Back in early August, Google released a broad-core update to their algorithm, in laymen’s terms, Google is updating, adding and reweighting ranking signals within the algorithm.
My opinion around broad-core updates is that Google decreases the weighting strength of older ranking signals while increasing the signal strength on newer signals such as mobile UX.
A typical example that I could provide. A couple of years ago Google increased the signal strength for sitewide HTTPS. Fast-forwarding to today, websites have adopted now sitewide HTTPS as standard. It is likely Google has reduced the signal strength to make way for newer more impactful ranking search quality signals.
Another example (which some may disagree with) is the gradual decreasing in signal strength for links. My rationale behind this is as we march towards to a mobile-only world it will be much harder to build and attract links. Google knows this, and they are working hard behind the scenes to countermeasure the impact it will cause in the next few years.
Google E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness)
One of the most significant shifts the search community picked up on is an increased signal strength for relevancy and the quality of content on YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) based websites. YMYL websites are grouped into the following sectors: eCommerce and online retailing, financial institutions and health/wellbeing websites.
Our visibility and search ranking monitoring tools went crazy in early August, and after a few days it had become apparent websites positively and negatively impacted by the update fell into the YMYL sectors. Some of the affected sites that we looked at are very high authoritative domains with strong clean backlink portfolios, good website usability, and UX. It wasn’t just us in the marketing team at PushON picking up on this, the broader search community was picking up on the signals that pointed towards an increased signal shift on authority and content relevance.
What has changed?
Google has made updates and changes to their algorithms to put the most useful and accurate content in the organic search results. This is nothing new. It has been going on for years. Although this time around Google has raised the bar on the quality and the standard of content, it wants to see from content teams, publishers and merchandisers.
Why? Larger brands with bottomless organic marketing budgets tend to throw resources at the acquisition of links and traffic rather than focusing on the relevance, quality and the intent of the content. Google is merely readdressing the balance on quality, and they’ve hired a whole army of search quality raters to help with achieving that goal.
The Search Quality Raters
Acquiring a tonne of links to help with outranking your competitors isn’t going to cut it long-term anymore. Google has recruited tens of thousands of Search Quality Raters, these are real human beings and not AI soulless robots. Every Search Quality Rater is tasked with reviewing dozens of websites per month, each of them armed with their 164-page search quality evaluator guidelines handbook. The handbook provides detailed guidance on how to identify and evaluate the difference between poor content, good content and fantastic content. The data collected is fed to the development teams back at Google HQ to be used for benchmarking examples of poor content vs highest quality content. The development teams objectives are to develop the search algorithms based on feedback from the Search Quality Raters.
If you have spare time to read through the search quality evaluator guidelines, it’s a treasure trove of information that outlines what Google perceives as problems and what they are looking for from publishers. I thoroughly recommend reading through it.
The E-A-T Update Rundown
- Google is lowering the reliance on links for evaluating the most useful and accurate content shown in search results.
- The quality and relevance of YMYL content signal have increased in strength, and are likely to get stronger.
- The brands that churn out content with disregard for authority and trustworthiness hit hard by the update.
- Brands and websites trying to blur the lines of visitor intent also impacted – attracting visitors via informational based content, then forcing them into a purchase funnel.
- Google is not saying affected websites have poor content, merely that other sites and web pages have better relevancy to the searchers intent.
I think this recent E-A-T update was just a warning shot to encourage content marketing teams and publishers to up their game. They’ve had it too easy for too long. Google needs to display authoritative, trustworthy content to their hundreds of millions of daily visitors.
You now have access to the 164-page search quality evaluator guidelines handbook. Read it, look at the examples given. Get your head in the mindset of one of the Google’s Search Quality Raters, go audit the content on your website.