The digital marketing world can be a tricky place. Google makes frequent updates to their algorithm, often leaving marketers scrambling to understand what implications those changes might have for their business and how best to respond.
Constant vigilance is required to stay on top of the latest trends and techniques. Anyone who works in SEO will likely become very familiar with the term E-A-T quite quickly.
Read on for our breakdown of what these words mean and why they matter for SEO.
What is E-A-T?
The letters E-A-T represent expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. The EAT acronym is taken from Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines, a document used by human quality raters to assess and score the quality of Google’s search results.
In 2013, Google released the 168-page article online to “assist webmasters in understanding what Google searches for in a web page.”
Let’s break each of the E-A-T down:
This largely refers to the main content creator (MC). Do they have expertise on the subject? Do they hold the necessary credentials? Google has also updated the guidelines and added “everyday expertise.” These people became experts via experience, even with no formal education or training. However, this only holds for non-YMYL content.
As per section 4.5, “The standard for expertise depends on the page’s topic.” For instance, a frequent restaurant-goer and food enthusiast holds everyday expertise in reviewing various restaurants.
As simple as it implies, authoritativeness has recognized authority in a certain field or subject. This means that you are a reliable source of information put into the content.
YMYL (Your Money Your Life) content affects people’s lives, so it’s important that the creator can be trusted to provide only the best and the most accurate information.
As you may have already observed, EAT focuses on the qualification of the content creator. It uses its history and reputation for credentials. The visitors should also have useful information, like contact information, transaction information, and customer service details.
This is why pages like the Contact page, About page, and FAQ page are important in creating the YMYL site and are taken into account by Google. Google furtherly states that an “unsatisfying amount of information about the website or the creator of the main content” can pave the way for a rather low rating.
Organic traffic can also be enhanced by providing very high-quality content. Google’s guidance shares, “We will consider the [main content] of the page to be very high or highest quality when it is created with a high degree of time and effort, and in particular, expertise, talent, and skill—this may provide evidence for the E-A-T of the page.”
What is the origin of E-A-T?
The E-A-T acronym is derived from a set of publicly accessible rules issued by Google for the educational purpose of its quality assurance team, often known as the “Search Quality Raters” team.
Search Quality Raters
The function of the Search Quality Raters is identical to that of any company’s Quality Assurance staff, big or small. Their job is to assess the quality of the search results after modifications made by the Search Engine and Algorithm technical teams.
For example, Google’s algorithm is used worldwide and accessible in about 150 languages. Each will rely on the fundamental algorithm mechanics to run, but each will have its own set of needs for its user base.
As a result, each language will have a team that experiments with adjustments tailored to their requirements, which they will wish to evaluate independently of the main algorithm.
Meanwhile, the core algorithm team will be testing improvements of their own, some of which will be pushed (read: sent as a code update) to the other search engine language teams. There may be anything from a half dozen to two dozen modifications daily, with some occurring hourly.
Search Quality Raters are in place to ensure that the code modification performs as expected. They pay close attention to how the outcomes improve or degrade with each modification. If the quality of the findings deteriorates, they will alert the engineers to make a few changes and push out an improvement.
Guidelines for Using a Quality Evaluator in Search
The Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (SQEG) are 164-page openly accessible PDFs that take around five hours to read. The handbook goes through all of the responsibilities and duties of a Search Quality Rater in detail, including:
- What are the most significant definitions? (MC- Main Content; SC- Supplementary Content; EAT – Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trust, etc.)
- What is needed to evaluate search results? (a computer, no Ad-blocking plugins, a browser, etc.)
- How to visit a website
- How to use Google searches and other websites to explore the E-A-T of content producers
- What is the difference between high-quality and low-quality content?
- How to discover the author of content or who owns a website domain
- How to assess the quality of a page and its content
- Which kind of pages, page usability or page design, are potentially damaging to a user?
- How to compare a website’s mobile experience to its desktop experience
- Which sorts of domains or pages demand high levels of E-A-T? (YMYL sites, which we’ll discuss momentarily)
- How to evaluate pages and domains using a rating slider ranging from “Fully Meets User Needs” to “Fails to Meet User Needs”
There is much more to the guide than we can cover in a few bullet points. Still, the primary aspects above are sufficient for us to identify what a Search Quality Rater is being asked to accomplish, what the E-A-T standards are, and how our content “Fully Meets User Needs.”
What is the significance of EAT?
EAT is significant for all inquiries, although it is more crucial for some than for others.
If you are merely looking for photographs of adorable cats, EAT probably doesn’t matter. It is a personal choice, and it is not a huge issue if you encounter a cat you do not think is adorable.
