The idea of E-A-T is hardly new—it’s been a part of Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines for years. But in recent years, the SEO industry has seen a renewed focus on the concept—and with good reason.
E-A-T is essential for building valuable, SERP-worthy sites that users (and, of course, Google) can trust and rely on. Read on to learn exactly what E-A-T is, why it matters, and how you can nurture it for your own website.
What is E-A-T?
E-A-T refers to expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, three indicators used by Google’s search quality raters to help identify great, quality content.
But E-A-T is nothing new.
The concept first appeared when Google published its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines in 2013. While the guidelines were designed for Google’s search quality raters, they also showed the SEO industry exactly what the search engine looks for in terms of content quality.
Naturally, this was a biggie for SEOs, a peek behind the scenes at how the world’s biggest search engine works—and what it looks for in a website worthy of the top of the SERPs.
But E-A-T really became a hot topic in August 2018, when Google rolled out its Medic update.
A few months before, Google updated its Search Quality Guidelines to add more detail to E-A-T—what it means, what it entails in practical terms, and so on.
As a result, when the Medic update rolled out, countless websites were hit by the update, with medical sites in particular (but not exclusively) suffering dramatic drops in traffic.
Google’s renewed focus on E-A-T meant that sites with Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) pages that didn’t display sufficient expertise, authority and trust suffered.
Consequently, E-A-T suddenly became very important, very quickly, to a lot of people.
How is E-A-T assessed?
While E-A-T is not a measurable ranking factor (i.e. one that can be quantified or ascribed a score), it is still important for determining your site’s worth for Google. Here’s a brief overview of what it all means.
Expertise in E-A-T refers to a high and comprehensive level of skill, experience, and knowledge within a specific area.
Google’s search quality raters look at expertise in terms of content (and its creator), rather than the website the content appears on or the company it is associated with.
If we’re talking about YMYL niches (pharmaceuticals, finance, etc), Google looks for formal, recognised expertise, certifications, and qualifications, rather than on-the-job experience or limited, personal research into a subject.
For instance, an accountant with qualifications from a recognised accountancy course would be considered to have expertise in financial matters related to the field.
For topics outside of YMYL niches, Google expects the content creator to have enough lived experience of the topic — “everyday expertise” — to talk about it.
As an example, someone who has depression is able to write confidently and fluently about what it is like to live with the condition. Indeed, they might even be better qualified to write about what living with depression is like than a qualified psychologist.
Authoritativeness in E-A-T means reputation, the standing of the website or content creator in the eyes of their peers.
For Google’s search quality raters, this means actively researching what people—users and experts alike—think about a website, individuals, and brands.
Independent reviews (think Google My Business or Trustpilot), news coverage, expert recommendations, and even Wikipedia are all considered worthy signals of a site’s authority. Independence is key here—obviously branded reviews and testimonials lack the value needed for determining authoritativeness.
Of course, authority is relative. Just because you know everything there is to know about painting and decorating, it doesn’t mean you are an authority on baking—each website’s authority is relative to its own niche.
So, what builds authority?
Links are pivotal here.
In 2019, Google stated that authoritativeness is directly influenced by PageRank—that is, the use of links determines the authority of a site.
Of course, as with so many SEO tactics, this has been exploited in the past through the deliberate cultivation of (poor-quality) spammy links.
However, it is possible to build valuable, authoritative links on reputable sites that build your site’s authority.
Indeed, this is what we do best at Seeker. We’ve built countless links for dozens of brands that have bolstered their authority and helped them rise in the SERPs—links that add value to the user, search engines, and the web.
Finally, let’s look at trustworthiness.
This refers to how well someone can trust a website—its accuracy, legitimacy, and honesty in terms of content.
This applies to both YMYL and non-YMYL sites, but the former especially so.
Contact information is an important signal of trust for these sites. If you can easily get in touch with the people behind a website, it shows a level of transparency and openness that indicates a high trust factor.
