We have a brand new version of the Google Quality Rater Guidelines, and there are quite a few updates in several areas, namely news content, YMYL and EAT. This is the first update to the guidelines since the Spring, and Google is definitely focusing on some specific areas in this update – especially news content and video content – along with reputation.
Google uses quality raters to rate both search results and the highest ranking sites in the search results. As such, webmasters can get some valuable insights by looking at specifically what Google has changed. We have seen many times previously where adjustments and updates made to the quality rater guidelines are then used specifically to target those areas in the search results.
Google uses the quality raters to test out changes to the search algorithm, before those algos are ever released to the live search results. For example we’ve seen changes made to fake news and conspiracy theories in previous versions of the guidelines, and then new algorithms are released specifically targeting these areas after first being tested through the quality raters.
Let’s dive in with all the changes Google made to the latest version…
- 1 2.3 Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) Pages
- 2 2.5.2 Finding Who is Responsible for the Website and Who Created the Content on the Page
- 3 2.6.1 Research on the Reputation of the Website or Creator of the Main Content
- 4 5.1 Very High Quality MC
- 5 5.2 Very Positive Reputation
- 6 5.3 Very High Level of EAT
- 7 5.4 Examples of Highest Quality Pages
- 8 6.7 Examples of Low Quality Pages
- 9 7.3 Pages that Potentially Spread Hate
- 10 11.0 Page Quality Rating FAQs
- 11 12.9 Rating on Your Phone Issues
- 12 13.2.1 Examples of Fully Meets (FullyM) Result Blocks
- 13 13.5.1 Examples of Slightly Meets (SM) Result Blocks
- 14 13.6.1 Examples of Fails to Meet (FailsM) Result Blocks
- 15 14.6.1 Using the Upsetting-Offensive Flag
- 16 Final Thoughts
2.3 Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) Pages
Your Money or Your Life criteria for what should be considered a YMYL site got a pretty big revamp this time around.
Google has always been somewhat light on details about specifics of what is considered YMYL, especially in the grayer areas, thanks to Google’s all-encompassing “Other” section. But Google seems to be tightening this area once again to provide raters with more concrete guidance on what is YMYL and what is not.
They made a slight change to the wording about YMYL impacting “a person’s” future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety. This change is in the first and last paragraphs on this section. Previously, it referred to users.
This is an interesting change because it is specifically referring to not just the person doing the search and going to the webpage, but essentially anyone they may be doing research for. This may tighten up any potential issues with a specific rater believing something that most people would consider dangerous, such as in the area of vaccines or cancer.
Each subsection within 2.3 also got majorly revamped. They are tightening up on what is considered YMYL once again. Here are the individual changes for each one.
News and current events
This one was split from the original “news articles or public /official information pages important for having informed citizenry” section. The fact they split them isn’t too surprising, since Google has been taking a harder line on news sites in their quest to ensure fake news type of news content is not ranked as high.
They also differentiate between types of news stories that would qualify for YMYL versus news stories that would not. Previously they included the area of news stories that would be YMYL, but now they are also specifying the types that would not be – in the new version they specifically state that sports, entertainment and everyday lifestyle topics are not YMYL.
Here is the old version:
News articles or public/official information pages important for having an informed citizenry: webpages that include information about local/state/national government processes, policies, people, and laws; disaster response services; government programs and social services; news about important topics such as international events, business, politics, science, and technology; etc. Please use your judgment and knowledge of your locale. Keep in mind that not all news articles are necessarily considered YMYL.
And the updated version:
News and current events: news about important topics such as international events, business, politics, science, technology, etc. Keep in mind that not all news articles are necessarily considered YMYL (e.g., sports, entertainment, and everyday lifestyle topics are generally not YMYL). Please use your judgment and knowledge of your locale.
This goes along with some of the many changes we’ve seen in these guidelines specifically surrounding news content and news sites specifically.
Civics, government, and law
With the original news/government section being split off into two parts, the civics section is in a new section, which also includes the previous “legal information pages” section in it.
Civics, government, and law: information important to maintaining an informed citizenry, such as information about voting, government agencies, public institutions, social services, and legal issues (e.g., divorce, child custody, adoption, creating a will, etc.).
The guidelines are now including political voting in this as now being YMYL topic. It also adds adoption as an example (but does add it later to the “Other” section), but removes “becoming a citizen” from the list of examples.
It also provides some content from the former section “news articles or public/official information pages for having an informed citizenry. They remove a lot of specific reference however. The old version states “webpages that include information about local/state/national government processes, policies, people, and laws; disaster response services; government programs and social services” while the new removes references specific to local/state/national government processes, disaster response services and government programs. However, these could fall under the more generic government agencies and social services.
