In case you didn’t know: one of the hottest topics in the search world today revolves around websites that are YMYL, or “your money or your life,” and E-A-T, or “expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.”
These are terms from Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines handbook, which is republished frequently. After a major Google update in December 2018 in which many webmasters got hammered severely, it was speculated that Google was increasingly considering YMYL types of sites and the people who run them.
This handbook is from the Google Quality Raters team, which is a different team than those who work on Google’s search engine algorithms.
What Is the Google Quality Raters Team?
The Google Quality Raters Team is a group of people who manually rate websites based on certain factors.
Their handbook discusses several of these factors in-depth, including E-A-T, YMYL and their context for how the human quality raters are supposed to rate websites.
SEO pro Marie Haynes was one of the first people to publish lengthy articles on the topic. However, much of that is speculation as they do not currently exist in Google’s algorithm (that we know of).
For proof, consider that it’s currently possible to rank a site entirely based on content and without attribution to any one author.
What’s more, John Mueller himself says in the video that they are not part of the algorithms.
It’s generally pointless to refer to these rater guidelines because you’re optimizing for guidelines that do not exist, and you may be costing your client a lot of money by focusing on efforts that may not create a return on their investment.
What Is E-A-T and YMYL?
E-A-T, also known as “expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness,” refers to specific parameters in the quality raters guidelines that are likely factors in how human raters evaluate sites appearing in Google’s search results.
The Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines defines E-A-T as the following:
YMYL, or “Your Money or Your Life,” is defined as “pages that have a substantial impact on a person’s future life, including happiness, health, financial stability or safety.”
Now that we have the basics covered, John Mueller explained in a recent hangout that you should focus on E-A-T for YMYL pages but that it is still not yet part of Google’s algorithms.
Ritu Nagarkoti asked John:
John Mueller answered:
Ritu Nagarkoti replied:
Then John said:
Key Takeaways from John’s Comments
There are several takeaways that we can gather from John’s input.
- That E-A-T is important, especially on those YMYL sites.
- E-A-T is not baked into the algorithm, so you must think of them as something that can benefit human quality raters who view the site from the perspective of the user.
- Make sure that you create a good website. This means quality content, writing and making sure that you tick off everything on the quality boxes for your industry.
- Certain industries are highly sensitive to E-A-T, such as the medical field. Make sure to use experts from those fields (such as board certified doctors) when you write your content about such topics.
- The human quality raters don’t make the algorithms. They work across channels with the search quality team, however, in making sure they have the tools they need to create algorithms that deliver sites that will reward what the user is looking for when they enter their search query.
- There is no single tactic, technique or trick that will propel your site to the top of the SERPs for your niche. Instead, focus on the big picture by creating a site that is impressive from its quality to its user experience to its SEO itself.
We think that also means paying attention to how SEO elements work together, and that not everything that’s great for the user experience is also good for SEO.
What Are You Doing for Your Own E-A-T?
If you have a site that’s considered YMYL, E-A-T is a significant consideration.
While it is true that it’s possible to rank sites without author attribution, certain industries require deeper authoritative expertise than others.
Law firms are a prime example. You would want the attorneys who represent you to be knowledgeable in the topics which are common in their field, right? Same goes for the medical field. You would want content that’s at least backed up by top experts in the field as well, right?
Ditto for financial advice—you would want financial advice that is also backed up by top bankers and other authors, correct?
The expertise and authoritativeness part of the equation is important for the YMYL industries that Google has defined. But, it’s not be-all and end-all, either, and there are exceptions.
For instance, when ranking an affiliate site for targeted keyword phrases when you’d rather leave an author off the site itself.
Either way, E-A-T still becomes part of the consideration, even when deciding what not to do for your site.
John Mueller’s comments serve as a precautionary measure to ensure that you pass the human assessment “smell test.” And that’s all.
Remember that E-A-T is not technically part of the algorithm, so you must use your best judgment to decide whether or not you want to proceed with the E-A-T factors or leave them out.
It could turn out to be an important decision, depending on your site.