Google has released a new version of the Google quality rater guidelines, a year after the last update. This new update brings some significant changes, and clarifications that many SEOs will find very interesting when it comes to updating their own sites and taking into consideration the types of sites that Google wants to rank higher in the search results.
The new updates include a huge revamp of what Google considers to be the lowest quality page. They have greatly enhanced many of the examples given and have a lot more detail into some of the sections, as well as removing some of the others.
The expansion of this section on what constitutes a low quality rating or low quality webpage to simplify it somewhat to make it more clear to the raters exactly what is a low-quality page. Previously, the section got to the point where it could be kind of overwhelming because there were so many examples of so many different types of pages. But with this update, Google has now included a lot more description with each example, rather than include many more examples with a much briefer explanation about what makes it a low-quality page.
Another revamp done to this version of the quality rater guidelines is they have the section about “Groups of people” and expanded on the types of groups that could be potentially targeted or attacked by pages on the web. While this section has been around for a while, Google has definitely tried to expand this to cover more groups of people that could feel marginalized or attacked by others.
There are also some minor changes throughout the document. For example, many of the instances where the word “users” was used has now been changed to the word “people” instead, but for the most part, those don’t really change the context of what the guidelines are saying, and if they do I have detail that specifically in those instances.
E-A-T and reputation research has been a really hot topic for SEOs the last few years, and Google is giving us even more detail into this and showing what specifically rater should be looking for in a bit more detail. The should be very interesting to those who have been focusing on the value of E-A-T, or as a bit of a wake-up call to those who have been stating that Google doesn’t use E-A-T specifically and it is not worth the time and effort to work on it.
Many of us have been stressing for several years now how important reputation is for the website to be successful, and we’ve known for several years that this is something that Google is actively working on algorithms for. So if you haven’t started working on the reputation and E-A-T, you should seriously put some work into this area of your business, especially if you either don’t like what you see or is just simply lacking. Google is taking your reputation seriously.
Another change in these guidelines is Google’s removed all references to any types of specific awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize, and instead is replacing with a more generic term such as a prestigious award. While I will detail it later in this deep dive, it is worth noting that all these references regarding the specific awards have been removed. However, this obviously doesn’t mean that Google is considering these types of rewards as less important, but seems to be a more inclusive change.
There are also many new references to Google’s Webmaster quality guidelines and Google wants to ensure that the raters are familiar with these guidelines when it comes to evaluating pages, such as a webpage qualifies as spam according to Google or not.
Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of all the changes Google made.
Do note that particularly in the low-quality section of the quality rater guidelines, Google made some significant changes to the order that they appear in, combining some or splitting others. So I’ve tried to detail where it is known what Google was combining, what was split into multiple sections, and what the relevant sections were in the October 2020 version of the guidelines.
- 1 2.2 What is the Purpose of a Webpage?
- 2 2.3 Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) Pages
- 3 2.5 Understanding the Website
- 4 2.5.1 Finding the Homepage
- 5 2.6 Reputation of the Website and Creator of the Main Content
- 6 2.6.1 Research the Reputation of the Website and Creator of the Main Content
- 7 2.6.3 Customer Reviews of Stores/Businesses
- 8 3.0 Overall Page Quality Rating
- 9 3.2 Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
- 10 4.6 Examples of High Quality Pages
- 11 5.4 Examples of Highest Quality Pages
- 12 7.0 Lowest Quality Pages
- 13 Harmful to Self or Other Individuals
- 14 Harmful to Specified Groups
- 15 Harmfully Misleading Information
- 16 Untrustworthy Pages
- 17 Spammy webpages
- 18 7.1 Harmful to Self and Other Individuals
- 19 7.2 Harmful to Specified Groups
- 20 7.3 Harmfully Misleading Information
- 21 7.4 Untrustworthy Webpages or Websites
- 22 7.4.1 Inadequate Information about the Website or Creator of the MC for the Purpose of the Page
- 23 7.4.2 Lowest E-A-T and Lowest Reputation of the Website or Creator of the MC
- 24 7.4.3 Deceptive Purpose and Deceptive Page Design
- 25 7.4.5 Suspected Malicious Behavior
- 26 7.5.4 Copied MC
- 27 7.6 Examples of Lowest Quality Pages
- 28 Removed 7.6 Pages that Potentially Deceive Users
- 29 Removed 7.1 Section Lack of Purpose Pages
- 30 9.1 Instructions for Rating Page Quality Tasks
- 31 11.0 Page Quality Rating FAQs.
- 32 13.6 Fails to Meet (FailsM)
- 33 15.6 Additional Flags in Some Rating Tasks
- 34 Final thoughts
2.2 What is the Purpose of a Webpage?
This was the first instance where the term users was changed to the term people instead, although interestingly enough they did leave one instance of “user” in this case where they refer to “Some pages are even created to harm users.”
In the subsection about “Why is it important to determine the purpose of the page for PQ rating“, they did edit the last point given under this subsection.
“Websites and pages should be created to help users. Websites and pages that are created with intent to harm users, deceive users, or make money with no attempt to help users, should receive the Lowest PQ rating. More on this later.”
Now it has been changed to:
Websites and pages should be created to help people. If that is not the case, a rating of Lowest may be warranted. More on this later.
I’m not sure why they specifically decided to take out the part about if the pages were created with the intent to not help the user is here. There were no other changes made specifically to the section in regards to this but it does seem like a deliberate change on Google’s end, other than perhaps maybe raters were taking this too literally and using it as a basis for whether a page should be given a low rating or not.
2.3 Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) Pages
Here is the first instance where Google is making the initial changes to the groups of people I referenced earlier. The biggest change from this is that Google is specifically wanting raters to rate as lowest any pages that are attacking victims of a major violent event as well as their family members. While Google has never specifically referenced this previously in the quality rater guidelines, it does make sense that this has been added now.
For example, in some terrorist attacks, conspiracy theories have revolved around whether these attacks were false flags, and webpages were designed specifically to attack either the victims or their families. This addition to the quality rater guidelines will give raters a bit more definition when it comes to being able to definitively rate these as low-quality pages if there was ever a question that it didn’t fall under the conspiracy theory low-quality flag instead.
While this change might not necessarily get to those types of pages out of the index today, it is an indication that it is something that Google is actively looking to work on for their algorithms.
Outside of the change specifically referencing the victims of the major violent events, there were some other changes made as well, specifically to do with gender expression, ethnicity, as well as “any other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization.”
This change will allow raters to act more on their own to flag sites and pages as lowest when they do see any of these groups targeted that may not have been specifically referenced by Google in the previous version of the rater guidelines.
Here are the full changes made to the ”Groups of People” section.
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.
Groups of people: information about or claims related to groups of people, including but not limited to those grouped on the basis of age, caste, disability, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, immigration status, nationality, race, religion, sex/gender, sexual orientation, veteran status, victims of a major violent event and their kin, or any other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization.
2.5 Understanding the Website
Google made some slight changes here, but it seems slightly more of a grammatical edit. And the previous version Google use the term “we” when it really should have referenced the rater.
From the third paragraph of this section, here is the old version:
You must also look for reputation information about the website. We need to find out what outside, independent sources say about the website. When there is disagreement between what the website says about itself and what reputable independent sources say about the website, we’ll trust the independent sources.
And the new version:
You must also look for reputation information about the website. What do outside, independent sources say about the website? When there is disagreement between what the website says about itself and what reputable independent sources say about the website, trust the independent sources.
2.5.1 Finding the Homepage
Google removed one example from this section, and it’s worth noting because it marks the end of an era with the Yahoo Answers closing down earlier this year.
For posterity, here is the old example:
2.6 Reputation of the Website and Creator of the Main Content
We see a bunch of changes the Google is made to the section, which really emphasizes how important Google is viewing the reputation of both websites and the content creators when it comes to the search results they want surfaced highest. There are some significant changes made in this latest update.
