Whenever the subject of search results comes up, it’s inevitable that the talk will turn to algorithms, the formulas/calculations/secret sauce that search engines use to determine what websites show up in what order. It all sounds very mechanical and automated — and to a large extent, it is — but what’s often overlooked is that actual human beings play an important role in how those algorithms function.
In fact, it turns out that Google uses a team of Search Quality Evaluators to rate websites and those evaluators use a manual that was leaked earlier this year. At 160 pages, it’s far beyond the scope of this blog but much of it can be summed up by what the writers refer to as E-A-T: Expertise, Authority and Trust.
According to the manual, there are several factors that raters are expected to look at when considering websites. Among them:
- Content: Of particular note to medical professionals, the manual states that high-quality medical advice should come from people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation, be produced in a professional style and edited, reviewed and updated on a regular basis.
- Contact info: A good reputation starts with being accessible, says Jean Bansemer of My Web Writers. Making it easy for website visitors to contact you when they have questions or concerns is a sign of trustworthiness.
- Website maintenance: Outdated information, broken links, slow-loading images, etc., provide a poor user experience and will result in a lower rating.
- Outside opinions: Google asks its raters to seek out independent insights about the websites they rate, including professional associations, third-party rating sites and review sites. Encouraging good reviews and responding to negative ones further enhance your reputation.
For experienced SEOs, none of the above is earth-shatteringly new but it does provide another way of looking at what goes on behind the curtain at Google HQ. As the old saying goes, you are what you E-A-T and the guidelines offer a recipe that will help ensure your reputation and search rank remain healthy.
Demonstrating expertise, authority and trust delivers better search results
It’s important to note that raters’ determinations of individual websites are not a direct factor in search rankings. Rather they serve as benchmarks — this website demonstrates E-A-T, this one doesn’t — that Google uses to determine how various tweaks and tune-ups to their algorithms impact results. However, if your practice website effectively demonstrates expertise, authority and trust, it will align better with what Google — and end users — are looking for.