Google Core Updates & The E-A-T Metric
Google is Constantly Making Changes
On August 1, 2019 Google published an article on the Google Webmaster Central Blog, explaining "What webmasters should know about Google's core updates". This article talks about why Google releases updates to its search algorithm and explains Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) which explains that website owners should focus on offering the best website content they can. As that is what Google's algorithms seek to reward.
Relevant and Authoritative Content
Google's overall mission is to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers.
Every day Google makes one or two changes that are designed to help improve search results. Several times a year Google will also make larger, more significant changes to their search algorithms (known as core updates) which can have a dramatic affect on search results. If you're interested in how the Google algorithm, [a set of complex rules], has evolved over the years, it's worth visiting MOZ which has a detailed list of Google algorithm changes which date back as far as 2000.
Major Algorithm Changes
When a core update happens some websites drop in the search engine rankings, others gain search places and their website pages improve in ranking.
Google states that: "There's nothing wrong with pages that may perform less well in a core update. In fact, there's nothing in a core update that targets specific pages or sites. Instead, the changes are about improving how our systems assess content overall. These changes may cause some pages that were previously under-rewarded to do better."
A simple way to think about this is, as time goes by some content will go out of date. New information may become available and web pages will be written which are more relevant to the keyword phrase being searched for, thereby causing older content to be superseded by newer content.
What Can I Do to Improve My Sites Chances of Being Found?
If after a core update you find a page on your site drops in rank or disappears what can you do about it? Google advises that website owners focus on quality content. Over the years Google has consistently said that having quality, unique website content is important. Of course if the content on a page is out-of-date it's important to revisit it, update it and make it relevant again.
For an understanding of what Google is looking for in terms of content check the questions Google suggests you ask yourself to see if your content provides value.
Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
Apart from the questions provided to guide you in what type of copy Google likes, Google also relies on search quality raters who carry out search testing. Raters are people who provide feedback on whether, when they are searching for something, Google is providing good results. Google trains raters to understand what it is looking for in terms of whether website content has strong E-A-T.
Google has very helpfully provided the Search Quality Rater Guidelines that Google raters use to assess content from an E-A-T perspective. This is an excellent resource for anyone writing website content who wants to understand what Google is looking for and how to craft their content to meet Google guidelines.
The Search Quality Rater Guidelines are 166 pages long and go in depth on Overall Page Quality Rating breaking this down into sections on the Most Important Factors when selecting an overall Page Quality Rating. Google lists them as:
- The Purpose of the Page
- Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness: This is an important quality characteristic. Use your research on the additional factors below to inform your rating.
- Main Content Quality and Amount: The rating should be based on the landing page of the task URL.
- Website Information/information about who is responsible for the Main Content (MC): Find information about the website as well as the creator of the MC.
- Website Reputation/reputation about who is responsible for the MC: Links to help with reputation research will be provided.
Very helpfully Google also gives examples of what they see as "Lowest", "Medium" and "Highest" content which allows website owners to understand what is required to achieve the highest rating.
Google states that if a page has one or more of the following characteristics, the Low rating applies:
- An inadequate level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
- The quality of the MC is low.
- There is an unsatisfying amount of MC for the purpose of the page.
- The title of the MC is exaggerated or shocking.
- The Ads or SC distracts from the MC.
- There is an unsatisfying amount of website information or information about the creator of the MC for the purpose of the page (no good reason for anonymity).
- A mildly negative reputation for a website or creator of the MC, based on extensive reputation research. If a page has multiple Low quality attributes, a rating lower than Low may be appropriate.
For examples see 6.7 Examples of Low Quality Pages p33 - 36.
Google describes Medium pages as those that have a beneficial purpose and achieve their purpose.
There are two types of Medium quality pages:
- Nothing wrong, but nothing special. The page achieves its purpose, however, it does not merit a High quality rating, nor is there anything to indicate that a Low quality rating is appropriate.
- Mixed with strong High quality rating characteristics. The page or website has strong High quality rating characteristics, but also has mild Low quality characteristics. The strong High quality aspects make it difficult to rate the page Low.
For examples see 8.1 Examples of Medium Quality Pages p53 - 55.
Google marks pages as Highest quality pages where they are created to serve a beneficial purpose and where they achieve that purpose very well.
A Highest quality page must have at least one of the following characteristics:
- Very high level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
- A very satisfying amount of high or highest quality MC.
- Very positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the MC on the page. Very positive reputation of the creator of the MC, if different from that of the website.
For examples see 5.4 Examples of Low Quality Pages p26 - 31.
What Other Factors are Important for E-A-T?
Clearly website content is important but other factors are also taken into account e.g. the reputation of the creator of the content and the website. This is assessed through reviews, references and recommendations from across the web including Google business, Facebook, Trustpilot etc. Authoritative links into the site also provide a level of trust.
When you first start out as an author you will not have the trust or reputation that Google are looking for and this can only be built over time. However it's not just about quality writing it's about positioning yourself as an expert. If you don't do this Google will consider your page/article as low quality if "the author of the page or website does not have enough expertise for the topic."
If you're not recognised as an expert in the topic you are writing about it's important to begin establishing yourself and growing your reputation thereby increasing your recognition as an authority on the subject you write about.
One way to do this is by introducing author bios with information on what makes you qualified to write on specific topics. Introducing author schema can also provide author information to Google.
The message may not be a new - content is important in helping your site to do well in the search engines but now writers have a comprehensive guide as to what Google is looking for when they assess website content. If that content is well-written, grammatically correct, truthful, informative and provides a unique viewpoint then it has a better chance of enhancing your site's reputation and trustworthiness.
Ignore E-A-T at your peril!