In the wee hours of August 2018, Google came out with an announcement of yet another algorithm update. As it does this multiple times in a year, the SEO industry braced for impact.
However little did they know that there was something bigger looming inside that update. Over the next few weeks health and medical websites started seeing an unprecedented drop in organic rankings.
Thanks to algorithm trackers, soon, SEOs could find a pattern that suggested the update took a hard impact on the health niche. Later, this update was named as the infamous Medic Update.
With Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines updated with the mention of the term E A T (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness), it was quite evident that the new update directed the algorithm to look for E A T signals before ranking websites that fall under the YMYL category.
To know more about E-A-T and YMYL, read along:
What is E-A-T in SEO?
E-A-T is a term that appeared first in the Quality Rater Guidelines of Google, which is a 168-page document released by Google for the reference of its human quality raters who are spread across the world.
This document is refreshed timely to make sure that new concepts are included. E-A-T is one such concept that made its way into the document. From a few mentions in the earlier version, E-A-T now enjoys a section for itself in the document. This signifies the importance Google gives for E-A-T.
Expertise is not something that everybody can claim. At times, it’s acquired through constant hard work and recognition.
For example, if you are running a medical website, the content that’s published must be written or reviewed by a medical expert.
On the other hand, if you are writing generic content about a specific subject, you must have enough articles published under your byline and position yourself as a subject matter expert.
Let me give you a context to help you understand this concept:
There are SEO experts in many agencies who drive the business and client’s success.
However, not all of them have the authority that Google wants. Why? That’s because they are always working in the backend, and though they are unsung heroes, without digital trails left behind, Google doesn’t come to know about their skills.
So, what I mean to say is there are 10x better SEOs out there helping thousands of websites sail through rough seas, but they don’t have a presence online.
Since Google is looking at the future as a knowledge hub containing a cluster of knowledge graphs about anything and everything you find online, mentions of your name and business are critical.
If you are just starting as a professional (any professional for that reason), make sure to link your social profiles within the author bio and whatever you think will help users and search engines establish your authority in the niche or topic.
Thinking why? Because backlink is one of the ways that Google understands the author’s authority and the authority of the business in a particular niche or industry.
We here at Stan Ventures receive at least two natural backlinks every day. This gives enough clues to Google that we are one of the best in the industry. And that gives a huge shot in the arm when it comes to being considered an authoritative resource.
If you are running a YMYL website, this becomes even more important, and you must strive towards getting the brand digital authority that Google is looking for.
Trustworthiness is a quality that a website and an author earns over time. The basic factors that can contribute to higher trustworthiness are more positive reviews, mentions across the web, and higher engagement.
Additionally, the overall sentiment online about an author or a brand can also impact trustworthiness.
So here is a quick example. If more site is quoting content that you have written, it is a signal of trust. Suppose other trustworthy sites are talking about it or linking to the resources within. In that case, it can be a good trust signal for Google.
If you look at the other two factors, authority and expertise, both are under your control, but when it comes to the trustworthiness factors, it’s more of an external factor that is determined using the signals that are provided by external sources.
On the technical front, having a Secured site can help increase the trustworthiness of a website. As you can find it for yourself, most of the sites that are ranking on Google have HTTPS enabled.
What is YMYL SEO?
YMYL stands for “Your Money Your Life.”
Finance, Health, and Wellness sites are some of the most common niches that come under YMYL sites so they require an SEO treatment that’s different from others.
These are sites that publish sensitive information that can directly impact a reader’s finance, happiness, success, or wellbeing.
That’s why Google wants YMYL sites to adhere to strict quality guidelines which are measured by the algorithms before ranking pages.
The algorithm checks for the quality of YMYL sites based on Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness signals.
If you want to know more about the niche sites that come under the ambit of YMYL, here are a few most popular ones for you:
Any Website with Payment Gateway: If you run a shopping website that has a payment gateway integrated, this means users are putting their credit card and debit card details, which, if it reaches the wrong hands, can cause a lot of harm to the users.
Websites that Provide Financial Advice: So here is the thing. The web is overflowing with information, and users are actively looking for advice and suggestions online. This is especially true when it comes to users looking for financial advice before taking an important decision. Suppose they land on pages that offer unverified or factually wrong information.
In that case, it can adversely affect the financial stability of the users. To keep their users safe, Google considers these sites as YMYL, which means there will be an additional layer of scrutiny before ranking such pages. Sites that offer investments, taxes, retirement planning, home purchase, paying for college, buying insurance, etc. fall under the YMYL category.
