How To Improve Your Google E-A-T Rating
In August 2018, Google released an update that would shake up the world of search as we know it. Of course, this isn’t exactly unheard of, but it was certainly one of the most disruptive changes that we’ve had in quite some time. Named the ‘medic’ update, the update appeared to focus on Your Money Your Life (YMYL) websites, with some gaining rankings and others experiencing drastic drops. It became clear that this was due to changes in E-A-T guidelines and, as a result, the scores the sites were being given.
While Google has certainly released some disruptive broad core algorithm updates in its time, this one is still on the lips of SEO experts and webmasters to this day. In fact, some sites are still struggling to recover, particularly in light of the most recent updates.
Google has recently released two further updates – the June 2019 Core Algorithm Update, and the Diversity update, both of which have shaken up the SERPs yet again due to changing Page Quality requirements. For this reason, we’re taking a look at Google’s E-A-T rating and how you can get to grips with the guidelines.
If you’re still unsure about what you can do, you can get in touch with a member of the team at Absolute Digital Media on 0800 088 6000.
What Were The Effects Of E-A-T?
When the update first rolled out, there were thousands upon thousands of websites that saw immediate ranking drops but initially, it wasn’t immediately clear as to just why this was or how it could be recovered from. For up to a month following the update, these sites were witnessing all kinds of fluctuations, even as advice began to come out to aid the recovery.
It was YMYL sites that appeared to be hit the hardest, however, particularly those focused on diet, nutrition and medical advice or devices. According to Google’s Search quality Evaluation Guidelines, YMYL sites can refer to any website that has the potential to impact the “future happiness, health, financial stability or safety of users”. Some examples include:
- Financial Information Pages – Any pages that provide information or details about utilising money, including taxes, investments, home purchases, insurance, etc.
- Medical Information Page – Any webpages offering information about health conditions, healthcare, medication, mental health, nutrition, etc.
- Shopping/Financial Transaction Pages – Any websites that allow users to make a purchase or transfer money.
- Legal Information Pages – Any website that offers legal information or advice, particularly on subjects such as child custody, divorce, wills etc.
- News Articles – Any websites offering information/news reports about events, politics, science, technology, etc. Not all news articles are considered to be YMYL.
- Public/Official Information Pages Important for Having Informed Citizenry – Any page with information about the local/state/national governments, including processes, policies, laws and people. This may also cover disaster response services, social services.
- Other – There are some other sites, such as car safety, adoption etc, that are considered YMYL.
In layman’s terms, this all comes down to whether a webpage has the potential to affect a person’s life or finances if the information is believed/followed. For this reason, Google’s update put a huge focus on ensuring the expertise, authority and trustworthiness of the information presented to visitors. E-A-T rating would ensure that only trusted and accurate sites were at the top of the SERPs, with those considered to be low quality or untrustworthy sometimes even being removed from the index completely.
Some websites out of these industries were also hit over the course of the following weeks, however, there didn’t appear to be any other key focuses. The guidelines still refer to all industries, however, so shouldn’t be overlooked.
If you found that your website was hit and still haven’t recovered, you first need to understand what Google is looking for when it comes to E-A-T:
What Is Expertise?
Expertise is relatively self-explanatory in definition – you need to come across as having expertise within your market and industry. However, Google’s idea of expertise can be a little more complicated to grasp. While you may have knowledge and experience with a certain topic, it’s being able to craft this knowledge into great content that can make all the difference within your site.
Understanding what your audience is searching for and the intent behind their queries can ensure you’re not just throwing information at them and instead, crafting it into concise, easy to understand answers. By understanding the stage of the journey they’re at, you can carefully craft your expertise to ensure relevancy, which happens to be another ranking factor for Google.
In addition, you need to consider showing expertise in two different areas – as an author, and for your website:
As An Author
If you’re writing your own content, then being able to showcase your qualifications and credentials will not only convince google of your knowledge but can appease your visitors, too. Credentials can be shown through degrees, training or other qualifications, relevant experience or even work within the sector of choice.
