It has been a year since we last saw Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines updated, but they released a brand new version over the weekend. Here is what has changed, with commentary about why it is important for site owners and tips they can take away from it to incorporate into their own sites.
Once again, Google’s quality raters cannot impact your site directly in how it ranks in the search results. But Google does use these ratings to ensure the best search results are being delivered with the highest quality sites ranking best.
The first changes are evident within the table of contents. The section on “Website Reputation” has been renamed “Reputation of the Website or Creator of the Main Content.” The subsection has been changed from merely “Reputation Research” to “Research on the Reputation of the Website or Creator of the Main Content.”
The Low Quality section has been expanded, as was the Lowest Quality section, with additional subsections added, including reputation of the creator of the content.
One of the big changes is that not only are raters looking at the reputation of just the website, raters are tasked with investigating the reputation of the content creator – such as the author of the article or landing page being rated. This will put a greater emphasis on sites needing to have author information and author bios on their articles, especially for those sites that do not use bylines on their content when it isn’t clear on the site itself who authors the articles.
Google has also added the concept of “beneficial purpose” to the Quality Rater Guidelines, where raters are not just asked to rate the quality of the content, but also consider whether the page has a beneficial purpose or use to being on the site. What would a visitor to the site gain?
There is also a new emphasis on titles again, specifically targeting clickbait titles where the title is sensationalized tabloid style, yet fails to deliver up to the expectations when someone clicks through.
Lastly, a pretty significant change to the coverage of Your Money, Your Life sites.
There were also new grammatical errors corrected, which I won’t note as they do not change the context of what each section or sentence says. They also changed usage from “vendor” to “employer/company.”
Remember, quality raters cannot impact your site directly. So you don’t have to worry that a competitor is a rater and will rate your site lowest. Google uses the raters to evaluate algos instead. They will push out an algo test and use raters to evaluate how well – or not – their search results are performing based on the quality of sites that are ranking higher in the search results.
Now, let’s dive in with all the changes, or head to the bottom for my final thoughts on these changes.
- 1 Purpose of a Webpage
- 2 Your Money Your Life
- 3 Reputation
- 4 Page Quality Rating
- 5 High Quality Pages
- 6 Highest Quality Pages
- 7 Low Quality Pages
- 7.1 Lacking Expertise, Authoritativeness, or Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
- 7.2 Low Quality Main Content
- 7.3 Unsatisfying Amount of Main Content
- 7.4 Distracting Ads/SC
- 7.5 Mixed or Mildly Negative Reputation of the Website or Creator of the Main Content
- 7.6 Unsatisfying Amount of Information About the Website or Creator of the Main Content
- 8 Lowest Quality Pages
- 8.1 Lowest Quality Pages
- 8.2 Lack of Purpose Pages
- 8.3 Pages that Fail to Achieve Their Purpose
- 8.4 Copied Main Content
- 8.5 Auto-Generated Main Content
- 8.6 Obstructed or Inaccessible Main Content.
- 8.7 Inadequate Information about the Website or Creator of the Main Content
- 8.8 Unmaintained Websites, and Hacked, Defaced, or Spammed Pages
- 8.9 Pages That Spread Hate
- 8.10 Potentially Harmful Pages
- 8.11 Malicious Pages
- 8.12 Negative or Malicious Reputation
- 8.13 Pages that Potentially Misinform Users
- 8.14 Pages that Potentially Deceive Users
- 8.15 Deceptive Page Purpose
- 8.16 Deceptive Page Design
- 9 Medium Quality Pages
- 10 Page Quality Rating Tasks
- 11 Understanding Mobile User Needs
- 12 Needs Met Rating Guideline
- 13 Highly Meets
- 14 Moderately Meets (MM)
- 15 Fails to Meet (FailsM)
- 16 Needs Met Rating for Porn Results
- 17 Upsetting-Offensive Flag
- 18 Product Queries: Importance of Browsing and Researching
- 19 Appendix: Using the Evaluation Platform
- 20 Final Thoughts
Purpose of a Webpage
The original comments about “beneficial purpose” were added under some commentary for examples in the previous version of the quality rater guidelines. But Google has expanded on this to include it in their “Purpose of a Webpage” section, as well as to add it throughout the guidelines when referring to high quality pages and websites as well as low quality ones.
Most pages are created to be helpful for users, thus having a beneficial purpose.
Google previously listed the main purposes of a page, with examples such as “to share information about a topic” and “to entertain.” This list was preceded with a heading “Common helpful page purposes include (but are not limited to):” Now, it has been changed to “Common helpful or beneficial page purposes include (but are not limited to):”
They ask raters to consider what the beneficial purpose of a page is throughout the guidelines, and if there is no beneficial purpose, that the page should receive a lowest rating. It also uses this for raters to consider whether non-traditional pages have any beneficial value too.
They seem to use the term often with the term “helpful”, leading to that quality raters shouldn’t just consider if the page could be helpful to someone, but if it is a beneficial page to have on a site or in the search results.
Purpose of Video Pages
For some reason in the many examples, Google has decided to change the purpose of a page for a few of the examples. And the change is kind of curious, and if it means Google is changing how they view the focus of a video landing page, or if SEOs shouldn’t read too much into the change.
Formerly, it listed the purpose of a video page as “To allow users to watch a video.” But now, Google has changed it – in all examples – to “To share a cute video of a cat.”
Why? Is Google considering the evolving value of a video landing page that it is pivoting slightly from merely watching a video to also sharing a video?
From a user perspective, most people go to a video landing page to watch a video. But perhaps from a site owner perspective, many are not wanting just the watch, but also optimizing to those shares as well.
From the example they show, you can definitely tell that the site is angling for shares, in the way the page is presented.
However, they later also refer to a video page that the purpose is to share a video, but it is a YouTube page that isn’t as “in your face” about the sharing.
Purpose of Blog Post Pages
Similarly, they changed the purpose of blog post pages to “to share music used on a TV show” as the purpose of a page from “the purpose is to display a blog post.” Again, this could just be to match the example to be more specific.
Google has removed one of the examples from this page, the example relating to Christopher Columbus. They kept the second example but reformatted it into a paragraph instead of in the table.
Your Money Your Life
Google has once again updated what they consider to be Your Money, Your Life pages with this latest update. And safety is the new addition to the list.
Some types of pages could potentially impact the future happiness, health, or financial stability of users. We call such pages “Your Money or Your Life” pages, or YMYL.
