On September 5th, Google updated their Quality Raters Guidelines (QRGs). Although the QRGs do not define Google algorithm ranking signals, according to Search Engine Journal, “the quality guidelines have been remarkably accurate for predicting the algorithm trends.” Based on recent updates, fake news appears to be a primary target with Google’s newest QRGs, but the changes could have broader implications.
Google QRG Updates Go Broader For Your Money Or Your Life (YMYL) Pages
The word “topics” was added throughout section 2.3 of the Google QRGs. This section, titled “Your Money Or Your Life (YMYL) Pages” refers to quality guidelines related to content that “could potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability or safety of users.” Previously, the Google QRGs called out pages as qualifying for the YMYL category, but with the September 5 QRG update, the word “topic” has been added throughout the section noting Google may more broadly define YMYL content.
Section 2.3 In Current Google QRG: Your Money Or Your Life (YMYL) Pages Description
Some types of pages or topics could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety. We call such pages “Your Money or Your Life” pages, or YMYL. The following are examples of YMYL topics:
Section 2.3 In Previous Google QRG: Your Money Or Your Life (YMYL) Pages Description
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. The following are examples of YMYL pages:
Google YMYL Topic List Revised In New QRGs To Prioritize News Content
In addition, the topic examples included within section 2.3 were changed with the most recently Google QRG update. Instead of shopping, financial and medical topping the list of YMYL pages referenced, “news and current events” now holds the first spot, followed by “civics, government and law.” In addition, “groups of people” is a new topic within the updated Google QRG YMYL section, and it appears to be specifically focused on determining the quality of claims related to protected classes of people. Lastly, the newly named “health and safety” topics looks to have a broader focus than the prior “medical information pages” topic.
Section 2.3 In Current Google QRG: Your Money Or Your Life Topics
- 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.
- Civics, government and law: Information important to maintaining and 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.).
- Finance: Financial advice or information regarding investments, taxes, retirement planning, loans, banking or insurance, particularly webpages that allow people to make purchases or transfer money online.
- Shopping: Information about or services related to research or purchase of goods/services, particularly webpages that allow people to make purchases online.
- Health and safety: Advice or information about medical issues, drugs, hospitals, emergency preparedness, how dangerous an activity is, etc.
- Groups of people: Information about or claims related to groups of people, including but not limited to those grouped on the basis of race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity.
- Other: 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.
Section 2.3 In Previous Google QRG: Your Money Or Your Life Topics
- Shopping or financial transaction pages: Webpages that allow users to make purchases, transfer money, pay bills, etc. online (such as online stores and online banking pages)
- Financial information pages: Webpages that provide advice or information about investments, taxes, retirement planning, home purchase, paying for college, buying insurance, etc.
- Medical information pages: Webpages that provide advice or information about health, drugs, specific diseases or conditions, mental health, nutrition, etc.
- Legal information pages: Webpages that provide legal advice or information on topics such as divorce, child custody, creating a will, becoming a citizen, etc.
- 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.
- Other: There are many other topics that you may consider YMYL, such as child adoption, car safety information, etc. Please use your judgment.
Google QRG Update To Author Information Emphasizes Importance Of Reputation
Within section 2.5.2 of the Google QRGs, titled “Finding Out Who Is Responsible For The Website And Who Created The Content On The Page,” a clarification was added:
“Websites want users to be able to distinguish between content created by themselves versus content that was added by other users.”
Author clarity has become increasingly important due to the increase in user-generated content (UGC), including guest articles, and the question and answer sections that appear across many sites. Much of the contributed content is valuable, but sometimes UGC can be thin or unverified, contributing to the fake news issues plaguing search results.
Google QRG Update To Definitions Of Quality Pages Stresses Quality & Originality
Sections 4.6 and 5.1 of the Google Quality Raters Guidelines provide examples and descriptions of high-quality pages. In addition to high quality standards, uniqueness and originality are now rating factors for text and artistic content, including images, photography and videos.
For news topics, the new Google QRGs explains that “original, in-depth and investigative reporting requires a high degree of skill, time and effort.” To be considered very high-quality news content, according to the new Google QRGs, the content must be “accurate and should meet professional journalistic standards.”
Likewise, for informational content, the new Google QRGs indicate that very high-quality content should be “original, accurate, comprehensive, clearly communicated and professionally presented.” In addition, Google states informational content should “reflect expert consensus as appropriate.”
According to the new Google QRGs, for YMYL topics, there will be careful checks for reputation, “based on evidence from experts, professional societies, awards, etc.” Google notes that prior purchasers can be considered experts for shopping sites, but for medical advice pages, “experts should be people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation.”
How Will The New Google QRG Updates Impact Marketers?
No one knows yet how the new Google Quality Rater Guidelines will impact Google search rankings, page visits or site conversions, but it appears Google plans to prioritize quality content moving forward. For brands that produce high-quality, verified content with clear sources, there is likely to be a negligible impact. Conversely, websites cluttered with lean, unoriginal content may soon see higher quality, more verifiable content ranking above their pages.
In general, the challenge with relying on Google to drive traffic is that Google changes the rules without consulting most of those who will be impacted. Brands relying on significant organic Google search traffic must continually adapt to Google quality rating and algorithm evolutions. Although still affected by Google’s whims, brands running diversified, multichannel marketing campaigns are more likely to have the means to adjust quickly when a top platform, like Google, changes the rules for audience engagement.
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