2022 Update for Google Quality Rater Guidelines – Big YMYL Updates


Ecommerce Marketing Automation

We finally have the first Google Quality Rater Guidelines update of 2022, and like usual, it is bringing some pretty significant changes.

Google has published a changelog for this update, but as usual, it primarily highlights the broad changes but doesn’t cover all the individual differences that Google made… and there are a lot of them.

Google has stressed a lot of focus on YMYL and E-A-T in these changes, which shows how they continue to use both of these as a major powerhouse in how they want raters to evaluate contents and how they want their search algos to be able to process and evaluate them.

As always, Google’s Quality Raters don’t directly impact how any individual site performs in the search results.  That said, if many raters rate your site poorly, know that is something that Google is trying to use their algorithms to match if it isn’t already.

Now, on with all the changes.

Mobile changes

Google has removed many mobile-specific references from the Google Quality Rater Guidelines, particularly regarding raters doing their ratings on mobile devices.  In some instances, it doesn’t change the context, while huge mobile-specific references were removed in other cases.

It is unclear if there was an adjustment on how raters rate pages primarily on mobile or desktop. Still, the changes seem to streamline the ratings more and not make as many distinctions between desktop and mobile.

Many of the screenshots have also been updated to reflect the appearance on a mobile device, replacing some of the ones that showed either a desktop screenshot or to update the screenshots to reflect new mobile search features Google has added to the mobile results in recent years.

YMYL & E-A-T clarifications

This time, Google went to great lengths to be clear about what qualifies as YMYL, with many more clarifications added to the examples and the guidelines. With all the recent updates to the Google quality rater guidelines, they have been making more of an effort to clarify what qualifies as YMYL or they have been adding additional categories or areas that they now consider to be YMYL when it wasn’t as clear or obvious to some people before.

They also make a new distinction that YMYL is on a spectrum. They’ve neither confirmed nor denied this previously, but it is an important detail that Google includes in these newly updated guidelines.

Respected Websites

Throughout these guidelines, Google has made multiple new references to the fact that just because a site is considered authoritative or highly respected, its content cannot automatically be regarded as high quality. They make specific references to academic institutions and government websites, but this is addressing some issues that Google is seeing and wants the raters to help them identify these pages on authoritative websites as potentially being low quality.

Removal of Stick Figures

More of an amusing change, but Google seems to have removed most of the funny stick figures that used to appear throughout the quality rater guidelines. They’ve been replaced simply by screenshots or other text, although a few remain here and there.

 

Now for the more detailed and nitty gritty of every single thing that changed.

0.1 The Purpose of Search Quality Rating

Google has clarified more in the section about how quality raters actual readings can impact the search results. While before they said ratings would not affect a particular website or webpages, they are now specifically saying that no single rating can directly impact rankings.

This is an interesting and nuanced distinction that Google is making here, as well as clarifying how Google is using these ratings. They stress that these ratings are not used to position pages in their search results because it is not feasible for humans to rate and rank every individual page on the web.

There also expand a bit more on how the readings are being used to assess and measure Google’s current search algos, or as we know, any potential algos they may be testing out.

However, one vital part of this change that SEOs should pay attention to is that ratings are also used to improve the algos by providing specific examples of helpful or unhelpful search results for different searches. So while before we were always under the impression that Google was using these ratings on a broader scale, that shows that Google can actually look and see precisely what raters are seeing for particular searches and what raters are seeing as good results and bad results for those searches.

While Google doesn’t include more details on exactly how they are using and viewing these specific types of examples of helpful or unhelpful results from the raters in the guidelines, it does give SEOs a better sense of the role of the rater’s results and how they might be evolving over time.

Here is what the old section said:

Your ratings will not directly affect how a particular webpage, website, or result appears in Google Search, nor will they cause specific webpages, websites, or results to move up or down on the search results page. Instead, your ratings will be used to measure how well search engine algorithms are performing for a broad range of searches.

And the newly expanded section:

No single rating can directly impact how a particular webpage, website, or result appears in Google Search, nor can they cause specific webpages, websites, or results to move up or down on the search results page. Using ratings to position results on the search results page would not be feasible, as humans could never individually rate each page on the open web.

Instead, 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.

0.5 Internet Safety Information

Google has now removed the line regarding both Adobe Flash and RealPlayer where they advise raters that they are generally safe. This has now been removed from the guidelines.

You may also encounter pages that require RealPlayer or the Adobe Flash plugin. These are generally safe to download.

2.3 Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) Topics

this section has seen significant changes in expansions from previous versions where Google details more about what is considered YMYL. While previous versions have just listed basic categories with a bit more detail to them, this new version revamped it to help raters honestly assess what should be considered YMYL and what’s not.

