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Website Organization Best Practices For Law Firms

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Website Organization Best Practices For Law Firms

Reaching the top of the law firm search results can be intimidating. Focusing on site architecture is an essential step toward creating a top-ranked search presence.

Virtually every aspect of search optimization, from content to user experience, depends on a site architecture that makes it easy for site visitors to find what they’re looking for and is flexible enough to accommodate adding more topics should the need arise.

Accomplishing this requires a deep consideration of site navigation to make the important sections of the site one click to two clicks away from the homepage.

Website architecture is a part of what’s known as the internal linking structure and can also include how information is organized, which means the content.

Google’s John Mueller emphasized that internal linking is important.

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Mueller said:

“…internal linking is super critical for SEO.

…it’s one of the biggest things that you can do on a website to kind of guide Google and guide visitors to the pages that you think are important.”

Mueller also said that internal linking is an opportunity to tell Google which pages are important, thereby indicating what the site should rank for.

“You can decide to make things important where you earn the most money or you can make things important where you’re the strongest competitor or maybe you’re the weakest competitor.”

This article will introduce three fundamental elements of site architecture that can contribute to higher search performance.

Website Architecture: Page Organization And Links

Let’s take a few moments first to discuss website architecture and why the user experience (UX) segment is important for getting ranked.

The Importance Of Website Architecture To SEO

You already know that SEO content and your website structure should be constructed for people over search engines.

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However, it just so happens that what is good for users is also good for Google.

So, all the most important aspects of an expertly crafted site architecture will contribute to a better user experience and make the site easy to understand for Google.

A well-organized website will be easy for users to get around.

From the homepage, they will be able to access a host of other resources that are located just a few clicks away.

And that point is important.

You don’t want to bury important webpages multiple clicks away from the homepage or not have anything on the homepage that links to them at all.

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Google’s web crawler will have a hard time finding those pages, and the pages will likely not rank very well (and probably no one will ever actually see them).

Another benefit of well-organized website architecture is that the internal linking spreads PageRank around the website.

If your local service pages all link up one level to your main service page for bankruptcy, business, or whatever kind of law you practice, you are telling Google that that primary service page is important, optimized, and worth ranking highly.

So, now you know why you need to put the time into organizing a straightforward and tidy website architecture.

Aspects Of Effective Law Firm Website Architectures

It’s important for any business in any industry, but now, let’s look at how law firm websites should structure themselves for maximum organic results.

Main Navigation

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Your website’s main navigation must be concise and clear in its layout since that is what potential clients will use to get around your site to see your services.

You must organize the navigation in a logical, top-down way. A “Services” or “Practice Areas” tab should drop down to a menu showing organized columns of your legal specialties.

Any kind of “About Us” or “Our Firm” tab can break down into a few sections that perhaps provide a history of the firm or state your organization’s mission.

Law firms are known as service-based organizations.

Instead of hundreds of product pages with little descriptions, your website should ideally feature:

  • A homepage.
  • As many main service pages as necessary to describe what your firm does.
  • An informational content section.
  • A contact page.
  • An “About Us” section where you profile your attorneys and profess your firm’s values and mission statement.

Those are the essential elements of a quality law firm website, but how do you structure them on the site itself and link among them?

URL Naming Conventions And Structure

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I have reviewed the importance of getting your main navigation and internal links correct.

Next is an overview of the importance of creating a simple but informative URL structure for the pages on your website.

It is vital to get this right because you aim to tell human users and search engines alike what your pages are about through the structure of your pages’ URLs.

The general advice on creating URLs is to remove excess words and include some keywords to be as descriptive as possible in the least amount of words.

Your URLs should reveal what will be found on that page.

Keep it simple.

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Look at these examples:

For a blog post, make the URL a simpler version of the actual title.

So, your post entitled “10 Great Ways To Succeed In Business On A Budget” might be:

While you’re at it, be sure to add canonical tags to your URLs on the back end.

That way, if there’s a chance a page could be picked up using multiple terms, Google knows where to direct people.

