What exactly is E-A-T SEO? Learn everything you need to know about this concept and how E-A-T has gradually become one of the most important elements of SEO since it was announced by Google back in 2014. If you’re fairly new to the search engine optimization space, a marketing manager, or business owner, it’s highly likely that you’ve probably never heard of E-A-T in regards to SEO.
Yet, even for search industry experts, E-A-T and SEO can still be somewhat confusing. Let’s dive deeper into E-A-T SEO as we hope to relay what E-A-T is, why it matters, and how it affects your overall SEO traffic growth efforts. E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
This SEO concept comes directly from Google’s Search Quality Rater guidelines as it became very well known in the SEO world after the infamous Medic Update in August 2018. In summary, Google called this a broad, global, core update, but based on a lot of thorough analysis by search experts, there seemed to be a larger focus on health and medical sites and YMYL (Your Money Your Life) websites such as Finance and Legal too.
However, many sites besides those industry types were impacted by the update as well. Google said that there is nothing you can do to fix your website, so website owners and operators should just focus on providing a great user experience, better content, and a more useful website for people. Fast forward to today and page quality still plays a significant role in where a certain web page ranks in Google’s organic search results.
According to Google’s guidelines, they clearly state the most important factors they use to determine a web page’s overall quality for ranking purposes are:
- The Purpose of the Web Page (is there a beneficial purpose to it?)
- E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness)
- Main Content Quality and Amount of it
- Information present about the website or the Main Content creator
- Reputation of the website or the author of the Main Content
Assuming that all things being equal here, the more that a web page demonstrates expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, the higher it should rank in Google’s organic search results.
So, how does Google actually determine E-A-T?
At a high-level, there are three primary components listed in the Google search quality evaluator guidelines:
- The expertise of the creator of the Main Content.
- The authoritativeness of the creator of the Main Content, the Main Content itself, and the website.
- The trustworthiness of the creator of the Main Content, the Main Content itself, and the website.
Ensuring accurate, truthful, and useful information
E-A-T is one method Google utilizes to ensure that it returns accurate, truthful, useful information to searchers. Nowadays, anyone can create a website and publish whatever they want on it any day, and all day long. For instance, you don’t have to be a licensed doctor to start a website that provides medical information or have a finance degree to write about investing in the stock market, or be a licensed attorney to provide legal information either.
On one hand, this would seem like a good thing to level the playing field for bloggers interested in health to provide information for those interested in their topics. However, on the other hand, this also presents a problem for Google. People will often make important decisions based on what they learn from what they find & consume via search results. So, this is a big reason why Google works hard to ensure that people can count on finding the most trustworthy information so they can make the most informed decisions possible.
This is why Google considers the factors of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness of the individual creator of web page content, the web page content itself, and the content of the entire website. In the eyes of Google’s algos, a thorough medical article written by an award-winning doctor with 30 years of distinguished experience on the Mayo Clinic website is deemed to be much more valuable than a short and random blog post giving unverified medical advice by a stay at home mommy blogger.
How Google Evaluates Expertise
Google’s NLP algorithms recognize that E-A-T will look very different depending on the type of website. Expertise on a daily news site is going to be much different than Expertise found on a celebrity gossip site. Google also acknowledges that a person can have expertise in a certain area even if they haven’t received formal training and/or certifications in it. However, there is one main category of website E-A-T SEO that matters most to Google, and that is YMYL, also known as: Your Money or Your Life.
How Google Evaluates Authoritativeness
Authoritativeness (Authority) is mainly about your reputation, and more particularly amongst the other experts and influencers within your industry. Simply put, when others perceive an individual or website as the go-to source of information about a certain topic, that’s authority. To evaluate authority, raters will search the web for insights into the reputation of the website or individual. Looking for reviews, references, expert recommendations, news, articles, along with other credible information created by users and about the specific website.
Raters are instructed to look for independent sources when doing this and find sources of information not written (or created) by the website, company, or individual themselves. Wikipedia is one good source of E-A-T information that Google mentions. For example, Wikipedia has a DA (domain authority) of 98 (out of 100). It recognized as a very high authority site for information. It’s important to remember that authority is a relative concept.
It’s also the case that some people and websites are uniquely authoritative when it comes to certain topics. For example, the most authoritative source of lyrics to Beatles songs is on their official website. And the most authoritative source of information for beef grades in the US is the USDA.
How Google Evaluates Trustworthiness
Trustworthiness (Trust) has more to with the legitimacy, transparency, and accuracy of the content on a particular website. The raters will look for several things to evaluate the trustworthiness of a website, including whether or not the website states who is actually responsible for the published content. This is factor is particularly important for YMYL queries, but also applies to non-YMYL queries too.
YMYL type websites demand a higher degree of trust by users, which is reason why they need to satisfy users with information about who is actually responsible for the content published on the site. Providing sufficient contact information for users is also important, especially for YMYL topics and online stores. If a large ecommerce site or financial stock brokerage site only reveal an email & physical address as contacts, it can prove to be fairly difficult for a user to get help during or post transaction. Having a more thorough list of contacts would prove a higher degree of trustworthiness for users visiting a YMYL type website.
