If this sounds like a strange question, that’s because it is. But it might also mean you are unfamiliar with two key acronyms and one of the most important guidelines for high quality content supported by Google.
E-A-T stands for “Expertise, Authority, Trust”
YMYL stands for “Your Money or Your Life“. Basically, all the niches that deal in life quality impacting subjects, such as heath, finance, law, safety, etc.
EAT is all the rage these days, and while a few contrarians criticize its effectiveness in truly influencing SEO, it’s still a very solid guideline to follow for content creation in YMYL fields (and in general). So, if you care about providing high quality, you should take note.
How these terms rose to SEO prominence
Don’t be mistaken in thinking this is anything new. SEO experts have been dropping these terms before they became the buzzwords they are today.
EAT came into mainstream discussion last year in August following Google’s unofficially named “Medic Update” (mentioned in our timeline update article). The update seemed to have hit mostly websites in the medical field, hence the name. But the impact was noted in many other websites that fall under the YMYL acronym such as law and finance.
This is part of Google’s quest to provide not just relevant content that fits the search query, but also content that is correct, solid and founded in fact and not opinion in these YMYL fields. Hence the emphasis on EAT (we will break this down soon).
It’s a way to protect users from potentially harmful information in these life-impacting subjects. Getting biased opinions masked as facts, charlatan medical methods, and downright misleading information can be damaging to wellbeing, financial states and health.
A good example of how content can be harmful to general health is the dangerous anti-vaxxing movement, presenting their content as legitimate medical expert advice.
Enter the EAT rating. Google doesn’t want to serve search results which might potentially have a negative impact on someone’s quality of life. Just because some website paid a ton for a talented SEO expert and got to rank high solely on the merit of SEO tactics (shady and/or legit).
Google released a very important document back in 2015 called Search Quality Evaluator Guideline, detailing all the guidelines they use to rate content quality in these fields. The document is aimed at their human rating army of 10,000 personnel (figure which was true for 2015 and has likely grown since). The raters’ team is browsing search results in YMYL fields and determines their quality ratings based on these guidelines. This process is part of Google’s development of their ranking algorithm and teaching it to be as independent as it can be in recognizing content quality.
Back in 2015 it was still relatively easy to rank on Google, making low quality search results in these life-crucial fields a widespread phenomenon that needed to be corrected.
In the 2018 core algorithm update, Google also announced they are updating their evaluators guidelines. Now the evaluators are also tasked with checking the author’s credentials and how qualified they are to write about their topic.
Following this announcement content creators and SEO experts were now tasked with providing not only high quality content, but also making sure it was written by high quality authors.
If your content falls under the YMYL category, be sure to go over Google’s documentation, to know what they would define as being “high quality content”, in addition to this article.
The breakdown of EAT and how to properly implement these areas
What exactly defines expertise is not an exact science, since the term itself is subjective, but this is not about semantics, but concretely about how Google sees quality. Basically, it means you need to show convincingly that the content is legit and professional, and not fiction.
For example, a professional approach to writing an article about a supplement would include:
- Links to legitimate scientific research papers and articles and including citations.
- Breaking down the benefits and
- Showing a high level of understanding in the topic.
- Being relevant to the search terms that are being promoted for the article – if one of the keywords are “what is the best supplement for sleep”, then the person needs to get an answer exactly for that.
- Including links to other closely related topics that might interest the reader (also good for establishing the website as a go-to source in that niche).
An unprofessional approach would be:
- Telling a story or personal anecdote about using the supplement as the defining “proof”.
- Presenting opinions as facts.
- Drawing careless inductive conclusions – “a personal story that applies to everyone” narrative.
- Being irrelevant and not answering the promoted search term clearly enough.
- Presenting a purely sales driven text with product links as an informative piece.
The tricky part here of course, is making professional content accessible and also entertaining to read. An article might be a very professionally written piece but if it’s purely technical and filled with industry jargon, it will not be great for bounce rates, because people need to be engaged and not bored. Using expert jargon is fine but be sure to link to a wiki or dictionary explaining the terms if you are targeting uninitiated readers.