If, on the other hand, you are looking for the right amount of aspirin to take while pregnant, EAT is unquestionably crucial. Suppose Google surfaces information on this issue, produced by an inexperienced writer and published on an untrustworthy website without authority. In that case, the likelihood of such content being wrong or misleading is considerable.
EAT is also useful for questions like “how to enhance credit score.” Advice from the illiterate and untrustworthy is unlikely to be legitimate and should not be believed in this situation.
These are known as YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) issues according to Google:
Some sites or themes may influence a person’s future happiness, financial stability, health, or safety.
What does the YMYL abbreviation stand for?
YMYL is an acronym that stands for Your Money or Your Life. This classifies industries and searches queries that may lead to the searcher entrusting you with their money or life (i.e., their health and well-being).
What are some common YMYL sites and industries?
Google classifies the following pages as YMYL (but also at the domain level):
- Shopping and Financial Transaction Pages, i.e., pages where money is exchanged when purchasing is made.
- Financial Information Pages, which give financial advice in the form of articles or guides on banking, investing, mortgages, savings, and so forth.
- Medical Information Sites: These are pages where medical advice is given in the form of guides or articles on mental health, physical health, medical problems, life-threatening diseases, and so on.
- Legal Information Sites: These are pages where you may get legal advice in the form of articles or guides on your legal rights, the legal rights of your family, your rights as a company owner, and so on.
- News and Public or Official Information Pages: These are pages that describe local or global current events, as well as local and national governmental guidance and services.
Google wants to keep people safe. It aims to shield individuals from poor advice and provide the best customer experience possible to keep people coming back to its search engine. Google does not want to take any chances with your funds or your well-being.
Bad or malicious financial or physical, and mental health advice or information may have catastrophic effects. Google wants to assist you in protecting yourself.
Similarly, suppose you get incorrect mortgage advice from internet guides and articles that do not look at your financial circumstances. In that case, you might wind up in a terrible financial scenario, and you may also lose your house.
How is EAT assessed?
Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness are all related notions but not the same. As a result, they are each assessed individually using a unique set of criteria.
Expertise refers to a high degree of knowledge or expertise in a certain topic. It is generally judged at the content level rather than the website or organizational level. Google is seeking subject matter expert-created content.
YMYL themes refer to the content creator’s official knowledge, credentials, and education. A licensed accountant, for example, is more equipped to write on tax preparation than someone who has read a few posts on r/personalfinance.
For YMYL issues like financial, medical, or legal advice, formal competence is required. It is necessary to demonstrate relevant life experience and “everyday competence” for non-YMYL issues. It is even feasible to have day-to-day knowledge of YMYL issues. There are, for example, forums and support websites for persons suffering from certain disorders. Sharing personal experience is a kind of common knowledge.
Authority is defined by one’s reputation, especially among other industry experts and influencers. Simply put, authority exists when people see a person or a website as the go-to source of knowledge on a certain issue.
Find out what actual users and professionals think about a website by doing reputation research. Look for reviews, references, expert recommendations, news stories, and other trustworthy content created/written about the website by people.
When looking for information on a firm’s or a person’s reputation, look for sources not published or developed by the website, the firm, or the person.
Wikipedia articles may help you learn about a corporation and may contain reputation-related information, like awards and other types of recognition, as well as scandals and concerns.
It is important to understand that authority is a relative term. While Elon Musk and Tesla are credible sources of knowledge on electric cars, they have little to no authority in SEO. It is also true that certain persons and websites are unquestionably authoritative on certain issues.
The validity, openness, and correctness of the website and its information are factors in establishing trust. Raters assess trustworthiness by looking at various factors, including whether the website identifies who is accountable for published content. This is especially crucial for YMYL inquiries, although it also applies to non-YMYL inquiries.
YMYL websites need a high level of confidence. Hence they often need convincing information regarding who is accountable for the site’s content.
It is also crucial to have enough contact information, particularly for YMYL themes and online commerce. High-quality MC for news stories and information sites must be factually correct for the subject and backed by expert consensus if such consensus exists.
Just keep in mind that trust, like authority, is a relative notion. People and websites cannot be trusted in every situation. We are a reliable source of knowledge on SEO, but not about bodybuilding.
What is high-quality content?
Any content you generate must have a purpose. Clients, users, customers, or readers must profit from your content.
According to the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, high-quality sites have:
- A high degree of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
- Enough high-quality core content, including a descriptive or informative title.
- Satisfactory website information and information on who is in charge of the website. If the website is mainly for shopping or financial activities, it should provide helpful customer service information.
