What Is Google’s E-A-T & Why Is It Important for SEO?

E-A-T, coined by Google, has become an adjective and a concept for SEOs to describe the quality of their website. This term is used by many in the SEO industry, especially when they’re discussing algorithm updates. Recently, it became a hot topic with Google’s announcement of the 2022 Helpful Content Update.

I’m here to tell you what E-A-T means, why it matters, what it has to do with algorithm updates, and how to improve your website’s E-A-T.

What Is Google’s E-A-T?

E-A-T is an acronym for Expertise, Authority, and Trust. It is mentioned in Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines (SQRG) for raters to evaluate while rating quality and purpose. It is used by the Search Quality Raters but not by the Google algorithm. That’s why I call it an adjective in the SEO community. SEOs use it to describe this guideline and whether or not their website has a high or small amount of it, interchangeable with “quality.”

As previously mentioned, E-A-T isn’t new. It has been around since 2014 and gained a lot of traction during the “Medic” update, where impacted sites scrambled to figure out how to recover. Case studies about the recovery relied heavily on the SQRG; since then, we’ve seen the hype about E-A-T grow. To better understand this acronym, we need to define each letter.

A graphic that defines each letter of E-A-T
E-A-T definitions from Wordstream

Expertise

The E in E-A-T is for Expertise.

Expertise is the experience and knowledge the website or author has about a specific topic. Professional degrees, accreditations, or work experience are ways to showcase expertise in a topic.

Authoritativeness

The A in E-A-T is for Authoritativeness.

To understand the authoritativeness of an article or website, we have to look at its reputation. Authoritativeness is gained via how often their respective industry mentions them. If you consider someone a thought leader in an industry, their level of authoritativeness is high.

Trustworthiness

The T in E-A-T is for Trustworthiness. 

Trust is earned through security, engagement, and support. A trustworthy eCommerce website will ensure that transactions are secure and that there’s customer support available. News outlets or similar websites will provide their sources, methodologies, and feedback channels. Ask yourself, “what makes me trust a website?” and ensure your site implements those answers.

Is Google’s E-A-T a Ranking Factor?

E-A-T is not a direct ranking factor. It’s a concept for us on how we can measure the quality of our content. In a Tweet, Google’s Danny Sullivan shared how the algorithm doesn’t measure E-A-T directly. However, Google attempts to detect E-A-T using other ranking factors such as reviews, authorship history, what links say about a brand and more.

A screenshot of a Tweet from Danny Sullivan saying E-A-T is not a ranking factor

Although not a direct ranking factor, it’s still important to consider it in your strategy. 

Why Is Google’s E-A-T Important for SEO?

The days when the ranking of a website was influenced through keyword stuffing and the number of links are long gone, and I’m glad they are behind us. Today, Google prioritizes and focuses on the user. That’s why E-A-T is important.

 Here are some of the questions I address to focus on the user:

  • What is the user searching for?
  • Will the user have a good experience?
  • Will the content be helpful to the user?

The first question I answer through keyword research and understanding the search intent. For the second question, I look at the Core Web Vitals of a site to start, but then I want to make sure I consider interstitials, text size, and more. The third question is to understand how helpful my content is. If it met the search intent, then it fulfilled its purpose. However, fulfilling the purpose doesn’t end there.

We use E-A-T as a concept of the quality of our content. We need to ensure that users are seeing content that fulfills their intent but that it lets them feel confident that the information they got is accurate.

This concept of quality doesn’t need to apply to every type of topic. The Search Evaluators also consider that during their assessment.

“The level of E-A-T needed depends on the purpose and topic of the page. For some types of pages, formal expertise may not be needed. For pages on YMYL topics, it is critical.“ (pg.37 of SQRG)

However, the accuracy of content becomes extremely important for YMYL topics because those topics, in general, can hurt someone.

Your Money Your Life (YMYL) Content

YMYL is an acronym for “Your Money Your Life,” and it’s used to describe content that can affect a person’s well-being. A person’s well-being can be affected by medical, financial, or legal content. YMYL content requires higher E-A-T than other types because of how damaging it can be. That’s why it’s critical for YMYL websites to establish guidelines on E-A-T. 

Consider how a user would assess the E-A-T of your website and make it easier for them to conclude that your site is an expert, authoritative and trustworthy.

 Sounds easy, but it’s a lot of work, so let’s talk about ways you can get started. 

Tips to Improve Your E-A-T

Having high E-A-T should be fundamental to your Content Strategy and your team’s work. To get there, we must learn ways to improve our E-A-T. I’ll share 8 steps to do so.