Now (emphasis mine):
Some types of pages could potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users. We call such pages “Your Money or Your Life” pages, or YMYL.
Google doesn’t go specifically into what the addition of safety means, but their guidelines have had examples of things that could be included in this.
Research on the Creator of Main Content
First, Google has changed the section merely called “Reputation Research” to “Research on the Reputation of the Website or Creator of the Main Content.”
Google is placing a brand new emphasis on the creator or author of the main content of the page, whereas before the emphasis was entirely on the website reputation. So what could this be targeting? I suspect they want quality raters to not simply consider the site in question that an article is found on, but the author as well. There are well known authors published on lesser known sites and vice versa.
It could also be considering news opinion articles, where a well known news site publishes an OpEd pice by someone whose reputation might not be as great as the site publishing it. Some sites like to court controversy for page views, and doing it with someone with a poor reputation who will ignite a firestorm can work well. But should that particular piece of content stand on the merits of the site alone when the author is questionable?
And sometimes a site has plenty of content but nothing in the way of a content creator, such as a name, social media link or bio. Before, raters were judging on the reputation of the site alone, but now with the creator’s reputation up for analysis, many sites will fail on that score.
How to Search for Reputation Information
Google has added “You may need to identify the creator of the content, if it is different from that of the overall website.”
They have also added a new suggestion for finding reputation information content creators:
For content creators, try searching for their name or alias.
They have also added that you should look for reputation information not written by the individual creator, just as you would for a website or business. Then they added:
For content creators, look for biographical data and other sources that are not written by the individual.
They also suggest looking for the Wikipedia page for the content creators.
What to Do When You Find No Reputation Information
Google added (added text in italics):
You should expect to find reputation information for large businesses and websites of large organizations, as well as well-known content creators.
Page Quality Rating
Overall Page Quality Rating
Google has completely rewritten and expanded this section from the very brief version it has had before.
The overall Page Quality rating scale offers five rating options: Lowest , Low , Medium , High, and Highest .
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.
2. Otherwise, the PQ rating is based on how well the page achieves its purpose using the criteria outlined in the following sections on Lowest , Low , Medium , High, and Highest quality pages.
Again, Google is putting the focus on the beneficial purpose of the page.
Page Quality Rating: Most Important Factors
Google’s change to this section is to yet again put the focus on the purpose of the page as well as on the reputation of the creator of the content.
Here are the changes, with the changes in italics to this section:
Here are the most important factors to consider when selecting an overall Page Quality rating:
● The Purpose of the Page
● Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness: This is an important quality characteristic. Use your research on the additional factors below to inform your rating.
● Main Content Quality and Amount: The rating should be based on the landing page of the task URL.
● Website Information/information about who is responsible for the MC: Find information about the website as well as the creator of the MC.
●Website Reputation/reputation about who is responsible for the MC: Links to help with reputation research will be provided.
Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
There are some significant changes to this. First, the instances where Google referred to “high quality” has now been changed to “high EAT”. Google is clearly wanting raters to look beyond simple quality and consider other aspects that contribute to the value of that content as well.
Google has added this new 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, the amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) is very important. Please consider:
● The expertise of the creator of the MC.
● The authoritativeness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
● The trustworthiness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
Later in the section, they make some changes specific to the content creators in several key areas, including medical, news, science and financial sites.
Here are those changes, with the changes in italics:
● High E-A-T medical advice should be written or produced by people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. High E-A-T medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis.
● High E-A-T news articles should be produced with journalistic professionalism—they should contain factually accurate content presented in a way that helps users achieve a better understanding of events. High E-A-T news sources typically have published established editorial policies and robust review processes ( example 1 , example 2 ).
● High E-A-T information pages on scientific topics should be produced by people or organizations with appropriate scientific expertise and represent well-established scientific consensus on issues where such consensus exists.
● High E-A-T financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, etc., should come from trustworthy sources and be maintained and updated regularly.
● High E-A-T advice pages on topics such as home remodeling (which can cost thousands of dollars and impact your living situation) or advice on parenting issues (which can impact the future happiness of a family) should also come from “expert” or experienced sources that users can trust.
● High E-A-T pages on hobbies, such as photography or learning to play a guitar, also require expertise.
Again, Google is putting a lot of stress on the content creators as well, emphasized for YMYL sites.
They are now holding news sites to an even higher standard, likely in response to the changes Google made last year in response to the fake news sites. Before, Google was not asking raters to gauge the journalistic standards of news sites, because that is one area that differs between many websites but also can be used to determine the credibility of site’s news content. And again, this is in addition to keeping the creator’s reputation in mind when rating content.
Google gives two examples of the types of editorial policies they want to see on high quality news sites. First, the BBC (partial screenshot).
And the second example, USA Today (partial screenshot).
Google has also gone further with both medical and scientific content, wanting medical content to be written by someone with the actual medical expertise and science content to also be produced by those with relevant expertise. So Google is clearly looking at these areas as well to be impacted with future algorithms as these sites are held to a higher standard.
High Quality Pages
Characteristics of High Quality Pages
Google has also expanded this section. Here we get the first reference to the new title changes as well as more on the beneficial purpose of a page. Changes/additions are in italics.
High quality pages exist for almost any beneficial purpose, from giving information to making people laugh to expressing oneself artistically to purchasing products or services online.
What makes a High quality page? A High quality page should have a beneficial purpose and achieve that purpose well. In addition, High quality pages have the following characteristics:
● High level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
● A satisfying amount of high quality MC, including a descriptive or helpful title.
● Satisfying website information and/or information about who is responsible for the website. If the page is primarily
for shopping or includes financial transactions, then it should have satisfying customer service information.
● Positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the MC on the page. Positive reputation of the
creator of the MC, if different from that of the website.
Highest Quality Pages
Highest Quality Pages
Again, beneficial purpose is added as a requirement for a highest quality page.
They have also added the “and quantity if MC” as a marker for a distinction between high and highest quality. This does raise a question about whether all content length is really considered equal in the eyes of Google. Both Gary Illyes and John Mueller have stated you don’t need to write an essay for a piece of content that doesn’t need it, and to write as much as you need to in order to answer the question the title presents. But here, quantity of the main content is something rates should specifically look for when deciding if a page is highest quality or only high quality.
And we see yet another reference to the need of having a “very positive reputation of the creator of the main content, if different from that of the website.”
But they have removed references to this on pages for stores or other financial transactions.
