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Google to Cut Thousands of Search Quality Rater Jobs With Appen

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On January 22, 2024, Barry Schwartz reported a significant development in Google’s operations, indicating the termination of its contract with Appen, an Australian data services company responsible for providing a substantial number of third-party search quality raters. The termination notice, effective March 19, 2024, came as a surprise to Appen, resulting in an estimated loss of $82.8 million in revenue at a gross margin of 26%.

Search quality raters play a crucial role in evaluating the quality of Google search results. It is important to note that their assessments do not directly impact the search results, and they lack the authority to upgrade or downgrade specific sites in Google Search. Google emphasizes that the guidelines provided to these raters serve as tools to assess the performance of search ranking systems rather than directly influencing the rankings.

Appen, with its almost $83 million revenue, seems to have employed a significant portion of Google’s 16,000 search quality raters. The abrupt termination raises questions about potential cancellations of contracts with other partners providing search quality raters and whether Google plans to replace human raters with AI technology.

Dawn Anderson, a prominent contributor, had previously speculated about such changes, drawing parallels with Google’s approach in replacing some Google Ads team members with AI. The move away from human raters, a longstanding component of Google’s search quality improvement process, suggests a potential shift towards AI, although the long-term implications on search quality remain uncertain.

A Google spokesperson clarified that the quality rater work contracted with Appen would be shifted to other suppliers as part of the company’s ongoing efforts to evaluate and optimize vendor partnerships. The decision to end the contract was framed within Google’s broader restructuring efforts with vendors over the past year, aimed at enhancing operational efficiency across Alphabet.

Notably, less than a year ago, a group of raters had protested at Google’s headquarters, advocating for improved pay, sick leave, and healthcare benefits. While the termination of the Appen contract follows these protests, Google asserts that Appen, not Google, managed the pay and benefits for its quality raters. The implications of these changes on search quality and the potential expansion of AI integration in the rating process remain subjects of speculation and observation.

Source: Search Engine Land