Subjectivity, SERPs and Internet Marketing
May 23, 2013
Earlier this year, Google released their Search Quality Rating Guidelines which are what their “human quality raters” use to evaluate the quality of entire domains. You can view the entire document here. It’s a massive, 43 page document but even Google describes it as just “Cliff’s Notes.” It’s definitely required reading if you’d like to understand the criteria Google uses to judge websites and if you’re interested in improving the quality of your own website to adhere to their standards. Of course, by using humans to rate websites, you introduce the very human and troublesome element of subjectivity. Matt Cutts, who works for Google’s search quality team addresses the issue of subjectivity in a recently released Google Webmaster Help video. In the video, Cutts answers a user’s question: “How can Google be confident with their SERPs, when relying on inherently subjective signals that influence which sites display (i.e. using human ‘quality raters’ to evaluate entire domains without the context of the search query itself)?”
Cutts is quick to point out that quality raters do in fact evaluate domains with the context of the search query. In other words, they are able to do a side-by-side comparison of a search query with a particular domain and see how the two stack up.
According to Cutts, subjectivity does come into play when displaying search results in that different search engines will have a different idea or philosophy about what information should be displayed in SERPs. This in turn is reflected in a search engine’s algorithms. Therefore, the idea of a truly objective search engine simply does not exist.
It’s all pretty heady, philosophical stuff but there’s definitely a lot to take away from the video from an SEO perspective. One commenter on the YouTube video makes a valid point: “Good quality content is something you can recognize when you see it.” Basically, it’s good to keep in mind that websites are ultimately created for humans and humans will be the ones who’ll be evaluating the information provided and judging whether or not it is relevant to their search query. It’s about providing high quality and relevant information to your users and presenting that information in a functional and navigable manner. It can be easy to get caught up in the minutiae of internet marketing but it’s always a good idea to take a step back and do your own side-by-side comparison of your site and its relevancy to the search queries that you are pursuing. Although it may be a subjective experience, you can at least make sure you’re doing all you can to make that a good experience for your users.