First, Google added this:
“An important part of PQ rating is understanding the reputation of the website. If the creator of the MC is different from the creator of the website, it’s important to understand the reputation of the creator as well.”
So they are wanting to have the extra clarification that Google wants raters to consider the reputation of both the overall website as well as the person who is creating the content on the page they are evaluating.
They have also made slight changes in how knowing about the reputation of both the creator and the site can also help you understand what the site itself is best known for.
Here is the old version:
A website’s reputation can also help you understand what a website is best known for, and as a result how well it accomplishes its purpose. For example, newspapers may be known for high quality, independent investigative reporting while satire websites may be known for their humor.
And the new version:
Knowing more about the reputation of a website and content creator can also help you understand what a website is best known for, and as a result how well it accomplishes its purpose. For example, newspapers may be known for high quality, independent investigative reporting while satire websites may be known for their humor.
Google also made a slight change to the parts where they talk about what to do when raters come across conflicting of reputation information.
The old version:
Many websites are eager to tell users how great they are. Some webmasters have read these rating guidelines and write “reviews” on various review websites. But for Page Quality rating, you must also look for outside, independent reputation information about the website. When the website says one thing about itself, but reputable external sources disagree with what the website says, trust the external sources.
And the new:
Many websites are eager to tell users how great they are. Some webmasters have read these rating guidelines and write “reviews” on various review websites. But for PQ rating, you should aim to find independent sources of reputation information about the website and creator of the MC rather than relying solely on what the website itself or content creator has to say.
Google also made a slight change to the wording about how raters should research and not just blindly accept information given on the website they are evaluating.
The old version:
Your job is to truly evaluate the Page Quality of the site, not just blindly accept information on one or two pages of the website. Be skeptical of claims that websites make about themselves.
And the new:
Your job is to evaluate the reputation of the website and creator of the MC. Please research the website and content creator to find out what other people and experts have to say.
2.6.1 Research the Reputation of the Website and Creator of the Main Content
This section has also seen a bit of a revamp and they have added many new parts to this particular section. Again, this is showing how serious Google is taking the whole thing about wanting to ensure the raters are rating results higher low while specifically looking at the reputation of not just the website but also the author of the content.
They are also suggesting additional ways that raters can look for reputation about the content creators on the site as well, and Google is saying that reputation research is necessary for every website and content creator the raters encounter. Previously, Google only stated the website. But there is this new greater emphasis on content creators now too that Google is making throughout these updated guidelines.
Once again, if you have not been paying attention to your site’s reputation, the reputation of any content creators for your site, as your overall E-A-T, it is probably something you want to take under consideration and see where it could be improved.
The first change in the section actually changes apart from being a store-specific thing to instead an overall website that offers products and services. I could see that maybe a rater was thinking stores meaning a physical store. But Google is putting more emphasis on the review aspect and the value of positive user reviews here.
Stores frequently have user ratings, which can help you understand a store’s reputation based on the reports of people who actually shop there. We consider a large number of positive user reviews as evidence of positive reputation.
The new version:
User reviews are often helpful sources of reputation for websites that offer products or services. You may consider a large number of detailed, trustworthy positive user reviews as evidence of positive reputation.
Google has also made a bit more emphasis on the fact that sources of reputation can vary depending on the type of business, topic, or website it is.
Also in this next change, we see the first reference to specific awards being removed from the guidelines. Here the mention of the Pulitzer Prize has been removed and being change simply to journalistic awards.
Many other kinds of websites have reputations as well. For example, you might find that a newspaper (with an associated website) has won journalistic awards. Prestigious awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize award, or a history of high quality original reporting are strong evidence of positive reputation.
For other kinds of websites, sources of reputation information will vary according to the topic or type of company/organization/entity that the website represents. For example, you might find that a newspaper (with an associated website) has won journalistic awards. Prestigious awards or a history of high quality original reporting are strong evidence of positive reputation.
Google is also added that while researching for authors or content creators, that bios can be a useful source of reputation. I talked about the importance of an author bio for years, and this proves that it is something that Google wants the raters to look at as well.
For individual authors and content creators, biographical information articles can be a good source of reputation information.
In the next part, Google has clarified that what they’re referring to is high-level of authoritativeness or expertise, they’ve changed that specifically for YMYL.
When a high level of authoritativeness or expertise is needed, the reputation of a website should be judged on what expert opinions have to say. Recommendations from expert sources, such as professional societies, are strong evidence of very positive reputation.
For YMYL informational topics, the reputation of a website or content creator should be judged by what experts in the field have to say. Recommendations from expert sources, such as professional societies, are strong evidence of a very positive reputation.
Google is also stressing the importance for the raters to consider the purpose of the page, but also to consider how reputation would impact that page.
Here is what they added:
Carefully consider the purpose of the page, whether or not the topic is YMYL, and the kind of reputation information that would be most applicable. For example, customer ratings and reviews may be helpful for reputation research of online stores, but much less so for medical information websites.
And lastly in the section, Google has added specifically about reputation of content creators, not just the websites themselves.
Reputation research is necessary for all websites you encounter.
Reputation research is necessary for all websites and content creators you encounter, to the extent that an established reputation can be found. Do not just assume websites you personally use have a good reputation. Please do research! You might be surprised at what you find.
2.6.3 Customer Reviews of Stores/Businesses
Google removed a couple of inline examples:
See here for a New York Times article on fake reviews and here for a Guardian article on fake reviews.
2.6.4 How to Search for Reputation Information
Again, there is another significant revamp to a couple of the parts in this overall section. Specifically, Google has removed some references specifically to Wikipedia as well as remove references to some third-party resources of reputation information or reviews such as the Better Business Bureau and Yelp. Instead, Google is encouraging raters to look at a variety of sources for information instead of simply the ones they referenced originally.
The old version under #3:
Look for articles, reviews, forum posts, discussions, etc. written by people about the website. For businesses, there are many sources of reputation information and reviews. Here are some examples: Yelp, Better Business Bureau (a nonprofit organization that focuses on the trustworthiness of businesses and charities), Amazon, and Google Shopping. You can try searching on specific sites to find reviews. For example, you can try [ibm site:bbb.org] or [“ibm.com” site:bbb.org].
For content creators, look for biographical data and other sources that are not written by the individual.
Note: You will sometimes find high ratings on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website because there is very little data on the business, not because the business has a positive reputation. However, very low ratings on BBB are usually the result of multiple unresolved complaints. Please consider very low ratings on the BBB site to be evidence for a negative reputation.
And the new updated version
Look for articles, references, recommendations by experts, and other credible information written by people about the website or the content creator. For businesses, look for reputation information and reviews from a variety of sources. For content creators, look for biographical data and other sources that are not written by the content creator themselves.
High quality news articles and informational articles may be good sources of information for both companies/organizations/entities and content creators. Search for such articles. For example, try [ibm site:en.wikipedia.org] or [“ibm.com” site:en.wikipedia.org]. News articles and informational articles can help you learn about a company and may include information specific to reputation, such as awards and other forms of recognition, or also controversies and issues. Note that some informational articles include a message warning users that there are disagreements on some of the content, or that the content may be outdated. This may be an indication that additional research is necessary.
Google has completely changed #4 in to remove the specific Wikipedia references.
Here is what was removed:
4. See if there is a Wikipedia article or news article from a well-known news site. Wikipedia can be a good source of information about companies, organizations, and content creators. For example, try [ibm site:en.wikipedia.org] or [“ibm.com” site:en.wikipedia.org]. News articles and Wikipedia articles can help you learn about a company and may include information specific to reputation, such as awards and other forms of recognition, or also controversies and issues. Note that some Wikipedia articles include a message warning users that there are disagreements on some of the content, or that the content may be outdated. This may be an indication that additional research is necessary.
