaking sites.  Now, reputation is definitely one of the harder things for an algorithm to determine. And a lot of online businesses unfortunately just don’t care if they have poor customer service, so long as someone doesn’t create a companysucks.com and complaints don’t rank higher than their company name in the search results. But inclusion in this document could make a lot of SEOs sit up and see what they can do about negative feedback left on other sites about their companies.

But really, the ability of Google to be able to detect this kind of thing algorithmically could be difficult, but included in here, it could get a lot of webmasters scared enough to start doing Google’s dirty work for them to help clean up the index. Now queue the “how to keep your customer happy” and “how to clean up bad online reviews” articles coming out from many webmaster news sites and blogs in the next week or two.

Google is also tackling content – specifically not just traditional poor quality scraped content or thin content, but types of content that would be more difficult to detect algorithmically – the ways you would stretch out that 150 words into 500 words when you just didn’t have anything else to say on the subject, especially when writing papers for teachers :)  (For reference, page 88)

• Filling up pages with completely obvious sentences that repeat the topic of the paper. (“Argentina is a country. People live in Argentina. Argentina has borders. Some people like Argentina.”)

• Using a lot of words to communicate only basic ideas or facts (“Pandas eat bamboo. Pandas eat a lot of bamboo. It’s the best food for a Panda bear.”)

Again, something that helps the perceived quality of the search results by users who end up on the pages. And most importantly, something that benefits Google by scaring the pants off webmasters to revisit all those stretched content pages and make them better.

And frankly, there are enough webmasters out there who faced the wrath of Panda and Penguin, and would probably do cartwheels wearing “I <3 Googleguy” shirts in front of the Googleplex if someone suggested it would help get their moneymakers back into the Google search index.  So it isn’t farfetched that someone at the spam team said “hey, why don’t we add XYZ?  We can’t really make a good dent in it with the current algo, but maybe webmasters who read the leaked quality guidelines will do it anyway and help us clean up more spam.”

Now, if you want to be lazy and get someone else to tell you what the document contains in Coles Notes form, head to the brief recounts from Search Engine Land and Search Engine Watch. But if you want to be smart about it, you should really read the entire document itself – there really is no excuse for anyone that calls themselves an SEO to not read it. So get to it below 🙂

By seobitch

Seobitch is a pen name for a well known female expert in the SEO industry that most of you likely already follow. She has more than a dozen years experience and is a very respected expert in the field. Seobitch can be controversial but writes about issues that most people are afraid to talk about due to their employers, clients or friends. She also loves to tackle industry issues from a different point of view than what you normally see the "complainers" of the industry complaining about. She is also open to suggestions for future topics you would like to see the SEObitch tackle.

23 thoughts on “What if the Google Search Quality Rating Guidelines are written with leaks in mind?”
  1. So, you think Google ‘might’ be sneaky? Those in SEO that do go over this hopefully won’t take it word-for-word and rather use their brain…and analytics. Oh and thanks for the heads up and the ‘light’ reading.

  2. It would be kinda clever to leak it on purpose to get people(especially blackhats) to pay more attention to quality and user intent. For a lot of people, feeling like they have inside information may seem more actionable than to just follow the guideline and read the search blog.

    You would think that making more money would prompt people to pay more attention to that stuff but people are really weird sometimes.

    I couldn’t help but notice that this document said that Microsoft’s latest browser is IE8. I know that’s not true because I had to alter my stylesheet so my site would display correctly IE8 and 9. Kinda makes me wonder when this was actually written.

  3. Haha, love how google always gets people to do the dirty work for them. How crafty they are sometimes

  4. One of the best way to improve the site performance is to compare this guideline with the older one. Check the difference and get the idea.

  5. Why would stretching out content for a site and repeating the same thing over and over again hurt google? I do not understand this.

    1. Lewis, I think their goal is to insure people are getting the best information. After all the content on our sites directly effects Google. If they serve up shit, people will think they are shit.

      1. Google is losing the search battle, 30% has gone mobile, and facebook is eating away at their market share too. When I was talking with google rep, they are pushing moblie HARD to all their adsense users.

  6. Ugh! I really hate when online products have poor customer service. I do not see how they can get away with something like this.

  7. I think that a reputation of a website or a brand is more bigger how much bigger is its lists. The money is in the list and it’s very important to have a good realationship with users.

  8. Google wants to tell us that doing things in a natural way while giving helpful and useful information is always good for humanity.

  9. I was a Google rater for a few months and going through the training/testing to become one is quite the depressing experience. Reading this leaked document is one thing… actually rating web sites and seeing the extreme scrutiny placed on them is another.

    Shoemoney was right a long time ago when he said SEO is dead. If you spend countless hours trying to game Google you are wasting your time. You might win in the short term, but eventually you will get screwed.

    The good ol days of the internet are officially over. Competition is extremely fierce. The only way to win is you MUST make an amazingly awesome web site.

    It must be so amazingly awesome that if you visited such as site you would instantly want to tell all of your friends about it.

  10. SHOE!! I have to say that after reading the first 6-7 pages it’s pretty obvious that the document is to be used by people who don’t know any SEO, like at all. Google is always thorough and so I expected a glossary but c’mon – “a search engine is…” really?

    SO, with my sherlock hat on, I deduce that Google employs regular non-webmasters to do the leg work but here’s what doesn’t smell right to me, the document is in English. Think about it, if they’ve dummied down the chose THAT much it would be in a foreign language and outsourced to a foreign country much like police can’t learn their profession locally.

    Just an english copy? I doubt it. The whole thing smells wrong ya know?

  11. Oh, and one more thing – PAGE 14

    There is a link to the Yahoo! homepage on page 14 of the document. Yahoo could conceivably scour their usage data and find visits originating from the document in order to create a list of likely Google raters.

    Is Google that dumb? I doubt it.

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