We always harp on about the importance of producing quality, in-depth content on your site and ensuring any backlinks you obtain come from sites that do the same.
However, in order to really please Google (and your bottom line), it’s sometimes necessary to go one step further!
For those of you who have no idea what E.A.T is, we’re not talking about showing off what you eat for your dinner:), but rather showing off your expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness as a site and as authors on that site.
You can produce all the great quality content, say the right things, but how does Google know (or your users) that what you’re saying is true and reliable?
Well, this was an issue that came to a head in August 2018 with the Medic update (also known as the Your Money Your Life update) released by Google
This update sought to clear out the quality from the low-quality sites, specifically in industries where the risk to human health or well-being could be at stake – e.g. the medical industry, promoting health products or discussing health BUT it also affected financial industries such as Payday loan companies etc.
We posted this chart in our Google Updates Guide, but thought it was key in showing the effect that the Medic update had on health and wellbeing sites.
As you can see there were some huge losses over a short period of time.
But what is this to do with E.A.T?
This Medic update came at a time when Google had just updated its Quality rater guidelines. And when we look at what they say in these guidelines we begin to understand the ethos behind this update.
Here’s a couple of excerpts:
As you can see they specifically state that high E.A.T comes from pages where there is scientific backing (and consensus where possible) by people or organisations with EXPERTISE.
E.g. they would be rewarding sites that showed off their expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.
The how? of that we’ll get into in a moment…
You can also see they clearly state that where there is a low or even ‘mixed’ reputation, the site should be considered low quality – they even state this for a YMYL website specifically!
Yet again we must reiterate that the Quality guidelines are the guidelines used by Google Quality raters, and are not setting out what was done in the update. However, it does give us as an idea of Google’s ethos at this point regarding the quality of the sites and authors that they ranked.
We saw some large gains but also some large losses in the YMYL industry as a whole, as you can see in these screenshots:
This just goes to show how Google was now using E.A.T as a way of evaluating the safety and trust of a site, meaning for sites that already did this well, they were bound to climb the rankings as other sites that didn’t show off their E.A.T fell!
So why were some sites hit and not others?
Well as you can see in this screenshot of Googles quality rater guidelines, there SHOULD be clear information on the website; meaning pages such as ‘about us’, author pages, contact information, reviews etc!
Many of the sites that were affected probably didn’t have these things OR they were not really known about outside of their site in the medical/health industry and therefore Google couldn’t clarify their trustworthiness!
Rebel Interactive also found that ‘Live Strong’ – a site that was hit by the Medic update as you can see in the Moz ‘Losers’ chart above – used to post articles where the author was simply described as ‘Livestrong contributor’ and no other information was given. This meant that Google could not ascertain whether that information was written by someone with authority on the subject they were discussing or not – and as we’ve already shown in the Quality Rater guidelines, that in itself would be enough for a low rating.
So how do you improve your E.A.T?
There are a number of ways to improve your E.A.T and they tend to involve good website practices that you SHOULD be doing anyway!
- You need easy to access contact details; that means a clear ‘Contact us’ page showing a number of ways you can get in contact with the site, whether that be by email, phone, contact us form or live chat! You can also list how quickly you will get back to the user e.g. ‘We respond within 24 hours’ so that they understand how long they will have to wait!
- Your ‘About Us’ page is a major component of showing off E.A.T. It should be informative, showing off the company’s history, what it is exactly the company does, reviews, any awards the company has won, any papers that have been published.
- This then ties into having great author pages! Whenever someone writes for your site’s blog, they should have an author page that also shows off their E.A.T – yet again whether that be from awards, their experience in the field, links to pages where they are featured (e.g. Wikipedia etc), any work they have had published and so on!
- Also, the content that is being produced on the site’s blog should be in-depth, quality, insightful and offer something new to the subject and SHOULD be well referenced (like a college essay). Google will not trust a blog post with no references out to research etc, as much as a blog post that has authoritative research! Gone are the days when you should try and have as small amount of outbound links as possible in comparison to inbound – outbound links to relevant, authoritative sites show that you have researched, and also that your work is NATURAL (we love that word 🙂 )
- Change any Meta titles with overtly pushy selling tactics (especially in those YMYL, legal or financial industries). One such example of this was with Peachy UK – a payday loan company – they had been ranking well before August 1st with meta titles such as; “short terms loans at Peachy (Get up to £1000 today)”. However, Google viewed this as trying to coerce the user into parting with their money when it may not be in their best interest! When they changed the title back to; “Short term loans at Peachy (trusted by 2 million customers” they saw increases in their CTR from 7.3% to 10%. This was because the title played on the TRUST of the user rather than pushy selling tactics!
Overall it is clear that the YMYL update had a profound effect on the need for showing off E.A.T on your site!
If we think of Google like a college/ university professor, the most important thing to them when grading an essay is to see the research behind an argument so that they can decide whether the argument being put forward is trustworthy! But the research must also be from authoritative sources that are understood to be experts in their field!
In this way, Google is much the same! They want to be sure that the information that is being provided to the user is as accurate and trustworthy as possible, and in YMYL, financial or legal industries the results, if the information is inaccurate, can have a direct effect on the wellbeing; financially and health-wise of the user! And in order to remain useful to the user, Google must ensure this is not the case!
EAT update – Feb 19th 2019
Since we wrote this article on E.A.T Google has come out with a white paper essentially confirming absolutely everything we had been saying about E.A.T for the past year, that it is, in fact, a huge ranking factor! Especially in areas, they deem as high risk!
Look at this quote in the white paper:
For these “YMYL” pages, we assume thatGoogle White paper
users expect us to operate with our strictest
standards of trustworthiness and safety.
As such, where our algorithms detect that
a user’s query relates to a “YMYL” topic, we
will give more weight in our ranking systems
to factors like our understanding of the
authoritativeness, expertise, or trustworthiness
of the pages we present in response.
They also stated that their systems cannot make judgements on the trustworthiness of pages, BUT that they can look at signals which indicate the expertise, trustworthiness and authoritativeness of the site.
Here is the section on E.A.T, where they specifically reference YMYL sites. This was, of course, an update in August of 2018 which had a profound effect on those types of sites, and was thought to have come from an E.A.T update at the time, as we saw in The Quality searchers Guidelines. This white paper pretty much confirms all of that!
Overall this means our hypothesis on E.A.T and the YMYL update being related were completely correct.
This white paper published by Google delves even deeper into how they try to combat ‘fake news’ and ‘shady’ or ‘unknown’ products in an era where sensationalism and indignation sells, Google is trying to find ways to combat this and ensure their search engine doesn’t become a platform for who can shout the loudest, but rather who has information backed up by authority and expertise, who we can therefore trust is giving factual information.