If you’re still trying to make sense of the Google ranking algorithm, you’re not alone. It continues to change, and one of the latest updates from the search engine giant relates to even more emphasis on the quality of your online content.
In 2015, Google released the totality of its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines to the public. This 160+ page document is meant to help Google’s own human evaluators take a look at your website and determine whether it offers high, medium, or low quality. Nothing related to factors such as website security or website speed, for instance. While these “scores” aren’t used as ranking factors per se, Google made clear in its 2018 algorithm update that certain factors referred to as E-A-T are vital to your performance.
The Google Medic Update
In August 2018, Google updated its algorithm and, true to form, didn’t give specifics about new ranking factors. But, experts were able to drill down into what happened, with the conclusion that certain quality principles were taking center stage.
Search Engine Roundtable even named this the “Google Medic Update” because it tended to impact the health/medical niche the most. Why? Because many of these websites were posting content that wasn’t considered to be from authority or highly credible sources.
This update has been particularly critical for the Your Money Your Life (YMYL) niche, which encompasses websites from finance, legal, insurance, and health, among others. Google has incredibly high page quality standards for these sites because a low-quality site has the potential to negatively impact a person’s finances, health, stability, and happiness. This is what brings us to E-A-T.
What is Google’s E-A-T Standard?
According to Google, aside from being useful and engaging, site owners should strive to establish three things in their content.
Google wants to see that you are an “expert” in your field, meaning you have the education, experience, skills, or specialized knowledge to be able to speak to your readers about a certain topic. This is vital for certain sites (medical, legal, financial) but less so for others (gossip, humor).
Above is an excellent example of an expert profile by Erin Gerstenzang.
You can establish expertise by listing your qualifications on your author bio page. When you hire content creators, you should hire someone that produces quality work, and that has experience in your industry. Also, be sure to carefully edit your content to that is of the highest quality possible.
The content that you create should influence others in the industry to turn to you as an influencer. In other words, you become an “authority.” Some of the ways that Google will judge the authoritativeness of your content include:
- Being mentioned by other authority sites or in the news;
- Links from authoritative and relevant websites;
- High search volume for your content; and
- Having content that is widely shared.
For example, Neil Patel is considered as an authority in SEO and content marketing. There are tons of other experts who refer to his material and conduct interviews with him.
When it comes to the web, Google wants visitors to be able to “trust” what you say and do. If you’re a digital snake in the grass, your rankings are going to suffer. Some of the ways that the search engine looks at the factor include:
- Positive reviews on online platforms like Google, Trustpilot, and Facebook;
- Having a clear way for visitors to contact you;
- Associating your website with a physical location.
An example of a trustworthy site such as WebHostingSecretRevealed. Besides the factors mentioned above, you know who the people running the website, what is the purpose of the website, and the effort they have contributed to the web hosting industry.
What You Can Do to Improve Your E-A-T Rating
Sure, this whole E-A-T requirement is just one more thing you’ll have to worry about for your online presence, but it’s important. Here are several additional ways that you can boost your E-A-T rating and improve the user experience at the same time.
1. Make Personal Branding a Priority
If your page is meant to tell people how to spend their money or improve their health, Google wants to see that you’ve established a strong reputation as an authority on this topic. This starts with building a personal brand, and it’s not instant.
Some of the things you can do to boost your personal brand include:
- Be active on social media on these topics and engage with other influencers;
- Develop content for other authority websites; and
- Tell your personal or professional story to connect with your readers.
2. Edit or Delete Low E-A-T Content
If there is content on your website that isn’t stacking up to these E-A-T guidelines, it’s time to either edit or gets rid of it. While a single low-content page won’t impact your rankings, there’s a good chance that few people are going to that page and enjoying their experience.
If you can, edit the low-quality pages instead of deleting them. See if you can bring an authority on board as your author and spend more time on the sources that you’re using.
3. Invest in Site Security
Google now prefers that your website be secure, meaning you’ve invested in an SSL certificate. Chrome now marks HTTP pages as “not secure,” and sites that don’t have HTTPS may not get the best E-A-T score.
Having fake security badges on your site or logos for brands that you don’t have a partnership with are sure ways to get the “lowest” rating. By contrast, sites that are secure and have verifiable badges will earn the “highest” ratings.
4. Moderate User-Generated Content
While user-generated content is something you should encourage, the rater guidelines point out that it’s also something you need to monitor. This is particularly the case with YMYL websites that give important advice.
When a user chimes in with their knowledge on a topic, it might not always be accurate or helpful. In fact, the commentary could be harmful. For example, a website dealing with kidney disease might allow user-generated comments. If a user urges others to forgo life-saving medical treatment and stick with a certain supplement instead, this is something the site owner should moderate.
In contrast, users can be incredibly insightful by helping each other solve problems and providing an additional point of view about a topic. A blog or forum dealing with home gardening is just one example.
Google’s E-A-T framework is tough to swallow for any website owner that is focused on quick results. But, you want to provide value to your customers and are playing the long game, you’ll do fine as long as you follow these simple strategies. If you do this correctly, you’re going to achieve top rankings in Google and easily outperform your peers.
Jason Chow is a digital marketer and WordPress fans from Webrevenue.io, a company that provides content and marketing for startups and online businesses. Twitter handle: @JasonCPF
Google algorithm stock photo by Sam Kresslein/Shutterstock