In recent years, the issue of misinformation spread online has become an increasing concern. As such, search engines like Google have begun to take more definitive stands against unreliable content.
In 2018, they updated their Search Quality Rating Guidelines to include new terms to help determine the reliability of online content. Two such terms featured heavily in these guidelines are E-A-T and YMYL.
By understanding these guidelines and the terms E-A-T and YMYL, we can get a greater understanding of what Google is looking for in terms of page content. We take a look at how E-A-T and YMYL are relevant to SEO.
The acronym E-A-T stands for ‘expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness’. It is one of the factors which Google uses to help determine page quality. E-A-T appears 134 times in Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines, even being referred to as ‘one of the most important criteria of page quality’.
In its whitepaper which outlines how Google combats misinformation, the company states that “Google’s algorithms identify signals about pages that correlate with trustworthiness and authoritativeness”. In essence, Google wants to promote websites that have useful, accurate and relevant content.
So, let’s break down E-A-T.
Expertise refers to the expertise of the content’s creator. Could they be considered an ‘expert’ in the field they are writing about? What credentials do they have to support the information presented on the webpage?
It is also important to note that this expertise can vary depending on the topic of the page. Creators can have ‘everyday expertise’. An example of this is someone writing about life with a certain illness or condition, who has experienced this themselves. They are considered an everyday expert regarding this topic.
Authoritativeness is what happens when others recognise the expertise presented on a webpage. It also includes the authoritativeness of the creator of the content and of the website itself. This ‘authoritativeness’ can be displayed in the form of links, shares, mentions, reviews and citations.
Finally, the trustworthiness aspect of E-A-T also refers to the creator, the content and the website being a trustworthy expert and source. When assessing trustworthiness, Google’s raters look at elements such as who is responsible for the published content, and what credentials they have.
YMYL stands for ‘Your Money or Your Life’. Google uses YMYL to refer to “pages or topics [that] could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety”. Such topics include finance, health, news/current events and law articles. The term also encompasses websites that sell products or services related to health, financial stability or safety.
For YMYL sites such as these, demonstrating E-A-T is especially relevant, as users are relying on these sites to give them accurate information regarding important questions. The stakes are high for this kind of content.
YMYL content that does not demonstrate expertise, authority and trustworthiness, and contains inaccurate information, can directly damage a person’s life or livelihood. Therefore, you must ensure that the content on your webpage will allow them to make informed decisions.
Google collects E-A-T scores from its human raters to test the quality of its search results. It is important to note that E-A-T is not a ranking factor itself. This is because its constituent elements are based on human concepts which cannot be easily quantified. Ranking factors must be tangible for a computer system to evaluate them.
However, this does not mean that E-A-T and YMYL will not affect the ranking performance of a website. Google wants to ensure that the sites which produce high-quality content are rewarded with higher rankings, and part of demonstrating high-quality content is by following E-A-T.
After the updates to Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines, YMYL pages were hit significantly, especially those that advise on topics such as health, fitness and finance, which shows how important these new updates have been to the way Google ranks its content.
This does not mean only YMYL sites are affected. Google noted that E-A-T applied to all sites, even including fashion websites, gossip sites and humour sites. The main priority for creators is to provide content that offers value and caters to the needs of its target audience.
Google places greater importance on E-A-T for YMYL pages, as users rely on them for factual and accurate information. If you are boosting your content in line with Google’s E-A-T guidelines, the information should be high-quality, useful, informative and accurate. This in turn provides a satisfying user experience which helps boost Google rankings.
When creating online content, your site must have ‘journalistic professionalism’ to boost E-A-T. Even simple changes like improving the grammar, spelling and readability of articles, can help improve its professionalism.
The first thing to do when optimising your website for E-A-T and YMYL is to determine whether or not your website and its content is considered YMYL. Whilst E-A-T is relevant for all sites, it is important to determine what sort of expertise your page requires. The following tips will offer a guide of some additional aspects to consider when optimising a web page or article for E-A-T.
Links are an indicator of expertise that Google can recognise. Gary Illyes, a Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, has said that EA-T is largely based on links and mentions from authoritative sites.
These links must be high-quality; from sites that have published content that is useful, relevant, accurate and comprehensive. Mentions from well-known industry websites help improve a site’s authority. The more high-quality links a page has, the more authoritative it becomes.
Offering factual information and backing this up with data and trusted sources is a key means of ensuring your content demonstrates E-A-T. These sources should be easily accessible to allow users to fact-check. Adding sources, quotes from experts and citations all solidify the accuracy and trustworthiness of your information.
Every piece of content published should have the writer’s name attached to it. Other credentials can include testimonials, past work, endorsements, professional background and even a photograph of the author. By including these factors, people can trace the credentials of the contributor and will feel they can trust their expertise more.
If you have an author profile on your own website, and also on several other authoritative websites, this can help solidify your online credentials as an experienced and trusted writer.
Following on from making sure your content has credentials attached to it, reviews are a way to improve E-A-T. Google tells its quality raters to use online reviews as a source of reputation information for a business.
By providing an ‘about us’ and ‘contact us’ section to your site, which is easy to find and navigate, users are able to ask questions directly and whilst understanding who is offering them this information.
Fact-checking is key when maintaining E-A-T and content should be edited, reviewed and updated regularly. Search Engine Journals’ Executive Director, Danny Goodwin, states that you have to decide whether you can improve or remove your old or outdated content. This can be in the form of edits and updates to pages, but if the content is not worth the investment or is no longer accurate or relevant, it can be removed.
Making an article more comprehensive and detailed can help lend it more expertise and make it more satisfying for users. That being said, the content must have a purpose and benefit your users’ clients or customers.
Whilst E-A-T is not the only solution to optimising your website, it is clear that it is an important factor to Google, and so should be considered in your digital marketing strategy. Many of these changes are easy to implement, and in doing so, you can ensure that your website or article is optimised to perform favourably in Google’s search results.
If you want to learn more about implementing SEO best practices on your website, you are welcome to get in touch with us.