You are what you E-A-T?
When it comes to Google and their ranking factors, that may very well be the case.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into what E-A-T is, why it’s so important, and how to create E-A-T-proof content.
What You’ll Learn:
- What is E-A-T?
- E-A-T and Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines
- The relationship between E-A-T and YMYL pages
- How to optimize for E-A-T:
With all of the recent changes hitting the Google-sphere as of late, it’s worth a reminder that the search giant is placing greater emphasis than ever on relevance and usefulness.
In August, they rolled out their core algorithm update, and just a few months back, they revamped their 166-page internal document—Search Quality Rating Guidelines, which spends an awful lot of time talking about something called EAT.
EAT has been around for a few years now, and stands for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, which represent the top three factors that impact a website’s quality.
In general, following the E-A-T guidelines means creating in-depth content that helps users find what they need.
Google’s standing as top-dog search engine depends on providing value to its searchers, so they’ve created a set of standards that helps their human reviewers find websites with factual information, security, and a positive reputation.
See, Google doesn’t only care about delivering the most relevant information – it wants to ensure it delivers the most correct information.
E – Expertise
According to Google, there are two types of experts.
There’s formal expertise, which typically assumes a certified professional is the most reliable source of information. Formal expertise is most important to legal, financial, or medical fields where lousy information can harm readers.
Then, there’s everyday expertise. According to the document, this applies to a range of topics from fashion to cooking to reviews, decorating, and beyond. Everyday expertise tends to refer to areas where you don’t need a professional certification to provide helpful information.
A – Authority
The “A” in E-A-T refers to authority.
Authority refers to credentials and reputation. In other words, proof that your content creators know what they’re talking about.
And believe it or not, someone can be an expert without being an authority.
You may have all the degrees, doctorates, and know all there is to know about a subject like psychology, but without a blog, speaking engagements, or other public means to solidify your expertise, you don’t have the authority.
Authority is about influence, and how you establish it.
As is the case with everyday expertise, authority depends more on being clear about who you are, what you do, and what your experience brings to the table.
That said if your site contains content written by people who aren’t necessarily experts, but they do their research and cite credible sources and interview experts, it’s up to you if you want to add a byline or credentials.
However, it is worth pointing out that a picture and a short bio can help humanize your brand and promote a sense of transparency.
Other factors that demonstrate authority include backlinks from other reputable sources, your company’s reputation, and your branding.
T – Trustworthiness
Trustworthiness is measured according to how helpful your content is to searchers.
The whole purpose of content marketing is to create content people actually want to consume. This means that all articles and company information needs to be accurate, accessible, and contain links back to expert sources or sites that meet Google’s journalism standards.
E-A-T and Google Quality Raters — What to Know About the Latest Guidelines
In summer 2018, Google refreshed its 164-page quality rating guidelines, noting that they wanted their raters to focus on the “beneficial purpose” of the web content they review.
The idea behind the shift was that marketers had long been creating content with Google in mind, not the end user.
According to the document, Google has instructed Quality Raters to rate a page as “Low” if they find any of the following issues:
- It fails to offer Expertise, Authority, or Trust (E-A-T).
- Low-quality main content (MC)
- Content is too thin to add value to searchers.
- MC headline is irrelevant, spammy, or reads as clickbait.
- Ads are distracting or contain grotesque images
- Your Money or Your Life Pages contain zero information about the author
- The MC author or the website has a poor reputation.
We should point out that if you have several Low-quality attributes, raters may assign you a rating that is “lower than Low.”
For example, using a clickbait headline or not readily providing information about the writer may give you the “low” quality label, whether or not the MC itself is low quality.
If the content also fails to meet E-A-T standards, then your score represents multiple low points.
And when it comes to the Guidelines, E-A-T is a clearly a big deal. As Marie Haynes points out in the following tweet, the word E-A-T is mentioned no less than 186 times throughout.
It’s important to understand that Quality Raters don’t actually have control over how websites perform in the SERPs, so a low score doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll see any direct hits to your rankings.
Rather, Quality Raters are real people tasked with performing various searches and evaluating the content that pops up in Google against the Quality Guidelines.
For Google, raters gather data that they can later feed into the algorithm to deliver higher quality search results.
E-A-T and Your Money or Your Life Pages Must Meet Higher Standards
As you may already be aware, Google’s E-A-T standards are closely linked to Your Money or Your Life sites.
Shortened to YMYL, this is a category of websites that includes things like medical, legal, or financial sites—virtually any website that contains information that could have an impact on your health, wealth, or happiness.