- A good website reputation for a website in charge of the main content on the page. Positive reputation of the major content producer, if it differs from that of the website.
According to Google’s criteria, the best quality pages (including YMYL) will have a high degree of E-A-T. However, Google said that E-A-T applies to all sorts of websites (e.g., humor websites, fashion websites, gossip websites, and forum and Q&A).
In summary, adding additional high-quality pages to your website should help it rank higher in Google search results.
What is low-quality content?
As you would think, low-quality content is the polar opposite of high-quality content. According to Google, “websites or pages with no useful purpose, including pages built with no intent to benefit users, or pages that possibly propagate hatred, do damage, or misinform or mislead people, should obtain the Lowest rating.”
According to Google’s guidelines, the following are the characteristics of a low-quality page:
- Inadequate Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
- There is an insufficient amount of MC for the page’s purpose.
- The ads or the SC take attention away from the MC.
- The MC’s quality is poor.
- There is insufficient website information or information about the MC’s creator for the page (no good reason for anonymity).
- The MC’s title is exaggerated or shocking.
- Based on extensive reputation research, a website or the creator of the MC has a mildly negative reputation.
If high-quality content empowers your site to rank higher, it stands to reason that low-quality pages may harm your Google rankings.
If your content is inaccurate, serves no purpose, or contains elements that degrade the user experience, Google is unlikely to feature your website prominently in the SERPs.
Is E-A-T a ranking criterion?
Google crawls the entire web to determine how many backlinks point to the most pages. They can easily write a computer program that ranks pages based on the number of high-quality backlinks.
The issue with expertise, authority, and trust is that they are fundamentally human concepts while they are desirable content qualities. You cannot tell a computer to prioritize pages with the letters EAT because it only understands bits and bytes.
Google’s answer to this issue is as follows:
First, their search engineers consider algorithm changes that might increase the quality of search results.
Second, they display Quality Rater’s search results with and without the suggested adjustment applied. They have to provide Google feedback, and they are not informed which set of results is which.
Third, Google analyzes the input to determine if the proposed change influenced search results. If the findings are good, the modification is put into effect.
Using this method, Google programmers can comprehend the concrete signals that correspond to E-A-T and alter the ranking algorithms appropriately.
Google discusses the technique in further detail here and in this video:
In an interview with CNBC in 2018, Ben Gomes, Google’s Vice President of Search, provided a superb TLDR version of everything above.
Is there an E A-T score for websites?
When you understand how Google analyzes E-A-T and the function of the Quality Raters, this response becomes pretty evident. However, it is worth repeating: Google does not assign an E-A-T score to your website.
There are still methods to strengthen your competence, authority, and trustworthiness in the eyes of Quality Raters.
How to improve and showcase E-A-T
To begin, it is critical to recognize the distinction between exhibiting and improving E-A-T. You cannot exhibit E-A-T if you do not have it. This is the first obstacle to overcome.
Many YMYL sites are suspected of crashing due to a lack of E-A-T when Google sent out their infamous Core Updates.
If you were one of these sites, or if you want to protect yourself in the future, making an effort to enhance and better show your E-A-T to Google is a sensible step.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Evaluate Your Brand
Begin by doing a brand audit. What are people saying about your company or website? Forget what Googlebot is thinking; what are actual people saying about you throughout the world?
2. Build more links
Even though links are not included in Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines, Gary Illyes, a Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, claims that links and mentions from reputable sites heavily influence E-A-T.
Marie Haynes also said that Google is quite excellent at determining which links are valuable, so make sure you prioritize creating high-quality links over low-quality ones.
3. Improve or Get Rid of Your Low-Quality Content
If you have content that is no longer valuable (it is just so bad that it is not worth the effort and commitment to update or enhance it), pruning that content is a simple approach to enhance your E-A-T. Removing content should only be done as a last resort. Ideally, you want to detect any content that seems to have poor E-A-T and find out how to reverse it.
4. Confirm the facts
According to Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines, news stories must be factually correct to display a high degree of E-A-T. It is the same with scientific content; it should be factually correct and in line with the scientific consensus.
High E-A-T information pages on scientific subjects should be created by individuals or organizations with adequate scientific experience. They should reflect well-established scientific agreements on subjects where such agreements exist.
Although the QRGs do not discuss accuracy again, we may conclude it is crucial given that the document discusses it 50+ times in the context of E-A-T.
5. Obtain additional reviews
Google instructs Quality Raters to consider internet reviews as a source of reputable corporate information on trust and authority. There are numerous sources of credible information and reviews for businesses. You might try looking for reviews on certain websites.
