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How Google EEAT Applies to Law Firms


*Article updated March 1, 2023

As a lawyer, your website likely falls into what is known as YMYL – Your Money or Your Life. That’s not a threat, that’s what Google categorizes as a website of extreme importance to a person’s well-being (if the content on your website has the ability to likely cause harm if inaccurate). Google classifies the credibility of your website based on an element of their algorithm that’s been around since 2014: EEAT – Experience, Expertise, Authority and Trust.

Here’s How Google YMYL and EEAT Work Together

The law, finance, politics, health information and other critical topics fall into the YMYL category. It stands to reason that as Google’s moderators review these websites they want to recognize the websites with the most trustworthy information so that Users will trust that the results delivered on a search are credible. How do they do that? EEAT! As an attorney, you should understand that both the benefits of crafting your content around Google EEAT, and the ramifications of ignoring it can be significant.

In December 2022, Google released an update to their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (Google’s downloadable summary) to the public and reemphasized the critical nature of EEAT. Google was being quite transparent about what their human search evaluators should be looking at when manually examining a website and determining how to apply this element of their algorithm to a YMYL website. Moreover, their recent updates emphasize a high degree of scrutiny on the websites that can impact the “health, financial stability, or safety of people, or the welfare or well-being of society.

In Google’s summary linked above, they explain more about Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness:

Search Quality Raters are required to conduct a Page Quality Rating task which assesses the reliability of our Search results. For this task, Raters consider the quality of the webpage using criteria that we call E-E-A-T: Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trust. We have very high Page Quality rating standards for pages on “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) topics because low quality pages could potentially negatively impact the health, financial stability, or safety of people, or the welfare or well-being of society.

Google EEAT summaryThis means that more than ever before, Google wants to classify your website by your law firm’s reputation, credibility, authority and trustworthiness.

You can download the full 176 pages of guidelines from Google here. Search Engine Land also published an extensive breakdown of the EEAT updates here.

Why Does Google Care About Your Website Being Authoritative or Trustworthy?

Most of Google’s business model depends on Users trusting that the results delivered on Google are accurate, highly relevant and trustworthy. If you didn’t like the results that Google delivers, it would be very easy for you to start using Bing as a search engine instead of Google. That thought threatens the very existence of Google and their $1 Trillion dollar advertising mechanism. It is within Google’s best interest to deliver an expert on a User search, who has an authoritative website, who has proven themselves to be trustworthy. This way Users will feel confident in Google’s search results the next time they need to do a search for anything, and thus their advertisers continue to have an audience to market to.

Is Google EEAT a Ranking Factor?

In a very general manner yes, Google’s perception of a law firm’s E-E-A-T will impact how your website ranks in Google search results. The primary reason for this is that EEAT is established from actions and activity that generally benefit the SEO process anyway. However, there’s no official EEAT “metric” per se, or tool online to run your URL through to get a measurement. So in a very technical sense, the answer would be no, Google EEAT is not a measurable ranking factor.

If you have a YMYL website, which you do if you’re a lawyer, then you better start paying attention to how Google perceives your law firm and the credibility and trustworthiness of your website. In February 2019, Google released a white paper titled “How Google Fights Disinformation” where they state:

“Our ranking system does not identify the intent or factual accuracy of any given piece of content. However, it is specifically designed to identify sites with high indicia of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.”

You should also consider that E-E-A-T is only one element in the long list of variables that Google’s algorithm and human moderators use to validate the quality and credibility of your website and content. Technical factors, content breadth & depth, inbound links, prominence, and numerous other factors all play a role in how your website ranks for your desired search phrases.

How Does Google Know a Law Firm is Credible?

