It was August 2018, when E-A-T first gained the attention of the SEO industry. Ever since there are hundreds of articles published about what it is and how one can optimize the content for the same.
With this article, we are trying to stray from the plethora of information that is already available on the internet and provide a bird-eye view of E-A-T.
E-A-T: What it is?
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness.
It is a common talked about phrase in Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines, a 168-page document that is used by human quality raters to assess the quality of Google’s search results.
This document was first made public in 2013 to help webmasters understand what Google looks for in a web page to rank it higher.
Is E-A-T that important?
Contrary to what you read and where, E-A-T is not a direct ranking factor that Google uses.
But, purely from the perspective of importance, E-A-T makes more sense from some queries than others.
For instance, searching memes on the internet have no E-A-T factor to it, it’s just a fun activity. This search is subjective and memes can be fun, serious or sarcastic, there is no big deal if they are to the point or not.
However, if you are searching for the right dosage of a particular drug, then it becomes inevitable to show the most accurate results. Here the E-A-T factor is pivotal. If Google were to rank the content for such queries written by inexperienced writers or published on untrustworthy websites, it can prove to be harmful in several ways.
This is exactly why E-A-T is important for topics where misleading information can be injurious for your health or your finances.
Google categorizes such topics as YMYL or Your Money Your Life. These are the topics that impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.
If your website is about YMYL topics, then demonstrating E-A-T is crucial for you.
How does Google evaluate E-A-T?
For an unoriented person, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness are similar concepts. However, being similar does not mean being identical. This is why each is evaluated independently based on a different set of criteria.
Simply put, expertise is highly skilled knowledge of a particular field. Google evaluates it primarily at the content level, and not at the website or organizational level. Content created by subject matter experts is clearly an advantage here.
For YMYL topics, the formal expertise, education and qualification of the writer are important factors. For example, a physician can better handle health topics than someone who writes just based on whatever information is available on the internet.
For topics like medical, legal and financial, formal expertise is an important factor, unlike non-YMYL topics where relevant life experience makes more sense.
In Google’s own words, some topics require less formal expertise and if the person creating the content has the right amount of life experience to make him or her an “expert” on the topic, we will value this “everyday expertise” and ignore the absence of a “formal” education requirement and not penalize the person/webpage/website. A query like “what does it feel like to have cancer”, is one where real-life experience is more valuable than formal education.
The term is self-explanatory, it is about authority or reputation in a particular industry. There are many experts or influencers in a particular industry, however, some are more authoritative than others.
Human raters look for some particular insights to establish the reputation of a website or an individual. They are told to look into what experts, as well as real users, think about a website. Raters look for reviews, recommendations, references, news articles and other credible independent resources to look for the right information.
Google mentions Wikipedia as a Google source of information.
It is important to understand that authority is a relative concept. While Jeff Bezos might have an authority on Cloud and eCommerce solutions, he is not the right person for relying on for new-age cancer drug research.
Trust comes from the legitimacy, transparency and accuracy of a website and the content it publishes.
Human raters look into several factors to decide the trustworthiness of a website and it includes where the site has user-generated content or not. While trustworthiness is particularly important for YMYL topics it applies non-YMYL queries too.
For YMYL topics a website is required to have a high degree of trust. This is why they need clear and transparently satisfying information about who is responsible for the content on the website.
This is why YMYL sites and online stores are required to have sufficient contact information.
A website’s content’s accuracy is also taken into account when deciding the trust factor.
Web page content with factually accurate information that is supported by expert consensus where such consensus exists is generally considered trustworthy.
Citing trustworthy sources is part of this.
Is E-A-T a ranking factor?
Not directly, but according to Google’s Public Liaison of Search, Danny Sullivan, it does have indirect effect:
Is E-A-T a ranking factor? Not if you mean there's some technical thing like with speed that we can measure directly.
We do use a variety of signals as a proxy to tell if content seems to match E-A-T as humans would assess it.
In that regard, yeah, it's a ranking factor.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) October 11, 2019
Simply put, a “ranking factor,” is a tangible factor that can be understood and evaluated by a computer. Backlinks are an apt example. The higher the number of backlinks from quality websites, the better is your ranking chances.