Information Architecture: Content Organization

Create A Descriptive And Helpful Homepage

The homepage needs to do many things, such as inspire trust, make it easy to contact the business, plus serve as an effective entrance to the rest of the website.

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How is this accomplished?

Focusing on what will help users the most is the best approach to creating the best home page.

There are four communication goals:

  1. Communicate what the general topic of the law practice is (i.e. of the entire site)
  2. Describe what the top major topics of the business are
  3. Make it easy to reach all the major specific sections of the website
  4. Use keywords that users would use

General Topic of the Law Practice

Businesses are said to be organized by verticals. A vertical market is simply what kind of business it is serving.

So the first goal of the homepage is to communicate what vertical market the law firm serves.

In the legal profession, typical verticals can be:

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  • Bankruptcy law.
  • Corporate law.
  • Criminal defense.
  • Estate planning.
  • Family law.
  • Etc.

A law firm that is focused on family law can use that as the description for the topic of the entire site. Because most law firms serve a geographic region, that information is also used as part of the general description, the overall topic of the website.

So if the website is a family law attorney based in Springfield, Massachusetts, then the home page of that site should communicate that information from the title tag of that webpage what that vertical market is.

Family Law Attorneys - Springfield MA - Example Law Firm

The job of the homepage is to rank for that general term. It’s the job of the inner pages to rank for the more specific areas like child custody, divorce, pre-marital agreements, etc.

Describe Major Topics of the Business

The second goal is to describe the different areas that the business serves, for example:

For example, suppose the website is about personal injury in City A.

But now, it must also describe very briefly (and even link to) the specialties within that personal injury vertical.

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Examples of Specialties Within the Personal Injury Vertical

  • Motorcycle injury.
  • Medical malpractice.
  • Car accidents.
  • Brain injury, etc.

Link to Major Sections of Site From Homepage

Third, it’s super important to link to as many of the inner sections of the site that correspond to the specialties within the legal vertical that the law firm serves.

This can be done from the top of the page navigation menu. And it can also be accomplished from somewhere within the body of the homepage.

Keywords

Top takeaways about keywords and the homepage:

  • Always use the words that your potential clients tend to use.
  • Organize the webpage according to the most popular reasons why clients tend to call. If most calls are about slip and fall, list that as the first practice area. If the next most popular reason for calling is a brain injury, then make that the second section. This makes it easy for most site visitors to find what they’re looking for.
  • Use images that contribute to communicating your message (this breaks up the page and makes it easy to scan).
  • If possible, A/B test using user experience analytics like Microsoft Clarity to identify pain points that site visitors might encounter. An example of a pain point can be if site visitors are “rage-clicking” certain links or areas where they expect to find links.

More reading on keyword research:

Client Reviews

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Next, remember that you are a service-based company that must rely on customer reviews to gain traction in your geographic area.

You should devote a block of your homepage to displaying five-star customer reviews with brief blurbs praising the legal services you provided.

Those reviews will help to generate trust among new visitors to your site.

Homepage Internal Links

Related to the main navigation is the internal linking you do in your homepage content.

You already know that homepages should not be loaded with written content, but small blocks can briefly describe your service areas and link to them using keywords.

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That internal link structure is vital. Everyone knows homepages are important; Google does, too.

The pages you link to from there are going to be easily crawlable. They will also be easy for actual human users to get to.

Color Scheme

Colors matter on a website.

The use of colors can affect the choices that site visitors make.

  • Visually contrasting colors are best for call-to-action elements.
  • Blue conveys trustworthiness and authority.
  • Always check if the color choice has sufficient contrast for color-blind site visitors.

Law firm websites looking to convey auras of professionalism should avoid bold, vibrant colors in favor of lighter schemes.

Create Above-The-Fold Content

Website architecture is generally considered internal linking, but I include information organization into the site’s architecture as well.

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Above the fold is a way of saying in the main block of visible content.

With a law firm website, you don’t want to get too fancy or obtuse with presenting your content.

Users come to your site for help with their legal troubles, and those people are probably worried and hoping they can trust you to help them.

Reward their effort in visiting your site by making it clear that you are there for them.

Do this by presenting your most important content in the first block of content that is visible to site visitors.

