Google has been a serious advocate of promoting search engines as a source, to help people find informative and quality information which is presented in the most convenient order.
To help ensure that these standards are met, in 2013 Google published a list of guidelines that the company had developed internally to help their human raters understand how to look at websites and access Page Quality.
Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines lists a number of factors that are used to determine the overall Page Quality rating. Amongst those factors, E-A-T is probably the most critical, despite often being misunderstood.
What is E-A-T?
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness, and is used to describe three fundamental factors set by Google to evaluate a page:
- Expertise: The level of expertise of the creator of the main content of the page.
- Authoritativeness: The authoritativeness of the creator of the content, the content itself and website.
- Trustworthiness: The trustworthiness of the creator of the content, the content itself and the website.
The goal for these three elements is to determine whether a page can be trusted and therefore considered to be a quality source depending of its purpose.
In fact, pages and sites can have many different purposes. Some pages are merely created to make profit whilst others aim to be informative and helpful. However, the purpose is not a quality factor in itself. There are in fact, high quality and low-quality pages for all purposes. What really determines the quality of a page is how it achieves in delivering relevant information that meets its purpose.
With that said, E-A-T will impact pages differently considering its purpose. This is because purposes are considered to affect people’s lives differently. For pages that could impact core aspects of a person’s life, Google as identified them as YMYL.
Your Money or Your Life
YMYL is the term used by Google to describe pages or topics that are potentially more likely to affect a person’s happiness, health, financial stability or safety. These are sensitive subjects that require additional scrutiny when accessing the viability of its source. For topics such as health, news, finance, shopping, Government and law and others, E-A-T plays a major role in making sure that the information is trusted and most of all that it serves the purpose of delivering valuable and quality information. This can sometimes even affect traffic and rankings.
In August 2018 many YMYL websites dropped abruptly when Google released the Google medic update. Although it was never confirmed that E-A-T had a direct impact in the update, it was suggested by Google’s Danny Sullivan that website owners should consider the raters guidelines to improve their content.
Is E-A-T a ranking factor?
Although E-A-T is important to access page quality of websites, Google has never confirmed it to be a ranking factor. In fact, October 2020 saw Google update the Search Quality Guidelines to clarify that they do not consider it to determine ranking positions.
So how does it affect websites performance?
In their words “raters are using that (E-A-T) to see if our systems are working well to show good information”. So by applying the same principles to improve their content, website owners are also improving the chances of their site doing better in search results.
Why is it important for SEO?
As an SEO agency, we are aware that search engines will usually prioritise quality pages that are clear when serving its purpose.
E-A-T gives website owners a clear idea of what Google takes into consideration when accessing and rating these pages. From an SEO perspective it is extremely valuable to learn what these guidelines are so that we can optimise sites accordingly and thus improving the chances of performing better.