Unless you’re brand new to the search industry, you’ve probably heard about E-A-T. Although the concept has been around since 2014, it’s gradually become one of the most important elements of SEO.
Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most befuddling — even for industry experts.
So, what is E-A-T SEO? Read on to find out exactly what it is, why it matters, and how it affects your SEO efforts.
What is E-A-T in SEO?
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
The concept comes from Google’s Search Quality Rater guidelines and it became well known after the infamous Medic Update in August 2018. E-A-T is one factor that Google uses to evaluate the overall quality of a web page. As you would guess, page quality plays a significant role in where a page ranks in the Google organic search results.
In the guidelines, Google states that the most important factors used to determine a web page’s overall quality are:
- The Purpose of the Page (is there a beneficial purpose?)
- Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness
- Main Content Quality and Amount
- Information about the website or the Main Content creator
- Reputation of the website or the author of the Main Content
So, all things being equal, the more a page demonstrates expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, the higher it should rank.
How does Google determine E-A-T?
Now that we’ve answered the question What is E-A-T?, let’s talk about how Google determines the E-A-T of a page. At a high level, there are three primary components listed in the Google search quality evaluator guidelines:
- The expertise of the creator of the Main Content.
- The authoritativeness of the creator of the Main Content, the Main Content itself, and the website.
- The trustworthiness of the creator of the Main Content, the Main Content itself, and the website.
Ensuring accurate, truthful, useful information
Essentially, E-A-T is one way Google tries to ensure that it returns accurate, truthful, useful information to searchers. Anyone can create a website and publish whatever they want on it. You don’t have to be a doctor to start a medical information website or have a finance degree to write about investing.
Of course, in one sense this is a good thing. However, it also presents a problem for Google. People make important decisions based on what they learn from search results. So, Google aims to ensure that those decisions are based on the most trustworthy information possible.
Therefore, Google considers the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness of the individual creator of page content, the content itself, and the entire website. In Google’s eyes, a thorough medical article written by an experienced doctor on the Mayo Clinic website is much more valuable than a random blog post dispensing unverified medical advice.
What is expertise?
Google recognizes that E-A-T will look very different depending on the type of website. Expertise on a gossip site is much different than on a news site. They also acknowledge that a person can have expertise in an area even if they haven’t received formal training in it. Here’s a snapshot of the Google E-A-T guidelines from the QRG:
Google Quality Rater Guidelines:
“Some topics require less formal expertise. Many people write extremely detailed, helpful reviews of products or restaurants. Many people share tips and personal experiences on forums, blogs, etc. These ordinary people may be considered experts in topics where they have life experience. If it seems as if the person creating the content has the type and amount of life experience to make him or her an “expert” on the topic, we will value this “everyday expertise” and not penalize the person/webpage/website for not having “formal” education or training in the field.“
That being said, there is one category of website E-A-T that really and truly matters to Google: Your Money or Your Life.
What is YMYL?
YMYL stands for “Your Money or Your Life”. Google uses this acronym as a guiding principle for classifying pages that impact your finances, health, safety, and/or happiness.
YMYL sites are held to the highest possible E-A-T standards due to the subject matter and what it means for a user if that information is misrepresented.
According to Google:
We have very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages because low-quality YMYL pages could negatively impact a person’s happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.
Types of YMYL websites
The pages most often considered YMYL include:
- News and current events: Topics that cover areas such as international events, business, politics, science, technology (Not all news falls under YMYL, such as entertainment and sports, though you should strive for high E-A-T regardless to improve your content’s profile.)
- Civics, government, law: The dissemination of information that pertains to voting, government agencies, public institutions, social services, or legal advice
- Finance: Any financial advice or information regarding investments, taxes, retirement planning, loans, banking, or insurance
- Shopping: Ecommerce content that features product research or the researching of goods and services that involve a purchase
- Health and safety: Content that features or dispenses information or advice on health and medical issues, including hospitals and pharmacies, or drugs (emergency preparedness or content that defines or discusses dangerous activities)
- Groups of people: Content that features information or claims about people based on ethnicity, race, or nationality, religion, age or disability, gender (gender identity), sexual orientation, or veteran status
The list may also include more subjective topics and content based on their context or how the information is presented. Such items might consist of parenting information; information on housing or remodeling; researching schools or colleges; finding employment; or matters on fitness, nutrition, or weight loss.
E-A-T SEO importance
Google understands that a person may make a life-altering decision based on what they read online. Therefore, a bad source of information in Google search results can have real-world consequences.
Should your web pages or content fall into any of these YMYL categories, you must tread carefully. Make it crystal clear that it’s been authored by those with proper standing.
The greater your ability to follow and apply the E-A-T standards to your content, the greater your chance for organic search engine visibility and ranking success.
Is E-A-T a ranking factor?
In the sense of measurable metrics, E-A-T is not a direct Google ranking factor. However, there are other signals that Google uses to determine expertise, authority, and trust which are ranking factors.
In February 2019, Google released a white paper, “How Google Fights Disinformation”, that states the importance of E-A-T in it’s rankings. Furthermore, Google references “E-A-T” 137 times in the current version of its Search Quality Rater Guidelines. So, clearly it’s an important concept.