Google has put much more stress upon how YMYL topics can significantly impact or harm others. And this doesn’t just include the person reading the content who may be harmed by it, but also others who might be harmed from it because the searcher read it, which is a new distinction the Google has not included before.

YMYL topics may significantly impact or harm one or more of the following:
● the person who is directly viewing or using the content
● other people who are affected by the person who viewed the content
● groups of people or society affected by the actions of people who viewed the content

Previously, Google has stated that YMYL is topics that impact “a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.” Now they have expanded on this to state “could significantly impact the health, financial stability, or safety of people, or the welfare or well-being of society.”

Some topics 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.

Now, this welfare or well-being of society is a critical addition to these guidelines. While some of the previous YMYL topics could fall into this umbrella, this seems to be stressing something much broader. This could cover not just conspiracy theories, which have been mentioned in previous guidelines, but also a huge broad category of things that are impacting society today, such as vaccine misinformation,  fake cures of diseases, or political or election issues that have seen the rampant misinformation campaigns in some countries.

Google is also considering any topic that could potentially cause harm to anyone if the specific content is not accurate or trustworthy. In their example, they state that even mild inaccuracies or content seen from less reliable sources should be considered through the lens of YMYL and rated accordingly due to those inaccuracies.

Health topics are the focal point of this expanded and more detailed YMYL topics section, which is likely due to some the things we seen in recent years where so many sites, and even news sites, are promoting misinformation regarding vaccines or treatments for various diseases. However, this is an interesting thing, because you have to consider the fact that there will be some raters who feel that Covid is a hoax, for example, and rate pages according to their beliefs. So while Google is making health distinctions with YMYL, they are not specifically referring to things like Covid or other diseases but using other health-related examples.

But one has to assume that Google making these changes is due to a lot of complaints from the scientific community about so much misinformation being easily accessible on the web, that Google is making a harder push to try to ensure that only the highest quality search results for these types of searches are the ones that are surfacing. And we know that some of these more challenging algorithm issues often appear first in the quality rater guidelines and give us an idea of where they are trying to make changes with their algo.

Along those lines, they are also explicitly referring to societal topics that could negatively impact groups of people, issues such as public interest, or trust in public institutions etc., and this seems to be targeting issues that of become more prevalent in the last few years regarding the political climate in various countries around the world. So they’re running the raters to look at pages promoting political misinformation or to lead people to distrust help organizations for example.

They’ve added two new umbrella topics: “the topic itself is harmful or dangerous “and” the topic could cause harm if the content is not accurate or trustworthy. Previously, people have argued that a specific topic shouldn’t be considered YMYL because Google does not include it in the guidelines, as it didn’t specifically fit into their “Other” category. This “Other” category had a description of less volatile topics with examples such as fitness and nutrition or choosing a college. While this “other” category still exists, Google is trying to distinguish all the types of content that can be considered YMYL, making specific references to self-harm, criminal acts, and violent extremism.

YMYL topics can directly and significantly impact people’s health, financial stability or safety, or the welfare or well-being of society, because of the following reasons:
● The topic itself is harmful or dangerous . For example, there is clear and present harm directly associated with topics related to self-harm, criminal acts, or violent extremism.
● The topic could cause harm if the content is not accurate and trustworthy . For example, mild inaccuracies or content from less reliable sources could significantly impact someone’s health, financial stability, or safety, or impact society, for topics like: symptoms of a heart attack, how to invest money, what to do if there is an earthquake, who can vote, or needed qualifications for obtaining a driver’s license.

They also make an interesting distinction that if the page is used as a vehicle for malicious download, that doesn’t necessarily fall into YMYL unless the page’s topic itself would be considered YMYL. But this is an interesting nuance to place here because the guidelines already cover things like malicious downloads in terms of page quality.

Lastly, they refer to YMYL being on a spectrum.  This is pretty significant for SEOs.

Many or most topics are not YMYL and do not require a high level of accuracy or trust to prevent harm . Because YMYL assessment is a spectrum, it may be helpful to think of topics as clear YMYL , definitely not YMYL or something in between. Pages on clear YMYL topics require the most scrutiny for Page Quality rating.

This is the new detail and not something Google has confirmed before, but it makes sense for those who deep dive into YMYL. And they specifically told raters to not just think of YMYL being a yes or no whether it is or isn’t YMYL, but instead think about how important the topic is, and if its inaccuracy could cause harm. They make it clear that only pages  that are clearly YMYL should bear the most scrutiny for page quality ratings.

Because the section is entirely expanded and rewritten, here is the new 2.3 section version of what is considered YMYL.