Many individuals get stuck up on this one, and they often attempt to oversimplify matters by concentrating on a single review source, notably the Better Business Bureau.
6. Hire specialists
Experts are abundant in many areas, so why not engage them to write for your website? If you are discussing YMYL subjects, this is almost certainly a must.
For YMYL issues like medical, financial, or legal advice, formal competence is required. Hiring someone with formal knowledge is not required for non-YMYL issues.
Instead, recruit experts who have a demonstrated track record in the sector or are already well-known for producing high-quality content on the subject.
For themes such as cuisine or comedy, expertise may be less formal. An expert cooking page might be a page on a professional chef’s website or a video from an expert content creator that uploads extremely high-quality cooking films on YouTube and is among the most popular and well-known content producers for recipes in their field of specialty.
7. Display your credentials
Most people dislike bragging, yet it is what you should do to display E-A-T to Google. Let the world (and Google) know whether you hold a Ph.D., have spoken at popular industry conferences, or have received renowned business awards.
You can accomplish this in two obvious areas. The first is a biography of yourself as an author.
The next page is your “About” or “Team” page:
Remember, the goal is to show Google your experience, authority, and credibility. Do not embellish or exaggerate the truth. You may also want to think about utilizing schema markup to convey more organized information about your accomplishments and skills.
8. Display contact information
Businesses that do not provide adequate contact and customer support information to visitors may be seen as untrustworthy. This is particularly critical for YMYL sites.
We anticipate discovering a lot of information about the site, including important customer service information, on websites with YMYL pages (such as online banks). When an issue arises, users must be able to ask inquiries and get assistance.
Legitimate firms, in our view, should at the very least include their address, email address, phone number, and point of contact.
Do not worry. Google’s Quality Raters will not punish you for failing to publish your home address or provide 24/7 customer care. That would be illogical.
9. Create a Wikipedia page for yourself.
The QRG references Wikipedia a few times, and Quality Raters are instructed to refer especially to the encyclopedia to help evaluate reputation.
News stories and Wikipedia pages may help you learn about a corporation and may contain reputation-related information such as awards and other types of recognition, as well as conflicts and difficulties.
However, if you believe your company has accumulated enough authority to merit a Wikipedia page and you do not already have one, it is worth pursuing one.
10. Increase the number of mentions
Mentions on well-known industry websites may help you gain authority if they are favorable. Quality Raters are instructed to check for some things when rating a website’s reputation and its author. Look for reviews, references, expert recommendations, news stories, and other trustworthy content created/written about the website by people.
The issue is that obtaining authoritative mentions is a bit of a catch-22 situation. Mentions boost authority but mentions need authority.
However, there are a few options available to you. The first step is to share unique ideas and data that others in your sector will reference.
The second option is to connect with journalists using a service such as HARO.
11. Be trustworthy
Sites that declined in rankings repeatedly experienced trust concerns. Some of the items featured are:
- Customers expressing dissatisfaction with their inability to get a refund.
- Medical papers that lacked scientific citations or made statements that contradicted current scientific consensus.
- A slew of bad Internet reviews.
What happens if E-A-T is ignored?
Consider what would happen to your company if your revenues decreased by two-thirds overnight. Would you be able to pay your employees the next morning?
Prevention and DrAxe’s sudden lack of visibility undoubtedly cost them money and all of their financial planning for the next months. We are talking about potential layoffs and bills or invoices that are not paid on time. All of this is due to a shortage of E-A-T.
There are hundreds of more Preventions and DrAxes out there who have been affected by the Medic Update and are, likely, desperately trying to figure out what E-A-T is and what they need to do next to set things right. We will provide a few pointers to get you started.
What do losing sites get wrong?
Websites with low E-A-T, on the other hand, resort to deceit and shortcuts. If you want to enhance your E-A-T, you must do away with the following:
- Auto-generated content.
- Guilt-tripping calls to action.
- Meaningless SEO content.
- Paid link campaigns.
- Low-quality local landing pages.
- Overwhelming advertisements or CTAs.
- Mysteries about your brand or authors.
- Lack of customer support.
- Not addressing bad reviews or Q&A.
- Overtly-salesy YMYL content.
- Distracting ads that are annoying and hard to close.
E-A-T is vital for SEO, and you should attempt to increase it, particularly if you handle YMYL themes.
This is a two-step procedure.
- Be credible. Make use of professionals. Consider your customers. Do proper business-related tasks. Have morals.
- Work to show Google your skills and ideas.
It seems easy, and it is; all it needs is some time and work.
If it seems vexing, keep in mind that Google does not owe you a livelihood. Having a website does not automatically imply that you deserve to be ranked.