Since Google’s 2018 update, E-A-T has been eating away at most SEOs’ minds – you are likely here because you want to know how to improve your ranking score. We’re here to bring some clarity. This blog will deal with what Google’s E-A-T is (or Google E-A-Ts, as some people call it), how it affects your search rankings, and how to use it for your benefit. Where it is appropriate, we’ll provide examples so you can see how it works in practice.
But, let’s start with the basics – what does E-A-T stand for? E-A-T is an acronym for Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness. In essence, it is Google’s attempt to encourage websites to provide good content by having their quality raters evaluate search rankings based on the E-A-T model, and tweaking their algorithm based on those evaluations. It quickly gets much more complicated, especially the way it is implemented (mistakes due to human error cannot be discounted), but we’ll use this as our jumping-off point.
Some Terms We’ll Be Using
There are three acronyms, besides E-A-T, that will be repeated throughout the text, so let’s define them.
SQRG – Search Quality Rater Guidelines – the rules that Google uses to govern its evaluation of the quality of website content, including E-A-T. The latest version can be found here.
SQR – Search Quality Rater – the person who manually assesses the quality of the top search results, according to the SQRG.
YMYL – Your Money Your Life – an umbrella term used by Google to refer to especially sensitive topics. YMYL includes topics like health information, financial advice, important news (less so entertainment and sports), legal advice, and any content related to protected group characteristics (race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, sex, and gender, etc.)
What is E-A-T?
E-A-T is a part of Google’s quality standard. Their SQRs need to follow it when they assess website content and assign a page quality rating. It represents the three pillars – Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness – that are used for evaluating content.
Google’s SQRs check the top results for any given topic and judge the website rankings, based on E-A-T. However, some types of content are more rigorously checked than others. Any type of YMYL website is likely to be more stringently affected, but even forums and Q&A pages are not exempt.
Generally, websites that publish highly subjective content don’t need to care too much about E-A-T, i.e. there is no set standard that judges the cuteness of a dog. As topics become more objective and scientific, E-A-T starts becoming more important.
There is considerable leeway with judging what the best boots for a given purpose are, but there is still some consensus, so the E-A-T rating is important, but not imperative. Where topics like medicine and finances are concerned, your E-A-T rating can be your make-it-or-break-it factor.
Google continually incorporates some aspects of E-A-T into its algorithm. Unlike some other updates, this is not a one-and-done deal but an on-going process, which sometimes causes confusion. Your search engine rankings will be altered based on your E-A-T rating for the newest update.
Let’s take a thorough look at each pillar, but keep in mind that the concepts are interlinked and often similar. If you already understand the concept and just want advice on how to improve your E-A-T SEO standing, jump to the How to Benefit from E-A-T section.
Expertise refers to the degree of skill or knowledge in a given field, primarily of the content creator. So, they judge the expertise of the creator as an individual, rather than your overall organization or website. This can refer to formal education, certifications, qualifications, etc., or informal expertise gained through life experiences.
It is easier to be considered an expert for non-YMYL topics without any formal education. The SQRs will assess your content and judge whether you have the necessary expertise. According to their SQRG:
“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.”
For YMYL topics, you will generally need some sort of training to be considered an expert. If you have no medical degree, Google will not consider you expert enough to diagnose diseases or recommend treatment, and will accordingly downgrade your rankings. Similarly, you can’t be giving out financial advice about loans and interest rates if you have no relevant training.
However, you can be an expert in YMYL topics if they are more subjective and related to your life experiences. So, if the topic is “What’s it like living with diabetes?” or “What it’s like being broke”, you could be the most qualified to give an answer, if you can manage to demonstrate the relevant life experience.
Authoritativeness refers to the reputation you or your website has, especially among the experts in your field. If other experts are citing you as the source of their information, you de-facto become an authority in the field. Think of it as academic writing – the more times you are cited, the more authority you have. Any prestigious awards you receive will also increase your reputation.
It gets messier when user ratings are the main factor used to judge your reputation. When SQRs attempt to assess your authority, they try to use independent sources, so not something that was written by you or your company. They:
“Look for reviews, references, recommendations by experts, news articles, and other credible information created/written by individuals about the website.” (QRG)
An overwhelming number of positive reviews is a clear indicator of your authoritativeness, but a lack of reviews can hurt your ratings.
Trustworthiness refers to the accuracy of the information you provide and the transparency of your website. Basically, Google tries to make certain that you are who you say you are and provide the services you state – the T in Google E-A-Ts might as well stand for safety.
The aim is to stop online scams from appearing high in their SERP. If you can show who is responsible for the content of the site, have sufficient and easily accessible contact information, provide accurate information (especially important for news and information pages), and have positive reviews, your trustworthiness rankings will go up.