1. Build High-Quality Backlinks

Having high-quality backlinks is a signal of how authoritative and knowledgeable your business may be. Work with your SEO, PR team, or an agency to do link building by promoting content that helps your website become your industry’s thought leader. Authoritativeness is recognized when other experts or authoritative websites mention your brand. This isn’t gained through the number of backlinks but by the quality. An example of a high-quality backlink is when an authoritative website mentions your site as an expert in its content. Backlinks through images or buttons don’t acquire authority and aren’t of good quality. Building high-quality backlinks is a great first step in building a site’s authority. 

2. Review and Update Content

Studies have shown how important it is to review and update existing content on your site. When doing so, review existing content through the lens of E-A-T. Search Raters are looking for high-quality content that shows time, effort, expertise, and skill. It’s a great best practice to revise content multiple times to ensure it’s accurate and current, and it may also be a way Google detects time and effort.

3. Showcase Positive User Reviews & Testimonials

To build trust, showcase user reviews or testimonials. Provide examples of customer experiences, so that prospective users have an idea of what to expect. But don’t stop there; your team can engage with reviews on third-party sites. Respond to positive and negative reviews so that users investigating your company know that you’re responsive and open to feedback.

4. Collaborate with Experts

Your site or authors can’t be considered experts if the information isn’t available. Be clear on how you’re an expert. A great first step would be to update your organization’s “about us” page to include any extra information about your expertise. Additionally, work and collaborate with known experts in your industry so that users can associate you as one.

Often I see websites publishing blog posts with their business name as the author. It’s not ideal, but if the group of writers is writing them then include who makes this group. You can include the teams involved and the combined years of experience to start.

5. Include Author & Business Credentials

Author bios or business can be one step of many to substantiate expertise and authoritativeness. An author bio should explain why someone is an expert in the topic or who the author group is made up of. Business credentials should be clear on how long the business has been in business, what organizations they are a part of, awards they have won, and why they do what they do.

There are instances where anonymity makes sense, e.g., Reddit. However, anonymity is not acceptable for YMYL topics; it needs to be clear what organization or person is behind the content. 

6. Show Support & Contact Information

To earn trust, especially in eCommerce sites, people want to know they can get the support they need when necessary. This isn’t limited to eCommerce sites, but contact information and support articles help users gain trust in your site. They know they can count on help if they get stuck or if someone doesn’t work out on that site.

7. Monitor Your Businesses Reputation

The best way to learn about your business’s reputation online is to Google your organization. Some sources to look at are Wikipedia, Better Business Bureau, Yelp, and other review sites. Look at what is being said of your organization, and come up with a PR strategy to address concerns, and restore a positive reputation.

You can work with Off-Page SEOs to help with reputation on the web, including various strategies like news outlets reporting on your organization, contributing to podcasts, and more.

8. Avoid Clickbait Content

Stay away from clickbait content! It’s terrible and deceiving. If you think of the user first, you won’t make this mistake. It’s a lot easier to ruin your reputation than to improve it.

I strongly believe that content needs to be helpful, so please don’t use clickbait content. Here’s a refresher for writing title tags, a ranking factor to consider! 

What Does Google’s Helpful Content Update Mean for E-A-T?

On August 18, 2022, Google announced the Helpful Content Update as “part of a broader effort to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.” It was expected to demote sites with a lot of unhelpful content. However, there weren’t many websites with major shifts up or down. For my clients, I saw no change. We saw a positive increase in clicks for the month, but nothing was concerning. It appears that the SEO community shared that consensus in Barry Schwartz’s summary of the helpful content update rollout.

Although the Helpful Content Update didn’t affect many sites, E-A-T is still important when it comes to core algorithm updates. It will continue to be a focus as we move forward navigating the unprecedented algorithm updates.

If you want to learn more about E-A-T and its importance for SEO, I highly recommend reading Lily Ray’s article on the importance of E-A-T. I watched her original presentation at MozCon, which was amazing. The article is just as great!

Wrap-Up

SEOs should continue to focus on optimizing for the user. If they do so, they will most likely do a great job with their E-A-T. There are ways to improve a website’s E-A-T, but it’s a lot of work. That investment is worth it because we continue seeing Google update its algorithms to improve the web for users. 

If your organization does well by the user, you’ll forget what it felt like to anticipate the aftereffects of an algorithm update on your site. As more updates happen, the more we will see E-A-T mentioned. Use the 8 tips and be proactive about the next update; you don’t want to have to recover what you could have prevented.

SEO Team Lead

José is the SEO Team Lead at Portent, with a background in international studies. As a self-described people-person, José enjoys connecting with clients and using strong critical thinking to deliver strategic recommendations for organic opportunities. Outside of work, he’s your go-to guy for coffee recommendations, or you can also find him refurbishing a 1984 Vanagon for future day trips.

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