Google released the latest version of its Search Quality Rating guidelines in November 2015. These guidelines help Google’s employees to understand the ranking system and to identify websites that are high quality in addition to those that should not be ranked well in the results.
The guidelines are 160 pages long and cover a great deal of information; however, the big takeaway for webmasters is that Google needs websites to employ expert writers for the content on the site to be considered authoritative. Google wants to make sure that people who are writing about a subject have real-life experience in that subject.
The EAT test
Google asks quality managers to look at three things: expertise, authority and trustworthiness (EAT). For a page to be considered high quality, the author must have expertise − high-quality content from an expert source will add to the authority of the page and also improve its trustworthiness.
What makes an expert?
The definition of an expert will depend on the subject. Topics such as medical advice can only be written by people who are accredited in that subject, must be written in a style that is professional, and must be edited and updated regularly. Financial advice can only be written by someone who is qualified to do so, and even topics such as hobby pages on specific niche subjects will be assessed to make sure that the person writing about the subject has relevant experience. If a page is about an information-dense subject but the content is thin, this will lead to the page being penalised.
This poses an interesting question for webmasters. What if you run a website that is a support group for people with a specific disability? If you are not a doctor, does that mean you are not an expert, even though you have a lot of first-hand experience with the disability in question? Google says that everyday expertise counts, but webmasters will need to take care to make it clear what level of expertise the author has. Authors should not try to overstate their credentials.
If a page is trying to sell something, or offers advice that could potentially harm someone if it is incorrect, then this is a ‘Your Money or Your Life’ page and will be put under extra scrutiny. This means that these pages need to be particularly well written.