Reputation Research

How to Conduct Reputation Research According to Google Quality Raters Guidelines

Trustworthy websites have typically done the work of reputation research.

Having studied years of Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines, it’s noticeable that they continue to clarify what their examiners are to look for. The reputation of both the business entity and its content authors continues to be more highly scrutinized. A world of reputation research, analysis, and thinking exists that you may not be aware of. This article will help you assess your website and authors the way Google sees them.

Table of Contents

Raters are Researching the Reputation of Your Business

Public relations is ultimately about reputation and trust. What you say matters; what others say about you matters more.

From an objective point of view, this is logical. We all want to present our best selves. Google is seeking reputable sources providing helpful content and factual, true statements versus creating content for search engine rankings, sales at the expense of the customer’s best, or manipulated clicks. It uses the words like “respected”, “reputable”, credibility”, “negative criticism”, and “popularity” in its new guidelines. These terminologies signal the importance of how other sources regard the website versus what the entity is saying about itself.

The December 15, 2022, updated information guidelines for Google quality evaluators stresses the importance of reputation research to its raters. Since Google is placing more emphasis on trust and the business’s reputation, if you rely on its organic search results for leads, fresh reasearch on the reputation of your business is vital.

This emphasis in the QRG’s isn’t new. It’s reordered. How it talks about “reputation” has new or additional wording in several places. It’s fun to get into the reasoning behind the update.

Use reputation research to find how real people (raters) are likely to rate our website. It pays to stay current with their guidelines and apply their strategies yourself.

Google’s Evaluators Trust Independent Sources Most

A business’s marketing research needs to include comprehensive and consistent reputation research.

There is more emphasis on how content contributors impact websites’ reputations. Your reputation is anywhere and everywhere across the world wide web. Reputation information includes what your peers, partners, customers, and independent sources say about you and your main content authors. When what the website says about itself doesn’t align with what reputable independent sources have to say about the business, Google’s evaluators are instructed to trust the independent sources.

The increased prominence on how content contributors impact websites should be duly noted. Your reputation is anywhere and everywhere across the global web. Reputation information includes what your co-workers, friends, peers, partners, customers, and independent sources say about you and your primary content authors. When what the website states about itself is different from what reputable independent sources have to say about it, Google’s evaluators may feel like you are less honest and transparent.

Both audience research and researching your brand entity recognition level will help with key insights.

To best understand instructions in the Quality Rater’s Guidelines (QRG), the following is a direct quote from their document [1].

Reputation of the Website and Content Creators – GQR

Google search results have a direct impact on your site’s perceived authority and credibility. It raters inform Goolge of needed QRG updates.

“An important part of PQ rating is understanding the reputation of the website. If the website is not the primary creator of the MC, it’s important to research the reputation of the content creator as well.

Reputation research should be performed according to the topic of the page. For example, if the page contains medical information, research the reputation of the website and content creator for providing medical information. It’s possible for a website to be a go-to source for one type of content (e.g., humorous videos), but an untrustworthy source for a different type of content (e.g., financial information).

A website’s or content creator’s reputation can also help you understand what a website or content creator is best known for. For example, newspapers may be known for high quality, independent investigative reporting while satire websites may be known for their humor. An individual journalist (content creator) may be known for the clarity of their scientific articles while a food blogger (content creator) may be known for the deliciousness of the recipes they post online.

Note that a company or person may create content on many different websites. For example, a newspaper might have their own website, upload their video content to a video sharing website, post updates on social media, and contribute content to a TV channel. An expert on a topic might publish research papers, have a lengthy blog, and share short updates on social media. In these cases, you should research the underlying company or content creator.

Reputation research is especially important for detecting untrustworthy websites and content creators. Content may look great on the surface, but reputation research can expose scams, fraud, or other signs of harm. You never know what you will find unless you look! Therefore, reputation research is required for all PQ rating tasks.”

Google Wants Expert or Experienced Sources that Users Trust

The amount of Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) has a huge significance.

In the December QRG update, for the first time, Google tells us that “Trust” is the most important factor in the authoritativeness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website. This not only encompasses the trustworthiness of the website but the creator of its main content (MC), the MC itself. It looks for content accuracy, honesty, safety, and reliability.

