Some people believe that E-A-T is one of the most important SEO success factors today.
Others believe the importance of E-A-T is massively overblown.
Is it a direct ranking factor? Is it an indirect ranking factor? Or is E-A-T not a factor at all in Google’s ever-evolving algorithms?
The debate over the importance of E-A-T – an acronym for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, made famous by its inclusion in Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines – will likely rage on for a while to come.
However, many took this whitepaper as confirmation that E-A-T is an important ranking signal.
Here is what some consider the “smoking gun” from the whitepaper:
“Our ranking system … is specifically designed to identify sites with high indicia of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.”
Does that mean E-A-T is a ranking factor? It could be. But not necessarily.
It’s important to not overlook this sentence from the whitepaper:
“Google’s algorithms identify signals about pages that correlate with trustworthiness and authoritativeness.”
This certainly makes it sound like more of an indirect relationship.
But really, this is nothing new. Google has been trying to make its algorithm as “human” as possible.
If you were doing SEO before E-A-T even existed, you probably remember the concept of Authority, Relevance, and Trust. Google has been using identity, authority, and trust signals in its ranking system for a long time.
But Google’s algorithms have never been perfect. Plus user behavior and technology is always evolving.
That’s where search quality evaluators come in.
Google collects E-A-T scores from these search quality evaluators (the human raters Google employs to test the quality of its search results).
But to be clear: the actual E-A-T ratings given by search quality evaluators are NOT ranking factors.
Google said the data it collects from its human raters do not directly impact the ranking of any individual website.
So even if E-A-T isn’t a direct ranking factor, it can still help you rank.
To understand that, it’s important to understand exactly what E-A-T is and why it matters for on-page SEO.
This post will explain E-A-T, as well as YMYL, and offer actionable tips for how you can use these concepts to boost your on-page SEO.
What Is Google’s E-A-T, Really?
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Google raters use this framework to assess content creators, webpages, and websites as a whole.
This all makes perfect sense, right?
Google wants to make sure that sites producing high-quality content are rewarded with better rankings and sites that create low-quality content get less visibility.
Now let’s look at each of these factors individually.
Are subject matter experts creating your content?
These are people who possess the necessary knowledge and understanding of your field to talk deeply about a specific topic. This can be general knowledge or highly specialized.
Google also is OK with something called “everyday expertise.” What is that?
“Some topics require less formal expertise. Many people write extremely detailed, helpful reviews of products or restaurants. Many people share tips and life 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.”
Basically, Google wants to provide links to websites that have published helpful content that is useful, comprehensive, relevant, and accurate.
Demonstrating your expertise is especially important in certain niches (e.g., legal, financial, medical).
People are coming to your website to find answers to important questions.
Providing inaccurate, unhelpful, or outdated content is a recipe for SEO disaster.
Google doesn’t want to send its users to incorrect content or websites that deliberately mislead users.
So make sure the people who create your content possess subject matter expertise and do the necessary research and fact checking.
As noted in the above-mentioned whitepaper, Google has used PageRank to understand authoritativeness since the very beginning. It’s what made Google Google!
That means one signal of authoritativeness has been links.
Links – especially the quality of those links – continue to be a top ranking factor. This is no secret.
For years, we’ve heard links compared to votes, where the more votes you get, the more authoritative (or popular) you are.
So where expertise is having certain knowledge or skills, authoritativeness is what happens when others (inside and outside of your industry) recognize that expertise.
That recognition can come in the form of links, mentions, shares, reviews, or any other type of citation.
It kind of sounds like authoritativeness is like your online reputation, right?
That’s because, in a way, it is.
The best way to build that authoritativeness online is to create that useful content we talked about in the last section.
You have to put in a ton of hard work to earn the trust of people and search engines.
You want people to trust in your brand or business and are willing to endorse or buy from you.
One way to increase your trustworthiness is by highlighting the credentials of your content creators and the website.
Think awards, testimonials, endorsements, and other trust factors.
People have to feel they can trust all the information they find on your website.
Likewise, Google wants to rank websites and content that it can trust.
Trust also ties into Google’s YMYL concept.
What Is YMYL?
Websites that sell products or provide services or information that can impact the happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users are categorized by Google as YMYL – which stands for “Your Money or Your Life”.
Google holds these types of sites to the highest standard because the stakes are incredibly high when it comes to this type of content.
Some industries that fall under YMYL include ecommerce, financial services, healthcare, and legal.
Bottom line when it comes to YMYL: make sure that any content on your website will help, not hurt, the people who consume your content.
Make your users feel safe.
Take great care of your users and Google should take great care of you.
Why Is E-A-T Important for Your SEO?
Since as long as I can remember, Google has been telling us to create great content.
So it’s no surprise that Google values high-quality content.
There is a clear relationship between what Google considers high-quality content and what appears in the search results.
Call it correlation or causation – whatever it is, E-A-T is somehow playing a role in Google’s organic search results. Which means E-A-T must be a consideration in your SEO strategy.
What Is High-Quality Content?
Whatever content you create must have a purpose. Your content must benefit your clients, customers, users, or readers.
According to the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, high quality pages are those that have:
- High level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
- A satisfying amount of high quality main content, including a descriptive or helpful title.
- Satisfying website information and/or information about who is responsible for the website. If the page is primarily for shopping or includes financial transactions, then it should have satisfying customer service information.
- Positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the main content on the page. Positive reputation of the creator of the main content, if different from that of the website.