Content accuracy is also vital for proving trustworthiness. This is especially important for news articles and information type web pages. Content must be factually accurate and link to credible sources supported by expert consensus, if the expert consensus does exist. Citing (or linking to) trustworthy sources on the web is part of this equation. Content that links and/or quotes accurate and trustworthiness external references will usually be rated in the higher range of trust.
Trust is a relative concept. Individuals and websites can’t be perceived as being trustworthy in all areas. As an example, Intent Sciences is more trustworthy when it comes to SEO and online marketing, yet would not be perceived as experts in astronomy.
What does YMYL mean?
YMYL stands for “Your Money or Your Life”. Google coined this acronym as a guiding principle that classifies web pages that would essentially impact your finances, health, safety, and/or happiness. YMYL websites are held to the highest possible E-A-T SEO standards due to their subject matter and what it means for a user if that information is misrepresented.
YMYL – According to Google:
“We have very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages because low-quality YMYL pages could negatively impact a person’s happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.”
Types of YMYL websites
The web pages most often considered YMYL include:
- Health & Safety: Content that features and/or provides information (or advice) about health and/or medical issues, such as hospitals and pharmacies, or drugs
- News & current events: Topics that cover international events, business, politics, science, technology (NOTE: Not all news falls under YMYL, such as entertainment and sports, however, your content should strive for high E-A-T principles regardless.)
- Finance: Any financial advice or information regarding investments, insurance, loans, taxes, retirement planning, loans, or banking
- Civics, government, law: Information that pertains to voting, government agencies, public institutions, social services, or legal advice
- Shopping: Ecommerce content that involves a purchase, features product research
- Groups of people: Content featuring information or claims about people based on race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, age, gender (gender identity), sexual orientation, disability, or even veteran status
The list of E-A-T sites may also include several other more subjective topics and content based on their context or how the information is presented. Some of these items might also consist of information on parenting; information on housing (or remodeling); researching schools or colleges; finding employment; or matters on fitness, nutrition, or even weight loss.
The Importance of E-A-T SEO
Google understands that when person is searching for information that they might be making a life-altering decision based on the content they consume online. Therefore, a person who consumes a bad source of information that they find in Google’s search results can have real-world consequences if they were to make decisions and act on it. This is why expert, authority, trustworthy information is so vital if your web pages or content fall into any of these YMYL categories.
The more your brand follows and applies Google’s E-A-T SEO standards within your content, the better your content will rank in SERPs (search engine results page) on Google for keyword searches related to your content. For years now, Google has stressed the importance of user experience and constantly improving it. Some examples of these core algorithm updates by Google include them penalizing websites for keyword stuffing in content because it was providing a poor reading experience. Then, they made mobile UX & mobile responsiveness a ranking factor since so many people were using their mobile phones to search for information on the web.
Google has also prioritized search rankings for websites that use SSL HTTPS instead of HTTP since they are more secure. Since web users demand a fast and seamless web experience, Core Web Vitals were introduced to the world of SEO. When it comes to Google SEO, E-A-T is no different here. Google prefers to serve up web pages in organic search results that create value to the user searching. E-A-T helps to determine credibility and is important for your SEO strategies to embrace this concept.
Is E-A-T an SEO Ranking Factor?
It’s almost like we look for signals that align with expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. We should give that an acronym like E-A-T and maybe suggest people aim for this. Oh wait, we did: https://t.co/1fs2oIS54L pic.twitter.com/xNL424dDdq
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) October 11, 2019
For something to be a considered a “ranking factor” for SEO, it has to be something tangible that a computer can understand and evaluate too. The most obvious example of an SEO ranking factor would be backlinks to a web page. Black and white factor with a number of backlinks, what websites they are from, and the authority of said websites too. Google can then rank the quality of the backlinks by value too.
The challenge with E-A-T SEO is that it’s simply a human concept. Expertise, authoritativeness, and trust are desirable qualities for content, however they are human. It’s tough to tell a computer algorithm how exactly to rank web content for E-A-T SEO when it’s only understanding ones and zeros.
In regards to this challenge, The Google E-A-T SEO solution is:
1/ Google’s search quality engineers make tweaks to the ranking algorithm that would ideally improve quality of keyword search results
2/ Show search results to the search raters with and without proposed changes and analyze feedback for Google
3/ Google reviews feedback in order to determine if the algorithm changes had any positive or negative impact on search results Google engineers use this process so they are better able to understand the tangible signals that align with E‑A-T and are then able to confidently adjust the ranking algorithms accordingly.
Is there an E-A-T SEO Score for Websites?
No. E-A-T and YMYL are only concepts that were introduced for Quality Raters to dumb down search algorithm concepts. They are not ‘scores’ and are only used by Google’s search quality parameters internally. Google DOES NOT place an E-A-T SEO score on your website. However, there are still several ways to improve your website’s content in regards to expertise, authoritativeness, and trust in the eyes of the Google Search Quality Raters.