Websites that Provide Medical Information: Like financial advice, users are going to the web seeking information about health and wellness. Since the advice related to specific health conditions, symptoms, ways to diagnose, and treatment are some of the most commonly searched queries on the Web, Google wants to send these users to highly reputed websites.
One wrong move based on an incorrect medical suggestion can have an everlasting impact on the users’ life, and Google just doesn’t want that to happen. Even alternate medicine sites and nutrition websites fall under the YMYL category. They require a very high E-A-T score to rank on Google.
Websites that Provide Legal Assistance and Information: Any site that offers legal advice to the users, whatever may be the specialization, comes under YMYL. It has to be noted that most legal moves are taken after thorough online research. The websites they read for gathering information have more influence on the decisions users take. This makes any legal site that offers advice and information on divorce, child custody, creating a will, becoming a citizen, etc., comes under the YMYL category.
News Websites: There has been a lot of talks online and offline about fake news, and it is generally believed that News sites with authority don’t indulge in spreading misinformation. Also, note that there is news that just doesn’t affect the life of the users, or the people mentioned, such as a listicle of Top 10 Searched Google Keyword. Such articles will naturally fall outside of YMYL.
However, news such as local/state/national government processes, policies, people, and laws; disaster response services; government programs and social services; news about important topics such as international events, business, politics, science, and technology; etc. are generally considered as YMYL.
Others: In addition to these, there are a few niches that fall under YMYL, and it’s advised to use the best of your judgment to identify those. A few examples of such sites are child adoption sites, auto safety, home security, and privacy-related sites.
When Did Google Introduce E-A-T?
The 164-page Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines first introduced the term E-A-T (Expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness). Even though the term was present in the older versions, the first details about E-A-T and its implications appeared in the updated Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines that was released in November 2018.
The document primarily focuses on helping quality raters identify quality pages on the web. And the inputs of these quality raters are later used when tweaking the algorithm.
What does this mean?
The Quality Raters Guidelines cannot be called the book of all ranking factors, but it is definitely giving enough inputs for webmasters to know what Google cares about when ranking websites.
Before the formal introduction of this document, there was much discussion on SEO forums about Google’s highly sophisticated metrics for ranking websites.
Many even claimed cracking Google’s Ranking metrics.
Putting an end to the clamor, Google first introduced its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines to the public in November 2013.
This convinced SEOs across the world that the search engine giant had bigger plans for the future.
Earlier, there were reports that Google has hired human evaluators to enhance Google search quality.
It’s now believed that this core team worked on the draft that was later released as Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
How to Improve Google E-A-T Through YMYL SEO?
Our analysis found that Google’s Medic Algorithm 2018 pulled down websites with low E-A-T signals and gave a gentle push in the rankings of the ones that followed it.
Websites that were hit by the Google Medic update are the ones that offered no assistance, gave incomplete or uncertain information, or these sites provided misleading information that can harm the readers.
This doesn’t mean all the sites hit by the Google Medic Update lack quality content.
For example, the update has affected pages with high-quality content, and the ones that provide valuable information to the users.
The content rankings fell because it appeared on sites with low authority and trust. Adding to this, if it’s a medical or finance site, the content has to be written by someone with expertise in the field.
If you think that your website was hit by the Google Algorithm update in spite of publishing high-quality content, here is a list of E-A-T signals.
By ensuring your website has these quality-signals, you can recover from the current Google Algorithm update and safeguard your site from future algorithm updates.
These SEO factors can help your YMYL site improve your website’s E-A-T signals:
Add Authors Bio
Google Quality Guidelines clearly indicate that it has to know who is providing the information to the users.
As the YMYL sites, including healthcare and wellness websites, contain very sensitive content, Google expects these topics to be drafted by trustworthy and proven authors.
Google’s guidelines also mandate websites to provide the contact information and customer support details if the users land on a product or service page.
Ensure that all blog posts have an author byline to show the trustworthiness of the content to the users.
The engagement of users with the content gives quality signals to Google on how well an author has provided the information.
Build Credibility and Trustworthiness for the Author and Publisher
Google considers credibility and trustworthiness of authors and publishers before ranking websites.
There are multiple Google patents that give a glimpse into the ranking factors that Google looks for when determining the credibility of entities, including authors and publishers.
One such patent is “Credibility of an author of online content,” granted to Google in 2012. If you remember, this was the same time when Google displayed the author’s name on the search results.
According to this patent, an author gets a reputation score based on the topics the person writes about. Based on factors such as reviews, active years, quality of the publishers, and the consistency in producing quality content, the reputation score can increase or decrease.
Additionally, the patent also discusses the importance of displaying the author’s professional expertise (this includes educational qualification and training) and the role in the current organization.
