Whenever there is an update to the quality rater guidelines most SEO professionals are in a real rush to find out what’s changed.
What’s the rush?
This is because the QRG’s offer us an insight into what Google is thinking about low and high-quality content. And if we know that, we have a greater chance of figuring out how to keep our clients and Google happy.
Not only this but these guideline updates are also normally followed by an algorithm update, that may implement many of the factors they discuss within them. This was certainly true in 2018 with the guidelines released in July, followed by the huge Medic (YMYL) update in August.
So what has Google changed?
Section 2.3 Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) Pages
This section has seen possibly the biggest change of all.
It seems that Google has tried to reduce levels of ambiguity, and perhaps also change the levels of importance for the different topics.
Pages to Topics
If you look at Google’s May guideline updates, you can see that they still referred to different categories as ‘pages’, but this has now been changed to ‘topics’. This may be because Google is trying to double down on the importance of YMYL content. E.g. even if a whole pages content is not YMYL-related if there are any YMYL topics within a page, it would be enough to warrant a closer inspection of the quality of the content following the guidelines for YMYL pages.
Addition of ‘news and current events’
You will also notice that a new section ‘news and current events’ has been created and put to the top of the examples list.
This could be a way of reducing the ambiguity that we saw in the previous guidelines, where Google had grouped news articles with public/informational pages, which may have led to some confusion.
It may also have been a way of showing that ‘news and current events’ is more of a priority in terms of YMYL content now than it was before.
We could potentially argue this is a change we saw coming with the June broad core algorithm update, which had a huge effect, both positive and negative on news and current event sites.
Civic, government and law
Civics, government and law also gained its own section, rather than being tied in with ‘news articles’. Yet again this may just be a way for Google to clear up any ambiguity. As clearly we understand that news articles and public information aren’t necessarily related. Of course, Google wants to make its intentions as clear as possible to their raters to get clear results from them. They also swallowed up the previous section known as ‘legal information pages’.
Shopping or financial transactions
Interestingly ‘shopping or financial transaction pages’ were also separated into different sections.
Yet again this may be to reduce ambiguity. But it also allows them to add some specific items for shopping-related sites. Particularly the bit which says; “information about or services related to research or purchase of goods/services,” Basically talking about reviews as a good way of judging a shopping sites quality.
Health and safety
‘Medical information pages’ has also been changed to ‘health and safety’. And within it they’ve changed the list of medical issue that included ‘mental health’ and ‘specific diseases’ to now just refer to is as ‘medical issues’.
They’ve also included safety into this section by adding on topics such as emergency preparedness, how dangerous an activity is etc.
‘Other’ section expanded
They’ve also expanded their ‘other’ section to include other topics that can be considered YMYL, such as ‘nutrition and fitness’, ‘housing information, ‘choosing a college’.
It seems that Google is wanting to broaden the definition of YMYL sites to include most informational queries that can affect a users quality of life, whilst also clearing up some sections that may have seemed a little ambiguous in the last QRG’s.
Section 4.6 Examples Of High-Quality Pages
Google had come under some fire for only including the Pulitzer prize as an example of a journalism award.
Many conservatives in America believe that the judges in the Pulitzer are too liberal, and therefore they won’t be favoured for any awards.
We can now see that the list of awards has expanded to include examples such as the Peabody Award, George Polk Award, the GLAAD media award and so on.
This may be an attempt on Googles part to appear more neutral!
Section 5.1 Very High-Quality MC
This section has seen a rather large addition of examples that Google believes will be useful to their search raters.
Yet again this seems to be a way for Google to try and tackle ambiguity by giving real examples for different types of sites.
For example, in the ‘For news’ section Google now specifies that for very high-quality content they would expect to see original, in-depth that shows time and effort has been put in, as well as high levels of skill. They also source out to primary sources and be accurate.
These aren’t earth-shattering revelations, but they do help the quality raters understand a bit better what is expected of a very high-quality news article.
For artistic content, Google specifies that it must be original, and show talent and skill – although in terms of art that can be subjective 🙂
They also mention that content is not just written, it can also be images, videos and so on.
And finally they specify that if the content created is regarding a YMYL topic, the search rater must use the YMYL standards to judge the quality of the content.
For informational content, Google yet again wants so original, accurate content, it mentions that this can vary dependant on the industry, but the search rater should be looking for expert consensus. Which in the scientific industry would include papers, whereas in stamp collecting it would require probably much less 🙂
Section 5.2 Very Positive Reputation
Google inserted more information on how to check the reputation of YMYL content creators, yet again reducing ambiguity for its search raters.
For shopping pages they mention that experts could include people who have used the site to make purchases, basically indicating that the raters should look at reviews for shopping sites.
But of course for medical/ health-related sites the content creators should have proper medical accreditation to be viewed as having a ‘very positive reputation’.
Section 7.3 Pages That Potentially Spread Hate
There have been some changes to the wording for some of their groups. For example:
‘Gender’ has been changed to ‘gender or gender identity’, this may be to show more inclusivity.
They also removed Citizenship, Socio-economic status, Political belief and Victims of atrocities.
Though we can’t speculate on why that may be.
They seem to be putting more emphasis on groups – “those grouped on the basis of….'”
The main aim of these updates guidelines seems to have been to reduce ambiguity in regards to YMYL pages.
They’ve added a lot more in-depth examples of high-quality main content, and they’ve also made the examples of potential YMYL topics more specific to avoid confusion.
It also seems they may be moving more towards prioritising the quality and E-A-T of news and current event sites, as we saw a lot more mention of them in the YMYL topics.
Google also seems to be aiming to be as neutral as possible by including more options for awards that can be used in the examples of high-quality pages.
Whilst also increasing their inclusivity and focusing more on groups in their pages that may potentially be the victims of hate.
It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few months, especially with news and media sites, will they be hit again like in the June broad core algorithm update?