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Google updated its Quality Rater Guidelines this week, which includes new information regarding the assessment of “low quality” and “lowest quality” pages.
Of all the changes made to the guidelines, the sections on page quality received the most significant updates.
Quality Rater Guidelines are a set of instructions that Google’s quality raters follow when manually evaluating the performance of Google’s algorithms.
So, in other words, if a rater were to analyze whether or not a piece of content is of “low quality,” they would refer to what is laid out in the Quality Rater Guidelines.
It’s important to know that quality raters cannot personally change how a page is ranked. Rather, they pass feedback onto those who write Google’s algorithms.
From there, an algorithm update may be pushed out which would then impact page rankings.
How Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines Defines Low Quality Pages
According to Google’s updated Quality Rater Guidelines, low quality pages are those that miss the mark on what they set out to achieve.
This could be for one of two reasons. Either there is not enough main content (MC) to adequately satisfy the reader, or the content creator lacks expertise in the topic they’re writing about.
“Low quality pages may have been intended to serve a beneficial purpose. However, Low quality pages do not achieve their purpose well because they are lacking in an important dimension, such as having an unsatisfying amount of MC, or because the creator of the MC lacks expertise for the purpose of the page.”
The key difference between this revised definition of low quality pages, and the previous definition, is that quality should still be considered “low” even if there was a clear intention for the page to serve a beneficial purpose.
Quality Raters are instructed to rate a page as “Low” if any one or more of the following applies:
- An inadequate level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
- The quality of the MC is low.
- There is an unsatisfying amount of MC for the purpose of the page.
- The title of the MC is exaggerated or shocking.
- The Ads or SC distracts from the MC.
- 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. If a page has multiple Low quality attributes, a rating lower than Low may be appropriate.
I marked the major change to this section in bold text. What it means is articles with clickbait-style headlines should now be considered “low” quality. Regardless of the actual quality of the main content.
Google elaborates on this point, stating:
“Exaggerated or shocking titles can entice users to click on pages in search results. If pages do not live up to the exaggerated or shocking title or images, the experience leaves users feeling surprised and confused… Pages with exaggerated or shocking titles that do not describe the MC well should be rated Low.”
Here is a roundup of other notable changes that were made to the “Low Quality Pages” and “Lowest Quality Pages” sections.
- Ads should now be considered distracting if they feature grotesque images.
- Extensive research is required to evaluate the reputation of a content creator.
- Identifying a content creator using a long-standing Internet alias or username is now acceptable.
- A page is of “lowest” quality when the purpose of the page cannot be determined.
- ’Your Money, Your Life’ pages with no information about the content creator should be rated lowest.
- Unmaintained websites should be rated lowest quality if they fail to achieve their purpose due to the lack of maintenance.
- Pages that promote hate against groups of people based on socio-economic status, political beliefs, and victims of atrocities should be rated lowest.
- Pages that promote mental, physical, or emotional harm to self or others should be rated lowest.
- Content should be rated lowest if the creator has a negative or malicious reputation.
- Pages with links that are detrimental to users, such as malware download links, should be rated lowest.
Pages that misinform users with “demonstrably inaccurate content” should be rated lowest.
- Any page designed to trick users into clicking on links should be rated lowest.
The points listed above are all new additions to Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines.
For more information, see the full PDF document here.