How Google’s E.A.T. Quality Guidelines can Impact Medical and Health Websites

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By Brandon Connolly

Google did it again—sending every SEO expert into panic mode.

In August, they released another “core algorithm update.”

This time, they published their 160-page internal document titled, “Search Quality Rating Guidelines,” and emphasized just how important it is for your webpages to adhere to E.A.T.

This recently-released document is used by 10,000 contracted Google staffers all over the world to determine the quality of Google search results. It spells out the great importance of E.A.T.— their acronym for “Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.” These three qualities now weigh heavily on the value of your website through Google’s eyes.

To underscore this point, Google now states that E.A.T. is among the top 3 factors for a website’s Page Quality.

Everyone should take these aspects seriously, especially those who manage medical and health websites, as these are deemed YMYL pages. YMYL stands for “Your Money or Your Life,” and this niche is scrutinized more intensely because these pages can directly affect the wealth, health, and happiness of users.

E.A.T. Quality Guidelines

Let’s dive into the meaning of each of these elements because medical and health websites need to get on board quickly.

Expertise

Who are the experts here? These people should be writing the content, reviewing the content, or at a minimum, be cited within the content.

For medical and health websites, it means that a certified professional, such as a doctor or research scientist, should be writing or at least involved in the content’s production—and your site should make that explicitly clear.

Only experts should weigh in on medical and health topics, as the risk for erroneous information is too high—even life-threatening—for afflicted or curious users.

On top of that, every claim made on your website should be scientifically-based, and references should be provided. If facts change, as science does with new research, be sure you keep your site up-to-date.

Finally, make sure all of your page’s content aligns with the general scientific consensus. A theory on alternative medicine with no credibility may ding you.

By doing the above, and following other content marketing best practices, you will be set up for success.

Authoritativeness

The authority of the content creator should be clearly spelled out, so take a megaphone to your author’s credentials.

“YMYL topics such as medical advice, legal advice, financial advice, etc. should come from authoritative sources in those fields.” – Google

Spell out your author’s title, include a bio, or even a link to their LinkedIn profile.

Conduct and cite research. It shows your author is taking the time to be factually correct and to backlink to quality websites.

Finally, manage your reputation. Google uses popularity, user engagement, and user reviews as measures of your reputation. Control for negative reviews and commentary and respond promptly.

When it comes to authoritativeness, take it case by case. If your page is informational, advising on thyroid treatments, for example, it should be written by a medical doctor.

However, if it is an emotional support page for those living with thyroid disorders, a testimonial from a patient is equally as effective since this page wouldn’t be deemed a YMYL page. Google has also made it clear that everyday people with relevant personal experience also have a leg to stand on if the page is not giving direct medical advice or factual information. In these cases, written testimonials, patient blogs, or case studies can add to a page’s authoritativeness.

Trustworthiness

Everything about your site should feel good when a user visits. They should feel that the site is safe, honest, and reliable.

For starters, your website should have an SSL certificate. This digital certificate authenticates the identity of the website, assuring visitors this is a legitimate site that encrypts any transmitted data.

Seventy percent of first-page Google results have an SSL certificate.

Security will boost your E.A.T. score in this category. Verifiability is important to Google, so it’s worth investing in verifiable badges and certifications.

Your Money Your Life

Why so much pressure on medical and health websites? Because they hold so much power.

Google states that these sites can “potentially impact the future happiness, health, or wealth of users.”

YMYL sites include medical sites, but also financial advice, legal information, high-quality hobbies, shopping or financial transactions, and any topics that could affect one’s health, wealth or happiness. Think: car repairs.

The take-home point: it’s worth investing in the best writers so you can score highly on your E.A.T. score.

Patient Reviews

Remember the Search Quality Rating Guidelines I mentioned in the beginning? Think of that as the textbook by which Google’s raters judge your business.

In it, these experts are required to comb through third-party sites to dig up reviews of your business in an attempt to gauge your overall reputation. They look at articles, reviews, forum posts, discussion boards, you name it.

Generally, they’re trying to get a sense for what others are saying about your business, and they’ll comb through both third-party sites like BBB and Yelp as well as industry-specific ones like HealthGrades or RateMDs.

While the number of negative reviews is noted, so are the credibility of negative reviews. Particularly damning instances– like credible fraud claims, for example– jump out.

Overall, they’re looking at the big picture: are your patients saying positive or negative things about your business?

It’s worth noting that having no online reputation can be just as damaging, however.

The best way to handle negative reviews of your business? Respond! Flex your excellent customer service skills and let it be known that you stay on top of your patient concerns.

Otherwise, your site may suffer negative effects.

Related: The Dangers of Online Product Reviews

Medical Affiliations

In an attempt to get a firm handle on your reputation, Google is also going to look at your affiliations, industry awards, and recommendations.

Board certifications, “Top Doctor” mentions, reputable magazine articles, and patients choice awards are a few examples.

Know that when it comes to both negative reviews and medical affiliations, they aren’t looking for perfection. They, too, know it doesn’t exist. Rather, they want to see a realistic, and positive, picture.

Seamless User Experience

Google stated, “High-quality pages are designed to achieve their purpose: they are well organized, use space effectively, and have an overall functional layout.”

Google’s guidelines can walk you through exactly what they’re looking for. In general, know that functionality is more important than aesthetics and that the material should be clear: immediately present, centered, and apparent to users.

For example, as a user, I should know exactly which sections are ads and which are not.

This is perhaps the easiest category to check off.

If you’re not creating a manipulative website that attempts to get users to click where they don’t intend to or which is laid out incoherently, it’s not not likely that you’re dinged too harshly here.

Related: What is User Experience?

What E.A.T Guidelines Mean for Your Website

Let’s face it. There’s a reason Google owns 70% of the search market. They’ve honed in on how to deliver the best results to their users. E.A.T., as painstaking as it may be to comply with, means that the end-users receive the most useful and truthful information.

It means they can come to your site and efficiently access quality, reliable, and accurate medical and health information. That’s important.

More than likely, you’ve got plenty of professionals willing to chime in, fact-check, and even write some quality content entirely. Let them do the talking; make sure the audience knows their bios and why they’re credible, and maintain a website that’s both safe, efficient, and reputable.

In other words, let your website E.A.T.!