Pages on the World Wide Web are about a vast variety of topics. Some topics 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. We call these topics “Your Money or Your Life” or YMYL.

YMYL topics may significantly impact or harm one or more of the following:
● the person who is directly viewing or using the content
● other people who are affected by the person who viewed the content
● groups of people or society affected by the actions of people who viewed the content

YMYL topics can directly and significantly impact people’s health, financial stability or safety, or the welfare or well-being of society, because of the following reasons:
● The topic itself is harmful or dangerous . For example, there is clear and present harm directly associated with topics related to self-harm, criminal acts, or violent extremism.
● The topic could cause harm if the content is not accurate and trustworthy . For example, mild inaccuracies or content from less reliable sources could significantly impact someone’s health, financial stability, or safety, or impact society, for topics like: symptoms of a heart attack, how to invest money, what to do if there is an earthquake, who can vote, or needed qualifications for obtaining a driver’s license.

To determine whether a topic is YMYL, assess the following types of harm that might occur:
● YMYL Health or Safety : Topics that could harm mental, physical, and emotional health, or any form of safety such as physical safety or safety online.
● YMYL Financial Security : Topics that could damage a person’s ability to support themselves and their families.
● YMYL Society : Topics that could negatively impact groups of people, issues of public interest, trust in public institutions, etc.
● YMYL Other: Topics that could hurt people or negatively impact welfare or well-being of society.

It’s possible to imagine a hypothetical harmful page for any non-harmful topic, such as the science behind rainbows or shopping for pencils: for either of these topics, someone could build a page that has a malicious computer virus download. However, 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.

Many or most topics are not YMYL and do not require a high level of accuracy or trust to prevent harm . Because YMYL assessment is a spectrum, it may be helpful to think of topics as clear YMYL , definitely not YMYL or something in between. Pages on clear YMYL topics require the most scrutiny for Page Quality rating.

2.3 Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) Topics – Example Chart

Brand new to this version of the quality rater guidelines is this new chart that expands on what is considered YMYL, what may be considered YMYL and what is not.

They list six different topic examples of information, advice on an activity, a personal opinion, news about current events, sharing on social media, and online commerce and product reviews. Each has examples for where it would be a clear YMYL topic, such as when to go to the emergency room, versus a possible YMYL topic but just information about a hot sauce challenge, to a non-YMYL topic such as how frequently to wash a pair jeans.

Again, this shows how much Google is trying to distinguish the nuance differences between YMYL, and also about that spectrum of YMYL.

It also makes that distinction here between things being harmful and whether they should be considered YMYL. Their example for a possible YMYL topic is information about a car accident. While the car accident might have been harmful to those involved in the accident overall, there’s a little risk to future harm from news reporting about the accident. Google’s example for a clear YMYL topic for current events is ongoing violence. And having up-to-date information about the ongoing violence in your city or neighborhood or even your country can be something that’s crucial to know to keep yourself safe.

The examples that are social media specific, such as a social media post on the Tide pod challenge, which was clearly harmful and should be considered YMYL, to things such as sharing that hot sauce challenge or just sharing a music video.

They also specifically talk about personal opinions and how they could be considered YMYL. Their example for this case is a personal opinion about a racial group being inferior. This is harmful to others, even though it is regarded as a personal opinion, so Google considers it YMYL because it is targeting a specific group of people negatively.

Then on the other end of that spectrum is a personal opinion about a rock band and how that is going to have minimal impact, even though there might be strong opinions about whether said rock band is good or not.

Google making these clarifications for raters, as well as SEOs reading the guidelines, is again really showing how important Google is considering YMYL.  This new update in the guidelines really shows how they’re trying to broaden what is considered YMYL as well as making it very clear to people how to determine if something is YMYL, especially for content that is on the spectrum where it might not be as clear, which is something these examples are trying to help raters evaluate better.

2.3 Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) Topics – Continued

After Google gave all these examples, they included more information about how the reader should determine if something’s YMYL are not. Bottom line, they suggest that raters consider whether a topic could harm someone.

For those going through the guidelines, it is important to note that Google has commented in the section that all their examples of YMYL topics have been noted as such. But if you are super familiar with the guidelines you’ll know that many of the examples were tagged with YMYL in the first column.  Now Google is including whether a topic is YMYL in the actual explanation section instead. This change was made because they are doing more clarifications about why each particular example is considered YMYL, not simply just taking it as such.

Here are the additions made in this final part of the section:

If you are having trouble deciding whether a topic is YMYL, consider the following questions:
1. Would a careful person seek out experts or highly trusted sources to prevent harm ? Could even minor inaccuracies cause harm? If yes, then the topic is likely YMYL.
2. Is the specific topic one that most people would be content with only casually consulting their friends about? If yes, the topic is likely not YMYL.

