Search engines are constantly evolving and algorithms are getting more advanced and refined.
Moreover, what’s changing is the way the quality of sites and pages is evaluated. The Google E-A-T guidelines have become the main principles for assessing the value of content and pages, setting the bar even higher. And that’s literally transforming the way we perceive the web and how we do business online.
Most people today seek information and explore the internet through online search engines, and what they find in the SERPs is often their only source of information.
This is why it is very important that the search engine algorithms are developed to the highest quality standards. This allows them to comprehend user query intent and thus deliver satisfying results. They need to clearly understand the purpose and relevance of every page so that they can display adequate suggestions.
Website owners and marketers alike fret about every major Google algorithm update because they are sudden and often bring uncertainty. They could affect the way a website performs or it could lead to losing positions and diminished visibility in the organic search results. In fact, dealing with the effects of these updates may require a swift reaction. This could entitle content revisions, layout redesign, link audit, and more. At times it may even require incorporating new technologies, tools or solutions, or a complete website overhaul.
But what has become the axis of Google’s search results politics, over the years, and will probably remain such is the quality of a page.
In general, the Core Web Vitals are a key component for evaluating the technical aspect of a page, while the E-A-T factors are the basis for judging its holistic content values.
What Is Google E-A-T?
In Google’s webpage evaluation criteria, E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, and is a pretty big deal. Not only is it mentioned 137 times in the document (yeah, you’ve read it correctly – 137) but it’s the main focus of how the value of a page should be estimated.
We’ll discuss what each part of the acronym stands for in a bit, but before we continue, a foreword about how the evaluation process works is in order.
How the Evaluation Works
Simply said, the evaluation of a page’s quality is automated and performed by Google’s algorithms. But the performance and accuracy of Artificial Intelligence (AI) provided results is actually reviewed by real people, called quality raters.
As advanced as technology is, AI is not something that can be completely relied on – especially when dealing with user experience. Users are humans and in order to understand them and relate to them, you most certainly have to be human as well. This is why Google relies on actual people to double-check AI performance and get feedback to improve the accuracy of their services.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that there is another person “at the end of the line”, personally hand-picking search results to answer your query.
Google’s quality raters also check on the adequacy of search results based on certain queries. This way they can evaluate the impact of the algorithm updates on pages in organic rankings and thus ensure higher relevancy.
Machine learning is advancing rapidly but in order for it to progress, humans have to find its weak points and work to improve them. Well, at least for now.
In a few words, the quality evaluation and rating of pages are performed by robots but the work of robots is overlooked by humans. Both parties follow the same evaluation criteria, but people take into consideration the human aspect of every query and try to walk a mile in the user’s shoes to make sure the SERPs get it right.
For a webpage to rank high and appear in relevant search queries, it has to live up to Google’s standards. Otherwise, it will not be shown and users will find it difficult to discover it even if they wanted to.
Following Google’s guidelines is the least you can do to make your page visible in organic search. The rest, of course, is deciphering algorithm updates once they kick-in.
The Importance of E-A-T Factors Explained
Google’s E-A-T principles are most strict when it comes to Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) pages. These are web pages containing information that can have real-life, potentially harmful, consequences on people’s lives and finances, such as medical, tax, law content, etc. We’ll elaborate further on the types of YMYL pages later in the article. but, in just a few words:
Let’s focus, for now, on each of the following factors – Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness and what they mean for your webpages.
The content author’s expertise is very important to Google. The main purpose of every page is considered to be its helpfulness to users, and if the content is written by someone who is not competent enough, the information might be misleading and potentially harmful.
This applies especially to YMYL pages. Content covering, for example, medical information, should be written by medical professionals, or at least reviewed by an MD who, respectively, has to be listed in the article credentials that can be listed in the article to ensure transparency and trustworthiness.
The level of expertise, however, is judged mainly based on the purpose of the page. Not all topics require the author to be a graduated professional to know their stuff. And if the content is written adequately and the information it presents is accurate and detailed enough, no penalty will be applied for not having a formal education in the field.
