Cillian Bracken Conway
20th Nov, 2015

Ever since the Panda update first rolled out in February 2011, the quality of a website has become an extremely significant factor in getting high rankings in Google’s search engine results pages. The update, which notoriously targeted low-quality sites, created a major ruckus among digital marketers, as it took down a lot of websites and implemented strict penalties. And although webmasters and businesses have strived to improve their sites for the past couple of years, they still don’t know exactly what Google means by “quality sites.”

What factors do they look into when judging the quality of a website? How many factors are there? Is quality checked by spiders or by human evaluators? How much influence does either have on the results?

Well now, the speculation is over, and these questions can finally be answered because Google just announced the release of the complete version of their Search Quality Rating Guidelines.

Full Version with Tons of SEO Knowledge

The 160-page document, which is downloadable in .pdf format, contains all the information used by Google Search Quality Raters to check and evaluate the quality of their search results.  The company’s Senior Programmer, Mimi Underwood, explains they are publishing this now as a way of providing “transparency on how Google works and to help webmasters understand what Google looks for in web pages.”

Underwood also says that these guidelines include information that was not originally included in the abridged document they published back in 2013. This one now contains information on how Google factors in mobile websites and content as well as searchers’ mobile browsing preferences.

Previously Leaked Guidelines

Although this is the first time the company is publishing the full version of these guidelines, other older versions have been leaked before. The first instance was in 2001, when a blogger spotted and posted an online copy of the 3.18 version of Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines handbook. This was followed by document leaks in 2008 and 2012. There was also a leak earlier this week, when the October version of the guidelines was released.

Google’s Disclaimer

Of course, the release of this document doesn’t mean Google is entirely giving up the secret to their ranking algorithm. Underwood says, the guidelines do not exactly “determine individual site rankings.” Instead, they are used to help the company “understand their experiments.”

Underwood concludes her announcement by saying that this document is not the final version of Google’s rater guidelines. Their guidelines will continue to be updated as search and users’ browsing behaviour evolves. “We won’t be updating the public document with every change, but we will try to publish big changes to the guidelines periodically.”

Nevertheless, the release of this document surely comes as a relief to advertisers and webmasters who are busy improving their sites in time for the holiday shopping rush. Now, they have more chances to get exposure from consumers who are looking to buy and get retail information this season.