Don’t make users dig around to find the information they need, like that service page explaining how you have helped thousands of people declare bankruptcy or that blog post showcasing your knowledge of recent tax-resolution cases.

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Depending on how your homepage is organized, present some links to those service pages, a contact form, or some reviews to establish trust right away.

Sticky content is a good idea, as well.

Videos, forms, and surveys get people to stick around your homepage longer than they otherwise might, so don’t rule out those elements.

Whatever you feel is most important to your firm, make it one of the first things users see upon arriving on your homepage.

Essential information presented above the fold is necessary for well-made website architecture.

Final Thoughts

A law firm that performs quality work on behalf of clients needs to be able to reach every site visitor and convert them into a client.

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The best way to accomplish that is to organize the information on the website in a manner that makes it easy for site visitors to quickly scan the homepage and find the exact topic.

That makes it easy for search engines to identify what the entire site is about and, consequently, may begin ranking the inner pages for the more granular search queries.

Identifying the best user experience for site navigation will always make it easier for the site to achieve maximum search performance.

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A Guide to Star Ratings on Google and How They Work

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A Guide to Star Ratings on Google and How They Work

The elusive five-star review used to be something you could only flaunt in a rotating reviews section on your website.

But today, Google has pulled these stars out of the shadows and features them front and center across branded SERPs and beyond.

Star ratings can help businesses earn trust from potential customers, improve local search rankings, and boost conversions.

This is your guide to how they work.

Stars And SERPs: What Is The Google Star Rating?

A Google star rating is a consumer-powered grading system that lets other consumers know how good a business is based on a score of one to five stars.

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These star ratings can appear across maps and different Google search results properties like standard blue link search listings, ads, rich results like recipe cards, local pack results, third-party review sites, and on-app store results.

How Does The Google Star Rating Work?

When a person searches Google, they will see star ratings in the results. Google uses an algorithm and an average to determine how many stars are displayed on different review properties.

Google explains that the star score system operates based on an average of all review ratings for that business that have been published on Google.

It’s important to note that this average is not calculated in real-time and can take up to two weeks to update after a new review is created.

When users leave a review, they are asked to rate a business based on specific aspects of their customer experience, as well as the type of business being reviewed and the services they’ve included.

For example, “plumbers may get “Install faucet” or “Repair toilet” as services to add,” and Google also allows businesses to add custom services that aren’t listed.

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When customers are prompted to give feedback, they can give positive or critical feedback, or they can choose not to select a specific aspect to review, in which case this feedback aspect is considered unavailable.

This combination of feedback is what Google uses to determine a business’s average score by “dividing the number of positive ratings by the total number of ratings (except the ones where the aspect was not rated).”

Google star ratings do have some exceptions in how they function.

For example, the UK and EU have certain restrictions that don’t apply to other regions, following recent scrutiny by the EU Consumer Protection Cooperation and the UK Competitions and Market Authority about fake reviews being generated.

Additionally, the type of rating search property will determine the specifics of how it operates and how to gather and manage reviews there.

Keep reading to get an in-depth explanation of each type of Google star rating available on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

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How To Get Google Star Ratings On Different Search Properties

As mentioned above, there are different types of Google star ratings available across search results, including the standard blue-link listings, ads, local pack results, rich snippets, third-party reviews, and app store results.

Here’s what the different types of star-rating results look like in Google and how they work on each listing type.

Standard “Blue Link” Listings And Google Stars

In 2021, Google started testing star ratings in organic search and has since kept this SERP feature intact.

Websites can stand out from their competitors by getting stars to show up around their organic search results listing pages.

Screenshot from SERPs, Google, February 2024Text result showing google star ratings in the SERPs

How To Get Google Stars On Organic SERPs

If you want stars to show up on your organic search results, add schema markup to your website.

Learn how to do that in the video below:

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As the video points out, you need actual reviews to get your structured data markup to show.

Then, you can work with your development team to input the code on your site that indicates your average rating, highest, lowest, and total rating count.

structured markup example for google star ratings and reviewsScreenshot JSON-LD script on Google Developers, August 2021structured markup example for google star ratings and reviews

Once you add the rich snippet to your site, there is no clear timeline for when they will start appearing in the SERPs – that’s up to Google.

