Have you ever heard of the phrase you are what you eat? Well, for websites and webpages, it’s more like you rank IF you E-A-T. But what does that mean?
E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. It’s an idea Quality Rater Guidelines, a manual for human quality raters at Google, mentions over 120 times in the latest version from October 14, 2020.
There is no such thing as an “E-A-T score” that impacts your position in search. In fact, Google hasn’t even officially stated that a high E-A-T rating is a factor in their algorithm.
But this doesn’t mean you should ignore E-A-T. It’s essential to your website’s rankings.
Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness; are they synonyms?
Google doesn’t define the differences, and definitions of these words often overlap. Fortunately, E-A-T ranking factors are in no way mutually exclusive.
Let’s explore what Quality Raters look at when dissecting the E-A-T of the creators, the main content, and of the page altogether.
Expertise is a high level of skill or knowledge about a particular subject. Google wants its search results to first and foremost show the pages that provide content written by experts.
If the topic is medical in nature, an expert main content creator could be a doctor specialized in the field in question.
Websites in the legal sector can collaborate with lawyers to raise their perceived expertise. Fashion blogs benefit from having famous designers pitch in to give a quote, at least.
The expertise of lawyers, doctors, and other professionals can be measured by:
- professional experience,
- and so on.
This does not mean Google aims only to have content written by scientists appear in search. Some topics don’t require formal education to be considered “experts.” Gossip, fashion, humor, all these are considered high-quality when the author really knows what they’re talking about.
It’s important to choose the right “experts.” If an article is to be a review of a holiday destination spot, users will be interested in accounts of people who have been there. Not the owner of a chain of hotels or someone with a travel and tourism degree.
This is what Quality Rater Guidelines refer to as everyday, or life experience. Even YMYL (your money or your life) pages, which we’ll talk about in more detail below, can benefit from this.
Expecting mothers, for example, are not only going to be interested in medical advice. They will look for others who are going or have recently gone through the same thing. A lack of formal education does not mean the creator isn’t an expert in the field.
Now that you have experts, it’s time to prove to Google and your users that the information you provide is authoritative. Is it obvious to your readers that the creator has more knowledge than them about a particular subject?
Degrees, rewards, and other forms of formal expertise may not be enough. An implantologist who has not yet performed major oral surgery has less authority than one with years on the job. A seasoned journalist may write high-quality, interesting texts, but it’s clear they had to reach out to get the information. Make sure sources are clear.
Sticking to narrow niches may help. You can’t be an authority on everything. A website that explores one topic in-depth is more authoritative than one that touches on many.
You may have a great website about fashion, current trends on YouTube challenges, or the Sacramento area’s best restaurants. Coming up with a random article on controversies around prescription medication here and there may actually hurt your authoritativeness on the main subject.
The third E-A-T factor is trustworthiness. It is a measure of whether the information you provide is reliable. Make it clear to users and quality raters that the information is true.
This may be a great opportunity to link to other authoritative websites. Topics like medicine and legal advice may benefit greatly from links to studies and research performed by third parties.
Whenever applicable, use data to provide evidence for your claims. Disclose opinions and quotes from experts, even ones who do not agree with everything you try to put forward. Include many examples and personal stories no one else could share. Consider having other collaborators fill the article in on what you may not know or be sure of.
Staying objective is a big part of trustworthiness. Propaganda and biased content may not rank as well as accounts that look at things from different perspectives.
A high amount of sponsored content may also be a cause for concern. What if your articles are written by a biased expert? They may be very well aware that the product they are promoting is not the best.
Of course, to make money or even keep a high-quality site going, you need some funding. Google doesn’t necessarily penalize websites that have sponsored content. But monetized content should be clearly marked and separated from the main content.
YMYL – Who should aim for a good E-A-T?
In general, all websites should have a goal of getting a high E-A-T. Even ones that touch upon “light” subjects like gossip pages and cooking instructions. They are still sources of information, and Google wants to push websites that help users. It’s all about intent.
Nonetheless, there is a group of pages that should be particularly concerned about this. In QRG, those are referred to as “your money or your life” (YMYL).
YMYL topics are the ones that could influence a user’s happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.
E-A-T requirements are high and significant here, and core updates from the last 2 years have greatly impacted how such pages rank. In fact, YMYL pages seem to have been affected the most.
While this is mainly about medical, financial, or legal advice, other niches are also mentioned in Quality Rater Guidelines:
- News and current events,
- Civics and government,
- Shopping, and
- Groups of people.
YMYL pages with poor E-A-T are considered low quality, as they could negatively impact user’s trust towards Google’s search results.
What is the thought process behind this? Imagine you are getting financial information from a site, and you have no idea who is writing it.
- Are you going to trust it to provide you with tips on how to invest in stocks?
- Are you going to invest your money in a stock recommended by someone anonymous?
- Will you provide your credit card information on a website with no “about” or “contact us” web page?
The likely answer is: no. That’s why Google tends to place your money or your life pages with great E-A-T at the top of SERPs. But E-A-T is not only about the authors. Here are a few examples of other factors necessary for high-quality.
News-reporting websites and legal advice should be regularly updated. It would not be “news” if the last post were created months ago. The law is frequently changed, and what was good advice last year may no longer be relevant.
Along with medical sites, these should be written in a professional style. Clearly laid down editorial policies and processes is a big factor. Quality raters are instructed to review “about” and “contact” pages to look for such information.
It’s not all about high-quality content, however. A site that asks for credit card information should have a secure connection. Shopping websites should enable customers to contact customer support.
In February 2021, Google even introduced a feature that lets users verify these aspects before entering the page.
If you have user-generated content on your website, make sure you moderate content that may be offensive or inappropriate. Other users should have the option of reporting such occurrences, and you should react accordingly.