Important note : For pages about clear YMYL topics, we have very high Page Quality rating standards because low quality pages could potentially negatively impact a person’s health, financial stability, or safety, or the welfare or well-being of society. Page Quality rating examples in these guidelines about YMYL topics will be labeled as YMYL to illustrate the high rating standards for clear YMYL topics that impact a person’s health, financial stability, or safety, or the welfare or well-being of society.

4.3 Clear and Satisfying Website Information: Who is Responsible and Customer Service

This section has some minor changes where they have changed “YMYL websites” to “Websites about YMYL topics” and changed “Non-YMYL  websites” to “not about YMYL topics.”

This change seems like a minor clarification to word it more straightforward.

4.6 Examples of High Quality Pages

Google has removed a couple of examples from the examples in this section. They include the “High: News 2” example that was listed second and the “High: Shopping 3” example for TomTom GPS.

Google significantly rewrote the example about how long cancer patients live. They are making it clearer that it’s a Q&A example, and while it is a YMYL topic, it answered by non-experts.  However because it is responses of personal opinions from others who are responding about how long loved ones lived after diagnosis, it still considered high quality.

5.4 Examples of Highest Quality Pages

Google has made examples more detailed for anything considered a YMYL topic. And they’ve made additions to show why specifically each page is considered YMYL, such as for the first example they are detailing how reporting on environmental toxicity situation can significantly impact the health and financial security of people, businesses and government agencies.

For each YMYL example given, Google has added information to each example as to why it’s considered YMYL. Again, this is showing how Google is trying to highlight more emphatically for the raters what is and isn’t YMYL.

Interestingly, they have removed an example from the guidelines that were showing the social media profile for the Tennessee Republican Party. While there could have been other reasons for them to remove it, they might have just been trying to remove political examples from the guidelines.

6.0 Low Quality Pages

This is another section the Google has made some significant additions to in order to clarify what they are considering low quality pages.  While some things mentioned SEOs can recognize as being low quality, it’s something that might not be as familiar for quality raters that don’t have a background in SEO or search.

They are also really highlighting “for the purpose of the page.” This is important because while there can be some higher-quality aspects of the page, if the purpose of the page itself is low quality, it should be rated as such.

Google is also re-emphasizing how E-A-T  affects the quality pages, and including the website creators as well. They do state that for some pages it isn’t that important to know who is behind the website itself, but for more important topics, including YMYL topics, they are stressing that they need to see a higher standard of quality for any main content on the page, and those behind the website itself and the author.

They also want raters to consider the quality of the page itself, and not assess quality based on the fact it comes from a site that would normally be considered high quality. They have included this both in the opening of the section and later on in the section, so it must be a spam problem they are identifying and want their algorithms to help catch with raters’ rating feedback.

Google includes specific references to academic websites, nonprofit websites, government websites and any other generally helpful type of sites for the types of sites where pages cannot be assessed for quality based on the site alone.

It seems are not including just defaced or hacked webpages in this, which is generally covered in the guidelines already, but they might be considering student websites within an academic website or a web designer adding some pages to a website without the site owner’s consent. So they are stressing that raters can’t just assume that all pages on a site that is generally considered high quality are also necessarily high quality.

A slight addition to this page as well is that while Google has always made the reference to ads or secondary content that distracts from the main content, now they’ve also included if it distracts from or interferes with the main content.

Lastly, Google is making a point that shocking or exaggerated titles can result in a low rating. This was already mentioned in previous versions of the guidelines as well, and it is still mentioned in the bullet points in the section, but they are seemingly  making it clear to raters that any page with clickbait types of titles should be considered low quality.

Here is the entire section, which is entirely rewritten, aside from the bullet points that have just been slightly changed

Low quality pages do not achieve their purpose well because they are lacking in an important dimension or have a problematic aspect. Low quality pages can be present on all types of websites and may be created to serve any purpose.

If a page has one or more of the following characteristics, the Low rating applies:

  • An inadequate level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) for the purpose of the page .
    ● The quality of the MC is low for the purpose of the page.
    ● There is an unsatisfying amount of helpful MC for the purpose of the page.
    ● The title of the MC is exaggerated or shocking. ● The Ads or SC significantly distracts from or interferes with the MC as described in Section 6.4 of these guidelines.
    ● There is an unsatisfying amount of website information or information about the creator of the MC for the purpose of the page (no good reason for anonymity).
    ● A mildly negative reputation for a website or creator of the MC, based on extensive reputation research.