Here is the old version:
Highest pages are very satisfying pages that achieve their purpose very well. The distinction between High and Highest is based on the quality of MC as well as the level of EAT and reputation of the website.
What makes a page Highest quality? A Highest quality page may have the following characteristics:
● Very high level of Expertise, highly Authoritative, and highly Trustworthy for the purpose of the page (EAT), including the EAT
of the publisher and/or individual author for news articles and information pages on YMYL topics.
● A satisfying amount of high quality MC.
● Highly satisfying website information and/or information about who is responsible for the website or for stores and pages involving financial transactions, highly satisfying customer service reputation is very important.
● Very positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the MC on the page.
And the updated version:
Highest quality pages are created to serve a beneficial purpose and achieve their purpose very well. The distinction between High and Highest is based on the quality and quantity of MC, as well as the level of reputation and E-A-T.
What makes a page Highest quality? In addition to the attributes of a High quality page, a Highest quality page must have at least one of the following characteristics:
● Very high level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
● A very satisfying amount of high or highest quality MC.
● Very positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the MC on the page. Very positive reputation of the creator of the MC, if different from that of the website.
So the removal of the stores and financial transactions change seems to be due to the more generic variation of that added to the guidelines.
Very Positive Reputation
They now want raters to do “extensive” reputation research when giving Highest ratings.
Examples of Highest Quality Pages
Google has added a new example, it surprisingly, it is of a Twitter page. SO this is proof that Google does consider Twitter pages to be highest quality in some cases.
Low Quality Pages
This entire section on low quality pages got updated. Some was removed as it was replaced with something more concise, while other areas were expanded, particularly around reputation and beneficial content.
Low Quality Pages
The first paragraph has been updated completely.
This was removed:
Low quality pages are unsatisfying or lacking in some element that prevents them from achieving their purpose well. These pages lack expertise or are not very trustworthy/authoritative for the purpose of the page.
And it was changed to this:
Low quality pages may have been intended to serve a beneficial purpose. However, Low quality pages do not achieve their purpose well because they are lacking in an important dimension, such as having an unsatisfying amount of MC, or because the creator of the MC lacks expertise for the purpose of the page.
Here is the reference to beneficial purpose once again. But this time it also concedes that sometimes these pages were intended to serve a beneficial purpose but something on the page – or missing from it – means it is still low quality.
Google has removed the possibility that some pages that meet their “low quality pages” criteria might not be considered low. Now, raters must always rate a page as Low – or Lowest – if any one or more applies.
Here is what the section used to be:
If a page has one of the following characteristics, the Low rating is usually appropriate:
● The author of the page or website does not have enough expertise for the topic of the page and/or the website is not trustworthy or authoritative for the topic. In other words, the page/website is lacking EAT.
● The quality of the MC is low.
● There is an unsatisfying amount of MC for the purpose of the page.
● MC is present, but difficult to use due to distracting/disruptive/misleading Ads, other content/features, etc.
● There is an unsatisfying amount of website information for the purpose of the website (no good reason for anonymity).
● The website has a negative reputation.
And here is the new revised version:
If a page has one or more of the following characteristics, the Low rating applies:
● An inadequate level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
● The quality of the MC is low.
● There is an unsatisfying amount of MC for the purpose of the page.
● The title of the MC is exaggerated or shocking.
● The Ads or SC distracts from the MC.
● There is an unsatisfying amount of website information or information about the creator of the MC for the purpose of the page (no good reason for anonymity).
● A mildly negative reputation for a website or creator of the MC, based on extensive reputation research. If a page has multiple Low quality attributes, a rating lower than Low may be appropriate.
Note that it no longer includes the reference that anonymity for some content might be appropriate.
Lacking Expertise, Authoritativeness, or Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
This section has been completely rewritten, and was formerly section 6.5.
Some topics demand expertise for the content to be considered trustworthy. YMYL topics such as medical advice, legal advice, financial advice, etc. should come from authoritative sources in those fields, must be factually accurate, and must represent scientific/medical consensus within those fields where such consensus exists. Even everyday topics, such as recipes and house cleaning, should come from those with experience and everyday expertise in order for the page to be trustworthy.
You should consider who is responsible for the content of the website or content of the page you are evaluating. Does the person or organization have sufficient expertise for the topic? If expertise, authoritativeness, or trustworthiness is lacking, use the Low rating.
Low quality pages often lack an appropriate level of E-A-T for the purpose of the page. Here are some examples:
● The creator of the MC does not have adequate expertise in the topic of the MC, e.g. a tax form instruction video made by someone with no clear expertise in tax preparation.
● The website is not an authoritative source for the topic of the page, e.g. tax information on a cooking website.
● The MC is not trustworthy, e.g. a shopping checkout page that has an insecure connection.
It also made some slight changes to the user generated content section of this, and now specifically includes references to social networking pages, video sharing sites, and wiki-type sites.
User-generated websites span the Page Quality rating spectrum. Note that in some cases, contributors choose their own topics with no oversight and may have very poor writing skills or no expertise in the topic of the page. Contributors may be paid per article or word, and may even be eligible for bonuses based on the traffic to their pages. Depending on the topic, pages on these websites may not be trustworthy.
Note: Websites with user-generated content span the Page Quality rating spectrum. Please pay careful attention to websites that allow users to publish content with little oversight, such as social networking pages, video sharing websites, volunteer-created encyclopedias, article sharing websites, forums, etc. Depending on the topic, pages on these websites may lack E-A-T.
The user generated content section is noteworthy, because they aren’t automatically discounting user generated content as low or lowest, but rather as something that warrants further investigation before rating it. There are plenty of examples of high quality user generated content, but it seems the majority is definitely lacking in quality and EAT.
It has also changed the notation at the end from “Important : Lacking appropriate EAT is sufficient reason to give a page a Low quality rating.” to “Important : The Low rating should be used if the page lacks appropriate E-A-T for its purpose.” So Google has a new distinction on EAT for the purpose of the specific page.
Low Quality Main Content
This section has been significantly reduced, although some of it was incorporated into new individual sections Google has added to the guidelines, so just because it is noted as removed here, doesn’t mean it was removed entirely. But we also get our new guidance on the clickbait style titles vs actual content that Google now wants raters to call Low.
They entirely removed this part which was an example used to illustrate types of low quality content, as well as the differentiation between professional websites and those from hobbyists:
One of the most important criteria in PQ rating is the quality of the MC, which is determined by how much time, effort,
expertise, and talent/skill have gone into the creation of the page, and also informs the EAT of the page.
