what google e-a-t and seo mean for your online business
E-A-T is a concept we first learned of in Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines.
In this article, you will learn about this, the quality raters who use it, and how it impacts your businesses Google search rankings.
As a business owner, just the thought of search engine optimization (SEO) could be enough to make you desire to avoid learning about it. It can be easy to get bogged down with the masses of information out there, when all you may desire is a clear set of guidelines that will guarantee better search rankings.
While Google is not perfectly transparent about how they rank sites in the search engine results pages (SERPs), we know through our expertise and research some areas of focus that will boost your rankings…
And one of those areas is knowing about Google E-A-T.
In this article, we’ll explain in detail what E-A-T is. I will offer some advice on how to optimize your website for these ranking factors too!
Let’s get started!
An Introduction to Google E-A-T
E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
These are three key factors used by search algorithms to determine a page’s overall quality. The concept was first published in 2014 as a part of the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (SQEG). The SEO industry only began to appreciate the importance of page quality in 2019, when Google’s Medic update was released.
E-A-T was introduced to address the issue of low-quality content showing up in search results purely because of keywords. Nowadays, the ranking algorithms focus on a publisher’s reputation and purpose, as well as the reliability of their content.
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What are Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines?
Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines is a kinda frequently updated document (the last update, as of this writing, was in 2020) that Google Quality Raters use/reference as they rate websites…
As the name suggests, they are the guidelines that these raters are to use as they perform their function.
The guidelines outline the conditions and elements that need to be considered and how the site should be rated by that person.
The most recent version is a 175-page read, compared to the 168-page version it replaced.
Wonderfully, Google places their updated versions at the same URL so you can bookmark it and always be able to find the most current version easily.
What is a Google Quality Rater?
Google has hired thousands of individuals from around the world to rate websites and record whether the site is good or bad across a variety of areas.
Now, it is important to understand that these people have no impact on the rankings of the sites they rate.
That said, their role is much much larger than that too…
They don’t influence the rankings of the sites they rate.
They influence the rankings of every site.
How Do They Influence the Rankings of Every Site?
In all transparency, I need to note that I don’t get to call anyone over at Google and ask them exactly how their algorithms work…
Like everyone else, I research and observe what Google publishes and what’s going on in the results. Then I make best hypotheses on how certain functions and signals need to be treated.
The most likely structure to make the feedback of ~10,000 quality raters actionable is to do it in the way that Google does almost everything: algorithmically.
In the backend of the system, the raters are using a slider to assign values:
This data would then be made available to machine learning systems that would use it to augment the algorithms based on known signal data.
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More On Signal Data
By signal data, I am referring to everything from the structure, size (of page and domain, and related section for that matter), backlinks and backlink profile, author signals, navigation, and probably a lot more.
The same would be true for site(s) with Low values.
With this, the system would probably…
Produce a set of results based on what the new algorithm produces across a variety of phrases and niches.
Send the top-ranking sites in that set to the raters. Assuming the raters favor the new results page, push the signal adjustments into the global algorithms we all know and love, either globally or in testing.
It is also possible that Google may skip the review phase and just push the new signal weights into the algorithms for testing, yet I suspect they use their raters more often than not.
While a Quality Rater does not impact an individual site’s ranking, collectively, they do influence the algorithm that powers all that is Google.
Most likely significantly more influence than just looking at a single site and deciding that it should move up or down the results is deciding how all the results on a page are positioned.
Now that we understand what the Search Quality Raters Guidelines are, the next question we need to explore is:
What are the Raters Looking For?
When we’re looking at the areas the raters are instructed to look at, we’re essentially:
Looking at what Google wants the algorithm to produce.
Getting a glimpse of what their algorithms will focus on.
The guide states…
“As a Search Quality Rater, you will work on many different types of rating projects. The General Guidelines primarily cover Page Quality (PQ) rating and Needs Met (NM) rating; however, the concepts are also important for many other types of rating tasks.”
We won’t be looking at the tasks specifically here and will focus on the more important (from the context of this piece):
What do they mean?
