Google wants to provide the best possible results for search queries that its users make, and it has developed certain criteria to ensure that it’s able to provide those results. Part of that criteria is represented by the acronym E-A-T:
Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
The concept of E-A-T came from Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines — Google’s search raters use these guidelines to evaluate webpages and provide feedback to Google on the quality of the content that they find. Their work helps Google make adjustments to its algorithm to provide search users with better, higher quality results.*
E-A-T is among the important elements that search raters are taught to look for, and it’s particularly important for law firm websites.
Here’s what you need to know about Google’s E-A-T guidelines and how they affect your law firm’s website.
What does Google mean by E-A-T?
Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness are particularly important for law firm websites.
Law firm websites are considered “Your Money or Your Life (YMYL)” pages by Google. These pages are called this because of their potential effect on the happiness, health, or well-being of a search user who finds them. (Pages with legal information, financial information, and medical information are among the pages that fall under the “YMYL” designation.) As a result, YMYL pages require a high amount of E-A-T and Google holds these pages to a higher standard.
Expertise can mean a lot of different things depending upon the type of page that’s being examined, but Google notes that formal expertise is important for YMYL topics such as medical, financial, or legal advice.
Google notes that:
“We will consider the [main content] of the page to be very high or highest quality when it is created with a high degree of time and effort, and in particular, expertise, talent, and skill—this may provide evidence for the E-A-T of the page.”
The expertise of the content creator can inform the authority and trustworthiness of the page. For example, a query about the symptoms of dehydration is considered a “YMYL” topic by Google. The query is of a serious nature, and the information that a person finds about the topic could affect their well-being. The below image outlines an example of how search raters view two different pages on the topic of dehydration:
(It should be noted that while the Mayo Clinic is a widely recognized expert, that does not mean that only widely recognized names can be considered for high-quality pages.)
As an attorney, you have a great deal of expertise in your field — the way in which you can represent this to search engines (and your potential clients) and develop your site as an authoritative and trustworthy source is through the creation of high-quality informational content.
As it relates to informational content, Google notes that high-quality content is original, accurate, comprehensive, clearly communicated, and professionally presented.
How does E-A-T affect your law firm’s website?
Google’s search quality guidelines remind raters that: “…the first step of [page quality] rating is to understand the true purpose of the page. Websites or pages without some sort of beneficial purpose, including pages that are created with no attempt to help users, […] should receive the Lowest rating.”
This should drive home the importance of developing your pages with purpose — specifically, to help your potential clients.
Law firm websites are special because they’re considered “YMYL” websites. The information that your potential client finds on your website can affect the decision that they make next. That makes expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness particularly important for your law firm’s website.
For you, this is good news: By developing a large amount of high-quality content that showcases your expertise, your site can be considered an authoritative and trustworthy source that becomes a resource for local potential clients who conduct queries related to your practice area(s).
Developing high-quality informational content will help you cover all of your bases — it gives both your potential clients and Google what they need because high-quality information is at the intersection of what both users and search engines are looking for.
However, failing to provide content that demonstrates your E-A-T — whether it’s inaccurate content written by a ghostwriter or a lack of informational content altogether, can make it difficult for your law firm’s website to be found by your potential clients.
Because the standards for law firm websites are higher than other basic types of pages, good website content becomes particularly important on your law firm’s website. If your goal is to use your law firm’s website to drive new business to your law firm, a plan to develop high-quality content should not be ignored.
How can you improve the E-A-T of your law firm’s website?
The best and easiest way to improve the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness of your law firm’s website is to start developing informational content.
Because YMYL pages — like law firm websites — require higher standards than an average webpage, you’ll want to be sure that you’re developing content that goes well beyond a call-to-action to call your law firm. Your content needs to be original, detailed, comprehensive, and written in language that your potential clients can understand.
Keep in mind that the vast majority of your potential clients are unlikely to come from a legal background. If you need to use legalese or discuss a complex legal idea, make sure to write about it in a way that the average consumer can understand.
(You should also consider the local aspect of your law firm’s content marketing.)
You may want to draw on your experiences with past clients — how did you explain things to them when you met them face-to-face in your office? What kinds of questions did they ask?
One of the best ways to keep on track with your content to help you improve your E-A-T is to develop a law firm website content plan.
Learn more about Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines can be incredibly helpful for attorneys who decide to take the time to read them.
To learn more about these guidelines, you can view the following resources:
- What Attorneys Need to Know About Google’s Updated Search Quality Ratings Guidelines
- What Google’s Search Quality Guidelines Can Reveal to Attorneys
- Google’s Latest Advice on Improving Your Law Firm’s Website: Focus on Quality Content
*Google’s search quality raters are used for experimental purposes and cannot alter Google’s search results directly. For example, if a rater were to give a web page a low score, that rater’s scoring wouldn’t be reflected in search engine results pages. Google uses the data that comes from the work of search quality raters to improve its algorithms and keep low-quality pages from ranking highly.