Google Search is facing a problem, as are many major search engines. Search results in 2024 often bring up SEO or AI-generated content that is only tangentially related to user queries. This isn’t just speculation anymore, either: a recent study proved that search engines are less effective today than they were in the past. The problem might be getting worse because Google is firing some of its search quality raters.
In a move that will take effect March 19, Google will end its contract with one of its top search quality rating contractors, according to SearchEngineLand. Appen, the contractor in question, also announced the news in a financial release. It said that the company generated nearly $83 million in revenue from Google last year. Though it isn’t known exactly how many Appen contractors were working for Google as search quality raters, Appen likely represented a large portion of Google’s contractors. Google said it had roughly 16,000 search quality raters as of November 2023.
“The news is unexpected and disappointing, particularly considering the progress made against Appen’s transformation and performance in November and December 2023,” Appen said in its release. “Appen had no prior knowledge of Google’s decision to terminate the contract.
Google outsources its search quality rating program to third-party contractors. While the raters do not directly affect where sites appear in results, they are an important part of the ranking process. Instead, the search quality raters can help evaluate Google’s internal ranking systems. Theoretically, the raters can help Google identify flaws in its systems. On a long-term scale, these raters can improve the quality of search results overall.
What does this mean for other Google Search raters?
A potential concern is that Appen is just the first contractor to be given notice that their services are no longer needed. Google could begin firing other search quality raters as part of a general shift. The company might leverage artificial intelligence more in ranking search results or could move the rating system internally. It’s also possible that Google will increase the number of contractors it hires from other companies, thus not losing any raters overall. However, this is all speculation. We don’t know what the Appen decision means for Google Search strategy yet.
What we do know is that Apple’s $83 million in revenue likely comes from thousands of search raters. A significant portion of Google’s search quality rating staff has now been fired, at least for now. It’s the latest in a string of layoffs for Google in 2023 and 2024. Google has fired thousands of workers in-house, so it’s unsurprising to see these financial woes affect external contractors too.
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