It’s the holiday season, so perhaps there’s no better time to talk about E-A-T.
No, we’re not talking about the verb that many of us overindulge in around this time of year while attending family feasts and festive get-togethers, but rather how Google and other search engines decide which websites and pages rank well in its search results… and which ones don’t.
When you run a search through Google (which is not the only search engine but certainly the most widely used), there may be millions or even billions of search results. For example, when I ran a quick search for “where is santa claus,” Google located about 198 MILLION results.
So the question is:
How do you get that top spot, or even on the first page out of so many search results?
Or to go along with our “where is santa claus” search:
How did SantaClausVillage.info, SantaTracker.google.com, and NoradSanta.org beat out the 197,999,997 other results?
This is what search engine optimization is all about. And the key lies in Google’s algorithm, ranking factors and page quality standards. And one of the most important quality standards you should know about is E-A-T.
What is E-A-T?
E-A-T is an acronym that stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. As far as we can tell, the term first joined the vernacular of digital marketers and search engine optimization (SEO) professionals around August 2018, after Google’s broad core algorithm (aka “Medic”) update.
But the original concept of E-A-T came several years earlier, from Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, which was first published in 2013 to help Google’s own human quality evaluators judge the quality of a page, as well as to assist web creators, developers and administrators better understand the qualities Google looks for when determining rankings.
According to Google’s guide, the most important factors to consider when determining a site’s page quality are (emphasis added):
- The Purpose of the Page
- Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness: This is an important quality characteristic. Use your research on the additional factors below to inform your rating.
- Main Content Quality and Amount: The rating should be based on the landing page of the task URL.
- Website Information/information about who is responsible for the MC: Find information about the website as well as the creator of the MC.
- Website Reputation/reputation about who is responsible for the MC: Links to help with reputation research will be provided.
E-A-T is sometimes confused as a specific Google algorithm or a direct ranking factor, when it’s not. However, it is considered an important “characteristic” Google uses to evaluate the quality of a page or website.
In the guide, Google goes on to explain what it means by each of these characteristics.
The expertise of the creator of the main content is the first quality characteristic measured by Google. For example, pages that offer medical advice are considered higher quality if they are written or produced by authors or organizations with medical experience and accreditation, such as certified doctors and physicians or registered nurses.
In other words, medical content produced and published by accredited doctors and healthcare organizations has a higher Page Quality rating than health-related content created by non-medical folks or companies.
But expertise is not only important for medical marketers. Google also specifically lists expertise as an important quality in news articles (journalism), scientific findings and research, legal counsel, financial recommendations, home remodeling tips and parenting advice.
Of course, not all topics require formal expertise and training. Google also considers people to be “everyday experts” if they have life experience in the topic they are writing about. So you won’t necessarily be penalized for creating a page or website on a topic that you don’t have any formal education or training in, or for sharing your personal experience in a forum or blog. While formal expertise is very important for medical, legal and financial topics, it is less important for other genres like cooking recipes and humor websites.
As Google puts it:
“The standard for expertise depends on the topic of the page.”
The authoritativeness of the creator of the main content, the content itself, and the website is the second quality characteristic measured by Google. Believe it or not, not all experts have authority. Someone could be an expert in their field, but fail to elicit respect and influence from their peers needed to be considered an industry thought leader.
Becoming a subject matter expert in your field or niche is about more than just knowing what you know; it’s also about building your reputation by sharing what you know with others. To accomplish this, experts can speak at conferences, attend industry events, get involved in industry organizations, write blogs and guest posts, issue press releases and agree to every media interview they can get.
When others in your field look to you for answers, this is when you’ve become an industry authority.
Of course, authoritativeness is relative.
While SantaClausVillage.info may be considered an authority on the topic of finding Santa Claus, it won’t rank nearly so well for nearly any other search term or phrase.
When optimizing for certain topics, it’s important to remember that authoritativeness is narrow in scope.
Lastly, the trustworthiness of the creator of the main, the content itself, and the website is considered when measuring quality, according to Google. When delivering search results, Google prioritizes websites and pages that come from an accurate, transparent and legitimate source. While authority and expertise may be narrow in scope and highly relative, a site’s trustworthiness has much broader impacts on its overall performance and rankings.