How to Improve Your Google E-A-T SEO
The importance of E-A-T for YMYL websites to rank well in Google’s organic search results is vital to your overall SEO success of gaining more visitors and new business. The good thing here is that there are several steps you can take to ensure your website is Google E-A-T SEO friendly and will convey all the right trust factor signals Google is looking for in regards to organic search rankings.
1/ Build Better High DA Backlinks
SEO link building campaigns that generating quality backlinks from high DA (domain authority) websites is vital to improving your SEO in regards to credibility and overall authority in your industry. Earning backlinks can be a difficult task, so you should be creating consistent content that is valuable for people and that is share-worthy on social media and what bloggers and news outlets would ideally reference and link back to as well.
2/ Keep Posting Fresh & Accurate Content
Investing in publishing good, fresh content with accurate information will be well-received by Google. Since nearly ever website does not have content about something that never changes, it’s best to keep publishing quality content that is relevant to your business and industry. This will help get your website crawled more by Google and also if the quality of the content is great, more people will share this online and other sites will link to it too. If you are publishing news updates, or anything in the YMYL categories, it’s imperative to ensure your content is accurate and credible.
3/ Increase Your Business Reviews
User reviews are great for your business in regards to SEO & CRO. It’s best you strive to earn more reviews and promote them too on your website. Whether you have a reviews page on your website and/or use reviews about your business on Yelp, Facebook, TrustPilot, G2, etc. Also, as the reviews increase, make sure you respond to them too. Reviews and interactions with them will help give a boost your trustworthiness as a brand too.
4/ Increase Mentions from Trusted Sources
Backlinks are great. But, getting @brandmentions throughout social media and even in the press or by influencers can help with SEO too. The more your brand name appears in content on higher authority websites, the more Google will perceive you as a “trusted” brand. In fact, Google has a patent for “implied links” – where just plain text mentions about your brand can be viewed as a link to you.
5/ Showcase Your Contact Information
This may seem silly or a small thing in regards to SEO, but being more upfront with your business contact information for users is a small, but important part of E-A-T SEO that can help. Your brand should show off that you’re a real business and available by chat, phone, email, or in person meet up if necessary. Especially if you’re in health, finance, news, etc.
6/ Optimize Your Social Profile Assets
Optimizing your business profile pages on Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Reddit, Yelp, and even Wikipedia can help with your SEO too. Getting links back to your website’s content via source links in Wikipedia can also help a lot too since Wikipedia is a such a high DA website. Optimizing your social profile about us sections, posts, and even backlinks to your site can all help with SEO too.
7/ Brand & Content Audits
If your website has been around for awhile now, then it’s likely you have published a bunch of content. Whether they’re blog posts, articles, white papers, etc. It’s good practice to take a deeper review into your web content and review for E-A-T SEO standards. Whether it’s optimizing previous content with fresh updates, results, and/or links to credible authority resources, deleting it if there is zero usefulness to it, or 301 redirecting to a relevant new page of content (especially if the page has decent PA).
8/ Create a Content Roadmap
Content planning and execution is a key element to SEO success for your business. But, you want to create content that people are actively searching for. Helpful content, “how to” to “what is” to publishing industry trends, studies, etc. is all good for E-A-T SEO for Google. Ensuring you source credible information and keep it all clear, concise, and credible will help set your brand apart from your competition.
Using primary search intent data from Google can help uncover valuable information about what keywords your target customers are using to find information, services, and products you may sell. Using this data and creating a content roadmap with publishing cadence of 3-5 posts a week, or 3+ posts per day depending on your business will be a big step forward in accelerating your SEO growth efforts.
9/ Promote Your Content
If you publish it, they will come. Wish it was that easy for SEO. But, just because you publish content, does not mean Google is just going to give it high rankings and you’ll get a ton of traffic. That is just 1/3 the effort here. You need to make sure your content is posted on your main social media channels too.
Going another step and promoting your posts to followers, friends of followers, and/or targeted demographic campaigns can not just help get a lot of brand impressions and referral traffic, but the more likes / shares/retweets, comments, @mentions, etc. will show better engagement and popularity signals to Google too. This is another tactic that can really help with improving your Google E-A-T SEO and in turn increase your rankings, visibility, and traffic to your website a lot.
Google E-A-T SEO Traffic Growth & More
Google updates their search quality algorithms daily and hundreds of times per year. Being in the YMYL category comes with a higher responsibility for your brand when it comes to producing credible and accurate information for users. E-A-T SEO tasks may seem overwhelming to ensure success with SEO traffic growth to your website.
Since this conversation about E-A-T and SEO started several years ago, we’ve been in the weeds testing, optimizing, and scaling content programs that have generated hundreds of millions of organic search impressions and many millions of new visitors for SaaS startups to marketplaces, and more. In turn, this traffic has turned into many tens of millions of dollars in new business revenue too.
If your brand wants to turn your content into an authoritative powerhouse that drastically increases high intent traffic and new business, we’re happy to have a conversation with you about our SEO services to see how we can best help improve your E-A-T SEO to drive more new business via Google.