This section was changed to “Finance” from the former “Financial information pages” in the old version.
This section also has some interesting removals from the examples listed by Google. “Loans, banking, insurance” was added, while “home purchase” and “paying for college” were removed. There could be a couple reasons for this, but likely because there are sites that wouldn’t normally fall under a YMYL type of site that offer this type of advice, such as a college budget site or a realtor or real estate agent’s website with home purchasing information on it.
This new section was split from the former “Shopping or financial transaction pages” section.
This section has an extremely important addition to it. Now sites that contain “information about” or allow you to “research” goods/services are now considered YMYL, while previously, it only covered webpages that allow users to make purchases. This is significant because there are many research sites, such as sites that provide reviews of products or newsworthy information related to products, but are merely affiliates (such as links to Amazon) or earning revenue from ads and not selling goods directly. Previously, these research sites would not be considered YMYL, but now they are.
It adds a new emphasis on “particularly webpages that allow people to make purchases online.” Previously, it just stated “such as online stores and online banking pages).
Health and safety
This section was renamed from “Medical information pages.” This section got a large overhaul as well. It has removed the generic “health” as YMYL, as well as specifically “mental health”. They renamed “specific diseases or conditions” to a more generic “medical issues.” They removed mental health and nutrition. They have also included hospitals, emergency preparedness and “how dangerous an activity is” to this section too.
Groups of People
This is another brand new section. This covers a wide variety of pages, and seems to once again be targeting fake news and conspiracy theories. This new section:
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.
This should potentially help Google understand pages in these areas that should rank the highest based on the quality raters, so I expect to see more algo updates surrounding this area. Google has been committed to seeing hate and discriminatory websites ranking lower in the search results.
This section has always been a hodgepodge of examples, and it has grown once again. Previously, the examples in other merely included child adoption and car safety information. Now, many new examples have been added.
there are many other topics related to big decisions or important aspects of people’s lives which thus may be considered YMYL, such as fitness and nutrition, housing information, choosing a college, finding a job, etc. Please use your judgment.
The addition of fitness is interesting – this is one area that you wouldn’t have considered to be YMYL. And several other examples – such as finding a job or choosing a college – are ones that have plenty of sites with this information that definitely do not meet the YMYL criteria. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see some future Google updates around this area.
2.5.2 Finding Who is Responsible for the Website and Who Created the Content on the Page
Google wants raters to consider who wrote the content on a page, specifically if it was written by someone associated with the website or if it was user generated content (UGC). At this time, Google doesn’t seem to want raters to differentiate between content on a site written by someone on the site versus UGC, but this notation does make one consider if there is something down the line where UGC will be rated differently.
2.6.1 Research on the Reputation of the Website or Creator of the Main Content
Google has added new wording to this section, specifically regarding reputation of newspapers. Google has removed the reference to “newspaper websites” and changed it to merely “newspapers (with an associated website)” in the updated version.
The guidelines no longer have the lone example that a Pulitzer is a sign of a newspaper with a positive reputation, they have now added “or a history of high quality original reporting are strong evidence of a positive reputation.”
There are plenty of high value news sites with high quality reporting that may not have won a Pulitzer or other “prestigious awards” so perhaps raters were taking this far too literally about a news site requiring a Pulitzer or other award to have a high reputation.
4.6 Examples of High Quality Pages
Google has added more specifics to two news sites they include in the examples here.
Under the first example “High: News 1” example, it previously only said “This newspaper has won seven Pulitzer Prize awards.” Now, it has expanded to not merely refer to the Pulitzers, but also its reputation. It now reads:
This is the homepage of a newspaper that has won several Pulitzer Prizes and Overseas Press Club awards. This newspaper has a positive reputation for its objective reporting.
The second example, “High: News 2”, Google has also expanded on its reputation for high quality investigative journalism. Previously, it references the ten Pulitzers the newspaper has won, now it is more detailed.
This is an article on a newspaper website that has won many Pulitzer Prize awards and has a positive reputation for its investigative journalism.
A later example references awards given to blogs as part of a newspaper site.
What is interesting about this example, is that while the content is a parenting article about strollers, Google is referencing the positive reputation of the site overall and applying it to this “blog post.” Previously it just referenced the newspaper as having won Pulitzers.
This is a blog post on a newspaper that has won a variety of awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize, George Polk Award, Peabody Award, etc.
Google still includes the reference to the author expertise as well.
