Never in the history of the internet have users so strongly craved reliability in the information they consume – whether that information comes from journalists, authors, politicians, or businesses.
In an era where misinformation runs rampant and once-venerable news institutions are now rigorously questioned, people anxiously seek reassurance – proof, even – that the information they are presented is true and from a reputable source.
And search engines like Google know it.
It’s no longer enough to reverse-engineer Google’s algorithms to ensure top ranking in search results. Google now seeks a complex array of indicators that signal the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) of your website and the people who created it.
E-A-T is not a ranking factor but features heavily in Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. These are the people who evaluate page quality to inform algorithm updates, and so their guidelines give us insight into what Google considers a top-quality user experience.
This is particularly important in Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) content, so-called for the serious implications it can have on a searcher’s livelihood. Medical advice, stock recommendations, and mortgages are just a few examples of YMYL topics.
How can you demonstrate E-A-T in your content to satisfy readers and achieve your on-page SEO goals?
The Closest Your Website Will Get To Showing Virtue And Integrity
The trickiest aspect of mastering E-A-T lies in its utter simplicity.
E-A-T is about the value, reliability, and integrity of the content. By integrity, we mean providing users with trustworthy information they need in a way they can use. You can’t fake your website’s E-A-T, and you can’t trick Google into thinking you have it when you don’t.
Maybe it’s this elusiveness – the unshakeable “realness” of content that is trustworthy and produced by experts who are authorities in their fields – that has prompted Google to prioritize E-A-T in the way it has.
Rather, Google engineers have identified indicators of trustworthiness, and the presence or absence of these indicators influence a website’s ranking.
You Can Fly Under The Radar Until You Really Get Competitive
In a business world obsessed with (and a little spoiled by) numbers, formulas, automation, and programmable solutions to any conceivable challenge, the idea of E-A-T can drive any marketer to the depths of frustration.
If you find yourself in this position, clear your mind, then walk yourself through this simple truth:
Your customer needs to trust you, your expertise, and your reputation.
This applies to you no matter what line of business you are in. It also applies just as much to a customer looking for you on the internet as it does to a customer standing in front of you at your place of business.
Now, your next question should be: How do I capture that trust on my website?
We’re talking about mastering E-A-T, and this is what we will be discussing here.
What Is Google’s E-A-T, Really?
Google wants to reward sites that produce high-quality content, as these are the best answers to relevant queries. The search engine also wants to make sure that sites that publish low-quality content get less visibility.
Now, let’s look at each of these factors that make up the E-A-T principle.
Demonstrating your expertise is especially important in certain niches (e.g., legal, financial, medical).
The folks at Google want the content on these sites to be written by subject matter experts (SMEs) – people who possess the necessary knowledge and understanding of the field to talk deeply about a specific topic.
This knowledge can be general or highly specialized.
Google also accepts something it calls “everyday expertise.”
Here’s how the company explains this concept in the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines:
“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.”
Putting The Plan In Action
Google wants to provide links to websites that have published helpful content that is useful, comprehensive, relevant, and accurate – and this makes perfect sense.
People are coming to your website to find answers to important questions. So it naturally follows that providing inaccurate, unhelpful, or outdated content would be 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 have sources on board to do the necessary research and fact-checking.
When Google talks about authority, it’s talking about reputation. The stronger your reputation as a knowledge source is within your circle of industry experts, the greater your authority.
When Google sets its raters on your website, they will scour the internet for signals of your authority in your given subject area. They will look in news articles, reviews, references, and even Wikipedia articles.
The raters want to check your (or your website’s) level of authority on the subject your website covers. The stronger that level of authority, the better your site will rank.
Make it Likable And Linkable
Another element that signals authoritativeness on your webpage is linkability. 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.
It’s hard to get people to vote for you if they don’t know your name, right? The same applies to “votes” for your website content.
Where expertise is having specific 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 discussed in the last section.
You want people to trust in your brand or business and be willing to endorse or buy from you.
