Published: December 27, 2022
E-A-T has been a central concept in SEO ever since Google’s “medic” algorithm update. As growth marketers hone the right strategies for next year, they should consider how they can meet the demand from users and Google for in-depth content that demonstrates the E-A-T principles. So what exactly is E-A-T, why is it so important, and how does it affect your SEO efforts? This blog will give readers a better understanding of how E-A-T plays into rankings, demonstrate what exceptional E-A-T content looks like, and clarify any misconceptions about long-form content not being worth the effort.
Is E-A-T a Ranking Factor?
The E-A-T acronym stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, which are concepts highlighted in Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (SQEG).
Google’s update indicated another user-focused move toward matching intent with reliable and trustworthy resources through initial search results. Marketers should expect an increased focus on single-page experiences that dive deep into a subject.
E-A-T is not a direct ranking factor, but according to Google’s Public Search Liaison Danny Sullivan, marketers should still explore these principles if they want to improve their content’s performance in the SERP.
What is E-A-T?
Before we explain each E-A-T pillar and how you can use them to improve your site, let’s recap how this acronym came to be so we have a greater understanding of its role in page quality (PQ) ratings. The SQEG is a lengthy document released by Google in 2015 that explains the criteria for how evaluators should determine the quality of pages at the top of Google’s search results. It outlines the role of E-A-T, how evaluators use it to assess page quality, and how each pillar is related to either the content or the content creator.
The first step in determining page quality is to understand the true purpose of the page. It might sound philosophical, but the concept plays a fundamental role in Google’s prioritization of pages in the search engine results page (SERP). An emphasis on websites having a “beneficial purpose” was a vital part of the guidelines’ first update and has served as a clear message to webmasters to focus on helping users. There are plenty of ways to help your users, and Google has outlined a few beneficial page purposes for guidance:
- To share information about a topic.
- To share personal or social information.
- To share pictures, videos, or other forms of media.
- To express an opinion or point of view.
- To entertain.
- To sell products or services.
- To allow users to post questions for other users to answer.
- To allow users to share files or to download software.
The Google algorithm update in 2018 was nicknamed “the medic update” because it impacted websites that focused on health. Based on the guidelines, E-A-T is a significant part of the framework that helps evaluators determine what a high-quality or low-quality page looks like—especially for pages that have the potential to impact a user’s well-being which is where the “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) designation comes in.
Your Money Your Life (YMYL)
Some examples of YMYL pages provided by Google include:
- News and current events
- Civics, government, and law
- Health and Safety
Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines also specifies that “there are many other topics related to big decisions or important aspects of people’s lives which thus may be considered YMYL,” and evaluators should “use their best judgment.”
Google wants to deliver pages with accurate information, especially when a user is searching for answers that can impact their lives in a big way, such as financial and health advice.
Google’s 2018 Guidelines Update for Main Content Creators
The first update to the SQEG in 2018 clarified that evaluators should not only look at the website’s E-A-T, but also the content creator’s E-A-T. Webmasters should be looking for tangible ways to demonstrate that the content creator is an expert and an authority on the topic, and should be able to prove that the information is trustworthy.
Since we know that E-A-T is a major focus of evaluator ratings, let’s look at how we can actively demonstrate expertise, authority, and trustworthiness through our websites.
The first pillar of E-A-T revolves around the expertise of the creator of the main content (MC) on a web page. This means that content created by experts has a better chance of being rated as a high-quality page, and showing off those credentials on your page is an excellent opportunity to capitalize on this.
Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines also states:
Some topics require less formal expertise. Many people write extremely detailed, helpful reviews of products or restaurants. Many people share tips and personal experiences on forums, blogs, etc. These ordinary people may be considered experts in topics where they have life experience. If it seems as if the person creating the content has the type and amount of life experience to make him or her an “expert” on the topic, we will value this “everyday expertise” and not penalize the person/webpage/website for not having “formal” education or training in the field.
Essentially, Google views this everyday expertise as valuable and clarifies that content creators with relevant life experience won’t be penalized here. Still, if the content falls under the YMYL category, there is a greater need for input from experts.
The level of expertise and credentials depend on the topic. A few ways to demonstrate expertise on a web page include:
- Having a detailed author bio
- Covering the topic comprehensively
- Including internal links to other relevant posts
Being an expert also means that you can provide relevant information to readers depending on where they are in the buyer journey. Whether they’re searching for introductory information that can help them learn about the topic, or they’re further down the funnel and need more detailed and comparative explanations, expertise often involves providing straightforward, digestible content.
When search evaluators think about authority, they consider the main content (MC), the MC creator, and the website that features that content. If you’ve demonstrated your expertise consistently over time, people view you as an industry authority. A sign of authority is when a trusted page links to your page from other authoritative websites.
Other ways to prove you’re an authority include:
- Gaining more author and brand mentions online.
- Having your content shared consistently on social media.
- Earning a Wikipedia page for your company.
The final pillar of E-A-T covers how trustworthy the content, the creator, and the website are. A few significant evaluators are used to decide this, such as online reviews and the context of your online mentions by independent sources.
As far as what webmasters and marketers can do to show they’re trustworthy sources of information, a lot comes down to digital PR and online brand management. A few ways to demonstrate your trustworthiness include:
- Addressing negative reviews and comments online.
- Citing your sources and linking out to authoritative sites.
- Providing a reliable way for users to contact you.
- Securing your domain and protecting user data.
Establishing E-A-T with Long-Form Content
Google has made it clear that E-A-T standards are a major factor in how their search algorithm evolves, so growth marketers are leaning into long-form content since longer posts are usually more likely to establish authority and expertise by covering topics in detail.
Satisfying Search Queries the First Time
Something to keep in mind while optimizing pages and creating new ones is that Google wants to deliver the best results. By creating an in-depth page or blog post that covers a topic comprehensively, you have a greater chance of answering the user’s question so that they don’t need to search again.
The best content creators will deliver comprehensive and thorough answers while keeping the information relevant based on how much knowledge of the topic the reader has and where they are in their buyer journey. If users continuously find that they don’t need to search for other resources because they find the information they need from your content, then you’ll consistently have a chance to rank higher in the SERP.
- Webmasters should focus on improving E-A-T, especially if their site is YMYL.
- E-A-T is not a ranking factor but contributes to algorithms that determine rankings.
- Long-form, in-depth content is a good way to establish E-A-T and meet users’ needs.
- Links from authoritative sources are even more important for YMYL websites.
Optimizing for E-A-T is something that takes time, consistency, and patience. It can take a few months or even up to a year before you really start to see your efforts pay off. Grow your E-A-T signals with confidence that you will eventually see the impact and benefits down the road.
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