5.1 Very High Quality MC
This section had another major overall, and also targets news sites specifically, which is in line with other changes made throughout the document regarding news reporting.
They removed reference to “for news articles and information pages on YMYL” which is a curious removal, although they do add more details to both news and informational content later in the guidelines.
Google is also stating that very high quality main content must be unique and original to the specific site. But they also state that what is considered original content for raters can vary greatly between website types.
Google added this second paragraph to support it.
A factor that often distinguishes very high quality MC is the creation of unique and original content for the specific website. While what constitutes original content may be very different depending on the type of website, here are some examples:
Google has added three new subsections here – for news, for artistic content and for informational content.
Here is the new section:
very high quality MC is original reporting that provides information that would not otherwise have been known had the article not revealed it. Original, in-depth, and investigative reporting requires a high degree of skill, time, and effort. Often very high quality news content will include a description of primary sources and other original reporting referenced during the content creation process. Very high quality news content must be accurate and should meet professional journalistic standards.
Google is reiterating once again that they are wanting news content to be very high quality. They are also placing value on professional journalistic standards, which is a new addition to the guidelines this time around.
They also specifically mention “original, in-depth, and investigative reporting”
The emphasis on high quality content for news stories seems to be an expansion on the additions to combat fake news and conspiracy theories that Google added a couple of years ago.
For artistic content
This is perhaps the oddest addition at first glance. Here is what they added:
For artistic content (videos, images, photography, writing, etc.): very high quality MC is unique and original content created by highly skilled and talented artists or content creators. Such artistic content requires a high degree of skill/talent, time, and effort. If the artistic content is related to a YMYL topic (e.g., artistic content with the purpose of informing or swaying opinion about YMYL topics), YMYL standards should apply.
The most likely reason this was added was because of the inclusion of “videos” – YouTube is littered with plenty of videos that promote dangerous medical info, conspiracy theories and more that cover many YMYL topics. The same goes for images, such as the ones you see promoting conspiracy theories on Facebook. While Google has always ranked original content high in both video and image search, this ensures that raters are applying those same standards for YMYL topics in those two areas.
For informational content
Google is also stressing that information content needs to be ” original, accurate, comprehensive, clearly communicated, professionally presented, and should reflect expert consensus as appropriate” for random informational content as well, and stresses the different standards for informational content depending on both the topics of the content and how it is presented (ie. a scientific paper versus hobby site’s content).
Here is the new section:
For informational content: very high quality MC is original, accurate, comprehensive, clearly communicated, professionally presented, and should reflect expert consensus as appropriate. Expectations for different types of information may vary. For example, scientific papers have a different set of standards than information about a hobby such as stamp collecting. However, all types of very high quality informational content share common attributes of accuracy, comprehensiveness, and clear communication, in addition to meeting standards appropriate to the topic or field.
5.2 Very Positive Reputation
The highest reputation section also got a significant revamp, especially for stressing the high level of positive reputation required for YMYL topics, something the earlier versions of the rater guidelines did not specify. They did remove the specific references to EAT, however, it was somewhat redundant since the following section was “Very High Level of EAT.”
Google added this section referencing YMYL in reputation:
For YMYL topics especially, careful checks for reputation are required. YMYL reputation should be based on evidence from experts, professional societies, awards, etc. For shopping pages, experts could include people who have used the store’s website to make purchases; whereas for medical advice pages, experts should be people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. Please review section 2.3 for a summary of types of YMYL pages/topics.
For privacy reasons, the inclusion of “include people who have used the store’s website to make purchases” seems problematic for site owners to follow, unless they are frequented by celebrities. But it could be Google suggesting reviews from purchasers is what raters should look for, but worded it very poorly for this section.
It also stresses the value of having author pages showing off each author’s experience, credentials and anything else appropriate to show that they should be considered an expert on whatever topic they are writing about.
Google doesn’t include any new information on determining reputation though.
5.3 Very High Level of EAT
Google has expanded on this section, particularly with video content and EAT. They have added videos as their list of types of places where people share their life experiences as everyday experts. They also state that raters should value life experience and everyday expertise “as appropriate”, giving raters a bit of leeway in determining that expertise.
Google expanded on this part of the section, the new details are in italics.
An expert page on cooking may be a page on a professional chef’s website, or it may be a video from an expert content creator who uploads very high quality cooking videos on YouTube and is one of the most well-known and popular content creators for recipes in their area of expertise.
Google is also stressing video content here, which definitely shows this is a higher focus area than previously, and those who create video content should be aware of the new emphasis. They are also saying that raters can consider someone an expert from their high quality video content alone.
