Google has recently released a new set of Guidelines for their Quality raters, and we’ve spent time pouring over it so that we can decipher what it could mean for rankings, and potential algorithm changes coming up in the next few months.
Why are the Quality Rater Guidelines important?
These guidelines are a window into what Google is focusing on in at the time.
You only have to think back to last year, when the 2018 guidelines were released in July with a focus on E-A-T. Less than a month later the YMYL (medic) update was released which had a huge effect on sites in industries where Google had specifically mentioned that E-A-T would be incredibly important.
If Google is thinking about making changes to their algorithm then it would make sense that they would show this revised idea to their quality raters firstly.
Do the Quality Rater Guidelines have an effect on rankings?
Not directly, but as we said previously they show a window into what Google’s ethos is at that time. And from everything we have seen, these QRGs have always been reflective of something Google wants to change to how they rank or something that they are already doing. As Googles VP of search said regarding the guidelines:
“They don’t tell you how the algorithm is ranking results, but they fundamentally show what the algorithm should do”
This means it is important for us to understand everything in the QRG’s so we can notice any changes from the previous year when the new guidelines are released! As changes = potential changes to their algorithm, which we’ll be getting onto later 🙂
So what have the recent updated Quality Rater Guidelines shown us?
1. Make sure you have clear information on who and how you can contact customer service and who is writing your content!
This ties into the idea of being accountable! A site that is accountable is more reliable and trustworthy!
Not only this but giving details on WHO is writing content continues to be important this year! As Google specifically mention, especially for YMYL type sites! So the answer is to continue showing off as much E-A-T as possible and making sure you are contactable with a good ‘Contact Us’ page!
2. The rise of Everyday Expertise
This has been an interesting addition to Googles guidelines, and perhaps shows a desire to move away from E-A-T being viewed JUST by awards, papers published etc, but rather making sure that Google can discern between industries that NEED some form of formal expertise (think YMYL) and those that don’t as much!
So what kind of pages can use more everyday expertise?
Well, this is what Google had to say:
As you can see here Google specifies the importance of E-A-T for industries such as; medical, journalism etc as obviously this is where the negative effect can be the worst!
E.g. bad or dangerous health advice, the dissemination of fake news etc!
But as we saw above, even in heath industries, as long as the page is not giving advice, but rather sharing experiences – this can still be seen as a form of expertise, as although the content creators, commenters etc, may not have any formal expertise, their experience acts as a form of everyday expertise!
Google also specifies industries where formal expertise may not be as important;
They are careful to specify that in industries where they are not doing harm but they are NOT showing everyday expertise or formal expertise then a medium rating is applicable.
However, from that rationale, as these industries have been specified as not having formal expertise as such an important requirement then you should be able to get a ‘higher’ rating if the site DOES demonstrate everyday expertise.
Such as high engagement, positive helpful content, popular sites.
3. From E-A-T to Page Quality!
Possibly the stand-out change between these new quality rater guidelines and the latter is the emphasis on page quality!
Parts, where E-A-T had previously been emphasised, had been changed to page quality.
All mentions of E-A-T in the below image were replaced with page quality.
This doesn’t mean that E-A-T is no longer important, but rather that the focus is now more towards ensuring that the page quality is ALSO an important factor, alongside E-A-T;
Of course, we already knew that Page quality is important, but, it may mean that big authoritative sites, who previously may have been able to rest on their laurels, as they know they’re trustworthy and have authority in the eyes of Google (think seed sites), will now have to work harder to ensure their content is up to par with some smaller sites, who’s page quality and content could be better than the bigger sites.
This below example also shows us that Google does not view page quality and E-A-T as synonymous, as it explicitly says the page ALSO lacks E-A-T.
This is important to know, as it makes the fact they have changed much of the wording from E-A-T to Page Quality more significant if they do not view the two factors as synonymous.
Note that this example itself, last year had the headline E-A-T where it now says Page quality, whilst an after-thought on E-A-T has now been put at the end. This yet again supports our idea that the emphasis is being put on quality now.
So, what does that mean for rankings?
Well as we said previously, any new Quality Rater Guidelines release is normally followed by an algorithm update.
Our hypothesis being that the next update will focus on quality, and perhaps evening the playing-field between sites that have got big E-A-T – such as the big seed sites – and smaller sites that may have worked hard to produce better and more quality content and pages, but up until now have not been able to outperform their larger counterparts!
Since writing this Google have come forward with a core algorithm update, released on June 3rd.
Although early days, some of what we expected to happen in an update following on from the recent QRG updates may be beginning to occur.
So far Sistrix have found that the update is broader than the previous YMYL update, which would make sense if the update is more focused on page quality, however the sites MOST affected are still those in the medical and financial industries (although we must stress this is still early days, and we will write up a full post on the update when we get more data in).
As this table by Rank Ranger shows, so far is it gambling sites that have been worst hit.
Marie Haynes also noted on twitter that clients she has worked with, who have spent time to improve their page quality after the recent QRG update have seen slight increases following on from the June core algorithm update, so does this mean that this update is about page quality? Only time will tell!
Another update, unrelated to the core update, was also announced in the same week, known as the diversity update. It aims to ensure that users will not see more than two results from the same website on page one of Google results.
Now it’s hard to say whether this update has any link to the QRGs but what it does potentially tell us, is that Google is seeking to stop the monopoly that bigger sites have on the results pages; think of sites like YELP that may have a huge range of results if you’re entering a location-based query!
This could tie into the idea that Google is trying to stop huge, big E-A-T sites from overly-populating the rankings, which in theory could be related to the recent quality rater guideline update. We’ll keep looking at the data, and will be writing up our summaries on both recent updates once we know more.
It will certainly be interesting to see how these updates unravel in the next few weeks in conjunction with the updated guidelines. But it is already clear that Google is beginning to focus more on the merits of looking at site page by page, rather than as a whole. We’re looking forward to finding out more 🙂