As you can imagine, the complexity involved in determining a website’s author as more or less credible than another is mind boggling. Within their guidelines, Google tells it’s rating team to consider references about you, or authored by you in a number of platforms to help determine your EEAT (not in any particular order of known importance):

  • High quality, helpful, unique content (on your website or authored by you)
  • Profiles on authoritative websites & legal directories
  • News articles
  • Wikipedia
  • Blog Posts
  • Magazine Articles
  • Forum discussions
  • Ratings/Reviews from independent organizations or affiliations
  • Customer/client reviews
  • Responding to customer & client reviews (as discussed on chatmeter)
  • Social Media participation
  • Yelp
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Experience
  • Education
  • Awards

Most of the items mentioned above have at least somewhat of a high barrier to achieve. In the bare minimum sense, you at least have to be a lawyer to be included on a legal directory, you have to be newsworthy to be included in the news, and so on. The good news is that if you’re already doing legitimate SEO, you’ve probably already been touching these things in one way or another for some time. Although this looks like a checklist, this is more of a way to prove your authoritative influence and show why Google can trust you enough to deliver your website to Users. These “assets of influence” will likely change over time. Additionally, this is one of the reasons why it’s so hard to get a brand new website ranked immediately after launch – these aren’t things you can get in place quickly and without time & effort.

How Do I Update My Website to Improve EEAT?

Now that you know Google could be scrutinizing your website, you should probably take a moment and perform an audit to improve how your law firm’s EEAT is conveyed. Although there’s no playbook for EEAT, here are the pages of your website we typically closely examine when trying to optimize for EEAT:

Home Page: Quickly examine your Home page to see if it immediately conveys who are, what you do and the area you serve. Additionally, you should have credibility indicators like your awards, affiliations and preferably some selected client testimonials displayed.

Attorney Biographies: You should review your biography and make sure that all possible sources that could indicate EEAT & credibility are included. Additionally, other lawyers at your firm should do the same and check it annually. Many attorneys don’t like to “brag” about their accomplishments, but there’s evidence to suggest that a lack of displayed experience & credibility may harm your website’s visibility.

About Us: If you have an “About” section of your website, make sure that it clearly outlines what you do, and that the firm’s accomplishments, expertise and accolades are well represented.

Testimonials: It would be ideal to have client reviews and testimonials displayed throughout your website, and it’s also advisable to have a page accessible through the Main Navigation that showcases numerous reviews from Yelp, Google, Avvo and other review platforms.

This is a Time Consuming Process

Improving the E-E-A-T for your law firm website takes time. Think about it this way – you wouldn’t trust someone overnight enough to give them your endorsement to another attorney or judge right? Google has to make a determination based on all of the information above that you’re one of the best websites to deliver in a search result. Essentially Google is somewhat endorsing your website in the eye’s of the User by delivering it on page 1, so they better trust you! In our years of business we’ve seen lawyer websites jump from page 10+ to page 2-3 for competitive key phrases in as little as 90 days from implementation of an EEAT audit and SEO overhaul. Sometimes we hit Page 1 of results within that time frame, depending on the competition for a specific search phrase, technical SEO and the quality of the content on the pages. If you’re tackling this project yourself I wouldn’t expect to see results in rankings and visibility for some time.

Updates to This Article

January, 14 2021 update: There is recent information that suggests that Google might be keeping an “Authority Profile” for your website. Essentially, this would be a log of how well your website addresses information you publish on specific topics, and how spammy or “salesy” your pages might be. They’re essentially wanting to ensure that your website is a reliable source that they can trust, and that your website doesn’t solely exist to sell a product or service.

July 13, 2022 update: I attended the MozCon 2022 SEO conference and Lily Ray, Director of SEO at Amsive digital and a leader in the Google EEAT conversation, discussed an anecdotal study she did among YMYL websites that had significant growth in the last few years. She found some common threads:

  • Websites have robust “About” and/or “Bio” pages;
  • They inject first hand expertise in content;
  • Content has a transparent author;
  • Authors backed up their personal expertise with evidence, anecdotes & experience;
  • The authors offer objective advice (not overly focused on conversions or sales).

December 15, 2022 update: Google adds “Experience” to “EAT”, thus changing the acronym to EEAT.

Does Google Think You’re Unreliable?

It’s difficult to discern what Google thinks of you, but if your website can only be found on page 1 of results for searches for your name or law firm name there’s a problem – whether it be EEAT or otherwise. However, while the suggestions listed above may help, if you’re not well optimized on and off your website, it’s nearly impossible to rank well for a competitive search in a competitive city. For that, it may be time to call the experts in attorney SEO at Everest Legal Marketing.

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