And Google has added a new #4 instead.
4. Make sure the information you find is appropriate for judging the reputation of the website. For example, reputation information for YMYL websites or YMYL content creators should come from sources that have expertise in the associated YMYL topic.
Under the examples in the section, again we see the removals of specific awards as well as specific review sites. We do have a few new examples for specific negative reviews. And under the last example, they removed a link to search for scams related to the organization in the guidelines.
3.0 Overall Page Quality Rating
Google has reworked the section slightly with some new wording and they have split point number one into two different points.
Here are the changes Google made.
At a high level, here are the steps of Page Quality rating:
1. Understand the true purpose of the page. Websites or pages without any beneficial purpose, including pages that are created with no attempt to help users, or pages that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users, should receive the Lowest rating. No further assessment is necessary.
And the new version splits it into 2 slightly different points instead.
At a high level, here are the steps of Page Quality rating:
1. Assess the true purpose of the page.
2. Assess the potential of the page to be harmful, untrustworthy, or spammy as defined in Section 7.0 of these guidelines.
3.2 Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
Google has removed this part:
Remember that the first step of PQ rating is to understand the true purpose of the page. Websites or pages without some sort of beneficial purpose, including pages that are created with no attempt to help users, or pages that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users, should receive the Lowest rating.
For all other pages that have a beneficial purpose… [rest of this paragraph remains in new version]
4.6 Examples of High Quality Pages
Again we see changes from various specific awards to the more generic “prestigious awards.”
5.4 Examples of Highest Quality Pages
And more changes to generic awards.
7.0 Lowest Quality Pages
This is the start of the section the Google has made the most significant changes to the Quality Rater Guidelines this time around. The lowest quality page section has been completely changed, revamped, and rewritten.
I’ve tried to reference the old sections with the new sections where possible, although sometimes some are completely removed or bear little resemblance to their former selves. But I’ve tried to reference everything that has been removed, changed or added.
First Google has added a disclaimer about the examples at the end of the section being critical for readers to understand the guidelines.
This section describes Lowest quality pages. The examples at the end of this section are critical for understanding these concepts, so please review them carefully.
The new version simply has :
This section describes Lowest quality pages.
Then the next three points have each also been edited or completely rewritten.
Here are the original three points:
1.Understand the true purpose of the page. Websites and pages should be created for users in order to serve a beneficial purpose, in other words, they should exist to help users.
2. Websites or pages without a beneficial purpose, including pages that are created with no attempt to help users, or pages that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users, should receive the Lowest rating. E-A-T and other page quality characteristics do not play a role for these pages. For example, any page attempting to scam users should receive the Lowest rating, whether the scam is created by an expert or not.
3. Otherwise, the PQ rating is based on how well the page achieves its purpose using the criteria outlined in these guidelines. Pages that fail to achieve their purpose should receive the Lowest rating.
And here is how it appears in the new version:
1.Assess the true purpose of the page. If the website or page has a harmful purpose or is designed to deceive people about its true purpose, it should be rated Lowest.
2. Assess the potential of the page to cause harm as described in these guidelines. Websites or pages that are harmful to people or society, untrustworthy, or spammy as specified in these guidelines should receive the Lowest rating.
3. Otherwise, the PQ rating is based on how well the page achieves its purpose using the criteria outlined in these guidelines.
Later in the section, in the table Google includes more descriptions of the types of lowest pages that raters might come across, Google has expanded the spit significantly to include a bit more detail about what each one exactly is. And something we see new the Google isn’t previously included in the section is specific references to examples of doxxing and even specific instructions on how to help someone commit a murder.
For the specific summary examples that Google is including in the guidelines, I am going to refer to them in the order that they appear in the new guidelines, but also reference what it was in the old version too. The column with the descriptions was previously called “What Pages Look Like” and has now been called “
Harmful to Self or Other Individuals
This part was previously called “Potentially Harmful Pages.”
Google previously had a very short description about what these types of pages are. This is now been greatly expanded to cover a lot more of the scenarios where this could be applicable when reading pages the lowest.
Here is what formerly said:
Encourage harm to self or others
Malicious pages, e.g., scams, phishing, malware downloads
Extremely negative or malicious reputation
And in the much more detailed new version:
Pages that encourage, depict, incite or directly cause physical, mental, emotional or financial harm to self or other individuals.
Examples of Harmful to Self include:
Online scams to steal personal information
Detailed instructions on how to commit suicide Examples of Harmful to Other Individuals include:
Doxxing (i.e., publicly sharing a person’s sensitive personal identification information)
Detailed, realistic and serious instructions written with the intent to help someone commit murder
Harmful to Specified Groups
This section was previously called “Pages that potentially spread hate.” And this is also expanded.
Promote hate or violence towards a group of people
It is now with a lot more detail:
Pages that promote, condone, or incite violence or hatred against a Specified Group of people (as defined in Section 7.2).
Content that encourages violence or ill treatment towards a Specified Group
Content with extremely offensive/dehumanizing stereotypes of a Specified Group
Harmfully Misleading Information
Demonstrably inaccurate content
YMYL content that contradicts well-established expert consensus
Debunked or unsubstantiated conspiracy theories
The updated version:
Pages that misinform people in a way that could cause harm
- Clearly inaccurate harmful information that can easily be refuted by straightforward and widely accepted facts
- Harmful information that contradicts well-established expert consensus
- Harmful unsubstantiated theories/claims not grounded in any reasonable facts or evidence
This was formerly called “Pages that potentially deceive users.”
Deceptive intent, e.g., websites created to deceive users
Deceptive design, e.g., Ads that are disguised as MC
And the new version
Pages or websites that are deceptive or have untrustworthy characteristics
- Pages or websites with deceptive purpose or design
- Pages or websites you strongly suspect are engaged in malicious behavior
This was formerly called “Pages that fail to achieve their purpose.”
No/little MC or lowest quality MC
Copied MC or auto-generated MC
Obstructed or inaccessible MC
Inadequate information about the website or creator of the MC
Unmaintained websites, and hacked, defaced, or spammed pages
Pages with characteristics of webspam as defined in the Google Search Central Webmaster Quality Guidelines and/or Section 7.5 of this guideline
- Pages deliberately created with no MC or gibberish MC
- Hacked, defaced, or spammed pages
At the end of this particular section, Google has also added a new notation that just because the content is controversial doesn’t necessarily mean it is the lowest quality and that the raters should use their own judgment based on the guidelines rather than their personal opinions.
This seems to be Google’s trying to make the specifics of the types of pages to be rated lowest as something that is not quite so personal with all these new examples and descriptives they are giving the raters.
Note: There is lots of content on the Internet that some would find controversial, one-sided, off-putting, or distasteful, yet would not be considered Lowest based on these guidelines. Please use your judgment to follow the standards outlined throughout Section 7.0 rather than relying on personal opinions.
7.1 Harmful to Self and Other Individuals
This section was formerly 7.4.1 Potentially Harmful Pages: Encourage Harm
Google has greatly expanded on this to try and address some of the types of content they don’t necessarily want to rank high, as well as addressing the types of situations where that content might be important to rank or word is suitable to rank. Basically, it seems that Google wants to ensure that content that is dangerous or can cause harm to someone is not ranked as well. They are specifically addressing harm to people that includes physical, mental, emotional, or financial harm.
This entire first part of the section was added, with the first paragraph being adjusted slightly to be more specific from the original in the last version.
New version added:
Use the Lowest rating for pages with content that encourage, depict, incite, or directly cause harm to self or other individuals.
Harm includes physical, mental, emotional, or financial harm to people. Pages should be considered Harmful to Self or Other Individuals if they directly attempt to harm people; encourage behavior that may result in harm; depict extremely violent or gory content without a beneficial/educational purpose; or otherwise are severely traumatic to people who view the page.
