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Quality Raters Guidelines Focus: Content Writers Expertise

Quality Raters Guidelines: How to Determine Content Writers Expertise

Google assists business owners that are serious about providing valuable content for your audience by sharing how its raters are to identify experienced and expert authors.

Why would Google add a new emphasis on “Experience” to its Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG)? This article will explore why assessing the reputation of a website and its content writers is important to Google Search.

Table of Contents

Google Quality Raters Guidelines Add “Experience” to Establish E-E-A-T Criteria

The tech giant continues to clarify its Quality Rater instructions. On December 15, 2022, it published a statement saying “There are some situations where really what you value most is content produced by someone who has first-hand, life experience on the topic at hand.” The addition of “experience” underscores that content quality should also assess the extent to which the content creator has first-hand experience to support the article’s topic.

“…these guidelines are what are used by our search raters to help evaluate the performance of our various search ranking systems, and they don’t directly influence ranking. They can also be useful to creators seeking to understand how to self-assess their own content to be successful in Google Search. ” – Google: Our latest update to the quality rater guidelines: E-A-T gets an extra E for Experience [1]

Its Quality Rater Guidelines are not a hidden mystery. We can learn a lot from them about which content types and aspects are likely to dramatically improve your rankings, visibility, and traffic. It provides strategic insights on how to create web content that people want.

I’m fascinated to study what elements change and are added each time the QRG is updated. The focus on who authors, writes, or contributes to a site’s content writing process is significant. Here is a quick summary of related words to “Main Content”, which is referenced as MC.

Discovering the author’s qualifications to write threads throughout the QRG.

  • author 89x
  • content creators 35x
  • MC 33x
  • written 32x
  • well-known 20x
  • writing 14x
  • authors 12x
  • journalist 9x
  • journalists 4x
  • composer 2x

It doesn’t feel right nor is it right when a client pushes me to post an article as having the MC writer published by a more reputable author. Rather, I list who actually is responsible for primarily writing the content piece. The reviewer or secondary author with more authority is listed as aligns with the guidelines. I’ve even had authors put my name on piece when I had nothing to do with writing it.

“The Lowest rating is required if the page …is designed to deceive people about its true purpose or who is responsible for the content on the page.” – QRG, page 29

We all know from an old proverb that a “man is known by his reputation”. This represents every individual. In Google’s December 2022 Quality Raters Guidelines update, a similar reputation measuring stick is more explicit than ever. Honesty will always build trust and reputation in the end.

We have known from an old proverb that a “man is known by his reputation”. This represents every individual. In Google’s December 2022 Quality Raters Guidelines update, a similar reputation measuring stick is more explicit than ever.

Raters are instructed to attribute a “Low Rating” to even a “mildly negative reputation”. This quickness to attribute a low rating to mild cases surprised me.

5.4 Mildly Negative Reputation of the Website or Content Creator

If the MC was created by a content creator who is using the website to host it, research the reputation of the content creator. Expect to find reputation information on well-known journalists, authors, social media influencers, bloggers and vloggers, professionals such as lawyers and doctors, etc. Pay attention when there is evidence of a mildly negative though not malicious or financially fraudulent reputation. However, a lack of reputation information for ordinary people and lesser-known content creators is expected and is not a sign of Low quality.

The Low rating should be used if the website or the content creator has a mildly negative reputation.” – QRG, page 53

 

It’s also noteworthy that 6 times the updated document also references “mobile phones” or “mobile devices”, meaning it also assesses how your content performs in mobile search results.

Content Contributors Impact Websites’ Reputation

Google updated its guidelines to demonstrate how identifying who operates a website and who writes its content impacts the outcome of its evaluation. The updated QRG instructs its raters to:

“Start by finding out who is responsible for the website and who created the content on the page… Then, look for information about the website and/or content creators on the website itself.” – QRG, page 15

This new inclusion signals that it’s important to identify who actually owns and is responsible for the website’s content. The raters are to try to decipher this regardless of whether or not this is clearly stated.

Google no longer specifies only the website, but now states the “website and/or content creators”. Google wants to see that authors have first-hand experience that helps qualify them as experts. It wants to provide trustworthy results to search queries. To be a reputable search engine, it seeks to know the good standing of the people contributing content.

The guidelines now state that:

“…for pages on websites such as forums and social media platforms, people may post content using an alias or username in order to avoid sharing personally identifiable information online. In these cases, the alias or username is an acceptable way to identify the content creator.”