As in the “real world,” you have to put in a ton of hard work to earn the trust of internet users and search engines.
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. In 2018, Google made an update referred to by some in the industry as the Medic Update that prioritized reputable, well-researched content. This update signaled to marketers just how much emphasis Google was placing on E-A-T.
Trust also ties into Google’s YMYL concept.
What Is YMYL?
Websites that sell products or provide services or information that can impact users’ happiness, health, financial stability, or safety are categorized by Google as YMYL – which stands for “Your Money or Your Life.”
Google’s John Mueller shared some insight into the importance of E-A-T for YMYL websites in a March 2021, Google Search Central SEO hangout.
“I don’t think there is one simple approach to that. And I think especially when it comes to medical content, I think that’s super important that our algorithms are very picky there with regards to what we show. So I would look at the quality rater guidelines and really think about how your site might be perceived by the quality raters.
The quality raters don’t make the algorithms, but they do give us a lot of insight into what we might do in our algorithms. So I would strongly recommend going through that. And I think it’s especially, when it comes to these kind of sites, it’s less about the tactics and really more about making sure that it really is a legitimate business and that it’s backed up by appropriate trustworthy sources.
So not just high quality content, and doing all of this syndication, all of these things. But really making sure that it’s written by doctor, it’s created by medical professionals who are legitimate in their field.”
The bottom line when it comes to YMYL is simple: Make sure that any content on your website will help, not hurt, the people who consume it.
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?
For as long as I can remember, Google has been telling us to create great content. And great content is what appears at the top of Google’s search results.
So, in some form, Google considers E-A-T when returning search results, so you should, too.
Be aware that E-A-T applies to all types of sites, even those related to gossip, fashion, humor, forums, and Q&As.
This means E-A-T applies to your site.
Accordingly, your top priority should be creating content that your target audience wants or needs – content that offers true value. Creating these pages for your website should help it perform better in Google’s search results.
And, yes, this is much easier said than done. First, you must have a clear understanding of what Google means by “high-quality content.”
What Is High-Quality Content?
Whatever content you create must have a purpose. Your content must benefit your clients, customers, users, or readers.
Common Traits Of High-Quality Pages
According to the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, high-quality pages are those that have:
- High levels 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 information about who is responsible for the website (for shopping pages or those that enable financial transactions, this includes satisfying customer service information).
- A positive reputation as a website that is responsible for the main content on the page.
- A positive reputation for the creator of the main content, if different from that of the website.
The highest quality pages (including YMYL pages) will have an extremely high level of E-A-T, according to Google’s guidelines.
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.”
If high-quality content helps your site rank higher, it logically follows 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 search engine results pages (SERPs).
Common Traits Of A Low-Quality Page
Here are the characteristics of a low-quality page, according to Google’s guidelines:
- The page has an inadequate level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
- The quality of the main content (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.
- Ads or secondary content (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).
- The website or the MC creator has a mildly negative reputation based on extensive reputation research.
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 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.
1. Identify Your Authors With A Byline And Bio
Think about the last time you 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:
Identify All Your Content Contributors
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:
What To Include On A Bio Page
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?
Can they quickly determine how to get customer support?
Remember, E-A-T evaluates your website as a whole. The easiest solution is to make sure you link to your About Us and Contact Us page in either your main or footer navigation.
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 to improve or remove your old or outdated content. SEJ jumped on this process and doubled the site traffic in just over a year, 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.
Giving Your Content A Makeover
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.
Here are some ways you could increase E-A-T:
- Have a more authoritative person write the content.
- 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, such 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 keeping visitors on your site longer).
The process of elevating content definitely takes longer, but doing so will greatly improve your website’s E-A-T and performance. This process is especially crucial for any YMYL page.
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 a 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!
Learn more about how thought leadership delivers real ROI here.
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 think about your audience instead.
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.
Anything good for users is good for helping you rank in Google – and driving the traffic and conversions you really want.
Image credits: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal