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Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines Update

4 min read

No sooner do we publish a post on Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines, than Google announces an update of five revisions to their document. Here are the changes they made and the possible impact.

Although the guidelines have no direct impact on rankings, they provide insight into what constitutes quality content on a high-caliber site. Because the guidelines are used to train human search quality evaluators, whose feedback calibrates Google’s systems, it pays to be cognizant as to how this applies to its evaluation of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T).

Changes in The Search Quality Rater Guidelines October 2021 Update

According to the changelog at the end of their document, this is what’s new.

  • Supplemented the definition of ‘Groups of People’ in this YMYL subcategory
  • Provided enhancements to researching reputation information for websites and content creators
  • Significantly improved the ‘Lowest Page Quality’ section with a new structure and updated examples
  • Clarified the definition of ‘Upsetting-Offensive’
  • Made minor edits for consistency and clarity

Groups of People

Google expanded its definition of ‘Groups of People’ to include:

  • Caste
  • Gender identity and expression
  • Immigration status
  • Sex/gender
  • Victims of a major violent event and their kin
  • Or any other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization

Google’s position is that “We have very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages because low quality YMYL pages could potentially negatively impact a person’s happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.”

Google has effectively raised the quality bar on content dealing with these issues as E-A-T has become critical to success in these instances.

Researching Reputation Information

Here are the changes Google made regarding researching reputation information:

  • User ratings can provide reputation information for “websites” not just “stores.”
  • Now the large number of reviews that can indicate a positive reputation must also be detailed and trustworthy.
  • They removed the example of a Pulitzer Prize as an indicator of positive reputation for a journalism website. They’re using the more inclusive term ‘prestigious awatd’ instead.
  • They provide additional information on researching reputation with the addition that “for individual authors and content creators, biographical information articles can be a good source of reputation information.”
  • It’s no longer the case that “reputation research is necessary for all websites.” Now it’s necessary “to the extent that an established reputation can be found.”

Note that Google encourages evaluators to “Carefully consider the purpose of the page,   whether or not the topic is YMYL, and the kind of reputation information that would be most applicable. For example, customer ratings and reviews may be helpful for reputation research of   online stores, but much less so for medical information websites.”

So, certain types of content may require a high level of E-A-T but expertise, authority, and trustworthiness are determined differently, based on that content.

Lowest Page Quality

This section of the guideline has undergone substantial change being restructured into five subsections including examples:

  • Harmful to self or other individuals
  • Harmful to specified groups (which ties into their change in ‘Groups of People’)
  • Harmfully misleading information
  • Untrustworthy pages
  • Spammy webpages

It may be helpful to review, at the very least, the examples of untrustworthy and spammy webpages to ensure your site doesn’t inadvertently generate signals that would classify it as such.


Google updated its definition of ‘Upsetting-Offensive’ in section 15.6 providing more clarity around the criteria. Of particular note is that they removed the condition that content should be considered ‘upsetting-offensive’ even if it meets user intent.

However, they still maintain that there is no universally accepted definition of ‘upsetting-offensive’ as it’s based on locale.

Minor Changes Throughout

As with previous updates, Google made “Minor changes throughout (updated screenshots and   URLs, wording, and examples for consistency; removed outdated examples; fixed typos; etc.).”

As explained in their announcement,  “Other changes focus on things like refreshing the language for clarity and updating organization. That’s what made up most of our October 2021 update, which included clarifications of what constitutes lowest quality content, and refreshed and modernized guidance on researching the reputation of websites.”


This latest Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines update contains a number of changes, some that may affect the lives of content marketers. It’s worth taking time to understand the possible impact and make appropriate changes.

What you should do now

When you’re ready… here are 3 ways we can help you publish better content, faster:

  1. Book time with MarketMuse Schedule a live demo with one of our strategists to see how MarketMuse can help your team reach their content goals.
  2. If you’d like to learn how to create better content faster, visit our blog. It’s full of resources to help scale content.
  3. If you know another marketer who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

Stephen leads the content strategy blog for MarketMuse, an AI-powered Content Intelligence and Strategy Platform. You can connect with him on social or his personal blog.