A Guide to Understanding E-A-T (And Why It Matters for SEO)

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Does E-A-T ring a bell? (And no, it’s not what you think. 🍰) If you’ve been playing the SEO game, you’ll agree that E-A-T has become quite a buzzword. 

In this guide, I’m going to cover what you should know about E-A-T. Leveraging it can help your website dominate Google. 

But before anything else, we need to emphasize a couple of things:

#1 – Google aims to provide the best possible experience for users.

#2 – For some websites, E-A-T is more important than for others, making the effort needed to increase it also higher. 

#3 – E-A-T isn’t built overnight. It’s all about playing the long game.

Let’s get started.

What Is E-A-T? 

E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Google wants certain topics to be built on high E-A-T — content that impacts an individual’s happiness, health, safety, and finances. Such topics are called YMYL or Your Money or Your Life. 

Here’s E-A-T in a nutshell (I’ll explain more about this later):

🧑‍💼Expertise – A piece of content has been created by someone with the right credentials, qualifications, or educational background. 

🗣️Authoritativeness – A website has a high reputation based on its users’ experiences and the outside opinions of experts. 

🔎Trustworthiness –  This describes information that is accurate or a page that is safe (for example, a checkout page with a secure connection). 

As you can tell, a website about health and medicine requires more E-A-T than a hobby website. 

For a health website, publishing poor advice can result in a life-threatening situation. As for a hobby website, topics are often subjective and would not cause real harm to an audience. You get the idea. 

Here are more topics that fall under YMYL, according to Google:

  • News on important topics and current events (excluding sports and everyday lifestyle topics.) 
  • Civics, government, and law
  • Finance
  • Shopping
  • Health and safety
  • Groups of people
  • Other topics that involve big life decisions (such as housing, parenting, job hunting, and fitness.)

So where does E-A-T come from? 

It isn’t a random acronym created by some random SEO guru. No. 

E-A-T is mentioned in Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG). It’s a 168-page document that helps its human raters assess the quality (E-A-T) of articles, authors, websites, and webpages. Google employs these people to review and evaluate the quality of search results. 

💡Interesting fact: E-A-T is specified 135 times in the QRG. That’s how important it is.

Take note that since Google always works to improve search experience, it updates its QRG document frequently. 

When was E-A-T first introduced? 

In 2014. Which means, E-A-T isn’t a new concept. 

It has been in the QRG for years now, but it got massive attention in August 2018. Thanks to a core algorithm update called the Medic Update. This update impacted mostly medical and health websites, and other sites categorized as YMYL. 

Since August 1, 2018 and counting it, Google rolled out 9 confirmed or unconfirmed updates that are heavy on E-A-T.

How does the QRG document benefit you? 

Whether you are an SEO specialist or an online business owner who’s serious about creating quality web content, the QRG offers a ton of insights on how to improve E-A-T. 

Does E-A-T apply to all websites or pages?

No. Here’s what you need to understand: 

When raters do their PQ (page quality) rating, the first step is to check whether a page or website has a beneficial purpose.  Meaning, that piece of content benefits a user in one way or another — entertain them, teach them something, or share opinions. 

See page 19 of the Search Quality Rater Guidelines:

After determining that a page has a beneficial purpose, the quality rater then decides whether it has a high or low level of E-A-T. If it’s a YMYL topic, it is held to a higher standard. 

💡Important: E-A-T doesn’t count for pages that cause harm or spread hate. Quality raters give them the lowest rating since they lack a beneficial purpose.  

Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness In More Detail

In this section, we’re going to dive into each element of E-A-T and what they actually mean. 

Expertise

The Cambridge Dictionary defines the word expertise as having “a high level of knowledge or skill.” 

But just because you are knowledgeable or skillful in something, doesn’t immediately qualify you as an expert in the eyes of Google. 

So, what does Google look for? 

YMYL Topics 

For most YMYL topics, formal expertise is required. A medical article on liver disease, for instance, should be written by a licensed physician who sub-specializes in gastroenterology. 