But the problem with E-A-T is while they are desirable qualities in website content, they are fundamentally intangible human concepts. A computer cannot tell these factors explicitly.
Google handles this problem in three steps:
- Engineers at Google tweak the search algorithm in ways they think will improve search result quality.
- The output SERP results are shared with Quality Raters. They are not aware of the changes are made to the algorithm.
- Based on the feedback from the Raters, Google decides whether the proposed changes had a positive or negative effect.
So, does Google actually allots websites an E-A-T score?
Absolutely not. And Grant Simmons agrees:
“EAT and YMYL are concepts introduced for Quality Raters to dumb down algorithm concepts. They are not ‘scores’ used by Google internally.“ #Pubcon @methode Followup: There is no EAT algorithm.
— Grant Simmons (@simmonet) October 10, 2019
How can you improve and benefit from E-A-T?
We are sure you want to know if there are ways to improve E-A-T or not.
Yes, there are. However, remember that you can improve E-A-T but not demonstrate it unless you have it.
Remember the stone drop like fall in YMYL websites rankings in August 2018? It was after Google introduced the infamous “medic” update.
As these websites had no E-A-T at all, their traffic dropped as soon as Google introduced the ability to algorithmically detect E-A-T.
If your website faced the same fate or you have no E-A-T as of now, here are the steps we recommend.
- Build more links
Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines might not have any mention about links but most insiders believe that E-A-T is greatly affected by backlinks. Even Gary Illyes, a Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, E-A-T of a website is largely based on links and mentions from authoritative sources.
I asked Gary about E-A-T. He said it's largely based on links and mentions on authoritative sites. i.e. if the Washington post mentions you, that's good.
He recommended reading the sections in the QRG on E-A-T as it outlines things well.@methode #Pubcon
— Marie Haynes (@Marie_Haynes) February 21, 2018
- Regularly update content
Websites that have YMYL topics like medical and financial advice must keep content updated to demonstrate E-A-T.
If you are dealing with content that entails financial advice, legal advice, tax recommendation, etc. it must come from trusted sources and must be regularly updated.
If you’re covering YMYL topics like medical or financial advice, then keeping content updated is crucial for demonstrating E-A-T.
High E-A-T financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, etc., should come from trustworthy sources and be maintained and updated regularly. The same goes for high E-A-T medical content. It must be written in a professional style and must be reviewed, edited and updated on regular basis.
- Be factually correct
Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines clearly states that new articles must be factually accurate to demonstrate a high level of E-A-T.
Journalistic professionalism is what is expected from a high E-A-T news article.
The same is with scientific pages that want to demonstrate high E-A-T. When produced by people or organizations with appropriate scientific expertise and have accurate facts, it helps them to be seen as trustworthy.
- Get more reviews
Quality Raters are recommended by Google to look for online reviews for reputation establishment from sources that have trust and authority.
For businesses, there are many sources that have a reputation of sharing honest and transparent reviews. Websites like TrustPilot and Yelp are some of them.
But you must be careful not to get hung up on a particular website for reviews. The Better Business Bureau is one such website that is often believed to affect ranking directly. While a negative review on BBB can affect your overall brand perception it is in no way a ranking factor.
- Hire experts
If you are covering YMYL topics on your website you can benefit from hiring experts in your industry. Formal expertise is clearly of vital importance for YMYL topics such as legal, medical or financial advice.
However, if you have non-YMYL topics you can hire people without formal expertise. For such topics, you can focus on people with a proven track record and expertise in the industry.
E-A-T is important for your website’s SEO, especially if you cover YMYL topics.
There is no shortcut to demonstrate E-A-T. Hiring experts, caring about the customers and delivering value is important.
Demonstrating E-A-T values to Google might sound simple, but it is a process that takes time and effort.
Just having a website doesn’t mean you deserve to rank, if establishing E-A-T appears to be annoying, keep in mind Google doesn’t care about your presence on the website. Its primary and only motive is to help its searchers find the most accurate and factually correct information. If there is better and more authoritative content than yours, Google will rightfully rank it over your content.