Pages do not have to be harmful to all people to be considered Harmful to Self or Other Individuals. Different people have different levels of vulnerability to scams, awareness of potential dangers (e.g., dangerous feats depicted in stunt videos), and tolerance for viewing violent/disturbing content. If there is a reasonable possibility that viewing a particular page would cause harm to those who are most vulnerable, it should be considered harmful.
Pages created with a beneficial purpose that report on, discuss, or inform about harmful actions or events (e.g., fictional entertainment, reputable news, education) should typically not be considered Harmful to Self or Other Individuals. For example, advocacy aimed at drawing attention to harmful, real-world actions or events (such as a webpage describing a protest against domestic violence) would not be considered Harmful to Self or Other Individuals.
The bullet points in the section have also been greatly expanded from the original as well, with new points being added. Here are the five points initially included in the last version of the guidelines:
User discussions that attempt to justify sexual abuse of children.
How-to or step-by-step information on how to commit acts of terrorism or violent extremism.
Depictions of extreme gore or violence, without a beneficial purpose.
Suicide promotion or pro-anorexia webpages that encourage users to engage in behavior that can result in hospitalization or death.
Pages with scary death threats or other realistic-sounding threatening language.
And here you can see how much Google has expanded more specific examples for creators in the new updated version.
Examples of pages that are Harmful to Self or Other Individuals include any of the following types of content:
- Content containing serious death threats or other realistic-sounding threats
- Content that shares personal information belonging to others with malicious intent to target them or promote harassment towards them (i.e., “doxxing”)
- How-to or step-by-step information that describes how to commit violent acts in an easy-to-replicate way
- Content meant to advocate for, glorify, or trivialize violence and atrocities, or to disparage victim(s) of violence/atrocities
- Content depicting or promoting information that facilitates or leads to serious harm to people, or discussions that attempt to justify abuse of people
- Content that encourages unsafe behavior or substantially downplays the risks of dangerous activities (e.g., consuming household cleaning products)
- Suicide promotion or pro-anorexia content that encourages people to engage in behavior that can result in hospitalization or death
- Health-related advice that contradicts well-established expert consensus and could result in serious harm (e.g., statements that lemons cure cancer), or could prevent someone from undertaking a life-saving treatment (e.g., encouraging a home remedy as a replacement for standard medical treatment to cure a disease)
- Malicious pages that attempt to scam or hurt people, contain suspicious links (e.g., to download malware), request personal information without a legitimate reason, or “phish” for passwords
Google has also added specific examples of types of content that they do not want the raters to be considered harmful but it could be seen as somewhat ambiguous if it wasn’t specifically commented that it should not be considered harmful.
Examples of content that should not be considered Harmful to Self or Other Individuals include:
● Depictions of violence in an action movie
● A news story about violent events
● Educational content that may depict violence or gross imagery
● An explanation of scams meant to raise awareness about them
● Portrayals of dangerous activities in a manner that discourages others from attempting the same feat (such as by clearly explaining the risks involved, describing the expertise and equipment required, etc.)
7.2 Harmful to Specified Groups
This new section has been expanded from two sections in the last version of the guidelines. In the old guidelines, it was part of 7.3 Pages that Potentially Spread Hate and from 7.4.1 Potentially Harmful Pages: Encourage Harm.
Google has added references to multiple specified groups in the new guidelines as part of their expansion on the types of pages Google doesn’t want to see ranking and that they want the quality raters to rate lowest. New additions include caste, immigration status, gender expression, victims of a major violent event in their kin, such as victims of the Holocaust. They’ve also added a blanket statement of any other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization, for example, refugees or people facing homelessness.
At the very top of this section, the part in italics is added.
Use the Lowest rating for pages that promote, condone, or incite hatred against a Specified Group of people.
Google is really trying to ensure that their search results aren’t reflecting negative connotations towards these groups of people in their search results. Not only is it not publicity for Google, but it’s not a good user experience for the searcher either.
They’ve also added many new parts to this section as well, which again shows how Google is working hard on this because discrimination against these groups of people are not the search results they want ranked highest.
Here is the first part with the updated examples, italics are the new parts to the list.
For the purposes of Search Quality rating, a Specified Group is a group of people that can be defined on the basis of:
● Age (e.g., older adults)
● Caste (e.g., Dalits)
● Disability (e.g., people who are blind)
● Ethnicity (e.g., Roma)
● Gender Identity and Expression (e.g., transgender people)
● Immigration Status (e.g., student visa holders)
● Nationality (e.g., Italians)
● Race (e.g., Asians)
● Religion (e.g., Christians)
● Sex/Gender (e.g., men)
● Sexual Orientation (e.g., lesbians)
● Veteran Status (e.g., Marines)
● Victims of a major violent event and their kin (e.g., vitcims of the Holocaust)
● Any other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization (e.g., refugees, people experiencing homelessness)
This entire part is new:
Examples of pages that are Harmful to Specified Groups include any pages containing content that:
● Encourages violence or ill treatment towards a Specified Group
● Promotes intolerance by demonstrating a staunch unwillingness to allow for the views, beliefs, or behavior of a
● Implies that one Specified Group is superior or inferior to another
● Contains extremely offensive/dehumanizing stereotypes of a Specified Group. Note that stereotypes can be
negative or positive
Lastly, Google is offering a lot more detail about how and when this type of content should be considered serious or mean-spirited. They are clear that satire does have its place, and criticism doesn’t necessarily mean harmful as a blanket statement. There are also making a clear that for it to be considered harmful to us specify groups the content must condone promote or incite hatred of those types of people.
They also make a note that educational resources don’t necessarily apply here, nor does historical documentation of events in a different era.
Here is the new part:
The tone of the harmful content must be either serious (i.e., not joking or satirical) or mean-spirited (i.e., with an intent to demean or promote intolerance) to be considered Harmful to Specified Groups. Satirical comedy or artistic expression related to a Specified Group should not be considered harmful unless it is clearly mean-spirited or has other clear harmful impact.
Criticism of objects, philosophies, and ideas are generally not considered Harmful to Specified Groups. For example, negative criticism of a religious doctrine should not be considered targeted at the Specified Group that follows that religion. Remember that the content must promote, condone, or incite hatred of people to be considered Harmful to Specified Groups.
Educational pages (e.g., definitions, research, academic papers), news stories, or other pages that have a beneficial purpose of informing society should not be considered Harmful to Specified Groups. Similarly, historical documents/videos that aim to capture the beliefs of different eras should not be considered Harmful to Specified Groups.
And lastly, they include examples to support this.
Examples of content that should not be considered Harmful to Specified Groups include:
● A historical documentary of WWII featuring speeches from Nazi leaders
● A stand-up comedy routine that plays off of stereotypes in a way that is not mean-spirited
● A newspaper article about a hate organization
● The dictionary definition of a slur
● A discussion about a particular religious text and its views on women
7.3 Harmfully Misleading Information
This is a complete rework and revamp from the old section 7.5 Pages that Potentially Misinform Users.
One thing a particular note here is that Google is commenting specifically on content creators that share content they believe to be true. So Google is making a point that while some people might be sharing misleading or harmful information that they believe to be true, and might be quite convincing in it, raters are still needing to check for a high standard of accuracy, particularly on any YMYL topics or topics that could cause harm.
They are also very clear that raters need to rate lowest for any content that is misleading a searcher in a way that could cause harm to people or society as a whole. This is an interesting addition because it can cover a wide variety of topics that are of note in the world today.
Google has edited this so it is a bit more clear because the old version of this section was less clear and more ambiguous when you compare it to this new version where Google is addressing conspiracy theories such as the 9/11 attacks being planned by the US government, and the lizard people example we have seen in previous rater guidelines.
