If you’ve ever wondered how to decipher Google’s ranking algorithm, you’re not alone.
As of Nov. 12, 2015, you are in luck with getting far more specifics on how the Google brain digests online content. On that day, Google released the entire version of their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
These guidelines, designed to help Google’s own ranking evaluators do their job, offers important information about what Google is looking for in high-quality pages and how websites can perform better in Google’s algorithm.
Specifically, Google offers two measurements, E-A-T and YMYL, which are important for marketers looking to create better pages in the new year.
Let’s discuss what you need to know about both of them.
Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness: E-A-T
E-A-T stands for “Expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness” and it’s the metric by which Google’s evaluators rank pages. High-quality pages possess a high level of E-A-T while low-quality pages don’t. How do you master E-A-T?
According to Section 4 of Part 1 of the guidelines, high-quality pages possess the following traits:
- Enough main content (MC): content should be ample enough to satisfy the needs of a user for a page’s unique topic and purpose (broad topics require more information than narrow topics, for example)
- The page and its associated content is expert, authoritative, and trustworthy for the topic they discuss
- The website has a positive reputation for its page topics
- The website features enough auxiliary information, for example, “About us,” “Contact,” or “Customer Service” information
- The website features supplementary content (SC) that enhances the user’s enjoyment and experience of a web page
- The page is designed in a functional fashion that allows users to easily locate the information they want
- The website is maintained and edited regularly and frequently
One of the most important aspects of this list is the concept of E-A-T. E-A-T has a direct effect on both the page’s quality level as well as its reputation on the web at large. In order to be deemed high-quality, Google states that “websites need enough expertise to be authoritative and trustworthy on their topic.”
It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that what comprises “Expert” content can vary depending upon a page’s type and purpose.
For example, while high-level medical advice needs to be written by an accredited doctor in order to be considered “Expert” content, general information supplied on medical support forums can be considered “Expert” even if it’s been written by a layperson. Some topics inherently require less formal levels of expertise and, for these pages, Google is predominantly looking at how helpful, detailed, and useful the information provided is.
This is true for things like product and restaurant reviews and information on fashion sites, gossip sites, and humor sites. Google makes it clear that, while there are many different types of “Everyday expertise” and that evaluators will not penalize a site for not having “Formal” training in a given field if the field doesn’t necessarily warrant that (this is true of fashion sites, for example).
Google does make it clear, however, that the following sites must be written by accredited, qualified experts:
- Medical information
- Financial advice
- Advice or information pages on any topic that can have a potential negative impact on a person’s health, happiness or wealth
- High-quality hobby pages
When it comes to E-A-T, the takeaway is this: some pages require higher levels of formal expertise while some require “Everyday expertise.” To determine which is which, content creators and marketers need to think about how much expertise is needed in order for the page to achieve its purpose and to provide useful, helpful, detailed content.
Your Money Or Your Life: No, We’re Talking About Google Here (Y-M-Y-L Pages)
I like to summarize the YMYL acronym as:
A quality rating for online content that either asks for your money or your life.
OK, it’s not like THAT exactly. But I think I’m close. Here’s what Google defines Y-M-Y-L as.
YMYL stands for “Your Money or Your Life” pages and are comprised of pages that are important enough that, were they low-quality, they could have a potential negative impact on a person’s life, income, or happiness. As a general rule, the pages that Google requires to be written by experts are known as YMYL pages. Google thinks of the following categories as examples of YMYL pages:
- Shopping or financial transaction pages
- Pages that offer financial information, for example, investment or tax information
- Pages that offer medical information about specific diseases or conditions or mental health
- Pages that offer legal information about topics like child support, divorce, creating a will, becoming a citizen, etc.
- Any page that has the potential to be dangerous or detrimental if it possessed low levels of E-A-T (car repair and maintenance, for example)
When it comes to these pages, Google has incredibly high page quality rating standards. This is Google’s effort to protect Google users from low-quality complex content that doesn’t possess the needed levels of E-A-T.
The Case for Expert Writers
E-A-T levels and Y-M-Y-L pages are two of the most important takeaways from the guidelines as a whole and both of them point to Google’s increased focus on the need for expert writers. While some content can be written by people without technical training or accreditation, all content needs to possess a high level of E-A-T in order to be viewed favorably by Google.
Unfortunately, DIY content often doesn’t possess the needed levels of E-A-T and, for this reason, marketers can do well to hire expert writers as we head into the new year. With the increased importance Google is placing upon high-quality, authoritative, expert, trustworthy content, it’s clear that the investment in a team of quality writers is one of the best marketers can make. While the guidelines certainly don’t offer a spelled-out guide as to what makes for a top-ranking page, measurements like E-A-T and the importance of Y-M-Y-L pages make it perfectly clear that, now more than ever, expert writing matters.