In the latest addition of Google’s human search rater guidebook, the company introduced a new page rating concept used to manually rate the quality of a website and its pages. The practice of using human search raters is a crucial part of the way Google updates its search algorithm. Because as with any experiment, you want to test your theory.
The new concept Google introduced is called “E-A-T,” which stands for “Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness.” In reality, this idea isn’t too different from what Google, search professionals, and digital marketing companies have been saying about quality content for years. But with an official abbreviation and plan laid out within the human rater guidebook, we now understand exactly how Google is thinking about these topics.
Getting to Know E-A-T
More and more, Google is placing emphasis on the quality of a website’s content. What this means is, the company understands how to rank pages better based purely on its content, rather than relying on inbound links, keywords, and other indicators that can easily be manipulated.
As a user, when you search Google for information on a topic, especially one that may affect your life, such as financial, medical, or legal advice, you want to hear from an expert. Google understands this, which is why they’ve told human raters to consider the author of the content as a ranking factor.
How Google builds internal profiles for individual writers and tracks them across the web without fail is still questionable, but the basic takeaway here is that you want the information on your site to be backed up by facts.
But before you rush out to hire experts in your industry to produce your content, you have to understand that Google also tells its raters to keep an open mind as to what “expertise” entails.
Someone with no formal education could still, from personal experience, be able to provide sound financial advice to someone looking to get out of debt. Radio personality Dave Ramsey is a good example of someone Google would likely consider an expert in personal finance, despite the fact that Ramsey is not formally educated in any topic related to personal finances. His advice, however, is trusted by many, which we’ll delve more into later.
Authority has always played a large role in the way Google ranks websites and pages. But this new way of thinking about content weighs authority in a much different way than how many links are pointing to a page and where they came from.
Instead, Google wants its human raters to determine authority based on a website’s overall content quality, relevancy, and reputation. Keeping with the Dave Ramsey example, you’re likely to find a lot of useful, quality information that relates to personal finance on his website. The way that’s often packaged may be diverse, such as articles on budget-friendly family activities or how to properly sell your home, but they’re written around Ramsey’s financial principles.
Of course, Ramsey’s advice is often criticized, which could actually hurt his site’s ability to rank as an authority in Google’s eyes. Meanwhile, sites like CNN Money, BankRate, and DailyFinance are much more likely to rank higher because they’re less likely to post controversial advice or opinions.
From the information Google provided in its latest human rater guidebook, trust has a lot to do with your site’s reputation. If you’re a business, your site’s rating may be dependent on your business’s reputation.
Google tells its human raters to look for “reviews, references, and recommendations” to help them understand what experts and users or customers think about your business or your site’s content.
Awards are referenced as a way for raters to distinguish higher quality publications from others when thinking about news websites specifically. For example, if a publication won the Pulitzer Prize, it’s a strong indicator that the site’s quality standards are high and that those looking for quality news should visit that site over a less-reliable source. How Google values other awards that may be found on the web is not clear at this time.
What Does This Mean for the Future of SEO?
In the end, Google is looking for more and more diverse ways to distinguish good content from bad content, to make manipulating search rankings more difficult. To stay ahead of the curve and ensure future rankings, you have to work on establishing your site as a credible source of information.
Whether that information is related to your business or your site covers a specific topic like personal finance, the more work you put into your content, the more Google will reward you. It’s very basic advice, but that’s the direction in which Google is headed.