However, there isn’t a single metric to measure a Google E-A-T score. Rather, it evaluates other, measurable factors that indicate the quality of authors, web pages, websites, and brands.
The overarching process works along the following lines. Search quality raters measure and assess website quality, and the feedback is used to inform the Google algorithm. Plus, Google’s algorithm can clearly measure those signals that correlate with E-A-T (e.g., backlinks).
According to Google’s Public Liaison of Search, Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan), on October 11, 2019:
Why E-A-T is important for your SEO strategy
If you’ve paid attention to major Google search core algorithm updates in recent years, you will have noticed a recurring theme: constantly improving the user experience.
Google started penalizing keyword stuffing a long time ago because it disrupted the reading experience. They made mobile responsiveness a ranking factor when the majority of people started using mobile devices to search the internet. Google prioritized HTTPS over HTTP because it wanted increased security for searchers. They developed Core Web Vitals because they wanted to quantify a fast, seamless user experience.
E-A-T is no different. It’s one more way for Google to deliver what users want.
E-A-T helps determine credibility. It’s the basis of evaluation as to whether a website and its individual pages create real value for the user. Google wants to serve up the pages with the most value in relation to a specific search query, because that’s how it keeps people coming back.
If search engine optimization is critical for your digital marketing success, then E-A-T should be top of mind when developing your SEO strategy.
How to improve E-A-T
Given how much it matters in organic search, let’s talk about some Google E-A-T SEO best practices.
Fortunately, there are a number of specific steps you can take to vastly improve the content on your website and ensure it conveys the trust signals that Google (and users) want. Just remember, if your site falls under the YMYL designation, expect it to be held to an even higher standard.
1. Build the right backlinks
Backlinks from relevant, high-authority domains are the backbone of an effective SEO strategy and one of the best ways to demonstrate that you are a trusted authority in your industry.
If you’re in IT consulting and you get a backlink from a teen fashion website, it’s probably not going to help you. In fact, it could earn you a manual action penalty if you scale those types of tactics. One insurance lead generation website found this out when it generated hundreds of thousands of low-quality links on unrelated websites, and saw all of its page one rankings ultimately disappear. (Many fell to page 15.)
But great links don’t come easy.
To earn them, you must consistently create valuable, unique, high-quality content that people want to link to. A generic 500-word listicle posted once a month on your blog won’t move the needle much for you. Invest time and resources to position yourself as an authority (whatever the subject). Then, build relationships with the right publishers and influencers. Those high-value backlinks will surely follow.
You can read more about link building strategies for banks here.
2. Get more mentions from trusted sources
In addition to backlinks, getting mentions from trusted sources can boost your E-A-T credentials. The more your brand/name shows up in authoritative sources around the internet, the more Google sees you as an authority to be trusted.
Based on Google Patent 8,682,892, “implied links” — i.e., plain text mentions of your brand name — can be seen as a type of backlink. The patent identifies incoming links as “express links, implied links, or both,” and clarifies that they can be actual links or plain text. In other words, all incoming links from credible websites – express and implied – are counted toward measuring the quality of your page. Google’s Gary Illyes has since confirmed that mentions from high-authority websites are indeed measured and factored into ranking decisions.
Now that you understand the potential value of mentions, how do you secure them? Well, there are actually dozens of ways to get more mentions. For example:
- Guest post on authoritative sites
- Secure interview opportunities
- Appear on podcasts
- Partner with influencers
- Speak at or host events
- Sponsor charity events
- Create high-value resources
- Launch new innovations
3. Keep content accurate and up to date
Unless the content on your site is about something that never changes, there’s a good chance you have pages with information that is either obsolete or outdated.
As much as possible, keep all your content up to date with the most accurate information. This is especially the case if you have pages with time sensitive information, such as news. Or, think of medical information, where it’s critical to keep the content updated based on the latest knowledge and discoveries in the medical field.
4. Get more reviews (and respond to them)
It’s always a good business strategy to earn and promote online reviews for your products or services. Those same reviews help to build your site’s E-A-T in the eyes of Google. A large number of positive reviews across numerous review sites (Google, Trustpilot, Facebook, Yelp, etc.) demonstrates that your company is trustworthy in the eyes of consumers.
As reviews come in, take time to respond to them — even the negative comments. In fact, if you respond to your feedback, it will boost your trustworthiness as a brand that is both reputable and is committed to keeping its customers happy.
Google recently released a product reviews update. The update aims to promote review content that is above and beyond templated information commonly found online today. Google said it will promote these enhanced types of product reviews in its search results rankings.
The overall focus is on providing users with content that provides insightful analysis and original research, and is written by experts or enthusiasts who know the topic well.
5. Use or hire experts
Google loves expert content. They especially seem to reward content that is created by someone with the credentials or qualifications to produce it. Expertly sourced materials are of particular importance if your site falls into YMYL territory. This is why many of the top health information websites (Healthline, Verywell, etc.) have their content written by or reviewed by medical professionals, or both.
You can increase the E-A-T of your site by working with contributors who have substantial real-world experience and credentials to back up their knowledge.
