Search Quality Raters. These users evaluate the quality of the search results of the Google algorithm. Behind the magic of the automatic, the questions, intentions of users and results of research are analysed and evaluated, tightly circumscribed by guidelines provided by Google. Their feedback is used by the engineers to improve the quality of the research results proposed to the daily users. However, SEO professionals are worried about the impact of the work of these teams on the URL ranking. Despite claims by Google managers to the contrary, minds remain sceptical about the total use of these data collected.
The humans behind the algorithm
An unknown profession, but not secret
Since the early 2000s, people have been working and analysing the results of Google’s algorithm. Today, there are approximately 10,000 of them in the world. They are average people, users of search engines like everyone else. They applied for a part-time job offer at a third company such as Lionbridge or Leapforce and had to pass two tests in order to be selected. One tested their reasoning through questions and the other composed of ‘nearly real-life’ exercises. At home, they spend between 10 and 20 hours per week (paid between $ 12-15 / hour) studying and giving feedback on research results that have already happened.
The analysed results are mainly organic like texts, images, videos and news results (sometimes paid ad results, as well). Each day, they are offered to perform different tasks to evaluate research results. They can, for example, test a given URL and assess its relevance according to a query on desktop or mobile. They also make side-by-side comparisons of organic results of the same search and selecting the results that best match the query.
Companies provided them with information such as the language of the search, location and sometimes the map of queries (map restoring queries previously sought) to better understand the intention of the user. Their purpose, to put themselves in the shoes of any user and determine if the results are relevant to the intent and research.
A very monitored job
Each task has an estimated completion time. Agencies are timing the Search Quality Raters during their tasks to judge their effectiveness. For example, evaluating the quality of a URL is estimated at 1 minute and 48 seconds. However, to ensure that the analysis is done without bias and with the application, the same tasks are assigned to several Search Quality Raters. If their results diverge, they are asked to agree together. In case of persistent disagreement, a moderator will decide
The Guidelines: Quality Made in Google
To best frame the evaluation of the quality of the search results, Google transmits (via third-party companies) guidelines. In 2015, after many leaks, Google finally decided to publish them officially.
Google regularly makes changes according to the new objectives of the algorithm. The last official publication dates back to July 20, 2018 and is 164 pages long.
In their guidelines, Google explains to their Search Quality Raters how to evaluate the quality of pages of their search engine. For this, it is necessary to carry out three notations.
The objective is to verify that the result corresponds to the query and the intention of the user. For this, Google identifies four kinds of queries: those with the objective to inquire (know), to act (do), to go to a specific site (website) and local visit (visit-in-person). The Search Quality Rater will evaluate whether the result meets the needs by placing the cursor on the scale from FailsM (Fail to Meet the Needs) to FullyM (Fully Meet the Needs). Some queries can be a mixture of several types.
A Search Quality Rater may decide not to assign a rating for content and to “flag” it in certain cases: if the material is pornographic, presented in a language different from that of the query, does not load, or contains upsetting and or offensive content.
The E-A-T acronym stands for Expertise-Authority-Trust. The Search Quality Raters assess the level of expertise of the content by verifying that the author of the main content has enough personal experience for it to be considered relevant.
They then assesses the authority of the main content, the site and the author. A Search Quality Rater must find evidence of their reputation and recommendations from entities whose authority is already clearly established.
Finally, Trustworthiness is the confidence that the user can have towards the site. It is established with the main content, the website and the author.
This evaluation is in no way related to the query. Through their criteria, Google puts forward the assessment of the benefit that the content brings to users. Moreover, it says on the Google Blog: “We built Google for the users, not for websites”. Through this rating, Google is fighting back against the increase of fake news.
We built Google for the users, not for websites – The Google Blog
The Overall page quality rating
This rating is based on the query and the intent of the user. It includes five criteria: The purpose of the page, the notation of the E-A-T, the appreciation of the main content, the information found and the reputation of the website and the author.
The YMYL pages
Some pages are rated more strictly than others: pages Your Money, Your Life (YMYL) page category, created by Google, groups pages containing medical, financial, legal, news, public / official information, as well as pages for shopping or financial transactions. Their content can have a significant impact on the lives of users reading them, which is why they must contain high-quality information.