When Did Google Implement E-A-T?
You’ll find some conflicting information regarding when Google started implementing E-A-T. None of it necessarily wrong, they just define the beginning differently. The E-A-T website and E-A-T SEO effect became truly prominent since the 2018 “Medic” update, but the concept has been around since 2013.
Their 2013 QSRG mentions YMYL topics, the 2014 one puts some focus on the expertise, authority, and trust of websites, while the 2018 one truly makes E-A-T its focal point (with the addition that the E-A-T of individual creators is also important, as opposed to just websites). Define the beginning as you will – the important thing is that it will definitely affect you from now on.
Is E-A-T a SERP Ranking Factor?
More than likely, you are interested in E-A-T because you wish to know what the E-A-T SEO effect is. Once again, you will find conflicting information, but again, it is just a matter of how you define the terms.
The algorithm (as it is run by a computer) needs tangible signals that it can process. E-A-T doesn’t provide that (expertise, authority, and trust are fundamentally human ideas that a computer can’t understand), but Google uses proxy signals to try and emulate how a human would evaluate the E-A-T of your website and the algorithm is constantly updated to be more aligned with the E-A-T model.
Thus, you can but don’t have to consider E-A-T a standard ranking factor. Regardless, E-A-T will have an effect on your ranking, especially as more updates come along.
How to Benefit from E-A-T
When you are trying to benefit from E-A-T, keep in mind that you are effectively trying to convince humans and an algorithm that is trying to emulate their evaluation of your, and your websites, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
Let’s start with some basic trustworthiness factors, as they are the foundation for a good ranking if you are providing any services or products, especially regarding YMYL content.
Be Transparent – Give your customers sufficient contact information – email addresses, phone numbers, and points of contact. Try to have a physical address listed. Your T&C needs to be available and easily accessible. Your refunds and returns policy needs to be included. Anything that you can think of that will allow customers to know that they are not getting scammed.
Depending on the services you provide, you may need to give more or less information. Nobody expects a gossip blog to have the same customer services that an online bank has. Still, you can always provide basic contact information.
Now we can continue with increasing your authoritativeness and proving your expertise.
Demonstrate Your Expertise – you may not like to flaunt your knowledge and skills, but you should do it here. List anything that could be relevant to the topics you are covering. Let’s say your grandfather was a cobbler, your father a shoe salesman, and you are reviewing boots.
None of these factors make you an expert, but combining them indicates that you have life experiences that give you a certain level of knowledge about footwear. Put this information in your Bio or About Us section.
Most importantly, if you or your staff have any relevant degrees or certificates, make sure you flash them. Your Ph.D. should go in big bold letters so that nobody can miss it. List any awards you may have received, the times you were a key-note speaker at an industry conference, any prominent clients you work with, etc. Of course, all of the information needs to be accurate.
Provide Quality Content – this one is obvious, but it needs to be said. Providing accurate and clear information regarding your chosen topics will help demonstrate the level of your expertise, and increase your authoritativeness. Your content needs to serve the purpose it states it does. So, unless your business is based on the clickbait model, avoid it. The same goes for keyword stuffing.
Use Named Authors – content written by real, named people will increase your E-A-T rating. Especially if the authors have content published in other places, too. Ideally, you would hire experts and link to their published works. Promote and share content written under their names on social media sites.
Specialize – while you could produce generalized content, it is unlikely you will get to the top of the search rankings for any particular topic. Clearly defining your scope and area of expertise will allow you to position yourself as an authority in the given field. A generalized website will have trouble beating specialized competition.
Get Feedback – ask your customers to review your products or services. Positive reviews will help you get more customers and any SQR can see that you are a legit business. Even if you don’t sell anything, ask the users to leave feedback in the forums or comments sections, that you can display on your website.
Nurture Your Brand – there is no greater sign of authoritativeness than other websites linking to your content. Even mentions in news articles or blog posts will increase your rating. The A in E-A-T, Google, and other websites are interconnected. If an authoritative website mentions you, you are on your way to becoming an authority yourself.
Having a Wikipedia article written about your business will increase your ratings considerably. However, this is very hard to do. You already need to have garnered enough reputation for someone to write it, as self-promotions are usually removed. Still, it’s worth giving it a shot.
The aim of E-A-T is to rank the best content at the top of Google’s SERP. SEO is no longer just about finding the right keywords and popping up on the front page overnight. E-A-T makes you go for the long haul. The algorithm updates may make your rankings change from one to the next, but providing topical, accurate, and up-to-date content will make you rise in the rankings in the long-run.