Much like how Alan Turing, after years of research and hard work, managed to decipher the Enigma, there are clear paths today towards reverse-engineering the recent Google Core algorithm updates, largely based on E-A-T factors.
I’m mainly referring to the Core updates, highly focused on quality, that have been released since the beginning of 2018 and which have been particularly devastating on the following dates :
- August 1, 2018
- September 27, 2018
- March 12, 2019
- June 3 2019 – pre-announced by Google
For a full account of all the Google Core Quality Updates, as well as other specific algorithm updates, refer to this summary in Dr. Marie Haynes’s website.
In particular, August 2018, March 2019 and June 2019 seem to have been, in my own experience of taking on clientes affected by those algo updates, the update that have brought in the most damage on rankings for folks in the YMYL (Your money your life) space.
YMYL refers mainly to websites in the categories of personal finance, financial advice, investing, and – on the other side of the spectrum – health information websites. Ecommerce stores are also included.
With this update, Google put a heavy focus on trust signals and devalued websites that were deemed ‘unsafe’ for end-users. Most major cryptocurrency sites in the market took a hit, with CCN.com actually taking the drastic decision to shut down following the update:
Our daily revenue is down by more than 90%
Business owners, eCommerce entrepreneurs, and affiliates in the finance and health sectors have been going around frantic trying to work out the problem of their website rankings dropping and how to deal with the new E-A-T factors. The SEO community has taken various positions on the matter:
- Some have been vocal about the importance of the GQRG (Google Quality Raters Guidelines, latest update: sept 6, 2019) and the relationship with the E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) factors.
- Others have refused to believe that there is anything such as the E-A-T ranking factors.
- And the rest have done nothing much but observe different opinions from both sides, take notes and absorb information about published case studies and reported news on E-A-T.
But what’s the truth? Are the E-A-T factors really that important to get your content ranking well? And should you even care about the Google Quality Raters Guidelines?
I’m going to be talking about that really soon, but for now, know that YES – E-A-T does matter for SEO, and your approach has to adapt if you want your website to rank well after the recent Google Core algorithm updates. Especially if your website is in the YMYL category.
Google has confirmed various times, both informally ( via Twitter) and more officially, via recently published papers that they are taking every step possible to fight disinformation across their product line. Today Google actively encourages every webmaster to read the GQRG’s with particular attention to the E-A-T factors mentioned in such document.
Authoritativeness and Trust are signals that many agree, form part of the Core algorithm, as Mary Haynes explains in this Whiteboard Friday video:
What is E-A-T SEO?
Let’s begin with the basics. What’s exactly E-A-T, what does it mean, and how does it relate to SEO?
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Each one is a factor that the Google algorithm takes into consideration when determining a page’s value and its eligibility to rank.
The term E-A-T became trendy in August 2018, when the google algorithm update called “the medic update” took place.
After the update, many sites in the YMYL sector went through a drop in rankings, and since then, there’s been more awareness of the E-A-T factors due to their importance to rank on Google. Since then, requests for E-A-T-driven site audits or site reviews have exploded.
So, what is Google looking for, and what does each factor mean?
Expertise: Google wants to show content written by people with expertise on the topic. The authors should have professional experience, in-depth knowledge, or qualities that position them as experts.
Authoritativeness: Another important thing that Google takes a look at is at the authoritativeness of the content. When your content is being shared and used by other experts in the field – that shows authority.
Trustworthiness: And last but not least is trustworthiness. This factor refers to how much visitors trust your website and brand.
Google Rankings Dropping Dramatically
If you’re here, there’s a decent chance that you were negatively affected by the so-called “medic update,” or by one of the other core algorithm updates.
These updates were an effort by Google to show the best possible content to its users – and they resulted in hundredths of sites in the finance and health sectors suddenly dropping rankings and traffic, sending webmasters and CEOs to panic.
But why were websites specifically in the health and finance – or YMYL – sectors targeted?
Information in the Health, Finance, and Security sectors can greatly impact a person’s life – both positively and negatively. Bad advice can have awful consequences on users.
As a measurement to prevent this, Google rolled out the core updates that we’ve all heard about – meant to value pages that have a high level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
Is your website in the YMYL sector? Because if it is, understanding the importance of improving your site’s E-A-T may be a crucial element of your success.
Google has to think your pages have a high level of E-A-T to display them to its users. Luckily, there are a lot of things you can do to improve in that regard. We’re going to give you some E-A-T tips to improve your site’s rankings later, but right now we’ll talk about where the term originated from:
The origin of E-A-T: Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
The terms E-A-T and YMYL came from an important document released by Google called the “Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.”