“Trust is the most important member of the E-E-A-T family because untrustworthy pages have low E-E-A-T no matter how Experienced, Expert, or Authoritative they may seem. For example, a financial scam is untrustworthy, even if the content creator is a highly experienced and expert scammer who is considered the go-to on running scams!” – Section 3.4, Pages 26 – 27

Keep in mind that there are multiple high E-E-A-T pages and websites of all types. This includes some gossip, fashion, and humor websites, forums, and even Question Answer pages. In fact, some types of information are found almost exclusively on forums and discussions, where a community of experts can provide valuable perspectives on specific topics.

High E-E-A-T medical advice should be written or published by people or business entities with appropriate healthcare experience, expertise, and/or accreditation. It should be edited, reviewed, and updated on a consistent basis to reflect current health needs and information. This is why it is good to display the date of each article’s publication and when its content was updated. Anyone doing healthcare marketing or medical writing has an added layer of scrutiny.

When evaluating your website’s reputation, be aware that its raters research all components. For example, subdomains and folders are included.


Sources for Researching Reputation Information

We take a comprehensive long-term stance on where Google’s evaluators may draw reputation details from.

Interestingly, raters are specifically told “Ratings should not be based on your personal opinions, preferences, religious beliefs, or political views”. Rather, they are instructed to ensure that ratings are “based on the instructions and examples given in these guidelines”.

Below is a partial list that includes both our assessments and quotes directly from the QRGs.

  • “Identify the homepage of the website.” (QRG, page 23)
  • A website’s About Us page.
  • A website’s Contact page.
  • Reviews.
  • Biographical details.
  • News articles.
  • Online discussions.
  • Social media platforms.
  • Press releases.
  • Prestigious awards.
  • Directories & Third-party accounts.
  • Video, Podcasts, Comments
  • “Educational degrees, peer validation, expert co-authors, and citations can be evidence of positive reputation information for professionals who publish their work.” (QRG, page 25)
  • “Employment history can also support a positive reputation for topics where training, credentials, or experience are important.” (QRG, page 25)
  • “You may find comments or posts from other users helpful to see what other people think about a particular content creator.” (QRG, page 25)

December’s update includes several other helpful statements to assist raters when researching the reputation of a business and/or author.

“You may be able to tell that someone is an expert in hair styling by watching a video of them in action (styling someone’s hair) and reading others’ comments (commenters often highlight expertise or lack thereof).” – QRG, page 27

Important: The website or content creator may not be a trustworthy source if there is a clear conflict of interest. For example, product reviews by people who own the product and share their experiences can be very valuable and trustworthy. However, “reviews” by the product manufacturer ( “Our product is great!” ) or “reviews” from an influencer who is paid to promote the product are not as trustworthy due to the conflict of interest.” – QRG, page 27

“Exercise care when researching the reputation of businesses. Try to find enough reviews to understand a range of customer opinions and experiences, and read the details of negative reviews and low ratings before inferring that the business overall has a negative reputation. A few negative customer service reviews are typical for businesses such as stores or restaurants.” – QRG, page 53

For content creators, expect raters to research the author’s reputation in biographical data and other sources that are not written by your authors. In past updates, the tech giant has also suggested that they look for a Wikipedia page for content creators.

Most websites publish both “Contact Us” and “About Us” pages that provide information about who owns the site. Many companies recognize these pages are central to managing your brand Knowledge Graph. Make it easy for your audience to reach you. Your website’s user experience can be improved by providing: email addresses, phone numbers, location addresses, web contact forms, etc. For larger sites, consider providing how to reach specific departments and the names of key individuals to contact.

How Page Quality Rating Impacts Reputation

The main sections covering reputation come under 3.0 Overall Page Quality Rating.

3.0 Overall Page Quality Rating

3.1 Page Quality Rating Considerations

3.2 Quality of the Main Content

3.3 Reputation of the Website and Content Creators

3.3.1 Reputation of the Website

3.3.2 Customer Reviews as Reputation Information

3.3.3 How to Search for Reputation Information about a Website

3.3.4 Reputation of the Content Creators

3.3.5 What to Do When You Find No Reputation Information

3.4 Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trust (E-E-A-T)

3.4.1 YMYL Topics: Experience or Expertise?

We can quickly recognize that one cannot seperate out content creation from a site’s reputation. Your content and who writes it directly shapes your reputation.