First, here is the original version from the 2020 guidelines
The purpose of an informational page is to communicate accurate information. Assume an informational purpose for pages that look as though they are informational or pages that many users go to for information, even if it is not an official news source or an official encyclopedia article. This includes pages that appear to be news, social profile pages spreading news or information, forum discussions about informational topics such as current events, videos which cover news topics, etc.
The Lowest rating must be used for any of the following types of content on pages that could appear to be informational:
● Demonstrably inaccurate content.
● YMYL content that contradicts well-established expert consensus.
● Debunked or unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.
Lowest should also be used under these circumstances:
● The content creator may believe that the conspiracy theory or demonstrably inaccurate content is correct, or it is unclear whether they do.
● The content creators may be deliberately attempting to misinform users.
● The content creators describe, repeat or spread conspiracy theories or demonstrably inaccurate content without a clear effort to debunk or correct it, regardless of whether the creators believe it to be true. For example, content creators may produce this content in order to make money or gain attention.
Some examples of information that would be found on Lowest quality pages include: the moon landings were faked, carrots cure cancer, and the U.S. government is controlled by lizard people. While some of these topics may seem funny, there have been real world consequences from people believing these kinds of internet conspiracy theories and misinformation.
Find high quality, trustworthy sources to check accuracy and the consensus of experts if you are unsure about a topic. Be especially careful with YMYL topics such as medical, scientific, financial, historical, or current events that are necessary for maintaining an informed citizenry.
Please research conspiracy theories. Fact-checking websites cannot keep up with the volume of conspiracy theories produced by the Internet. Some conspiracy theories are impossible to debunk because they claim all debunking information is inaccurate. If a claim or conspiracy theory seems wildly improbable and cannot be verified by independent trustworthy sources, consider it unsubstantiated.
Here is the new section, broken up into pieces to add commentary.
Misleading pages may have been produced with the intent to misinform people, or the content creator may believe that the inaccurate information they are sharing is true. There is an especially high standard for accuracy on YMYL topics or other topics that can cause harm. Be sure to research consequential facts or claims as necessary and to the extent the task time allows.
This is a specific reference to content creators and even if they believe what they are sharing is true. They want quality raters to research and be sure about whether a piece of content is accurate or not.
Pages should be considered to contain Harmfully Misleading Information when they contain at least one of the following:
● Harmful and clearly inaccurate information that can easily be refuted by straightforward and widely accepted
facts (e.g., false claims that a world leader has died, misleading or false statistics on gun violence, etc.)
● Harmful claims that contradicts well-established expert consensus (e.g., lemons cure cancer), with expert
consensus defined as a set of positions, facts, or findings that are widely agreed upon by authorities in the
relevant field (e.g., widely-adopted medical guidelines, an investigative report put forth by a relevant watchdog
● Harmful unsubstantiated theories/claims not grounded in any reasonable facts or evidence, especially those
that could erode confidence in public institutions. This includes unsubstantiated theories that have either been
thoroughly debunked (e.g., the 9/11 attacks were planned by the United States government) or are too outlandish
to be given credence (e.g., several world leaders are lizard people).
Google is really stepping it up here with more specific examples of conspiracy theories. Previously Google hadn’t given too many examples, except for the outlandish example of lizard people, as well as a couple references to the Holocaust, primarily because it was a Holocaust being a hoax example that been brought up in the media several years ago that led to this being included in the quality rater guidelines originally.
But with their inclusion of the 9/11 attacks as an example of a harmful and unsubstantiated theory and as an example of something that should be rated as harmfully misleading and garner lowest rating, Google is bringing some of the more mainstream conspiracy theories that have been popularized in certain segments of society and showing that even if there are a larger group of people that believe something is true, it doesn’t mean that it’s not considered harmful.
Google is also trying to be clear about things that don’t necessarily mean it’s harmfully misleading. They’ve added this part:
However, note that some types of information are subjective, debatable, unverifiable, or inconsequential. For example, pages should not be considered to contain Harmfully Misleading Information if they exclusively contain:
● Non-YMYL content created with a clear entertainment purpose, containing no hard claims of factual accuracy and are not harmful to people or society. Examples include many types of fiction, satire or parody, astrology, folklore, myths, and urban legends.
● Reviews expressing personal preferences, opinions, or value-based judgments about a product, restaurant,
book/movie/TV show, etc.
● Claims or statements that are reasonably debatable when there is not a single established correct answer or truth (e.g. discussions about the relative effectiveness of different healthcare systems)
● Insignificant errors or inaccurate information about a trivial topic (e.g., inaccuracies in the height of a celebrity)
Google is trying to make it clear to raters that just because they might personally disagree with the page doesn’t mean it’s a criteria of a harmfully misleading page or site. For example, if a rater hated a movie and they came across a page that raves about how great the movie is, that doesn’t make it harmfully misleading just because the rater shares a different opinion.
And they have added this to the end of the section:
Pages that aim to persuade others that a certain position or perspective is correct are fairly common on the Internet. Pages with one-sided/opinionated/controversial/polarizing content should not be considered to contain Harmfully Misleading Information unless they could create harm to individuals or Specified Groups (as described above) and contain clearly inaccurate information, contradict well-established expert consensus, or are not grounded by reasonable facts/evidence.
A webpage may be considered to have Harmfully Misleading Information based on the MC or on other characteristics of the page or information about the content creator (e.g., the title of an article is harmfully misleading, even if the article on its own is not; a creator blatantly misrepresenting their medical credentials for a video on medical topics).
Finally, note that Harmfully Misleading Information can be especially hard to identify because it may require research from outside sources. Reputable fact-checking websites can’t always keep up with the volume of unsubstantiated theories/claims produced by the Internet, and some theories may even claim that debunking information is inaccurate.You should attempt to find high-quality, trustworthy sources to check accuracy and seek out the consensus of experts if you are unsure. Please research theories and claims to the extent the task time allows. If a theory/claim seems wildly improbable and can’t be verified by independent trustworthy sources, you should consider it unsubstantiated.
It is interesting that Google is making references sometimes it can be hard to fact-check some of this misinformation because it comes out so frequently that a fact-checker can’t quite keep up, especially since fact-checking is required to show evidence that something isn’t true.
7.4 Untrustworthy Webpages or Websites
This is another section that has a complete rewrite and overall compared to the original. It previously was part of section 7.5 “Pages that Potentially Misinform Users,” which was split into this section and the one above. But now since they have gone very specific into harmful inaccuracies, this section is more about just websites or webpages that just shouldn’t be trusted in general, whether it’s because of low reputation or deceptive web practices, etc.
The old version is included in the previous section.
Here is the new section:
The Lowest rating should be used for pages or websites you strongly suspect are engaging in deceptive or malicious practices.
Because some deceptive pages may in fact be harmful, please use caution. Known or “obvious” scams are clearly
harmful and should be rated Lowest, but there may also be pages you strongly suspect are scams yet cannot prove it without experiencing harm yourself. Please consider these pages to be untrustworthy and use the Lowest rating.
Your assessment of untrustworthiness may be based on the content of the page, information about the website,
information about the content creator, and the reputation of the website or content creator.
Your assessment may also be based on a lack of critically important information. For example, any website involving financial transactions or sensitive information should have comprehensive information about who is responsible for the site and a way to contact the site if something goes wrong.
If some aspect of a page or website makes you suspect deception or maliciousness, please look for information about the site. If you cannot find reputation information to confirm your suspicion, carefully explore the site. Sometimes a single page on an unknown website in isolation may seem odd but subsequent exploration shows no concern. However, if you see a pattern of what appears to be deception or manipulation or become concerned about your own safety, please use the Lowest rating and leave the website immediately.