Consider this example: Most students have to write papers for high school or college. Many students take shortcuts to
save time and effort by doing one or more of the following:
● Buying papers online or getting someone else to write for them.
● Including inaccurate information, such as making things up, stretching the truth, or creating a false sense of doubt about well-established facts.
● Writing quickly with no drafts or editing.
● Failing to cite sources, or making up sources where none exist.
● Filling the report with large pictures or other distracting content.
● Copying the entire report from an encyclopedia, or paraphrasing content by changing words or sentence structure here and there.
● Using commonly known facts, for example, “Argentina is a country. People live there. Argentina has borders.”
● Using a lot of words to communicate only basic ideas or facts, for example, “Pandas eat bamboo. Pandas eat a lot of bamboo. Bamboo is the best food for a Panda bear.”
Unfortunately, the content of some webpages is similarly created. We will consider content to be Low quality if it is created without adequate time, effort, expertise, or talent/skill. Inaccurate or misleading information presented as fact is also a reason for Low or even Lowest quality ratings. Pages with low quality MC do not achieve their purpose well.
Keep in mind that we have very different standards for pages on large, professionally-produced business websites than we have for small amateur, hobbyist, or personal websites. The quality of MC we expect for a large online store is very different than what we might expect for a small local business website.
All PQ rating should be done in the context of the purpose of the page and the type of website.
Important : Low quality MC is a sufficient reason to give a page a Low quality rating.
The very much abbreviated version of this section has specifics to clickbait:
The quality of the MC is an important consideration for PQ rating. We will consider content to be Low quality if it is created without adequate time, effort, expertise, or talent/skill. Pages with low quality MC do not achieve their purpose well.
In addition, please examine the title on the page. The title of the page should describe the content.
Exaggerated or shocking titles can entice users to click on pages in search results. If pages do not live up to the exaggerated or shocking title or images, the experience leaves users feeling surprised and confused. Here is an example of a page with an exaggerated and shocking title: “Is the World about to End? Mysterious Sightings of 25ft Sea Serpents Prompt Panic!” as the title for an article about the unidentified remains of one small dead fish on a beach. Pages with exaggerated or shocking titles that do not describe the MC well should be rated Low.
Important : The Low rating should be used if the page has Low quality MC.
Google initially added references to clickbait and quality last year in an update to the guidelines, but this one goes into more specifics with an example. But it is unclear if site owners only need to worry about this extreme clickbait, or if “milder” versions of clickbait could be rated Low as well.
The example seems based off this Daily Mail article Google has as a later example in the guidelines.
Unsatisfying Amount of Main Content
Here there is a small change, but it does make a rater aware that there is a difference between the amount of content for the purpose of the page.
Important : An unsatisfying amount of MC is a sufficient reason to give a page a Low quality rating.
Important : The Low rating should be used if the page has an unsatisfying amount of MC for the purpose of the page.
This is a combination of multiple removed sections (6.3. 6.3.1, 6.3.2) in a new single section.
Of note is that previously, Google wanted raters to consider “highly distracting”, while now it is simply “distracting” that will get a Low rating.
It also specifically calls out suggestive and grostesque images, common to some of the Outbrain and Taboola style of ad units on many websites.
This is the example Google uses to show distracting ads and SC, which also has a false clickbait title.
Here is the full new section:
We expect Ads and SC to be visible. However, some Ads, SC, or interstitial pages (i.e., pages displayed before or after the content you are expecting) make it difficult to use the MC. Pages with Ads, SC, or other features that distract from or interrupt the use of the MC should be given a Low rating.
A single pop-over Ad with a clear and easy-to-use close button is not terribly distracting, though may not be a great user experience. However, difficult-to-close Ads that follow page scrolls can be truly distracting and make the MC difficult to use.
The content of the Ads, SC, or other features may be distracting as well: sexually suggestive images such as here, grotesque images such as here , and porn Ads on non-porn pages should be considered very distracting.
Finally, Ads and SC can be distracting if the titles or images of the Ads or SC are shocking or disturbing. Here is an example of a page with shocking and exaggerated titles, images, and text in the Ads and SC.
Important : The Low rating should be used if the page has Ads, SC, or other features that interrupt or distract from using the MC.
Mixed or Mildly Negative Reputation of the Website or Creator of the Main Content
This is another section substantially changed, the previous section was simply titled “Negative Reputation”. Google is highlighting that “extensive” reputation research is required now.
For restaurant sites concerned about how some negative reviews are reflected through the quality raters, Google is now stating that it is typical for business to have a few negative reviews.
Here is the new version with changes in italics.
Extensive reputation research is required for all PQ rating tasks unless you have previously researched the reputation of the website. Many websites have little reputation information, unfortunately. Of the websites with reputation information, most websites have a good reputation. Please exercise care when researching the reputation of businesses. Try to find as many reviews and ratings as possible, and read the details of negative reviews and low ratings before inferring that the business overall has a negative reputation. A few negative customer service reviews are typical for businesses such as restaurants.
Google has now added that non-journalist writers can have reputation as well, including YouTubers, bloggers, vloggers and professionals. So raters are now expected to do reputation research on any content creator, regardless of whether they seem to be well known enough or not.
Here is what was added:
If the MC was not created by the website, research the reputation of the creator of the MC. While many ordinary people do not have reputation information available on the Internet, you can find reputation information on well-known YouTubers, journalists, authors, bloggers and vloggers, professionals such as lawyers and doctors, etc.
Pay attention when there is evidence of mixed or mildly negative—though not malicious or financially fraudulent—reputation. The Low rating should be used if the website or the creator of the MC has a mildly negative reputation.
Important : For a YMYL website, a mixed reputation is cause for a Low rating.
Unsatisfying Amount of Information About the Website or Creator of the Main Content
Here again we see addition of the “Creator of the Main Content” added to the title, with Google yet again focusing on the content creator and the possible lack of information or reputation of the creator.
Google is also noting that a social media link alone can satisfy the reputation requirement for personal or non-YMYL content.
Google is also acknowledging that there could be a “good reason” for anonymity used by some webpages or some sites.
Changes are in italics:
We expect some form of website information for many or most websites. We expect clear information about who (e.g., what individual, company, business, foundation, etc.) created the MC, unless there is good reason for anonymity. A long-standing Internet alias or username can also serve the same function as identifying the MC creator. However, the amount of information needed about the website or creator of the MC depends on the purpose of the page. For personal websites or non-YMYL forum discussions, an email address or social media link alone may be sufficient.
