Search Quality Raters. These users evaluate the quality of the search results of the Google algorithm. Behind the magic of the automatic, the questions, intentions of users and results of research are analysed and evaluated, tightly circumscribed by guidelines provided by Google. Their feedback is used by the engineers to improve the quality of the research results proposed to the daily users. However, SEO professionals are worried about the impact of the work of these teams on the URL ranking. Despite claims by Google managers to the contrary, minds remain sceptical about the total use of these data collected.
The humans behind the algorithm
An unknown profession, but not secret
Since the early 2000s, people have been working and analysing the results of Google’s algorithm. Today, there are approximately 10,000 of them in the world. They are average people, users of search engines like everyone else. They applied for a part-time job offer at a third company such as Lionbridge or Leapforce and had to pass two tests in order to be selected. One tested their reasoning through questions and the other composed of ‘nearly real-life’ exercises. At home, they spend between 10 and 20 hours per week (paid between $ 12-15 / hour) studying and giving feedback on research results that have already happened.
The analysed results are mainly organic like texts, images, videos and news results (sometimes paid ad results, as well). Each day, they are offered to perform different tasks to evaluate research results. They can, for example, test a given URL and assess its relevance according to a query on desktop or mobile. They also make side-by-side comparisons of organic results of the same search and selecting the results that best match the query.
Companies provided them with information such as the language of the search, location and sometimes the map of queries (map restoring queries previously sought) to better understand the intention of the user. Their purpose, to put themselves in the shoes of any user and determine if the results are relevant to the intent and research.
A very monitored job
Each task has an estimated completion time. Agencies are timing the Search Quality Raters during their tasks to judge their effectiveness. For example, evaluating the quality of a URL is estimated at 1 minute and 48 seconds. However, to ensure that the analysis is done without bias and with the application, the same tasks are assigned to several Search Quality Raters. If their results diverge, they are asked to agree together. In case of persistent disagreement, a moderator will decide
The Guidelines: Quality Made in Google
To best frame the evaluation of the quality of the search results, Google transmits (via third-party companies) guidelines. In 2015, after many leaks, Google finally decided to publish them officially.
Google regularly makes changes according to the new objectives of the algorithm. The last official publication dates back to July 20, 2018 and is 164 pages long.
In their guidelines, Google explains to their Search Quality Raters how to evaluate the quality of pages of their search engine. For this, it is necessary to carry out three notations.
The objective is to verify that the result corresponds to the query and the intention of the user. For this, Google identifies four kinds of queries: those with the objective to inquire (know), to act (do), to go to a specific site (website) and local visit (visit-in-person). The Search Quality Rater will evaluate whether the result meets the needs by placing the cursor on the scale from FailsM (Fail to Meet the Needs) to FullyM (Fully Meet the Needs). Some queries can be a mixture of several types.
A Search Quality Rater may decide not to assign a rating for content and to “flag” it in certain cases: if the material is pornographic, presented in a language different from that of the query, does not load, or contains upsetting and or offensive content.
The E-A-T acronym stands for Expertise-Authority-Trust. The Search Quality Raters assess the level of expertise of the content by verifying that the author of the main content has enough personal experience for it to be considered relevant.
They then assesses the authority of the main content, the site and the author. A Search Quality Rater must find evidence of their reputation and recommendations from entities whose authority is already clearly established.
Finally, Trustworthiness is the confidence that the user can have towards the site. It is established with the main content, the website and the author.
This evaluation is in no way related to the query. Through their criteria, Google puts forward the assessment of the benefit that the content brings to users. Moreover, it says on the Google Blog: “We built Google for the users, not for websites”. Through this rating, Google is fighting back against the increase of fake news.
We built Google for the users, not for websites – The Google Blog
The Overall page quality rating
This rating is based on the query and the intent of the user. It includes five criteria: The purpose of the page, the notation of the E-A-T, the appreciation of the main content, the information found and the reputation of the website and the author.
The YMYL pages
Some pages are rated more strictly than others: pages Your Money, Your Life (YMYL) page category, created by Google, groups pages containing medical, financial, legal, news, public / official information, as well as pages for shopping or financial transactions. Their content can have a significant impact on the lives of users reading them, which is why they must contain high-quality information.
A quarter of the guidelines pages are dedicated to mobile queries and the assessment of its content especially for queries like “visit-in-person”. Both the main content, as well as the quality of the mobile optimisation of pages have a full part to play in this.
Grey Areas around the ratings
The impact on the SERP ranking
Many experts have expressed concerns about the role of Search Quality Raters in the Search Engine Result Page (SERP). Can the evaluation of URL quality and feedback from Search Quality Raters cause a downgrade? Is the data collected reusing in addition to the algorithm? In response to this, Matt Cutts, the head of the webspam team at Google, said the feedback would only be used to refine the algorithm. The webspam and quality rater teams have two separate goals and are not connected.
