Last year Google took an unprecedented step and made their quality rater guidelines freely available, now the document has been updated, declaring fake news sites as low quality.
Websites that use clickbait, those with dubious science claims and hate sites are also specifically included as well.
Your Money Or Your Life
The big change is that Google has included news in its “YMYL” category, which had previously included medical and financial content. Google wants news sites to have the highest standard possible to make it harder for fake news sites to achieve higher quality ratings.
The following was added to the YMYL section, emphasising legitimate news sources:
News articles or public/official information pages: webpages which are important for maintaining an informed citizenry, including information about local/state/national government processes, people, and laws; disaster response services; government programs and social services; news about important topics such as international events, business, politics, science, and technology. Please use your judgment and knowledge of your locale.
Google has added an additional website reputation section referring to news sites specifically.
A website’s reputation can also help you understand what a website is best known for, and as a result how well it accomplishes its purpose. For example, newspapers may be known for high quality, independent investigative reporting while satire websites may be known for their humor.
Google also asks their raters to search for independent sources for reputation analysis, stating that official Facebook and Twitter brand page are not suitable since the company itself is still involved in them.
For local businesses looking at improving reputation Facebook and Twitter alone doesn’t appear to be the sole focus as this suggests that Google wants to look wider for local reputation checks.
Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness
Google has added examples of news and science sites to the list of Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness expected
High quality news articles should contain factually accurate content presented in a way that helps users achieve a better understanding of events. Established editorial policies and review processes are typically held by high quality news sources
High quality information pages on scientific topics should represent well established scientific consensus on issues where such consensus exists.
High Quality Pages
Google has made an addition to their first point on what makes a high quality page. The part bolded below was added, reiterating that EAT on news sites and information pages is important for YMYL topics.
High level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (EAT), including the EAT of the publisher or individual author for news articles and information pages on YMYL topics.
In terms of the quality of the main content Google made the following addition:
For news articles and information pages, high quality MC must be factually accurate for the topic and must be supported by expert consensus where such consensus exists.
Interestingly Google also mentions satire, which is noteworthy since satire has become more intertwined with reality in many cases:
High quality humor or satire should be entertaining, while factual accuracy is not a requirement as long as the page would be understood as satire by users.
Distracting/Disruptive/Misleading Titles, Ads, and Supplementary Content
Clickbait has been in the press a lot in the past year and it would appear as though Google has had enough of it! Google is targeting clickbait titles as low quality now when the content isn’t delivering what the title promised.
Low Quality Pages
In the sections covering low quality pages, there are some interesting additions that apply to all website owners, not just those publishing news and science content.
The first being that the type of, or implementation of Ads can make a page low quality:
Main Content is present, but difficult to use due to distracting/disruptive/misleading Ads, other content/features, etc.
Google has made changes to low quality main content specifically targeting fake news, conspiracy theories and fake medical information.
- Including inaccurate information, such as making things up, stretching the truth, or creating a false sense of doubt about well established facts.
- Failing to cite sources, or making up sources where none exist.
- Inaccurate or misleading information presented as fact is also a reason for Low or even Lowest quality ratings.
We think that “failing to cite sources” is an interesting as sometimes people just know certain things to be facts, whether common knowledge or just common within the niche and therefore tend not to cite sources.
The example of keyword stuffing was also amended, making it appear as though Google wants to get even tougher on those who simply can’t resist including their targeted keywords that little bit too often!
Previous: Argentina is a country. People live in Argentina. Argentina has borders.
Now: Argentina is a country. People live there. Argentina has borders
Lowest Quality Pages
Hate Sites have been added to the list of what Google views as the lowest of low quality
Webpages created with the sole purpose of promoting 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 should also be rated Lowest .
New examples have also been added to deceptive pages or websites:
Pages or websites which misrepresent the website’s owner or purpose, such as by impersonating a different site (e.g., copied logo or branding of an unaffiliated site, URL that mimics another site’s name).
Pages or websites which appear to be deliberate attempts to misinform or deceive users by presenting factually inaccurate content (e.g., fake product reviews, demonstrably inaccurate news, etc.).
Deceptive pages have also been included, with pages built to “manipulate users in order to benefit a person, business, government, or other organization politically, monetarily, or otherwise.”
Google also specified that their raters may be exposed to Upsetting or Offensive content and must flag websites with this type of content.
With Google’s recent stance on improving the search results and the war on fake news and clickbait, it’s no surprise that the Quality Rater Guidelines have been updated to include these.