Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines: What They Mean

The Quality Raters Guidelines (QRG) are intended to help the team of Quality Raters that work for Google to assess the quality of websites. It makes sense that updates to the QRG are important as the Quality Raters help Google engineers to understand whether changes they make to the algorithms will work as intended.

This is why, in the past, updates to the QRG have been reflected in Google algorithm updates that have followed. For instance, after the QRG was last updated, in July 2018, relevant algorithm updates seemed to follow with the Google Medic Update of August 2018 and the following update in September. These updates centred around the “safety of users”. So, what can we learn from the latest QRG update that might help us to predict future Google algorithm changes?

Interstitial ads

It’s no secret that Google does not have much love for interstitial ads, especially when they are used on mobile content. These full screen ads that pop-up during the flow of an app are especially disliked by Google when they are displayed at the start of the user experience.

In the latest QRG update, Google has added the phrase “interstitial page” when discussing ease of access for users. This is interesting as Google already has an algorithm that deals with sites that use interstitial ads immediately as users arrive on a page.

It could be that the use of the phrase is intended to clarify the situation regarding interstitial ads, with Quality Raters.

E-A-T, how formal does expertise need to be?

Expertise, Authority and Trust (E-A-T) are factors that Google uses when it measures the trust that can be placed in a website or the brand it represents.

There has always been a question about how formal expertise needs to be. For instance, does an individual or brand need to have qualifications in order to be considered an expert in a specific area? In some cases, such as when medical advice is being given, qualifications are important.

However, in the latest QRG update Google suggests that a medium rating should be given to creators of content who display expertise that is not formal. This change is probably more to do with better evaluating E-A-T than a suggestion that the importance of E-A-T is being reduced.

It could be that Google is recognising that not all experience is best gauged by professional qualifications. This could mean that people who have in-depth expertise as an amateur will rank better in the future.

Authority of brand and content

We all know that authority of brand and authority of content are not always the same thing. Some content that is not of a particularly high standard seems to still be able to rank highly if it’s produced by an authoritative brand.

Interestingly, at one point in the updated QRG Google refers to the authority of a brand “making the information on this page highly authoritative”, rather than suggesting that the information on the page is authoritative in its own right.

This could seem to suggest that the authority of the brand itself can be seen to make content authoritative. This can make it difficult for content creators to compete for position in search results against the big brands. It means that expectations need to be considered when trying to compete for certain keywords and phrases.

Emphasis on the quality of pages

One interesting change that is noticeable in the latest QRG update is that the phrase “page quality” has replaced the E-A-T acronym on several occasions. While it’s obvious that E-A-T still has huge importance, it seems as though there is a move towards assessing the quality of individual pages. This is different from the previous emphasis on assessing the E-A-T of a website and of its author.

The impact of the QRG update on future algorithm changes

While it’s not possible for anyone to predict the precise effect that the QRG changes may have on future Google algorithm changes, it is possible to suggest what the effect may be.

The biggest change that could be coming is an increased emphasis on page quality. While E-A-T is not going away it could be that sites that have found a way to be valuable in other ways will rank higher than they do now.

It will be interesting to see if and when this happens.

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