Human beings, not mere nameless users: this is one of the core sections of the latest guidelines update for Google quality raters, published last December 5th, with which the american company gives indications to its human raters all over the world. On this version, three months after last intervention in September, there is indeed a bigger focus on the final users of the work, alongside small news we all better be informed of.

December 2019’s guidelines update for Google quality raters

The annual revision of Google’s search quality evaluator guidelines (available for everyone to read online here) “emphasize diversity, impartiality and pertaine to language referring to users”, highlights George Nguyen on SearchEngineLand. For instance, since paragraph 0.2 Google reminds quality raters the importance of being impartial on the job: unless the actual job of assessment specifically requires so, it reads, “evaluations should not be based on personal opinions, preferences, religious beliefs, or political views “.

Why people use Google and search engines

The biggest piece of news is, though, the inclusion of a general introduction, named paragraph 0.0, in which Google explaines evaluators why people do online researches and how they perform them.

“The World Wide Web is a vast collection of online information and contents. Internet search engines provide a powerful way to explore this online universe”: with these words Google opens up its guidelines for those contractors with the precious task of assessing the quality of SERPs and that, let us remind this, does not influence the way the algorithm sorts out the pages!

How can online researches be performed

We enter further into details on how does online research work with following explanations: “There are many ways people search: people may type words into a search box in a browser, speak to a mobile phone or assistant device, use search engine autocomplete features, etc.”.

Understand people’s reasons

Most of all, both people’s reasons and needs vary: “People search the Internet for a variety of purposes, ranging from accomplishing a quick task to researching a topic in depth“. Moreover, “a search may be part of a long-term project, such as a home remodel or vacation planning. A search may be done when someone is bored and looking for entertainment, such as a search for [funny videos]. A search may be a single question asked during a critical moment of a person’s life, such as [what are the symptoms of a heart attack?]“. They are very simple examples of search intent, as we already recounted multiple times on our insights.

Different researches, different SERPs

Search engines precisely exist to help people find what they are looking for. In order to do that, Google says, ” I motori di ricerca esistono proprio per aiutare le persone a trovare quello che cercano. Per farlo, dice Google, “search engines must provide a diverse set of helpful, high quality search results, presented in the most helpful order“. And another aspect shall not be overlooked: different kinds of research require very different kinds of search results.

To bring practical examples to the table: “medical and health search results should be high quality, authoritative, and trustworthy” (and it hence anticipate right from the beginning the woth of the EAT paradigm, especially for YMYL contents), answers to “cute baby animal pictures should be adorable”, queries aimed toward “a specific website or webpage should have that desired result at the top” of the SERPs, or yet again “searches that have many possible meanings or involve many perspectives need a diverse set of results that reflect the natural diversity of meanings and points of view“.

It is fundamental to understand diversity and variety of users

The diversity and need to understand the natural extent of options are also tackled in the following sentences, which remind us that “people all over the world use search engines” and for that “diversity in search results is essential to satisfy the diversity of people” who use Google and search engines. This means, for instance, that “searches about groups of people should return helpful results that represent a diversity of demographic backgrounds and cultures“.

Search result must help people with useful and reliable information

Last issue is equally important to understand Google’s philosophy: “Search results should help people“, is written on the new quality raters guidelines. More specifically, “search results should provide authoritative and trustworthy information, not lead people astray with misleading content”, “they should allow people to find what they’re looking for, not surprise them with unpleasant, upsetting, offensive, or disturbing content“.

Pages concerning “harmful, hateful, violent, or sexually explicit search results are only appropriate if the person phrased their search in a way that makes it clear that they are looking for this type of content, and there is no other reasonable interpretation of the words used in their search“.

Google asks quality raters to think about users as people

If the paragrah about Search Experience is the most immediate and blatant change, there also are other elements to underline on this December update: still on the guidelines general overview section, for instance, it is quite noticeable the replacement of the generic “user” term plenty used on previous versions with the more human term “people“.

There is a specific point clarifying this aspect (section 2.1, “Important Definitions”), in which it is possible to find Google’s definition of user. Meaning, “a person trying to find information or accomplish a task on the Internet“, keeping in mind that users “are people coming from many different backgrounds, people of all ages, genders, races, religions, political affiliations, whose experiences and needs may differ” from the ones of the single quality rater.

This reminder to people’s variety can be also found on other parts of the guidelines, proving how important is to Google to transmit this kind of message, while on other sections we can easily spot the replacement of the term user with person.

Considerations on Google’s quality rater guidelines update

In the end, then, the new quality rater guidelines update can be useful to us to better understand the path Google has chosen to take in order to enhance its algorithm: the strong emphasis on the human factor can be read as a warning to keep preconceptions out of the assessments, especially concerning researches on political topics.

A topic, this one, often at the core of accusations made against Google, so much that even during the Wall Street Journal attack they referred to a possible bias of the search engine toward specific political parties. Therefore, it may be that with this system Google is trying to make SERPs more neutral or, at least, to remind its quality raters to keep out personal thoughts and point of views when working their job.