In fact, Google specifically mentions that reviews in properties like search can take longer to appear, and often, this delay is caused by business profiles being merged.

When you’re done, you can check your work with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

Adding schema is strongly encouraged. But even without it, if you own a retail store with ratings, Google may still show your star ratings in the search engine results.

They do this to ensure searchers are getting access to a variety of results. Google says:

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“content on your website that’s been crawled and is related to retail may also be shown in product listings and annotations for free across Google.”

If you want star ratings to show up on Shopping Ads, you’ll have to pay for that.

Paid Ads And Google Stars

When Google Stars appear in paid search ads, they’re known as seller ratings, “an automated extension type that showcases advertisers with high ratings.”

These can appear in text ads, shopping ads, and free listings. Both the star rating and the total number of votes or reviews are displayed.

In addition to Google star ratings, shopping ads may include additional production information such as shipping details, color, material, and more, as shown below.

Google shopping ads showing star ratingsScreenshot from SERPs ads, Google, February 2024Google shopping ads showing star ratings

Paid text ads were previously labeled as “ads” and recently have been upgraded to a “sponsored” label, as shown below.

paid ad showing google star ratingsScreenshot from SERPs ads, Google, February 2024paid ad showing google star ratings

How To Get Google Stars On Paid Ads

To participate in free listings, sellers have to do three things:

  • Follow all the required policies around personally identifiable information, spam, malware, legal requirements, return policies, and more.
  • Submit a feed through the Google Merchant Center or have structured data markup on their website (as described in the previous section).
  • Add their shipping settings.

Again, some ecommerce sellers who do not have schema markup may still have their content show up in the SERPs.

For text ads and shopping ads to show star ratings, sellers are typically required to have at least 100 reviews in the last 12 months.

Paid advertisers must also meet a minimum number of stars for seller ratings to appear on their text ads. This helps higher-quality advertisers stand out from the competition.

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For example, text ads have to have a minimum rating of 3.5 for the Google star ratings to show.

Google treats reviews on a per-country basis, so the minimum review threshold of 100 also applies only to 1 region at a time.

For star ratings to appear on a Canadian ecommerce company’s ads, for example, they would have to have obtained a minimum of 100 reviews from within Canada in the last year.

Google considers reviews from its own Google Customer Reviews and also from approved third-party partner review sites from its list of 29 supported review partners, which makes it easier for sellers to meet the minimum review threshold each year.

Google also requests:

  • The domain that has ratings must be the same as the one that’s visible in the ad.
  • Google or its partners must conduct a research evaluation of your site.
  • The reviews included must be about the product or service being sold.

Local Pack Results And Google Stars

Local businesses have a handful of options for their business to appear on Google via Places, local map results, and a Google Business Profile page – all of which can show star ratings.

Consumers even have the option to sort local pack results by their rating, as shown in the image example below.

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Google star ratings on search resultsScreenshot from SERPs local pack, Google, February 2024Google star ratings on search results

How To Get Google Stars On Local Search Results

To appear in local search results, a Google Business Profile is required.

Customers may leave reviews directly on local business properties without being asked, but Google also encourages business owners to solicit reviews from their customers and shares best practices, including:

  • Asking your customers to leave you a review and make it easy for them to do so by providing a link to your review pages.
  • Making review prompts desktop and mobile-friendly.
  • Replying to customer reviews (ensure you’re a verified provider on Google first).
  • Be sure you do not offer incentives for reviews.

Customers can also leave star ratings on other local review sites, as Google can pull from both to display on local business search properties. It can take up to two weeks to get new local reviews to show in your overall score.

Once customers are actively leaving reviews, Google Business Profile owners have a number of options to help them manage these:

options to manage review on google business profileScreenshot from Google Business Profile Help, Google, February 2024options to manage review on google business profile

Rich Results, Like Recipes, And Google Stars

Everybody’s gotta eat, and we celebrate food in many ways — one of which is recipe blogs.