The reason why this document is so valuable, and why we’re talking about it is that the document provides insight into Google’s perspective when evaluating a website’s quality. Understanding the document basically means understanding how Google ranks pages.
The document’s original purpose is for Google’s rating team – which consists of over 10,000 employees worldwide. Raters evaluate Google’s search results by rating the quality of the pages that rank best.
These ratings help Google improve its ranking algorithm’s effectiveness at measuring quality.
What I want to emphasize, is that the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines teach raters how to evaluate high-quality websites – and one of the main things taught by the document is that pages with a high level of E-A-T are considered to be of a high-quality.
What that means is that Google is doing it’s best to make an algorithm that effectively measures E-A-T. The core updates are steps that google has taken in that direction.
Now that you know precisely why E-A-T matters, how do you improve your website’s E-A-T?
How Can I Improve My Website E-A-T?
It’s finally time to get to the practical side of things. If you’ve found out that you have a problem with low E-A-T, you’re in luck, because I’m about to break the ‘Enigma’ of E-A-T giving you some tips that are worth their weight in gold.
If you’ve considered reading the Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines to improve your E-A-T, well, think again, because it’s a condensed 166-page document. Reading the document may seem like a very straightforward way to improve your website quality, and while that’s true, it’ll take a major effort from your part.
The great news is that you can get the same insights by understanding what the document entices from a post that summarizes it. (like this one)
Here’s how to improve your website’s E-A-T:
How to improve your website’s Expertise
When we need advice to fix a problem – whether it’s business-related or personal – seeking an expert is usually a good idea.
Experts have a deep level of knowledge in a particular field. And If their knowledge is related to our problem, we can have confidence that the answers and solutions are correct – because they are backed up by education and/or experience.
Clearly, advice from experts is more valuable, and Google will prefer content that showcases expertise.
“How do I do that with my content and website?” You may be asking. Here’s how:
Create great content
“Create great content” may sound like a very general tip – and it is. But it’s a very important one, and I’m placing it at the top of the list for that reason.
Here’s what I mean with “create great content”:
Expertise isn’t just about showing your credentials and experience. Showcasing knowledge is important, but that alone isn’t enough to make you an expert in front of Google and its users.
You also need to effectively communicate this knowledge to people in a targeted way that engages them and in a way that solves their needs.
Quick tips to create great content:
- Master keyword research
- Be original and have a unique approach
- Make actionable content
- Engage readers (create stories and intrigue)
- Solve a need/answer a question
- Create powerful headlines
- Be accurate and professional
I could elaborate more on how to create great content, but that would have to be on another post. If you want to know more about what makes “great content,” here’s a helpful article.
Writing with expertise is nice, but it’s even nicer when visitors know it.
There are two types of expertise, according to Google Search Quality Guidelines:
Formal expertise: Expertise acquired through formal education. People with formal expertise usually have accreditations or other means to verify their knowledge.
Everyday expertise: Acquired through life experience.
In the YMYL sector, showing formal expertise is particularly important. As I said before, misinformation in this sector can potentially harm users, and as a result, google values it more.
That doesn’t mean Everyday expertise isn’t valuable. But particularly in the YMYL sector, it’s best if the author has formal expertise.
Tip: Add bios and descriptions of your site’s writers to every piece of content, promoting their expertise and knowledge.
“But my site’s content was written by writers with no recognized expertise! Am I doomed!?!?”
Luckily, there’s a workaround to this. Your content doesn’t necessarily have to be written by a formal expert. It’s enough if it’s reviewed and approved by one.
“Phew!” What a relief.
There are many ways to acquire an accredited expert, but one of the easiest ways is to find a freelance editor with the right accreditations.
You can then publish the content under the original author’s name, and add a “Reviewed by..” notation linking to the reviewer somewhere visible on the page.
How to improve your website’s Authoritativeness
The next letter in E-A-T stands for Authoritativeness. Some of the definitions for authoritative are – “Able to be trusted as being accurate or true,” and “Considered to be the best of its kind and unlikely to be improved upon.”
Authoritativeness refers to how well your brand does in comparison to the other options in your niche. In comparison to expertise, authoritativeness is more competitive. Your industry can have a lot of experts, but only the best can be considered an authority.
When is your level of authority considered high?
- When other websites and content creators in your niche are citing your content.
- When people are mentioning your name or brand on topics relevant to your industry across facebook, twitter, or other social media sites.
- When your branded search volume is high. A branded search is any query that contains the name of your brand or company. This indicates authority because people are searching for your brand specifically, and they wouldn’t do that unless there’s a decent level of reputation and authority. (in most cases)
- When your content gets links from high E-A-T websites.