 

This indicates that the raters are to go an added mile to understand who an article’s main content writer actually is.

With the addition of “Expertise” to the E-E-A-T content rating factors, Google is letting us understand what it means to add this “E”. For the first time, it informs us that “Trust” is the most important element of the four. From this new table, we learn a lot about why the content writer’s expertise matters and how it is evaluated.

You can take the examples provided and gain a perspective on how they apply to your domain.

Experience, Expertise and Authoritativeness are important concepts that can support your assessment of Trust
The Author's Experience Experience: Consider the extent to which the content creator has the necessary first-hand or life experience for the topic. Many types of pages are trustworthy and achieve their purpose well when created by people with a wealth of personal experience. For example, which would you trust: a product review from someone who has personally used the product or a “review” by someone who has not?
Quality Raters Guidelines talk about The Author's Expertise Expertise: Consider the extent to which the content creator has the necessary knowledge or skill for the topic. Different topics require different levels and types of expertise to be trustworthy. For example, which would you trust: home electrical rewiring advice from a skilled electrician or from an antique homes enthusiast who has no knowledge of electrical wiring?
Authoritativeness in E-E-A-T Authoritativeness: Consider the extent to which the content creator or the website is known as a go-to source for the topic. While most topics do not have one official, authoritative website or content creator, when they do, that website or content creator is often among the most reliable and trustworthy sources. For example, a local business profile page on social media may be the authoritative and trusted source for what is on sale now. The official government page for getting a passport is the unique, official, and authoritative source for passport renewal.
The Content writers trust factor Trust: Trust is especially important for High-quality pages that involve processing financial transactions or cover YMYL topics. Even if the topic is not YMYL, trust may still be required; for example, product reviews and pages offering advice require at least some level of trust. While not all pages require a high level of trust, a trustworthy page is often a satisfying one.

(Text in italics is my emphasis)

Under “Authoritativeness”, where the QRG talks about the “content creator or the website is known as a go-to source for the topic”, we know that shallow articles or a lack of sufficient content is a barrier. It is remarkable how often Google mentions “effort” in December’s update. It wants quality, helpful content to surface. Quick publications that take little effort may still be lacking even if published by an experienced content writer.

“Think about what effort, originality, talent, or skill looks like for the type of page that you are evaluating.” – QRG, page 21

They can determine who hastily wrote a piece, cut and pasted it largely from somewhere else and added little value, or is only promoting thier own opinion or product. It takes not only a topic expert or experience, but also someone who can create a clear purpose for the page, and the topic of the page, and tie it into the website as a whole.

Experience is Foundational to Establish Expert Writer Status

Google seeks to distinguish not only the website owner but also who are the content contributor(s) to the site. Google is clear that the main content writer matters even more for publications on a YMYL site and E-E-A-T. It states, “For YMYL topics, the reputation of a website should be judged by what experts in the field have to
say.”

While we all have freedom of speech and many take that to the limits on the web, a personal opinion does not make someone an expert. And certainly, not everything published on the web is worthy of being trusted. So how are raters to sort and rate millions of content pieces?

The following table informs raters on what to evaluate when seeking to decipher who is responsible for the primary content. It recognizes various types of sites, and that certain websites fully manage their own content; conversely, some consist primarily of user-generated content or contributing authors.

QRG’s table to assist quality raters in discovering the main content authors.

Website Types Examples Primary Content Creator(s)
The website owner created the page
and much of the MC on the page

The page may have comments, reviews, or other content posted by users, but the page itself is the responsibility of the website.

● Homepage of a business website
● Introductory page on a personal website
● Product page on an online merchant website
The website itself can be viewed as the primary content creator. Website owners may have content created on their behalf (e.g., a small business may hire a professional web developer to build their website), but they are ultimately responsible for the MC.

User comments and reviews may play a significant role on the page. As long as the website creates and actively maintains the page, the website is considered to be the primary content creator.

The website owner created the page, and the MC is produced by authors or other content creators identified by the website

The website decides what to publish and is responsible for the content, but there are distinct authors or content creators who provide the MC on the page.

● Newspaper opinion piece written by the editorial board
● Magazine article written by an individual journalist
● Scientific journal paper written by a team of academic researchers
The primary content creators are the journalists, scientists, etc. listed as authors of the content. Often the content creators are individuals, but an organization, company, or institution may also be the content creator.

User comments may be present, but they typically are not the focus of the page.

