E-A-T has been in Google Quality Rater Guidelines since 2014, but it only became a buzzword online after the Medic Core Update in 2018. Try searching for ‘E-A-T SEO’ right now, and you will find hundreds of SEO articles.
A few months back, Google released a fresh set of Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines which mainly focussed on improving Google search quality with E-A-T.
But what is E-A-T? Is it a Google Ranking Factor? And if it is, then how vital is E-A-T in SEO?
In this post, I’ll try to answer such questions, including:
- What is E-A-T?
- What is E-A-T in SEO?
- Is E-A-T a new Google Ranking Factor?
- Do websites receive a Google E-A-T Score?
- How to do E-A-T SEO and create content that Google wants?
Before we begin…
What are Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines?
Improving search quality has been a top priority for Google as far as I can remember, and analyzing top SERPs is an intricate part of the process. For this, Google hires numerous third-party Search Quality Raters from all over the world to study the SERPs based on Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
After studying the SERPs, these Search Quality Raters share their feedback with Google. Based on it, the search engine determines what changes are necessary to make the search more useful. Raters also help Google categorize the information to improve their systems and algorithms.
In the latest 168-page search quality evaluator guidelines, Google has used ‘E-A-T’ multiple times, citing it as a crucial ranking signal and making E-A-T a significant SEO trend of 2020.
What is E-A-T?
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. It has been part of Google Quality Rater Guidelines since 2014. E-A-T is also a vital Google ranking signal, as mentioned in ‘How Search algorithm works’.
E-A-T has been used 135 times in the 168-page search quality evaluator guidelines of 2019, which also resembles its importance.
What is E-A-T in SEO?
If Google emphasized so much on E-A-T in its guidelines for search quality raters, then wondering the role of E-A-T in SEO is justified. So, to be precise, E-A-T helps Google measure the Page Quality (PQ) of any webpage.
It is a crucial characteristic of a High quality page.
The guidelines go on to mention the characteristics of a Low quality page as well, and in them ‘an inadequate level of E-A-T’ is specified on the top.
Having a High-quality page increases its chances of acquiring better SERP rankings, more backlinks, and more credibility, which are all crucial in SEO. Thereby, the connection of E-A-T in SEO is pretty straightforward: if you want to improve your Page Quality (PQ), then an adequate level of E-A-T is necessary.
Is E-A-T a New Google Ranking Factor?
E-A-T improves Page Quality (PQ) but does that make it a Google Ranking Factor? Danny Sullivan, Google’s Public Liaison of Search, has an answer:
Is E-A-T a ranking factor? Not if you mean there’s some technical thing like with speed that we can measure directly.
We do use a variety of signals as a proxy to tell if content seems to match E-A-T as humans would assess it.
In that regard, yeah, it’s a ranking factor.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) October 11, 2019
Danny talks about two scenarios to explain whether E-A-T is a ranking factor or not.
In the first scenario, he explains that E-A-T is not a ranking factor from a technical point of view. Wonder what that means? Let me explain.
Every Google ranking factor is a metric that can be measured and evaluated by a computer. For example, Speed. Computers can study how much time it takes for the server to receive the first byte of information from any web page or website.
This can help in creating an algorithm that ranks pages with faster loading speed higher in the SERPs.
Now, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness cannot be calculated; they must be assessed instead. A computer cannot determine whether a page deliverse best and most relevant answer to any query; therefore, to make it as accurate as possible Google confides in thousands of search quality raters from around the world -which is the second scenario.
Google engineers tweak the algorithm and share the search results with search quality raters, who are not informed (sometimes) about the change. Once they analyze it based on Google Quality Rater Guidelines, they share their feedback with Google. Then, based on their feedback, Google decides whether to implement the algorithm changes or not.
So, is E-A-T a new Google Ranking Factor? It’s hard to give a definitive answer which is accurate and not misleading. But I can assure you that E-A-T is essential if you want to improve your page quality and acquire higher rankings.
Do websites receive a Google E-A-T Score?
In one word: No.
There’s no Google E-A-T Score or any kind of E-A-T rating. Gary Illyes confirmed this in PubCon. Here’s what several SEO enthusiasts around the world tweeted after:
— Grant Simmons (@simmonet) October 10, 2019
Q:Does Google have an EAT score?
