Notes on the 2015 Google Manual

In October 2015, Google released the 2015 Google Quality Rater Manual at Google (PDF, 160 pages).

This is the manual that Google’s 8,000 humans use to evaluate web pages.

I have copies of these manuals for every year since 2007. I look at each new version to see where Google is putting emphasis. Every year, Google improves the process, adds new ideas, and drops other ideas. They learn and they get better at this.

The 2015 manual is an minor update of the 2014 manual. It puts strong emphasis on EAT (expertise, authority, trust) and it adds attention to mobile device.

Here are my brief notes on the manual and how it matters for SEO. For a complete analysis of the manual, what Google is up to, and its impact on SEO, look at other things I’ve written about SEO or talk with me.

Section 2.7.4: How to Search for Reputation Information (p. 17)

Google added two additional sites for checking a company’s reputation:

  • Use the Better Business Bureau at BBB.org to check the quality of a company. For example, for a search on IBM, use  [“ibm.com” site:bbb.org] (go ahead and click that to see how it works)
  • Use Wikipedia to check on people and organizations. For example, for a search on IBM, use [ibm site:wikipedia.org] (click that to see how it works)

This means when you’re doing SEO, check these to see what these sites show about your organization. If possible, improve those results.

Section 5.4: Examples of Highest Quality Pages (p. 27)
Google gives several pages of examples of criteria for a page to be rated as “Highest Quality”:

  • Meets the purpose of the page
  • Very high expertise
  • Highly authoritative
  • Highly trustworthy
  • Very high quality main content (MC)
  • Helpful content
  • Very positive reputation
  • Official website of the organization
  • The most authoritative source of information on the topic
  • The only authorized source for the topic
  • Very good review in Wikipedia
  • Popular site with many user contributions
  • Popular site with many high ratings by users
  • Winner of established and recognized awards

For SEO, you should try to reach these standards in your webpages.

2.3 Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) (p. 9)
Google has very high page quality rating standards for YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) pages which affect a user’s happiness, health, or finances. These includes:

  • Shopping, such as payments, etc.
  • Financial, such as investments, taxes, retirement, home purchase, paying for college, insurance, etc.
  • Medical and health, incl. any private medical information
  • Legal issues, incl. wills, divorce, etc.
  • Other, incl. child adoption, car safety, etc.

For SEO, this means if your page has to do with YMYL issues, ensure it has the highest quality of EAT.

Section 7.5: No Website Information (p. 46)
A website gets a low rating if it doesn’t provide information about the creators of the site. The amount or detail level of contact information should match the site’s nature. If it’s a bank website, then you must provide complete contact information, including street address, telephone, email, and so on.

The point here is to let the visitor know if this is a real site or spam/scam.

Part 2: Mobile Users (p. 67)
In the 2015 manual, Google puts more emphasis on mobile search and mobile results. Problems for mobile users include:

  • Typing is difficult
  • Voice recognition makes mistakes
  • Small screen size
  • Slow connections

For SEO, this means if your page is used by mobile users, then it must be usable on mobile devices. SEO becomes a matter of navigational design (using links, using internal search, going from page to page), page layout (readable, zoomable, scrollable), and optimize for the page’s kilobyte site and download speed. Be sure to optimize your page for the user’s experience for mobile.

Section 12.4: Queries with an Explicit Location (p. 70)

If people search for the address of your store (for example, Alice’s Hardware, 1234 Main Street, Palo Alto, CA), then make sure your complete address (street, postal code, etc.) is in your site.

Use microformats to ensure the search engines know it is your street address.

The point for SEO is to make sure that users at a location who are looking for things that are close to them will be able to see those webpages on their mobile devices.

Download the 2015 Google Quality Rater Manual

You can download the 2015 Google Quality Rater Manual at Google (PDF, 160 pages).

The Big Picture on SEO

Okay, so what does this mean for how you can get your website to show up in search engines? I wrote a quick overview in plain English on how Google’s manual fits into SEO. Get a free copy of my SEO eBook (35 pages, PDF).