Here are a few tips to help you increase your website’s authority:
- Focus on building backlinks: Backlinks are definitely one of the most important factors when it comes to building authority. Build relationships, ask for links, and remember that backlinks from high authority sites are much more valuable and worth the hard effort.
- Regularly publish high-quality content: You need an effective content strategy to get backlinks and build authority. Publish content regularly, and make sure it’s always excellent quality-wise.
- Work with high authority writers: There’s a certain level of perceived authoritativeness in both the creator of a piece of content and on the website as a whole. By having high-quality writers publishing content on your website, you improve the overall authority of your website.
- Keep it professional: Being unprofessional in any sort of way will tank down your authoritativeness. Do you think a high-authority brand would misspell its email address, or have an unresponsive website design?
- Stand out from the competition: To be an authority, you must stand out. That’s done by delivering outstanding services, effectively addressing pain points or having a unique approach to design and innovation:
How to Improve your Website’s Trustworthiness
And lastly, there’s trustworthiness, defined as “the ability to be relied on as honest or truthful.”
In this regard, your goal is to make users feel confident that they can rely on you and your information.
In the eyes of Google, trustworthiness works a little bit differently than the other two factors. A high level of trustworthiness alone won’t get you on top of the search results. It’s a high level of Expertise and Authoritativeness that will help to boost your rankings. But, if your trustworthiness is low, it will completely obliterate your rankings.
To keep this factor in check, your brand’s reputation is crucial. Keeping it clean across review sites and social media will help a lot to keep your trustworthiness high.
Something else that helps is being transparent and having detailed business and employee information on your website.
Lastly, you must create a safe environment around your services and brand. Have clear policies, and make sure your website domain uses HTTPS.
Some tips to increase your trustworthiness:
- Promote offsite and invest in personal branding: Having a positive reputation is crucial to keep a high-quality score. Ask your existing customers to leave reviews on sites like Google My Business or Yelp, interact with influencers and your audience through social media, work with other trustworthy experts in your niche, and be reliable with your content and services.
- Avoid misleading content like the plague: Google hates misleading content that deceives users. Some examples of deceptive behaviors and content are:
- Impersonating other brands or people
- Stealing personal information such as passwords or credit cards
- Using inaccurate or incorrect information to manipulate visitors
- Faking reviews
- Making false claims for someone’s benefit
- Deceptive advertising
- Have clear and detailed contact and business information: It’s fishy when a brand is missing an address or contact information. Include as many relevant business details as possible.
- About page: Your about page is an opportunity to build trust. Give visitors information about the owners or leaders, and let them know that your brand is human too.
- Team page: Just like an about page, having a team page ads a layer of trust. If you can add bios of each member that visitors can relate to, that’s even better.
- Technical security: Your database and website have to be secure to protect your customers’ and visitors’ personal data. Use HTTPS and take security measures against hackers and spammers.
- Use 3rd party ratings and review sites, to showcase user’s satifaction levels about you, your products or your services. 3rd party product review web services like Trustpilot, BazaarVoice and Power Reviews are currently being used by Google’s algorithms to assess factors like Trust.
A few more E-A-T tips
- Cut or edit low E-A-T content: Low E-A-T content may be getting you a bit of traffic or conversions, but it lowers the overall E-A-T score of your site. Cut as much low E-A-T content as you can, or edit it to improve its E-A-T score.
- Optimize for mobile: If your website isn’t optimized for mobile, Google will instantly consider it to be low quality. Come on! We’re in the mobile-first era! More than 50% of all traffic comes from mobile devices!
- Easy to navigate content and website: A website that’s hard to navigate will turn off users quickly, especially when there are so many alternatives to get the information, products, or services that they need.
- Claim and optimize business listings: Google prefers businesses with high standards and organized listings. If you haven’t yet, claim and optimize your business’ listing across platforms such as Google My Business, Yelp, and Bing. Additionally, this will help potential customers find more information about your business. (phone numbers, addresses, open hours, etc.)
After the updates to Google’s core algorithm and the changes to Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines, it has become increasingly important to manifest expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.
Unlike how it was in the past, there are no shortcuts anymore. You have to grow a real brand and patiently nurture it by putting your users first.
How? By using E-A-T as a framework. Doing so will help you give Google and its users exactly what they’re looking for – high-quality results.
I hope this article helped you improve your website’s E-A-T elements to recover your rankings and improve your SEO. However if you are not sure what caused your ranking drop, make sure you hire a SEO consultant to run an SEO audit of your website.
Or, if you want to add anything that may be useful to other readers, feel free to comment.