A: There’s no internal EAT score or YMYL score. The QRG are guidelines for raters. EAT and YMYL are concepts that allow humans to “dumb down” algorithms. There is no one algo that looks for YMYL@methode @jenstar #Pubcon
— Marie Haynes (@Marie_Haynes) October 10, 2019
However, Google may have multiple algorithms to analyze each letter in E-A-T. Maybe Google uses PageRank, citations, etc. to measure the trustworthiness or authoritativeness of a website. But I wouldn’t depend too much on it since it’s still a conjecture.
Bottom Line: There is NO Google E-A-T Score or E-A-T rating.
How to do E-A-T SEO and create content that Google wants?
Doing E-A-T SEO is pretty straightforward, but before that, you must understand what each letter in E-A-T means, so let’s start with:
Expertise means a person with an expert skill or knowledge in a particular field. Google wants content created by people with expertise. Hiring freelancers to write content won’t be considered viable if they are not experts of the said field.
Google singles out the medical sector in its search quality evaluator guidelines:
“High E-A-T medical advice should be written or produced by people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. High E-A-T medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis.”
The search engine also mentioned similar guidelines for other YMYL (Your Money Your Life) industries, such as:
- Informational pages
- Advisory pages on finance, legal, tax, etc.
- Home remodelling
- Parenting Issues
Google follows a strict approach for such YMYL websites because providing misleading information in such industries can directly impact the reader’s health, safety, finance, and happiness.
Authoritativeness is all about your online reputation among the many experts and influencers of your industry; plus, several review websites.
In its guidelines, Google directs the search quality raters how to check for a website’s authoritativeness:
“Use reputation research to find out what real users, as well as experts, think about a website. Look for reviews, references, recommendations by experts, news articles, and other credible information created/written by individuals about the website.”
Google asks every quality rater not to assume a website’s reputation:
“Reputation research is necessary for all websites you encounter. Do not just assume websites you personally use have a good reputation. Please do research! You might be surprised at what you find.”
Using IBM as an example, Google puts more emphasis on reputation research:
“When searching for reputation information, try to find sources that were not written or created by the website, the company itself, or the individual. For example, IBM might have official Facebook or Twitter pages that it closely maintains, which would not be considered independent sources of reputation information about the company.”
The search engine goes on to mention more about how to perform reputation research on a website. It recommends raters to look for articles, reviews, forums, discussions, written by people about a website.
Remember that authoritativeness depends on nature (positive and negative) of how your website is mentioned in similar industries. For example, Amazon is an authoritative online store, but getting mentioned on that platform will hardly have any impact on an SEO-based website.
Excellent expertise and authoritativeness breed trustworthiness, but that’s not all. To build trust, a website must be transparent and factually accurate.
Since YMYL websites require a high level of trust, ensuring transparency of information is necessary; this includes:
- Customer service information
- Contact information
- Information about who is responsible for the website
- Information about who created the content
Google explains the essentiality of this information:
“Stores and websites that process financial transactions require a high level of user trust. If a store or financial transaction website has just an email address and physical address, it may be difficult to get help if there are issues with the transaction.”
So, satisfying customer service information must be a priority for stores and websites that process financial transactions.
Google also mentions how to deduce a page as High quality in terms of trust.
“High quality information pages should be factually accurate, clearly written, and comprehensive. High quality shopping content should allow users to find the products they want and to purchase the products easily. High quality humor or satire should be entertaining, while factual accuracy is not a requirement as long as the page would be understood as satire by users.”
Content of the page should be comprehensive enough and must satisfy the reader, keeping in mind the topic as well as the purpose of the page.
How to Improve E-A-T?
Links and Mentions
While link building is an age-old SEO technique which has a powerful impact on your site’s page quality, mentions are relatively new but influential. And, as per Gary Illyes, they both play a significant role in improving E-A-T.
I asked Gary about E-A-T. He said it’s largely based on links and mentions on authoritative sites. i.e. if the Washington post mentions you, that’s good.
— Marie Haynes (@Marie_Haynes) February 21, 2018
E-A-T is not “solely” but “largely” based on links and mentions on authoritative and relevant websites. You must keep this in mind and focus on building high-quality links.
If you are wondering whether the mentions should be linked or not, then let me tell you that they don’t necessarily have to be linked mentions, textual mentions are fine.
