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Google’s Search Quality Raters and Algorithmic Changes

If you’ve done any research at all about search engine optimization (SEO) and online marketing for your law firm, you’ve discovered that search engines like Google rely on algorithms to determine what is relevant and important for every given search query.

Google, however, knows that these algorithms are imperfect and subject to manipulation by professional marketers. To make sure its algorithms are providing the results that people are looking for, Google pays thousands of people across the globe to enter certain queries into the search engine and give feedback on the results. These people are search quality raters, and are an important aspect of online marketing.

Google’s Search Quality Raters

Google pays an estimated 10,000 people around the world to, as the job title implies, rate Google’s search quality. Armed with extensive guidelines from Google, these search quality raters perform search queries provided by the search engine and give their opinion on the quality of the top-ranking results.

The impact that these raters have on current and future ratings are important to understand, as they play an important role in the grand scheme of search engines, and online legal marketing.

No Impact on Current Rankings

Google's search quality raters impact future algorithm changesOne of the most important things to know about search quality raters is that what they do has no impact on the current rankings of websites.

For example, imagine a rater searching for “Los Angeles criminal defense attorney impact of supreme court case carpenter” and clicking on your article, which sits in the second position in the search, and then on a competitor’s piece, which sits fourth. After comparing the two articles that analyze Carpenter v. United States, the rater thinks that your competitor’s post should be ranked higher than yours.

The feedback that the rater provides to Google will not result in your competitor’s piece being promoted in the rankings. Instead, the feedback will focus on the elements that make the competition’s piece a higher quality post: Maybe it’s longer, has more valuable background information on the Fourth Amendment, or has extensive instructions for how to turn off your cell phone’s GPS tracker.

Lots of Impact on Future Algorithmic Changes

While search quality raters do not impact the current rankings in the search engine results page (SERP), they are the boots on the ground that create the data that drives future algorithmic changes. If dozens of raters find certain elements of a set of blog posts as needless or even cutting against the user experience—like keyword stuffing—their feedback is often enough to push Google into penalizing it. If later quality raters find that keyword stuffing is not always a bad thing, and that some articles that are filled more than 10% with keywords are still quality sources of information, it could be the impetus for Google to move towards a more holistic approach than an outright penalty.