Google recently published new Quality Raters Guidelines. Within it you’ll find significant changes to the “Quality Raters Guidelines” section and additional new areas of focus. In this blog post, we’ll track the changes and how they may influence search engine optimization trends.
Something that’s important to notice that many people use these guidelines for tips on how Google search algorithm works but this is not the right approach.
The guidelines are there for quality raters to focus on certain signals and page properties for the purpose of judging the quality of the pages. They are not instructed to look for Quality Raters Guidelines. Google uses quality raters to see if the content the algorithm is ranking meets quality standards and that’s it.
The guidelines are written to assist third-party Quality Raters Guidelines to rate the web pages. They do not contain hints as to what the ranking signals are within the algorithm. The guidelines however do provide hints as to what kind of quality issues the algorithm may be focusing on.
So far, the quality guidelines have been incredibly accurate for predicting trends in the algorithm. For example, the increased instruction on how to rate medical and financial sites coincided with algorithms designed to improve the relevance of those kinds of websites.
The last few Google core Quality Raters Guidelines strongly affected news websites. We see a new news section was added to the quality rater guidelines and it shows how the quality rater guidelines can reflect we’re past or future algorithms are focused. Even though there may not be hints about ranking signals in the quality rater guides, it may be possible to deduce algorithm trends.
Though a lot of the guidelines have changed overall, an important section to pay attention to is the guidelines that appear in section 2.3.
Section 2.3 handles your money or your life topics. This change affects Quality Raters Guidelines and government related topics. Before this update, the news topic section was grouped in with public and official information pages.
Now the news topic is its own section providing guidance about how to judge and rate news pages. This is likely in response to the fact that Google has gotten a lot of negative attention from politicians and government pundits who Quality Raters Guidelines. It may not be coincidental that the news and government/civics section has been given greater emphasis within the new guidelines.
Topics are Now Emphasized Over Pages
Though it may seem minor, Google has emphasized the topic of a page over the word page itself. The word Pages has been removed in many places throughout the new guidelines whereas the word “topic” has been added in many places.
Removing emphasis from the word “pages” refocuses the sentence on the newly added instances of the word topic. Take a look at this change at the YMYL section.
“Some types of pages could potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users. We call such pages “Your Money or Your Life” pages, or YMYL. The following are examples of YMYL pages:”
New Version, with additions added:
“Some types of pages or topics could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety. We call such pages “Your Money or Your Life” pages, or YMYL. The following are examples of YMYL topics:”
This change may appear minor but it has the effect of emphasizing the topicality of a page as something to focus on.
“Some types of pages or topics…”
Section 2.3 that deals with YMYL has been rewritten almost in its entirety. In previous versions, Financial, medical, and shopping topics were in the top three of that section. Now we see the top topics are News and Current Events and Civics, Government and Law.
Those topics are followed by Finance, Shopping, Health and Safety, the new Groups and People and Other. The Other category has also been revised with this new series of update.
It’s worth noting that the Medical section has been demoted from third to fifth place but it has been renamed to Health and Safety.
New YLML Content
The changes to the YLML content are as follows:
- “News and current events: news about important topics such as international events, business, politics, science, technology, etc. Keep in mind that not all news articles are necessarily considered YMYL (e.g., sports, entertainment, and everyday lifestyle topics are generally not YMYL). Please use your judgment and knowledge of your locale.
- Civics, government, and law: information important to maintaining an informed citizenry, such as information about voting, government agencies, public institutions, social services, and legal issues (e.g., divorce, child custody, adoption, creating a will, etc.).”
These are the newly revised sections, including the new Health and Safety section:
- “Finance: financial advice or information regarding investments, taxes, retirement planning, loans, banking, or insurance, particularly webpages that allow people to make purchases or transfer money online.
- Shopping: information about or services related to research or purchase of goods/services, particularly webpages that allow people to make purchases online.
- Health and safety: advice or information about medical issues, drugs, hospitals, emergency preparedness, how dangerous an activity is, etc.
- Groups of people: information about or claims related to groups of people, including but not limited to those grouped on the basis of race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity.
- Other: there are many other topics related to big decisions or important aspects of people’s lives which thus may be considered YMYL, such as fitness and nutrition, housing information, choosing a college, finding a job, etc. Please use your judgment.”
