Every few months, Google implements broad core updates in order to improve search results and the overall experience of people who use the search engine. Some websites experience significant drops in their ranking after these updates. However, just because a website doesn’t rank as well after an update, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s because the site violated guidelines and had algorithmic action taken against them.
If your website’s ranking has dropped after a core update, or you’re concerned about the possibility of this happening after future updates, there are steps you can take to boost and maintain your website’s ranking.
Since the purpose of Google’s search algorithm is to reward and incentivize good quality content, it’s best to work on improving the overall quality of your content while having the users’ best interest in mind. One quality ranking factor that plays a significant role in search updates, is “E-A-T” which stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
What is E-A-T?
The reason why some sites lose traffic after core updates is because they get outpaced by sites that have proven to be more authoritative and trustworthy. In February 2019, Google confirmed that E-A-T is a significant factor in making changes to the search algorithm. This is because core updates are part of Google’s effort to provide expert, authoritative, and trustworthy content.
Although Google’s ranking system doesn’t identify factual accuracy of any given web page, it is designed to effectively identify factors that indicate E-A-T qualities. Therefore, improving your site’s E-A-T can help boost its ranking.
How to Improve Your Website’s E-A-T:
1. Reference the Quality Rater Guidelines
Google’s search quality rater guidelines provide a general outline of what traits indicate good E-A-T and explains it in great detail. The QRG is what quality raters use to give Google feedback before updates are launched, so this is the best place to start when trying to assess the quality of your content.
2. Be Trustworthy
Make sure your site presents accurate information in a way that appears credible. This requires picking high quality and authoritative sources to your site and showing evidence of expertise through background info about the author. Your content must also be free of factual errors that can easily be verified.
Google has especially high standards for the trustworthiness of YMYL (your money your life) websites, because these sites can have major effects on the lives of people who visit them for help and advice. Your site may be labeled as YMYL if its purpose is to sell products or help people make big decisions in regards to their health, finances, etc.
YMYL sites that have significantly large drops in their ranking after core updates, generally do so because of things like lack of transparency, poor customer service, medical advice that contradict scientific consensus, etc.
If you are running a site that relies on inbound online traffic, you really need to get this right. You should consider hiring a team or an agency.
3. Author Expertise
If you are writing YMYL content, then its a must that you have the expertise to write about your chosen topic within this field. Lack of expertise is one of the factors that the QRG states hurts ranking.
If you or other authors who write for your site don’t have a reputation of being authoritative enough to write about certain topics, there are ways to work around this. Consider hiring an expert to fact check your articles. For example, if you write articles about medical topics, hiring a licensed physician to fact-check your content will boost accuracy which can potentially improve your ranking and increase traffic to your website.
4. GeT positive reviews
What experts and real users say about your website in forums, articles, and on platforms like yelp and better business bureau can make or break your business’s reputation. If most online reviews about your business are negative, this can negatively affect Google’s assessment of the quality of your site and lower your ranking.
Monitor what people are saying about your business and if there are many complaints, listen and take them into consideration in order to take action to rectify the problem. If the reviews generally expose unethical business practices, then major changes need to be made in order to improve your reputation and trustworthiness.
5. Get mentions on authoritative sites
The authoritativeness in E-A-T can be improved by the number of mentions you have earned on authoritative sites. This is because authoritative sites tend to only cite other authoritative sources.
If a mention or link was easy for you to get because you paid for it or incentivized the site owner in other ways to mention you, its unlikely that a mention like this will help because it doesn’t prove your expertise in any way.
However, if authoritative people reference you because they genuinely want to recommend your business, this will likely speak to your authority. These types of mentions aren’t easy to earn. Experience in your field is not enough if you aren’t also generally recognized as authoritative through being mentioned by others who are recognized as authoritative.
Ways to increase your chance of gaining authoritative mentions include the following:
- Publishing original research.
- Summarizing current scientific research in a way that’s accurate and easy for most readers to understand, especially if your site sells products intended to improve people’s health.
- Connecting with journalists on twitter or HARO.
- Contacting and forming connections with people who are authoritative within your field. If you develop genuine relationships with experts and they see your content as authoritative and trustworthy, they will be more likely to give you mentions and links on their websites.
Other tips for boosting content quality:
1. Update older content on your website
If you search any term on google, you’ll notice that the top results are pages that have been published more recently. This is because times change rapidly and new information is discovered each day. Information that used to generally be considered true, may be outdated today.
Therefore, updating old content is one easy way to improve content quality in order to boost search engine traffic. Users are more likely to click on recent articles, which means the click through rate of your content will jump. In Google’s search algorithm, more clicks means a higher ranking.
Ways to update older content include the following:
- Adding new and up-to-date information, while removing any factual errors.
- Adding a new publication date or saving updates on WordPress.
- Optimizing your content for more relevant keywords.
- Fixing grammar and spelling errors if applicable.
- Checking for broken links and replacing them with new links to more authoritative sources.
- Incorporating multimedia by adding images, videos, audio, etc.
2. Make your content original
It’s also important to make sure that your site’s content is original enough to not get lost in a sea of numerous websites within the same niche. Your website should provide useful information that isn’t already obvious to your target audience.
Your content should also offer additional and distinct substance rather than plagiarizing and copying other sources. Pages that copy chunks of texts from other sources, generally have lower rankings, and get dinged for duplicated content. Google recognizes one version (the canonical version) as the original source of content pieces.
3. Get rid oF excessive ads
A 2012 update by Google called the page layout algorithm, lowers the ranking of sites that include excessive ads because this can distract users from the content they want to see. Therefore, you need to make sure that the ads on your page don’t take up too much space or make it difficult to find the main content.
4. Avoid excessively salesy language
Avoid combining transactional and educational language into one chunk of text. For example, a page about proven remedies for an illness, shouldn’t try to persuade the reader to buy a product you’re selling as a form of treatment for said illness.
Otherwise, this can leave users with the impression that the information you provide is biased or distorted in order to make a profit. This also reduces trustworthiness, which is one of the main components of E-A-T which is why there is a strong link between this form of content and drops in ranking.
How long will it take for my site to recover after losing traffic?
If your content has lost traffic after one broad core update, it may not recover until the next update even if the improvements you made warrant a higher ranking. Therefore, you may need to wait a few months or longer. Sometimes it may take more than one broad core update for content to recover. Pages don’t have static positions in google’s algorithm and ranking recovery is never guaranteed, but it’s still possible. Patience and effort are key.