According to IBM, “over 3.5 Billion Google searches are conducted worldwide each minute of every day. That is 2 trillion searches per year worldwide. That is over 40,000 search queries per second.”
That’s a lot of content that people are searching for, and when you rank well, you’re going to reap the benefits with more traffic and more revenue.
As Google moves to a more User-Focused model, the quality of our content becomes increasingly important. Essentially, to rank well on Google, your brand needs to build expertise, authority and trustworthiness.
Last year, Google re-released their search quality evaluator guidelines, in which they described what kind of content it takes to meet their quality standards. In this article, we’ll break those guidelines down and explore what’s really important for your content strategy.
The 2018 “Medic” Update
I would be remiss if I didn’t start my E-A-T article with “Medic”.
In August of 2018, Google rolled out a comprehensive algorithm update which initially appeared to hit only websites offering health, medical, fitness, and nutrition advice — hence the nickname “medic”.
However, as it began to fully roll out, it became apparent that the websites that were really affected were those that Google categorizes as “YMYL” (Your Money or Your Life), and those websites were bleeding blog and article traffic almost exclusively.
Your Money or Your Life (YMYL)
YMYL —yet another acronym to add to your glossary — was created by Google as a way to categorize websites. It stands for Your Money or Your Life, and it represents websites that affect someone’s wallet, or their wellbeing.
This classification represented a huge step forward for Google in fighting “fake news”.
It helps ensure that users are finding relevant and correct information. Certain searches have the potential to impact searchers’ wellbeing. Including low quality pages in these search results has the potential to negatively affect that wellbeing.
Google included a small list of “YMYL” – type sites in their guidelines:
- News and current events on topics like business, science, politics, and technology
- Government, law, and civics-related topics (voting, social services, legal issues, government bodies, etc.)
- Financial advice on taxes, retirement, investments, loans, etc.
- Shopping information, such as researching purchases
- Medical advice, information on drugs, hospitals, emergencies, etc.
- Information on people of a particular ethnicity, race, religion, nationality, sexuality, etc.
But this is by no means exhaustive.
Defining Content Quality
So you’ve identified yourself as a YMYL site, and now you need to create quality content. What does that mean? Well, using the search quality evaluator guidelines, we have clues.
There is a small section in the guidelines that covers some important factors for quality rating:
- The purpose of a page
- Main content quality and amount
- Website information + Authorship
- Website reputation + Authorship
Let’s break those down.
The Purpose of a Webpage
“Websites and pages should be created to help users.” – Search raters guidelines
Every page on your website should serve a beneficial purpose and help users achieve their goals. This is considered a good quality page.
If a page is asking for money or subscriptions with no user focus, this is considered a low quality page. An example of this would be an entire site filled with subscription paywalls where you have to download every article to read it – yes, those exist.
Authorship + Reputation
Authorship is back in a big way, but unlike the old “author image in SERPs”, this is more related to creating a reputable entity online.
The quality evaluators guidelines include a whole section on authorship and reputation. It calls for the quality evaluators to not only look at the whole site’s expertise, but the expertise of the content creators.
This means that building up author expertise is almost as important as website expertise. There are a lot of ways to achieve author expertise. In our experience, linking to an author bio page in every article is the most effective way to bring expertise to the forefront.
If you’re a brand or have one author, your about page should state a clear mission that explains why the brand is an expert in this field.
Below is an example of a good author profile. It shows the author’s name and shares their credential and other links. This makes it so much easier for Google to find the author on other websites and build up expertise.
Not only is it important to have an authoritative author bio, but it definitely helps to have an actual authority write the content. Authorities on different topics will have different lingo and jargon that pertains to the industry they’re writing about – something hard to manufacture if you’re not an expert. For example, if you’re talking about getting a nose job, the lay person would call it a nose job, whereas a plastic surgeon may intersperse the word “Rhinoplasty” in their copy more often. It’s important to have industry experts at the forefront of YMYL content to keep it informative and safe for everyone reading.
E-A-T stands for “Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness.” In May 2019, the search quality evaluator guidelines were updated to slightly reduce the importance of E-A-T. When it was once one of the only factors in page quality, it’s now one of many factors. But what are some signals of E-A-T you should be looking out for when auditing your site?
Signals of Expertise
Intent based content
How do we create content that showcases our expertise in a way that’s engaging and entertaining for users?
The first step is to find out what your audience is searching for and then meet those needs.Get your keyword research spreadsheets out; it’s time to use them to uncover the searcher’s intent for high value search terms.
Learn how to find and prioritize your organic keywords in Dave’s article on the Uproer Blog.
To find the searcher’s intent, we must perform a Google search to see what ranks for the keywords we found during our research. For example, if your keyword research brought up a keyword like “best work from home tips”, which could lend itself to being a listicle OR guide, the best way to find out what people are reading is to do a search for that keyword:
In this example, the best way forward with this article is to write a listicle, as Google tends to favor those over guides, even though guides feature in SERPs.
Note here that intent changes over time, and what works best right now may not work next week, but we generally find that Google does a good job of serving results that people ask for.
Appealing to the User Journey
Being an expert in the field you are writing about means that you understand the stages of the user’s journey and can write at a level appropriate for each stage. For example, a top-of-the-funnel term like “what is SEO?” ideally would not have that much jargon, whereas someone who has invested time in research and / or the brand may understand more technical language. These users are more likely to search for niche content with low volume keywords like “json-ld or microdata” as an example.
Writing for different phases of the user’s journey is far more important in developing authority than appealing to high volume, top of the funnel keywords.
Signals of Authority
There may be multiple “experts” in the same field. Authoritativeness comes when Expert 1 cites Expert 2. This makes Expert 2 synonymous with topics that Expert 1 is known for. This is authority.
Some signals that affect authority include:
Increasing links from relevant and authoritative websites
Links have always been a ranking factor. Links from high-authority websites to low-authority websites spread link equity, which builds up the authority of the lower authority page.
Comparing domain ratings
We use AHrefs’ Domain Rating to give us a comparable metric for authority. Whilst not a direct ranking factor, this gives us a good idea of where we stand in relation to our competitors.
Increasing brand search volume
An awesome measure of how the brand is performing offline. The more people searching the brand name, the more authoritative you become in Google’s eyes.
Signals of Trust
Trustworthiness is all about building positive sentiments around the brand. From reviews to implementing on-page trust signals, there are so many things we can do to improve trust.
These are especially impactful on larger review sites like TripAdvisor, Trustpilot, and most importantly, Google My Business.
Comprehensive product descriptions
Product descriptions that provide specifications in clear detail are one way to demonstrate trust for an ecommerce site. The more transparent you can be about your products, your refunds and returns policies, and your pricing, the more trust is awarded.
Clear contact information
Nothing is more frustrating or looks more deceiving than when a company’s contact information is buried on a site. Increase trust by having clear contact options on-site for customer service.
Creating high quality content isn’t easy, but Google has given us the blueprint in the search quality evaluator guidelines: E-A-T and Purpose:
- YMYL pages that affect someone’s quality of life should focus on increasing their expertise, authority, and trust.
- Every page should have a purpose that helps the user accomplish their goal.
Quality is not something that you just set and forget. It’s something that needs focus and genuine effort. With Google’s guidelines and this guide, I’m looking forward to reading some high quality content from you.