While restaurants rely more on local reviews, organic search results, and even paid ads, food bloggers seek to have their recipes rated.

Similar to other types of reviews, recipe cards in search results show the average review rating and the total number of reviews.

recipe search results on desktopScreenshot from search for [best vegan winter recipes], Google, February 2024recipe search results on desktop

The outcome has become a point of contention among the food blogging community, since only three recipes per search can be seen on Google desktop results (like shown in the image above), and four on a mobile browser.

These coveted spots will attract clicks, leaving anyone who hasn’t mastered online customer reviews in the dust. That means that the quality of the recipe isn’t necessarily driving these results.

Google gives users the option to click “Show more” to see two additional rows of results:

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expanded desktop recipe search resultsScreenshot from SERPs, Google, February 2024expanded desktop recipe search results

Searchers can continue to click the “Show more” button to see additional recipe results.

Anyone using Google Home can search for a recipe and get results through their phone:

Google assistant recipesScreenshot from Elfsight, February 2024Google assistant recipes

Similarly, recipe search results can be sent from the device to the Google Home assistant. Both methods will enable easy and interactive step-by-step recipe instructions using commands like “start recipe,” “next step,” or even “how much olive oil?”

How To Get Google Stars On Recipe Results

Similar to the steps to have stars appear on organic blue-link listings, food bloggers and recipe websites need to add schema to their websites in order for star ratings to show.

However, it’s not as straightforward as listing the average and the total number of ratings. Developers should follow Google’s instructions for recipe markup.

There is both required and recommended markup:

Required Markup For Recipes

  • Name of the recipe.
  • Image of the recipe in a BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP, or SVG format.

Recommended Markup For Recipes

  • Aggregate rating.
  • Author.
  • Cook time, preparation time, and total duration.
  • Date published.
  • Description.
  • Keywords.
  • Nutrition information.
  • Prep time.
  • Recipe category by meal type, like “dinner.”
  • Region associated with the recipe.
  • Ingredients.
  • Instructions.
  • Yield or total serving.
  • Total time.
  • Video (and other related markup, if there is a video in the recipe).

To have recipes included in Google Assistant Guided Recipes, the following markup must be included:

  • recipeIngredient
  • recipeInstructions
  • To have the video property, add the contentUrl.

For example, here’s what the structured markup would look like for the recipeIngredient property:

example of structured markup for recipe steps in Google AssistantScreenshot from Google Developer, February 2024example of structured markup for recipe steps in Google Assistant

Third-Party Review Sites And Google Stars

Many software companies rely on third-party review sites to help inform their customer’s purchasing decisions.

Third-party review sites include any website a brand doesn’t own where a customer can submit a review, such as Yelp, G2, and many more.

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Many of these sites, like Featured Customers shown below, can display star ratings within Google search results.

Example of star ratings showing in SERPs from third-party review sitesScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024Example of star ratings showing in SERPs from third-party review sites

Rich snippets from third-party reviews, such as stars, summary info, or ratings, can also appear on a Google Business Profile or map view from approved sites.

For local businesses, Google star ratings appear in different locations than the third-party reviews on a desktop:

third party reviews and google stars on desktop resultsScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024third party reviews and google stars on desktop results

On mobile, ratings are displayed on a company’s Google Business Profile. Users need to click on Reviews or scroll down to see the third-party reviews:

third party reviews in local mobile resultsScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024third party reviews in local mobile results

On a map, the results from third parties may be more prominent, like the Tripadvisor review that shows up for a map search of The Hilton in Vancouver (although it does not display a star rating even though Tripadvisor does provide star ratings):

third party reviews in map resultsScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024third party reviews in map results

How To Get Google Stars On Third-Party Review Sites

The best way to get a review on a third-party review site depends on which site is best for the brand or the business.

For example, if you have active customers on Yelp or Tripadvisor, you may choose to engage with customers there.

third-party reviews in search resultsScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024third-party reviews in search results

Similarly, if a software review site like Trustpilot shows up for your branded search, you could do an email campaign with your customer list asking them to leave you a review there.

