Google recently rolled out a major change to how it rates the quality and relevance of the content that shows up on search engine results pages (SERPs). Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, or E-A-T, has a new E for Experience, making it now E-E-A-T.
This new letter was added to the latest version of Google’s quality rater guidelines (QRG) on December 15, 2022. It joins the family of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trust. These characteristics are core considerations page quality raters use when assessing sites and are key factors when Google determines which sites to rank higher than others.
“Consider the extent to which the content creator has the necessary first-hand or life experience for the topic,” the QRG states. “Many types of pages are trustworthy and achieve their purpose well when created by people with a wealth of personal experience. For example, which would you trust: a product review from someone who has personally used the product or a “review” by someone who has not? “
Google’s job is to show searchers the best results for their queries. Considering the vast amount of content on the web, there’s only going to be so much content that’s helpful for a user. Google has always maintained that content creators should focus on creating helpful, unique, quality content for users, and adding Experience as a core guideline helps them elevate content that fits this intent.
Why did Google add an E?
E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) has been used within Google’s ranking systems to determine if the results they’re surfacing for users are helpful and relevant.
Google added Experience as a better way to assess their results. Knowing that there are certain situations when users want to see content produced by someone with actual experience on the topic (travel, use of a product, etc).
While a major change to Google’s guidelines, its addition shouldn’t come as a total shock. Changes like the product review updates that have been periodically rolled out have put an emphasis on experience when it comes to product reviews, so codifying it feels more like a continuation of this trend rather than a sharp pivot.
The new E fits with the rest of the E-A-T guidelines as well. These were created to help people find useful and relevant information without needing to sift through unrelated or unhelpful content first. Potential customers don’t want to read about a product from someone who has never interacted with it before, they want to read first-hand experiences to make their buying decisions easier. People want to feel empowered when making a purchasing decision, and first-hand, legitimate experience can be the difference between a sale, lead, or conversion, or not at all.
Your Money or Your Life Topics Are Most Impacted by Experience
Pages that are clearly about Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) topics undergo the most scrutiny for page quality rating. Due to the impact on a user’s money, life and well-being, it’s important to be aware of what quality and transparency need to look like for your content.
With the addition of Experience, it’s important to be mindful of situations when it’s appropriate to share experience or whether that information is best left to experts.
Google breaks down these examples in its Quality Rater Guidelines:
Taking into account who the author of the page is is still core to page quality rating guidelines. Sometimes an expert in the field will still be more valuable, regardless of first-hand knowledge, and sometimes being an expert isn’t nearly as valuable.
Examples of the new E in the SERPs
Different types of queries warrant different search results, so the prevalence of experience-based content can vary in the SERPs.
It’s important to remember that we haven’t seen a core update since the QRG has been updated to include Experience as part of E-E-A-T.
Updates to the Quality Rater Guidelines are not the same as a core update. Updates to Google’s Search Quality guidelines impact the work of quality raters, who provide feedback to Google about the quality of its results. Google then uses the data from quality raters to inform future algorithm updates, including core updates.
Since there hasn’t been a core update since the addition of the new E for Experience, we’re going to be limited in the examples we’ll see in the SERPs. Changes this significant are rarely separate from core updates, but it’s likely to see a continuation of this when the next core update rolls out. We may have a clue about one (of many) important factors that Google will be looking for in its future core updates—our SEO team is keyed into core updates and E-E-A-T, so we’ll be closely monitoring any impacts and examples.
Changes to “Worth It” Phrases
Google wanting websites to create quality content for users is nothing new. While these are not examples of SERPs post a core update following the updates to the QRG, you can get a feel for what Google prefers depending on the query.
One query we’ve seen impacted by this new Experience update appears to be queries that use the phrase “worth it.”
For example, the query “is the keto diet worth it” generates experience results:
The query “is visiting Cuba worth it” also generates experience results:
It’s not just “worth it” queries. Google seems to elevate personal experience results for queries that include phrases such as “how does it feel” and “what is it like.” Searchers using these phrases are likely specifically seeking out a human description. Section 3.4.1 of the Google Quality Rater Guidelines notes experience may be preferred to expertise when the search intent is to “seek comfort or inspiration, and [to] learn from others.”
In another example, the query “yoga for beginners” demonstrates an instance of Google’s preference for experience-based content. The first four results are YouTube videos of yoga bloggers, with three of those being from Yoga with Adriene, a creator with 11 million subscribers and more than a decade of experience teaching yoga classes online.
Her ability to convey personal experiences in her content falls into the Quality Rater Guidelines description of “inspiration” and “[to] learn from others.”
What This Means for Your Content Strategy
The addition of Experience further highlights the importance of knowing who your audience is and understanding what’s appropriate for them. This concept isn’t new, and it’s something we always talk to our clients about.
Not every site is going to have to rework its content strategy, but there could be other elements to consider to support the new E. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with where to go next, here are some things to consider:
1. Start with Low Hanging Fruit
Do you have a blog? Do you have authors called out on those articles? If it’s not available already, add a description bio for each author on your site. Considering the experience of an author plays into the way in which quality raters assess the site, the more information you have, the better. Knowing who is behind the content on your site helps both Google and the people reading it helps build trust for your brand, which is the ultimate goal.
2. For eCommerce, Get On Reviews
Reviews are still one of the best ways to get first-hand experience and feedback on a product directly from customers. They’re also instrumental in their ability to convert users—the more user reviews a product has, the higher the likelihood a customer will be confident in their purchasing decision.
Here’s a personal example:
I’m a horrible morning person and constantly struggle to wake up (and stay up) when my alarm goes off. It isn’t until I hit snooze on all six alarms that I’m even conscious enough to start my day.
Desperate for a change, I took to Google to learn more about tips for becoming a morning person. One thing that came up in my search was the use of wake-up lights as an alternative to traditional alarm clocks, which suddenly jar you out of sleep. Wake-up lights use a combination of simulated sunshine and more calming noises to gently wake you up (helping the odds you’ll feel less groggy and stay up).
Typically these machines can range in price, and most I saw are over $100. While I was interested in making a purchase, I wanted to make sure I had confidence from other buyers who also had the machine I was looking at and, at the very least, saw some positive results from it.
Experience is an important characteristic in multiple areas of your content. If you have the opportunity to get reviews on your product or testimonials on your services, take full advantage.
3. Perform a Content and/or Site Audit
Content audits are a great way to assess what’s working on your site and identify what needs help. The new year always presents a good opportunity to consider a content audit, especially if it’s been a while since you last did one.
As Google rolls out more core updates, the landscape of the SERPs will continue to change. The intent of queries can change, and identifying if your content needs to be updated to meet current search demands should be one of the main outcomes of your audit.
For content you’re keeping on your site, review it with a fine-tooth comb. Knowing how to demonstrate your expertise and now how you can incorporate experiences that will benefit the user in your content will vary depending on factors such as website type, page topic, and the business itself. However, identifying those gaps is important.
If the thought of a comprehensive site audit overwhelms you, that’s what we’re here for. Our SEO team is well-versed in E-E-A-T and has the processes in place to effectively evaluate your site and uncover unique opportunities and areas to improve.
Understanding Google’s new focus on Experience is only one part of a data-centric, performance-driven strategy, giving you the power to know more and do more. Dig deeper into how Apple’s new online business profiles are changing the local search landscape, or let’s talk about how to achieve more for your marketing—and your business.