What Google’s Quality Assessment Guidelines Tell Us About UX

Even if you haven’t read all 175 pages of the current edition of the Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines (when published, last updated October 2020), you may have an idea of ​​what you would find in it.

The guidelines for search quality assessors are created and updated by Google and then distributed to hired quality assessors.

Quality assessors use the guidelines to evaluate search results in terms of the quality of the information exchanged and whether or not they meet the needs of the searcher.

Because they are so detailed and directly related to Google’s thought processes regarding high quality results, the Quality Ratings Guidelines serve as a useful resource for creating rankable content.

What is? fewer The obvious thing is that they also provide a lot of useful insight into optimizing your website and content for a great user experience.

The importance of optimization to the user experience

In May 2020, Google published a number of new ranking signals.

Google does not share all of the ranking signals that make up the search algorithm. But when Google shares one, SEO pros will take notice.

In May, Google announced that Core Web Vitals would be a ranking signal.

A new report has been published on the Google Search Console that enables SEO professionals to measure the effectiveness of their efforts to optimize the page experience.

Guidelines for Quality Assessment of Core Web Vital UX

Core Web Vitals focus on measuring three specific metrics:

  • Loading (largest content color)
  • Interactivity (first entry delay)
  • Visual stability (cumulative layout shift)

As recently as this month, SEO pros were given six months’ notice to optimize for Core Web Vitals and other page experience signals before becoming an official ranking signal in May 2021.

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Using the quality assessment guidelines to optimize the user experience

In addition to other ranking signals for the technical structure that Google communicated to us (e.g. responsiveness of mobile devices, HTTPS and page speed), Core Web Vitals measure important aspects of user experience (UX).

Since the focus on UX seems to be on the future of SEO, here we can say some definitive things about good UX based on the guidelines of the Quality Rater Guidelines.

1. Interstitials & monetization with ads

Back in 2016, Google clearly expressed its aversion to “intrusive interstitials” in a further publicly published ranking signal update.

What you may not notice, however, is that interstitials are also treated as a user experience issue in the Quality Rater Guidelines.

Interstitials Core Web Vitals Quality Guidelines for Quality Inspectors UX

In Section 6.4, Google notes the simple fact that “Interstitials make MC (main content) difficult to use”.

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Much of the discussion about interstitials is specifically about the impact of popups on the user experience, for example for collecting email addresses.

However, in the Quality Rater Guidelines we are reminded of how the placement and amount of Show can also affect the process of content consumption.

Quality Assessment Guidelines UX Section 6.4

In section 6.7, Google gives an example that shows how many / large ads affect the user experience and that similar websites should be given a low page quality rating.

Quality Assessment Guidelines UX Section 6.7

Here is a screenshot of the website from the example:

Quality Rater Guidelines UX Section 6.7 - Example

Nevertheless, in Section 2.4.3, Google makes it clear that ads are not ads Bad and that they recognize that a website may come about because of a creator’s desire to monetize it with ads.

UX Quality Assessment Guidelines Section 2.4.3

So you don’t need to remove ads, but you should definitely consider how to get them.

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2. Set expectations and clickbait

Several sections of the Quality Rater Guidelines are about setting expectations for what users see on the other side of their click.

Using various examples, Google makes it clear that a good site has expectations of where it will lead you.

Consider this online banking login example from section 5.4:

Quality Assessment Guidelines UX Section 5.4

Here is the website it relates to:

Quality Rater Guidelines UX Section 5.4 - Example

Also a good side Addresses Expectations.

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An example in Section 6.7 relates to an article about the adoption of a child from Iraq and why the seeker’s specific expectations are not adequately addressed:

Quality Rater Guidelines UX Section 6.7 - Adoption Example

In section 6.0, Google explicitly states that clickbait headings affect a high MC.

Quality Assessment Guidelines UX Section 6.0

In Section 6.2, Google adds that there should be page titles on every page and the titles should accurately describe the content of the page.

Quality assessment guidelines UX section 6.2

Much later in the QRG, in Section 13.5, Google states:

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“A result with a very misleading or exaggerated title should be rated slightly or lower due to the poor user experience that occurs when the landing page does not meet the user’s expectations when they click or tap on the result.”

Quality Assessment Guidelines UX Section 13.5

So when it comes to clickbait, you’d better avoid it if you hope to stay in Google’s good hands.

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3. Mobile ease of use

Much of the QRG is specifically focused on mobile search results scoring and special considerations to be considered for mobile users.

Typically, mobile search users are even more impatient than desktop users, looking for the fastest shortcut to an answer.

Because of this, Google has tweaked the SERP features to suit the needs of the searcher – sometimes to the detriment of the content creator (in terms of zero-click search).

Section 13.3.1 explains the impact of mobile usability concerns (zooming and scrolling to navigate) using this example of the Broadway Ticket results:

Quality Assessment Guidelines UX Section 13.3.1

Then, in Section 13.5.1, Google gives an example of a searcher looking for Abe Lincoln’s birthday.

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While it’s there in the result (when you click on the webpage), it’s not prominent / easy to find – which Google says doesn’t work well in meeting the requirements.

UX Quality Assessment Guidelines Section 13.5.1

Finally, in Section 13.6.1, Google gives insights into mobile search results that suggest downloading apps.

Quality Rater Guidelines UX Section 13.6.1

In particular, they find that results that allow users to download apps are generally less helpful on mobile devices unless you think the user’s intent to download an app is strong.

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Mobile users want instant answers and results right now and may not spend a lot of time downloading and installing apps.

Final Thoughts: What Google’s Quality Rating Guidelines Tell Us About UX

Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines are a treasure trove of information for anyone willing to invest the time and attention it takes to read all 175 pages.

While the obvious reason to step in is to understand how high quality content is created, there are also a lot of insights that are worth paying attention to in order to have a great user experience on your website.

Core Web Vitals will become a ranking signal in 2021. So, you need to take care of UX if you want to keep ranking high in relevant search.

More resources:

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