More specific examples include things like medical websites listing out symptoms for diseases, pages with legal advice or pages offering information about increasing your credit score.
YMYL bleeds into food or mommy blogs too, so things can get a bit fuzzy.
For example, if you’re looking at a blog with information about going gluten-free or following the keto diet, then it’s hard to say whether it’s YMYL or not.
But if your goal is to help people make decisions that might impact their health or how they choose to spend their money, it’s best to hold yourself to a higher standard—supporting your content with references, expert quotes, and links to studies, surveys, and other reputable sources.
For more information on YMYL and its effect on SEO, check out my full guide here.
How to Optimize for E-A-T
Now that we’ve taken a closer look at what E-A-T is, let’s talk about how you can prepare your content for it.
1. ORGANIZATIONAL DIGITAL FOOTPRINT
One of the critical things Google’s Quality raters look for is reputation.
So, one of the first things you’ll need to check out when optimizing for E-A-T is your organizational digital footprint.
What this term refers to is all traces of your company that exist across the web. This includes your website, sites that you’ve written a guest post for, product reviews, social mentions, press releases—and of course, complaints and red flags.
To get a sense of your brand’s footprint, Google “company.com -site:company.com” and see what comes up.
This is your organizational digital footprint. Try to understand if it’s positive or negative, and does it signal E-A-T? Or does it indicate the opposite?
Next, run the following query: Google “company name + SCAM.”
Does the first page have legitimate results? This can affect your organizations E-A-T. Do a similar search for your authors, if necessary.
Keep in mind that there are several affiliate websites that run articles with titles like X Company — Scam or Legit? Or is X Company Too Good to Be True? You’ll typically see this with SaaS product reviews competing for clicks/rankings.
The real thing you’ll want to check for is complaints registered with the Better Business Bureau or left on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google Reviews, and Facebook. Scan for negative press mentions or public-facing tweets.
Keep in mind, managing your digital footprint doesn’t necessarily mean you’re looking to take down all negative press.
2. SOURCES & KNOWN FACTS:
So, expertise—the big E–doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to have a PhD in your field or work in an academic setting.
What it actually means is that you have the good sense to A—fact check, and B—link out to reputable trusted sources.
Sites with .edu and .gov extensions are high-authority domains, as are certain media channels like The New York Times, Reuters, or the BBC.
It gets a bit tricky when you get into different niche areas.
In some patents, Google mentions checking websites against a list of known facts and seeing how many they get right in order to determine trustworthiness.
Cite your sources at the bottom of articles where you’re using the specific information, if possible. Include the date that the article was published or reviewed and a follow link back to the original article.
3. INDUSTRY STUDIES & INDUSTRY INTERVIEWS:
Building on this last point of linking to reputable sources, creating content with direct quotes from experts or data from industry studies adds even more weight to what you have to say.
Identify expert people and websites for industry interviews. We get that you might not always have time to sit down for an interview, but making an effort to include those with some pull in your industry will serve you well.
Here are a few examples of experts you should try to connect with:
- Subject Matter Experts in Your Field: You can also ask experts for ‘endorsements’ which is mentioned in some patents. This could work double-time with influencer marketing.
- Medical Professionals: For food, lifestyle, and wellness websites, bringing in healthcare professionals for an interview or a quote can bring some much-needed credibility to the table. Particularly if you have say, a vegan cooking blog or you’re covering trendy diets like paleo or the Whole 30, a health expert can lay out the nutritional basics in a way that the home-based blogger might not be able to pull off.
- Credible Organizations: In some patents, Google mentions that experts and organizations keep lists of “top” or “best” members/authorities in their fields. It would be useful to get your clients on these lists if you can find them. As a point of reference, these lists include professional organization websites or industry-specific publications.
- Google News-Approved Sites: Google News-approved sites are a safe bet when it comes to linking out to reputable sources. These channels adhere to quality journalism principles, post original content, and offer straight-to-the-point headlines that let searchers know what to expect.
4. ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Rater guidelines dictate that part of meeting the E-A-T standard is understanding who is responsible for a website and the content that lives on it.
In the context of a landing or product page, this means that visitors can easily find a way to get in touch with a brand. This also means you should include a separate “About Us” page that tells visitors about your company and the people that work there.
If applicable, be sure to include a short vanity paragraph about key employees that includes professional memberships/affiliations, expert endorsements, achievements, and experience.
For content-heavy websites, you’ll want to include a short bio that lets readers know a bit about who is writing the content—and what is it that makes them a qualified source of information.
