The History of Truth: Google’s E-E-A-T & YMYL

Google is one of the most, if not the most, widely-used search engines in the world, with millions of people turning to it every day to find information on a wide variety of topics. Sometimes, some of those topics include subjects where the truth of the matter is of critical importance.

Maybe a searcher is looking for the laws of a certain city. Perhaps they are wanting to know more about a medical condition that may apply to them. They might possibly be trying to better understand a tax code as they prepare for filling. In all these situations, there could be dire consequences for any decision made based on incorrect or misleading information these searchers find. As a result, Google has taken measures to ensure that when certain subjects are discussed, the information that is presented to its users is accurate and reliable.

In recent years, Google has made several changes to improve the quality of its search results. One of the most important of these changes is the emphasis on Your-Money-or-Your-Life (YMYL) and Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T). Let’s explore what YMYL and E-E-A-T mean, and why they are important for Google and searchers alike.

The October 25, 2019, Google BERT Update

To begin, we should review a precursor to recent Google E-E-A-T and YMYL updates: the BERT update of 2019. At the time, it was touted as the biggest change to Google search in recent years, and it would have an impact on both search rankings and featured snippets. The BERT update aimed to help Google better understand search queries and user intent, by better understanding language and word use based on the surrounding copy and context.

For example, “investing in cryptocurrency is a joke” and “cryptocurrency investment jokes” are two very similarly worded queries with two very different meanings and search intent. By understanding this difference, Google would be better able to provide the appropriate results for each query.

Another example: evaluating an informational medical website and a website selling medical products. While the two sites may possibly share some similar keywords, each would have a completely different intent. Still, both could be considered YMYL sites, so it’s important for Google to understand the differences between the searchers’ intent and the context of the information provided on the sites. 

Google would now better understand the context of content it crawls and how transparently information is being presented. This would also allow it to better understand the search intent for a given query to provide the most relevant results. Ultimately, the capabilities provided by the BERT update would allow Google to better discern YMYL-related content and apply E-E-A-T to its results.

What Was Google’s Original E-A-T?

Before E-E-A-T, Google created the concept of E-A-T, which stands simply for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. 

  • Expertise refers to the level of knowledge and skill that the author of a web page has in their field when considering the content and how it’s presented.
  • Authoritativeness refers to the reputation of the content, the website, and the author within the industry. It also helps if other reputable sites link to the content, which helps to indicate its value. 
  • Trustworthiness refers to the overall accuracy, reliability, and transparency of the information presented on a website or web page. Are experts writing about YMYL topics? If applicable, are there links to support any claims made? Is the content accurate and consistently updated? These are some questions that can help us understand how Google determines trustworthiness.

In the world of SEO, some may refer to the “E-A-T score” of a page. It is important to clarify that there is currently no such thing as an E-A-T score that can be used to improve rankings. Actually, E-A-T is part of a set of guidelines used by search quality raters to help improve or evaluate algorithm changes. Google’s quality raters consider E-A-T and YMYL guidelines when providing feedback about search quality during an algorithm update evaluation. 

So, while it’s possible that E-A-T and YMYL may have an indirect effect on the search algorithm, there is no E-A-T score that is assigned to pages or that can be improved upon for rankings. As we refer to E-A-T value in this article, we’re referring to how much a page or website aligns with the attributes of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness from the perspective of content creation. 

That Google E-A-T value is particularly important for YMYL pages because they tend to contain information that can have a major impact on people’s lives. For example, medical conditions are sometimes discussed on forum websites with authority-like detail and relevant keywords. This can create problems if the information discussed in those forums is inaccurate, but those forum pages are served in search results to users for certain queries where your money or your life could be impacted.

What is Your Money or Your Life (YMYL)?

For Google, Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) refers to when a web page discusses a topic where the information provided can have a significant effect on people’s finances, health, safety, or well-being. These types of pages include financial advice, medical information, legal advice, news articles, and sometimes, shopping pages. YMYL Google updates place a high level of scrutiny on YMYL pages because the information they contain can have a serious impact on searchers.

When assessing YMYL content, Google prioritizes pages that are written by experts in their respective fields, and it looks for signals that the author has the necessary qualifications, education, and experience to provide accurate and reliable information. In a situation where the author is not available for consideration, it may look to see how information is presented. If claims are made, it may check to see if they are substantiated with links to credible sources and pages. 

It’s safer to assume that all content will be evaluated from this perspective and that the closer a topic is to YMYL, the more likely it is to be scrutinized by Google.

Google E-E-A-T – The Latest Update for Quality Rater Guidelines

Google E-A-T and YMYL have continued to increase in importance, especially considering the two Helpful Content Updates in 2022. For some topics, Google has identified that searchers are expecting content that is produced with experience. So in December 2022, Google released updates to their Quality Rater guidelines, adding an extra “E” to E-A-T to make it “E-E-A-T” or “Double-E-A-T.” Here, the extra “E” stands for Experience.

For Google E-E-A-T, experience refers to content that “demonstrate[s] that it was produced with some degree of experience.” For example, do product pages include the actual use of that product? Are travel articles written from the perspective of having actually visited the place being discussed? These questions can help us to identify the topics and situations where Google might evaluate the experience factor of a page.  

Google clarified that while the December updates to these Quality Rater Guidelines don’t directly influence rankings, they do help the quality raters evaluate Google’s ranking systems. They also encouraged content creators to use them to help evaluate how their own content adheres to these guidelines.

Why are YMYL and E-E-A-T Important for SEO?

In a way, these acronyms represent Google’s primary goal of providing the best search experience possible while keeping searchers safe. As the algorithms improve, Google gets better at determining the E-E-A-T value of a page and serving the best content to a search query.

And anything that is important to Google becomes important to those in the digital marketing world. By prioritizing pages that are written by experts on sites that are considered authoritative sources, and are transparent and trustworthy, Google is incentivizing website owners to ensure that their content meets the E-A-T criteria for expertise and accuracy. This, in turn, emphasizes a need for an informed YMYL and E-E-A-T SEO perspective on content creation in order to help improve search rankings or drive more traffic to a site. 

In the end, SEO experts and content creators should strive to produce content that is unique and helpful to searchers. And in order to accomplish that, creators should consider the YMYL nature of a topic, the E-E-A-T value of their own site or page on the subject, and the guidelines Google is likely to apply when evaluating that content for relevancy and rankings. This should help to determine the best course of action for approaching a given topic for content creation, and, ultimately, provide users with the best possible search experience as well.

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