Here are a few of the third-party review websites that Google recognizes:

  • Trustpilot.
  • Reevoo.
  • Bizrate – through Shopzilla.

When it comes to third-party reviews, Google reminds businesses that there is no way to opt out of third-party reviews, and they need to take up any issues with third-party site owners.

App Store Results And Google Stars

When businesses have an application as their core product, they typically rely on App Store and Google Play Store downloads.

Right from the SERPs, searchers can see an app’s star ratings, as well as the total votes and other important information, like whether the app is free or not.

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App store reviews in search resultsScreenshot from SERP play store results, Google, February 2024App store reviews in search results

How To Get Google Stars On App Store Results

Businesses can list their iOS apps in the App Store or on the Google Play store, prompt customers to leave reviews there, and also respond to them.

Does The Google Star Rating Influence SEO Rankings?

John Mueller confirmed that Google does not factor star ratings or customer reviews into web search rankings. However, Google is clear that star ratings influence local search results and rankings:

“Google review count and review score factor into local search ranking. More reviews and positive ratings can improve your business’ local ranking.”

Even though they are not a ranking factor for non-local organic search, star ratings can serve as an important conversion element, helping you display social proof, build credibility, and increase your click-through rate from search engines (which may indirectly impact your search rankings).

For local businesses, both Google stars and third-party ratings appear in desktop and mobile searches, as seen above.

These ratings not only help local businesses rank above their competitors for key phrases, but they will also help convince more customers to click, which is every company’s search game.

How Do I Improve My Star Rating?

Businesses that want to improve their Google star rating should start by claiming their Google Business Profile and making sure all the information is complete and up to date.

If a company has already taken these steps and wants to offset a poor rating, they are going to need more reviews to offset the average.

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Companies can get more Google reviews by making it easy for customers to leave one. The first step for a company is to get the link to leave a review inside their Google Business Profile:

Ask customers for reviews linkScreenshot from Wordstream, February 2024Ask customers for reviews link

From there, companies can send this link out to customers directly (there are four options displayed right from the link as seen above), include it on social media, and even dedicate sections of their website to gathering more reviews and/or displaying reviews from other users.

It isn’t clear whether or not responding to reviews will help improve a local business’s ranking; however, it’s still a good idea for companies to respond to reviews on their Google Business Profile in order to improve their ratings overall.

That’s because responding to reviews can entice other customers to leave a review since they know they will get a response and because the owner is actually seeing the feedback.

For service businesses, Google provides the option for customers to rate aspects of the experience.

This is helpful since giving reviewers this option allows anyone who had a negative experience to rate just one aspect negatively rather than giving a one-star review overall.

Does Having A Star Rating On Google Matter? Yes! So Shoot For The Stars

Stars indicate quality to consumers, so they almost always improve click-through rates wherever they are present.

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Consumers tend to trust and buy from brands with higher star ratings in local listings, paid ads, or even app downloads.

Many, many, many studies have demonstrated this phenomenon time and again. So, don’t hold back when it comes to reviews.

Do an audit of where your brand shows up in SERPs and get stars next to as many placements as possible.

The most important part of star ratings across Google, however, will always be the service and experiences companies provide that fuel good reviews from happy customers.

More resources:


Feature Image: BestForBest/Shutterstock
All screenshots taken by author

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Top Priorities, Challenges, And Opportunities

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Top Priorities, Challenges, And Opportunities

The world of search has seen massive change recently. Whether you’re still in the planning stages for this year or underway with your 2024 strategy, you need to know the new SEO trends to stay ahead of seismic search industry shifts.

It’s time to chart a course for SEO success in this changing landscape.

Watch this on-demand webinar as we explore exclusive survey data from today’s top SEO professionals and digital marketers to inform your strategy this year. You’ll also learn how to navigate SEO in the era of AI, and how to gain an advantage with these new tools.

You’ll hear:

  • The top SEO priorities and challenges for 2024.
  • The role of AI in SEO – how to get ahead of the anticipated disruption of SGE and AI overall, plus SGE-specific SEO priorities.
  • Winning SEO resourcing strategies and reporting insights to fuel success.