They also added that the lack of information about the person who created the content as being a reason for a Low rating on YMYL content. Additions in italics:
Important : For YMYL pages and other pages that require a high level of user trust, an unsatisfying amount of any of the
following is a reason to give a page a Low quality rating: customer service information, contact information, information
about who is responsible for the website or information about who created the content. For other types of websites, use
Lowest Quality Pages
Much of this section was changed, rewritten and reorganized too.
Lowest Quality Pages
One great part of this section that SEOs and site owners will want to take note of is the fact Google summarizes the page quality points made throughout the page quality sections and put them into 3 concise steps. Here they are:
As a reminder, here are the steps for doing PQ rating.
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.
They also added a new summary, but note that these are simply drilled down points that were previously in 7.x sections in the last Quality Rater Guidelines.
Lack of Purpose Pages
Google added “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.”
Pages that Fail to Achieve Their Purpose
This is another section that was reorganized and rewritten. Here is the updated version:
One of the most important criteria of PQ rating is E-A-T. Expertise of the creator of the MC, and authoritativeness or trustworthiness of the page or website, is extremely important for a page to achieve its purpose well.
If the E-A-T of a page is low enough, users cannot or should not use the MC of the page. This is especially true of YMYL topics. If the page is highly inexpert, unauthoritative or untrustworthy, it fails to achieve its purpose.
Important : The Lowest rating should be used if the page is highly inexpert, unauthoritative, or untrustworthy.
No/Little Main Content
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.
Lowest Quality Main Content
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
Copied Main Content
Interesting part they removed from the beginning of this section is the comment that “Every page needs MC.”
They also combined the two sections “Copied Main Content” and “More About Copied Content”, although it is nearly identical.
They did remove the following:
If all or most of the MC on the page is copied, think about the purpose of the page. Why does the page exist? What value does the page have for users? Why should users look at the page with copied content instead of the original source?
That is a curious part to remove, since it is a valid way to determine if there is any way the content has value despite being copied or syndicated.
Auto-Generated Main Content
This section was renamed from “Automatically-Generated Main Content”, perhaps to change it to match industry lingo.
This section is primarily the same, but added “Another way to create MC with little to no time, effort, or expertise is to create pages (or even entire websites)” to the first paragraph.
Obstructed or Inaccessible Main Content.
This is a reworked version of the previous “Deceptive Page Design” section.
Here is the new section:
MC cannot be used if it is obstructed or inaccessible due to Ads, SC, or interstitial pages . If you are not able to access the MC, please use the Lowest rating.
Here are some examples of pages with obstructed MC that should be rated Lowest :
● Ads that continue to cover the MC as you scroll down the page, that are virtually impossible to close without clicking on the Ad.
● An interstitial page that redirects the user away from the MC without offering any path back to the MC.
This very likely includes fake intersitial pages on mobile, where you end up on a page that seems to imply that the site is only available in an app, with a download link. But if you scroll (and scroll and scroll) the content is sometimes displayed, although often in an abbreviated form, again to drive app installs.
Inadequate Information about the Website or Creator of the Main Content
Another revised section from 7.5, formerly called “No Website Information” again dealing with the reputation of not only the website itself but also of the content creator. Google is seriously stressing the content creator aspect throughout the guidelines, and this stresses that if there is no information about the creator, the website should be rated Lowest.
Italicized parts have been added to this section:
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. 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.
Think about the purpose of the website and the type of website information users would expect or demand.
YMYL pages with absolutely no information about the website or creator of the MC, or other pages where the available information is completely inadequate for the purpose of the website (e.g., an online bank with only an email address), should be rated Lowest .
Again, Google does say there are reasons why some site may have anonymous contributors or authors, provided there is “a good reason for anonymity.” I do wonder how well this is applied in practice by the raters though. There is a big difference between anonymity for something like a political source, versus anonymity for outrageous stories not bring attributed to anyone so the site owner doesn’t have to make a fake persona.
Unmaintained Websites, and Hacked, Defaced, or Spammed Pages
This section sees “Unmaintained websites” added to the title. They do focus a lot on not just the usual hacked or spammed pages, but unmaintained website, where the content or information is so old it is now obsolete and there is no one currently maintaining it.
These “abandoned” websites will fail to achieve their purpose over time, as content becomes stale or website functionality ceases to work on new browser versions.
Unmaintained websites should be rated Lowest if they fail to achieve their purpose due to the lack of maintenance.
Unmaintained websites may also become hacked, defaced, or spammed with a large amount of distracting and unhelpful
content. These pages should also be rated Lowest because they fail to accomplish their original purpose.
Google has also removed the following specific to spammed comments:
Spammed comments are easy to recognize and may include Ads, download, or other links. Webmasters should find and remove this content because it is a bad user experience.
I am not sure why they removed this specifically, but it could be slightly redundant or simply common sense.
Pages That Spread Hate
This section has been expanded from the previous version, and it now also includes additional specific groups that are targeted by hate groups. The additional groups now include socio-economic status, political beliefs, and victims of atrocities.
Even more significantly is the fact that Google is also looking not just at typical hate content, but also hate content that is “expressed in polite or even academic-sounding language. This could definitely be targeting the type of hate content that attempts to pass itself off as legitimate through the use of language, which would also include news sites that are spreading hate in a news article fashion.
They did remove another reference for the reason behind the creation of the pages. They no longer include that they are “pages created with the sole purpose of promoting hate or violence” where they are specifically removing the created part. This could be to remove ambiguity over whether a page is or isn’t created for the purpose of promoting hate and/or violence, because some could argue they weren’t created for that purpose. A fine line, but the only reason I could see for them removing it.
They have removed three sources of information they previously recommended to raters to help identify sites that promote hate and violence. It isn’t clear why they removed this without offering an alternative. Here is the removed part:
The Pew Research Center , the Anti-Defamation League , and the Southern Poverty Law Center are some reputable sources that can be used for reputation research.
The majority of this section is new, as Google has greatly expanded on this. Here is the new version, with italics for the parts that were changed.
Use the Lowest rating for pages that promote hate or violence against a group of people based on criteria including—but not limited to—race or ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality or citizenship, disability, age, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, political beliefs, veteran status, victims of atrocities, etc. Websites advocating hate or violence can cause real world harm.
Hate may be expressed in inflammatory, emotional, or hateful-sounding language, but may also be expressed in polite or even academic-sounding language.