One of the hardest quality ratings to achieve. You can be a very skilled expert writer in your field, but to become an Authority in the field, you need other experts and sites linking to your content and endorsing it. An authority in a topic, is basically the established go-to source of information.
This basically means backlinks, a topic every SEO expert is familiar with.
A highly rated EAT website linking back to your content will have a bigger influence on your Authority rating as well as your ranks. An ok/medium rated website will have less influence. While a low rated/spammy website, as well as irrelevant and bought backlinks might have a negative effect!
We breakdown the logic behind the power of backlinks for SEO and ranking high on Google in our backlinks article.
This also goes beyond links. If you have a Wikipedia page of your brand, and if your brand or website is mentioned (without links, just by name) in a highly EAT rated website, then this can also benefit your rating and ranks. If your content is being shared organically on social media on a regular basis, it’s also a plus.
Or simply customer sentiment – how your brand or business is perceived by people. Negative chatter (such as shaming), hit pieces, and poor external reviews lower your trust ratings.
To follow our previous example – if the supplement that you offer is discovered as contaminated or having a very bad side effect, then it will drag negative chatter, poor reviews and eventually lower your trust rating as well as general brand loyalty.
To raise trust be sure to address complaints and negative reviews quickly to show that you are complaint friendly and always take responsibility.
Having good reviews on external directories such as Yelp, Google My Business, Facebook, TripAdvisor and bbb.org (The Better Business Bureau), will help raise your trust ratings as well.
The Better Business Bureau is specifically mentioned as one of the sources of customer sentiment Google checks in their document (page 16 and 52). Especially when it comes to negative sentiment – if you are rated poorly on BBB.org, this means there are several unresolved complaints, and this means poor customer service, which leads to lower trust ratings.
Also check out our articles about reviews and having high quality customer service:
|The Magic Marketing Power of Customer Reviews|
As we mentioned earlier, an author’s own credibility and EAT ratings also now matter a lot when it comes to YMYL topics. Google doesn’t demand you scan a diploma and send it to them directly, but they will be on the lookout for one.
This is why you would commonly see a nice portrait of the author along with a link to their official website, contact details, Twitter or LinkedIn profile in any serious and highly regarded website or news outlet. Like this:
Expertise – The author has a relevant bio and credentials linked to or displayed in the article. Following our supplement example, a good author in this case would be a professional nutritionist or doctor. A not so great author would be your aunt Gloria that uses healing crystals and believes the Earth is flat.
Authority – The author is mentioned or cited by various high rated websites, articles and authors. They create content for highly rated websites, they are a known expert in their field, and they have credentials proudly displayed on their websites and social media profiles. They might even have their own Wikipedia page (which is a huge plus in this case).
Trust – They are respected in their niche/field and don’t have noticeable negative chatter about them on the web.
Any site that will have an author with high EAT ratings contribute an article, will enjoy their favorable influence.
Having a properly marked author Schema details is one of the best ways to help Google’s algorithms follow the EAT trail. To read more about Schema markups and their SEO influence, check out our previous article:
|The amazing benefits of using Schema markups and rich snippets on your websites|
Achieving high EAT ratings is no easy task and takes time and effort. There are no shortcuts here. The good news is while the progress is slow, it’s very solid. Once you have established high EAT status, lowering it will also be hard.
While the above mostly applies to YMYL niches such as the medical, legal and financial fields, it can also apply to any other field where there are experts. Consider it an overall good guideline to follow no matter what you are writing about.
It’s more than likely that Google’s neural network powered A.I. RankBrain will become very adept at recognizing quality by EAT standards. Websites that manage to fly below the radar for certain search terms with low-quality content will eventually vanish.
The last standing question here is, what will happen to fringe content that might go against the scientific consensus, yet it still holds merit? Progress happens by analyzing fringe theories, as well as mainstream ones. Allowing high quality content to dominate search results is great, but the complete disappearance of outsider lore, might not be ideal either. Not to mention the immense power Google will have to control any narrative they like and mold the minds of the people.
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