E-A-T & The Quality Raters’ Guidelines: Read This!
Let’s talk about Google’s Expertise, Authoritativeness & Trust - why it’s such a big deal with SEO right now, why I love SEO more than ever & what you need to do if you want to rank well.
Allow me to be subjective for a moment. IMHO, Google is changing for the better. There’s still a long way to go, but, for one personally fist-pumping, hallelujah screaming example, you can no longer write pseudoscience garbage about green juice detoxes and homeopathic cures for cancer and expect to rank well just because you’ve got an established website. And this makes me so bloody fantastically happy. Here’s why.
But first, the TL;DR:
Google now appears to care about the quality of information they publish (yes, really!)
Google Search Quality Guidelines have stated that every high-quality page needs E-A-T to rank well.
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority and Trust
Expertise – the level of expertise an author has on the subject
Authority – how well the author is recognised as an authority on the subject
Trustworthiness – is the content on this webpage accurate?
E-A-T is mainly for YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) websites - especially health and medical websites - which also appear to have been significantly affected by Google’s ‘Medic’ and recent September 2019 core update.
YMYL sites include shopping/transactional pages, financial info pages, home purchasing, insurance, retirement planning, legal information, divorce, law, government policies, political science, and health and medical sites.
"If any of Expertise, Authoritativeness, or Trustworthiness is lacking, use the 'low' rating."
- Google Quality Raters Guidelines
Did you read that above? Do I have your attention now?
A brief personal tale
When I started writing for the web years ago, it didn’t take me long to become disenchanted. It was great at first; my professional life was off to a flying start, and hungry to earn a living, I said yes to almost everything, madly creating as much content as I could. But strangely, no one cared that much about what I wrote. Providing I’d write a catchy headline with 750 words of personable, chatty content, keep people on the page, include a bunch of key phrases, and help the companies’ SEO, everything was sweet.
No one was fact checking my work. And it soon became apparent to me that the vast amount of rubbish I was Googling hadn’t been fact-checked either. It was one nasty, vicious circle of BS and it seriously, completely messed with my mind.
Alternative medicine garbage was rife in the health sphere, which was kind of a problem as health and medical/dental stuff was where I was making the most money. And here’s the thing – the most pathetic garbage was especially easy to find – you’d just look to the top of Google.
Why did people believe this stuff?
That’s a great topic for a PhD and I’m not qualified to answer, but my take is that several reasons conflated and snowballed. Dumb stuff was easier to grasp than complex science, it fed conspiracy theories around the Guvmint and Big Pharma (hello, anti-vaxers), it was cool to be a contrarian – and let’s not forget – it was written in print, so a lotta peeps just believed it was true.
Compounding this already perfect storm was the old Bandwagon (argumentum ad populum) Fallacy - everyone else was doing it so it must be good/true (hello, gluten-free). So this dumb stuff became fashionable, and as their search volume increased, the demand increased, more content was written, and dumbf*ckery found it’s way to the top.
But let’s not forget - it was commercially driven. These writers were paid to convincingly push products to sell online - no matter how untrue they were.
“When money is involved, who wants the truth to get in the way of a good story?”
So, does coconut oil cures cancer? Sure it does (not). Lemon juice balances your pH? Oh, absolutely (not). Do vaccines cause autism? Umm…. It was pretty unsettling.
Any idiot could have written this, I’d say to my friends. Even me.
Houston, we have a problem.
By around 2018, things had gone terribly wrong. Too many individuals with terminal conditions had followed poor alt medicine advice– there remains no proof of the efficacy of alternative medicine to treat cancer. Damaging and deadly diseases once eradicated – such as measles (eradicated in the US in 2000) and polio returned, killing hundreds daily, and threatening many more. The ‘woke’ who walk among us believed the earth was flat and plenty more ‘believed’ global warming was a conspiracy. AI started producing some pretty unsettling fake news. So did journalists. Donald Trump had morphed into POTUS.
Need I go on? This dumbf*ckery had become a major problem.
