Staying true to its mission to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, Google kept us on the edge of our seats with 10 confirmed updates and the brand new helpful content ranking algorithm in 2022.
We also got not one, but two updates to the Search Quality Rater Guidelines. Notably, E-A-T is now E-E-A-T. But what does this mean, and why is it important?
All Google search updates are rigorously tested to ensure that the search engine’s systems are better able to detect and display the most useful, credible, people-first results. Google recognises this process needs a human touch, and so enlists the help of external quality raters.
Armed with the 176-page Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines as their reference point, these raters use the concepts of expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness and more recently, experience, to evaluate the quality of search results. Like E-A-T before it, E-E-A-T helps raters assess if search results are a helpful match for search queries. This, in turn, measures how well search is performing and helps inform future updates. While these ratings don’t directly affect rankings, they are used to improve search systems, meaning that any content lacking E-E-A-T could start to slip down the SERPs.
While Google recommends the Search Quality Rater Guidelines as a way for SEOs to measure content quality, it also points out that there are more dimensions to quality, relevance and ranking. Still, these guidelines reflect where search is headed and the types of websites and web pages that Google wants to rank. This makes them a powerful resource for SEOs and content creators looking to maintain their rankings and stay in step with search best practices.
The July 2022 update ushered in a new look at “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) topics, tackled low-quality pages, and added more context as to how E-A-T should be used. The December 2022 update goes into more detail about what helpful, high-quality content looks like across a variety of contexts and content types. In particular, ‘experience’ is now part of the well-known core pillar of quality assessment, E-A-T. In Google’s own words:
“Now, to better assess our results, E-A-T is gaining an E: experience. Does content also demonstrate that it was produced with some degree of experience, such as with actual use of a product, having actually visited a place or communicating what a person experienced?”
The addition helps increase the usefulness, trust and diversity of search results and accounts for instances where first-hand or life experience is more useful than expertise — even for YMYL topics. Fortunately, the guidelines explain these instances in detail.
Google also clarifies how E-E-A-T works and how much it matters for different topics, and provides examples of low E-E-A-T. Trust now lies at the heart of quality assessment and without it, pages automatically have low experience, expertise and authority.
Other updates include:
- A new 3-step process for assessing Page Quality
- Details about how raters should assess the quality of a page’s main content, focusing on originality, effort, talent or skill and accuracy
- Detailed examples of harmful content and misleading information
- A greater emphasis not only on who owns a website but on primary content creators and their reputations, and how to assess the credibility of both.
The latest updates to the Search Quality Rater Guidelines make one thing abundantly clear: Google’s primary aim remains building a search engine that returns relevant results from the most reliable sources available. This implores business owners, along with their copywriters and SEO consultants, to consider how well the content we create aligns with E-E-A-T. Along with ensuring that our pages are accurate and trustworthy, we ultimately need to pay attention to how well they fit search intent and satisfy users.