The December 15, 2022, update reordered Page Quality (PQ) rating sections are on pages 19-28. It streamlined transitions between sections explaining how evaluators should rate page quality and how the website’s reputation factors in. The raters are to perform page-level checks on individual articles. They are given a Page Quality sliding scale (slider) to assign the overall PQ rating. They can also use also in-between ratings of Lowest+, Low+, Medium+, and High+ to further differentiate or establish quality.

Google knows that people need to trust its search results. It ardently seeks to help people in their specific language and geographic location. It places a high priority on providing trusted, relevant answers from reputable sources. The General Guidelines primarily cover Page Quality (PQ) rating and Needs Met (NM) rating; however, these concepts update periodically and are also important for many other types of rating tasks.

Positive Reputation: Reputation is an important criterion if the evaluator is considering applying a High rating. Reputation informs the E-E-A-T of each web page. While a page may merit the High rating with no reputation, the High rating cannot be used for any website that has given a negative reputation. It stresses that when evaluators conduct research, they are to make sure to consider the reasons behind a negative rating and not just the rating itself.

It also provides what qualifies for “Very Positive Reputation”.

Medium: Reputation drawn from your site’s content includes “Medium Quality Pages”. They are described as common findings among quality raters’ tasks. They are both useful and acceptable for determining the reputation quality of a website. The following table comes from section 6.0, on page 57.

To identify Medium quality pages, start by considering the following:
Initial Consideration Medium Quality Pages
The purpose of the page Medium quality pages have a beneficial or non-harmful purpose.
The potential for the page to cause harm as described in these guidelines Medium quality pages are not expected to cause harm.
The topic of the page, the type of website, and the extent to which YMYL standards apply A page on any topic or any type of website may qualify for Medium.
Give special scrutiny to pages on YMYL topics or websites needing a high level of trust, such as online stores.
The title of the page Medium quality pages have titles that summarize the page.
The role of Ads and SC on the page The Ads and SC do not block or significantly interfere with the MC on Medium quality pages.
Remember: Many websites need monetization to share content with users. The presence or absence of Ads alone is not a consideration for PQ rating.
Information provided by the website and content creator Medium quality pages have adequate information about the website and content creator for the purpose of the page. For stores or websites that process financial transactions, examine the customer service information.
Important: For personal content shared on social media platforms or forums, an alias or username is adequate.

Negative Reputation: These two words are used together 15x in the latest version. To avoid surfacing untrusted content, it says, “if the E-E-A-T of a page is low enough, people cannot or should not use the MC of the page.” It breaks down assessments into “Mildly Negative”, as well. This applies when “The Low rating should be used if the website or the content creator has a mildly negative reputation”.

“Use the Lowest rating if the website and content creator have an extremely negative reputation, to the extent that many people would consider the webpage or website untrustworthy.” – Section 4.5.2, QRG, page 36

We are giving clear examples of when a lack of E-E-A-T exists.

  • “The website or content creator is not an authoritative or trustworthy source for the topic of the page, e.g. tax form downloads provided on a cooking website.
  • The page or website is not trustworthy for its purpose, e.g. a shopping page with minimal customer service information.” – Section 5.1, QRG, page 51

Independent, Reliable Evidence of E-E-A-T Reputation

A high association bewteen Page Quaility, E-E-A-T, and reputation stands out.

Going to an extreme for an example, how you feel if you referred someone to an acquaintence and that person later decieved them into a loss? It is similarily of concern to Google if they lead a search query to misinformation that impacts their well being. If they put poor healthcare advice into practice and then are ill from putting it into practice, that’s horrible.

“Popular fad diets often lead to rapid, short-term weight loss. … eating disorders, malnutrition, impaired quality of life and well-being, bone diseases…,” states the University of Okalohoma. [2] The QRG give several examples of why YMYL sites should be and are researched more for accuracy and trusted content. However, the logic applies to all content. The following bulleted list is found on page 27. (Bolded and italicized text is my emphasis to show how PQ and reputation intertwine.)