Indeed, the process would be to evaluate the quality of sites at first. Then, when engineers change the algorithm, Search Quality Raters would be able to assess the difference in quality during side-by-side evaluations without knowing which side contains the product of the change in the algorithm and which version is the old one. Engineers will modify and improve the algorithm based on feedback from Search Quality Raters. They can then run a live test on a small percentage of users that are not search quality raters.
However, if in the short term the ranking of a page judged of poor quality by Google is not altered. We can imagine that this will happen in the long term. Indeed, if a page presents some of the characteristics considered to be bad quality, the fact that it is noted as such by a Search Quality Rater will not impact its ranking.
On the other hand the engineers will make sure that only the high quality results are present in the best results during different changes in the algorithm.
The Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines as SEO bedtime reading
The ratings of Search Quality Raters are therefore essential. Unfortunately, Google does not communicate this to the authors but the guidelines framing their notation are, which is why the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines is an essential document for evaluating one’s content. By doing our assessment, we are more than likely to find areas for improvement. Moreover, as SEO is a red thread spot, this evaluation is to be renewed regularly and especially when reworking these guidelines
What is mobile UX?
Literally? the letters U and X stand for User Xperience (as in ‘experience’). But according to the Interaction Design Foundation, the definition of ‘mobile UX’ means “the design of positive experiences during the use of mobile devices and wearables, and applications or services running on such devices.” (1) In other words, through efficient application designs, we can create, measure and tailor a positive user experience that may lead to conversions or continuous use of the service app.
How does it affect businesses in today’s technology? Best examples
As technology becomes even more intertwined with people’s lives, it is crucial for businesses to offer a seamless digital experience that accommodates their lifestyle. Author Goran Paunovic writes in his Forbes article that “Most business clients who engage in site design are looking for a revenue-driving product, but few are aware of how much their business can change for the better with the right UX.” (2)
Indeed, having the right UX matters. The numbers speak for themselves.
In the same article, Pauvonic reports of research done by Forrester Research: “a better UX design could yield conversion rates up to 400%”. But how can you differentiate a good UX design from a bad one? Read my next point to find out.
The good, the bad and the ugly.
One of the most recognized events that shaped UX history is, arguably, the downfall of Snapchat. A journalist for The Guardian (3), Edward Helmore writes that after their controversial redesign, they have suffered “their first decline in daily active users” as well as plummeting stock shares.
Bloomberg (4) reports that Snapchat lost over 325.1 million dollars in 2017.
On the other hand, an example of an app made famous by its unique navigation method: Tinder.
With their iconic swipe right/swipe left feature, the app designers got inspired and mimicked real-life rejection/approval movements(5). All that within the optimal on-screen thumb placement.
Smooth navigation is essential in providing good and memorable user experience, however, it isn’t the only aspect you should consider when you’re designing an app.
Do’s and don’ts.
In his article, Nick Babich, Editor-in-chief of UX planet, gives us 10 tips for a better UX.
1- Know your customer.
2- Don’t confuse your users, prioritize features.
3- Don’t overcrowd the app, strive for minimalism.
4- Make navigation feel familiar to users.
5- Keep the right amount of space for finger tapping.
6- Use legible font and color contrast.
7- Provide visual feedback and animation to show app responsiveness.
8- Make data entry easy and minimize the need for typing.
9- Create a seamless, homogeneous, experience on all of your platforms.
10- Test your design and constantly measure your app.
Considering that less than 0.01 of applications were predicted to be a financial success by their creators at the end of 2018, let’s have a look at the mobile UX trends of that year. (7)
Mobile UX trends of 2018
With the unleashing of the iPhone X, full screen and vibrant HD experiences dominated the trends. That trend also included apps who have integrated facial recognition and biometric fingerprints for authentication purposes.
Furthermore, Nick Babich writes that “ In 2016, Google stated that roughly 20 percent of all mobile searches were done with voice activation. It’s easy to see why the next big thing for coming years will be voice-activated interfaces.” (8)
However, will the latter be on the list of predictions for the 2019 UX trends?
Indeed, design leader Sumit Dagar writes “Voice interfaces (VUI) is the next big thing in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). While visual and voice interfaces have largely remained independent entities till now, 2019 will see seamless integration of both and adoption at scale.”
He also predicts that in 2019, we’ll witness a “larger adoption of design systems amongst companies” but most importantly: the “liberal customization of design systems as companies target new geographies where users have less exposure to default systems.” (9)
The implementation of a geographically customized mobile UX would mean that businesses now have a broader audience within their reach. Hence the reason why mobile UX is an essential investment for companies looking to expand their target audience.
All in all, 2019 looks like a very promising year tech wise. As interesting as it might seem to see all of the above actually come to life, I believe it would be more so to witness the unpredicted trends that could pop up during the year. But until then, I’ll keep a lookout.
Picture credit: Basic ways of how people are holding their phones. Research by Steven Hoobe (6)
Have you already heard about “test and learn” approach, one of the well-known action levers of the Management 3.0 ? Today, we are in an era in which flexibility, adaptation and performance determine success. It is therefore impossible to conceive innovation without going through test phase. This is why you absolutely need to integrate testing in your digital strategy, and your customers have a huge role to play!