Pages with the following characteristics should be considered Untrustworthy:
● Inadequate information about the website for its purpose
● Lowest E-A-T or Lowest reputation
● Deceptive purpose, deceptive design, or deceptive intent
● Deliberately obstructed or obscured MC
● Suspected malicious behavior
Again, Google is going out of their way to comment that sites with low E-A-T or low reputation, sites that are deceptive in any way, such as deceptive interstitial’s or pop-ups or something with the design of the webpage to incite clicks, trying to obstruct the main content in order to drive clicks to ads instead, all these things Google is making sure raters know should be considered and trustworthy. And especially in the case of obtrusive popovers that are extremely difficult to close, you need to consider that Google is actively looking to try and downrate websites that are using these tactics.
Important: Highly untrustworthy pages should be given the Lowest rating even if you are unable to “prove” the webpage or site is harmful. Because many people are unwilling to use a highly untrustworthy page, an untrustworthy page or website fails to achieve its purpose.
Of note here is that Google is not expecting raters to spend lots of time on a website that is giving them the impression of being deceptive in any way, and that could include those obtrusive pop-ups or interstitials or tons of ads being loaded above the fold where the main content isn’t even visible. So again be aware of this when you’re considering your own SEO strategy.
7.4.1 Inadequate Information about the Website or Creator of the MC for the Purpose of the Page
This is a brand-new section, and yet again it’s showing how Google is really stressing the reputation of not just the website but of the content creators as well. They want to see that there is trust being built by the site and their authors, as well as the types of information they want to see on the webpage when a rater is investigating it.
For example, they talk about with online banks that a rater would expect to find a great deal of information about the site and all their customer service options. The same goes for any sites where you would submit payment information or personal information.
Providing information about who created the content and who is responsible for the content is critical to building trust with people who visit the page.
As discussed in Section 2.5.3, we expect most websites to have some information about who (e.g., what individual, company, business, foundation, etc.) is responsible for the website and who created the MC, as well as some contact information, unless there is a good reason for anonymity. As you will see in the examples below, many types of Lowest pages such as malicious downloads and scams typically have no information or fake information about who is responsible to prevent recourse by people who are harmed.
For websites with YMYL pages, such as online banks, we expect to find a lot of information about the site, including extensive customer service information. Any site that handles personal, private or sensitive data must have adequate contact information. This includes sites that ask users to create passwords, share personal information, or conduct financial transactions.
YMYL pages or websites that handle sensitive data with absolutely no information about the website or creator of the MC should be rated Lowest.
They specify clearly that any YMYL pages that are handling any kind of sensitive personal data without information about the site or the content creator should be rated lowest. So yet again here’s where Google is saying you need to have reputable information about both your website and your content creators.
Think about the purpose of the page and the purpose of the website. What type of content creator or website information would people expect or demand in order to feel comfortable using the webpage? If the website or page lacks critical information about who is responsible for the content to the extent that it feels untrustworthy, it should be rated Lowest.
It is interesting here that they are putting it on the raters to think about the type of content creators and the information about them they would want to see on a webpage to make them feel comfortable. This raises an interesting question for webmasters of exactly what you should be including on a page or via external sources to make your potential customers feel more comfortable about your website and your authors.
In other words, if someone goes to your website right now and wants to learn more about your company or business along with the people who are creating your content on your site, will they be satisfied with what they find or with they come away wondering who on earth is behind. If it’s the latter, this is definitely something you need to work on.
7.4.2 Lowest E-A-T and Lowest Reputation of the Website or Creator of the MC
Surprise, here’s another brand-new section where Google is talking about E-A-T and reputation of the website and creator, especially when it is the lowest. This is a slight rework of two previous sections in the old guidelines, section 7.4.3 and section 7.2.1. But they have been greatly expanded here.
Reputation and E-A-T are some of the most important considerations in Page Quality rating.
If the E-A-T of a page is low enough, people cannot or should not use the MC of the page. This is especially true of YMYL topics. If a YMYL page is highly inexpert or highly unauthoritative for its purpose, it should be considered Untrustworthy and rated Lowest.
Recall that a page lacking adequate expertise or authoritativeness should be rated Low. Lowest is appropriate for pages that are so lacking in expertise or authoritativeness that they are untrustworthy.
Use the Lowest rating if the website and the creators of the MC have an extremely negative reputation, to the extent that many people would consider the webpage or website untrustworthy.
Here are some examples originally shown in Section 2.6.4. All pages on these websites should be rated Lowest because of the credible extremely negative or malicious reputation of these websites, making them untrustworthy.
Note: These website examples may be considered Harmful in some form as well. Sometimes reputation research
exposes information that may not meet the criteria for considering a website harmful but does cause the website to be untrustworthy.
The examples that Google includes are pretty similar, other than they’ve removed specific references to the Better Business Bureau and titled the description slightly better, but the examples are still the same.
7.4.3 Deceptive Purpose and Deceptive Page Design
This is also revamped from two previous sections in the old guidelines, section 7.6.1 Deceptive Page Purpose and 7.6.2 Deceptive Page Design.
The first part of this section is completely new:
People who browse content online have a wide range of Internet understanding and savviness. Consider a page to be “deceptive” if it may deceive some people. All deceptive pages should be rated Lowest because pages that engage in deception are Untrustworthy.
Pages or websites are Untrustworthy if they have a deceptive purpose. These pages or websites superficially appear to have one purpose, but in fact exist for a different reason.
The following list includes some common types of deceptive purpose pages. However, no list of deceptive page types will be complete—deceptive websites continue to evolve as people and search engines figure out how they are being tricked.
Google removed this:
Any page or website that may deceive or trick users should be rated Lowest, regardless of intent. Use the Lowest rating even if you cannot see a reason for the deception or even if you think most users wouldn’t “fall” for the trick.
You should also use the Lowest rating if you suspect a page is deceptive, even if you’re not able to completely.
The examples given are all the same other than a slight change from the word users to people in the first bullet point list. There were some changes made in the second half of the section, where they are stressing the deception caused by a website obstructing certain elements of a page.
They also added:
Another form of deception is through the design of the page.
They then discuss in more detail about types of deceptive designs on webpages that would garner a lower rating by the quality raters.
One interesting thing they did remove was the part about pages where the main content is not usable or visible.
What was removed:
Pages where the MC is not usable or visible. For example, a page that has such a large amount of Ads at the top of the page (before the MC), so that most users will not see the MC, or a page where the MC is invisible text.
They have made this into its own section now, but wanted to note it here because it is a pretty significant removal from this section. But the newly added 7.4.4 section details this, and I will address the possible confusion that probably led to this being much more detailed now.
Google also wants their raters to rate a page of lowest if it’s using any deceptive tactics, even if they are not listed specifically in the guidelines. So they are definitely trying to make this be a little bit more foolproof for future ways that a website owner might go out of their way to create some sort of deceptive element on a webpage in order to get people to click ads for example.
Here is the expanded version of the end:
Take a good look at the page and use your judgment. If you believe the true purpose of the page is not what it appears to be, the page should be rated Lowest. If you believe the page was deliberately created to manipulate users to click on Ads, monetized links, questionable download links, etc., rather than to help people, the page should be rated Lowest. If the page uses deception in any form even if not described here, the page should be rated Lowest.
7.4.4 Deliberately Obstructed or Obscured MC
This takes the part that was removed from the previous section of the guidelines and expands it into its own detailed section covering in many more examples and specific situations where a website can do specific things to the content or elements on the page in order to try and make users do something they want to, like click ads or be unable to close a pop up and less they click through it instead.
Here is the new section:
Pages are untrustworthy if the MC is deliberately obstructed or obscured due to Ads, SC, interstitial pages, download links or other content that is beneficial to the website owner but not necessarily the website visitor. Attempts to manipulate or coerce users away from the MC is evidence of untrustworthiness, which makes the Lowest rating appropriate.
