EAT & YMYL: How Does The Google Search Algorithm Work?
There are many advantages to ranking well in search engine results, but doing so now seems more challenging than ever.
By now, we all know that we need a solid SEO strategy that includes more than keywords. Focusing on keywords alone could make you lose sight of the bigger picture: the context of Google’s rules when evaluating web pages.
Google has always been mysterious and silent about how it works. Furthermore, every once in a while, a new algorithm changes everything (we thought) we knew, leaving us wrapped in fog, trying to decode its meaning.
Over the night, our rankings degraded, and we’re trying to figure out how to save all the work we invested in our sites and pages. Sometimes Google has mercy and gives us a clue about what to do.
In 2015, the unimaginable happened. One document leaked from Google started spinning all over the web. This file contained precious information about evaluation and ranking. To prevent further damage, Google released the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
In the guidelines, right after the introduction to search quality rating, Google introduces us to three essential factors, revealing how it evaluates content and web pages. These three factors are:
- EAT: Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness
- YMYL: Your Money or Your Life.
You see, Google deals with more than just crawlers – its human evaluators use these three principles when evaluating the work of the Google algorithm.
Although the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines date from 2015, today, they’re more relevant than ever:
Google rewards sites and pages that respect the EAT principles and eats the ones that don’t.
Google’s guidelines don’t give us final answers on ranking, but they give us some excellent insights. After reading this article, why your rankings degraded and how to bounce back will be clearer.
Let’s get to know the purpose, YMYL, and EAT concepts better.
- What is the page’s purpose?
In Google’s guidelines, you’ll see the headline “What is the purpose of a webpage.” Every web page on the Internet should have a purpose – the bare reason why it was created.
Most pages are designed to help people, educate, or entertain them. They might sell products or services, but their primary purpose is beneficial.
On the other hand, we can see pages made just to make money on the web. Those pages don’t contain any helpful information or can even harm visitors, and they have the lowest quality.
So, the purpose is the first thing Google observes when deciding your page quality rating.
According to Google, some positive page purposes are:
- Researching a topic
- Sharing personal or social information
- Sharing multimedia (pictures, videos, music)
- Expressing opinions
- Selling products or services
- Providing users with helpful materials
- Giving users a chance to interact with other users
- What is YMYL?
Your money or your life (YMYL) sounds a bit theatrical, but this type of content determines “to be or not to be.”
YMYL pages or topics can negatively impact a person’s life and livelihood: happiness, health, financial stability, and safety. In other words, creating a page with misleading or harmful information could endanger people’s lives.
According to Google, YMYL pages and topics are some of the following:
- News and current events: information of public importance in politics, business, technology, science, etc.
- Civics, government, and law-related information: social and legal misleading.
- Finance advice: all types of financial advice on money, taxes, bank transactions, retirement planning, loans, etc.
- Medical advice: information about medical procedures, drugs, hospitals…
- Shopping: purchases and research
- Information that targets groups of people: ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and others.
Google has high page quality standards for YMYL content since it could jeopardize people’s prosperity and well-being.
- What is EAT?
EAT stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Once Google determines a page has a beneficial purpose, it continues by determining whether it is YMYL or non-YMYL.
If a page is YMYL, the EAT requirements will be more significant and rigorous.
- Expertise refers to the credentials of the primary content author. For example, if most of the content is medical, does the author have medical education or experience? And then, there is something called “everyday expertise.” If you have experience in a particular field, you won’t need formal education (but this rule applies only to non-YMYL content).
- Authoritativeness applies to the main content, content author, and website. If you have authoritativeness, people in your industry recognize you as an authority.
- Trustworthiness applies to these three components: content, author, and web location. Being trustworthy means people trust you to be an honest source of information.
For some topics, Google demands more EAT than for others. YMYL pages need to have substantial expertise and authoritativeness to be considered trustworthy.
Some topics require a high EAT rating, including medical advice, financial or legal advice, childcare or child education, journalistic articles, scientific research, and others.
- How do the purpose, YMYL, and EAT affect SEO?
Now that we know how the purpose, EAT, and YMYL, are interconnected, let’s see how they affect SEO.
To rank high, your pages need to have a clear purpose. A meaningless page won’t be helpful for users.
A certain amount of expertise has to be behind most sites, but for some YMYL pages, that’s even more critical.
If you have a YMYL site, providing misleading or harmful information will decrease your EAT and negatively impact your whole reputation. Therefore, YMYL pages should have the highest EAT possible.
If your webpage contains all three concepts from the EAT acronym, that could indirectly affect ratings, although EAT is not a ranking factor.
By becoming an expert in your niche, you’ll earn respect as an authority and be trusted as a credible source.
When other people from your industry link to your content, you’ll earn valuable backlinks.
All in all, despite the fact the EAT is not one of the ranking factors, following this principle will certainly improve your online presence.
- How to improve EAT?
Here are four steps you should apply to your content to gain expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
- Publish fresh content regularly.
Being consistent is more challenging than you think, especially if you don’t have a group of authors to support you. However, Google appreciates fresh content, and its Freshness Algorithm from 2011 confirms it.
Outdated content is rarely in top-ranking positions since there is more and more information every day. Frequent publishing means crawlers will visit your pages regularly, index your site, and rank you. This is why the inbound digital marketing company we discussed this topic with strongly suggests that you create valuable content and experiences tailored to your current and potential customers.
- Audit and update your content periodically.
Occasionally, perform a content audit and update all outdated articles with new information.
Quality is more important than quantity, but add more relevant content to articles that are 300 words or less – update statistics and all other information that is subject to frequent changes. Research keywords and add new ones if relevant.
Don’t forget to mention the last modification date – it proves your expertise and trustworthiness.
- Include authors and sources for your articles.
Plagiarism can destroy your hard work. If you copy a part of someone else’s content, quote it and link to the source.
Also, don’t forget to mention the source of the pictures and videos you’re using and name the author. If your page is YMYL, naming the author is mandatory for your EAT.
Consider adding the author’s short bio, picture, and link to their LinkedIn profile. People worried about its expertise can learn more about the author’s education and working history this way.
You could also create an “About us” page, where you can introduce your team to the reading audience.
- Consider building authority.
Instead of writing about topics relevant to your niche, consider dedicating only a few. Choose one case you’re an expert on and cover it whole.
Create clusters and answer all the questions your audience might have. In the eyes of Google, your competition, and your audience, you’ll become an authority in your field.
Google’s concepts, rules, and algorithms are frequently updated to provide the best user experience possible. That means that your SEO strategy has to be flexible, and you always have to monitor news in the industry to stay on top.
It can be challenging, especially if you’re not a marketer or SEO specialist. However, you can stay on top of all Google’s changes with the help of the best AI companies.
For now, it seems that the purpose, EAT and YMYL aren’t going anywhere. Following these practices can bring you the desired results – authority and trustworthiness, and position you as an expert in your niche.
Travis Dillard is a business consultant and an organizational psychologist based in Arlington, Texas. Passionate about marketing, social networks, and business in general. In his spare time, he writes about new business strategies and digital marketing for DigitalStrategyOne.