By now, the last thing you probably need is another SEO acronym to decipher. But in order to better your business – and your approach to digital marketing – staying on top of SEO is key. And that means making sure that you’re always ready to expand your SEO toolbox with the newest tools and search standards, along with all the acronyms that come with them.
It’s no secret that when it comes to making sure that online users can find you, Google is considered one of the great gatekeepers. While they’re notoriously tight-lipped about how their system of page rankings works, sometimes, they give us an invaluable peek behind the virtual curtain.
One such instance took place in 2015 when Google released its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. With these guidelines, SEO experts and business owners alike gained access to information about how Google evaluates websites to determine high quality vs. low quality. The guidelines they use to differentiate the good web pages from the “bad” came down to three key factors:
- Beneficial Purpose
- YMYL (Your Money or Your Life)
- EAT (Expert, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness)
For anyone trying to figure out how to create a website that is deemed “high quality” by Google, the guidelines are a resource worth its weight in gold. But first, you’ll need to understand exactly what EAT, YMYL, and “beneficial purpose” mean, how they apply to content, and what they look like in action.
Beneficial Purpose, EAT, and YMYL: A Guide to Google’s Definition of Quality for Content and Web Pages
Since their 2015 release, the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (SQEG) has undergone two updates (one in 2018 and one in 2019). Over the span of those years, there have been plenty of updates to the Google algorithm as well.
So, what does this mean for you? Essentially, your learning will never be done – there’s always going to be something new to understand when it comes to acing the algorithm. Of course, that’s where some research (and an experienced digital marketing team) come in handy.
Don’t think of the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines as a step-by-step cheat sheet to the ranking factors. Instead, consider it a collection of clues. Luckily, Google has given us a solid head start for creating content that will meet their expectations; all you have to do is learn enough about the guidelines to use them to their full advantage.
And we’re going to do that now by diving into the guidelines’ three key principles: beneficial purpose, EAT, and YMYL.
When the SQEG were updated in 2018 and 2019, a stronger emphasis was placed on the idea of beneficial purpose. As you’re flipping through the guidelines, you’ll first see the concept come up in section 2.2, called What is the Purpose of a Web Page?
The section comes right out and says that “websites and pages should be created to help users.” Not only should content have a clear purpose, but that purpose should also somehow provide value to users. The goal of the page should be specifically user-centered, whether it aims at informing users, selling them a product or service, entertaining them, etc.
If a page achieves its target purpose while also serving users, it can qualify as high quality. Conversely, if a page is clearly built with the sole intention of making money, without making any “attempt to help users,” it will be categorized as low quality.
Both your content and your website as a whole should be crafted to meet users’ needs, delivering a quality experience that effectively fulfills a user-focused purpose in some way, shape, or form: that is the core of beneficial purpose.
YMYL: Your Money or Your Life
YMYL is an acronym that stands for “Your Money or Your Life,” and is used to refer to a specific type of content. If presented inaccurately or deceptively, this type of content can impact the happiness, health, finances, or safety of the reader.
Look at it this way: YMYL content is high stakes, which means Google takes it extremely seriously. As a result, they apply a strict standard for evaluating the quality of YMYL content because it carries such potential to help and harm alike. Those with relevant expertise should create all YMYL content.
In section 2.3 of the SQEG, Google lists the topics that fall under the YMYL umbrella:
- News and current events, including coverage of topics such as politics, science, business, and technology (but usually not those focusing on entertainment, sports, or casual lifestyle topics)
- Law, government, and civics-related topics, such as voting, social services, government bodies, legal issues, and public institutions
- Financial advice or information about banking, taxes, investments, retirement, loans, and insurance, particularly pages that allow purchases or money transfers
- Shopping information or services that relate to the purchasing of goods or services, especially pages that let users make online purchases
- Health and safety information, including topics such as hospitals, drugs, emergency preparedness, medical issues, etc.
- Information centered on groups of people, including (but not limited to) those belonging to a particular race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity, age, disability, or veteran status
In addition to the topics outlined above, Google states that there are many others that can qualify as YMYL content. For example, fitness and nutrition advice can often be considered YMYL.
Ultimately, the quality evaluators who work with Google must use their expertise and judgment to label a page as YMYL (or not). If a page does qualify as YMYL content, it is expected to meet a high standard of excellence for EAT – the next acronym we’re going to cover.
EAT: Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness
If you’re someone who enjoys learning about SEO, you’ve likely come across the EAT acronym. It stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. It is one of the key factors used to measure Page Quality in the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (others include Main Content Quality and Amount, Website Reputation, and Website Information).
According to Google, after a page is determined to have a “beneficial purpose,” its EAT is assessed in terms of whether or not it is YMYL content. YMYL content, because of its potential for impact, is subjected to a much more rigorous EAT evaluation than non-YMYL content.
The EAT standards are broken down into three main components:
The expertise of the creator of the main content (MC) is measured, with evaluators considering whether or not the individual has the experience and credentials to serve as an expert on the topic at hand. The information should be accessible on the website for users to review if desired – so if you’re an expert, make sure you make that clear on your site. When non-YMYL content is being examined, the content creator doesn’t necessarily need formal education or training on the topic – here, “everyday expertise” is acceptable.
Referring to the content, the MC creator, and the website itself, authoritativeness has to do with whether it would be considered reputable by most authorities in the related field. This generally recognized authority is a major factor in the overall standard of equality expected by Google. You may be an expert, but have yet to build authority in your field – now is the time to fix that.
Build out information about relevant individuals (those in your industry) that can provide positive feedback about your work and knowledge, get endorsed by important influencers, and look for opportunities to build “industry cred.”
For certain topics, the SQEG provides additional notes in regard to EAT. Pages that cover the following YMYL content must have specialized expertise to back them up:
- Journalistic news articles
- Medical advice
- Scientific topics
- Tax, legal, and financial advice
- Advice pages focused on high-stakes topics such as parenting
- Hobbies that generally require a certain level of expertise, such as playing a musical instrument
How to Create High-Quality Content that Ranks Well
Now that you have a better understanding of the YMYL and EAT definition, as well as the concept of beneficial purpose, you’re better prepared to produce quality content that achieves a solid ranking.
- Every page must have a defined, user-focused purpose
- The right expertise should support each page
- YMYL content should always aim for the highest EAT level possible
Let V Digital Services Help You Make Sure Your Content Conquers the Ranking Algorithm
Google’s complex standards and ranking algorithm are constantly changing, making it challenging for many brands to find their footing in the digital world.
But with V Digital Services on your side, you’ll be well-equipped to do it all – and do it all well. Our team includes experts in SEO, content creation, and more, giving you the advantage of both our experience and our skill in the digital landscape.
You know your brand and your goals, and we know digital marketing; together, we can set your brand up for sustainable success.
Don’t waste any more time with content that will fall through the cracks of the Google algorithm and quality standards. For more information about Google’s EAT and YMYL standards, and what they mean for your digital marketing strategy, contact V Digital Services today.
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