In addition to ensuring that the information on your site is accurate and based on fact, you can also boost trustworthiness by taking steps to secure your website and visitors. A great first step (if you haven’t done so already) is to upgrade your site from HTTP to HTTPS protocol. You should also work with your development team to implement other security measures to better protect your own data, as well as safeguard confidential data from visitors, customers and clients. After all, few things erode trust faster than a massive data leak or hack that jeopardizes the health and security of your site users.
If you are writing highly technical content for the medical or legal industries (or any other expert niche), consider including a disclaimer advising the reader to consult with an expert about their particular issues rather than making important decisions based on the generalized information you provide.
Sure, your content might be A+, top-notch copy with awesome actionable tips, advice and insights. But the reality is that, in some niche topics, it can be difficult to account for all situations—such as a person’s unique health, financial needs or legal case—on a single webpage. A disclaimer can help show your visitors (and Google) that you value accuracy and transparency.
Examples of high E-A-T pages
In its guidelines, Google lists the following examples of pages with a very high level of E-A-T:
- An investigatory news story published on The Wall Street Journal website—an authoritative and award-winning newspaper—that features extensive, in-depth and high-quality content from 2 renowned journalists.
- A page on Snopes.com—a well-established fact-checking and myth debunking website—that features substantial, high-quality content revealing that a popular Animal Planet documentary film about mermaids was completely fictional.
- A page on TheKnot.com—a popular wedding planning website—that compares different styles of ball gown wedding dresses by showing many images of each dress, along with a tool for sorting by price range, style, etc.
- A magazine article called “Secret Fears of the Super Rich”—that is published in The Atlantic, references a Boston College study and features lots of unique and interesting content.
- An online tool to help calculate your body mass index (BMI) that is offered by the National Institutes of Health( a known expert in medical topics), is functional and easy to use.
- An information page about meningitis that is published by the Mayo Clinic, an authoritative and well-respected nonprofit medical research group.
- An e-commerce page on L.L.Bean that features a backpack for sale and provides ample information to users about the product—including who the intended users are, dimensions, features, capacity, weight, and reviews from people who have purchased this product.
- A homepage for DirectRelief, a reputable charity that is well-ranked by various charity rating organizations.
When is E-A-T important?
How important is expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness to Google?
Well, pretty important considering that Google mentions it over 120 times in their 2021 Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
However, as we mentioned earlier, the precise standard Google uses to determine expertise depends on the topic of the page or site. In some cases, E-A-T plays a significant role in the quality assessment and ranking of the page. In other cases, it’s not as vital.
To help better understand which topics are important for establishing expertise, Google has created another acronym: YMYL (Your Money or Your Life).
YMYL topics “could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.” Therefore, the expertise standard is higher for YMYL topics, pages and websites since the stakes are higher if the information provided is wrong.
How to improve your E-A-T
✔ Showcase your certifications, badges and awards
✔ Feature logos of industry organizations and associations you are involved in
✔ Highlight your education and experience
✔ Include a detailed bio page (with a professional headshot)
✔ List customer reviews and testimonials
✔ Write detailed case studies
✔ Seek endorsements from thought leaders and industry influencers
✔ Attend and participate in industry events
✔ Develop an extensive and diverse backlink profile
✔ Add your website to relevant directories
✔ Publish guest posts on third-party sites
✔ Issue press releases announcing major company news
✔ Conduct media interviews and offer quotes for news stories
✔ Show author bio info with each page/post
✔ Clearly display your contact information
✔ Fact-check your content for accuracy
✔ Cite your sources to substantiate claims, data and facts
✔ Update old posts regularly to check for accuracy and optimization
✔ Resolve 404 errors and website bugs as quickly as possible
✔ Provide a comprehensive analysis of a single topic on a page, rather than trying to cover multiple topics at once
✔ Link to authoritative sources to prove that you’ve done your homework
✔ Avoid distracting pop-up advertisements
Believe it or not, we’ve only scratched the surface of the many creative best practices out there for improving your website’s expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. For more advice and a free comprehensive SEO analysis to see how your site compares to your competitors, we invite you to get in touch with us.
At SEO Advantage, we have been in the search engine optimization business for over 20 years—long before Google published its E-A-T guidelines. The only way an SEO company can stay around in our industry for as long as we have is by adapting to algorithm updates quickly and effectively. By helping our clients build expertise, authority and trust, we’ve been able to deliver real results that last.
What are your E-A-T best practices?
Comment below or join the conversation on Facebook.