Something had to be done. And it looked like Google (and the likes of the Zuckerberg) got very nervous. So they tweaked the algos.
Ok, see the image below? This is where the fun starts and we all start cheering…
How Google Fights Misinformation
How Google Fights Misinformation is the title of a white paper brought out by Google in February this year (2019). They admit in the document that it’s very hard for computers to determine whether something is true. Google says they “aim to tackle the intentional spread of misinformation across Google search, Google News, You-Tube and Google’s advertising platforms.”
Google wants to attack fake news and misinformation by designing and building the appropriate algorithms which will favour sites with a high indication of E-A-T.
Search Quality Rating Guidelines
Google wrote and published the Search Quality Guidelines in 2015, but although they’ve been available to the public, many didn’t know it existed. But it’s extremely important, especially today as Google works even harder to fight this misinformation.
According to Ben Gomes, VP of Google search, the content in the quality guidelines no “… fundamentally show us what the algorithm should do.”
Google has some 16,000 quality raters who study the web. These people advise Google’s engineers to tweak or change the algorithms so they are rated accordingly. If you want to rank well, read the Quality Rating Guidelines so you can keep this information at the fore of your mind while writing content.
Also: it appears that PageRank and E-A-T are closely connected. Keep it in mind.
PageRank – a definition
“PageRank is an algorithm used by Google Search to rank webpages in their search engine results. Page Rank was named after Larry Page, one of the founders of Google. PageRank is a way of measuring the importance of webpages.” – Wikipedia
Medic update and the latest core update – what happened?
Broadly speaking, natural medicine sites appear to be having trouble. <Insert fist pump>
And, medical or health sites that provide information that adheres to scientific consensus, show expertise, authority and trust signals, are doing well. I have one medico client in an incredibly competitive arena who has jumped right to the very top. I’m chuffed.
Want to rank for something that really matters to people? Use E-A-T.
Tips for showing E-A-T
Have an author bio. Stating the obvious, this shows who wrote it, and why you should believe them.
If the doctor or dentist is not writing the article (on their website), get them to check the article and then state that this has occurred.
Doctors and dentists – an important caveat – relying on your expertise as a doctor or dentist isn’t enough. You’ll notice there are an awful lot of dentists out there all competing with each other. You’ll have to get around this by – in addition – pushing authority and trust. (See below)
Medical example: If you’re writing an article about gut health, you must show that you have expertise here. The reason? This is an important health issue. If you have serious problems with your gut, you’re better off reading from a specialist physician in this area rather than Tammy from Facebook who, like, really really believes that her organic tea will cure your coeliac disease. (Bye, Tammy)
Non-medical example: Note – you don’t always need a science degree. For example, it was a trade site, someone that was a qualified, registered technician and who could show that had years of experience may do very well. Or, a writer that has just written for big publications will also hold clout.
Authoritativeness (Very important)
“It’s one thing to be an expert; it’s another to be recognised online as one.” - SEO Marie Haynes
· Where possible, show recommendations from experts
You can show trust by:
Boosting your reputation - with reviews, links, social proof
Clearly showing refund & shipping info – stuff people want to know in advance so they won’t get caught out
Contact info - this is highly important. And if you have a local business, you make sure it 100% matches up with the Google My Business page. GMB is like an added verification.
About page – please – a strong, informative and transparent ‘About’ page - with real images, not stock photos. (I’ve had so many arguments with clients about the importance of transparent, informative ‘About’ pages with real staff photos. Please, just do it, for your sake. It matters.)
Being in line with scientific consensus
Including decent scientific references – very important
Showing years of experience
Screening your ads. If you have ads that look untrustworthy, then Google may not like this. No one it is clear about this yet, but I’d take a punt that they’re considering it. I’ve recently noticed a couple of horrible cosmetic surgery sites with cheap, tacky advertising that looks insincere to me - and I’ve noticed that these sites have lost ranking.
Like to know more about fighting medical misinformation on the web?
It’s a fascinating topic. Read more about both Facebook and Google’s efforts to fight medical misinformation in this great article by David Gorski over at Science-based Medicine. >