According to the QRG, “Formal expertise is important for YMYL topics such as medical, financial, or legal advice.”

However, it’s also possible for some YMYL topics to be written by people with everyday expertise. See the example below from a discussion board on cancerresearchuk.org. It shows a user sharing about her loss: 

As you can see, people whose loved ones have cancer don’t need to have the credentials to write about their experience. 

But when it comes to medical advice, it should always be provided by a medical professional. 

The QRG states, “It’s even possible to have everyday expertise in YMYL topics. For example, there are forums and support pages for people with specific diseases. Sharing personal experience is a form of everyday expertise.”

Non-YMYL Topics

Everyday expertise or your life experience is sufficient to qualify non-YMYL content. Google considers your experience valuable and will not, therefore, penalize you.  

Let’s say that you’re a “food nerd” who blogs about your food adventures🍲. In that case, Google acknowledges that formal expertise is not necessary for your content. 

Authoritativeness

In word-of-mouth marketing, you become influential when others recommend you because they see you as a good source of content. Well, it kind of works that way for authoritativeness. 

Think: Reputation.  

Google looks at the following places to check your reputation. These should be independent (outside your website), credible, and written by a real person or organization:

  • Wikipedia articles
  • News articles
  • Blog posts 
  • Magazine articles
  • Forum discussions
  • Ratings and reviews

Reviews can be quite tricky though —  Because Google knows that people can write multiple fake reviews. That is why it asks its quality raters to check not just the number, but also the content itself. 

“It is also important to read the reviews because the content of the reviews matter, not just the number. Credible, convincing reports of fraud and financial wrongdoing is evidence of extremely negative reputation.”

Trustworthiness

For trustworthiness, Google considers: 

  • Main content – Is it clear, accessible, transparent, and accurate?
  • Content creator – Are you an expert or experienced on a topic? 
  • Website – Does it have a secure connection?  

A highly trustworthy YMYL website helps users feel comfortable doing business. 

Let’s say, for example, an ecommerce website. Consumers often seek information from customer service, return policies, FAQs, and more. 

Non-YMYL websites, on the other hand, won’t need to display as much information as their counterparts. A food blog, for example, is less likely to cause inconvenience by showing only an email address as contact information. 

Is E-A-T a Ranking Factor? 

Will nailing your E-A-T guarantee that your website will rank in the top positions of Google’s search results? 

Tricky question, though answerable with a NOT REALLY.

But stick around. 

You see, Google has 200+ ranking factors which include website speed, mobile-friendliness, and backlinks. Basically, things that are measurable. 

E-A-T does not fall on that list. Google and its quality raters do not assign a score for E-A-T either. Here’s what Marie Haynes tweeted:

So, what role does E-A-T play in ranking your content? 

We can be sure of this: 

That Google wants the highest possible quality of search results that satisfy and help its target users, and not mislead them. By making sure that we produce content that meets Google’s expectations through E-A-T, our efforts can make an indirect impact on rankings. 

Check out Google’s statement on What webmasters should know about Google’s core updates:

Lily Ray of Path Interactive did an interesting E-A-T study. Some of the findings were:

  • “Winning sites are 258% more likely to use real experts on their content than losing websites.” (Expertise)
  • “Winning health sites are 34% more likely to use medical reviewers on their content than losing websites.” (Expertise)
  • “Winning companies are 21% more likely than losing sites to have a company Wikipedia page.” (Authoritativeness)
  • “Winning companies are 24% more likely to link to external citations within their content.” (Trustworthiness)
  • “Winning sites have an average Trustpilot score that is 1.9 points higher than that of losing websites.” (Trustworthiness)
  • Winning sites are 45% more likely to have a clearly stated editorial policy present on their websites than losing sites. (Authoritativeness)

Now you’re probably thinking of all possible ways to improve your website E-A-T, especially if it has YMYL topics. 

How to Improve E-A-T 

Whether you’ve been hit by the medic update or want to future proof your YMYL website, here’s what you can do now: 

How to Improve SEO E-A-T

1. Hire professional experts to author your content.

To demonstrate high expertise: Hire someone with the right education and credentials to write your editorial content. And at the same time, edit pages with low E-A-T. 