Extensive reputation research is important for identifying websites that promote hate or violence. Please identify reputable and well-established organizations that provide information about hate groups in your locale when researching reputation. Some websites may not have reputation information available. In this case, please use your judgment based on the MC of the page and knowledge of your locale.
Potentially Harmful Pages
This is another new section, aimed specifically at the types of pages that promote harm. It covers harm to self and others, and covers mental, physical and emotional harm. They also include numerous examples of the types of sites they want to see rank Low or Lowest.
It also covers death threats, which is an interesting inclusion since there are issues right now where death threats are not being removed from social media platforms. So this could cover not just these types of threats on websites, but to help prevent these from being ranked from social media sites as well.
It also covers ‘”how to” type articles that could be used to commit terrorism or violent extremism. Google has been criticized in the past for ranking pages that help people learn to make bombs so it isn’t surprising to see this addition.
Google has long added suicide prevention featured snippets in the search results for those doing suicide related searches. But this also shows Google is trying to see those types of results rank lower.
Here is the full section:
Use the Lowest rating for pages that encourage or incite harm. Harm includes mental, physical, or emotional harm to self or others. For example:
● 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.
This is a rework of two previous sections. That said, not much was changed. They added that pages with suspicious links, “including malware download links or other types of links that are detrimental to users” should be rated lowest.
“Other types of links” could be open to interpretation. Does that mean links to low quality sites? Or only malicious links that lead to malware?
They also define malicious sites as “Malicious pages are created with harmful intent or created to benefit the website or other organization at the cost of the user.”
Negative or Malicious Reputation
Google has now added that if the content creator has a negative or malicious reputation, not just the website itself, that the rating should be Lowest.
Pages that Potentially Misinform Users
This is a brand new section, although it is somewhat taken from section 7.6 “Highly Untrustworthy, unreliable, Inaccurate, or Misleading.”
This covers all kind of information sites that spread conspiracy theories and “demonstrably inaccurate content.” Google has received negative publicity over the fact some conspiracy theory sites rank well for queries that are not specific to the conspiracy theory. For example, search queries for the Holocaust had returned results including a site that was promoting the fact the Holocaust was a hoax.
Google adjusted the quality rater guidelines last year to specifically test new search algos that would result in these types of sites ranking lower in the search results, or ranking only for the specific conspiracy theory pages when the searcher is clearly searching for information about that conspiracy theory. So this goes into a bit more details on the types of sites that should be rated Lowest.
They also specifically talk about conspiracy theories that may seem amusing to some people – such as their example that the US government is controlled by lizard people – but that this type of content can have long reaching impact because there are some people who do believe these conspiracy theories, even the seemingly outlandish ones.
They also want raters to check accuracy for YMYL topics when the rater isn’t sure if something is correct or what the consensus amongst experts is for the content in question.
They also mention fact checking sites, but note that fact checking sites cannot keep up with the sheer number of conspiracy theories being published.
Here if the full new section:
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.
Pages that Potentially Deceive Users
This is taken from the old 7.3 section. As a lead in to the next section, Google added “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.”
Deceptive Page Purpose
There are some changes here. One notable addition is the inclusion of non-satirical social media profiles to what should be rated lowest.
Here we also see that clickbait is now considered deceptive, when the title doesn’t deliver what the actual content was about.
The added section about deceptiev website information is likely targeting sites that are impersonating local news sites, something that was an issue during the US election cycle with seemingly legitimate looking websites were spreading fake news under the guise that they were a legitimate news organization.
The new changes are in italics.
Some pages are deliberately created to deceive users, for example:
● A webpage or website that impersonates a different site (e.g., copied logo or branding of an unaffiliated site, URL that mimics another site’s name, etc.).
● A non-satirical social network profile made by an impersonator.
● A webpage or website that looks like a news source or information page, but in fact has articles to manipulate users in order to benefit a person, business, government, or other organization politically, monetarily, or otherwise.
● A webpage claims to offer an independent review or share other information about a product, but is in fact created to make money for the owner of the website without attempting to help users. For example, the MC may contain intentionally misleading or inaccurate information created with the sole purpose of getting users to click on monetized links or buy the product.
● A website claims to be the personal website of a celebrity, but the website is actually created to make money for the owner of the website without the permission of the celebrity. For example, the page may have false testimonials for a product and is created for the sole purpose of getting users to click on monetized links or buy the product.
● A webpage with a misleading title or a title that has nothing to do with the content on the page. Users who come to the page expecting content related to the title will feel tricked or deceived.
● A webpage or website with deceptive website information. For example, the website may misrepresent who owns the site, what the website purpose really is, how the content was created, how to contact the site, etc.
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 confirm it. Please exercise caution and practice good Internet safety skills since deceptive pages may be malicious.
Deceptive Page Design
Google has added a new reason to rate a site Lowest due to deceptive page design. They have added:
Any page designed to trick users into clicking on links , which may be Ads or other links intended to serve the needs of the website rather than to the benefit of the user.
While mostly we see this utilized to disguise affiliate or other paid links, Google already calls those out specifically as “pages that disguise ads as main content” and “pages that disguise ads as website navigation links.”
What I suspect this is targeting is a design on mobile that more and more sites are doing where they show very little of the main content on the page with a “Read more” button that is placed deceptively on top of an ad unit, in hopes that someone trying to click to read the full article accidentally clicks the ad too while doing so.
Examples of Lowest Quality Pages
While most of the examples are the same, they have added this one to do with conspiracy theories.
And for the curious, here is the video example from it:
There is a new example targeting sites promoting hate or violence.
And one more example showing a fake social media profile page:
Medium Quality Pages
Medium Quality Pages
Google has revamped what qualifies as a medium quality page.
They removed this:
In this section, we will describe pages that should get the Medium quality rating. Medium pages achieve their purpose and have neither high nor low expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. However, Medium pages lack the characteristics that would support a higher quality rating. Occasionally, you will find a page with a mix of high and low quality characteristics. In those cases, the best page quality rating may be Medium .
It now reads:
In this section, we will describe pages that should get the Medium quality rating. Medium pages have a beneficial purpose and achieve their purpose.
There are two types of Medium quality pages:
It is unclear why they reduced the description here.
They also slightly changed the criteria for a page that his mixed quality but with high quality characteristics.
The page or website has some characteristics of both High and Low quality pages, but the low quality characteristics are mild enough that the convincing high quality aspects make it difficult to rate the page Low.
