E-E-A-T: What do Google’s new quality rater guidelines mean for SEO?

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In December 2022, Google quietly updated its quality rater guidelines, adding another “E” to its E-A-T acronym. Now, Google’s team of human search raters are asked to score its search ranking systems by evaluating results for experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trust.

These guidelines have no direct impact on search rankings but they provide key insights into Google’s priorities, especially when it comes to creating quality content. So let’s take a look at what’s changed in the latest update to Google’s quality rater guidelines and what this means for your SEO strategy.

What has changed in the new quality rater guidelines?

The biggest change in Google’s updated quality rater guidelines is the expansion of its E-A-T framework. The update adds another “E” for experience and this gives us the new acronym E-E-A-T (or “Double E-A-T”), which stands for:

  • Experience
  • Expertise
  • Authoritative
  • Trust

The update instructs Google’s quality raters to check whether content is produced with a suitable degree of expertise. For example, when it comes to product reviews, raters will check for signs that the publisher has actually used the product in question, not simply rewritten other review content.

Google provides some examples in its announcement of the update:

“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?”

It also clarifies that some types of content require a greater degree of expertise than others – or different types of expertise.

“For example, if you’re looking for information on how to correctly fill out your tax returns, that’s probably a situation where you want to see content produced by an expert in the field of accounting.

But if you’re looking for reviews of a tax preparation software, you might be looking for a different kind of information—maybe it’s a forum discussion from people who have experience with different services.”

In one of the closing paragraphs of the announcement, Google says the principles of experience “are not fundamentally new ideas”. The update expands upon existing principles of the E-A-T framework and Google has encouraged its raters to look for signs of expertise for many years.

For example, it encourages raters to look for content published by experts in their fields with online profiles linked to other works and content on the same subject. This may include authors with published books, medical experts who have published peer-reviewed studies or writers who have worked with specialist publications for many years.

With the updated E-E-A-T framework, Google is placing more emphasis on experience and clarifying how it wants quality raters to assess it.

What do Google quality raters look for in E-E-A-T?

Google’s search quality rating guidelines (PDF) are available for anyone to view. The updated version includes a section breaking down the new E-E-A-T framework and instructions for quality raters to assess each factor.

The new E-E-A-T framework

Google tells its quality raters that trust is the most important factor in E-E-A-T, asking them to assess the extent to which each page is “accurate, honest, safe and reliable”.

Here’s what Google’s guidelines have to say about each of the four factors in E-E-A-T:

Experience

“Consider the extent to which the content creator has the necessary first-hand or life experience for the topic. Many types of pages are trustworthy and achieve their purpose well when created by people with a wealth of personal experience. For example, which would you trust: a product review from someone who has personally used the product or a “review” by someone who has not?”

Expertise

“Consider the extent to which the content creator has the necessary knowledge or skill for the topic. Different topics require different levels and types of expertise to be trustworthy. For example, which would you trust: home electrical rewiring advice from a skilled electrician or from an antique homes enthusiast who has no knowledge of electrical wiring?”

Authoritativeness

“Consider the extent to which the content creator or the website is known as a go-to source for the topic. While most topics do not have one official, Authoritative website or content creator, when they do, that website or content creator is often among the most reliable and trustworthy sources. For example, a local business profile page on social media may be the authoritative and trusted source for what is on sale now. The official government page for getting a passport is the unique, official, and authoritative source for passport renewal.”

Trust

Consider the extent to which the page is accurate, honest, safe, and reliable. The type and amount of Trust needed depends on the page, for example:

  • Online stores need secure online payment systems and reliable customer service.
  • Product reviews should be honest and written to help others make informed purchasing decisions (rather than solely to sell the product).
  • Informational pages on clear YMYL topics must be accurate to prevent harm to people and society.
  • Social media posts on non-YMYL topics may not need a high level of Trust, such as when the purpose of the post is to entertain its audience and the content of the post does not risk causing harm.

Experience, Expertise and Authoritativeness are important concepts that can support your assessment of Trust.

If you’re not familiar with YMYL topics or the core principles of E-A-T (before the latest update), take a look at this presentation.

The new guidelines also include a section to help raters identify YMYL pages and determine how much risk they could pose to users.

New guidelines about YMYL pages

Trust is the most important factor in E–E-A-T

A key message in Google’s quality rater guidelines is that trust is the most important factor in the E-E-A-T framework.

In Google’s own words: “Trust is the most important member of the E-E-A-T family because untrustworthy pages have low E-E-A-T no matter how Experienced, Expert, or Authoritative they may seem.”

The guidelines instruct raters to assess E-E-A-T one or more of the following:

  • What the website or content creators say about themselves: Look at the “About us” page on the website or profile page of the content creator as a starting point. Is the website or content creator a trustworthy source based on this information?
  • What others say about the website or content creators: Look for independent reviews, references, news articles, and other sources of credible information about the website or content creators. Is there independent, reliable evidence that the website or content creator is experienced, has expertise, is authoritative, or is otherwise considered trustworthy? Is there independent, reliable evidence that the website or creator is untrustworthy?
  • What is visible on the page, including the main content (MC) and sections such as reviews and comments: For some types of pages, the level of experience and expertise may be clear from the MC itself. What evidence can you gather from examining the MC or testing the page out? For example, you may be able to tell that someone is an expert in hair styling by watching a video of them in action (styling someone’s hair) and reading others’ comments (commenters often highlight expertise or lack thereof).

