Were you a Winner or a Loser from the All You Can E-A-T Update?
At the beginning of August Google confirmed that it had started to roll out a core search algorithm update. Google said that the update was designed to improve the overall quality of the search results provided to searchers and that the changes were aimed at promoting sites that Google believed were once undervalued. Google said that no specific fix was required by site owners, other than that they continued to look for ways to make their overall site better and provide even better quality content and user experience to their website visitors.
As reported by Barry Schwarz in Search Engine Roundtable and Search Engine Land, the update seemed to focus on health and medical sites (it has been nicknamed the Medic Update) and what are called YMYL (Your Money Your Life) pages, i.e., pages that can have an impact on people’s current or future well-being (physical, financial, safety, etc.), where Google thinks the reputation of the page/site/author are particularly important.
Given that a large number of sites in the diet, nutrition and medical niches (typical YMYL type sites) have been affected by the update and seen big increases or decreases in ranks, it does seem that there may be a correlation with the update and recent changes to Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines, which were released in July, and contained a specific section on YMYL sites in the updated guide and no less than 86 mentions of the term in the document. This is certainly a view shared by Dr Pete at Moz and the following table of sites that have seen big increases and decreases in visibility, published by Sistrix, does emphasise this.
So, now let’s take a look at the Search Quality Rating Guidelines and how E-A-T might affect your rankings and visibility.
The 2018 Search Quality Raters Guidelines
The Search Quality Ratings Guidelines (aka Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines) is an 164 page document published by Google providing general guidelines to manual Search Quality Evaluators or ‘Raters’, who are employed by Google ‘to evaluate search engine quality around the world’ and ensure ‘that they give results that are helpful for users in their specific language and locale’. Raters must be familiar with and comfortable using a search engine’ and ‘Must Represent the User’. Essentially, these Evaluators are there to sense check Google’s algorithmically calculated search results and to provide a balance or correction with the increasingly machine learning/ Artificial Intelligence led results coming out of Google’s Search Engine.
The guidelines provide detailed information on how to assess Page Quality in a variety of different contexts and within a large range of different types of content. It recognises the increasing importance of mobile, and that users search in many different locales and languages, and have very many different needs and use lots of different devices and browsers to search. It provides lots of examples of good, bad, and indifferent quality pages and covers all sorts of websites including blogs, forums, news sites, ecommerce sites, porn sites, spam, hate and harmful sites, detailing key definitions of varying levels of quality.
Although the Page Quality guidelines cover a lot more than just Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T), it is E-A-T that has focused most people’s minds. As a result, we will sum up what we think are the Key Points in the guide with regard to this recent core update, how they may impact on you and what you should do.
What you need to know about Page Quality and E-A-T
The guidelines are, as you would imagine with a 164 page document, covering every type of website, pretty extensive, and cover a variety of issues including Spelling, on page Ads, Illegal Images, Gibberish, Reputational Research and how to check for plagiarism. Whilst we won’t cover every single item, we’ll try to summarise it in 12 key points.
The Zelst 12 Point Guide to Page Quality
- Clear Purpose
The goal of Page Quality (PQ) rating is to determine how well a page achieves its purpose. Web pages that help users are good and how well they help users will decide the quality level of the page. Web pages created with an intent to harm users, deceive users, or make money with no attempt to help them should receive the Lowest PQ rating, as should pages ‘without any beneficial purpose’ say Google.
- Main Content
Main Content (which can be text, images, videos, page features) is any part of the page that directly helps the page achieve its purpose and should be the reason the page exists and plays the largest part in the quality of a page. Google then asks raters to assess whether the page meets the needs of the user on a scale from Fully Meets to Fails to Meet including Highly Meets, Moderately Meets and Slightly Meets within its bounds.
- Supplementary Content
Supplementary Content (which includes things like navigation, content behind tabs, Ads, Pop-Ups, Etc.,) can contribute to a good user experience on the page, can help a page better achieve its purpose, or it can detract from the overall experience.
- Clear flagging of responsibility
Google insists that it should be clear who (what individual, company, business, foundation, etc.) is responsible for the website and who created the content on the page. Similarly contact information should be clear, transparent and fit for purposes, recognising that different types of site and business need to provide different types of detail.