When you put this together with yet another patent titled “Systems and Methods for Re-Ranking Ranked Search Results,” Google takes author reputation as a ranking signal to newer heights.
This patent combines the author’s topical credibility score with a citation score, which is the number of external citations received by the documents authored by the person.
Also, it has to be noted that Google Algorithms can detect the author’s and the publisher’s mentions to assess credibility. For example, when an author gets mentions from highly credible websites (seed sites) in a particular niche, the credibility improves.
Google’s Garry Illyes in 2017 confirmed that unlinked brand mentions on any platform, including websites and social media, can give credibility signals to Google’s Algorithm.
This means constant engagement of the author and publisher in multiple online platforms can help improve the reputation score.
However, if the conversation revolves around negative sentiments, it can adversely affect the author and publisher’s credibility.
In fact, Google has a patent named “Sentiment detection as a ranking signal for reviewable entities,” which clearly states that any reviewable entities such as people (author), places, organizations, and publications are assigned reputation score by Google’s Ranking Analysis Engine that understands the sentiment about an entity from text-based reviews available online.
Apart from this, co-occurrences of the entities in search queries and also on other crawlable content assets such as videos, podcasts, and documents can also give Google more signals about the expertise and trustworthiness of the author and publisher.
Edit or Delete Low-Quality Content
According to the Google search quality guidelines, the E-A-T score of the website is evaluated after calculating the total E-A-T score of individual posts/pages of a website.
So, you have to be careful about each and every post that goes live.
That is why we recommend removing poor-quality content from your website.
This may reduce your traffic a bit, in the long run, but you will benefit as it will improve the E-A-T score of your website.
This is also one of the proven tactics to recover from a Google Algorithm Update.
If you’re managing a YMYL website, ensure that the content is curated by experts in your niche.
Since personal experiences are considered legit as per the search quality guidelines, try updating the existing content with personal experiences.
Build your Personal Branding
There are certain quality signals that you have to implement on your website to improve the E-A-T score and gain audience trust.
SEO experts recommend enhancing the “About Us” page by mentioning all the publications you’re featured on.
Apart from that, add a schema markup code to give additional information to Google about your content.
Also, try to keep a page listing out the testimonials and customer reviews to boost trustworthiness among the visiting audience.
Build/Earn High-Quality Relevant Backlinks
Google’s PageRank Algorithm, which is considered the god of all Google algorithms, was built around identifying trustable websites.
Over the last two decades, this core algorithm of Google has been nurtured, and now it’s even more capable of what it was initially supposed to do. Thanks to numerous ad-hoc algorithms that enriched the core concepts.
In one of the whitepapers titled “How Google Fights Disinformation?“, the search engine giant confirmed the role played by the PageRank algorithm in helping it identify trustworthy and authoritative content.
It says links on the web (backlinks from trustworthy sources) help understand the authoritativeness of pages.
John Mueller has also confirmed that backlinks and the anchor text have far more significant roles than just ranking websites. According to him, they act as a means for Google to classify a page and the whole domain based on a theme at a macro level.
One of Google’s patents, “Search Results Based on Trust,” clearly states that anchor text clusters are one of the most important ways for Google to gauge trust.
According to the patent, Google uses the anchor text clusters to create a trust label for a website or a URL, which will be recorded in an annotation database.
But all this just doesn’t mean that a handful of backlinks from relevant sources can get you there on the top. Even though the links are relevant, if the website that’s providing you with the links isn’t authoritative, there is little link juice being passed.
This is yet another upgrade to the concept of the PageRank algorithm. It is believed that Google has reduced the ranking weightage for the number of links you get. Now, it’s replaced by the concept of seed links and your proximity to seed websites in the link graph.
In a 2017 Google patent titled “Producing a ranking for pages using distances in a web-link graph,” Google clearly shows it intends to take the PageRank algorithm to the next level.
According to the patent, the ranking score for a linked document (web page) is determined by how close or far it’s from selected seed sites.
Seed sites are the domains that Google identifies as the highest authority ones based on the high-quality content they have produced about a particular topic for the years and its reputation.
The patent clearly states that seed sites are limited by number to avoid manipulation. What’s even more exciting is that Google wants no ranking scores (link juice) to be assigned for sites that are not directly or indirectly linked to the seed sites.
The closer the link is to the seed sites, the more authority it will pass, and as the distance increases, the authority score decreases.
This means that you must build links only from sites that Google recognizes. By simple logic, Google’s recognition comes in the form of organic traffic. However, you must ensure that the traffic generated is to pages that cover thematic topics similar to yours.
