Google has updated some sections of its Search Quality Rater Guidelines. The Guidelines are the handbook used by Google’s human search evaluators who assess the quality of Google’s search results to see how well the algorithms are performing.
This is how Google defines the purpose of ratings:
“...ratings are used to measure how effectively search engines are working to deliver helpful content to people around the world. Ratings are also used to improve search engines by providing examples of helpful and unhelpful results for different searches.”
By the same token, the guidelines are also a key tool for seeing what Google looks for in a high quality web page, so it’s important to understand and keep up to date with them. Google often refers to them in terms of best practice and quality standards for site owners and content creators.
Google’s updates to the Guidelines, issued on 28 July, are summarised in its Appendix 2 Guideline Change Log at the end of the document. Alongside changes for clarity and freshness, the main changes are a refinement of YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) topics and clarifications to Low and Lowest Page Quality:
- Refined YMYL to focus on topics that require a high level of accuracy to prevent significant harm; added a new table of examples and refreshed existing examples
- Added clarifications to Low and Lowest Page Quality sections to emphasize that the type and level of E-A-T depends on the purpose of the page, and that low quality and harmful pages can occur on any type of website
Let's take a look at the details.
YMYL (section 2.3)
Google defines YMYL topics as those which “have a high risk of harm because content about these topics could significantly impact the health, financial stability, or safety of people, or the welfare or well-being of society”.
Previously, Google had defined YMYL topics in terms of categories:
- News and current events
- Civics, government and law
- Health and safety
- Groups of people
Google’s update takes a new approach. It looks at who may be harmed and why a topic may be harmful, and says that to determine whether a topic is YMYL raters should assess the types of harm which might occur in the areas of:
- Health or safety
- Financial security
Here’s the updated section:
Google says most topics are not YMYL and don’t need a high level of accuracy or trust to prevent harm. For a specific topic to be YMYL, the topic itself must “potentially impact people’s health, financial stability, or safety, or the welfare or well-being of society”.
Google adds that YMYL assessment is a spectrum, so it may help raters to think of topics as “clear YMYL, definitely not YMYL or something in between”.
To help with this evaluation, Google has provided a new table with examples of what is or isn’t considered a YMYL topic.
Low Quality Pages (section 6)
Three new paragraphs have been added to this section, and the reference to the creator of the MC (main content) lacking expertise has been deleted. In addition, under the criteria for a Low rating, E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) has been specified as being inadequate "for the purpose of the page".
The new paragraphs specifically refer to the level of E-A-T needed for the topic and the purpose of the page, noting that for many topics everyday expertise is enough.
Lacking E-A-T (section 6.1)
Google has added the following to their examples of low quality level pages lacking an appropriate level of E-A-T for the purpose of the page:
- Informational MC on YMYL topics is mildly inaccurate or misleading.
The guidelines reiterate that the level of E-A-T needed depends on the topic and purpose of the page and formal expertise is not always needed, but for pages on YMYL topics it is critical.
Even on a website with a positive reputation, a Low rating should be used if the page lacks the appropriate level of E-A-T for its purpose.
Lowest Quality Pages (section 7)
An additional couple of paragraphs here state that any kind of page can have harmful content, even seemingly authoritative or expert ones.
Access the full updated Search Quality Rater Guidelines here.