Here are some examples of pages with deliberately obstructed or obscured MC that should be rated Lowest:
● Ads that continue to cover the MC as the website visitor scrolls down the page. The Ads are virtually impossible
to close without clicking on the Ad
● Pop-ups that obscure the MC and cannot be closed without taking an action that benefits the website
● An interstitial page that attempts to coerce a download or click that does not benefit the website visitor
● Ads that push the MC down so far that many users would not notice the MC
● MC in white-on-white text or MC presented so that it is difficult for a human being to read
Logins or paywalls on otherwise trustworthy sites should not be considered untrustworthy, deceptive, or coercive. Many high quality sites such as newspapers or magazines cannot exist without monetization through subscriptions and paywalls. Some types of MC should be login protected, such as pages with personal information online banking websites or private pages on social network websites.
MC may be inaccessible for non-deliberate or non-coercive reasons, such as content that doesn’t load or content that is unavailable in a country or region. These are not reasons for Lowest.
Use your judgment to assess whether the page is designed to deceive or coerce users into taking actions that benefit the website. If you are unsure, look at other pages on the same website, conduct reputation research, etc.
Remember many websites need monetization to share content with users. The presence of Ads alone is not enough for Lowest. The important criteria for Lowest is deception, manipulation or other coercive attempts to get people to engage with monetization or Ads rather than the MC.
I suspect this was changed to its own section so Google could clarify some other issues that might have caused confusion, specifically with legitimate paywalls such as on a news site. For example a site like the New York Times doesn’t make older content accessible to people without a subscription. And following the previous version of this to the letter, a rater could have possibly decided to rate a great piece of content on New York Times or another news site behind a paywall as a deceptive page design when that really isn’t what it is.
Google does make a specific notation in the guidelines however about paywalls and how they are a legitimate way for some websites to earn revenue. And more specifically, that a paywall is not a reason to rate a page as Lowest.
This is an important detail because many users are kind of confused about what exactly a paywall is considered. Is it considered something that’s bad for users? Or is a considered a legitimate way for websites today to be able to monetize when ad revenue just isn’t enough.
So Google adding this much detail about paywalls is great.
It is also good that they are adding a specific note about pages that are blocking users from accessing content based on geolocation. Well as can be very annoying for users, especially if you are trying to access the content from a country that the website doesn’t want to give access to, it is good that they’re telling raters that it’s not necessarily a reason to rate thepage as Lowest.
7.4.5 Suspected Malicious Behavior
This is taken from section 7.4.2 Malicious Pages.
Google has made an removal here, removing a reference specifically to types of links are considered detrimental to users. Perhaps some raters were considering any external links as being bad for some reason, or they only wanted to see external links to high quality types of sites. But it is an interesting removal that they did.
Here is the changed part, the part in italics was removed in the new version.
Pages with suspicious links, including malware download links or other types of links that are detrimental to users.
7.5 Spammy Pages
This is another brand-new section the Google has added. They make reference to the Google search Central webmaster quality guidelines, something that most SEOs are probably very familiar with, but they are clearly wanting the raters to become familiar with the document if they aren’t already. The section is really just talking about some of the things that they should look out for when it comes to spammy sites.
They also do stress though that raters don’t need to have any kind of spam expertise or use any third-party tools to help identify spam when they are rating for page quality.
Here is the added section:
Remember that pages and websites should exist for the benefit of people who visit the website. There are many types of webpages that can benefit visitors, such as online shopping or banking services, videos offering entertainment, or personal pages sharing a perspective or experience. Some of these pages depend on advertising and monetization to maintain the website and create high quality content while still benefiting visitors.
However, some pages are created to benefit the website owner or other organizations and with little to no attention paid to the experience of the people who visit. When such pages use deceptive techniques to appear near the top of search results, it may disincentivize the creation of high quality content by crowding out pages created with time, effort, expertise or original content that is helpful for visitors.
This section describes characteristics of spam or spam-like pages that should be rated Lowest. In general, spam sites attempt to game their way to the top of search results through a variety of techniques such as repeating keywords over and over, or showing search engines content that’s different from what visitors to the site will see. Hackers sometimes even get into legitimate sites and change them into spam sites that redirect people to scams or worse. The Google Search Central Webmaster Quality Guidelines is a good reference for non-webmasters to learn more about different spam techniques. If you recognize any of these spam techniques on a page, please use the Lowest rating.
You do not need to develop spam recognition expertise or use special spam identification tools for PQ rating. Please review this section for guidance on what to look for even without having such tools or expertise
7.5.1 Cannot Determine a Purpose, No MC, Little MC, or Lowest Quality MC
This is a new section created and expanded upon from the old section 7.2.2 No/Little Main Content and 7.2.3 Lowest Quality Main Content that were combined.
From the two old sections:
Pages exist to share their MC with users. The following pages should be rated Lowest because they fail to achieve their purpose:
● Pages with no MC.
● Pages with a bare minimum of MC that is unhelpful for the purpose of the page.
The Lowest rating applies to any page with Lowest Quality MC. Lowest quality MC is content created with such
insufficient time, effort, expertise, talent, and/or skill that it fails to achieve its purpose. The Lowest rating should also apply to pages where users cannot benefit from the MC, for example:
● Informational pages with demonstrably inaccurate MC.
● The MC is so difficult to read, watch, or use, that it takes great effort to understand and use the page.
● Broken functionality of the page due to lack of skill in construction, poor design, or lack of maintenance.
Have high standards and think about how typical users in your locale would experience the MC on the page. A page may have value to the creator or participants in the discussion, but few to no general users who view it would benefit from the MC.
The new version has been completely rewritten with elements from the old one, although the new version tries to make it clear when a website is being deliberate in their actions towards their content.
All pages should be created with sufficient quantity and quality of MC so that the page can achieve its purpose. If the MC is lacking in quality or quantity, typically a Low quality rating should be used. However, sometimes pages are so lacking in MC that the purpose of the page itself is unclear or you may suspect the page is not actually created for people.
If any of the following are true, the page should be rated Lowest:
● Despite your best efforts, the purpose of the page cannot truly be understood because the MC is gibberish or
otherwise unusable for people
● The page deliberately has no MC
● The page is deliberately created with so little MC that it fails to achieve any purpose
● The page is deliberately created with such low quality MC that it fails to achieve any purpose
7.5.2 Hacked, Defaced or Spammed Pages
Google has made a specific change to this section that’s I feel should have been in there originally. Previously Google detailed that just because a site had some spam he content on it doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire website should be considered low quality. I always felt that there should be more of a distinction for sites that have an overwhelming amount of spam, even if some of their content is still pretty good.
I’m not talking about a case where a site got hacked and that they cleaned it up within a reasonable amount of time. But more of a case where they’ve had forumss for years that they’ve let run wild or all their blog posts have published comment spam on them. Or have a section where they published really spamming user generated content. Because in my eyes sites that have a long-term spam problem really is a sign to me that the site owner doesn’t take care in their website.
And now it seems that Google is somewhat agreeing with that stance.
Formerly the end of the section read
While a specific page on a website may have a large amount of spammed forum discussions or spammed user comments, it does not mean that the entire website contains only spam.
Now, it reads:
If a specific page on a website has a large amount of unrelated “spammed” comments, the page should be rated Lowest.
While it is not giving the website a pass, it is making it clear that spam can be a reason to rate lowest.
7.5.3 Auto-Generated MC
Google has completely rewritten the section and expanded on quite a bit to go into more detail about what auto generated content is and how to identify it.
Here is the old version:
Another way to create MC with little to no time, effort, or expertise is to create pages (or even entire websites) by
designing a basic template from which hundreds or thousands of pages are created, sometimes using content from freely available sources (such as an RSS feed or API). These pages are created with no or very little time, effort, or expertise, and also have no editing or manual curation.
Pages and websites made up of auto-generated content with no editing or manual curation, and no original content or value added for users, should be rated Lowest.