When it comes to Page Quality rating, your assessment of E-E-A-T should be informed by one or more of the following:

  • What the website or content creators say about themselves: Look at the “About us” page on the website or profile page of the content creator as a starting point. Is the website or content creator a trustworthy source based on this information?
  • What others say about the website or content creators: Look for independent reviews, references, news articles, and other sources of credible information about the website or content creators. Is there independent, reliable evidence that the website or content creator is experienced, has expertise, is authoritative, or is otherwise considered trustworthy? Is there independent, reliable evidence that the website or creator is untrustworthy?
  • What is visible on the page, including the Main Content and sections such as reviews and comments: For some types of pages, the level of experience and expertise may be clear from the MC itself. What evidence can you gather from examining the MC or testing the page out?

Your reputation is very tied to your “level of experience and expertise”. Why should you write about anything less that what you have deep experience doing that has granted you a respectable level of expertise?

Past Research Reputation Instructions for Search Quality Raters

The guidelines for how to research reputation information have various changes like:

The December 2022 QRG’s ‘update, has a new and more extensive section labeled as ‘Reputation for Websites and Content Creators’. This is highlighted at the end in its “Summary of Changes”. – GQR, page 176

In July 2022 when the QRG was updated, Google added “clarifications to Low and Lowest Page Quality sections to emphasize that the type and level of E-A-T depend on the purpose of the page”. It also acknowledges that “low quality and harmful pages can occur on any type of website”. This seems to instruct raters to avoid assumptions about a website and to be thorough in their reputation examination.

In October 2021 when the QRG was updated, Google refreshed its guidance on how to research reputation information for websites and content creators.

In July 2018 when the QRG was updated, changes within the table of contents signaled a stronger focus on reputation. The section on “Website Reputation” was renamed “Reputation of the Website or Creator of the Main Content.” The subsection was changed from the wording “Reputation Research” to “Research on the Reputation of the Website or Creator of the Main Content.”

At this time, Google also provided its third-party raters suggestions on how to find reputation information. For content creators, it stated, “try searching for their name or alias”.

In 2017 when the QRG was updated Google provide more detailed examples of low-quality web pages that included how it regards a website’s misleading information, unexpected offensive results, hoaxes, or other content issues.[3]

In July 2014 when the QRG was updated, Google stated: “Reputation research is important when giving the Highest ratings. A very positive reputation is often based on prestigious awards or recommendations from known experts or professional societies on the topic of the website. Wikipedia and other informational sources can be a good starting point for reputation research.” Its assessor instructions included to “Search to find scams related to this organization” [4]

How to Gauge and Improve Your Reputation with Market Research

Some wonder if the SEO Crystal Ball has ever been more cloudy.

In fact, no one has a “crystal ball”, but you should rely on SEOs with experience and expertise that provide them with the best interpretations of QRG revisions. Specific niches, an entity’s history, and current trust factors make each application unique.

In fact, these guidelines are posted publicly. Even though they are meant for their raters, anyone can view them. Anyone can conduct a SERP analysis to see what Google chooses to display from your website.

Also noteworthy is Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines revisions, QR are instructed to “Look for information written by a person or organization, not statistics or other machine-compiled information“. We take this to signal that AI-generated content is to be identified and not rated highly.

Reputation losses from an negative article

Status Labs reports that “businesses risk losing 22% of business when potential customers find a negative article on their first page of search results.” The March 25, 2020, article’s Sheena Foster, editorial director, further shares that the number climbs to 44% lost business if two negative articles display, and 59% with three negative articles.

Company Reputation Management demonstrates how positive reputation is a business’s greatest asset or its biggest weakness. Purchasing decisions are highly influenced by your company’s search results; they can be the difference between success and failure.

You may be asking what else you can do to inform the raters’ reputation research. Let’s take a look at how implementing structured data can help.

Use Schema Markup to Support Reputation Information

Structured data code helps Google understand what you say on your website.

Local Business or Organization Markup: Google’s QRG acknowledge as early as 2014 that small, local businesses or community organizations may lack an online reputation because their web presence is relatively small. However, Google expects assessors to find reputation information for most or any large business or organization. A small or new website can effectively leverage LocalBusinss schema to help establish its online reputation. Typically we use Organization schema markup for mid to large size business entities.

Organization and People Profile Page Markup: December 2023, Google announced its use of profile page schema to help surface information about creators who publish content.

Aggregate Review Markup:Additionally, pay close attention to your customer reviews. Respond to both negative and positive reviews. Aggregate review markup can be very helpful to establish consumer trust and your brand reputation. In the QRG’s section 3.3.2, Google designates a comprehensive section on Customer Reviews as Reputation Information.