What “hiring experts” doesn’t mean from an E-A-T perspective is hiring a copywriter who can write about a topic but has no actual experience in the field.
6. Flash your credentials
Don’t just call your authors professionals without proving their level of expertise. Verify their credentials and include them on your website alongside the content they produce. You should also link to the authors’ websites and social handles to help Google understand the entities behind your content.
You should also list your experts on pages that describe the people behind your website, such as About, Team, or Contributors. Don’t be shy about flashing the writer’s bonafides.
If your writers possess credentials, accreditations, degrees, or have put in the necessary time to be recognized as an authority in a particular field, your brand has earned the right to let people (and Google) know about it.
Anything related to your field of knowledge is fair game:
- Books authored
- Speaking engagements
- Conference panel inclusions
7. Show your contact details
This may seem minor, but showing your contact information on your website shows that you’re a real company with real people. Websites that don’t provide contact information probably don’t care much about their audience.
On your site, include all the ways people can get in touch with you, as well as the physical address of your company.
8. Get a Wikipedia page
Believe it or not, having a Wikipedia page can give your site an SEO boost for two reasons.
First, Wikipedia has a rigorous editorial process. Therefore, a backlink from this domain to your site can be seen as a vote of confidence.
Second, a Wikipedia page is yet another place for you to establish your brand as an authority in your industry. You can talk about your accomplishments, include links to any notable news publications, and more. Your Wikipedia page serves as another signal to Google that your brand is legitimate.
9. Audit your brand
Aside from being good general business practice, auditing your brand will establish a stronger foundation for its trustworthiness. Evaluate how your brand positions itself within your industry and look for specific ways to improve that positioning.
Audit your brand’s online presence including its search results. Do you see your websites, blogs, and social profiles? What about third-party publications, association websites, community involvement, and press?
Think back to the What is E-A-T section in this post. Do you have all the signals that Google is looking for?
If your audit reveals a few gaps, create a plan for strengthening your brand presence. The goal is to reposition your brand and highlight its expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
10. Do a content audit
Unless your website is brand new, you probably have a fair amount of existing content, such as blog posts, articles, reports, case studies, data sheets, white papers, lookbooks, etc. Do a content audit to ensure that everything you published over the years meets EAT standards.
With every page, you have three options:
- Update it
- Delete it
- Combine it with other related pages
For example, say you have a blog post that was written four years ago. If the information is outdated, update it so that it’s accurate for your audience now. Or is it completely obsolete, not driving traffic or conversions, and not even worth updating? Then, delete it. If it’s a really thin blog post, either significantly beef it up or merge it with other related blog posts to make the page more valuable.
Just remember to use appropriate 301 redirects when deleting and combining pages.
11. Build a content marketing framework
Consistent content creation is an excellent way to establish your authority. Whether you’re blogging, podcasting, or creating videos, effective content marketing enables you to demonstrate your expert knowledge in tangible ways.
The challenge, of course, is that it takes a lot of work to regularly create good content. Hence the need for a content creation framework. As a marketer, you need a defined, repeatable process that you and your team can use to create high-value content on a consistent basis.
Your framework should include a content calendar with the following:
- The type of content
- Your publishing tempo
- Required resources
- Target audience segment or persona
- Target keyword(s)
- Each step involved (content brief, draft, edits, reviews, publication, etc.)
- Who is responsible for each step
- Desired outcome or goal.
When you have a defined framework in place, the content creation process becomes smoother and more consistent.
12. Go easy on the ads
It’s certainly permissible to have some ads on your website. Google knows this — and often benefits from it.
However, if you have an overwhelming number of ads, and especially if those ads negatively impact the reading experience, look out. Too many ads can make your website appear to be biased and untrustworthy. Users may assume that everything is sponsored or compensated which could reduce their faith in your content.
13. Promote offsite
It’s not enough to just create great content, although that’s essential. Once you create it, you need to promote it to the right audience. And that likely won’t happen without proactive outreach.
Share it on social media, send it out to your email list, optimize it to rank better in search, and partner with others.
Terakeet’s Chorus platform enables us to identify and connect with a database of more than 9 million online publishers and content creators. And we’re not talking about syndicated content distribution, but new ideation and derivative content generation.
E-A-T and the future of SEO
The future is likely to deliver a broader, deeper, and more robust application of E-A-T to identify speakers, authors, websites, and brands.
For example, in 2020 Google was granted a patent called “Speaker Identification”, which helps identify specific speakers via speech recognition technology. You can imagine this being used in the future with YouTube videos, webinar recordings, and interviews with the media. And this is probably just the tip of the iceberg.
The Search algorithm will continue to evolve through broad core updates and micro-adjustments. However, Google’s goal remains the same. To that end, the Google algorithm keeps getting better at determining exactly what people are searching for and giving them the most relevant results.
Google’s E-A-T is perfectly aligned with this mission.
If you know what your audience wants and are able to deliver it to them in an expert, authoritative, and trustworthy way, your SEO efforts will be more likely to succeed.
If E-A-T is one of the core frameworks of your approach to SEO, you’ll always be in a prime position for success.