Apart from that, the E-A-T factors are pretty open-ended.
How to aim for great E-A-T
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do my writers know what they’re writing about?
- Am I making sure to cover aspects of my topics from all perspectives?
- How can users be sure my content is factually accurate?
A big part of E-A-T is cohesiveness. Have it in mind at every stage of content creation.
It makes no sense to have your content written by an expert if you aren’t going to credit them. Quoting an internet personality with disputable authority might hurt your trustworthiness, even if the content is top-notch. And if your page has random articles not related to the field of your main content, you are going to lose out on authoritativeness.
So, how to make great E-A-T content? And how to fix content that you believe has an issue with E-A-T?
Recognize the purpose of the page
Think about what a potential user wants from your page. Information about new technology? Are they purchasing something? Do they want a run-down of the best hotels in California? Why would someone want to visit your page?
Pages that have no clear purpose or whose purpose is to deceive or spread hate will receive a Low Rating from Quality Raters. If there is no direction or field of interest, the page isn’t helpful. If you are spreading misinformation, you may even be removed from the index.
Once you know what your topic and purpose are, think about who is an expert on the subject. A doctor? A lawyer? Someone who has been to Tokyo?
Raise the trustworthiness by providing sources of your information. State who the author is, show their background and link out third-party content that gives evidence to what you are writing about—more about link building below.
Local businesses are a big part of YMYL. Users are searching for information to spend their money there. To get a high E-A-T rating, local businesses should include practical information, such as the exact location, opening hours, and a price list.
Familiarize yourself with Google Quality Raters’ Guidelines
The Quality Raters’ manual is the actual guide Google’s Quality Raters use. It was made public in 2015 and remains a great resource not only for Quality Raters but also for webmasters and SEOs who want to make sure their pages are prominently shown in search.
The document has over 160 pages, but it’s worth your time. Folks at Google are making it clear that the information is beneficial to making “great content.”
QRG doesn’t only outline how to judge the E-A-T of a website. They are looking to describe the best possible search experience for users. This means pages should be written with the user intent in mind.
For example, somebody looking to buy a Mac computer might enter “apple” into the search engine. While the keyword ranks high for both the technology brand and a piece of fruit, content creators at Apple won’t insert dietary advice articles on their blog; this would go against their users’ intent.
Make original, high-quality content
Creating content itself is essential, but just having content won’t make you rank on the first page. The bar is set incredibly high as the whole world is turning to the online world.
How does E-A-T come into this? Make original content with expert information no one else provides. Contact real authorities that can give input based on their own experience. The best and most thorough research is not going to equal what professionals deal with on the job.
Even if your page doesn’t immediately rank high for organic keywords, searchers and raters will appreciate straight-forward information no one else can provide.
Websites that focus on cancer and cancer treatment topics are not going to be authoritative on tax information.
You won’t trust a doctor giving you guitar tips without any skills. Their expertise is not relevant here, so it’s important to choose the right specialists to create, review, or promote your content.
Make sure to disclose all your employees’ experience. Write in-depth bios and include photos. Image is important. Using the same photographs may also be useful in building recognizability.
Users may not remember the name of an expert you are featuring on your web page, but photos go a long way. If they allow you, provide their name, email, or other contact information.
Break down your company policy
Use the “About” page wisely. Let your readers and Quality Raters know how your content is produced.
Even non-profit organizations may need to make money to keep going. Building visibility and actually achieving goals requires funding, and it’s important to disclose that information on your website.
All you have to do is make it clear where the money comes from and where it goes. Transparency is key to a good E-A-T rating.
So, we already talked about how linking out to some pages may raise your trustworthiness. Your reputation can also grow if other authoritative websites link to your articles.
But steer clear of shady link-building practices. If you provided content or sponsored a page to feature you, it may not be very helpful.
In fact, if you have many links from questionable sources, this can even hurt your E-A-T. In the past, more links meant better rankings, but that is no longer necessarily true. It may even be beneficial to disassociate yourself from low-quality pages that link to your website.
A solution is to use the Disavow file. Here’s a great manual on how to do this through Google Search Console.
Your best bet is to make great content other great contributors will WANT to link to.
E-A-T vs. reputation research
We briefly mentioned the reputation of your website. But how is it determined? Links are not all that matters.
What do users think of your page, business, and services? What do third-party experts and competitors think?
Google’s QRG suggests looking at information not created by the website or their writers to determine how reputable a page is.
“When searching for reputation information, try to find sources that were not written or created by the website, the company itself, or the individual.”
Reputation research ties in with E-A-T, as it’s a way of determining trustworthiness. Real users’ opinions are more convincing evidence of a high-quality business than a great webpage that has nothing to do with it.
Again, your money or your life (YMYL) pages need to devote more attention to this. For shopping websites, a clear review section is relevant. Reviews on platforms like Yelp are also vital. A lack of such information is not necessarily bad, but it helps. The same goes for negative reviews. Some are bound to be there, but that means there is interest in the website.
Does great E-A-T guarantee great Google ranking?
Nothing guarantees great ranking anymore. Google keeps its algorithms top-secret to prevent spam and fake news websites from ranking high through link farms and other questionable practices. Producing great content with a clear purpose of helping your users is the only strategy that works long-term.
Google has confirmed that there is no such thing as an “E-A-T score.” Nonetheless, Ben Gomes, VP of Search, has been quoted saying:
“While Google’s algorithms are not an exact representation of what is in the QRG, as mentioned above, the QRG reflects what Google wants the algorithms to do.”
Even if your efforts to better your E-A-T are not working, you can expect that they will work in the future. While great E-A-T does not guarantee a high ranking, a low E-A-T is almost sure to make your rankings plummet.