EAT and YMYL: The 2 New SEO Factors You Need to Know About.
These characteristics make for a great career in any industry, but they also have become a mandatory staple in websites, particularly in blogging and website publishing.
In 2013 I published a massive case study on Moz’s website titled “Injecting Trust into Online Commerce.” This article talked all about trust, and how your website can convey trust to their visitors. I highly recommend going back and reading this post, as it is still applicable today and very much relates to the topic at hand.
In August of 2018 Google released a “core update” that we call the “medic update” that targeted E-A-T and YMYL sites and pages. Some say the algorithm updated targeted “YMYL” specific sites (medical, legal, financial, etc). With that in mind, it is imperative that we as SEO’s understand more about E-A-T and YMYL to not only rank better, but to improve the overall quality of the web.
Building a fast loading, SEO friendly, and responsive website in this day in age is well, rather easy. With Content management systems such as WordPress and CSS frameworks like Bootstrap you can put together a beautiful looking website in just a few days. Embedding expertise, trust, and authority into your website could take a lifetime of work.
What does Google mean by “E-A-T.”
Going back a few years, in 2015 Google released their quality rater guidelines, as they do every year. You can actually download a copy here. It used to be a secret, but now they make it available. In this revised copy they started to talk about E-A-T, meaning: expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (as well as YMYL, which we’ll talk about later).
2023 Update: E-A-T is now E-E-A-T with the first E meaning “expertise”
To make it easier to think about E-A-T, I’ve come up with what I call the 7 levels of E-A-T. By no means is this meant to be an exhaustive guide, but rather a quick aid in understanding for lay people.
There are plenty of ways to earn expertise. Chances are you’ve seen friends of yours climb the ladder of expertise in his or her own industries. A few ways to earn expertise are:
- a college degree
- an MBA, law degree, or doctorate
- a diploma from an accredited college
- a certification from a standards organization that requires an in-person test
- a certification that you can take online
- working in an industry for X number of years
- reading or writing about a topic or industry for X number of years
- researching a topic or industry
- publishing case studies
- YouTube videos
- being interviewed by another expert or journalist
Expertise can be one of those things that are very evident, such as a college degree or something that is easily challenged such as experience working for a company.
Google also mentions that some types of content (medical, legal, etc) requires a higher level of expertise, while other types of content require everyday expertise.
It is possible to be an expert on a subject, but not an authority. It is also possible to be an authority on a subject but not an expert. This is where things start to get tricky.
Let’s take a good friend of mine I’ll call him Bob. Bob is without a doubt one of the most talented PPC marketers I’ve ever come across. He is self-employed, makes a truck load of money, knows web development, user experience design, blogging, network admin, and everything in between. He is without a doubt an expert in PPC, but he is not an authority. He doesn’t write about PPC online, he isn’t an active blogger…and I don’t even think he has a website.
There are other folks online that have built tens or hundreds of thousands of followers online and have very active blogs. Then you meet them in person and they start talking and you think to yourself “this is the person everyone is following?”
One key thing to remember about authority is this: its an important element, but it shouldn’t stand on its own. If you are an authority figure, you should have either expertise or trust, preferably both.
Social media authority is another important element to look at. You hear a lot of times “She is an authority on the subject” these days or talking about “influencers.” But social media klout is easy to fake. If you go through the right channels you can fake almost any metric. Let’s look at a real authority in our industry: Rand Fishkin:
Many of these metrics alone can be easily faked, but all of them together coupled with some social proof clearly shows he is an authority in our industry.
A case study on expertise vs authority
It is possible to be an expert on a subject, an authority on a subject, or an expert and an authority on a subject.
Topic: “Photoshop Color Replacement:
Site 1: Written BY Adobe themselves. It is extensive, and you know that this is the correct answer because they actually made the tool.
Site 2: From Photoshop Essentials Blog, a site that has been around since 2006. It has been shared almost 200,000 times on social media.
Both sites do an excellent job of explaining the topic. Obviously both sites are trustworthy, but do they both have expertise and authoritativeness?
This section is pretty easy to define, as you can pretty much guess what it is all about. Here are some examples of ways your website or author should build trust:
- don’t lie, cheat, or steal from your website visitors
- don’t manipulate them into clicking
- don’t use things like sneaky re-directs (cough, affiliate links)
- cite sources (links) to other trustworthy websites, blogs or articles
- use your real name when blogging or writing about a subject
There are many other factors that could play a factor in trust such as the age of your domain name, the type of backlinks you have, the quality of your content, your SSL certificate and more.
Ok so you’ve read the above about E-A-T and you understand it, right? Now how do you implement it? If you have a gut feeling that you are ‘doing it wrong’ then you might want to rethink your marketing strategy. It is pretty simple: Google wants experts, authorities, and trustworthy people and websites. That is what they are looking for. The more of it you have, and the more of it you can prove the better chances that your site will rank better.
Case in point: Wikipedia. Why does Wikipedia rank for damn well every keyword on the planet (other than the millions of links pointed to it)? It is filled with the highest level of expertise, it redefines authority, and you can trust it. Just look at any article, and you’ll see a “talk” page that is filled with arguments about validity, trustworthiness of citations, and more. In addition to this, they reference multiple authoritative websites at the bottom of each entry.