Furthermore, he recommends SEO enthusiasts to pay special attention to the “QRG in E-A-T” section of Google quality rater guidelines.
Before moving on to other sources, raters analyze your website first to check whether it abides by the fundamental requirements of a High quality website.
“We [Google] expect most websites to have some information about who (e.g., what individual, company, business, foundation, etc.) is responsible for the website and who created the MC, as well as some contact information, unless there is a good reason for anonymity. For websites with YMYL pages, such as online banks, we expect to find a lot of information about the site, including extensive customer service information.”
The search engine singles out YMYL websites and explains the situations in which such sites will be marked ‘Lowest in Quality’.
“YMYL pages with absolutely no information about the website or creator of the MC, or other pages where the available information is completely inadequate for the purpose of the website (e.g., an online bank with only an email address), should be rated Lowest.”
This means, your websites must have these details:
- Sufficient information related to contact and customer support.
- Detailed ‘About’ and ‘Team’ page.
- Details about the author
Publish Content Produced by Experts
If you are covering YMYL content, then hiring an expert to write it is compulsory. But not everyone can hire an expert, then how about becoming one? Google talks about a scenario where it won’t penalize a website even when an expert doesn’t produce the content.
“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.”
Google goes on to provide more clarification on “everyday expertise” for YMYL content with the help of an example:
“It’s even possible to have everyday expertise in YMYL topics. For example, there are forums and support pages for people with specific diseases. Sharing personal experience is a form of everyday expertise. Consider this example. Here, forum participants are telling how long their loved ones lived with liver cancer. This is an example of sharing personal experiences (in which they are experts), not medical advice. Specific medical information and advice (rather than descriptions of life experiences) should come from doctors or other health professionals.”
Google emphasizes a lot on the health niche. So, websites falling under medical YMYL sites should pay particular attention when creating content.
For non-YMYL topics, you don’t require any expertise; however, you must research on the topic and provide relevant information.
You can reach out to experts to write guest posts or interview them and create a post based around it. But you must keep in mind to include all the necessary information about the author.
Support Facts with Authentic Sources
Facts and statistics must link back to a credible and accurate source. This is a habit that every content creator should follow, and after Google mentioned it in the evaluator guidelines, their importance has bumped up.
“High E-A-T news articles should be produced with journalistic professionalism—they should contain factually accurate content presented in a way that helps users achieve a better understanding of events.”
Google mentions ‘factually accurate content’ multiple times in the guidelines.
“For news articles and information pages, high quality MC must be factually accurate for the topic and must be supported by expert consensus where such consensus exists.”
“High quality information pages should be factually accurate, clearly written, and comprehensive.”
So, whenever you create a new piece of content, you must check (and re-check) the facts & stats and link/mention their credible sources.
Get More POSITIVE Reviews
Google advises search quality raters to thoroughly research the authoritativeness and trustworthiness of a website by checking its reviews on several reviewing sites.
To improve your page quality, online reputation, and ultimately, your E-A-T, you must focus on getting more positive reviews on websites that matter and fall under your niche. For example, for an SEO tool getting reviewed on AppSumo or Product Hunt is more suitable than receiving a review on Yelp or TripAdvisor.
But not all reviews are positive, so whenever you receive negative reviews, you must not ignore them but handle them by providing proper solutions.
Get a Wikipedia Page
Google has cited Wikipedia as a credible source in its guidelines.
“News articles and Wikipedia articles can help you learn about a company and may include information specific to reputation, such as awards and other forms of recognition, or also controversies and issues.”
The problem of authority and trust are resolved to some extent if you create a Wikipedia page for your business. But it is not that easy because every information you enter is rectified several times along with your sources.
However, getting a Wikipedia page is an excellent authority booster for your organization. Plus, Google collects information from Wikipedia for Google Knowledge Graphs, which accounts for improving your online reputation as well.
Source Google: This is a Google Knowledge Graph
Page quality is an essential component of SEO and to excel at it, you need to improve your E-A-T, which requires a lot of time on research and gathering credible sources to create High-quality content. Also, you must keep updating all your web pages (especially YMYL) with the latest information.
Apart from this, I’d recommend you go through Google Quality Rater Guidelines yourself for a more comprehensive understanding. If you find anything of utmost importance that should be mentioned in this article, please let me know in the comment section below.