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:
The authoritativeness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website; and
The trustworthiness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.”
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:
“I had a few questions related to my ecommerce store actually I’m working for a medical equipment store like I have medical website equipment store and I have done so many tactics for it like to get the traffic and to increase number of new users for the website Like, either the company listing forum posting, review listing and so many techniques sidled up to me I know, apart from these techniques like, which we can proceed for it to get good traffic to enhance visibility, like, I’m not getting for medical equipment.”
John Mueller answered:
“Yeah, I think that’s always hard. I don’t think there’s like one magic trick that gets you traffic from search automatically. I think following the best practices, in general, for making a good website is always a good idea. Making sure that you can get the word out is important, but especially for medical topics, anything that’s a little bit more critical, I would also keep in mind everything around the so-called E-A-T.
So the expertise or authority or authoritativeness, trustworthiness and to kind of make sure that the site that you’re providing represents like a really high standard, and that that the quality content is of really high quality, that it’s put together by really, people who understand what they’re doing that it’s not something and or like run out of a garage, kind of a site. And that’s something that I think, especially for the medical area, is super critical. We have a blog post that goes into some of that specific for the core algorithm updates that we did I think last year at some point where it goes through a bunch of questions that you can ask yourself, and it also links to the raters guidelines that talk a little bit about the these kind of sites, so we call them YMYL your money your life sites.
And I would see a medical ecommerce site kind of falling into that category as well. And there are various things that you can think about there. And I don’t think there’s like one simple trick to make it look official, you really have to make sure that you actually do have kind of that official touch.”
Ritu Nagarkoti replied:
“As for my experience, I did research on it, I got very less techniques for it for medical sites, for others. Related categories, we can go for lots of techniques. But for this medical equipment store, we have very little like not much techniques for it to get the traffic and to enhance the number of users for the website. Like content posting, I’m doing like a high-quality content I’m doing in different sites. I’m posting like content syndication Also, I’m calling for it. And forum posting these all tactics I’m calling but I’m not getting good results.”
Then John said:
“Yeah, I think. Yeah, I don’t think there is like one simple approach to that. And I think especially when it comes to medical content, I think that’s super important that our algorithms are very picky there with regards to what we show. So I would look at the quality rater guidelines and really think about how your site might be perceived by the quality raters, the quality raters don’t make the algorithms, but they do give us a lot of insight into what we might do in our element.
I would strongly recommend going through that. And I think, especially when it comes to these kinds of sites, it’s less about the tactics and more about making sure that it really is a legitimate business and that it’s backed up by appropriate, trustworthy sources. So not just like high quality content and doing all of this syndication all of these things, but really making sure that it’s written by doctors, it’s created by medical professionals who are legitimate in their field.”
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.