The highest quality pages (and YMYL pages) will have a very high level of E-A-T, according to Google’s guidelines.
But Google noted that E-A-T applies to all types of sites (e.g., gossip websites, fashion websites, humor websites, and forum and Q&A).
So that means it applies to YOUR site.
Your top priority should be creating content that your target audience wants or needs and offers true value.
In short, creating more high-quality pages for your website should help your website perform better in Google’s search results.
And, yes, this is much easier said than done.
What Is Low-Quality Content?
Low-quality content is, as you’d expect, the exact opposite of high-quality content. As Google puts it:
“Websites or pages without some sort of beneficial purpose, including pages that are created with no attempt to help users, or pages that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users, should receive the Lowest rating.”
Here are the characteristics of a low-quality page, according to Google’s guidelines:
- An inadequate level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
- The quality of the MC is low.
- There is an unsatisfying amount of MC for the purpose of the page.
- The title of the MC is exaggerated or shocking.
- The Ads or SC distracts from the MC.
- There is an unsatisfying amount of website information or information about the creator of the MC for the purpose of the page (no good reason for anonymity).
- A mildly negative reputation for a website or creator of the MC, based on extensive reputation research.
If high-quality content helps your site rank higher, then logically it makes sense that low-quality pages could hurt your Google rankings.
If your content is inaccurate, has no purpose, or includes elements that hurt the user experience, it’s unlikely that Google will feature your website prominently in the SERPs.
In short, low E-A-T means bad content. Bad content means bad SEO. And bad SEO means you’re missing out on valuable traffic and conversions due to low rankings.
How to Improve Your Website’s E-A-T
Hopefully you now fully understand the E-A-T concept and why it’s important.
So how can you make sure your website content is high quality and also boost your on-page SEO efforts?
Here are some best practices to follow when creating new content heading forward.
1. Identify Your Authors with a Byline & Bio
Have you ever landed on a blog where some content was published by “Admin” or some random guy with no last name?
Did you trust that site? Was the content amazing? No and no.
Google’s guidelines advise creating articles with “journalistic professionalism.”
Part of that professionalism means every piece of content you publish should have the writer’s name – their byline – attached to it.
Here’s how Search Engine Journal highlights the bylines of its articles:
Ideally, you should highlight the biographical details of every person who creates content for you – whether that’s blog posts, articles, or question and answer pages.
Is the author of your content a recognized expert in your field? Then you definitely want to highlight that.
You can do so on a separate bio page that also contains the author’s past content, or even at the bottom of the article.
Search Engine Journal does both. At the bottom of any SEJ article you’ll see an author’s box like this:
Clicking on [Read full bio] leads to my full bio page with information that establishes who I am and what I do:
Here are some essential elements of a good bio page:
- Full name
- A detailed bio
- Contact information (e.g., email form, social media)
Doing all of this makes it easy for users (and Google) to know who created the content and assess their individual E-A-T.
2. Make Your Contact Info Easy to Find
When visitors arrive on your landing pages, is it easy to find your contact information? Or details on how to get customer support?
Remember, E-A-T evaluates your website as a whole.
The easiest solution?
And if you don’t have those pages on your website? Make them now!
3. Remove or Improve Your Low Quality Content
As Search Engine Journal’s Executive Editor Danny Goodwin puts it: you have to decide whether you can improve or remove your old or outdated content.
SEJ has been going through this process for over a year now and it has increased their traffic by 2x, according to Goodwin.
If you have content that is no longer useful – or is just so terrible that it’s not worth the time investment to update or improve it – then pruning that content is one quick way to improve your E-A-T.
Removing content should always be your last resort. But if it needs to be done, do it without hesitation.
Ideally, you want to identify any content that looks like it has low E-A-T and figure out ways you can reverse that.
Some ways you could increase E-A-T:
- Have a more authoritative person write it.
- Add quotes from experts, data, sources, or citations.
- Make some simple edits to improve the readability, grammar, spelling, and structure.
- Add more information to make it more comprehensive.
- Write a new and better title.
- Add some visual appeal, as photos, charts, screenshots (and make sure to optimize those images).
- Add a video for people who prefer that format vs. text only (this has the added benefit of potentially keep visitors on your site longer).
The process of elevating content definitely takes longer, but it too will greatly improve your website’s E-A-T and performance. And this process is especially crucial for any YMYL pages.
4. Create a Positive Brand Reputation
A positive brand reputation is key to both growing your business and your E-A-T.
One way you can do this is through thought leadership.
If you can share insights that your target audience truly finds valuable, this can push them down the path to conversion.
High-quality thought leadership content is good for winning, keeping, and growing business.
This will also help you build authority in your niche, and help Google trust you.
Thought leadership is incredibly powerful when done right. So make sure you aren’t underwhelming your audience!
For more on how thought leadership delivers real ROI, check out the Edelman-LinkedIn Thought Leadership Impact study.
Is E-A-T a ranking factor?
This is the wrong question to ask, in my opinion.
Let’s forget about ranking factors for a moment and instead think about your audience.
If you’re doing everything outlined in Google’s E-A-T guidelines, then you’re creating informative, useful, high-quality content that your audience wants and helping them accomplish a task (e.g., acquiring knowledge, buying a product).
In other words, you’re providing a satisfying user experience.
And anything that is good for users is good for helping you rank in Google – and driving the traffic and conversions you really want.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita
All screenshots taken by author