E-A-T and YMYL. If you’ve had anything to do with the world of SEO for the last year, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard about these pesky ranking factors. The great health update of August 2018 saw a lot of health-based websites rankings tank, all thanks to YMYL, but what do these acronyms actually mean, and how can you optimise your website in a way that benefits from this? At Ricemedia, we took a handful of clients and tested a few things.
What is E-A-T?
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority & Trust. Quality raters use E-A-T to determine the PQ (page quality) of a webpage. One reason why a page or blog post undergoes a PQ rating is so that Google can understand the true purpose of the page. When crawling the content of the page, they measure it against three categories (let me introduce you to E-A-T) in order to judge just how good a post or page is, and whether it is providing the user with the information they need. E-A-T is mentioned in Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines 186 times, so it’s kind of a big deal…
Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines state the following:
“The amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) is very important. Please consider:
- The expertise of the creator of the MC (main content).
- The authoritativeness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
- The trustworthiness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.”
What’s interesting is that web pages across a wide range of websites can have a high-quality E-A-T score – even if the websites are satirical news sites, fashion websites, forums or gossip sites. Websites such as Quora where communities of experts discuss specific topics may also have a high E-A-T score.
Why should I care about E-A-T?
A page’s E-A-T score will determine the value of your webpage or blog post and whether it provides the user with the information they need. From spelling, punctuation and grammar to user experience and the author behind the content, quality raters will look at all of this before deciding whether that page is of high or low quality. Pages or posts without a beneficial purpose, or content that spreads hate and misinformation will receive a low score, and this will have an impact on how Google ranks your website.
What is YMYL?
YMYL stands for Your Money Your Life and refers to any websites that can impact the health and general wellbeing of the user in question. Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines state: “We have very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages because low quality YMYL pages could potentially negatively impact users’ happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.”
What is considered a YMYL page?
Any page that offers educational, financial or medical advice falls into YMYL. The following are also considered YMYL pages:
- Financial transaction or shopping pages: this includes webpages where users can transfer money, purchase an item or pay a balance. This includes online banking pages, ecommerce stores and utilities pages such as online stores and online banking pages.
- Financial information pages: any pages that offer financial advice or information in regards to investments, taxes, retirement planning, mortgages, educational fees, insurance, etc.
- Medical information pages: pages that provide advice or information about health, drugs, specific diseases or conditions, mental health, nutrition, etc.
- Legal information pages: any pages or posts giving legal advice or information on divorce, child custody, will writing or citizenship.
- News articles and public/official information pages: any posts and news articles about natural disasters, social services, government programmes, international events, business, politics and much more. Not all news articles are considered YMYL.
- Other: pages that contain information or advice about child adoption or car safety.
The 2018 Medic Update
On August 1st 2018, SEOs went into full-blown panic as Google rolled out a global, broad core algorithm update. As time went on, it was clear that this algorithm update impacted YMYL sites, with a specific focus on medical and health publications. The screengrab below shows the algorithm impacting a health supplements ecommerce site that had a low E-A-T score. Websites with poor user experience, display ads taking up the page and inaccurate, untrue or harmful information were impacted the most by this update.
What does E-A-T & YMYL look at?
- Paid link schemes.
- Ads or features that interrupt or distract from the main content.
- The expertise and reputation of the ‘content creator’ & website.
- Negative reviews.
- Spam comments on forums that clearly promote or sell.
- Poor ‘About Us’ page.
- Unreliable sources being cited in content.
- Poor spelling, punctuation and grammar across the site.
- Low-quality pages.
So is E-A-T a ranking factor?
As the debate of whether E-A-T is a direct ranking factor rages on, it is important to remember that John Mueller stated that Google tries to identify E-A-T “partially through the content directly.” (Search Engine Journal) Alongside this, when someone asked him about how to increase E-A-T with structured data, he said;
We do try to recognize these additional details about information about the author, information about the reviewers, about the website overall through a number of ways.
…partially through the content directly. So kind of similar to how users would see it if they go to the page and they see… information about who has reviewed this content or who has provided it… that’s really useful.
So, it’s something that’s looked at but isn’t technically a ranking factor. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore it!
How can I enhance my E-A-T score?
Look for interview opportunities and comment pieces
One way to enhance your website’s E-A-T score is by obtaining interview opportunities and comment pieces on high quality sites. Google expects a high level of expertise in the content published by YMYL sites.
SourceBottle, JournoRequest and Request Finder are great free tools that collate #PRRequests, #JournoRequests for comments and expert opinions from industry specialists. We’ve seen the most success with SourceBottle. Everyday, a round-up of requests are sent straight to your inbox, and you respond to the ones that are relevant.
Audit and proof the content on your website
Ensuring you have good spelling, punctuation and grammar across your website is a great way to enhance your E-A-T score and overall quality of the page. We took this approach with a medical spa, health and wellbeing client, and had seen a 144% increase in organic traffic year on year to their site, and their overall visibility improved drastically.
Repurposing existing content by adding comments from experts
Another great way to enhance your E-A-T score and repurpose some older, existing content. To find the content, have a look at your landing pages in Google Analytics and see which posts or pages have decreased in organic traffic year on year. If these posts or pages feature any ‘YMYL’ topics, then you could further enhance its ‘expertise’ by adding comments from experts, statistics and research to back it up. Twitter is a great platform to obtain comments – simply publish a tweet with your request, along with #journorequest #prrequest and any relevant industry hashtags.
Another great way to identify experts is through any industry events, networking events or Podcasts. Once you’ve collated enough comments or ‘opinions’ from experts, add them into the existing content.
We used this approach one of our hair and beauty clients. They had a blog about hair supplements and we went in, optimised and added expert research and opinion. When we did this, traffic to the blog increased and we also obtained a handful of featured snippets.
Optimise your ‘About’ page
E-A-T is all about influence and authority, and you can make the most of this by optimising your ‘About Us’ page and making sure it is up to standard. There should be a “satisfying amount of information about who is responsible for the content on the site” (Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines).
For more information on how you can optimise your content for SEO, feel free to contact us today.