Now it has been changed to:
The page or website has strong High quality rating characteristics, but also has mild Low quality characteristics. The strong High quality aspects make it difficult to rate the page Low.
Page Quality Rating Tasks
Reputation and EAT: Website or the Creators of Main Content
Once again we see Google bringing reference specifically to the creators of the main content. This section was previously titled “EAT: Page or Website?”
This was removed:
The quality of the MC is evaluated by looking at the landing page of the link in the PQ rating task. The reputation of the website is based on the website that the landing page belongs to. Depending on the page, EAT may be based on the page alone, may be based on the website, or may be based on both the page and website.
Landing page EAT is important when a website has different authors on different pages. This is the case for article websites or websites like YouTube, which have usergenerated content. EAT for pages on these websites may differ drastically based on the EAT
of the creator of the content on the page.
Website EAT is important in the following situations:
● All content on the website is produced by the same person or organization. An example is a medical website that is produced by a reputable physician group.
● The content of the website is produced by different authors or organizations, but the website has very active editorial standards. An example of this is a science journal with very high standards for publication.
● The website has an extremely positive reputation from experts in the topic of the website, i.e., the website is acknowledged to be one of the most expert, authoritative, or trustworthy sources on the topic.
Now it reads:
You must consider the reputation and E-A-T of both the website and the creators of the MC in order to assign a Page
The reputation and E-A-T of the creators of the MC is extremely important when a website has different authors or content creators on different pages. This is true of forum and Q&A pages, news websites, or websites that have user-generated content, such as YouTube, Twitter, etc. The reputation and E-A-T assessment for pages on these types of websites may differ drastically depending on what page you are evaluating. There are Highest quality YouTube videos created by highly reputable and expert content creators, as well as Lowest quality YouTube videos created with a dangerous lack of E-A-T on YMYL topics.
Important: Research the reputation and E-A-T of both the website and the creators of the MC. If either are lacking for
the purpose of the page, the Low or Lowest rating is appropriate.
It is interesting that they are talking specifically about videos and and YouTube creators. This could be in response to the fact much more video content has been appearing in the Google search results. So they could be asking their raters to evaluate these videos and video content much more than previously.
Page Quality Rating FAQs
This section has had some clarifications added to it. Not all questions and answers are included here, only the ones that changed. The changed parts are in italics.
Question: You talked about expertise when rating MC. Does expertise matter for all topics? Aren’t there some topics for which there are no experts?
Answer: Remember that we are not just talking about formal expertise. High quality pages involve time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill. Sharing personal experience is a form of everyday expertise.
Pretty much any topic has some form of expert, but E-A-T is especially important for YMYL pages.
For most page purposes and topics, you can find experts even when the field itself is niche or non-mainstream. For example, there are expert alternative medicine websites with leading practitioners of acupuncture, herbal therapies, etc. There are also pages about alternative medicine written by people with no expertise or experience. E-A-T should distinguish between these two scenarios.
One final note: if the purpose of the page is harmful, then expertise doesn’t matter. It should be rated Lowest !
Question: Aren’t there some types of pages or topics, such as celebrity gossip, that always have Low quality content?
Answer: For almost any type of page or informational topic, there is a range of content quality. Remember that high quality content is defined as content that takes time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill. Pages that have a harmful purpose should be rated Lowest quality, regardless of their topic.
For example, there are both High and Low quality celebrity gossip pages. Often, the purpose of these pages is to share scandalous, but potentially true personal information about celebrities. We can consider the MC of a gossip page to be high quality if it is accurate and interesting information from a reliable source. On the other hand, demonstrably inaccurate information and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, etc., should be rated Lowest .
Again they are stressing reliability in the source that is publishing the information.
Understanding Mobile User Needs
Locale and User Location
This change is more for reference to the raters. They added:
Note: Examples in the following sections will include a User Location in the form of a city and state. Note that in the actual rating tasks, you will need to infer the User Location based on the map that is provided, as discussed in Section 28 .
Needs Met Rating Guideline
Rating Result Blocks: Block Content and Landing Pages
They removed one of their examples from this section, a featured snippet example that doesn’t match the user intent for the query. Perhaps Google is seeing fewer of these featured snippet examples and hence it was removed.
Examples of Highly Meets (HM Results) Blocks
Google has added a new visual example where the user intent is likely to be what something looks like, even though it might not be explicitly states as such in the search query. Here is the example:
Moderately Meets (MM)
Examples of Moderately Meets (MM) Results Blocks
Google has added another example here for an app install experience in the search results.
Fails to Meet (FailsM)
Examples of Fails to Meet (FailsM) Result Blocks
Another example of an app install result, this time one that fails to meet the intent.
Needs Met Rating for Porn Results
Needs Met Rating for Clear Non-Porn Intent Queries
Google has added new examples to their list of non-porn intent queries. Additions are in italics.
The following queries should be considered non-porn intent queries: [girls], [wives], [mature women], [gay people], [people
kissing], [boy speedos], [moms and sons], [pictures of girls], [pictures of women], [mothers and daughters], [cheerleaders],
Google has a brand new flag for their quality raters, called the “Not-for-Everybody” flag which is used to flag content that could be upsetting or uncomfortable to some people. It sounds as though they might have specific tasks which are testing algos specifically on how well (or not) offensive or upsetting content is ranking in the search results.
Here is the addition:
In addition, some rating tasks may ask you to identify Not-for-Everyone results in order to flag content that you feel may
be uncomfortable for some users.
Using the Upsetting-Offensive Flag
Google has made an addition that upsetting-offensive flags can be used both on landing pages they are evaluating as well as the search results themselves.
They have also made additions to what type of content is typically considered to be upsetting-offensive to flag. And yes, we see more of their new favorite quality rater buzzword, beneficial. Additions in italics:
Upsetting-Offensive content typically includes the following:
● Content that promotes hate or violence against a group of people based on criteria including (but not limited to) race or ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality or citizenship, disability, age, sexual orientation, or veteran status.
● Content with racial slurs or extremely offensive terminology without context or beneficial purpose.
● Depiction of graphic violence without context or beneficial purpose.
● Graphic violence, including animal cruelty or child abuse.
● Explicit how-to information about harmful activities (e.g., how-tos on human trafficking or violent
However, they changed “For example, a result with content that encourages or graphically depicts child abuse should be flagged as
Upsetting-Offensive” to “For example, a result with content that encourages child abuse should be flagged as Upsetting-Offensive.” Perhaps they felt some results were not being flagged because they didn’t graphically depict child abuse, but depicted it in another way.