They do stress YMYL topics when determining high levels of EAT. They added:
Standards for very high E-A-T will differ depending on the topic of the page. YMYL topics will require higher standards.
They also added new reference to YMYL topics, while it merely said topics previously, although their “such as” were clearly YMYL topics previously.
5.4 Examples of Highest Quality Pages
Google has added many new references specifically for video content in their examples within this section.
For the “Highest: Video 1” example, Google added:
The music video represents unique and original content created by a highly skilled and talented musical artist.
For the “Highest: Video 2” example, Google added:
The video is unique and original content created with a high degree of time and effort.
For the “Highest: Video 3” example, Google added:
The episode represents high quality and original content created by a TV show that has won numerous awards.
Again, Google is stressing the quality of video content.
6.7 Examples of Low Quality Pages
Minor changes here, mainly to tag specific examples as YMYL.
7.3 Pages that Potentially Spread Hate
This section has had another minor revamp. Previously, the section read “against a group of people based on criteria including – but not limited to -” but the new version reads ” group of people, including but not limited to those grouped on the basis of”…
They have rewritten and changed some of the groups that would fall under this section.
They have added specific references to:
- gender identity
- ethnic origin (from ethnicity in previous versions)
They have removed references to:
- socio-economic status
- political beliefs
- victims of atrocities
11.0 Page Quality Rating FAQs
Under the question “Some of these criteria seem unfair. For example, some art pages do not have a purpose. Are these pages Low quality?” Google has added a new part to show that art pages can still have high value. New content in italics.
Art pages do have a purpose: artistic expression. Pages created for artistic expression do not deserve the Low quality rating simply because they have no other purpose. Artistic expression, humor, entertainment, sharing photos and videos, etc. are all valid and valued page purposes.
12.9 Rating on Your Phone Issues
Google has removed specific references to Android devices, something that caused controversy when it was originally added.
Here is the old version:
You should assume queries were issued on a smartphone. For some queries, there are results that are helpful for specific types of phones — for example, some apps will only work on an Android or iPhone. Please assume that queries with device-specific results were issued on an Android device, unless explicitly stated otherwise in the instructions.
And the new version:
You should assume queries were issued on a smartphone unless otherwise stated in the task or project-specific
13.2.1 Examples of Fully Meets (FullyM) Result Blocks
Google has updated the Bing search app example with an updated look as it appears in the search results. It also removed the note about Android devices.
13.5.1 Examples of Slightly Meets (SM) Result Blocks
They removed the Ellen Degeneres news example at the end of this section. This could be related to the news changes throughout the guidelines.
13.6.1 Examples of Fails to Meet (FailsM) Result Blocks
Google has removed the example for “zoo Altanta”.
14.6.1 Using the Upsetting-Offensive Flag
This section has similar changes to the “Pages That Potentially Spread Hate” section.
The old version:
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.
And the new one:
Content that promotes hate or violence against a group 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.
Google is definitely stressing news content in this latest update to the quality rater guidelines, especially for sites that are breaking original news stories. And this coincides with Google wanting to surface more high quality and original news content in the search results. They are also emphasizing news sites that have won prestigious awards, so it makes sense to highlight any awards a site has won in relation to their news coverage and reporting.
Google is wanting raters to ensure that any content rated as very high quality is “original, accurate, comprehensive, clearly communicated, professionally presented, and should reflect expert consensus as appropriate”. This will make it harder for sites that are repurposing (or copying) content to be rated as highest quality – so I suspect we will see some upcoming Google updates to ensure original source content surfaces highest in the search results.
YMYL topics have been tweaked once again, although it seems Google is primarily highlighting areas where YMYL should be taken into consideration but previous raters may not have been. Once again, showing high levels of EAT is critical for any pages publishing content that falls under YMYL.
Google is continuing to stress author reputation and expertise. So yet again, it makes sense to include clear author bios to make it easy for visitors (and raters!) to determine the expertise of authors. And along with it, reputation information for the site itself.
Google has also added new areas where YMYL is applicable. And they also stress the specific types of news content where YMYL is not applicable, something that was lacking before and was up to the raters to decide which news content was YMYL and which was not. If you have a website that is skirting the edges of YMYL, you will want to have a detailed look at that section to know whether it applies now or not.
Video content has been given a spotlight in this update as well. Because Google has been criticized for videos promoting conspiracy theories, fake health treatments and a wide variety of other debunked topics, I suspect we are going to see some upcoming algorithms specifically aimed at demoting these types of videos in the search results, while promoting more high quality and original videos.
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