A quarter of the guidelines pages are dedicated to mobile queries and the assessment of its content especially for queries like “visit-in-person”. Both the main content, as well as the quality of the mobile optimisation of pages have a full part to play in this.
Grey Areas around the ratings
The impact on the SERP ranking
Many experts have expressed concerns about the role of Search Quality Raters in the Search Engine Result Page (SERP). Can the evaluation of URL quality and feedback from Search Quality Raters cause a downgrade? Is the data collected reusing in addition to the algorithm? In response to this, Matt Cutts, the head of the webspam team at Google, said the feedback would only be used to refine the algorithm. The webspam and quality rater teams have two separate goals and are not connected.
Indeed, the process would be to evaluate the quality of sites at first. Then, when engineers change the algorithm, Search Quality Raters would be able to assess the difference in quality during side-by-side evaluations without knowing which side contains the product of the change in the algorithm and which version is the old one. Engineers will modify and improve the algorithm based on feedback from Search Quality Raters. They can then run a live test on a small percentage of users that are not search quality raters.
However, if in the short term the ranking of a page judged of poor quality by Google is not altered. We can imagine that this will happen in the long term. Indeed, if a page presents some of the characteristics considered to be bad quality, the fact that it is noted as such by a Search Quality Rater will not impact its ranking.
On the other hand the engineers will make sure that only the high quality results are present in the best results during different changes in the algorithm.
The Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines as SEO bedtime reading
The ratings of Search Quality Raters are therefore essential. Unfortunately, Google does not communicate this to the authors but the guidelines framing their notation are, which is why the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines is an essential document for evaluating one’s content. By doing our assessment, we are more than likely to find areas for improvement. Moreover, as SEO is a red thread spot, this evaluation is to be renewed regularly and especially when reworking these guidelines
90% of purchases are made offline. According to the Wall Street Journal, eventhough visits in store have decreased, stores revenue is higher by 15% in 2016 in comparison to 2012. However, this fact does not mean that digital is not important in retail: the online searches prior to store visit have increased by 7% between 2012 and 2016. As soon as the customer enters the store, he knows what and why he wants to buy. For that purpose, the Multichannel strategies are emerging. The customers are doing some research on the internet before going into a store. Today, “banking, retail, and other sectors are still struggling to devise the perfect cross-channel experiences for their customers—experiences that take advantage of digitization to provide customers with targeted, just-in-time product or service information in an effective and seamless way” (Article from Mckinsey in June 2014).
Source: ShopperTrack data for November/December 2015 as cited in Wall Street Journal
With more than 90% market share in Europe, Google is our favorite tool when it comes to searching the Internet. But do we really know how to use it? I will try to share with you some Google commands as well as some tips to optimize your use of the search engine.
1) How to find related websites with Google?
This command has an interest when you are looking for new sources for your strategic monitoring. It will allow you to find other sites and contents that are related to a site that you have chosen.
For example, students of our Advanced Master’s in Digital Business Strategy can be proud of that, in the eyes of Google, our management school is the most related one to EM Lyon and HEC Paris… we hope recruiters think the same!
2) How to find free-to-use images on Google?
Just make your search on Google image, then click on “Tools” and then on “Usage rights”.
3) How to depersonalize a Google request?
Google customizes its results page based on our browsing history and Google+ profile. To depersonalize the query, simply log out of Google+ and add “&pws=0” at the end of the url. This command is unofficial and to be sure that the results are depersonalized, I advise to use the private navigation (Ctrl + Shift + P on Firefox and Internet Explorer or Ctrl + Shift + N on Google Chrome). Geolocation will always be considered.
The interest of this command is mainly SEO oriented because it allows you to see the results of a query as if it were the first time you were searching for it. Therefore, it is easy to follow its real positions on different keywords.
4) How to get more accurate Google Search Results?
This command isolates all indexed pages from a site on Google. It also allows you to track the indexing of a specific page. It is only useful for SEO if used alone.
For example, our Digital Me Up blog has 544 pages indexed in Google..
..with 70 “author” pages.
However, it seems that the Googlebot does not crawl the site often enough. The article of Laurent Hélaine, published on the 27th January is still not indexed 3 days later. No organic traffic is therefore possible!
