Google recently updated its Search Quality Rater Guidelines, and the direction it’s taken will almost certainly affect your legal content marketing strategies. The biggest reveals are the new spin Google put on the YMYL category (Your Money or Your Life) and the new emphasis it’s putting on E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) and high quality content.
When it comes to legal content and search engine results pages, all of this makes considerable sense, and it pays to pay attention – and to work with a legal content provider that stays on top of the latest developments in content marketing and SEO.
The Shift in Direction
Google did away with its focus on YMYL topics, such as News and current events and Civics, government, and Law, and has redirected that focus on the propensity of specific categories of content to cause harm. According to the quality rater guidelines, when there is a high risk of content causing harm, the YMYL label attaches. Google specifies that YMYL applies when content has the potential to significantly affect the reader or those affected by the reader. Additionally, content qualifies as a YMYL page if it has the potential to significantly affect the health, safety, or financial stability of readers and society at large due to either of the following:
- The topic alone is dangerous or harmful, such as those related to violent extremism, self-harm, criminal activity, and beyond.
- The topic could be dangerous or harmful if the content is not both accurate and trustworthy.
All of this means that it’s critical that your content is high quality, as low quality YMYL pages will likely be penalized by the search engines.
Your Legal Content
When it comes to legal content, it’s not a stretch to say that inaccurate information can prove harmful to readers and society at large, which makes focusing your efforts on Google’s updated guidelines paramount for law firms and other companies in the legal services space. To begin, the information you share can be actionable, which means it has the potential to guide readers’ behaviors and, thus, has the ability to do harm or cause significant impact – if the content is not carefully considered, accurate, and clearly written.
Google advises that – even when minor inaccuracies could lead to harm – YMYL is likely applicable. Further, if the topic isn’t one that most people would be comfortable seeking guidance from friends or family, it’s more likely to fall into the YMYL categories. Legal content very likely checks both of these boxes. Finally, the more closely your content identifies with YMYL, which is gauged on a spectrum, the more important E-A-T becomes.
A High-Quality Focus on E-A-T
Google considers a variety of factors when it determines the quality of the content of a page:
- The topic and purpose of the page guide the necessary level of E-A-T, amount and quality of main content (MC), and level of information about the MC’s creators. When it comes to YMYL topics, a higher standard for all three is required.
- Some factors that can make a page low quality – regardless of its purpose or topic – include having a mixed or mildly negative reputation regarding the website or the content creator or having a shocking or otherwise exaggerated title.
- Any type of website can have pages that are identified as low quality, including government and academic websites, and low-quality pages can be about virtually any topic.
The pages on YMYL topics require more careful scrutiny in terms of factors that are indicative of low quality, and it’s important to note that even one low-quality attribute can push an entire page into a low-quality rating.
The Topic and the Purpose of the Page
The necessary level of E-A-T, as defined by Google, is driven by the page’s topic and purpose. Whatever kind of law you practice, your pages are almost certainly intended to inform readers about important legal matters that could lead to significant actions and profound effects. As such, the very topics of your pages – because the information has the potential to cause harm – are likely to place them squarely in the exacting sights of quality raters, who are required to evaluate the topic when determining page quality.
A Lack of E-A-T
Google has tweaked its definition of what it means when a page lacks the necessary E-A-T to bypass a low-quality finding by adding a bullet point that states the following – Informational [main content] on YMYL topics is mildly inaccurate or misleading.
Other common examples of pages that are ranked as low quality due to a lack of necessary E-A-T include:
- The MC’s creator doesn’t have the necessary expertise in the topic at hand
- The site – although it may be authoritative – is not an authoritative source for the topic at hand (a legal website that offers medical advice, for example).
- The MC itself does not inspire trust.
While some pages need no formal expertise to write, it’s critical for the purposes of YMYL topics, which makes it critical for your firm’s content. The idea is to highlight the level of legal experience, insight, and skill you have achieved and to ensure that this colors your content. If a page you publish lacks the E-A-T necessary to support its purpose, which is to inform readers on a topic that has the potential to have a significant impact, other factors, such as reputation, cannot save the page from a low rating.
Do No Harm
Google’s quality raters are trained to recognize that even the most authoritative and generally helpful websites can include pages with harmful MC that are deserving of the lowest ratings. As such, they are called to carefully evaluate each page in terms of its own merits and challenges. Before moving on to any other page quality characteristics, quality raters are required to first check for the following:
In its quest to update and upgrade search quality ratings, Google also put out a clear overview of the process involved in the search quality evaluator guidelines. As a provider of legal information, providing informative, well-constructed, compelling YMYL pages is key, which makes focusing on the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness of the legal content at hand instrumental to offering readers the information they are looking for while remaining in Google’s good graces.
Need Help Creating High-Quality Legal Content? You’ve Come to the Right Place
Regularly creating high-quality legal content that complies with Google’s E-A-T principles is an incredibly time-consuming task. Lexicon legal content is an attorney-led team of professional writers that creates content in a variety of formats for law firms and digital marketing agencies throughout North America. To learn more or to order a no-obligation sample piece on a topic of your choice, call our office today or contact us online.