But what if the expert you hire isn’t a skilled writer? Solution: Have a professional content writer proofread and revise parts that need improvement. 

💡Tip: Display the expert’s author bio in every blog post they write. Linking to their online profiles where their awards/certifications are found will also help increase their expert status. 

For non YMYL topics, again, they don’t need to be written by formal experts. Pick someone with enough experience who can write the topic well.

2. Optimize your About page or Team page. 

Your About Us or Team page should communicate what your company does. Make sure to explain why you are an authority and expert in your field. The same applies to your authors.  

Some people don’t like to display their awards, places they’ve been featured, and more. But now is not the time to be shy about them. Remember that Google looks at these as signs of good reputation. 

3. Build a positive reputation in your industry.

Keep this in mind because this is very important: 

Between your website claims and feedback from independent sources, Google trusts independent sources. Be careful about your reputation. 

Here are a few strategies you can implement:

  • Create products and services that your audience will find valuable . 
  • Keep track of the channels where your customers leave reviews. 
  • Provide stellar customer service regardless of the channel.
  • Get more positive online reviews and deal with negative reviews.
💡Tip: Don’t focus on one review website. The Better Business Bureau, for example. Include other places such as Yelp, Amazon, Google Shopping, and other non-Google services. 

4. Fact-check your claims. 

Unless your topic indicates that alternative viewpoints are welcome, make sure to check the written facts. If you don’t have it yet, consider implementing a review process where every claim is checked for facts or bias. 

Here’s what the QRG says: 

“High E-A-T news articles should be produced with journalistic professionalism — they should contain factually accurate content presented in a way that helps users achieve a better understanding of events.”

Cite external resources wherever applicable, and make sure that they’re credible. And if possible, include citations from industry experts or influencers. 

Below is a screenshot taken from an example in the QRG:

This news article on FoxNews.com discussed STEM in the US. As you can see from the screenshot, the article includes expert citations — which Google considers helpful. 

5. Get your own Wikipedia page 

Or get mentioned or referenced, at least. 

Having a Wikipedia page can bolster your authoritativeness, as stated in the QRG: 

“Wikipedia can be a good source of information about companies, organizations, and content creators.”

You have to be aware, though: Creating a Wikipedia page is not easy. Keep in mind that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and every piece of information you provide has to be verified. 

Hubspot wrote a guide on creating a Wikipedia page for your company. 

6. Provide sufficient information.

This is especially true for YMYL pages. You can build more trust with your users by making sure that they can access the following information:

  • Means of contact (email address, phone number, physical address, web contact form, names of contact persons, and more)
  • Customer service information (policies on payment, returns, exchanges, etc.)
  • Information about who owns the site or the authors

What We Can Take Away 

Google’s core algorithm update got us thinking about expertise, authority, trust — and how we ought to put more emphasis on content quality. 

A lot of websites are medical, financial, and legal in nature. This puts them in a challenging situation to step up their game in SEO. 

If you have a YMYL site or pages that are YMYL, ask yourself: ”Is my content worth recommending by Google to users?”

Google E-A-T may impact your rankings indirectly, nevertheless — it’s always good practice to put out stuff that’s high quality. 

That way, we’re in a much better position to dominate search results. 

2 replies on “A Guide to Understanding E-A-T (And Why It Matters for SEO)”

I have an affiliate website that back in February lost around 75% of its organic traffic. This website is on the leisure niche. Is it possible that E-A-T is a problem here?

I mean, the website don’t sell products directly, however, we send visitors out to e-commerces through the affiliate links.

Hi Jeff,

E-A-T is definitely something Google is considering on affiliate websites too. I would recommend following the “How to Improve E-A-T” section.

On affiliate websites it’s specially important a good About page, clear editorial guidelines, and affiliate links/revenue disclosure. However, depending on your niche, your website will probably need more than this.

Cheers!
Zac

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