Before we get into discussing the changes in Google’s QGR, let us understand briefly what it is all about. As we know, Google’s search algorithm is updated numerous times during the year. Suffice to say that updating the entire search algorithm for the biggest search engine in the world is no easy task. This is why Google employs dedicated teams of search quality testers, who follow a predefined search guidelines to test each web page and rates them accordingly. This pattern of quality ratings is then translated into Google’s search algorithm which enables Google to perform automated tests and rate each page that we can see in Google’s search index.
The first glimpse of significant updates to these guidelines came about back in May 2019. With the recent push on EAT & Page Quality gaining more and more importance for Google, these updates laid special emphasis on how each content and advertisement media is presented on a website. For instance, the pop-ups, information and page relevancy to where the ad is shown, user readability or navigation hindrance due to information obstruction (ad size exceeding specific sizes, incomplete or misleading information, etc).
This leads to a very important question for a lot of marketers and webmasters alike.
How Does This Affect My Website?
Unlike core search algorithm updates like Panda or Penguin which had direct impact on search rankings for website, Search Quality Raters Guideline is more of an instruction manual from Google for websites and Quality Testers alike, to see how Google wants to rate the quality of a website or page.
So, this update may not have a direct impact to your overall search positions. However, it still should be treated as a strong checklist to make sure your site content adheres to it to get a strong preference from Google.
If Google rates your site content high, then that quality parameter would go a long way in boosting your site’s visibility on the SERP.
To summarize, you can say that quality guidelines doesn’t impact the ranking signals but rather helps in predicting algorithm trends. This makes these updates a lot more important as it can help you identify the change in trends for any core algorithm updates that have or will be taking place in the near future. This is because the algorithm changes affecting ranking signals or site evaluation for search engine positions, would be governed by these QRGs.
What Changed in QRG
The major chunk of changes this time round has been centered around YMYL, EAT and Main Content (on the website) and it is quite significant for all marketers and seo professionals. These changes are bound to keep SEO experts and online marketers on the edge as they can use these updated guidelines to predict the next set of changes that could be coming in the Google’s core algorithm.
Let’s take a closer look at the changes and updates in the recent Quality Rater’s Guidelines.
Your Money Your Life (YMYL)
The first set of changes can be noticed in section 2.3 of the QRG under YMYL section. With special focus on the News and Government topics available online. The news topic section now gets its own section as against earlier when it was clubbed under Public/Official Information Pages.
With this latest update it becomes clear that Google wants to emphasize information available on news sites and evaluate it more consistently based on the merit of the content and information sources.
“Civics, Government & Laws” were also categorized under their own category further reflecting Google’s intention on evaluating these sub-sections separately than just as another news and information content.
Some of the other significant categorizations in the YMYL sections are:
- Shopping and Finance to get separate categories
- Medical Information section has been renamed to Health & Safety
- Groups of People has been added as a new section
‘Main Content’ Evaluation
Content quality guidelines across the world have a subjective nature to it when being evaluated by human beings. But for a machine or program to set the benchmarks, a specific set of guidelines needed to be administered. This time round, the QRG has been updated with new paragraphs about evaluating and rating content across various industries.
For any news based sites, Google has indicated that it will be looking at the source, relevancy and bibliography of citations that can verify the authenticity of a particular news article.
Focusing on content like videos, photographs, vlogs, infographics, etc. Google would ascertain the quality of the content, uniqueness and skillset of the content creator/publisher posting these content. Google algorithm is programmed to evaluate visual content quite capably.
Setting examples of scientific research papers & a simple stamp collection article in terms of given weightage of evaluation, Google has signalled it would rate these types of content on the basis of consensus and expertise to validate the claims and information being presented in the article. Adding to this Google would also set different evaluating parameters for each of the content depending on nature, purpose and importance.
Linguistic Change in “Hate Pages”
Some of the changes in language of their evaluation checklist for websites/pages that promote hatred or violence.
- Citizenship, Socio-economic, political beliefs, victims of atrocities were removed from their evaluation parameters.
- Gender was renamed to Gender or Gender Identity
- Ethnicity was changed to Ethnic Origin
Reputation Checks for YMYL Content Creators
Let’s take an example of ecommerce sites to best explain this point. Based on the updates on QGR, Google is suggesting that it would evaluate the authenticity of the site based on user reviews of people who have made a purchase on the site. This small instance would apply according to each service or product based business or informational website available online. However the degree and nature of authenticity would vary depending on the details that are on offer and value proposition of each site.
Reviews, Testimonials and trustable citation sources will become strong parameters that validates the quality of a site which should be a food for thought for all content creators across all domains and industries operating online.
Journalist Quality Parameter Expands
Uptil the last guidelines, Pulitzer prize was the predominant benchmark based on which any journalistic piece was measured on the basis of credible citations or accreditations to Pulitzer prize winning authors or publishings. This has now been revamped with significant change to the language of the guidelines now suggest “…Newspaper (with an associated website) has won journalistic awards. . . . “ where as previously it didn’t feature extension of the newspaper in terms of its association with one or other award winning site.
While it is still early to comment on these changes as they don’t reflect directly on your websites performance as of yet, but we are sure to see some incoming changes and patterns of shift in terms of the overall content and trust evaluation of each website and thereby its’ positioning by Google.
Popular influencer Glenn Gabe has taken to twitter to highlight some of the more indepth changes and sections and shared his opinion with his followers that has been sparking constructive debates.
With these latest updates, Google has cleared the shroud of ambiguity on content quality evaluation and reinstated that it is going to give importance to YMYL and EAT parameters for evaluating the quality and trust of the website which consequently could have a long term impact on your site’s visibility on SERP.
If you’re concerned or even worried about what these updates could mean for your business, you can schedule a free consultation call with our SEO experts today.