“Customer reviews can be helpful for assessing the reputation of a store, business, or any website that offers products or services to users. You may consider a large number of detailed, trustworthy, positive user reviews as evidence of a positive reputation for a store or business.

However, you should interpret customer reviews with care, particularly if there are only a few. Keep the following in mind:

  • Be skeptical of both positive and negative reviews. Anyone can write them, including the website owner or someone whom the store or business hires for this purpose.
  • Try to find as many reviews as possible. Any store or business can get a few negative reviews4this is completely normal and expected. Large stores and companies receive thousands of reviews, and most receive some negative ones.
  • If you are publishing AI-generated answers, know how users interact with them.ead the reviews because the content of the reviews matters, not just the number or star rating. Credible, convincing reports of fraud and financial wrongdoing are evidence of an extremely negative reputation. On the other hand, a single encounter with a rude clerk or the delayed receipt of a single package should not be considered negative reputation information. Please use your judgment.” QRG page 23

Author Schema Markup: Remember to add author schema markup. It is better if you don’t leave readers and Google guessing who is writing your main content. Take the responsibility and lead of declaring who wrote what. Google uses author vectors and other forms of author recogniztion. It ascertains certain language styles and phrase sequencing. It’s doubling down on websites’ reputations that do not use real topic experts.

ClaimReview Markup: You can drive up your website’s reputation upward by showcasing your authority in your field or industry with factual content. Read our article on how Fact Check Schema Helps to Build Online Credibility.

Are Trust and Reputation the Same?

Reputation based on repeated instances of trustworthy behavior and/or publishing honest, factual, and need content is valuable.

The answer here is my personal opinion. I think of “Trust” as the oxygen that helps reputation exist. Without trust, reputations cannot exist positively. Trust encompasses credibility, a gut feeling behind substituted evidence that an entity can be believed in. Without credibility, a reputation cannot be built.

Google repeatedly emphasizes how its search results should help people. In order to do that, its bots must algorithmically provide authoritative and trustworthy information. It is a huge responsibility to not lead people astray with misleading content. The rater’s function is to inform Google of possible ways it can improve.

In 2008 I worked for a nonprofit organization and we brought in the reputable Tom Petters, owner of Petters Company, Inc. (“PCI”). He was a powerful speaker and we certainly raised money. Later, he was convicted and it was national news. In 2009, he pleaded guilty to orchestrating a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme and fraudulently raising money from individuals and through hedge funds. It was gut-wrenching to think I had brought people to the event and they were misled out of their hard-earned money.

The July 2022, QRG version puts it this way:

“A website’s reputation is based on the experience of real users, as well as the opinion of people who are experts in the topic of the website.”

The December 2022, QRG version acknowledges that researching trust can be challenging.

“…there are many aspects of Trust, some which are not captured by Experience, Expertise, and Authoritativeness. Please consider other aspects in your overall Trust assessment, such as customer service information for online stores or peer-reviewed publications for academic authors. If a page is untrustworthy for any reason, it has low E-E-A-T.” – QRG, page 27

Other noteworthy rater instruction updates:

  • The part that the user ratings for “stores” can provide reputation information has been updated to “websites”.
  • The guideline specifying a significant amount of “detailed, trustworthy, positive” reviews can function as evidence of a good reputation has been added.
  • The guideline that articles providing biographical information about authors/content creators can be used as a source of reputation information is a new addition. “Biographical information” is now stated 4x, whereas it was nowhere in the QRG in 2021.
  • The statement that reputation research is necessary “for all websites” has been changed to say “to the extent that an established reputation can be found”.

I highly recommend hearing Marie Hayes talk about Google’s QRG. One example she stated jumps out as to how important the reputation of the site and authors is. Premium subscribers on her Search News You Can Use Episode 267 newsletter learned how one site that used a disbarred judge to write content took nearly two years to recover.

Protecting and enhancing reputation goes far beyond the Internet. However, for good or bad, this is where it can quickly go viral.

SUMMARY: Why a Strong Reputation Matters

SEOs, content managers, and webmasters should consider that building a stronger reputation is going to be given a boost in the search algorithm too. Google clearly wants its raters to take reputation research into significant account for rating any website. Although Google has repeatedly stated that raters themselves do not affect search results, we often see QRG updates stress what has a greater impact.

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