If you are in the business of making and/or ranking websites, it is my opinion that all websites should have the following:
- an about us page with information about your company, and who works with / for you
- a contact us page with your address, phone number, email, hours of operation, driving directions, etc
- for eCommerce or product sites, you should have a customer service page
- a functional user interface! this means mobile ready, preferably responsive
- a site that loads fast, it doesn’t need to be blazing fast but users shouldn’t have to wait for it to load
- a consistent layout with an easy to navigate menu
- site security – it is your duty to keep your website in working order. This means no malware on your site, sneaky redirects, keeping it up to date, and a valid SSL certificate.
One thing that I’ve learned over the last few years, is that our jobs as SEO’s & web consultants is to not only help our clients rank prominently in the search engines, but to help improve the quality of the web. This means discouraging shoddy content, fake reviews and testimonials, and encouraging quality content and high quality websites.
E-A-T SEO side effects
If you allow me to put my tinfoil hat on for a moment, imagine this scenario:
You have a shady website on a slow-loading server with lots of popups and content that is difficult to read.
Clearly it fails the E-A-T test for a variety of reasons, but what else happens as a result? The visitor probably only spends a few seconds on the website, and most likely bounces from the page they arrived on. Case in point: as a side effect of having shoddy “E-A-T” the visitor bounced after waiting a long time for the site to load and had a very short dwell time. Many have correlated dwell time, page speed, and bounce rate to SEO results.
My point is, upping the E-A-T ante on your website may also increase other SEO worthy parts of your website and could have a positive effect on your rankings to boot. Just a theory.
If you follow the above tips you are on the right track. Keep reading.
E-E-A-T & AI
Using AI to write content for your website goes against everything Google wants and is basically the opposite of what E-E-A-T requirements. Google spells this out very clearly in their spam policies (just a snippet here)
Examples of spammy auto-generated content include:
- Text that makes no sense to the reader but contains search keywords
- Text translated by an automated tool without human review or curation before publishing
- Text generated through automated processes without regard for quality or user experience
- Text generated using automated synonymizing, paraphrasing, or obfuscation techniques
- Text generated from scraping feeds or search results
So in my opinion, stay away from it if you want to stay in the good graces of Google.
AI has its place in content writing. It is fun to play with and can be a helpful tool, but definitely not an all encompassing solution to content or copywriting.
YMYL: Your Money or Your Life
Another hot topic in SEO right now is YMYL or “your money or your life” type of pages. Google is basically re-categorizing the web into YMYL and non-YMYL pages and sites so to speak. Examples of YMYL sites and pages are:
- a page that offers symptoms or diagnosis of a serious health issue
- stock tips, bitcoin investment advice, or other investment schemes
- infant advice or parenting advice
- an eCommerce store with secure checkout
More specifically a few good vs bad examples of YMYL pages:
Good: a WebMD.com page authored by an authoritative physician about the dangers of smoking
Bad: an independently run blog that talks about why vaping is better than smoking
Good: your TD Ameritrade account profile
Bad: a .trade domain from an anonymous Twitter user soliciting an initial coin offering (ICO)
Good: a Brooklyn based clothing startup on secure web hosting, with SSL, PCI certified with secure checkout
Bad: a wordpress.com flog selling NBA jerseys through a 2-checkout link
As with anything Google or SEO related, there are grey areas when thinking about YMYL:
Case 1: A doctor writes a scholarly article on the effects of a popular breast cancer treatment, the side effects, and case studies
Case 2: A woman with breast cancer writes a blog about her experience with breast cancer treatment, her opinion, her outcome, and her feelings.
Clearly the doctor is an expert on the subject of breast cancer, but is the woman undergoing breast cancer treatment not considered an authority on the subject as well?
When thinking about YMYL pages also think about pages that could have a dangerous or fatal impact such as “how to install hurricane shutters.” If you’ve been installing hurricane shutters for 20 years, you probably have some really good tips and tricks on how to install them. Failing to warn users of the dangers of putting up hurricane shutters during high wind speeds could be potentially fatal (…YL / your life). Google wants experts, not novices writing about these detremental topics.
Take a look at one of the most notorious scams of last year: Bitconnect. This company bilked millions and millions of dollars from investors promising a high rate of return.
Their website copy read: “build trust and reputation in bitcoin and cryp…”
Just because you use the words “trust and reputation” doesn’t mean you are trustworthy or reputable.
YMYL: What Not to Do
do no harm – take the webmasters Hippocratic oath and swear by it. When a visitor lands on your site it is your responsibility to take care of them. Would you lie to your customers when they came in to your physical location or steal from their pocket?
don’t be shady – don’t steal from people or deceive them. Don’t use sneaky redirects, make sure your site is not hacked, don’t trap people into entering their email address.
don’t be misleading – the web has come a long way in the last 10 years. It used to be very common to fake reviews, do 1000’s of backlinks per day, etc. Now the FTC, the FCC and other US and EU governing bodies are really cracking down on this type of stuff.
Some other YMYL rules to live by
Treat customers like family.
Try to be helpful to people. Sometimes being helpful means pointing people to another piece of information that is not on your site. This is really hard for a lot of webmasters to do. There are currently 2,330,000,000 results for “how to install Windows 10” on Google right now. Does your IT blog need another version of it?
More EAT Reading & Resources
- What is E-A-T?, from Marie Haynes
- Google Updates Quality Rater Guidelines Targeting E-A-T, Page Quality & Interstitials, from Jennifer Slegg
- Leveraging E-A-T for SEO Success, presentation from Lily Ray
- Google’s Core Algorithm Updates and The Power of User Studies: How Real Feedback From Real People Can Help Site Owners Surface Website Quality Problems (And More), Glenn Gabe
- Why E-A-T & Core Updates Will Change Your Content Approach, from Fajr Muhammad