Google Updates Quality Rater Guidelines

There is a brand new version of the Google Quality Rater Guidelines, and here are all the changes Google has made to the guidelines and why these changes are important. The new version is dated May 16, 2019, and replaces the one released back in 2018.

One major take away is that Google is moving a lot of the documentation in these guidelines away from using the term E-A-T, and instead changing many of the instances where it was used to the term “page quality” instead. While they still use the term E-A-T, they are definitely changing the usage of it in the context of quality on a page or website.

This change follows through to the actual rater activities too. The former E-A-T slider in the rater backend has been replaced with a similar Page Quality slider instead.

There are changes to how raters rate interstitials, which makes me suspect there might be a new or updated algorithm designed to specifically target them. We have often seen this happen after changes were made to the Quality Rater Guidelines so that raters could then evaluate based on the new criteria.

And there are some changes to E-A-T requirements for some types of sites.

So let’s get on with all the changes and updates to the guidelines.

6.4 Distracting Ads/SC

Google has added a bit more information on interstitials.  This is likely because many rater activities are mobile only, and mobile interstitials are becoming more and more commonplace, some of them to such an intrusive degree that the user has no choice but to click the interstitial or leave the page.

Google is also specifically targeting the app download interstitials, the ones where sites either hide the content, making people think they must download an app to view the content, or make it completely inaccessible unless one uses the app.

This has been becoming more of an issue, and with some very well known sites utilizing this model, it is possible we are going to see some heavier algorithmic demotions for sites that are trying to force users to download the app.

Here is what the paragraph used to say:

A single pop-over Ad with a clear and easy-to-use close button is not terribly distracting, though may not be a great user experience. However, difficult-to-close Ads that follow page scrolls can be truly distracting and make the MC difficult to use.

And the updated version:

A single pop­-over Ad or interstitial page with a clear and easy­ to ­use close button is not terribly distracting, though may not be a great user experience. However, difficult to ­close Ads that follow page scrolls, or interstitial pages that require an app download, can be truly distracting and make the MC difficult to use. You can see examples of interstitial pages here.

Look for some new or updated algo changes targeting this specifically.

11.0 Page Quality Rating FAQs

There has been a lot of talk about author expertise when it comes to the quality rater guidelines, particularly with how site owners and authors can showcase their expertise.  This section has been changed substantially to address this a bit more from Google’s perspective.   Previously, it was implied that all content creators should have expertise.  But they have lessened this slightly, for topics that don’t fall into YMYL pages.

Here is the question asked in the FAQ

You talked about expertise when rating MC. Does  expertise matter for all topics? Aren’t there some topics for which there are no experts?

Here is the entire section response, the part in italics is the newly added section.

Remember that we are not just talking about formal expertise. High quality pages involve time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill. Sharing personal experience is a form of everyday expertise.

Specifically for content creators, everyday expertise can be assessed based on the talent/skill level depicted in the MC (e.g., great hair­styling advice, painting/crafting abilities, skillful home/DIY work, etc.). In cases where the content creator is not demonstrating formal or everyday expertise but is not doing any harm, Medium is an appropriate rating.

Pretty much any topic has some form of expert, but E­A­T is especially important for YMYL pages.

For most page purposes and topics, you can find experts even when the field itself is niche or non­-mainstream. For example, there are expert alternative medicine websites with leading practitioners of acupuncture, herbal therapies, etc. There are also pages about alternative medicine written by people with no expertise or experience. E­A­T should distinguish between these two scenarios.

One final note: if the purpose of the page is harmful, then expertise doesn’t matter. It should be rated Lowest!

So authors do not have to show specific expertise for non-YMYL pages and sites, provided the authors skill level is clear from the article, and that the author “is not doing any harm.”

This definitely brings in line with the idea that some types of sites outside the realm of YMYL do not need to go through hoops to show off expertise, if it is obvious to the reader that the author has expertise from the content presented.

Again, do note this is specifically for non YMYL sites.  The rest of the section remains the same where it goes into more detail about YMYL and sites which need to have high E-A-T.

Many people have been concerned about how to show expertise for something that is a hobby, for example, where there is no clear avenue of training to show expertise outside of skill and experience.  So for these authors, they won’t lose ratings just because there is no way for them to show that expertise they have.

Another one of the FAQ was edited slightly.

Here was the question:

Some of these criteria seem unfair. For example, some art pages do not have a purpose. Are these pages Low quality?

However the removal seems light it might have been an editing error.  The italicized part was removed.

Art pages do have a purpose: artistic expression. Pages created for artistic expression do not deserve the Low quality rating simply because they have no other
purpose. Artistic expression, humor, entertainment, sharing photos and videos, etc. are all valid and valued page purposes.

The sentence simply ends which makes me believe this might just be an editing error instead of a deliberate removal.

14.6.1 Using the Upsetting-­Offensive Flag

Google has inexplicably removed a notation specifically for “Graphic violence, including animal cruelty or child abuse.”  One could argue it falls under the previous notation which is “Depiction of graphic violence without context or beneficial purpose.”  But this still seems an odd removal from the Quality Rater Guidelines.

Here is the section, with the part in italics removed in the updated guidelines.

Upsetting-Offensive content typically includes the following:
● Content that promotes hate or violence against a group of people based on criteria including (but not limited to)
race or ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality or citizenship, disability, age, sexual orientation, or veteran status.
● Content with racial slurs or extremely offensive terminology without context or beneficial purpose.
● Depiction of graphic violence without context or beneficial purpose.
Graphic violence, including animal cruelty or child abuse.
● Explicit how-to information about harmful activities (e.g., how-tos on human trafficking or violent assault).
● Other types of content that users in your locale would find extremely upsetting or offensive.

So while it is assumed raters will still be including animal cruelty and child abuse within the realm of using the upsetting-offensive flag, it is unusual it was singled out for removal.