This command returns all the results indexed by Google that contain the search term in the content of the page. To search for an exact term, it must be surrounded by quotation marks (intext:”exact term” for example).
It will help you to find a presentation / thesis on a particular format on a given topic. You can specify different formats: PDF, DOC (for Word), XLS (for Excel), TXT (for text pages), PPT (for PowerPoint) etc.
Let’s imagine that you have a headache. You would like to know more about what you need to do but you don’t want to be distressed by what you could read on Doctissimo. With the “-” sign, you can exclude all terms that you don’t want to appear in the results page: “headache -doctissimo”.
The real interest is that you can combine all these commands to get more accurate Google results. Here is an example – I’m looking for pdf documents about innovation on the grenoble-em.com website.
There are a lot of other commands that can help you to better use Google. A few of them are listed on an official Google documentation but in my opinion, the most important and useful are in this article.
As a candidate for a job, or for business development, I sometimes use these commands to find the email address of a professional I want to be in touch with. I’m not going to say how; it would be too easy. Just a little practice and a rereading of this article and you will find the way yourself!
Google recently increased the number of queries with a Google Answer Box. This location is also called position 0 in SEO and it is displayed for 30% of queries versus only 20% two years ago. This is a zone with a specific display format that offers users an answer or a definition of the term that has been sought.
The Answer Box greatly improves the user experience since the number of clicks needed to access the information is reduced. Google is no longer positioning itself as a search engine but as a response engine and it could be a problem for digital companies. For example: because of that access to the website is no longer necessary to get the information, Wikipedia suffered a loss of traffic. However, this feature can be a very good opportunity in terms of branding and organic traffic.
It is important to know that the result displayed in position 0 is not necessarily from the website displayed at the 1st position of the search engine results page (it can happen). Therefore, how to optimize a content to appear in the Answer Box?
How to optimize your site for the featured snippet ?
There is no official recommendation from Google about that topic…
… but a few analyses show that there are some characteristics shared by all websites and pages appearing in position 0. For example: the page is part of the 5 first SEO results on the query; it contains less than 2000 words and the site has a lot of backlinks & referrer (>1000).
1. Find Google Answer Box opportunities
There are two ways to identifying opportunities to appear in featured snippets:
The first one is to imagine questions people can ask about your activity and optimize your page for the answer. There are tools like answerthepublic to find questions that people are asking about a topic.
The different formulations that trigger the Answer Box are:
- what is…?
- what does… mean?
- definition of…
The second way is to find queries that already display a snippet featured in the search results but it will be more difficult to rank as Google has already decided that a content is reliable to be used in the Answer Box.
2. Optimize and structure the content to answer the question
It is important to write a content that clearly answers the question in approximately 250-350 characters which seems to be appropriate to that kind of display format.
- Google is searching for content that you can read as a response. If you want to place a site as a featured snippet on the query “what does -myword- mean?”, you should include at the top of the page a sentence beginning with “-myword- means…”.
- Use the search query in the title of the page: <title> What does -myword- mean? A definition of -myword-</ Title> for example. As in SEO in general, Google uses the title tag to know if the page will answer the question.
- Place the main keyword in your <H1> tag.
- Subtitles (<H2>) can be extracted and displayed in featured snippets. This is particularly the case when the request is about how to learn a process or for an answer that can be summarized in a list. If you are targeting this type of search, write your content with different <H2> subtitles <H2> that explicitly define each step.
- If you are targeting a “what is” question, write your answer in a </ p>.
3. Use semantic markup to appear as a reliable source
For example, you can use the rel = “author” tag in your code. Your content will be associated with your name and you may appear as a credible source if you are specialized and if you are writing often about the same subject. You can use Google search console to test your structured data.
As always, there are no secrets in SEO!
Everyone is fighting for the first place and the Google Answer Box still relatively new. This is an opportunity to place a website higher than the top – in the zero position! As usual with SEO, there is no good answer, you have to test and learn, and to write high quality contents that provide relevant answers.
