Google may use different ranking weights for YMYL-type queries
The ranking algorithm changes for different types of queries done on search, the company confirms in its new report on how it fights disinformation.
Google has confirmed that for YMYL, your money, your life, queries they will give more weight in their ranking algorithm to factors around expertise, authoritativeness, or trustworthiness – also known as EAT in the industry.
Google made the confirmation after it published a new 30-page white paper (PDF) explaining how they fight disinformation across Google search, Google News, Google Ads, YouTube and their other products. This at last proves a long-debated belief that Google changes the weights of its ranking signals for different query sectors.
What Google said. On page 13 of the white paper, Google wrote “For these “YMYL” pages, we assume that users expect us to operate with our strictest standards of trustworthiness and safety. As such, where our algorithms detect that a user’s query relates to a “YMYL” topic, we will give more weight in our ranking systems to factors like our understanding of the authoritativeness, expertise, or trustworthiness of the pages we present in response.”
What it means. Here Google is confirming that they will adjust the weights of their ranking algorithms based on the type of query. We assumed they did this for various industries including the adult industry, pharmaceutical industry, health industry and many others.
In addition, Google will increase the expertise, authoritativeness, or trustworthiness – i.e. EAT – signals in order to provide search results that comply with the “strictest standards of trustworthiness and safety.”
How is EAT determined? “Google’s algorithms identify signals about pages that correlate with trustworthiness and authoritativeness,” Google commented on page 12. “The best known of these signals is PageRank, which uses links on the web to understand authoritativeness.” It isn’t just PageRank of course.
Mueller chimes in. In a webmaster hangout Tuesday morning, Google’s John Mueller answered a question on this at the 12:25 minute mark into the video. “Google just explained in a whitepaper released a few days ago that it uses PageRank (via links across the web) to evaluate authoritativeness and trustworthiness *algorithmically*. Can we assume that expertise (E) is primarily evaluated via content quality (algorithmically)? Can you elaborate on this at all?” asked Glenn Gabe.
John responded that he doesn’t “have any insight” into this document, that he saw it when it was published just like the rest of us. He did say we shouldn’t focus much on the PageRank comment, he said “it’s a fairly long paper and there are lots of different topics in there and PageRank is more or less a side comment there. So I wouldn’t say everything is just PageRank.”
Here is the video:
Why it matters. Again, this document confirms that Google can and does adjust the weights they use for various signals in their ranking algorithm based on the type of query. Understanding this proves that SEO work done on one type of site that achieves success, can’t just be replicated on another type of site in a different industry and be assumed to achieve success.