After removing the PDF from public download, Google have now published a revised version of the 164 page guidelines designed to help their team of search quality raters evaluate online content.
The recent amendments have reflected changes in the real world and online user behaviour, such as addressing the issue of fake news, biased content, and content designed to offend users — all of which are factors that Google perceives to be problematic and detrimental to user experience when included within search results.
It’s also worth noting that quality raters cannot alter Google’s results directly. A rater may mark a particular listing as low-quality, but this will not cause that page to lose ranking.
So what’s changed now?
The reputation of the content curator
With the latest revisions, Google has made it clearer that it wants its search raters to take into account both the reputation of the website (and the brand/entity behind it), as well as the content creator as an individual.
A lot of websites often overlook the author profile, and the benefits that having established and known individuals can bring. While collaborating with “influencers” isn’t new, as influencers have become more savvy about their personal brand, a lot have become more discerning with the types of brands and websites they associate themselves with.
We’ve seen this in practice for decades, as brands have been collaborating with celebrities in advertisements and endorsements in a bid to both raise profile and engage with new audiences.
This works the other way as well, as a website looking to work with contributors, it’s important that you only associate with influencers with a positive reputation.
If content is produced by someone with a positive reputation, it makes sense that Google will want to send users to a positive influencer, rather than a negative influencer, so that the searcher has a better experience.
This doesn’t just apply to written content, but also to videos, podcasts and social media.
Does the content benefit the user?
Another revision in these guidelines is that Google wants raters to focus on the “beneficial purpose” of content. A lot of websites create content purely to target keyword X, and rank for it.
Google wants its raters to evaluate whether or not a piece of content has a beneficial purpose to the user.
We know that Google breaks content down into two sections within the guidelines (main content and supporting content), so it’s important that the main content adequately satisfies the query, with supporting content adding sufficient value to follow up queries.
Content designed to rank for specific keywords, for users to then to complete an action such as a form fill, an ad click, or an affiliate link click will be most affected by these changes.
Why make these changes now?
We can also assume that Google is taking another step forward in disabling the effectiveness and reach of clickbait, as it offers little user value if the title is over sensationalised or doesn’t match the actual content shown on the page, and provides a poor user experience.
By asking its quality raters to flag this, it’s fair to say that Google is potentially using this data to algorithmically tackle this issue in the future.
Related reading: Judging a website’s reputation: Google search quality perspective