How YMYL Websites Can Improve E-A-T

In August 2018, Google rolled out one of its biggest algorithm updates to date that rewards websites prioritising expertise, authority and trust (E-A-T) through their content. 

While the E-A-T update might have come as a surprise to many digital marketers at the time, it is worth noting that Google has always intended the search landscape to become what it is today. In fact, this is discussed at length in Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines, a manual given to the ‘search quality raters’ who evaluate Google’s search results.

“If you understand how raters learn to assess good content, that might help you improve your own content. In turn, you might perhaps do better in Search.

In particular, raters are trained to understand if content has what we call strong E-A-T. That stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. Reading the guidelines may help you assess how your content is doing from an E-A-T perspective and improvements to consider.”

Excerpt from Google’s search quality rater guidelines

Understanding the E-A-T update

It’s been a good few years since the initial E-A-T algorithm rollout and while many brands have been unaffected, organic changes have hit ‘Your Money or Your Life’ (YMYL) websites the hardest.

In this article we’ll discuss what types of brands are considered Y-M-Y-L and how their content can be future-proofed in order to withstand the E-A-T algorithm. 

What is Y-M-Y-L?

Google uses this phrase to describe topics or websites that could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability or safety. 

The stakes are high for this type of content and the financial repercussions of not being E-A-T compliant have been felt over the years – and the outcome of the initial algorithm update speaks for itself. Without a doubt, those most impacted by the E-A-T update have been insurance, finance and medical websites.  

But, making a change starts with understanding what E-A-T is and how brands can proactively take steps to build better content. 

What is E-A-T?

E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness) is the framework through which Google attempts to understand the authenticity of your website. It is important to know that there are many factors that contribute towards an E-A-T assessment and no single cookie-cutter method can be applied to all websites. 

Google’s documentation on what site owners should know about E-A-T tells us that “assessing your own content in terms of E-A-T criteria may help align it conceptually with the different signals that [their] automated systems use to rank content.”

Auditing content with Google’s guidelines in mind

Websites should undergo content audits on a regular basis. This is even more true for Y-M-Y-L websites where Google has even higher standards. 

By collecting URLs and matching them to their site traffic, you are quickly able to see which pages are performing the best and which are not. Within your audit, pages with little to no traffic indicate that they do not fulfil the intent of the user or potentially are not compliant with E-A-T. 

A thorough content audit will reveal whether it’s worth improving, removing or consolidating the low-value pages on your site. For any pages that you decide to keep, ensure you follow the QRG guidelines in order to understand what good looks like. Here is an image from the guidelines that gives examples of what high quality pages  should include: 

A content audit is a complex task and, depending on the size of your domain, can take days if not weeks to do properly. Beyond looking at traffic and engagement metrics, you also should review each page on your website by asking questions such as:

You can then use the insights from your audit to create a plan for updating the content that’s already on your site.

Proving expertise through authorship and qualifications

If the E-A-T algorithm update has taught us anything it’s that whoever authors content on a Y-M-Y-L site should be qualified to do so. There are no two ways about it. Despite the hurdles and development that might go into doing this, the impact will be tenfold. 

Google expects a high level of expertise, giving the example that “medical advice should be written or produced by people or organisations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation.”

Here is an example of how authoritative domains qualified to give medical advice are being rewarded with favourable results:

In addition to mentioning who authors the content being produced, including an informational page about the author and their qualifications is highly recommended. This might mean working with a strategic copywriting team who work with and leverage in-house professionals to write or co-author content. 

Developing a robust editorial process will also help ensure the accuracy and overall quality of the content you publish. 

Proactively improving your online reputation

Having an author is just the first hurdle. When reviewing pages, Google conducts “extensive reputation research” to assess the credibility of the author and the organisation.

Knowing what you’re ranking for and how you show up is crucial. Conducting a Google search of your brand name and understanding the conversations that are being had about you online gives you a good indication as to whether your site will be trusted by Google Raters. When you do this, the SERP will likely be a blend of a few different results, including:

Working with both a traditional and digital PR team is a great way for you to find strategic ways to own the SERP landscape and manage your online reputation. 

Boosting your authority with tactical link building

Raters score YMYL websites with a “mixed reputation” poorly, resulting in damaging bad press.

Many SEOs have followed the adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, so long as it includes a link to your website. Being solely focused on link-building, however, can leave you vulnerable to the importance of sentiment and the impact it can have on your brand’s reputation.

This may mean changing your link-building strategy somewhat to ensure your brand – and its spokespeople – are being cited by authoritative, relevant publications. Equally, it’s vital that you react to negative press quickly.

If you don’t have the budget for a digital PR agency, you can set some time aside each week to respond to media requests or offer guest articles to relevant publications. You might not think your brand is particularly newsworthy but sending out a quick press release to announce a new product launch or to tie in with a seasonal event can provide journalists with real value. What’s more, product guides are a proven link-building tactic.

Supercharging your brand’s ‘about’ page to prove trust

We have already discussed the importance of influence, or what people see when they search your brand name online. But, the ‘about’ page on your website is your chance to curate all this reputational information to convey the kind of message that you want your audience to see.

As YMYL websites demand a high degree of trust, Google expects them to provide a “satisfying amount of information about who is responsible for the content on the site”.

A good ‘about’ page can contribute to this and should include in-depth biographical information about the company. It should also include up-to-date contact details and give users a compelling reason to trust your brand. This could be a list of awards, proof of accreditation or legitimate reviews that are embedded from third-party websites.

In conclusion

While E-A-T has been the party line for Google over the past year or so, it’s important to reiterate that it’s not a direct ranking signal – at least, for the time being.

The big caveat here is that following Google’s quality guidelines – or the tips within this article – will not necessarily boost your search rankings. However, it’ll give you a good compass for content quality, which is something that Google is taking increasingly seriously.

The bigger question though is arguably one about improving user experience. If you need any more reason to include trust signals – like reviews from happy customers – try testing and measuring whether it has an effect on your conversion rate.

Need support auditing your content in order to ensure it meets Google’s E-A-T requirements? Get in touch with our content strategy team today. 

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