In 2013, some SEO industry blogs started talking about Google E-A-T and began considering exactly what it was and how much of an impact it was having on search results. However, that interest seemed to trail off some in the years that followed.
That all started to reverse in 2018, when Google’s Medic Update resulted in reputable, well-researched websites receiving priority on search results, and focus turned directly towards E-A-T in 2019, when it became clear that it had been an important piece of the puzzle for the past six years after all. That was when E-A-T was discussed at length in Google’s updated Search Quality Rating Guidelines.
What is E-A-T? It’s an acronym of three principles that Google assesses on every web page that it crawls.
Is the creator of the content that’s viewable on that page an expert? More to the point, is information showing expert or similar status displayed anywhere? One example of this would be an article written by a doctor in which the individual’s formal education is listed with the article or via a link connected to the author’s name. Note that the expertise does not necessarily need to involve any sort of formal education, work experience or training. Expertise can be gained another way. For example, a self-taught musician who’s been teaching music for 10 years would generally be viewed as an expect within that field.
Is the author of what’s written on the web page that’s being analyzed an authority on the subject matter? Popularity plays a role in this, but it’s far from the only factor. For example, having hundreds of thousands of followers on social media helps show that the author is likely an authority figure. However, so do other types of awards or recognition. Perhaps a scholar has had several articles published in peer-reviewed research journals but has little-to-no online media presence. That would suffice as well.
The last part of the answer to the question, “What is E-A-T?” is trustworthiness. Does it appear that the information is trustworthy? This is generally done by evaluating the entire website. Some examples of trustworthy aspects of it are the inclusion of editorial policies, privacy policies and security updates.
A few other things to consider is that websites that have high reputation, are easy to navigate and focus on themselves – stay on topic, so to speak – receive higher E-A-T bumps too. Simply put, high-quality websites benefit from this focus.
Although Google uses an algorithm to determine which websites are high in E-A-T and which are not, it also employs Quality Raters to periodically check the accuracy of the automated system. For example, they might search a common term – this can include something like, “best shoes in Seattle” – and then go through the web pages and websites shown with a fine-toothed comb to verify the accuracy of them.
The 16,000 Quality Raters don’t have any direct bearing on ratings, but they do have an impact on how the algorithm will be designed from that point going forward. In other words, they show Google what the algorithm should be doing, and that search engine then ensures that, to the best of its ability, it is.
Reviews are important to E-A-T. In fact, Google specifically asks its Quality Raters to look up the focused organization’s reviews on places like the Better Business Bureau and Yelp. This relates to its trustworthiness and authority within its field as that relates to regular people using its services.
Attention to Detail
A theme that becomes clear when E-A-T is further analyzed is its attention to detail. For example, a website that is selling products can have a high E-A-T if it includes several pictures of them and a number of ways to view the inventory, such as by price or type. Also, websites that provide detailed information on how to contact customer service are rated highly too. This point applies to all types of sites, so, if someone has a one-person travel blog, a “Contact Us” page that sends messages to that person’s email account would suffice. Information on the company’s/website owner’s background is appreciated by E-A-T as well.
Simply focusing on creating content and a website design that is in the user’s best interest is often exactly what will result in positive E-A-T ratings. It should be thorough and easy to understand. Also take into account that a few bad pages can knock the entire website down considerably, so be diligent on updating or removing those bad apples. Think of it this way. If someone lies to someone else, it becomes significantly harder for the second person to trust the first one in future encounters. It’s the same principle at play here.
Google E-A-T was shown to have an immediate effect on YMYL websites. What does YMYL stand for? Your Money, Your Life. These are websites that are judged to potentially have significant impacts on people’s money or wellbeing. Examples of YMYL websites include ones related to banking and medicine. However, take into account that all websites are being evaluated by E-A-T standards. It’s just that YMYL ones are being analyzed with a finer-tooth comb than the rest.
What Not to Do
Sometimes, the best way to learn what to do is by learning what not to do.
One example would be content that has simply been paraphrased from somewhere else or, worse, copied word-for-word. Typos are also frowned upon by E-A-T. Of course, typos will happen from time to time – they even take place on websites of major media outlets – but they should be relatively rare.
Clearly inaccurate information is also something that will cause the Google algorithm to notice and knock a web page considerably for its E-A-T rating. In other words, “fake news” will be punished. Also, if something goes against common belief, including citations or other forms of proof is important.
Not providing expertise on the subject, especially when it’s related to a YMYL website or web page, is also a significant knock in the wrong direction. If articles about things such as stock trading or how cancer develops are written by people for whom no expertise is provided, it will receive a low E-A-T.
The intent between E-A-T and Google’s algorithm as a whole is to ensure that accurate, detailed information is being disseminated, users are receiving what they want out of the information, and Google continues to strengthen its own reputation as a quality search engine.