In July last year, Google updated its Search Quality Rating Guidelines. Used by more than 10,000 humans to rate the quality of search results, these guidelines offer invaluable insights on how e-commerce brands can meet Google’s criteria for expertise, authoritativeness and trust (E-A-T).
What is E-A-T in SEO?
E-A-T is an acronym for expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. There are five key things Google says it wants to see from pages, and E-A-T is high on the list:
- The purpose of each page
- Expertise, authoritativeness & trustworthiness (E-A-T)
- Main content quality and amount
- Website/publisher information
- Website/publisher reputation
Once a Search Quality evaluator has established the purpose of a page (and how beneficial it is), Google says “the amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) is very important.”
Google also lists a “high level of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness” as the first characteristic of high quality pages later in the guidelines.
How important is E-A-T for e-commerce?
For e-commerce brands, most pages you publish are going to come under Google’s Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) category.
According to its guidelines, “some types of pages could potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users. We call such pages ‘Your Money or Your Life’ pages, or YMYL.”
This includes: “Shopping or financial transaction pages: webpages that allow users to make purchases, transfer money, pay bills, etc. online (such as online stores and online banking pages).”
Crucially, Google says it has “very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages because low quality YMYL pages could potentially negatively impact users’ happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.”
The purpose of e-commerce pages
The first thing Google wants to know about any page is that it has a clear and useful purpose for users. The purpose of a homepage, landing pages, product pages and blog content is very different – and this must be clearly identifiable across all of them.
- Homepage: To introduce your brand and show which kind of products you sell.
- Landing pages: To showcase individual products or product ranges.
- Product pages: To sell a specific product or provide information about the item.
- Blog pages: Provide useful info about a specific topic (eg: Best TVs to buy in 2019, a comparison of insurance companies, how to set up a home cinema system, etc.)
You might think of your blog posts as a lead gen strategy but this isn’t how Google or users see it. Make sure every page you publish has a clearly defined purpose that’s useful to consumers as this keeps all parties happy.
What counts as expertise for e-commerce?
Google talks about expertise in three distinct ways for e-commerce brands. First, it wants to see that you’re selling products from manufacturers with a high level of expertise in the products they make and a strong brand reputation themselves.
Then, as expected, Google looks at the perceived expertise of your brand and website.
The third element Google is looking at is the perceived expertise and reputation of your brand by third-party experts. Essentially, Google wants to see plenty of “recommendations by experts, news articles, and other credible information…” about online retailers.
Which shows how important networking, outreach and PR still is for e-commerce brands in 2019.
What counts as authority for e-commerce?
The phrases expertise and authority are constantly paired in Google’s guidelines. There’s a clear advantage for brands manufacturing their own product (which makes sense) but retailers don’t appear to be losing points for selling third-party products.
In the examples of poor authority scores, Google seems to be focusing on retailers that attempt to fake authority or deceive consumers.
Google describes this as a “potentially untrustworthy shopping page” from a retailer that positions itself as a running shoe specialist. The use of Nike’s logo in the header is a red flag and the website also features Better Businesses Bureau and Google Checkout logos – neither of which appear to be affiliated with the site.
What does trust mean for e-commerce?
Trust is the easiest aspect of E-A-T to define. Most of it comes down to having relevant information available for users where they need it. Make sure you have the following covered:
- Accurate product info
- Accurate pricing
- Delivery info – including costs and durations
- Any additional costs, taxes or fees
- Clearly defined return policies, product guarantees, T&Cs
- Full company info, contact details and FAQs
Crucially, Google states that it expects this info to be provided within the main content of pages, not the support content.
Other factors you need to think about include site design, loading times, secure encryption and, of course, user reviews.