Google, in fact, uses the same link proximity graph to assess the authority of entities, including the author and publisher. For example, getting a direct mention or link from a seed site can vastly improve the reputation score of an author/publisher.
Though the patent says the seed sites are manually picked, with advancements made by Google’s algorithm the process by now should be automated.
Secure your site with HTTPS
Google also considers ‘security’ as a major E-A-T factor.
Apart from the quality content, backlinks, and author’s reputation, website security is also one of the important factors used for evaluating the E-A-T score of a site.
So, if your website is finding it hard to get back on track after being hit by an Algorithm update, ensure you have an SSL certificate.
You may have come across HTTP sites in Google Chrome browser with a “Not secure” tag.
This is a strong indicator of how Google is pushing website owners to enable HTTPS.
Social Media Activities
Most website owners may not know that the official social media profiles can improve E-A-T score.
Being active on social media and sharing content with the target audience and other influencers will help maintain an active website.
It helps you to connect with a more significant audience and garner a positive reputation for your site.
Though this might not aid you directly in E-A-T, it will help you outperform competitors and gain more E-A-T signals.
Does Google Have an E-A-T Algorithm Score?
There’s no core algorithm based on your E-A-T or YMYL scores.
They are, in fact, one of the many tiny algorithms that help Google determine the quality of a website.
Is Google E-A-T a Ranking Factor – SEO Industry Discussions
There has been a lot of confusion regarding Google E-A-T and whether it’s a ranking factor.
So here are few facts to clear the air surrounding this common myth.
- Mary Haynes, in one of her tweets, said that E-A-T is not a direct ranking factor but a part of thousands of tiny algorithms that signals Google about the quality of a web page.
- There’s nothing as YMYL score or EAT algorithm score, Gary Illyes confirmed. E-A-T only works as an indirect ranking factor.
- Focusing on E-A-T is not an alternative to doing SEO audits or improving technical SEO on a website. The EAT factor will only improve if other issues on the site are taken care of, such as a slow loading site, broken links, site not optimized for mobile, etc.
- Finally, addressing E-A-T changes takes time since improving the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness of a site is a gradual process.
Although Google E-A-T is not a core ranking algorithm, Google continues to use them as a benchmark for the quality of a website.
In the coming days, Google will continue to push down thin and factually irrelevant content and highlight those written by subject-matter experts.
Therefore, you should focus on improving the quality of content on your site, building authority in your niche, and develop trustworthiness through the best SEO practices.
John Mueller, the Search Advocate at Google during one of the Office Hour Sessions.
The specific question that came up in this regard was on the author’s expertise. The question was, “I have some questions about E-A-T. In Quality Raters Guidelines, the author’s expertise is important. So do you think it’s important for the real algorithm?”
John Mueller asked for more clarification on his question, to which he replied, “I mean, E-A-T is just mentioned in the Quality Raters Guidelines. But I want to know if real algorithms also care about E-A-T factors like author expertise.”
To which John answered, “I would assume that there is some indirect kind of work done to try to do similar things, yes.
I mean, we put this in the guidelines so that we can kind of guide the quality testers to double-check these things and if we think that it’s something important then I would assume that folks on the …search quality side also work to try to understand that in a more algorithmic way.”
John cautioned against thinking of EAT as a ranking factor or metric. Next, he addressed the topic of author expertise and said that it’s more like trying to understand how the content fits into the rest of the web.
Expertise of Content
So, what measures the expertise of content: the credentials of the author or the accuracy of the content they publish?
Ideally, an expert author should be able to write expert content, but is the proof of expertise in the author’s credentials, or is the quality of the content itself?
As per John Mueller, “it’s a very fuzzy area.”
Search Engine Optimization is a highly unpredictable arena.
Since Google sets the rules (at least, for the time being), websites have to follow it, whether they agree or not.
There are times when a website hits rock bottom one day and recovers with a bang after a few months.
Such instances are not rare after Google rolls out an algorithm update.
Google’s August Broad Core Algorithm update 2018 is one such update that shook the internet.
Later, it was found that this update targeted the Health and Wellness industry.
Hence, it was unofficially named as the Google Medic update by SEO experts.
Nevertheless, we witnessed another update after Google’s 20th anniversary which is named the Google Birthday Update on 27th November.
It’s touted as the reversal of a few factors of the Google Medic Update, as websites that were hit by the Medic Update started performing well.
Some websites are yet to recover from the Medic Update of August 2018.
These sites and others can improve the E-A-T score by following the tips mentioned in this blog and ensure that the future Google Algorithm updates work in your favor.