understand the changes made in 2019 – WAU

Quality Rater Guidelines are Google guidelines for people who evaluate search results. Yes, the search engine invites external evaluators to test the quality of its work. Recently, these guidelines have undergone updates, which can impact your SEO work. Check out what those changes were!

Google keeps the secrets of its algorithm under lock and key. As much as SEO experts investigate what is behind the search engine, the ranking factors remain a mystery.

However, there is a document that gives evidence of how the algorithm works: the Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines.

This document is one of the references for those who work with SEO. Produced by Google itself, it brings the searcher’s guidelines so that external evaluators can check the quality of the search results. And that can be valuable for your work, you know?

Recently, in September 2019, this document underwent some updates. So, in this article, we’ve brought together the changes that are most relevant and that can help understand what Google is thinking about the quality of web content.

Want to know more about it? In this text you will understand:

Good reading!

What are Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines?

First, let’s explain better what this Quality Rater Guidelines is. And let’s start by translating that name: in London, it means “guidelines for the research quality evaluator”. Okay, but what does it actually mean?

These are the guidelines that Google publishes for survey reviewers understand how they should analyze the quality of a web page, according to the searcher’s view of what is good or bad content.

This document is public and free. You can find it here: Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines.

But these evaluators are not robots, okay? They are people! As one of the search engine’s test methods, Google calls external reviewers to continuously monitor the quality of search results.

These evaluators must sort web pages manually, so that Google can verify that the algorithm is doing its automatic job efficiently. It is to make this manual classification, then, that the guidelines of the quality evaluator exist.

But it is necessary to clarify: these guidelines are not ranking factors, and the ratings of the evaluators do not affect the algorithm.

This job is only for Google to monitor the quality of the results it is delivering to users, as well as the impacts of the algorithm updates. For this, he uses not only external evaluators, but also other rigorous methods and tests.

It is important to note that Google has taken on the mission of organizing all the content on the web and offering the best results for what users are looking for.

So, adopting these tests is one of the ways to ensure that the algorithm is doing a good job and that it is delivering high quality results. Therefore, realize that the user experience is always the focus of the search engine.

The importance of E-A-T

Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness (or expertise, authority and reliability): this is what the acronym E-A-T stands for.

For Google, the concept of E-A-T is what should guide the classification of web pages by reviewers. In the document Quality Rater Guidelines, the search engine lists a series of specific guidelines and examples, but, in general, these are the words that evaluators should always keep in mind.

Therefore, you can also understand E-A-T as a guiding concept for your content and SEO strategies. In order for Google to understand your pages as good results for the user, the content needs to:

  • be created by those who understand the subject (E);
  • demonstrate authority on theme (A);
  • have reliable information (T).

One type of site that demands a lot of Google’s attention is YMYL. This acronym stands for Your Money or Your Life and refers to websites – usually in the medical, legal or financial fields – that advise users to make important decisions about their life.

However, they can also involve selling products online, which makes your content more sensitive and leaves Google with its eyes wide open.

In this type of website, for example, E-A-T should be a rule. After all, this content must be produced by professionals in the field (doctors with CRM, for example), who are authorities on the subject, provide reliable information and, thus, do not put people at risk.

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What were the updates to the Google Quality Rater Guidelines?

If Google is always committed to improving its search engine, it is natural that changes in its guidelines will happen next. This is what happens, then, with the Quality Rater Guidelines.

Small updates are made every year. However, when major changes happen, they can demonstrate a change in Google’s view of the quality of content.

On September 5, 2019, one of these updates took place, with the release of a document with updated information. There are no drastic changes compared to the previous guidelines, but some are worth mentioning. We have selected the main ones here for you to check out:

Emphasis on topics instead of pages

One of the changes to the Quality Rater Guidelines is subtle. In many parts of the document, Google used the word “topic” in place (or right after) of “page”.

Where it said, for example, that “some types of pages can impact a person’s happiness, health, financial stability and security”, now reads “some types of pages and topics… ”.

google your money your life

This update seems small, but it could represent a change in Google’s perspective that is reflected in the latest changes in the algorithm. If before the search engine valued the exact match of keywords to understand the subjects of a page, now it already knows how to analyze the semantics of the contents to identify the topics they cover.

And it also shows that the focus of your SEO work should not be the keywords themselves, but the topics and the entire universe that they encompass.

Changes to YMYL guidelines (Section 2.3)

The update we mentioned earlier also reached the text on the YMYL pages. The example we gave above referred to them: in the description of what would be YMYL, Google adds the word “topics” (“some types of pages and topics can impact… ”).

With that, the search engine is saying that YMYL content can be just a topic, not necessarily an entire page about the subject. So, even if it’s not the central purpose of the page, if it has some potentially harmful content to people, it can be seen as YMYL and classified as poor quality content.

