On September 5, 2019, Google released the latest Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG). The last update to this document was May 16, 2019.
What are the Quality Rater Guidelines?
Google hires “quality raters”, people who visit websites and evaluate their quality. Their feedback doesn’t directly impact your site; it goes to engineers who tweak the Google algorithm in an effort to determine which websites to display to their users first. The guidelines give us great insight as to what Google considers a quality web page.
Google Core Algorithm Update Coming?
Some of us in the industry have been suspecting a major Google Broad Core Algorithm Update will occur in September 2019. Historically, but not necessarily intentionally, the QRG is updated 2 or 3 weeks before a major algorithm drops.
What’s New in the September 2019 Google Quality Rater Guidelines?
Jennifer Slegg always has the most comprehensive breakdown of what has changed. You can check out her observations of this update here. I will summarize what’s new below. As a final note, this is not a substitute for reading the entire document.
Health Content. Google broadened their definition of health sites FROM specific issues TO “medical issues.” Seeing what the 8/1/2018 algorithm did to mental health and other medical sites was amazing. While the algorithm is far from perfect, I think that we are going to see Google’s algorithms begin to impact more websites which have medical content on them.
News Content. Google updated their news section to say that “original reporting that provides information that would not otherwise have been known had the article not revealed it”. I get a lot of people who own news websites that do not show up in Google’s “Top Stories” section and have been telling people this for years. As gently as possible I inform them that “they’re not producing news”, rather, regurgitating.
Expert Consensus. Giving way to many conspiracy theories is the fact that Google’s algorithms are indeed weighted towards rewarding sites that show an expert consensus. This is true for many types of content. If you have a website that says drinking tea will cure your cancer, well, don’t expect that site to perform well. It’s not necessarily the content – sites like that are almost always missing trusted authority links.
E-A-T. The new doc says “Standards for very high E-A-T will differ depending on the topic of the page. YMYL topics will require higher standards.” This sums up EAT very well, which is a very confusing topic for most people. In a nutshell, Google wants to reward quality sites with quality content, produced by experts.
YMYL. This was by far the most interesting section for me. It is section 2.3 in the QRG. It reads “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: News & Current Events, Civics, Government & Law, Finance, Shopping, Health & Safety, Groups of People, and “Other”. Examples for “other” include fitness and nutrition, housing information, choosing a college, finding a job.