A recently leaked copy of Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines, the document used by Google’s human search quality raters, sparked a lot of online discussion among SEOs. The document mentions a type of website/webpage that Google holds higher quality standards for, which they refer to as “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) pages.
Google Search Quality Ratings and Human Raters
Google’s Search Quality Evaluation Team includes human raters who assess the quality of search results during the initial testing phases for search algorithm changes. They come up with a “URL rating” for each result for a specific search query based on the Search Quality Rating guidelines.
Matt Cutts has explained that these raters don’t directly affect search engine results or rankings, but that they “do take the evaluation and the results of both the human raters, as well as the analysts who evaluate those results, very, very seriously, and we want to make sure that we’re launching a change that is, overall, a big improvement – ideally, at least an improvement – for users.”
What are YMYL Pages?
According to versions 4.1 and 4.2 of the Search Quality Ratings Guidelines (both released earlier this year), YMYL pages “are pages that can have an impact on your current or future well being (physical, financial, safety, etc.).” These pages “should come from reputable websites and the content should be created with a high level of expertise and authority.”
People will naturally associate this description with websites for banks or medical websites like WebMD, but you can find YMYL pages on other types of websites. The examples Google cited in the document include:
- Pages that solicit personal information, such as personal identification numbers, bank account numbers, drivers license numbers, etc., which could be used for identify theft.
- Pages used for monetary transactions, on which users might give their credit account or bank account information; for example any page that allows you to buy something.
- Pages that offer medical or health information that could impact your physical well being.
- Pages offering advice on major life decisions, such as pages on parenting, purchasing a home, a vehicle, etc.
- Pages offering advice on major life issues that could impact your future happiness and finances, such as pages giving legal or financial advice.
What Can You Learn from the Search Quality Rating Guidelines?
While the ratings provided by human raters do not directly affect search results, the guidelines they follow do reinforces today’s best SEO and content quality practices. Here are some of the key lessons webmasters should take note of, whether they have YMYL websites or not:
Your Website Needs to Look Professional
The guidelines say that “Amateurish (i.e., non-professional) website design may not be a PQ issue” for certain page types, but is “less acceptable for YMYL websites.” Poor website design can make your website look unsecure and can make users question your expertise.
You Need Great Content
According to the guidelines, YMYL pages’ content “should be written or produced in a professional style and be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis.” Remember that YMYL pages can affect your users’ health, financial status, or safety. This makes it even more important to produce accurate, well-researched content, and to provide information about the people responsible for creating your content.
Your Contact Information Should be Visible
Providing your contact information is a crucial step in establishing user trust. Your website should display your contact information where users can easily find it.
You Need to Establish Your Reputation
Your website’s reputation can affect the impression you leave on your visitors. Google says that a website’s reputation “is also very important when the information on the website demands a high level of authoritativeness or expertise.” Providing user positive reviews or recommendations on your website’s pages and earning endorsements from other industry leaders can help establish your website’s reputation and authority.
Your Website Needs to be Fresh and Updated
YMYL websites, especially those in the medical, legal, and financial industry, need to have updated information. Go over your website’s content to make sure the information you provide is accurate and up-to-date. It’s also advisable to have an on-page blog and publish fresh content on it regularly.
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