And the updated version:
Creating an abundance of content with little time, effort or expertise with no editing or manual curation is often the defining attribute of spammy websites. One way to do this is to use “auto-generated” content.
It is possible to create many pages or even entire websites by designing a basic template from which hundreds or
thousands of pages are created, sometimes using content from freely available sources (such as an RSS feed or API). These pages are created with no or very little time, effort, or expertise, and also have little to no editing or manual curation. There is little value when pages repackage freely available content with little attention to no attention to the experience of people visiting the page (see here for more information on automatically generated content).
It is often easiest to recognize auto-generated content by clicking on multiple pages on a website and observing
“templated” content. It may be difficult to recognize auto-generated content from a single page, so be sure to explore the website if you suspect the content is templated.
Pages and websites made up of auto-generated content with no editing or manual curation, and no original content or value added for users, should be rated Lowest.
Because many quality raters are not people who are very familiar with how websites are created or with spam, this is gives them a bit more information to help them identify when content might be auto generated.
7.5.4 Copied MC
Google added this section:
Pages with copied content are created with no or very little time, effort, or expertise, and also have little to no editing or manual curation. There is little value when pages are created simply by copying content from other sites. As with auto-generated content, it is a technique that can be used to create many pages or even a whole website. For this reason, it is often easiest to recognize copied content by exploring many pages on the site.
7.5.5 How to Determine if Content is Copied
Google has made one tiny addition to this one that some SEOs might find interesting. When it comes to teaching the quality rater how to search for specific content on the site, they have made a change where they are not just including doing a search with quotes but doing a search without quotes as well.
The old version:
Search on Google by pasting the sentence or phrase (surrounded by quotation marks) inside the Google search
box. Try a few sentences from the page.
The new version:
Search on Google by pasting the sentence or phrase (surrounded by quotation marks to search for an exact
match) inside the Google search box. You may also try without quotation marks to search for more general
There are also informing the raters that this is called exact match when you do a search with quotes.
They also made some minor changes to reword about using Wikipedia and the Internet archive to confirm if the content was taken from Wikipedia or not.
7.6 Examples of Lowest Quality Pages
Google has tightened up the examples they are including in the section they have not included all the previous examples that are given and they’ve also included some new ones, including things like an example for the flat earth society. They’ve also included specific examples for content that’s harmful to certain groups of people too.
For those who want a deep dive into the specific examples and the changes, here are the examples that were added or extensively changed:
- All examples on page 50
- All examples on page 51
- 4th example on page 53
- 1st example on page 55
- 1st example on page 56
They also removed numerous examples in the previous version, primarily because when they made this update today ended up detailing the examples much more comprehensively than some of them had been done previously.
Also the new examples fit into some of the areas that had been previously lacking as the guidelines have been updated throughout the years. This is the first major overhaul that these examples have seen, as noted by some of the dates throughout the screenshots in the guidelines.
Removed 7.6 Pages that Potentially Deceive Users
This section was removed, although the essence of it is in other sections.
We will consider a page to be “deceptive” if it may deceive users or trick search engines. All deceptive pages should be rated Lowest.
The following sections describe characteristics of deceptive pages. However, no list of deceptive characteristics will be complete—deceptive websites continue to evolve as users and search engines figure out how they are being tricked.
With practice, you will be able to identify deceptive pages accurately
Removed 7.1 Section Lack of Purpose Pages
This section has been completely removed from the quality rater guidelines now. Some of it is incorporated into other sections so it isn’t a removal because it’s not important, but simply removal because it is addressed in other areas as well.
The section removed:
Sometimes it is impossible to figure out the purpose of the page. For example, some pages are either accidentally or deliberately created with no MC or gibberish and/or meaningless MC. Some pages fail to achieve their purpose so profoundly that the purpose of the page cannot be determined. Such pages serve no real purpose for users.
No matter how or why they are created, lack of purpose pages should be rated Lowest quality.
9.1 Instructions for Rating Page Quality Tasks
Here Google is making specific reference to pages that are inaccessible due to something like a paywall.
11.0 Page Quality Rating FAQs.
Under the “You talked about expertise when rating MC. Does expertise matter for all topics? Aren’t there some topics for
which there are no experts?” they have made an additional note about harm.
One final note: if the page is harmful to people or society, untrustworthy, or spammy as specified in these guidelines, expertise doesn’t matter. It should be rated Lowest.
Under the “Aren’t there some types of pages or topics, such as celebrity gossip, that always have Low quality content?” they have added:
Pages that are harmful to people or society, untrustworthy, or spammy as specified in these guidelines should be rated Lowest quality, regardless of their topic.
13.6 Fails to Meet (FailsM)
Google has added a reference to some of the different sections and types of pages that Fail to Meet.
Search results should never surprise people with unpleasant, upsetting, offensive, or disturbing content. For this reason, all of the following types of content should be rated Fails to Meet if it is clear that the user is not looking for such content:
● Harmful to Self or Other Individuals (Section 7.1)
● Harmful to Specified Groups (Section 7.2)
● Harmfully Misleading Information (Section 7.3)
● Untrustworthy (Section 7.4)
● Spammy (Section 7.5)
● Porn (Section 15.1)
15.6 Additional Flags in Some Rating Tasks
This is a new section for raters flagging tasks.
Some rating tasks may ask you to identify Upsetting-Offensive and/or Not-for-Everyone results.
Mark content that may be upsetting or offensive from the perspective of a typical user in your locale as Upsetting-Offensive, keeping in mind that people of all ages, genders, races, religions, and political affiliations use the Internet to understand the world and other points of views.
Mark content that may be unpleasant or uncomfortable for some people in your locale (e.g., content that may not be appropriate in a public space, professional environment, or school) as Not-for-Everyone.
With this addition, they have removed some of the 15.6 Upsetting-Offensive Flag and 15.6.1 Using the Upsetting-Offensive Flag for this new streamlined version.
There are some really great changes that Google has made, especially when it comes to how they wants the raters to consider the various groups of people when it comes to raiding webpages lowest or not. This really shows how society is changing and also that Google is really valuing the fact that they don’t want the type of content that would harm those groups of people to be considered relevant and rank well in the search results.
Many site owners will be happy to see the specific mentions to paywalls now, as there had been concerns previously that raters would consider any type of content with a paywall as being an automatic lowest quality because it wasn’t assessable. So the fact that there addressing this specifically is a great addition.
There are some other interesting notes is especially and examples. They are still including the restaurant Tumeric as an example even though it is now closed. They have removed one of the Betty White examples, although another one still remains, because every time I come across it I hope she lives much longer.
But overall in the examples section for low quality, I think there are new additions as well as deleting some of the lesser defined examples was a good move.
The low quality section changes are really great to see. They’ve expanded on so much of the low quality specifics that weren’t given in as much detail or depth previously in the guidelines. Hopefully, we will see them do a revamp one day on the high quality section, because I know webmasters would find that and more fascinating.
The emphasis throughout the new changes on the reputation and E-A-T are something that webmasters should take note of that they haven’t previously. Especially because Google is putting emphasis on not just the website itself but also the reputation of the content creators for the website. So again, if you haven’t concerned yourself with how others perceive you and your business and your content creators, this is something you want to start working on. Even if you work on in baby steps, starting off by creating more informative bios for your content creators, or getting them featured elsewhere. With Google putting so much emphasis on this, and increasing it every time a new quality rater guidelines comes out, Google is trying to give us the building blocks of a great website, and it’s clear this is one of them.
How much does E-A-T and reputation apply to the search algorithm today? Well that’s hard to know specifically. There are so many ranking factors that Google is including, not to mention all the adjustments and changes they are making every week. But because of the quality rater guidelines we know specifically that Google is trying to make their algorithms identify E-A-T and reputation.
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