For The Site
If you can showcase that your business has trustworthy credentials, this can also make a huge difference to the ‘E’ part of the E-A-T rating. If you’ve won any awards or earned any accolades, showcase this on your website. External recognition ultimately works towards building up a reputation which can benefit your ranking too.
What Is Authority?
You could have all of the knowledge in the world, but none of this would mean anything in Google’s eyes if you and your website aren’t considered to be authoritative. Authority can be shown by off-site reputation, citations from other experts or influencers or if your business becomes widely recognised as being relevant to your market. Google can determine authority through:
- The quality and quantity of links from relevant authorities and websites.
- Mentions of your brand, even when unlinked, from reputable and trustworthy websites.
- If your content is shared regularly on social media, this can be seen as growing authority.
- Branded search volumes can also play a part in the level of authority Google attributes to you and your website.
While this is by no means an extensive list, it certainly offers a place to start for most SEOs. Time and time again, businesses get caught up in standard on-site optimisation to appease Google and while high-quality content can go a long way, having an off-site reputation is just as effective.
As An Author
How many citations does the author of your content have? Have they published on other trustworthy and authoritative sites? Google will judge your authority dependant on these factors, so it’s important to support any content with clearly exercised expertise.
For The Site
When it comes to the website itself, authority will rest in how external sources and, of course, the rater guidelines, see the content on your website. This can go hand in hand with trustworthiness, as sites that aren’t trustworthy aren’t often considered as being high authority, and vice versa.
What Is Trustworthiness?
Proving your trustworthiness isn’t always simple but is invaluable when it comes to not only Google’s rankings, but also for user experience and general brand reputation. However, while being trustworthy can improve the buzz around your business online, negative sentiment can have an adverse effect. For this reason, the trustworthiness of your website requires ongoing management.
Google has clear guidelines about the negativity around a brand, stating that too many bad reviews can be a sign of low quality. For this reason, it’s important to keep on to of complaint management, responding to negative reviews in positive ways or offering consumers ways to tackle their issues
As An Author
As with authority, the trust rating that Google provides an author with comes down to citations. Having content published on external sites that also exercise high E-A-T can help build up this trustworthiness. The quality of the external and internal content will also play a part.
For The Site
You need to demonstrate that you’re a company that people can trust, and this can even come down to whether you have a secure connection over HTTPS. You should also consider validating your website, which can be done using an ‘About Us’ page or customer service information for eCommerce websites.
Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines
The Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines are Google’s version of a handbook for their human website review consultants. Each person that reviews the live and test versions of Google’s SERPs need to follow these guidelines when it comes to looking at the sites. In May 2019, a new update saw a variety of changes, with the most prominent being that Page Quality as a term seemed to be replacing ‘E-A-T’ at certain points throughout.
This seems to be Google moving toward separating E-A-T and Page Quality as two separate entities more clearly. While E-A-T can fall under general page quality rankings, Page Quality covers far more than just expertise, authority and trustworthiness. For this reason, the guidelines have changed to clarify what was previously confusing information.
It’s also been noted that the guidelines appear to suggest loosened requirements for non-YMYL sites. There is less emphasis on expertise like classes or qualifications and instead, knowledge and experience can be enough to appease the raters.
However, while these changes may have taken place, it’s still important to design your site and produce your content in line with the guidelines, particularly E-A-T and Page Quality.
To ensure your pages don’t begin to fall down Google’s rankings, are our tips to improving your Google E-A-T rating:
Credit Your Authors To Improve Authority
It’s now more important than ever to credit the author or creator when publishing any kind of content to your site. As the Google rater guidelines explain: “understanding who is responsible for a website is a critical part of assessing E-A-T”.
For example, if a piece of content is explaining a concept surrounding YMYL (Your Money Your Life), it must come from a reputable source, and the only way to find out if the author has authority on the subject is by crediting them. If the author’s information isn’t immediately available, your E-A-T score will begin to plummet.
Despite this, crediting the author for landing or product pages is less significant, as long as the visitor has easy access to the business contact information, it should suffice.
Secure Your Site To Improve Your Site’s Trustworthiness
A web page’s reliability isn’t solely based on status or precision, the site’s security also comes into question. The rater guidelines listed the types of pages that tend to receive a low E-A-T rating, one of which was a “shopping checkout page that has an insecure connection”.