The webpage consists of social media post(s) from a single account representing an individual content creator or organization

The social media website owner enables people and organizations to create accounts to post text, images, videos, and other types of content under their account.

● Social media post
● Local business profile page on a social media website
● Video channel on a video sharing website
The primary content creator is the person or organization who created the account and is posting the MC. There may be information about the content creator on a profile page found on the website.

Other user comments and reactions such as “likes” may be considered part of the MC.

The webpage is created by multiple users engaging in discussion or posting on social media

The website owner enables people to post text, images, and videos or have conversations with other users of the website.

● Forum discussion thread
Q&A question page
● Search results page on social media website showing content from many different users
The people posting are the content creators.

There is no single primary content creator, and people may be identified only by aliases or usernames.

Why are YMYL Authors Highly Scrutinized?

Google introduced an additional table to help its raters distinguish when Experience and/or Expertise is vital for YMYL content. When it comes to people’s finances and health, it seeks to serve up answers that are more validated, such as for medical conditions, medical devices, and managing your money.

“…for a specific topic to be YMYL, the topic itself must potentially impact people’s health, financial stability, or safety, or the welfare or well-being of society. Many or most topics are not YMYL and do not require a high level of accuracy or trust to prevent harm. Because YMYL assessment is a spectrum, it may be helpful to think of topics as clear YMYL, definitely not YMYL, or something in between. Pages on clear YMYL topics require the most scrutiny for Page Quality rating.” – QRG page 11

These QRG factors are essential guidelines for your content writers, whether you’re creating content for YMYL search queries or not. They require a bit of extra effort – and that is precisely what the raters are instructed to look for! Google’s giving the roadmap and ways to improve your content’s value. Everyone SEO and author will benefit by reading, understanding, and implementing them. It will help you to answer the most important questions and to better organize your content.

Combine what you learn from Google’s QRG with your topic hub research. You can then expect to gain better rankings, visibility, and traffic you want.

Is Google’s Author Focus New?

No. For those of us in daily conversations with John Mueller and other Google experts, a lot had been said for years.

“With regards to author pages and expertise, authority and trustworthiness, that’s something where I’d recommend checking that out with your users and doing maybe a short user study…trying to figure out how you can best show that the people who are creating content for your website, they’re really great people, they’re people who know what they’re talking about, they have credentials or whatever is relevant within your field.” – John Mueller, Google Webmaster Central office-hours hangout, June 11, 2019, [2]

Google continuously wants to establish who is behind a publication. (Authors with common names find it harder to maintain a clear and consistent Author Knowledge Panel!). In Google’s terminology, it’s called “reconciliation,”; meaning the ability to reconcile or recognize which entities are the same or belong together. This is clearer if an author topic expert prioritizes a single social profile and directs the majority of their E-E-A-T signals there.

Is E-A-T a ranking factor? Not if you mean there’s some technical thing like with speed that we can measure directly.

We do use a variety of signals as a proxy to tell if the content seems to match E-A-T as humans would assess it.

In that regard, yeah, it’s a ranking factor.” – Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan, October 11, 2019, [3]

 

Basically, created value-added content that is meant for humans to benefit from. We use multiple tools and our in-house SERP analysis strategies to identify both high and low-quality pages. Use the insights gained from your audits to discover ways to establish more evidence of E-E-A-T credentials.

This new documentation gives us clearer applications of the four core aspects that define quality content. I like Barry Schwartz’s opinion of this update.

“Why we care. Although search quality evaluators’ ratings do not directly impact rankings (as Google clarified in the document), they do provide feedback that helps Google improve its algorithms. It is important to spend some time looking at what Google changed in this updated version of the document and compare that to the previous version of the document to see if we can learn more about Google’s intent on what websites and web pages Google prefers to rank. Google made those additions, edits, and deletions for a reason.” – Google doubles up on E with updated search quality raters guidelines (E-E-A-T)

 

SUMMARY: Upping your Content Creation with QRG Insights

Based on your business content goals to reach your audience and how this aligns with the updated rater guidelines impacts your success. We can help you discover how to maximize your content marketing.

Call 651-206-2410 and request partnering with Hill Web Marketing for a Strategic Content Audit

 

REFEREMCES

[1] https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2022/12/google-raters-guidelines-e-e-a-t

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MD6ABXMMuaI&t=806s

[3] https://twitter.com/dannysullivan/status/1182674027166326785?s=20&t=82lZnHE7xVXuQggDD_CZUg