Google’s E-A-T & Your Medical Content Strategy

Last updated Feb 17, 2022

Reading time: 5 minutes

Your Money or Your Life.

Sounds intimidating, doesn’t it?

YMYL content, determined by Google, refers to web content and blogs offering health and medical advice.

In a world flooded with well-intended guidance, it’s critical to ensure your content is useful and factual.

Google supports high-quality, expert-led content that is moderated and beneficial to your readers, over content that could negatively impact their health, safety or financial situation.

YMYL content features in Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines, relating to Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness, widely known as E-A-T.

As a medical or healthcare business, it is important to understand how E-A-T works and be aware of the significance when producing YMYL content.
 

What are the Google Quality Raters Guidelines and E-A-T?

In an environment where it’s never been easier to share our opinions online, accurate or not, Google wants to serve users trustworthy search results from authoritative sources.

Why? Because in the absence of reputable, authoritative search results misinformation floods the web, impacting unsuspecting and often vulnerable readers.

Google employs a team of Quality Raters (humans, not bots) to assess website content in order to train algorithms to serve more credible results.

So, broadly speaking, they are looking to assess the quality of content as outlined in the guidelines.

“Highest quality pages and websites have a very high level of expertise or are highly authoritative or highly trustworthy.”

Conversely:

“Low-quality pages often lack an appropriate level of E-A-T for the purpose of the page.”

Let’s look into each of the three terms to get an understanding of what they mean.

Expertise

When reviewing a piece of content, raters look for how well it has communicated the author’s expertise.

In reference to medical sites, the guidelines seek formal expertise specifically:

“Formal expertise is important for YMYL topics such as medical, financial, or legal advice.”

Authoritativeness

In this instance, the focus is on the author’s reputation, and specifically, what other experts and influencers are saying about them online.

While customer reviews are often attributed to reputation, it’s less relevant for medical websites.

“YMYL reputation should be based on evidence from experts, professional societies, awards, etc. ”

Trustworthiness

This factor is of utmost importance for medical websites. Raters look for a number of factors to establish trustworthiness from the accuracy of the content, including whether you reference sources and include your contact details.

The guidelines reference a number of examples, including this one for the Cleveland Clinic, which suggest to raters they should look to other trustworthy sources.

“According to Wikipedia, the Cleveland Clinic ‘is currently regarded as one of the top 4 hospitals in the United States” which can be confirmed by reputable news articles cited in the references section. Users can trust medical information on this website.”
 

7 Great Ways to Improve E-A-T For Your Medical Content

I should note, these tips have not been published by Google. This advice is based on interpretations of the guidelines, findings from industry peers and personal experience.
 

1. Author Bio

Include an author bio that clearly communicates the author’s education, experience, and reputation.
 

2. Author Page/s

If you have a number of authors regularly contributing to your content, consider individual author pages or a page dedicated to your ‘expert contributors’ where you can go into more detail about their expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
 

3. Subject Matter Experts

Only use subject matter experts as authors. Personally, I like to Google the author’s name in another tab and check other search results to verify their expertise.

The guidelines make specific reference to this:
“High E-A-T medical advice should be written or produced by people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation.”
 

4. Medically Reviewed

Ensure each piece of YMYL content is medically reviewed by a relevant expert. It may be the case that your author doesn’t have the E-A-T you would hope, but the person medically reviewing the content does.
 

5. Cite Your Sources

Reference authoritative sources whenever any medical claim is being made.
 

6. Editorial Policies

Publish an editorial policy. Discuss what you aim to do with your content, how you select your contributors/authors, and provide a channel for readers to contact you regarding any feedback on the content.

It’s a great way to establish trust.
 

7. Content Review

Establish a formal process to regularly review your content. This will ensure that your readers are presented with up-to-date and factual information. Even if updates are rarely required, the process of reviewing adds a level of trustworthiness.

“High E-A-T medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis.”
 

What else can I do to improve my website’s E-A-T?

My tips have been specific to improving the content you produce but there are a number of ways you can improve your website in general.

Stanford University researchers looked at how to establish web credibility, the results of which are published in the ‘Stanford Guidelines for Web Credibility’.

A few tips worth noting:

  • Show that there’s a real organization behind your site.
  • Make it easy to contact you.
  • Design your site so it looks professional
  • Make your site easy to use — and useful.
  • Use restraint with any promotional content
  • Avoid errors of all types, no matter how small they seem.

 
As a side note, you may find it interesting to know that the co-founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin both attended Stanford. So too did Google’s current CEO, Sundar Pichai.
 

What can you expect from demonstrating E-A-T?

Aside from gaining the trust of your readers and offering them a better experience on your site, your investment in following the guidelines should ultimately help to improve your search performance.

SEO software company Sistrix, analysed 250 domains to identify the big winners and losers in search in 2021 and they made the following observation:

“One of the most clear patterns from 2021 has been the increasing rise in visibility among government websites, as well as highly-trusted medical authorities who demonstrate significant E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness).”

One ‘winning’ example noted by Sistrix as a strong performer in 2021 was the Victorian government’s health site Betterhealth.vic.gov.au.

I took a deeper look at how well Better Health performed in search, here in Australia in 2021. I used SEMRush to analyse the site’s search performance.

There are some important points to highlight:

  • In January 2021 Better Health ranked in Google’s top ten search results for 77,304 search terms. By December 2021 it was ranking for 149,898. A 93.9% increase.
  • An estimated increase of 12.2% in organic traffic
  • A 4% increase in Traffic Cost* from $2.4million to $2.5million.
  • The number of keywords triggering a featured snippet increased from 6.5k to 7.3k or a 12% increase.

* Traffic Cost is a metric by SEMRush to demonstrate the value of the search terms ranking. Essentially the traffic cost is what they estimate a competitor would have to spend in Google Ads to replicate the same exposure.

The interesting point was that the Victorian site improved even more so in the United States in 2021, highlighted by the estimated traffic cost increasing from $2.1 million to $5 million.

One ‘losing’ example was Healthline:

“Healthline, which has grown tremendously in visibility in recent years, saw declines starting with the June Core Update.”

Healthline still is a great example of how to demonstrate E-A-T but Sistrix observed by looking at the sites that overtook them, that Google has put more focus on the specific subject matter experts. So hurting the general health advice publishers such as Healthline and MedicineNet and promoting the more niche sites.

So don’t be dismayed by the dominance of the generic health publications, the evidence from 2021 indicates that Google wants more specific subject matter expertise. So demonstrate your E-A-T and do so within your area and you will have a strong chance of making a huge impact.
 

Final Takeaway

With increasing demand on Google to rank trustworthy content, it will continue to make sense to do what you can to demonstrate to your readers that you are producing trustworthy content. So don’t ignore the presence of the Quality Raters Guidelines and use them as a valuable tool to help shape your content strategy.

In the spirit of this post, let me leave you with the words of John Mueller from Google:
“My recommendation would really be to go and look at the quality rater guidelines and really go through that and think about it more with the perspective of if a quality rater were looking at your site, or at the general area where your site is active in, like some of your competitors as well, how they might respond to review requests there.”

Quentin Aisbett

Quentin Aisbett

Quentin Aisbett is the strategist at OnQ Marketing. He has a specific focus on local and mobile SEO, content strategy, and marketing automation. Blogging all the time, tweeting even more so. Pick his brain on Clarity.fm.