Moreover, even if the topic is a YMYL one, but the purpose is to share personal experience, then the expertise of the author will be evaluated in accordance with their relevant perspective on the matter and how applicable it is. This applies to forums for patient-to-patient information, for example, where a patient who suffered an illness can be an expert on how it feels.
The authoritativeness of a page is judged based on the credibility of the main content, as well as the reputation of the author and the whole website.
Online reputation is built on user reviews and expert opinions. If a website is a trusted source of information for people interested in the topic and is deemed reliable and respectable by other professionals in the field, its authoritativeness should be sufficient.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that the authoritativeness of websites and the people behind them are always judged on the basis of third-party information. Meaning that it doesn’t matter if someone claims about themselves to be an authority on a subject, as long as no one else is there to confirm this.
To be considered trustworthy, websites have to clearly display who are the people, companies, or institutions behind them.
Website owners should be accountable for the content they publish and provide easily accessible contact information. This applies especially to YMYL websites, where the most details are required, such as company profile, physical address (if available), telephone number, and email addresses. It’s easier for users to trust content if they know who’s behind it.
Meanwhile, entertainment and personal websites also need to provide current contact information but can pass with an email address alone.
Who Does E-A-T Apply to?
Google E-A-T applies to each and every page on the internet, but to a different extent. The most important factors are how well a certain page serves its purpose and how good the quality of its content is in line with this purpose.
For example, a page describing the symptoms of a medical condition will be judged by how accurate the information is, the expertise of the author, the trustworthiness and the reputation of the website. While a page about memes will be judged by how entertaining the memes are and will put under far less scrutiny.
Your Money or Your Life Websites
As already mentioned a few times, there are types of pages, referred to as “Your Life or Your Money” (YMYL) pages, where the rules are very strict and with a reason.
Websites covering the following topics are considered YMYL:
- News and current events
- Civics, government, and law
- Finance, tax, and banking
- Shopping and purchasing decisions
- Health, safety, and medical
- Groups of people (race, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity)
- Other topics related to big decisions in people’s lives
Publishing inaccurate or misleading information on such pages can impact people’s life decisions and/or finances, do real harm, and have real-life consequences on their well-being. This is why Google takes extra care when showing such pages in search results.
To live up to Google E-A-T criteria, pages publishing such content should be very strictly optimized according to the standards.
There should be up-to-date information about the company and people behind the website, as well as contact details and a physical address if available. Each piece of main content should be accurate and detailed. Authors ought to have expertise in the field and their credentials should be showcased on the page.
These rules also apply to eCommerce websites offering expensive products. When making a large purchase, the customer should be presented or have easily available all taxing and financial information about the transaction, as well as other relative documentation.
The Rest of the Internet
The same rules apply to the non-YMYL pages, but with less severity.
As you’ve probably already taken from the article so far, the regulations are complex but also flexible and seek fairness to the end-user. A comedy-type page or a personal blog are judged the same way as an investment advice page, but the specifics of each topic and the probable real-life impact of the content is taken into account.
It won’t be that big a deal if a joke is not that funny. But while the user is eligible to complain about it, it’s hardly probable that they will feel the need to hold the author personally responsible for failing to make them laugh.
At the same time, if a website publishes misleading information about managing personal finances and this leads to a group of people losing a large amount of money, the author ought to be taken accountable for his actions and spreading harmful content.
Each page on the internet has its purpose for being there and the most important part of Google’s quality evaluation process is to determine whether the purpose is a beneficial one, does the page content meet this purpose, and how well it is accomplished.
High Ranking Pages
The highest-ranking pages need to, first of all, have a beneficial purpose. They have to be created to help users or entertain them. Pages that can potentially cause harm or have no positive value to the user are automatically rated the lowest.
According to Google’s rating regulations:
High-quality content is defined as content that takes time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill.
In order to be deemed of the highest quality, the page has to contain content of significant value, corresponding rightly to the heading and providing sufficient information on the topic. The amount of the content is determined by the topic itself – a narrow topic can be developed in fewer words, while a broader one needs more detailed and meaningful elaboration in a longer form. Failing to deliver valuable content, leads to a decreased rating score.