A couple of other things to consider regarding authorship:
UGC—like comments or forums—don’t necessarily have an impact on a page’s ranking.
However, you do want to keep an eye out for spam, as it could contain harmful links or references to hateful or inappropriate content.
On YMYL pages, you’ll need to moderate UGC carefully—particularly if non-expert commenters are giving fake or unqualified advice.
Sites with Multiple Authors
Quality Rater guidelines state that websites with multiple authors should be evaluated based on the E-A-T rating of individual authors.
So, if you run a content site that hosts multiple contributors, raters will look at each of these pages individually. The thing you do need to think about, however, is that low E-A-T on one page won’t drag down the EAT score of another, but it does damage the brand’s reputation.
As such, it’s in your best interest to cut low-quality content with minimal traffic—most of the time.
They like to know that, boring policy or not, they are being protected.
Duplicate content can do a number on your quality rating.
You’ll want to check your website content using a tool like Copyscape to make sure that your content hasn’t been stolen by another website or that it hasn’t been used by your company in two different locations.
For example, if you post the same blog post on your site and as a guest post, it’s going to register as plagiarism, even if you’ve authored both pieces.
7. INTERNAL LINKS:
When you publish your content, you’ll want to make sure that you link to other pages on your website, be it related content pieces or products and services.
Internal link structure carries a lot of SEO weight—it helps Google understand your internal navigation better, and helps identify the author of a page.
8. EXTERNAL LINKS:
As mentioned above, part of establishing trust with your readers is showing them that you know how to identify credible information in a sea of fake news.
Remember to only link to sources who you would want to link to you—so, again, cite studies, industry publications, and news channels that have the Google News seal of approval.
One of the best ways to demonstrate expertise and authority within your industry is to build your backlink profile.
To earn trust with search engines and searchers alike, you’ll need links from websites with a high E-A-T rating. Links send qualified traffic to your website and give visitors the impression that someone was willing to vouch for you.
Kick off your backlink strategy by running an audit (you can use tools like Moz or Ahrefs to do this) and look out for spammy links, no-follow links, and those that don’t quite fit in with the context of your site.
We’ve created a whole guide to auditing backlinks here if you’d like a little more guidance on the whole process.
AMP is a tricky one.
As we’ve heard time and again, it’s not a ranking factor, and as far as E-A-T is concerned, it doesn’t necessarily come into play.
There are some obvious benefits, including improvements in mobile load times, but the speedy HTML framework might not be all it was cracked up to be.
Get rid of it. AMP is best served for sites that get the bulk of their traffic from mobile, like Wired or The Washington Post.
11. DATE ON PAGE / (LAST UPDATED):
You may have noticed that more and more blogs and content sites are adding a “last updated” date to their pages.
The reason for this is that you want to make sure that your readers are receiving the most up-to-date information possible.
Consider this: if you’re trying to find information related to the Google algorithm or PPC ads, a blog post from 2015, no matter how well written, won’t give you the information you need.
12. FAQ RELATED TO THE PAGE:
FAQs are going through something of a resurgence, thanks in part to Google’s rich results.
An FAQ page should provide answers to frequently asked questions on a particular topic.
So, an e-commerce store might create an FAQ page that includes information on shipping, returns, and refunds, as well as purchase options, sizing, and so on.
By contrast, a SaaS company might focus on providing answers about how their product works, details about a free trial, how much the pricing costs, or who should use this solution.
13. REVIEW SNIPPET:
A review snippet is a short excerpt from a review or customer rating. It’s a rich result that—with schema enabled—signals to Google eligibility to appear in rich results or the Google Knowledge Card.
Review snippets may apply to the following:
- Local Businesses
The Google Developers blog will walk you through the process of setting this up—noting that you should only mark up pages that refer to a specific product, not a category or list of items. They also state that reviews must be directly sourced from customers—not planted by the brand themselves or purchased.
The benefit of the review snippet is that it helps brands demonstrate trust and expertise by placing social proof front and center.
Wrapping Up E-A-T
Obviously, rankings are essential for visibility, awareness, and traffic.
But, it’s important to understand that E-A-T is about more than where you land on the SERPs. It’s about making sure you give your audience content that is helpful, high-quality, and accurate.
Just because a low-quality rating doesn’t impact your rankings today, doesn’t mean those same mistakes won’t come back to haunt you down the road.
E-A-T serves as a way to keep brands focused on delivering content with a purpose, and keeping fake news and spammy links from rising to the top and hurting the search experience for users.