The required level of E-A-T, the quality of the MC, the amount of helpful MC, and the amount of information about the website and creator(s) of the MC depend on the topic and purpose of the page. For many topics, personal experience, everyday expertise, and some time or effort to assemble the MC may be all that the page needs to be satisfying. For some topics or webpages, no information is needed about the content creators aside from what is in the main content itself, e.g., forum discussions that pose no risk to users. However, for pages on YMYL topics, there is a higher standard for MC, E-A-T, and information about the website or content creator.

Some Low quality characteristics do not depend on the purpose or topic of the page. Shocking or exaggerated titles, or a mildly negative reputation for the website or the content creator is reason to assign a Low rating for any page.

Important : Low quality pages can occur on any type of website, including academic websites, nonprofit websites, government websites, or any other generally helpful type of website. Low quality pages may be about any topic. Pages on YMYL topics need more scrutiny for signs of Low quality related to the MC and website/content creator because the page could impact a person’s health, financial stability, or safety, or the welfare or well-being of society. However, for any type of page, a single Low quality attribute is enough to use the Low quality rating.

6.1 Lacking Expertise, Authoritativeness, or Trustworthiness (E-A-T)

Google has added a bullet point for one of the examples of a low-quality page that has a low amount of E-A-T.

  • Informational MC on YMYL topics is mildly inaccurate or misleading.

They’ve also added more detail about how much E-A-T  is required for a page, and types of pages that might not be as crucial to have a high amount of E-A-T.

Here is what they added:

The level of E-A-T needed depends on the purpose and topic of the page. For some types of pages, formal expertise may not be needed. For pages on YMYL topics, it is critical.

Consider the purpose and the topic of the page. What is the risk of harm? Is there a need for high E-A-T to prevent harm? If so, even mild inaccuracies may cause informational pages on YMYL topics to be untrustworthy.

Important: The Low rating should be used if the page lacks appropriate E-A-T for its purpose. No other considerations such as positive reputation or the type of website can overcome a lack of E-A-T for the topic or purpose of the page.

So again they are stressing what they said earlier about just because a website is overall generally considered high quality, the individual pages within it might not be. So here they are talking about a particular page lacking E-A-T, even if it’s on a website that generally has a positive reputation. So a great site-wide reputation can’t override a page with low E-A-T.

The other major change to this section is that Google has removed the part referencing specifically user generated content.

Note: Websites with user-generated content span the Page Quality rating spectrum. Please pay careful attention to websites that allow users to publish content with little oversight, such as social networking pages, video sharing websites, volunteer-created encyclopedias, article sharing websites, forums, etc. Depending on the topic, pages on these websites may lack E-A-T.

It is unknown why Google removed the part specific to user generated content, considering there is a lot of very poor user generated content on the Internet.

6.7 Examples of Low Quality Pages

Again this section, Google has included more detail about why a specific page should be considered a YMYL topic, and seen through the lens of a page with low-quality.

The first example in this section is an article about nuclear power, that is considered YMYL because it can significantly impact global industries in society. And then they detail precisely why it’s considered low quality, such as the unprofessional writing on the page.

They also removed the low-quality Q&A example about Native American customs. But again, this might just be Google removing sensitive topics from their examples.

7.0 Lowest Quality Pages

Google has added a couple of new paragraphs to the section defining exactly what is considered a lowest quality page. Here, they make some reference to user-generated content, which is possibly why they removed it from the earlier section. They do reference any websites with harmful main content from things like user uploaded videos or hacked pages. And again they are stressing the fact that just because a page is on a respected website, doesn’t mean that it’s not likely be considered high quality.

Here is the addition:

Important : There are situations in which pages from sources or content creators that are seemingly “official”, “expert”, or “authoritative” are harmful and therefore should receive the Lowest rating. Any type of website may have pages with harmful MC, from user uploaded videos or posts to hacked pages. All pages should be evaluated closely for harm – including pages on government websites, academic institutions, charities, or other types of generally helpful websites.

You must first evaluate the page for purpose, deception, harmfulness, untrustworthiness and spam (Steps 1 & 2 above)  before considering any other PQ characteristics.

Again, Google is made many references throughout these new guidelines about the page not being automatically considered high quality because of it being on a respected website. So this is clearly something they are either having problems with or are future proofing for a problem they are just starting to see and recognize.

In the example section for lowest quality pages, Google has added a new bullet point under “Harmfully Misleading Information.”

Information designed to confuse or manipulate in a harmful manner

And under “Untrustworthy Pages” they added:

Pages or websites designed to manipulate people into actions that benefit the website or other organization while causing harm to self, others or Specified Groups.

7.1 Harmful to Self or Other Individuals

Under the part of “Examples of pages that are Harmful to Self or Other Individuals” include any of the following types of content” they have added a new first bullet point.

  • Content that incites violence towards Other Individuals

This is not really a surprise, considering they have been stressing this in other parts of the guidelines as well. They are really trying to make a push that any search results should not be harmful to anyone which includes any content that could incite violence against any individual or group of people.

7.3 Harmfully Misleading Information

Once again, Google is stressing that there can be harmfully misleading information on a website that is otherwise considered an authoritative or respected one.

Harmfully Misleading Information can occur from any websites or content creators – even seemingly “expert”, “authoritative” or “official” ones. Any type of page with Harmfully Misleading Information should be rated Lowest, regardless of source.

7.4 Untrustworthy Webpages or Websites

Google has added a new part to the section, discussing the fact that some pages that are untrustworthy are really created to benefit the website. They do add the part about malicious downloads here, but they also are referring to the fact that these pages can be created for scams as well.

This is added:

Some untrustworthy pages are created to benefit the website or organization rather than helping people. Some untrustworthy pages may even exist to cause harm to people who engage with the page, such as scams or malicious downloads. Why would anyone engage with a harmful web page? Often it is because the page or website practices some form of deception.

And under the bullet list for pages with the following characteristics should be considered untrustworthy.

Any webpage or website designed to manipulate people into actions that benefit the website or other organization while causing harm to self, others or Specified Groups

It will be interesting to see how raters interpret this because this could cover everything from political websites that are engaging in deceptive information in order to earn votes or health websites selling snake oil cures.

7.4.2 Lowest E-A-T and Lowest Reputation of the Website or Creator of the MC

Just another minor change from YMYL page to a page on YMYL topics.

7.4.3 Deceptive Page Purpose and Deceptive MC Design

Google has rewritten the first two paragraphs of this section. It seems to just be a change to clear up some confusing wording.

Old version:

People who browse content online have a wide range of Internet understanding and savviness. Consider a page to be “deceptive” if it may deceive some people. All deceptive pages should be rated Lowest because pages that engage in deception are Untrustworthy.

Pages or websites are Untrustworthy if they have a deceptive purpose. These pages or websites superficially appear to have one purpose, but in fact exist for a different reason.

And the new and improved version:

Pages or websites are Untrustworthy if they have a deceptive purpose. These pages or websites superficially appear to have one purpose, but in fact exist for a different reason.

All pages with a deceptive purpose and/or deceptive MC should be rated Lowest because pages that engage in deception are Untrustworthy.

At the end of the section they also just made a slight rewording change regarding manipulating users to click on ads. Again it just seems to be a change to make the wording less confusing, by stressing when the ads are the primary focus of the page.

7.4.4 Deliberately Obstructed or Obscured MC

This seems be yet another change at the end of the section to make it clear about pages that are designed to manipulate the user to click on an ad.

The old version:

The important criteria for Lowest is deception, manipulation or other coercive attempts to get people to engage with monetization or Ads rather than the MC.

The new version:

One possible distinguishing factor for Lowest is deliberate design of the website to manipulate or coerce people into engaging with monetization or Ads rather than the MC.

7.4.5 Suspected Malicious Behavior

Another minor change here, where there removing the specific reference to all suspicious links, and just making it clear they’re just referring to links that lead to suspected malware downloads.

7.6 Examples of Lowest Quality Pages

In this example section, Google has again made the change where there being more specific about why a particular example is considered a YMYL topic.

9.1.1 Rating on Your Phone

This section has been completely removed. This section just had a bit of detail for how raters should be rating on their phones.

10.3 Ratings for Forums and Q&A pages

The change here is again just the examples detailing why specific pages should be considered a YMYL topic.

In the examples, they also again removed the example for Native American customs.

11.0 Page Quality Rating FAQs

They have added a new question and answer specifically dealing with interstitials and how they should impact ratings.

Here is what Google advises regarding interstitials:

Sometimes clicking on the task URL will bring up an interstitial page. You can ignore this page in your rating criteria if you can easily get to the MC. However, if the interstitial makes it extremely hard (or impossible) to get to the MC and evaluate how well the page achieves its purpose, that should factor into your Page Quality rating.

So while Google is saying that interstitials are not inherently bad, they are saying that as long as you’re able to get to the main content easily then the ratings this shouldn’t impact the page. However if an interstitial is designed so that the user has no choice than to click it, then it can be rated accordingly.

12.0 Understanding Search Users, Queries, and Results

This section, formerly titled “Understanding Mobile Users, Mobile Queries, and Mobile Results” has been completely revamped. However a lot of it specifically had to do with how a reader should be viewing and reading a website from a mobile device and some of the problems that can be found there, in today’s world this just really is and is relevant comic is pretty much everyone knows how to interact with websites on the phone today.

It also talked a bit about mobile versus mobile, which again is not as necessary in today’s world.

Instead, Google has just renamed it to how raters should understand users queries and results, and focused more on the whys of internet searching.

Here is the section now:

Why do people search the Internet?

People use Internet search engines to perform many different tasks in different environments using different types of devices, such as mobile phones, tablets, laptops, or computers. Keep in mind that searches can be simple or complex, and the underlying task that a person is trying to accomplish may take multiple steps to complete. For example, a simple task may be to find the director of a movie. A complex task may be to find a movie’s showtimes nearby, purchase tickets, and get directions to go to the theater. Overall, search engines should make it easy for people to complete tasks by surfacing helpful results right away.

12.1 Important Rating Definitions and Ideas

Google has made some slight changes here to clarify of it what locale means.

this term was a bit confusing for some people, so they have just made a bit clearer but a locale is and how it’s has an impact on the search results, such as if they’re searching for something locally.

12.2 Understanding the Query

They have removed one of the query examples,” call mom”,but this seems more in line with some of the changes they made where they’ve removed some of the mobile specific parts of the guidelines.

12.3 Locale and User Location

This is a more detailed section on what locale means, and again they’ve tightened up the section to make it a bit clearer. And they’ve also removed the examples such as call mom.

12.4 Queries with an Explicit Location

This section has just been updated with some fresher screenshots to reflect what the Google search results for these type of queries looks like today versus what they looked like many years ago when they were first added to the rater guidelines.

12.7 Understanding User Intent

They have changed the second bullet point reflect that Google has removed device actions for mobile phones from the guidelines.

12.7.1 Know and Know Simple Queries

They removed the reference to the size the mobile screen from section.

In the example for this section, Google has removed be no query example about a championship game and added the more generic weather query.

It also removed the reference to raters needing to think about mobile users when determining if the query is considered a no simple query or not.

12.7.2 Do Queries

This has been renamed from “Do and Device Action Queries” to reflect the removal of device action types of queries from their guidelines. They’ve also revamped the query examples from the section, primarily again to reflect the device action queries and replacing them with additional queries such as “watch stranger things.”

They have removed the entire end of this section, but again is primarily because it’s all device action query examples.

12.7.3 Website Queries

The change here is again just updating their examples to reflect more the current times. For example they’ve added a tick-tock query as well as adding a query where someone is searching for specific keywords on a specific website, which is new to the guidelines.

12.7.4 Visit-in-Person Queries and User Location

Google has revamped the beginning of this section, but it is again kind of reflect their changes to the guidelines about mobile devices.

What is of note is that they changed some of the search examples, such as instead of asking “How tall is Tom Cruise”, their example has been changed to “How tall is Mount Everest.”

And their additional sample queries at the bottom have also been updated for 2022, where’s instead of Angry Birds it has Mine Craft, and instead of Oscars 2012 it now says just Oscars.

And in their later exempt queries of specific queries that could be for both visit in person for non-visit in person intent, they have removed a ton of examples from here and added “h&m” as an example query.

And at the end of this section, Google has added a new example restaurant to replace the old example of the Tumeric restaurant which closed a couple QRG’s ago. The new example restaurant is called Verbena which is commonly known as herb, but if you’re in Austin. Texas could be looking for the restaurant.

12.8.1 Web Search Result Block Examples

One of the changes in this section is that Google has removed the specific location for each of the search queries, but it’s not exactly clear why they made this change. However it doesn’t really affect the examples.

For the examples themselves, Google has gone and updated all the screenshots to current ones versus the ones that are many years old now.

Looking at the screenshots, you’ll see some of the newer features that show in the search results on mobile devices.

12.8.2 Special Content Result Block Examples

They have again updated screenshots to reflect current search results, where Chicago has gone from a cloudy 63° to a snowy 22° in the examples. I am sure someone will try to pinpoint exactly what date this screenshot was taken on.

The later examples show updated versions of what carousels look like as well as special content blocks within the search results such as sports scores YouTube videos and more.

12.8.3 Device Action Result Block Examples

This section has been removed in line with Google’s removal of device action related content from the guidelines.

12.8.4 How Device Action Results are Displayed in Rating Tasks

This section also removed as it is device action related.

12.9 Rating on Your Phone Issues

Also removed due to the removal of all phone specific removals.

13.0 Rating Using the Needs Met Scale

Just a removal again of mobile specific wording, changing mobile users to users.

13.1 Rating Result Blocks: Block Content and Landing Pages

The device action result Block example has been removed.

