Think back almost a year ago, to August 2018 – What were you doing? If you’re a webmaster or an SEO, I’m guessing your answer has something to do with the Medic update. The broad core algorithm update released in early August of last year saw one of the most disruptive changes that the search industry had seen in quite some time, causing mass fluctuations throughout the YMYL markets and ultimately driving search experts a little bit crazy.
Due to changes in Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines, thousands upon thousands of websites were suddenly faced with intense fluctuation within the SERPs. While some saw drastic drops, others saw incredible highs and with the recent release of the June 2019 Core Algorithm and Diversity updates, this is an issue that still appears to be ongoing – but why exactly did this happen? We’re digging a little deeper.
What Is E-A-T?
E-A-T stands for expertise, authority and trustworthiness and is a form of rating that Google’s raters can provide for a site. They are categorised as the following:
- Expertise – Websites offering information and advice need to show that they have expertise within their market or industry. You can do this with qualifications, degrees, training or business accolades and external recognition.
- Authority – Your off-site reputation will determine your authority, through sharing, branded search volumes, the quality and quantity of external links and even unlinked mentions of your brand.
- Trustworthiness – The buzz around your business can affect how trustworthy you appear to your potential customers. Poor reviews, negative sentiment and a bad reputation can all have an adverse effect on your ranking.
What Were The Effects?
When the E-A-T update was released, thousands of sites witnessed immediate ranking drops more or less overnight. For upwards of a month, these sites were still witnessing fluctuations, with little guidance as to how to recover from the drops. YMYL sites were hit the hardest, which are defined by Google as being any of the following:
- Financial Information Pages
- Medical Information Pages
- Shopping/Financial Transaction Pages
- Legal Information Pages
- News Articles
- Public/Official Information Pages
In short, if a webpage had the potential to affect a person’s life, then they would need to start catering to the new E-A-T guidelines. Google’s update ensured that only the most trustworthy and expert sites were ranked at the top, protecting users from false or harmful information when and where they could.
Similarly, low-quality or untrustworthy sources were often ranked lower or de-indexed completely in order to ensure the safety of users and protect their best interests.
The Latest Updates To Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines
In May 2019, a few updates to the QRG were released that saw the specifics of E-A-T loosened somewhat. The biggest difference that people noticed, however, is that a lot of occurrences of E-A-T in the original guidelines had now been replaced with Page Quality, showcasing Google’s growing focus on quality as a whole.
The updated version appeared to clarify the difference between the two more effectively, though still put emphasis on the importance of exercising E-A-T for YMYL industries.
Another key takeaway appeared to rest in looser guidelines in terms of proof of expertise, though only in non-YMYL industries. Experience within a market or area would be considered enough expertise on a topic, e.g. hobbies, sports etc. Ultimately, the new updates clarified a lot of unclear elements from the original guidelines, whilst ensuring that webmasters understood the importance of both E-A-T and Page Quality as separate entities.
The latest diversity and June 2019 Core Algorithm Updates have also put further emphasis on quality, ensuring fairer search results for smaller businesses through limiting the number of times a domain could appear in the SERPs (Diversity Update) and a higher focus on ‘Page Quality’ (June 2019 Core Update).
These updates, along with E-A-T, are a clear sign of the search engine’s movement towards a better search experience for users. It’s safe to say that the Medic update was certainly just the beginning.
To find out more about the latest updates to the Quality Raters Guidelines, the future of Google’s algorithm and E-A-T as a whole, check out the full blog, here.