The rules of the game on Google are relatively simple – your goal is to deliver high-quality content quickly. Speed is primarily a matter of optimizing the code and components that make up your website. In the context of content quality, nuances play a greater role … Don’t worry, the search engine has a few guidelines up its sleeve!
Medic Update and its SEO-echo
Let’s go back to August 2018 for a moment … then it once again shook the search results. The SEO community was in a panic – websites related to certain industries were changing their positions rapidly. The victims were not only smaller sites, but also big players who had been occupying the tops for years. These changes were due to an algorithm update that quickly became known as the “Medic Update”.
Why “Medic”? The spikes in visibility were most severe on health-related websites. Losses were also noticed on portals related to finance, law, politics, e-commerce and others. Soon, Google confirmed that the update was mostly about YMYL sites – “Your Money, Your Health”.
The update coincided with the refreshed of the guide for Google testers, responsible for assessing the quality and credibility of the content on websites. The guide is available on the search engine pages, and its last update took place in October 2020. The document contains detailed guidelines on how to evaluate websites and their classification.
YMYL websites – Your Health, Your Money
The acronym YMYL appeared for the first time in 2013, but the buzz around it only got on the occasion of “Medic”. This category includes websites that have the potential to affect your well-being, safety, health and financial stability.
According to information from official Google sources, the following sites fall into the “YMYL” drawer:
– news – sites presenting information on current world events, politics, business, science, technology and so on … Interestingly, not every type of news fits into this category – entertainment and generally understood lifestyle are not taken into account here, similarly as well as sports news;
– law and politics – sources of information on state policy, voting systems, public institutions, etc. and portals dealing with law and publishing articles with legal advice on issues related to, for example, family law, property law and others;
– finance – market analysis services reporting the latest changes in the global stock markets and pages containing information on loans, pension plans, insurance and other types of websites related to the circulation of money. Sites that allow money transfer, such as online exchange offices, are given special attention;
– shopping – online stores and websites containing information on e-commerce; health and safety – portals with health articles, information on disease symptoms and drug descriptions – composition, action and adverse reactions. This collection also includes websites that focus on diets and ways to lose weight;
– groups of people – websites dealing with topics related to race, origin and religion as well as other sensitive topics, such as sexual orientations, nationality and disability.
The list is not exhaustive – there are many topics that can be considered in terms of YMYL, and the final evaluation in this regard belongs to the testers.
Google assumes that the information contained on YMYL websites may have a potential impact on the well-being of users. Hence the need to maintain high standards in terms of the method of providing information, as well as its content. Verification of pages and information control is also one of the ways to eliminate “fake news” from the search engine space.
E-A-T – the quality of information on your website
E-A-T was created to evaluate the quality of the website content. In English, this acronym is unambiguously associated with the word “eat” and all metaphorical connections are perfectly appropriate here. In this case, the data transmitted within the website will be consumed.
E – Expertise
A – Authoritativeness
T – Trustworthiness
Let’s decode what is behind the three passwords listed above:
Expertise – relates to the person responsible for the text on the site. The content is assessed on the basis of the writer’s competence – his education, knowledge of the subject, experience. Placing this type of information and the exact selection of authors of texts is important especially in the context of YMYL websites.
Sites that deal with less sensitive topics are rated lightly and Google allows for “less formal expertise” based on the user’s daily experience. As a result, it positively receives, for example, extensive product reviews in online stores, which – although not signed by a specialist with an academic title – constitute a valuable source of information for potential buyers of the assessed equipment. It is similar with restaurants or service premises – here all you need is “common sense” and a desire to describe the place visited in detail.
Google does not penalize websites created by people without formal education in the subject they are discussing, but “only” with life experience that allows them to obtain the status of an “expert”. As an example, he gives thematic forums, bringing together people interested in a given topic and sharing their own observations. In the case of websites touching, for example, medical topics, these places are treated as a space for the exchange of experiences and are not assessed through the prism of specialist knowledge.
Authoritativeness – relates to the author of the content, the content itself, and the page on which it was posted. Website evaluators are encouraged to look for external sources that can testify to high-quality content and its creator. Interestingly, as a source of information about companies, organizations and authors, Google points to … Wikipedia. Assumes that wikipedia.org is a neutral source that publishes proven information and deals with topics that organizations want to show off on an equal footing with information about an individual’s controversies and problems.
Building the authority of an organization or an employee should not, however, be based on a single source. Google points out that in order to form an opinion about the reviewed website, it is also worth checking the reviews and opinions related to it, posted on independent portals.
It should be noted here that while reviews on independent portals will be issued by users who are not necessarily related to the industry and do not have specialist knowledge, while building the website’s reputation, Google will follow the opinion of experts dealing with a given topic.
Trustworthiness – , i.e. the assessment of the legality and transparency of information. In this context, the level of data accuracy is also assessed and applies not only to the content, but also to the entire website.
The basis for the assessment of credibility is primarily information about the person who is the author of the information on the website. This is especially important in the case of websites dealing with sensitive topics, falling under the YMYL categories. In the case of e-commerce websites, the element proving the authenticity of the store will be the address of the office or warehouse, as well as other information allowing direct contact with employees. Other solutions enabling obtaining help during transactions, e.g. chat, are also positively assessed. On the other hand, problems with the functioning of the website and omissions on the part of webmasters, e.g. lack of a secure connection during the transaction, indicate low credibility.