This means going beyond simply offering an email address. Dedicated Contact Us pages with contact forms, social channels, a physical location address, and even embedded Google Maps all help towards this.
Content accuracy is also worth striving for. Citing and linking back to reliable external websites and resources indicates to Google that your content is factual, based on expert comments, and can be independently verified.
For instance, if you’re writing a medical piece about the side effects of certain medications, linking out to research from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) can back up your point, increasing its trust factor.
Other on-page elements that increase trust include a terms and conditions page, HTTPS, and GDPR-compliant privacy notices, to name but a few. These all go towards building trust, both in the eyes of Google and for your site’s visitors too.
Of course, it should be noted that, as with authoritativeness, trustworthiness is relative—a website considered trustworthy in one area doesn’t make them trustworthy in another, disparate area.
How to improve your E-A-T
There are so many ways to build E-A-T. Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness are complex, comprehensive elements that can be hard to quantify. To get you started, here are just a few ways you can build these all-important elements into your website.
Build links and nurture mentions
I touched on this earlier, but it’s worth reiterating. Links are an effective (and confirmed) means of building your site’s E-A-T—as long as they’re from the right kinds of sites.
It’s important to build links that are relevant to your industry. Not all links are created equal, and it’s far better to have a few high-quality links than lots of rubbish ones.
Google knows what it likes, and if it doesn’t like a link, you know you’re getting a bad rep.
A good link is one on a relevant website (a link to your online pharmacy from a medical publication, for instance), as well as one from a site with quantifiable authority—a site with good metrics and a relevant niche provides more value in terms of links than those without.
Building authoritative links like this can be time-consuming, particularly if you want to do it at scale, but it’s not impossible. Seeker has the skills and tools to build a healthy portfolio of links that strengthen your site’s E-A-T—learn more about what Seeker can offer your brand here.
Write stellar content that answers the question
Google’s search quality raters assess much of a site’s E-A-T at the content level, so it makes sense that top-quality content spanning a range of niche-relevant topics is essential for building your own site’s E-A-T too.
Keyword research should inform this, naturally. But so too should a natural and intuitive awareness of your industry and audience.
Speak to your audience directly and find out the queries that don’t appear in your keyword research.
Keep your content fresh too. Some industries, particularly those with YMYL overlap, require constant updates as information, laws, and restrictions change. Conduct a regular content audit to make sure all your information is up-to-date.
Finally, it should go without saying, but if you’re writing content based on a search query, make sure that content actually answers the question.
Simply stuffing in keywords that don’t actually relate to the question just to get it to rank (it happens!) doesn’t help anyone, least of all the user.
Encourage positive online reviews
Reviews and testimonials are a key part of building E-A-T, particularly trust and authority. Positive reviews from a range of online sources indicate a good reputation, which is no bad thing for a Google-friendly website.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket though. Variety is the spice of life, so season your site well with reviews from a range of sources. The aforementioned Google My Business and Trustpilot are an obvious place to start, but so too are more niche and relevant sites—think reputable industry blogs with a review section.
Of course, this is easier said than done—how do you actually get positive reviews? Here are a few tips to get started:
- Provide a stellar customer experience: go above and beyond with your customer care with quick response times, handwritten thank-you notes, surprise freebies with orders, and so on to make your brand worth shouting about.
- Reply to negative reviews: turn a negative into a positive by acknowledging poor reviews and offering a satisfactory solution.
- Incentivise your customers: depending on your business niche, offering a little incentive (vouchers, freebies, samplers, etc) in return for a review is a viable option. That said, be warned: some sites remove reviews gained this way, so use with caution.
The tips above can help you build a bank of positive customer reviews, but the best way? Just ask! Follow-up with your customers after purchase and encourage them to leave a review—simple but often effective.
E-A-T is a comprehensive and far-reaching concept, and not something that can be built into your website overnight. It takes time, but it is something worth nurturing if you want your site to rank (sustainably so, too).
Want to build your E-A-T but don’t know where to start? We’ve got the goods—drop us a line today to get started with nurturing expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness for your site.