Have you ever dreamt of becoming the next Evan Spiegel, Travis Kalanick or Sean Rad (respective CEOs of Snapchat, Uber or Tinder)? What they have in common is that they have earnt great loads of money in little time thanks to their apps. Well, building apps is trendy: you may think that it only requires an idea and a developer, but it turns out to be much more complicated. Here, we are going to talk about two ways of optimizing apps in order to help develop them: app store optimization and deep-linking. I am not going to explain how to make in-app marketing, but we’ll see how to ensure that channels which drive people to your app are set for the best.
Why do you absolutely need to optimize your app UX?
On a global scale, in 2015, smartphone users download on average 35 apps on their device. It is already hard enough to be within these 35 downloaded apps, but the fact is that only 11 apps are truly used every week. This lets very little room for new apps. I mean, do you remember this old 2048 app you keep on your smartphone even if you actually dropped the game two years ago after not succeeding in reaching this bloody number?
ASO (App Store Optimization)
Source: Kiss Metrics blog
Word-of-mouth is an important source leading to app downloads, but most downloads actually come from people browsing in the store. Thus, store optimization is mandatory to convince people to get your app.
What are the main app store discovery steps?
Source: These 3 icons are made by Freepik from Flaticon.com and licensed under Creative Common by 3.0
1/ Search: People are looking for particular app types (platform game, city guide…), so you have to appear in search results to reach users.
2/ Ranking: People won’t scroll indefinitely before downloading an app. You must be within the first results to maximize your chances to be the one.
3/ Categories: Stores home-pages are filled with categories: new-in, seasonal ones (summer best etc.), most popular… This is what people see first when they land on store homepage: if you appear here, you have a chance to catch their attention before they even start searching for an app.
How to infer in the discovery process?
1/ App names: It has to encompass your app name, but also some keywords. It will help increase your ranking.
Source: Kiss Metrics blog
Please see an example below: it is the app for the famous French luxury retail store Vestiaire Collective. We don’t even see the end of the title, but it will help to increase the ranking as it underlines that their app is about selling and buying luxury clothes. Thus, people who are not familiar with their concept yet will quickly understand what it is.
Source: Screenshot from Apple App Store
2/ App icon: It is one of the first things that people will see. It is more efficient to be sober: no full texts or fuzzy details.
3/ Keywords: For Apple app store: It is 100 characters, including space and commas which separate them. You should prefer niche keywords, because if you use mainstream ones, you’ll be overwhelmed by competition. App Keywords can be very different from the ones you choose for AdWords since app ecosystem has its own specificities. If you are looking for help to select proper keywords, SensorTower and AppCod are great tools.
Another important thing to remember is that Apple app Store and Google Play work differently: for instance, for both store, the number of downloads infers a lot on the ranking. However, for Apple app Store, they use the number of downloads over the past 3 days whereas on Google Play, they total the number of downloads and work on a 30-day basis.
Deep dive in app deep linking
I talked about dark posts in one of my previous articles; here, we face deep linking. Anyway, again, you get more frightened than hurt.
Do you wonder what deep linking is? Deep linking allows you to open a specific section or page when clicking on a link.
“What could be more common?” you would ask. Indeed, deep linking for website has become generalized throughout the web. On the contrary, we are currently experiencing the early stages of app deep linking.
Indeed, app deep linking development aroused because of an annoying observation: when you click on a link (on a mail for instance), you are redirected to the mobile site, even though you possess the app in question. It will definitely not help us to make our app gain momentum.
“Why is it taking so long to be generalized?” you would ask (Yes, I know, you are very curious).
App deep linking is more difficult to implement because app structure is way more complex than website structure. It requires a lot of time and work to allow deep linking in-app.
However, as deep linking is a very useful and powerful tool, Apple has decided to launch in 2015 its “Universal links”: now, all apps can be opened thanks to http links, users are asked if they want to open the link on the app or on the website.
Google has also recently put deep linking at the heart of its concern with the recent creation of App Indexing: Google now indexes app results in traditional search queries through deep linking. App results are different from website ones, so users can easily recognize them. If they click on the link, they are instantaneously redirected towards a specific page of the application
Source : https://developers.google.com/app-indexing/
Thanks to the upcoming mobile-first approach, apps seem to have their best days ahead of them. This is why app marketing and optimization have to be carefully taken into account.