When it comes to the credibility of the website / article content itself, the consistency of the facts on the topic is taken into account. The greater the compatibility with external sources, the better.
E-A-T or … “it depends”
It has been established that when it comes to SEO, most of the problems can be summed up with the phrase “it depends”, changed in all possible ways. It is no different and in the case of E-A-T:
– the analysis is based on general guidelines which, however, may not be applicable in all cases. The specificity and level of formalization of industries or topics covered on the Internet differs to a considerable extent;
– the evaluation belongs to a Google employee who is responsible for the final interpretation of the site.
It also has its advantages. The Google algorithm, despite the high level of complexity, still works in zero-one. The assessment is based on guidelines, but in the real world, “all shades of gray” are not taken into account. The solution to this potential problem are testers who analyze the search results and check how the program coped with building the SERP. The evaluators not only check the credibility of the sites, but also take into account the local color of the results.
E-A-T analysis and quality testers are another way for Google to make sure that the results posted on the search engine best respond to the user’s queries and provide them with reliable information.
E-A-T and website quality in practice
The concept of E-A-T covers only part of the guidelines for awarding high quality “medals” to websites. Suffice it to say that the guide itself has over 170 pages …
There is no simple formula for improving the quality of your website, but you can extract guidelines from the content that should support your website. So let’s start:
1. Goal – the overriding goal of Google is to provide the user with reliable information. The search engine also imposes it on our websites and indicates the need to create pages with the user’s needs in mind. This idea applies to both the technical and textual layer of the website.
The most popular purposes include:
– providing information on the topic in question,
– providing information about persons,
– sharing photos, videos,
– expressing opinions,
– Questions and Answers,
– sharing documents and software.
Of course, this is only a fraction of the list of ideals behind the creation of websites. The task of the Google algorithm and employee is to determine how well the website meets its goal. The better the presentation and value of the information, the higher the site’s quality rating will be.
For purely damaging sites (phishing, misleading), the rating will be downgraded accordingly.
2. Who are you? Sites that provide information about your business are more reliable. The same is true for content creators. A few words about the authors should be included in the bio placed next to the article or on a dedicated page.
It is worth mentioning the company, its origins and mission in the About us tab or similar. Another subpage can be used to present individual teams and employees. Activity content should be supplemented with information about successes – publications, exhibitions, awards and more.
3. Take care of your image! Reputation is built not only on the basis of information contained on our website, but also thanks to data from external sources.
Bearing in mind not only Google’s recommendations, it is worth taking care of your social media, not only those focused strictly on communication with customers (Instagram, Facebook), but those that will allow you to appear as part of the industry (LinkedIn and others). Building an expert position is also helped by publications in thematic magazines, participation in conferences, trainings, fairs and other forms of presenting your own brand or yourself. Independent publications are also excellent sources of links.
When cooperating with external specialists and influencers, it is worth choosing people related to the industry, recognizable in the community. Cooperation does not always have to mean advertising, sometimes an interview or an article dealing with issues of interest to both parties is enough.
4. Opinions and reviews… the number of websites where the user can express his opinion about the services and products is constantly growing. This situation is favorable primarily for the perspective of the consumer, who can not only share his impressions, but also do appropriate research before making a decision.
A large number of positive reviews and opinions helps to strengthen the brand and convince new customers to choose our company. Good grades make the company’s activities more credible and facilitate building authority. In the guide, Google points out the special value of longer statements by reviewers, which describe in detail the pros and cons of a good or service.
Note – a large number of ratings does not always confirm the high credibility of the company or website. Google, testers and potential customers are more and more effective in “catching” sponsored comments, especially if they are added on a large scale.
Negative reviews arise from strong emotions that perfectly motivate you to throw out frustration in a larger forum. For more neutral and positive impressions, the user may not always need to share them publicly. It is worth encouraging him to do so by, for example, e-mail requests, sent a few days after the transaction or visiting the facility.
5. Update – not only the CMS, but also the content. Its reliability proves the high quality of information. Ditching older blog posts or articles is not in a good mood. Supplementing the content or directing the user to a subpage with more recent data is good for the reputation of our website and increases trust in our business.
By the way … it is also worth remembering to check the information provided by our domain and in the case of external data – to put links to the websites from which they were downloaded.
6. Contact! As I mentioned earlier, one of the key ways to authenticate your online activity is to provide users with the data necessary to make contact – e-mail address, telephone numbers and physical address.
More contact details are necessary primarily for websites falling under the YMYL category.
Another ranking factor?
Discussions about whether E-A-T is a ranking factor or not have been ongoing since the publication of the tester guidelines. He referred to it, inter alia, Danny Sullivan.
Contrary to the technical aspects of the site, which can mostly be assessed in a very specific way, E-A-T standards are more fluid. It is impossible to describe them by awarding points.
A website is a type of business card that allows you to present our business. Its appropriate appearance, adaptation to the needs of users and the reliability of the information provided on it represent the approach to the client and can influence his decisions. Providing high-value information, provided in an accessible way, causes natural interest of users and the willingness to share, i.e. link to our website.
Summary. High quality = more interest = natural links = longer time on the website = higher position in the ranking.