Google has also made some updates to sample topics that may involve YMYL content. These were:

  • “News and current events” was placed first on the list (before it was the 5th);
  • “Civism, government and laws” has been separated from “news”;
  • “Purchases” and “finances” have been separated into specific categories;
  • “Medical information” has been changed to “health and safety”;
  • “Specific diseases or conditions” and “mental health” were grouped into “medical problems”.

These changes indicate a concern to better specify, for the evaluators, which topics may have YMYL content. It is evident, therefore, that the search engine is increasingly focused on this type of content, which, when of poor quality, can be extremely harmful to users.

Reputation criteria for YMYL content creators (Section 5.2)

Google is very concerned about the reputation of those who publish content on the web. That is why, for content to receive the highest quality ratings, it must have been created by experts. And this concern is notable in relation to YMYL.

In Section 5.2, the changes follow in this direction. In this section, Google explains what should be considered a positive reputation. In the update, the search engine added an entire paragraph about this reputation assessment specifically about YMYL content, which requires more attention.

For medical topics, for example, Google suggests that content creators should be experts – people or organizations – who have expertise or accreditation in the field.

For the shopping pages, the specialists can be users who have already made purchases in the store, which shows that Google is also aware of the user generated content (User Generated Content, or UGC).

Reputation criteria for journalistic content (Section 4.6)

In Section 4.6, Google provides a series of sample pages that can be classified as high quality (High Quality Content). The changes, however, refer specifically to journalistic content.

In the previous text, the document referred to the Pulitzer Prize as a reference for assessing the reputation of a news portal page. In the updated text, however, Google also cites other awards as references.

Reputation criteria for journalistic content

In that case, there may be a political issue involved. There are criticisms, among conservative groups, that the Pulitzer Prize favors liberal publications. So with this update, Google probably seeks to make its positioning more neutral regarding this topic.

Definition of very high quality content (Section 5.1)

In Section 5.1, there are changes to what reviewers should classify as very high quality content (Very High Quality Main Content).

While the previous text provided a generic description of this type of content, the new document details the topics of news, artistic and informational content.

For news sites, for example, Google highlights the originality and originality of the information, in addition to complying with journalistic standards. Here we see a concern by Google to value well-produced news and reports, to the detriment of fake news.

Artistic content, in turn, must be produced by talented artists and content creators, while informative content must be clear, accurate, understandable and professional. If the pages offer this, they can be classified as very high quality.

Defining hate-promoting content (Section 7.3)

Google has also made some subtle changes to the definition of what hate pages are.

For example: if the document used to say that “age” (age) would be a factor in punctuating these pages with the lowest classification, now the document bears the expression “veteran status” (veteran status). If you used to talk about “gender”, now you talk about “gender and gender identity”.

It is delicate to point out why Google made these updates, but it is likely that its intention is to make the guidelines more inclusive and accurate.

Identification of who produced the content (Section 2.5.2)

In Section 2.5, Google provides guidance on how to understand the website on which the pages are located. For that, in Section 2.5.2, it guides on how to find the author of the website and the content of the page.

Among the reasons listed for a site to identify its author, Google added a point in its last update, which says (in free translation): “Sites want users to be able to distinguish between content created by themselves and content that has been added by other users ”.

This movement probably shows that Google is concerned with identifying content that is not authored by the site. For this reason, it is important to explicitly show who is the author of the content on your site and, when using information from other authors or user-generated content (UGC), make the appropriate reference.

Identification of who produced the content

How do changes affect your SEO work?

Once again we emphasize: the Quality Rater Guidelines and the work of the evaluators do not affect the ranking.

So don’t see the guidelines as rules for what you should do, nor understand that with them, you will automatically win the top positions, okay?

The changes are indications of how Google is evaluating content

You can understand the Quality Rater Guidelines as evidence of how Google is thinking. They show what the search engine considers important for a page to be classified as high or low quality.

So, with this document, you can understand what your pages must have to be considered high quality by Google. And that is what should guide your content production.

Changes often precede updates to the algorithm

In addition to guiding your work, the Quality Rater Guidelines also trigger an alert: it is likely that a new algorithm update will follow.

So, pay attention to the document changes, which may indicate Google’s next moves, and prepare your site so you don’t lose ranking positions.

Anyway, understanding how Google works is not easy. The seeker does not want to reveal its secrets, but wants content and SEO professionals to offer users the best experience during a web search. And that is what you should focus on.

However, when we have indications of how Google thinks and what criteria it uses to rank pages, it is good to pay attention! Thus, you can combine the work of content production and user experience with optimization for the search engine. The result of that? At the same time, better search positions and a better experience for users.

Did you like to better understand how Google’s quality assessments work? To understand even more about the search engine, download our free ebook and learn to dominate Google!