With Google Chrome now labelling every web address that includes ‘HTTP’ opposed to ‘HTTPS’ as not secure, it’s likely a variety of sites will begin to suffer as a result. If you’re facing a similar challenge, it’s instrumental that you attain an SSL certificate to ensure your pages redirect to the correct ‘HTTPS’ URL.
For small-scale businesses, it is common that reputation information won’t always be available. It’s important to understand that this is not always a bad thing if you are modest in stature. Raters are constantly being encouraged to review any reputation information that has been created by third parties.
This has placed crucial emphasis on having a strong and reputable brand in place, to give you the best possible chance of getting one hand over your competitors. Should any of the content creators working on your site start spreading false information, this will severely jeopardise any chances of ranking well within Google listings.
There won’t be extensive repercussions for not having a reputable brand in place; however, you are giving competing authors an easy platform to start outperforming you. Taking authority over your brand can be achieved by enhancing your social media presence, placing yourselves within trustworthy platforms and starting to tell people about your products or services.
Edit Low E-A-T Content To Improve Your Expertise
So, what do you do once your site has been branded with a low E-A-T rating?
Well, you’ll need to alter the pages immediately, as they will be negatively affecting your site’s overall reputation. Completely cutting them will lose your spot in the search results altogether, so the best course of action is to rework the page to try and boost its E-A-T score.
One way you can do this is by writing from personal experience. The guidelines state that: “For some topics, the most expert sources of information are ordinary people sharing their life experiences on personal blogs, forums, reviews, discussions, etc.”
Another method for improving your E-A-T score would be by consulting an expert on the subject after you’ve written a post and ask for a comment. If you’ve recently written a piece on how to save money, contact a financial adviser to find out that the post is reliable, ask them for statement around the subject, include it in the piece and supply their details along with the authors.
What’s Next For Google’s Algorithm?
When it comes to your rankings, E-A-T has always been something you should consider but with the new guidelines in place, it’s a crucial part of your campaigns. For Google, this update enabled the search engine to move closer towards providing users with the best and most relevant results. Every update they have released has geared the index more and more towards a user’s search intent, whether that’s through artificial intelligence through RankBrain or stricter guidelines on quality like the Medic update. Google still has quite some way to go though, so it’s likely we’ll see more core algorithm updates just like this one, in the future.
In March, we saw another quality-based update that seemed to be a form of fix for sites that were over-penalised during the medic update. A significant number of sites saw fluctuating rankings, even those who were previously benefitting from the new E-A-T guidelines. Interestingly, sites that benefited from the March update were seeing more rich snippets in the SERPS, while those that previously had them and had dropped in rankings, had witnessed some cases of losing them. As with most broad core updates, Google’s advice was simply to follow the quality guidelines and ensure that content remained in line with them.
There were another two updates in June, the June 2019 Broad Core Algorithm Update focusing on quality, and the Diversity update seeming to revolve around improving diversity within the SERPS.
The June 2019 Broad Core update seemed to affect a number of sites, though particularly those in the health, eCommerce, cryptocurrency and news industries – not too dissimilar to the Medic update. Very little advice was given as to what needed to be done to recover from ranking drops, but as big brands, such as The Daily Mail, began to witness drops due to poor reputation or poor user experience, it was clear that this was another move towards improving the search experience for users.
The Diversity update, on the other hand, has improved the chances for smaller websites to appear higher in the rankings. The update essentially restricted the times a single domain could appear in the SERPs to just 1-2. While there were exceptions to the rule, such as with branded searches, this would ensure that big brands couldn’t dominate a single page on Google, enabling other brands and websites to appear instead.
As the algorithm grows more and more intelligent and powerful each day, staying on top of these changes can be the difference between a high ranking, and a poor one. Expertise, authority and trustworthiness are just the beginning when it comes to high-quality content and as Google continues to adapt and change, the expectations could very well change too.
If you’d like to understand more about search engines and how to optimise your site so you can rank higher in the SERPs, contact a member of our expert team on 0800 088 6000, today.