Understanding the Main Updates to Google’s Quality Guidelines (2018)

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We all know the role content plays in modern marketing. Almost every major company, from B2Bs to B2Cs, has some content marketing effort in the pipeline. Content is so important because it is the currency you use to buy attention, the most important commodity in the digital age.

Content is the currency you use to buy attention, the most important commodity in the digital age.

Content Quality: A Context

But not all content is created equal. For search giant Google, they have a vested interest in displaying the best content for any particular search query. We all know that they have very complex search algorithms in place. But few are aware that they also employ an army of human content quality reviewers who manually rate websites based on the quality of the content.

Google Content Quality Reviewers

Google employs about 10,000 people around the world as ‘content quality reviewers’. Their job is to evaluate the content on the Internet and provide Google with information as to the quality of that content by rating it.

It is important to note that the search giant’s quality raters are not able to directly impact how well your site performs in the search results. These guys are not the ones responsible if your site is placed under a manual review. Their job is to provide information so that Google’s engineers can finetune the main algorithms.

In order for these content quality reviewers to do their job, Google issues the content quality guidelines for them to follow. These content quality guidelines are over 150 pages long and its latest revision was in July 2018. If you have a few hours (or days), you can read them here.

Main Changes to Content

updates google content guidelines 2018

Reputation of Content Creator

One of the more interesting changes is that reviewers are now requested to take into consideration the reputation of the content creator when evaluating content quality. Depending on the type of website, they may consider the content creator to be the company maintaining the website or the individual content creator.

This seems like a brand new change, but let’s not forget that a few years ago Google experimented with Google Authorship Snippets. It was touted to be the next big thing, but over time Google reduced its presence before removing it completely from the SERPs. While this is not exactly a resurrection of the Authorship Snippets, it does seem to suggest that Google has not yet gotten rid of the idea that content quality should be tied to the content creator.

What it Means for Content Marketers:

Some companies do not add author information at the end of every blog post. This new update may suggest that there are benefits to more clearly identifying a creator, especially if the creator has a good reputation independently.

Beneficial Purpose

Google now asks reviewers to consider the reasons why the page was created. Each page on the web was created for a reason, and Google asks the reviewers to first understand what the reason is behind the creation of the page. It must have some usefulness or benefit to users. Where the usefulness of the page itself is not readily apparent, Google invites its reviewers to examine the website as a whole.

Other pages might not have any value to the user. For example, we ‘re all familiar with the types of spun content you typically find on private blog networks that serve no purpose other than to help the owners’ other sites to rank higher in the search results.

“Some pages fail to achieve their purpose so profoundly that the purpose of the page cannot be determined. Such pages serve no real purpose for users.”

What it Means for Content Marketers:

Always start your content with your purpose in mind. Ask yourself, ‘How will this be useful to my readers?’. Then ensure that your content meets its objectives.

Clickbait Headlines

Google’s war on clickbait headlines continues. They have updated one of their section to advise reviewers to give the Lowest Quality rating to websites that fail to achieve their stated purpose. This includes clickbait headlines that make outlandish claims but have very low quality content.

What it Means for Content Marketers:

Don’t make promises that you cannot keep. We know how important headlines are, but don’t make big claims just to entice people to click through.