They have added new updated screenshots to reflect the current search results.

13.2 Fully Meets (FullyM)

One of the bullet points here has been removed, again because it was a mobile specific bullet point, and a later one because it was a device action related bullet point.

13.2.1 Examples of Fully Meets (FullyM) Result Blocks

They have removed locations from the query examples.

For examples, they have removed the Yelp example as well as some examples for device action queries, such as for for opening apps, setting an alarm and using search to call.

They have added a new query about Mac OS.

They’ve also removed the example for who is the Chancellor of Germany.

13.3.1 Examples of Highly Meets (HM) Result Blocks

Google has removed to the example for the Chancellor Germany in these examples too. They’ve added a query about what country Mount Fuji is in, and they have replaced the Tumeric example with Verbena.

13.4.1 Examples of Moderately Meets (MM) Result Blocks

More device action examples have been removed from here too.

13.5.1 Examples of Slightly Meets (SM) Result Blocks

Google has removed any mobile specific language from the explanations in the section.

13.6 Fails to Meet (FailsM)

Mobile specific language has been removed from the section.

13.6.1 Examples of Fails to Meet (FailsM) Result Blocks

More device action examples have been removed from here.

Sadly, Google has removed the Betty White example, because it was an example given as fails to meet, because the example was claiming that Betty White has died, when at the time the guidelines were last published she was still very much alive. Since she died earlier this year, it has been replaced with a Miley Cyrus dead example.

21.0 Product Queries: Importance of Browsing and Researching

Google has interestingly removed a part from the section regarding YMYL page, particularly how it applies to product queries.

Here is what was removed:

Often, the results for product queries are YMYL pages. Users need high quality information from authoritative sources when researching products, especially when products are expensive or represent a major investment/important life event (e.g., cars, washing machines, computers, wedding gifts, baby products, hurricane shutters, large fitness equipment). When buying products, users need websites they can trust: good reputation, extensive customer service support, etc. Results for product queries may be important for both your money and your life (YMYL)!

This is one of the confusing changes as many people consider them product queries as being very much YMYL, because there are many product purchases that can definitely impact health and safety.

Appendix 2: Guideline Change Log

This change log includes a summary of changes, including the newly published overview for the quality rater guidelines.

Refreshed language to be aligned with the newly published Search Quality Rater Guidelines: An Overview
● 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
● Refactored language throughout to be applicable across all devices types
● Minor changes throughout (updated screenshots; removed or updated outdated examples and concepts; removed user location when irrelevant; etc.)

Final Thoughts

Google made a significant revamp to ensure the raters are aware of what exactly qualifies as a YMYL website to ensure that the raters are reading those particular pages appropriately. And their ton of examples that they’ve added for this, detailing why a particular page is considered YMYL proves that they’re considering it super crucial for raters to identify those YMYL pages and rate them for the utmost quality.

The idea of YML being on the spectrum is also important to be aware of. While this is something that many of us assumed, Google seems to be pushing for raters to understand exactly how there is not just a black and white YMYL or not, but instead, there can be a spectrum where a page can straddle that.

The other noticeable thing is that Google seems to be pushing for raters to recognize that not all pages should be deemed as high quality even if they’re on a website that is considered very high quality. This is referenced multiple times in updates within these guidelines in various different sections.

This might mean that Google sees an uptick on low-quality pages on websites that might’ve gotten a pass before because most people would consider the website itself to be high quality because it is a respected organization or academic facility. And they repeatedly reference government websites, academic institutions and charities. While we’ve often seen spam showing up most commonly on academic websites, it seems that Google may have identified a larger problem where low-quality content for any reason might be getting through algorithms because it is on a major respected website.

And to be fair, many raters might automatically think, “Oh, this is on <super important website> so it must be high quality,” so Google is emphasizing clearly that while this is true in some instances, this is not always the case.

And it’s also notable the fact that Google did include this in their summary of changes, so it is something they wanted raters, and those who read the guidelines, to be aware of.

The changes to remove a lot of the mobile-specific language and action based queries make up a significant portion of the changes, but overall it’s not that impactful. It just seems that Google is bringing it in lines with today’s world where everybody knows how to do these kinds of things on the phone, and it’s not as necessary for Google to kind of train their readers to understand the different things that you can do on the phone, particularly as it interacts in the search results.

 

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Jennifer Slegg is a longtime speaker and expert in search engine marketing, working in the industry for almost 20 years. When she isn’t sitting at her desk writing and working, she can be found grabbing a latte at her local Starbucks or planning her next trip to Disneyland. She regularly speaks at Pubcon, SMX, State of Search, Brighton SEO and more, and has been presenting at conferences for over a decade.

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