With Shannon Vize and Ryan Maloney, we’ll take a deep dive into the top trends, priorities, and challenges shaping the future of SEO.

Discover timely insights and unlock new SEO growth potential in 2024.

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View the slides below or check out the full webinar for all the details.

Join Us For Our Next Webinar!

10 Successful Ways To Improve Your SERP Rankings [With Ahrefs]

Reserve your spot and discover 10 quick and easy SEO wins to boost your site’s rankings.

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E-E-A-T’s Google Ranking Influence Decoded

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E-E-A-T's Google Ranking Influence Decoded

The idea that something is not a ranking factor that nevertheless plays a role in ranking websites seems to be logically irreconcilable. Despite seeming like a paradox that cancels itself out, SearchLiaison recently tweeted some comments that go a long way to understanding how to think about E-E-A-T and apply it to SEO.

What A Googler Said About E-E-A-T

Marie Haynes published a video excerpt on YouTube from an event at which a Googler spoke, essentially doubling down on the importance of E-A-T.

This is what he said:

“You know this hasn’t always been there in Google and it’s something that we developed about ten to twelve or thirteen years ago. And it really is there to make sure that along the lines of what we talked about earlier is that it really is there to ensure that the content that people consume is going to be… it’s not going to be harmful and it’s going to be useful to the user. These are principles that we live by every single day.

And E-A-T, that template of how we rate an individual site based off of Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness, we do it to every single query and every single result. So it’s actually very pervasive throughout everything that we do .

I will say that the YMYL queries, the Your Money or Your Life Queries, such as you know when I’m looking for a mortgage or when I’m looking for the local ER,  those we have a particular eye on and we pay a bit more attention to those queries because clearly they’re some of the most important decisions that people can make.

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So I would say that E-A-T has a bit more of an impact there but again, I will say that E-A-T applies to everything, every single query that we actually look at.”

How can something be a part of every single search query and not be a ranking factor, right?

Background, Experience & Expertise In Google Circa 2012

Something to consider is that in 2012 Google’s senior engineer at the time, Matt Cutts, said that experience and expertise brings a measure of quality to content and makes it worthy of ranking.

Matt Cutts’ remarks on experience and expertise were made in an interview with Eric Enge.

Discussing whether the website of a hypothetical person named “Jane” deserves to rank with articles that are original variations of what’s already in the SERPs.

Matt Cutts observed:

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“While they’re not duplicates they bring nothing new to the table.

Google would seek to detect that there is no real differentiation between these results and show only one of them so we could offer users different types of sites in the other search results.

They need to ask themselves what really is their value add? …they need to figure out what… makes them special.

…if Jane is just churning out 500 words about a topic where she doesn’t have any background, experience or expertise, a searcher might not be as interested in her opinion.”

Matt then cites the example of Pulitzer Prize-Winning movie reviewer Roger Ebert as a person with the background, experience and expertise that makes his opinion valuable to readers and the content worthy of ranking.

Matt didn’t say that a webpage author’s background, experience and expertise were ranking factors. But he did say that these are the kinds of things that can differentiate one webpage from another and align it to what Google wants to rank.

He specifically said that Google’s algorithm detects if there is something different about it that makes it stand out. That was in 2012 but not much has changed because Google’s John Mueller says the same thing.

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For example, in 2020 John Mueller said that differentiation and being compelling is important for getting Google to notice and rank a webpage.

“So with that in mind, if you’re focused on kind of this small amount of content that is the same as everyone else then I would try to find ways to significantly differentiate yourselves to really make it clear that what you have on your website is significantly different than all of those other millions of ringtone websites that have kind of the same content.

…And that’s the same recommendation I would have for any kind of website that offers essentially the same thing as lots of other web sites do.

You really need to make sure that what you’re providing is unique and compelling and high quality so that our systems and users in general will say, I want to go to this particular website because they offer me something that is unique on the web and I don’t just want to go to any random other website.”

In 2021, in regard to getting Google to index a webpage, Mueller also said:

“Is it something the web has been waiting for? Or is it just another red widget?”