This is an area that gets too little attention – and in their 2020 update, it appears that the people at Google agree as they grew that section.
I had not actually caught the changes in this section when reading it, yet while reviewing some other articles while putting this piece together..I saw it.
It’s something to pay close attention to, Google is paying close attention to it.
What is Needs Met?
Needs Met is a fairly straightforward concept… It basically means intent.
The question that raters would be asking themselves in assessing a page is:
“How helpful and/or satisfying is this result?”
During this testing, a rater may visit a single page or visit a search results page and rate every result.
Both will send the information to Google about the site structure, device, demographic, and location results differences.
I am sure a number of other factors apply to the grading of each result (there’s a reason they have more than 10,000 raters around the world).
These ratings will then be used to drive changes to improve the results to algorithmically determine which signals or signal combinations are common to the higher rankings results.
I suspect that in the case of Needs Met, the signals will predominantly focus on the onsite factors, including but definitely not limited to content, links on the page (expanded on in the recent version), structure, and user experience.
It is important to note that, as with the real world, the Needs Met rating does require decent Page Quality.
The guidelines state it clearly…
“The Needs Met rating is based on both the query and the result.”
One can have a medium Needs Met with a low Page Quality, but it would be highly unlikely that they could get a high Needs Met rating.
After all, the user intent is not satisfied if the searcher doesn’t trust the result.
One final element of Needs Met that is worth noting before we move on to Page Quality is the interpretation.
By this, we are to consider queries with multiple possible meanings such as the following…
When the rater is assigning a Needs Met score, they are to give more weight to pages satisfying higher intents.
As an SEO Expert, and Business Mentor, I like to keep something specific in mind…
Page Quality ratings are based on a number of factors, all of which interconnect.
The weight given to each is based on the type of site and query (again… the similarity is uncanny).
According to the guidelines, the sections of a website can be divided into three main categories:
Main Content (MC): Main Content is any part of the page that directly helps the page achieve its purpose.
Supplemental Content (SC): Supplemental Content contributes to a good user experience on the page but does not directly help the page achieve its purpose. The example they give is navigation ease of access links. Critical to the site, but not necessary to satisfy Needs Met.
Ads: Advertisements/Monetization (Ads) is content and/or links that are displayed for the purpose of monetizing (making money from) the page.
Following their direction, understanding a webpage is quite simple.
Everything that remains is Supplemental Content.
And now, specific for the section you are likely reading this piece for, it is important to understand what has been outlined above to add context to this important section.
Let’s begin with what E-A-T stands for:
The line between expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness can get pretty unseen sometimes, we will define each here…
Here is a basic overview of each:
The expertise of the content creator is related only to the content of the page being judged and not the site as a whole.
It does not have to be an author, and the criteria are not set in stone.
The authoritativeness of the content is judged by the authority of the content itself and the domain.
In general, this would be based on external signals such as links and link quality, brand mentions, citations.
The trust of the content is judged again by the trust of the content specifically and the trust of the domain.
Trust is similar to authority but more pointed.
Where authority focuses more on the volume of quality references, trust focuses more on specific signals and sites.
It is hopefully obvious, but let me stress two very important facts…
E-A-T is not a ranking factor.
E-A-T is no more a ranking factor than the prep material you used to study for your next test.
The purpose of outlining E-A-T in the Search Quality Raters Guidelines is that if the raters use it to judge websites, and Google uses these ratings to adjust their algorithm, in the end, the algorithm will align with the E-A-T principles.
E-A-T can be used as a guiding principle for design, content creation, and supporting external signals. It can be used, as you used the information from your driving guide the first time you hit the open road.
If you’re just getting your feet wet or just looking for a different point of view, hopefully, you’ve found this helpful!
The Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines is an important document. It tells us where Google wants to go, and they’re throwing a lot of resources at it.
Google also updates it as they look to tune different parts of their algorithms.
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“And one of those areas is knowing about Google E-A-T.“
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