E-A-T vs. YMYL: What You Need To Know for SEO and Content Marketing

SEO is something content marketers have to tweak and refine continuously. SEO practices that matter today can change tomorrow.

Looking at SEO as only keywords doesn’t provide you with the big picture. In developing or improving an SEO strategy, companies need to consider the differences between E-A-T vs. YMYL.

In this post, we’ll break down the two concepts and examine how they impact SEO and content marketing.

Key Takeaways

  • E-A-T and YMYL are two principles that Google uses to quantify the quality of content. They do impact ranking.
  • Beneficial purpose is another factor search engines use to rate page content.
  • Creating consistent, high-quality, user-focused content is the best way to achieve top rankings.

E-A-T vs. YMYL: The Basics

Google keeps its lips fairly tight on how its search ranking algorithm works. Experts in SEO play detective to figure it out, but sometimes Google offers a glimpse at what’s behind the curtain.

Google released its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines in response to a leaked version published online. It’s a 175-page document, so it’s heavy with details.

In the overview, the guide speaks to Search Quality Raters, those that actually “rate” on several parameters, including Page Quality (PQ) and Needs Met (NM). While the guide is for these “raters,” it’s also a goldmine for context for content marketers. However, keep in mind these are clues, not the definitive answer on search ranking.

Image: Google

The real find in this document is the explanation of key models they use to determine if content is low or high quality.

And a foundational factor to understand when it comes to quality is ‘beneficial purpose’, which is an aspect of ranking Google uses. It sets the stage for E-A-T and YMYL principles.

YMYL is an acronym for Your Money or Your Life.

E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness.

What Is Beneficial Purpose?

In the guide, Google defines beneficial purpose as websites and pages that should help users. In turn, if pages have the intent to harm or deceive users, they will receive the lowest PQ rating.

Image: Google

The document says that pages should be user-centered and that common beneficial purposes include sharing information, expressing an opinion, entertaining, selling products or services, and posting questions. Google makes its user the priority and wants websites to do the same thing.

What Is YMYL?

This concept is another aspect of rating and ranking. Google makes it clear that deception and dishonesty on pages won’t perform well. YMYL takes it a step further with this idea of content that spreads inaccurate and untruthful information that can actually harm a person. If misinformation affects the user’s happiness, health, safety, or finances, Google will mark it as YMYL.

Image: Google

Thus, if your content fits into the realm of advice for these areas, then it must do no harm. If you develop this kind of content, it must be accurate and true. Google also breaks down YMYL topics:

  • News and current events
  • Civics, government, and law
  • Finance.
  • Shopping
  • Health and safety
  • Groups of people
  • Other (fitness, nutrition, housing information, college, job hunting)

This category is wide-ranging, and the guide tells its raters to use their best judgment in evaluating if a page falls into this category.

What Is E-A-T?

E-A-T isn’t the only factor in determining PQ. Google advises it is one of five areas (see all five below in the excerpt).

Image: Google

If a page has beneficial purpose, raters then evaluate to determine if the content is YMYL content. Non-YMYL page review isn’t as rigorous as it is for those that are. So how does Google use each part of E-A-T for PQ assessment?

Expertise

The first component grades the writer or domain with the question, “Is the author an expert?”

However, this doesn’t mean that all high-quality content is from well-tenured subject matter experts (SME). Google accommodates for “everyday expertise.” In this category, authors have relevant life experience that makes them an expert without credentials or degrees. However, this is not the case for YMYL content.

The guide also notes that the “standard of expertise depends on the topic of the page.” For example, moms who write about childcare have real-world experience without a degree in early childhood development.

Authoritativeness

Authoritativeness looks at the author, content, and website to gauge its credibility. To have authority means that people know you and recognize you as a thought leader in your industry. Others consider you a reliable source of information on a topic or topics.

Trustworthiness

Google wants to understand if the author, content, and website are trustworthy. It’s adjacent to authoritativeness and means that users can trust you to be honest and accurate with the content you develop and share.

Other Factors in E-A-T

In addition to the three principles, Google offers some more notes on E-A-T around specific topics:

  • Medical advice or recommendations (A good example of a domain and content that follow E-A-T is WebMD.)
  • Journalistic news pieces
  • Scientific information pages (i.e., NASA, National Science Foundation)
  • Pages that provide guidance on financial, legal, and tax topics (i.e., H&R Block, Legal Zoom)
  • Content around hobbies that require some level of knowledge (i.e., photography, playing musical instruments)

The Impact of Beneficial Purpose, E-A-T, and YMYL on Content Marketing

Content marketing is the process of consistently publishing content that audiences want to consume. You become more like a publisher instead of just a seller of a product or service. Executing content marketing means all content is customer-centric. Customers are the star, not your brand. With this framework, you can see that content marketing strives to live by the E-A-T principles.

In a nutshell, your content must have a purpose that benefits the user and demonstrate expertise on the subject. On YMYL topics, expertise must be verifiable. So, what are raters looking for to declare a page has high E-A-T?

High-Quality Content Guidelines

The guide defines attributes of high-quality content. You’ll note that these align with the foundation of content marketing.

  • High E-A-T
  • Main content has descriptive or helpful titles
  • Information on the website about who creates the content or customer service information for shopping pages
  • Positive website and creator reputation (could correlate with domain authority)

In considering these points, there are some specific ways you can enhance your content to boost its quality.

Best Practices to Achieve E-A-T

  • Identify authors with bylines and bios: An actual author for the website provides information to Google and helps with all three areas of E-A-T.
  • Ensure contact information is easy to find for visitors: Don’t make customers go through lots of hoops just to ask a question or engage with you.
  • Improve or remove low-quality content: Perform a content audit and categorize what’s in the bucket of not meeting E-A-T. Then determine if you can edit it to improve by adding data points, getting help from an SME, adding visuals, or reformatting it for better readability. If it seems those things won’t make it any stronger, then you should probably delete it.
  • Work on your brand reputation with thought leadership initiatives: The more well-known your brand and leaders are in the space, the greater credibility for your website and content.

Win at Ranking with High-Quality E-A-T Content

For any brand that wants to rank and win, the E-A-T principle is pivotal. The best way to rank well is to produce high-quality content that shows your expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. If you don’t have the resources or capacity to do this on your own, we can help.

If you are ready to get more traffic to your site with quality content published consistently, check out our Content Builder Service.

Set up a quick consultation, and I’ll send you a free PDF version of my books. Get started today and generate more traffic and leads for your business.

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

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