We believe this point is of special significance to YMYL sites where the reputation of the author and the site overall are of paramount importance and both Google and the user need to be able to quickly establish the authors credentials.
- Your Reputation Precedes You
Whilst Google urges its raters to find out about you through all the stuff on your website, they also want evaluators to research what other people think about you and, where there is disagreement, to ‘trust the external sources’. That said they recognise that many smaller sites or businesses might not have that many reviews and that even the best businesses get the odd bad review. Reputation, however, is a key element of what Google considers page quality, a fact endorsed by a large number of pages being devoted to how to check for and establish reputation, the use of the word ‘reputation’ 176 times in the document and reputable no less than 17 times.
Different organisations and people will have differing sorts of reputations and, again, Google provides clear guidelines on different types of reputational assets, including awards, prizes, testimonials, reviews, professional societies, news articles, recommendations by experts, forum discussions and so on.
- Main Content Quality and Amount
The Highest Quality Pages should contain ‘a very satisfying amount of high or highest quality Main Content‘. Google provide examples of many different types of content and what constitutes this very satisfying amount, however they all need to demonstrate that ‘it is created with a high degree of time and effort, and in particular, expertise, talent, and skill’. The more detailed or extensive the content, the larger the amount of content is required to satisfy the purpose, the more specific or narrow the focus, the less amount may be required.
- Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
Google asks evaluators to consider: –
- The expertise of the creator
- The authoritativeness of the creator of the Main Content, the content itself, and the website.
- The trustworthiness of the creator, the content itself, and the website.
It then gives examples of how to assess this across a wide variety of topics but it is basically horses for courses – if you’re writing about medical advice, you should have the appropriate medical expertise or accreditation and the medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis. Whilst financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, etc., should come from trustworthy sources and be maintained and updated regularly, and so on.
- Helpful Titles Which Summarise the Main Content
Google notes that High and the Highest Quality pages include a title at the top of the page which helpfully summarises the content on the page, whereas any page with a title which is exaggerated or shocking may be deemed low quality.
- Plagiarism and Copying
We now move into the ‘things you shouldn’t do‘ or things that sum up poor quality content. Copying is the first big no-no. Google doesn’t like copycats and defines copied content as copied in full, part or slightly changed (“copied with minimal alteration”). It then gives raters detailed instructions on how to run down plagiarisers.
- No Auto-Generated Main Content
Basically, the exact opposite of the definition of high quality content but if you create pages with no or very little time, effort, or expertise, and also have no editing or manual curation, then you’re not going to get found. Beware of Greeks (or people of any nationality for that matter) bearing white label and templated sites that require little or no work.
- Obstructed or Inaccessible Main Content
Google doesn’t rate content ‘if it is obstructed or inaccessible due to Ads, Supplementary Content, or interstitial pages’. OBVS! Just don’t do it – ever!
- Unmaintained Websites, and Hacked, Defaced, or Spammed Pages
Whilst a hacked site represents the most obvious manifestation of this guideline, it has been clear for a while that Google wants webmasters to stay up to date with core and plugin updates (like the Google Search Console messages it posts telling you your WordPress site ineeds updating) and to maintain a website to the highest standard, so I think this underscores this.
There’s also a lot of don’t be evil stuff like hate content, harmful, upsetting, or offensive content which clearly would not be on your top 12 list of things to make your page of a high quality. Also included in the definitions of quality are things like a page being accessible (if your page is down it’s not giving the user a good experience), being secure, not being full of typos or bad spelling, grammar or punctuation and generally all of the things that, pretty obviously, constitute a good page.
What Google’s saying, which is very much what it has been saying for the past near 20 years, is to invest in your content and user experience, make it easy for people to find you and for Google to help people find you. And that, I think, is the core learning, from this core search algorithm update.
Have you been hit with a recent fall off in rankings, believe you have been affected by the August 2018 Google Algorithm Update, or are worried about your site’s lack of visibility? Get in touch with Zelst for today to find out how you could improve your sites Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness and improve your search visibility.