The content creator, if indicated, should be reputable and trustworthy, and this goes for the website as well. There should be enough information about the organization or person behind it, and they should be known and respected by other professionals in the field.
Pages of all types can have a high E-A-T and satisfy the user intent in the best way. As already stated, the topic of the page determines how E-A-T is judged and what qualifies the page as high quality.
Meaning that, for example, a gossip page is not necessarily of low-quality. If the information it presents is credible, interesting, and accurate, the page can be rated of high quality, because it serves its purpose to entertain, all the while following the rules.
Low Ranking Pages
Pages that spread hate, promote violence or harm, serve phishing schemes, or have any other harmful purposes are automatically ranked the lowest.
However, even pages created with a beneficial purpose in mind can be of low quality if they fail to serve their purpose properly.
Pages that do not meet the Google E-A-T standards are rated of low quality.
As far as content goes, if a page is of poor quality and shows that the author has had no expertise on the topic or has put little time and effort into writing it, this is a bad signal. The same goes for exaggerated and shocking titles that do not correspond properly to the main content of the page and are devised only as clickbait.
Secondary content and Ads that are distracting from the main content are considered to be a bad user experience and also reduce the ranking of a page.
Anonymity is acceptable but only on some occasions. If a page showcases YMYL information, but it lacks a company profile, author bio proving credibility, or at least sufficient contact details, this can level its rating to the ground.
This also applies if the reputation of one of the parties behind the page and the website is a negative or questionable one.
Optimizing Your Website for E-A-T
If, at this point, you feel your website content is not up to Google E-A-T standards, you should make swift revisions so that you can stay in the game and boost your rating. Start with scrolling up to the “Ranking Overview” section of this article and make notes on your weak points and can they be improved.
Here are some actionable steps you can take to improve your website quality and ranking:
- Hire experts. If you lack expertise on topics in your field but want to have them covered on your website, hire professionals or invite guest writers to help you out.
- Review and Rewrite. If your content was written in a rush and lacks substance, review and rewrite it. Consider hiring experts to do this for you and add credibility to what you are publishing.
- Update. Make content audits regularly, especially if you are in one of the YMYL fields. Older information might no longer be accurate or even be misleading, so make sure to update it in time.
- Avoid clickbaits. Abstain from writing sensational article headings if you are not able to deliver equally sensational content in return.
- Work on your reputation. Establish valuable business connections with professionals in your industry, and known influencers. Being appreciated and mentioned by experts in your field is a positive signal for your authoritativeness.
- Build backlinks. Backlinks are very important for bots crawling your website. Having high-quality backlinks can also improve your rating.
- Improve your About page. If you don’t have any, by all means, set one up. Add up-to-date information about your company and accomplishments, and the experts on your team.
- Provide contact details. Make it easy for users to contact you and show you are available.
- Add credentials to articles. This goes especially for YMYL pages, but won’t hurt in other industries either. If you have any awards, notable achievements, or at least relevant degrees and education, make it known.
- Showcase User-generated content (UGC). Positive testimonials and UGC are a good reputation signal. If you don’t have customer reviews for your business, encourage feedback to generate some.
On the other hand, if your website and webpages cover all bases listed above – way to go, good for you!
However, there might still be some things you can do to give your reputation a lift, improve user experience, or increase content value. So take a closer look just in case. It will probably eat up your time (ugh, pun intended) but might improve your E-A-T score and your ranking.
There are many things to be taken into account when building a reliable, trustworthy, and useful webpage, and Google’s evaluation criteria should most certainly be on the top of your list if you want to benefit from organic search.
However, creating content on the foundation of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, will not only “please” Google, but improve your website’s user experience immensely. Making your business more transparent, trustworthy and reputable, will no doubt pay off in new clients and give your business a boost.
Following new regulations and updates is not always easy, but in this case, it’s most definitely worth it.