Google is one of the most active companies in terms of updating its policies to prevent abuse of its tools and services. Over they years, we have seen multiple changes to the way the search engine selects results for queries, as well as increasingly severe penalties for breaking the rules. The recent update you need to be aware of is the Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines.
A Revised Version of Last Year’s Update
Last year, we published an article discussing the major changes Google had introduced to search quality guidelines. The current Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines represent the revised version of that document. It is interesting to note that it has become shorter – from 171 pages to 167 pages.
And the reason for this is because the revised guidelines simplify a few critical areas. We will discuss these changes in this article, so that you understand the importance of keeping your website in line with Google’s rules at all times.
Why Do the Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines Matter to You?
Once again, let us explain why we keep talking about SEO, local search and playing by Google’s rules. The answer is because this form of digital marketing is the most effective and affordable for all businesses – from start-ups to medium and large companies.
Paid search is getting more expensive by the day and less effective. You may have heard the term of “click farm” – rooms full of mobile phones operated by bots and programmed to randomly click on ads to reduce relevance and cause financial damages to various companies. Some of your dishonest competitors may be paying a click farm owner to target your ads.
Moreover, as soon as you stop an ad campaign, you also notice a sharp drop in website traffic and in the conversion rate. Thus, SEO for attracting qualified organic traffic remains the most effective digital marketing strategy. And this is why you need to be aware of the new Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines.
What Has Changed in Google’s Guidelines?
As we already explained, Google made some rules simpler but, at the same time, more challenging to follow. Let us see what has changed and what you must pay attention to:
1. Google Removes YMYL Categories
Until now, Google defined specific categories of businesses falling under the “your money or your life” criterion. These were:
- News and current events
- Civics, government and law
- Health and safety
- Groups of people
Now, these categories are no more in the Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines. Instead of them, the search engine will rely on topics which present a high risk of harm and which can have a significant impact on “health, financial stability, or the safety of people, or the welfare or well-being of society”.
Thus, the YMYL topics are defined as:
- Health or safety
- Financial Security
The Guidelines offer helpful examples rated from “Clear YMYL Topic” to “Not or Unlikely YMYL Topic” for various types of topics ranging from advice about an activity, to personal opinions and sharing content on social media.
What Does This Change Mean for Your Business?
The fact that there are no longer clear YMYL categories should make website owners more accountable and responsible in verifying that they publish accurate and reliable content.
The Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines also state that a “hypothetical harmful page” on a non-harmful topic will not be considered YMYL, technically speaking. Google gives two examples of such topics: science behind rainbows and shopping for pencils.
This means that fewer types of contents or keywords will trigger the YMYL classification. While this is a good thing for earnest and honest businesses, it may also encourage the apparition of web pages containing viruses or other malicious software that may pass under Google’s radar.
2. Untrustworthy Sites and Pages Defined Clearly
The next important aspect covered in the Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines is what represents low quality or untrustworthy web pages and websites. These guidelines are very helpful, because many site owners are not sure if their own best practices on this topic coincide with Google’s.
Thus, the following characteristics are deemed as untrustworthy:
- Inadequate information about the website or its purpose
- Lowest E-A-T or lowest reputation
- Deceptive purpose, deceptive design or deceptive content
- Deliberately obstructed or obscured main content
- Suspected malicious behaviour
- Pages or sites designed to manipulate people into doing things that benefit the site or an organization, while being harmful to the respective individual, to others or to Specified Groups.
How Does This Aspect Impact Your Site
We are assuming that everyone reading this article is operating legitimate sites and legitimate businesses. So we will focus on the first item that may trigger Google’s filters for untrustworthy pages or sites.
You must always maintain clear, accurate, complete and readily available contact information about your business and your website. The three main categories on your site you should pay attention to are:
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Customer Service.
These pages are helpful for your site visitors to learn more about your business and get in touch with you. They are helpful for ranking in Google local searches. And they are helpful in establishing that you run an earnest, trustworthy and legitimate business from Google’s point of view.
3. Detailed Examples of Low Quality Pages with Explanations
We encourage you to take the time to browse the new Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines because they contain many examples of low quality links. The document also explains why Google treats them as low quality.
This is important to know because such sites may be linking back to you and, thus, reducing your own domain authority. For this reason, you should constantly monitor your backlinks and remove low quality ones. It is always better to err on the safe side and remove a moderate quality link than permit a malicious site to attract your visitors and cause them various damages.
4. The Guidelines Language Adapted to Cover All Devices
Finally, the Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines have a new wording, for the first time, incorporating all devices used for browsing the internet. This is a clear and final proof that mobile devices are no longer the new kid on the block, but standard devices for accessing web pages.