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Google updates Search Quality Raters guidelines: Here’s what you need to know

Jason Roy

Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines is an important piece of document that gives us insights into how Google rates different websites and ranks them in search engine rankings. The main idea of these guidelines is to make sure that Google Search returns the most relevant and useful search results from the available resources.

As Google said, “Information quality is at the heart of Search, and our systems fundamentally work to surface high-quality information.”

The Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines is a 170-odd page document that Google Quality Raters use as a reference to rate websites and identify low-quality content that should be demoted in search rankings. These guidelines inform Google Quality Raters on how a website should be rated.

In Google’s own words, “The rater guidelines help raters determine if a planned improvement is meeting that goal by providing a clear, uniform definition that all raters use to assess the results they see.”

Last month, Google updated the Search Quality Raters guidelines and made numerous changes.

In this blog post, we are going to list and explain the biggest changes that Google just made and how these changes may affect your website in search.

Here are some of the notable changes Google made.

Your Money, Your Life (YMYL)

Your Money, Your Life (Section 2.3) saw the most significant changes in the recent update. Google had previously broken down YMYL topics into the following categories:

  • Civics, government, and law
  • Finance
  • Shopping
  • Groups of people
  • News and current events
  • Health and safety
  • Other

Google has removed these categories and replaced them with topics with a “high risk of harm” that can impact “the health, financial stability, or safety of people, or the welfare or well-being of society.”

With these new wordings, Google has expanded the scope of YMYL topics. Topics related to health and finance remain at the center of it, however. 

Therefore, if you have websites that create content on health, finance, or other related topics, make sure to be extra careful.

In addition, Google’s guidelines also mention that YMYL is on a spectrum.

“Many or most topics are not YMYL and do not require a high level of accuracy or trust to prevent harm. Because YMYL assessment is a spectrum, it may be helpful to think of topics as clear YMYL, definitely not YMYL, or something in between. Pages on clear YMYL topics require the most scrutiny for Page Quality rating.”

Google has also shared the following table to help you determine if a piece of content qualifies as a YMYL topic or not.

Low-quality pages

“Low-quality pages” is another section that Google has made significant changes to. Now, Google’s Quality Raters have much more information that they can use to determine if a web page is low quality.

One really interesting point in the guidelines is the mention of “for the purpose of the page.” 

It means that a page can have various high-quality aspects. However, it can still be deemed “low quality” if the purpose of the page itself is low quality.

Another important point that Google reiterated in this update is the fact that a high-quality website can have low-quality pages. It reminds raters that a page is not guaranteed to be high quality just because it is published on a high-quality website. Moreover, Google also mentioned that a low-quality web page could exist on any type of website, including a non-profit organization website, a government website, or an academic website.

Google rewrote the following section to highlight the aforementioned points:

“Low-quality pages do not achieve their purpose well because they are lacking in an important dimension or have a problematic aspect. Low-quality pages can be present on all types of websites and may be created to serve any purpose.”

Lowest quality page

In addition to the “low quality” section, Google has also added a new section titled “lowest quality page.”

These refer to pages that are spam, untrustworthy, harmful, or pages that contain deceptive content. Google suggests that such pages should be marked as the “lowest quality pages.”

Deliberately obscured MC

Google also rewrote the section about deliberately obscured MC. The rewritten paragraph highlights the deliberate “design of the website” that is used for manipulation, suggesting that website owners and designers should rethink the design of their websites. 

A deliberately manipulative website design can lead to search engine penalties.

The new text reads, “One possible distinguishing factor for Lowest is [the] deliberate design of the website to manipulate or coerce people into engaging with monetization or Ads rather than the MC.”

Interstitials

In the Page Quality Rating FAQs section, Google has added a new question that deals with interstitials, and how they should impact ratings.

According to Google, interstitials are not necessarily bad — as long as they do not impact users’ accessibility to the main content.

“Sometimes clicking on the task URL will bring up an interstitial page. You can ignore this page in your rating criteria if you can easily get to the MC. However, if the interstitial makes it extremely hard (or impossible) to get to the MC and evaluate how well the page achieves its purpose, that should factor into your Page Quality rating.”

E-A-T

E-A-T has always been critical, and Google has added more information surrounding E-A-T in this update to make it even easier for raters to understand and make decisions.

First, Google added another bullet point for one of the examples of a low-quality page with a low E-A-T. The bullet point says, “Informational MC on YMYL topics is mildly inaccurate or misleading.”

The “mildly inaccurate or misleading” part of the line just reemphasizes the importance Google puts on YMYL topics.

Google also added more information about how much E-A-T is generally needed for a page and the different types of pages that can do without a high amount of E-A-T.

According to Google, “the level of E-A-T needed depends on the purpose and topic of the page. For some types of pages, formal expertise may not be needed. For pages on YMYL topics, it is critical.”

Circling back to the changes Google made to YMYL (that we talked about earlier), Google recommends Raters think about E-A-T and base rating decisions on the potential “harm” a page can do.

“Consider the purpose and the topic of the page. What is the risk of harm? Is there a need for high E-A-T to prevent harm? If so, even mild inaccuracies may cause informational pages on YMYL topics to be untrustworthy.”

In addition, Google reminds Raters not to consider the positive reputation or the type of the website if the page lacks appropriate E-A-T for its purpose.

“The Low rating should be used if the page lacks appropriate E-A-T for its purpose. No other considerations such as positive reputation or the type of website can overcome a lack of E-A-T for the topic or purpose of the page.”

Takeaways

To summarize, the following points stood out in Google’s latest update to its Search Quality Raters Guidelines:

  • YMYL topics are extremely important, and Google is very sensitive about them.
  • E-A-T requirements are based on the type and purpose of your web page.
  • The overall authoritativeness, popularity, and quality of the website will not save a low-quality web page — especially if the topic is YMYL.
  • Deliberate manipulation and obscurity of MC through interstitials or deceptive website design is a big no.

You can read the updated Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines here.

For more news, tips, and tricks, stay tuned.

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