Google also explains that many other aspects of trust are not specified in its guidelines and asks raters to use their own initiative in assessing other trust signals.

“Please consider other aspects in your overall Trust assessment, such as customer service information for online stores or peer-reviewed publications for academic authors.”

As a final note in its guidelines for trust, Google states that: “If a page is untrustworthy for any reason, it has low E-E-A-T”.

The complete version of Google’s quality rater guidelines (PDF) includes 135 pages of instructions so it’s worth reading, saving and revisiting. We can’t cover everything in this article and you’ll find plenty more information in the guidelines themselves.

Summary of the main changes to Google’s new quality rater guidelines

To help you read through Google’s quality rater guidelines and find the new changes faster, here’s a quick summary of what’s different after the update:

  • Responsibility (section 2.5): “Start by finding out who is responsible for the website and who created the content on the page… Then, look for information about the website and/or content creators on the website itself.”
  • Overall page quality rating (section 3.0)
    • The purpose of the page
    • The potential for the page or website to cause harm to the end user
    • The extent to which the page is YMYL
  • Quality of main content (section 3.2):
    • “For all types of webpages, creating high quality MC takes a significant amount of at least one of the following: time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill.”
    • “For most pages, the quality of the MC can be determined by the amount of effort, originality, and talent or skill that went into the creation of the content.”
  • Reputation of the website and authors (section 3.3): “Reputation research should be performed according to the topic of the page.”
  • Reputation of the content creators: “For individual authors and content creators, biographical information articles and online discussions can be a good source of reputation. Expect to find more formal reputation information about people who create content in a journalistic, scientific, academic, or other traditionally professional capacity, as they need online credibility for professional success.”
  • E-E-A-T (section 3.4): “Trust is the most important member of the E-E-A-T family because untrustworthy pages have low E-E-A-T no matter how Experienced, Expert, or Authoritative they may seem.”
  • YMYL experience or expertise? (section 3.4.1): A table showing examples of YMYL topics where experience and expertise may be required to varying degrees.
  • Harmful to self or other individuals (section 4.2): A series of tables helping raters to identify YMYL topics and the extent to which different pages could potentially cause harm to the end user or others.
  • Lacking E-E-A-T (section 5.1): Examples of what low E-E-A-T can look like:
    • The content creator lacks adequate experience, e.g. a restaurant review written by someone who has never eaten at the restaurant.
    • The content creator lacks adequate expertise, e.g. an article about how to skydive written by someone with no expertise in the subject.
    • The website or content creator is not an authoritative or trustworthy source for the topic of the page, e.g. tax form downloads provided on a cooking website.
    • The page or website is not trustworthy for its purpose, e.g. a shopping page with minimal customer service information.

All in all, this is a pretty big update to Google’s quality rater guidelines although most of the changes expand or reword existing principles. Google now provides its raters with more specific instructions to help them with some of the more nuanced decisions they have to make when assessing the quality of search results.

Why are Google’s quality rater guidelines important?

These guidelines are designed for Google’s team of human quality raters to help them assess the quality of search results returned by its algorithm.

“As a reminder, these guidelines are what are used by our search raters to help evaluate the performance of our various search ranking systems, and they don’t directly influence ranking. They can also be useful to creators seeking to understand how to self-assess their own content to be successful in Google Search.”Google Search Central Blog

However, the guidelines are still helpful for content creators and SEOs because they say a lot about Google’s priorities. The search giant itself says the guidelines can help creators self-assess their own content and the E-E-A-T framework is a helpful model for content creators to follow.

The updated guidelines provide Google’s quality raters with more information and instructions for assessing quality for a wider range of topics. They also give creators and SEOs more information than previous versions so it’s worth getting familiar with them.

Is your content good enough for Google?

If you’re struggling to produce quality content or keep up with the latest changes to algorithms and quality guidelines, our team can help. Call us on 02392 830 281 to speak to our content team or send us your details and we’ll get in touch.

Dave Colgate profile picture
Dave Colgate

Dave joined Vertical Leap in 2010 as an SEO specialist. Prior to joining us he worked with international companies delivering successful search marketing campaigns, and had a 49% share in a web design company of which he was responsible for delivery. Having introduced SEO as a service to the company, he decided to specialise in SEO and sold the company in 2010 alongside the Managing Director. Dave works with many of our largest customers spanning many household names and global brands. Outside of work, Dave previously spent many years providing charity work as a Sergeant under the Royal Air Force Reserves in the Air Cadets sharing his passion for aviation with young minds. He can often be found in the skies above the south coast enjoying his private pilot licence.

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