This thing about being compelling and different than other sites, it’s something that’s been a part of Google’s algorithm awhile, just like the Googler in the video said, just like Matt Cutts said and exactly like what Mueller has said as well.

Are they talking about signals?

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E-EA-T Algorithm Signals

We know there’s something in the algorithm that relates to someone’s expertise and background that Google’s looking for. The table is set and we can dig into the next step of what it all means.

A while back back I remember reading something that Marie Haynes said about E-A-T, she called it a framework. And I thought, now that’s an interesting thing she just did, she’s conceptualizing E-A-T.

When SEOs discussed E-A-T it was always in the context of what to do in order to demonstrate E-A-T. So they looked at the Quality Raters Guide for guidance, which kind of makes sense since it’s a guide, right?

But what I’m proposing is that the answer isn’t really in the guidelines or anything that the quality raters are looking for.

The best way to explain it is to ask you to think about the biggest part of Google’s algorithm, relevance.

What’s relevance? Is it something you have to do? It used to be about keywords and that’s easy for SEOs to understand. But it’s not about keywords anymore because Google’s algorithm has natural language understanding (NLU). NLU is what enables machines to understand language in the way that it’s actually spoken (natural language).

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So, relevance is just something that’s related or connected to something else. So, if I ask, how do I satiate my thirst? The answer can be water, because water quenches the thirst.

How is a site relevant to the search query: “how do I satiate my thirst?”

An SEO would answer the problem of relevance by saying that the webpage has to have the keywords that match the search query, which would be the words “satiate” and “thirst.”

The next step the SEO would take is to extract the related entities for “satiate” and “thirst” because every SEO “knows” they need to do entity research to understand how to make a webpage that answers the search query, “How do I satiate my thirst?”

Hypothetical Related entities:

  • Thirst: Water, dehydration, drink,
  • Satiate: Food, satisfaction, quench, fulfillment, appease

Now that the SEO has their entities and their keywords they put it all together and write a 600 word essay that uses all their keywords and entities so that their webpage is relevant for the search query, “How do I satiate my thirst?”

I think we can stop now and see how silly that is, right? If someone asked you, “How do I satiate my thirst?” You’d answer, “With water” or “a cold refreshing beer” because that’s what it means to be relevant.

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Relevance is just a concept. It doesn’t have anything to do with entities or keywords in today’s search algorithms because the machine is understanding search queries as natural language, even more so with AI search engines.

Similarly, E-E-A-T is also just a concept. It doesn’t have anything to do with author bios, LinkedIn profiles, it doesn’t have anything at all to do with making your content say that you handled the product that’s being reviewed.

Here’s what SearchLiaison recently said about an E-E-A-T, SEO and Ranking:

“….just making a claim and talking about a ‘rigorous testing process’ and following an ‘E-E-A-T checklist’ doesn’t guarantee a top ranking or somehow automatically cause a page to do better.”

Here’s the part where SearchLiaison ties a bow around the gift of E-E-A-T knowledge:

“We talk about E-E-A-T because it’s a concept that aligns with how we try to rank good content.”

E-E-A-T Can’t Be Itemized On A Checklist

Remember how we established that relevance is a concept and not a bunch of keywords and entities? Relevance is just answering the question.

E-E-A-T is the same thing. It’s not something that you do. It’s closer to something that you are.

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SearchLiaison elaborated:

“…our automated systems don’t look at a page and see a claim like “I tested this!” and think it’s better just because of that. Rather, the things we talk about with E-E-A-T are related to what people find useful in content. Doing things generally for people is what our automated systems seek to reward, using different signals.”

A Better Understanding Of E-E-A-T

I think it’s clear now how E-E-A-T isn’t something that’s added to a webpage or is something that is demonstrated on the webpage. It’s a concept, just like relevance.

A good way to think o fit is if someone asks you a question about your family and you answer it. Most people are pretty expert and experienced enough to answer that question. That’s what E-E-A-T is and how it should be treated when publishing content, regardless if it’s YMYL content or a product review, the expertise is just like answering a question about your family, it’s just a concept.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Roman Samborskyi

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