WHY TESTING NEEDS TO BE PART OF YOUR DIGITAL STRATEGY ?
In a rapidly changing world where information is increasingly accessible, competition is tough to make your customer loyal. Digital customers have a wide choice of services and products, which increases the effort of companies to satisfy their customers and convince them to buy.
As Pascal Picq points out in his book Un paléoanthropologue dans l’entreprise : s’adapter et innover (A palaeoanthropologist in the company: adapting and innovating), a change of culture is necessary in traditional organisations which still have a vision too linear and hierarchical, especially in France.
You can no longer conceive innovation as it has been in the industrial era with a classic development framework, moving from R&D to sales, with each department operating in silos.
Now you need a demand-driven vision, to co-design with the main stakeholders: your users. You must be fast enough and responsive to find a place in a highly competitive market and adapt quickly to demand. To do this, put aside your certainty and listen more to the users, rely on experimentation rather than purely rational decision!
TEST AND LEARN MAKE HAPPY CUSTOMERS
You certainly know this famous expression which is sure to bring about some teeth-grinding: customer is king! Really annoying isn’t it? But sadly, it is right… Nowadays, even more than ever, customer experience is the key to digital success. With a consumption which is more and more multi-channel and digitalised, integrating the user in your development process is essential! So, be prepared to experiment and interview customers.
Some businesses with a success story have understood it very well. For example, Dropbox encourage their users to take a tour of the functionalities, and send a text of ninety characters of feedback about the service by rewarding them with megabytes of extra storage.
Another example is Décathlon. Since March 30, 2017, in a co-design approach, the brand has set up the Décathlon Creation test platform after using it to allow users to suggest improvement ideas for their products.
Users feel therefore more engaged with the brand. They can help you to find the strengths and weaknesses of your idea. Don’t be afraid to be challenged! Finally, this way, you take fewer risks, your user experience can only be better.
HOW TO PROCEED?
Develop a Minimum Viable Product
When you have an idea, you certainly have a global vision of the final solution, whether you want it or not. But how to be profitable before that? This is where the MVP comes in!
It is a first draft of your idea (product, service or else) but a functional version. It forces you to confront your users as quickly as possible at the lowest cost. Step by step, experience will help you improve your solution and add new features or services. No need to spend a huge budget if your solution does not fit to your customers’ needs!
One of the most famous MVP is Airbnb. The two founders, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbi, validated their product by offering mattresses in their living room during the Industrial Design Society of America Conference (IDSA) in 2007. They found three guests willing to pay for this and validated their first assumption: people pay to sleep in strangers’ house! Not so obvious at first sight… Today, the platform has changed a lot – for the better – since its first roll! You can find a lot of other MVP examples.
Measure and analyse: no test without data
Tests require a certain analytical rigour. Your test must absolutely not rely on your intuition but on reliable data. Be particularly careful to the bounce rate, the conversion rate, time spent on your website. All the data that could help you understand your customer’s behaviour and identify what the factors or elements scrambling their experience are. Assessing these issues can have an important impact on your turnover! Then, you can use, of course, these figures to measure the potential of an initiative.
First tip: unlearn everything you think you know and be user centric! A test can verify very different aspects: the value proposition/the landing page/the call-to-action of your website, a customer journey, the usability of your app and many other things…
For this, there are a lot of test methods like the A/B testing, method consisting of comparing two versions of a page or an app to see which one is more efficient.
Second tip: always do the test by small keys so that it is not skewed because the change is due to only one factor.
Learn and improve
A testing strategy is a continuous improvement process. You have to proceed by iterations. These are short development circles that enable to take feedback into account before launching a new one. In this way, you make regular checks on what is valuable for your user and every new cycle helps you to improve your solution. Sometimes tests fail, but do not give up, be perseverant! You can learn about it. Once again, it is better to realise it as quickly as possible in your cycle of development!
Keep in mind: your digital success depends on your capability to forget what you think you know by confronting you to your clients regularly! Small tests can solve important business stakes. So integrate them as much as you can and try new things!
If you want to know how to launch your first test, go take look on the article Getting Started with User Testing for Website Optimisation!
Today, shopping is installing itself as a growing activity during our spare time. It is commonly linked to window shopping in malls, but more and more we observe this behavior through e-commerce.
Wish, created in 2011 by Peter Szulczewski and Danny Zhang, (respectively ex-Google and Yahoo employees) is now one of the biggest actors of online shopping, competing directly with big companies such as Amazon or AliExpress. Their motto: make your shopping smarter, fun, and rewarding. The Wish app is now valorized to 10 milliards dollars. It’s the first app downloaded in more than 40 countries and gathering more than 300 million daily users.
Sources: Wish on craft.com (https://craft.co/wish-contextlogic)
AN EASY STOCK MANAGEMENT
Wish’s model is simple: it is all based on being an intermediary between big retailers that are producing a lot and users with a low income. This allows to avoid stock management and to offer the lowest prices on the market.