A common misconception is that Google’s algorithm is entirely done by AI or code – but that is not entirely the case. Google heavily relies on feedback from third-party companies that employ humans to review search results. These “Quality Raters” are spread out all over the world, and as of November 2022, Google claims there are over 10,000 of them. (source)
So, humans are picking and choosing who is going to rank well? Not quite.
First, we must remind ourselves of the primary goal of Google: to get searchers to come back to Google to search again in the future so they can sell more ads. That’s it. Google is a for-profit business – every single adjustment to the algorithm and search rankings can be traced back to serving more ads.
How do they make sure searchers keep coming back? Simply put, the results Google delivers need to be valuable.
When people search on Google, they generally do so with extremely high intent. They are asking Google something and expect a high-quality answer. When a searcher gets their answer – Google has delivered the value.
If that answer comes back quickly with little issue, chances are the searcher is coming back soon to ask it something else. When this happens, Google can keep selling ads and stay in business.
If Google serves up spam, results in the wrong language, or something that seems fishy – the searcher might not think to ask Google first next time.
Google processes billions of search results, so how on earth does it measure whether something is “fishy” or something that “might seem like spam”. These terms describe a gut feeling.
While Google tries with some of the best tech on Earth, it still needs a human touch to give it good feedback.
That’s where the human Quality Raters come in.
These people do not actually decide who ranks first, second, or last – but they do provide feedback for Google’s tech to learn off of. Humans provide metrics like “Authority,” “Expertise,” and “Trust” that only a human who lives in society can explain.
In other words, their sole job is to verify and give feedback to Google on whether or not Google is providing value to the searcher.
You can download the very guide they use. It’s 170 pages long, though – so be ready to do some studying.
The takeaway here? Even if you think you can beat the algorithm with some kind of black hat SEO tactic that Google has overlooked – there is a good chance it may end up in front of a human for review. If you are not ultimately solving the searcher’s problem in some way when publishing a website to be found on a search engine – you are going to get penalized.