Also added to examples is that upsetting-offensive flag can be used by raters for pages in the search results, regardless of what the query was.
Needs Met Rating for Upsetting-Offensive Tolerant Queries
They changed from:
When the user’s query seems to either ask for or tolerate potentially upsetting, offensive, or sensitive content, we will call the query a “Upsetting-Offensive tolerant query.
When the user’s query seems to either ask for or tolerate potentially upsetting or offensive content, we will call the query a “Upsetting-Offensive tolerant query”.
It is not entirely clear why they wanted to remove sensitive content, unless people were taking that too far into their personal beliefs, such as a vegetarian flagging a steak recipe site as sensitive or someone with a gluten allergy flagging a bakery. I cannot see any other reason for its removal.
Under the specific examples, they made a change that no longer calls the example “possibly” Upsetting-Offensive.
Under the Holocaust example, they added the following important notation:
Though there are some upsetting/offensive results on the topic of this query, the query [holocaust history] should not be considered an Upsetting-Offensive tolerant query.
Product Queries: Importance of Browsing and Researching
Product Queries: Importance of Browsing and Researching
This section also got a slight revamp. They changed the section title from “Product Queries: Action (Do) vs. Information (Know) Intent.”
The new parts are in italics:
Keep in mind that many users enjoy browsing and visually exploring products online, similar to window shopping in real
life. Give high Needs Met ratings to results that allow users to research, browse, and decide what to purchase.
Users may not always plan to buy products online that they are browsing and researching, for example, cars or major
appliances. Even though the ultimate goal may be to purchase a product, many other activities may take place first:
researching the product (reviews, technical specifications), understanding the options that are available (brands, models,
pricing), viewing and considering various options (browsing), etc.
Important : E-A-T ratings for product results need extra care and attention.
Often, the results for product queries are YMYL pages. Users need high quality information from authoritative sources
when researching products, especially when products are expensive or represent a major investment/important life event
(e.g., cars, washing machines, computers, wedding gifts, baby products, hurricane shutters, large fitness equipment).
When buying products, users need websites they can trust: good reputation, extensive customer service support, etc.
Results for product queries may be important for both your money and your life (YMYL)!
They have also added a new product example:
Appendix: Using the Evaluation Platform
Something rater specific, they are asking raters to “Please leave a comment explaining the release when it makes sense to provide additional information, for example, when you are releasing for a “technical problem.””
Understanding the User Location on the Task Page
They have added that the location can be missing altogether from test queries.
This obviously was another huge rewrite, something we have seen a few times in the past in the quality rater guidelines.
One of the big takeways is the new concept they refer to as “beneficial purpose.” Again and again they stress that raters should be able to find the beneficial purpose of a website to rank it high, and likewise, use the lack of beneficial purpose to rank a website lower.
So what does this mean for site owners and SEOs? The primary one is to now look at each webpage and consider “What is the beneficial purpose of this page?” And “What is the beneficial purpose of this site?” Sometimes the answer is obvious, especially with higher quality sites and pages. But for a site that already had negative factors against it in this guidelines, such as low quality content or distracting secondary content or ads, the lack of a beneficial purpose could be its undoing – at least as far as the raters are concerned.
But again, remember that Google is using these ratings to test algorithms, and clearly something they are either testing, or plan to test in the future, is related to beneficial purpose. So yet another thing for site owners to consider when optimizing a website. And having an easily identifiable beneficial purpose should help that site rank for those queries, and just as importantly, be great for users.
And just to repeat, here is what Google is looking for to determine the quality rating of a site, which now includes the purpose of the page.
The Purpose of the Page
Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness: This is an important quality characteristic. Use your research on the additional factors below to inform your rating.
Main Content Quality and Amount: The rating should be based on the landing page of the task URL.
Website Information/information about who is responsible for the MC: Find information about the website as well as the creator of the MC.
Website Reputation/reputation about who is responsible for the MC: Links to help with reputation research will be provided.
The new YMYL change means that more sites that may not have fallen under the umbrella of YMYL previously, might now be considered a YMYL site. With the addition of “safety”, this could easily encompass a huge range of new content areas.
There is another strong emphasis on content creators in these updated guidelines, particularly around the reputation of the author or creator of the content, especially if it is someone not associated with the site normally. They include additional information requiring raters to search for the background and reputation of these creators.
This will put a greater emphasis on those who still publish articles from contributors to do their own research into those authors, even if they don’t give a link to those authors, or only link to their social media instead. The onus is on the site owners to ensure all their contributors do have a good reputation.
For news sites, Google is wanting to see news sites with journalistic professional standards with clear publishing and editorial policies published for visitors to see.
Clickbait is once again being targeted as low quality, which isn’t a surprise. But we could see Google’s algos attempt to push back on this even more in the search results.
Fake news and conspiracy theories are still be targeted by Google as being lower quality and their guidelines have become even more robust since they were first added last year.
Pages that spread hate are also being targeted as low quality, and the new expansion of groups that can be discriminated against clearly shows Google is looking to expand the areas where Google hopes to see these types of results ranking lower. Most notably is the addition of political beliefs as a target for hate pages, but socio-economic status and victims of atrocities were also specifically added.
You can find a copy of the latest guidelines here. Update July 27, 2018: Google has removed the quality rater guidelines from their site. Update 2: They are back, and today’s version and the one released over the weekend are identical.
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Doc Sheldon says
Nice synopsis, Jenn! That took some time – much appreciated.
Gaurav Soni says
This is like longest article, Its more than 12500+ words. super efforts I must say. Your work speaks volumes of the kind of person you are – efficient, organized and result-oriented.
The .pdf was removed by Google. Do you have a copy of it? Can you upload it on your site?
Ashley B says
Thanks for this excellent in-depth breakdown, Jennifer! As a writer and marketer, I’m intrigued by the Quality Rater Guidelines, and I’m glad to see Google puts such an effort into making sure searchers are finding quality information online.
Petar Bo says
Very insightful and useful post, Jennifer. Google has taken it down now 🙂 No explanation given.
kevin heimlich says
I was wondering how you determined that the document came directly from google and wasn’t create by a 3rd party? Is there any information from the horses mouth? I noticed that the section 7.2.5 isn’t consistent in the information they are providing. They are explaining how to find copied content and the example that you are suppose to find is wrong.