“Other” Topic Expanded
As shown above, the other section has been expanded. I specifically calling out Fitness and Nutrition, College search and job search, which are big topics in the affiliate marketing room, it’s possible they may receive additional scrutiny and emphasis in a future round of core algorithm updates.
It’s also a reasonable assumption that quality raters just hadn’t been focusing enough on these topics. The fact that Google includes them by name in the new guidelines suggests that these are areas Google is paying special attention to.
Housing information could relate to anything from real estate and home loans to home improvement. These niches are also among big money in the affiliate area. Because that topic of housing information itself is vague, it will be interesting to see if housing-related niches will be impacted in future broad core updates.
Section on Identifying Content Updated
Google added information to this section to include new guidance on news and shopping pages.
“News website homepage: the purpose is to inform users about recent or important events. (MC – News Homepage)
News article page: the purpose is to communicate information about an event or news topic. (MC – News Article)
Store product page: the purpose is to sell or give information about the product.
- Content behind the Reviews, Shipping, and Safety Information tabs are considered to be part of the MC. (MC – Shopping Page)”
Author Information Section Updated
In section 2.5.2, they cover information about finding out who is responsible for a website and Quality Raters Guidelines. The section remains intact but has one addition:
“Websites want users to be able to distinguish between content created by themselves versus content that was added by other users.”
This change relates to news magazines as well as any sites that accept guest articles or allows Quality Raters Guidelines question-and-answer content.
This could mean that Google is reviewing guest posts and authors and it may indicate that Google is focusing on identifying low-quality sites and excluding them. Sites like Quality Raters Guidelines are full of spam links so this may be one reason why Google is considering paying closer attention to them.
Very High Quality Content Section Expanded
In section 5.1 where very high-quality main content is addressed, the section has been expanded to address the uniqueness and originality of the content. This section has a new focus on news sites but it isn’t limited to sites in that niche. The standards of high-quality also apply to all sites, but in particular YMYL sites.
The new section goes beyond the quality of the text content encouraging quality readers to judge the quality in the originality of artistic content that includes photography, images, and videos.
“A factor that often distinguishes very high quality MC is the creation of unique and original content for the specific website.
While what constitutes original content may be very different depending on the type of website, here are some examples:
- For news: very high quality MC is original reporting that provides information that would not otherwise have been known had the article not revealed it. Original, in-depth, and investigative reporting requires a high degree of skill, time, and effort. Often very high quality news content will include a description of primary sources and other original reporting referenced during the content creation process. Very high quality news content must be accurate and should meet professional journalistic standards.
- For artistic content (videos, images, photography, writing, etc.): very high quality MC is unique and original content created by highly skilled and talented artists or content creators. Such artistic content requires a high degree of skill/talent, time, and effort. If the artistic content is related to a YMYL topic (e.g., artistic content with the purpose of informing or swaying opinion about YMYL topics), YMYL standards should apply.
- For informational content: very high quality MC is original, accurate, comprehensive, clearly communicated, professionally presented, and should reflect expert consensus as appropriate. Expectations for different types of information may vary. For example, scientific papers have a different set of standards than information about a hobby such as stamp collecting. However, all types of very high quality informational content share common attributes of accuracy, comprehensiveness, and clear communication, in addition to meeting standards appropriate to the topic or field.”
Very Positive Reputation Section Expanded
Section 5.2.3 referencing very positive reputation also got an update. The new content reads:
For YMYL topics especially, careful checks for reputation are required. YMYL reputation should be based on evidence from experts, professional societies, awards, etc. For shopping pages, experts could include people who have used the store’s website to make purchases; whereas for medical advice pages, experts should be people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. Please review section 2.3 for a summary of types of YMYL pages/topics.”
We know that website reputation has been a part of the quality raters guidelines for a long time. This doesn’t mean you should go out and then join as many associations as possible and seek testimonials from your customers. But if you are creating YMYL content it should be expert and focus on quality.
Big Changes: Are More on the Horizon?
With this Google quality raters is guideline update, we see a number of significant changes. It’ll be interesting to see how sites are affected by it’s your garage for updates. If you want to read more of the guidelines and see the changes for yourself, you can download the Quality Raters Guidelines here.