Expertise, Authority and Trust – these are the characteristics that comprise the acronym E-A-T, which has been featured extensively in recent Search Quality Rating Guidelines.
The importance of E-A-T was further reinforced in a recent post on Google’s Webmaster Central blog – What webmasters should know about Google’s core updates.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what E-A-T is, what it means and how you can reinforce your E-A-T signals.
E-A-T Driven Design
I wrote briefly on the topic of E-A-T on this blog back in September 2018.
I spoke then about what Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines have to say regarding E-A-T and the features Google looks for when determining a site’s E-A-T ‘score.’
The information in that post is still relevant today and is useful as an introduction to understanding E-A-T.
Trust is a value Google has been trying to reward for years and E-A-T is the latest iteration of their trust measuring attempts.
Google and Trust
Google has been factoring trust into page rankings since their early days.
When other search engines were relying only on keywords, Google or BackRub as it was known then, also used links.
A site featuring a link to one of your pages was considered a ‘vote of confidence’ in your site and its content.
By assessing how many links a site had, Google could assign a rudimentary ‘trust score’. Which they called PageRank. Trustworthy sites performed better in Google’s rankings and had more valuable votes themselves.
This system resulted in Google often providing more relevant search results than the alternatives. Because of this, more people switched to Google and it pushed its competitors out of the market.
Measuring trust made Google.
In the years since then, links have become almost as gameable as keywords, and in many cases, are no longer an accurate representation of a site’s credibility.
Websites which have the most links aren’t necessarily the most relevant.
Google’s search results are still relevant, of course – their modern algorithm measures hundreds of other factors alongside links. Relevance is not all consumers look for from search, however. We want to be provided with information we can rely on.
Trust is still an important piece of the puzzle and Google needs a way to determine trustworthiness.
Many attempts have been made over the years by Google to build trust measuring systems into their properties. Here are two examples.
Google+ and Authorship
The first of these is Authorship, a now-obsolete system which allowed you to link content you had authored to your Google+ account.
The idea behind Authorship was visible in one of Google’s patents, the Agent Rank patent. They wanted a way to connect pieces of content to their original authors.
Identifying these authors was the first step in establishing their trust and authority scores. These scores could then be used to influence search rankings.
Local Guides and Google Maps
Another example is the local guide feature in Maps, which allows you to earn points by repeatedly posting from an account linked to your identity.
As you earn points, you move up in levels. People’s opinions and edits with a higher level are thought to pass more weight across. This, of course, has never been directly confirmed by Google but is an obvious conclusion.
This trust works both ways. Someone who has spent time and energy building up their personal profile is less likely to engage in bad practices. It reflects badly on them.
These are examples of Google testing the waters and having learned from their past mistakes Google’s trust measuring systems are beginning to make it into search – in the form of E-A-T.
History of E-A-T
Marie Haynes was probably the first to notice the introduction of E-A-T to the Search algorithm.
In February 2017 she noted a large number of clients had complained of traffic drops after a major algorithm update on the 7th.
The traffic had primarily been lost to “big players” in the respective fields – all of whom featured authors with strong E-A-T.
The sites first affected by the E-A-T update were those known as YMYL sites – an acronym for ‘Your Money or Your Life’. These are sites which offer important information (such as medical advice) or deal with significant financial issues (such as lenders).
Any site Google determined to be unqualified to be offering that advice or service has lost a significant portion of their traffic since E-A-T was introduced.
Google eventually confirmed the importance of E-A-T to their algorithm in a whitepaper published in February 2019. At least 2 years after it was first noticed.
In the latest post on their Webmaster Central Blog, Google suggested websites negatively affected by the E-A-T update should study the Quality Rater Guidelines to learn how to improve their E-A-T ‘score’.
Going forward, I can only imagine E-A-T will continue to become increasingly important to Search, used across more verticals and have a greater impact upon a sites’ final ranking.
What can I do to improve my site’s E-A-T?
In the Internet age, people like to know who they are doing business with. Faceless corporations don’t inspire trust.
Businesses need to be able to be held accountable for their actions and exposing yourself to that possibility makes it seem as though you have nothing to hide.
To do this, create a thorough ‘About Us’ page and have good author bios. Show your face, tell your story.
Include information about the different members of your team, who they are and what they do at your company. Explain why you do what you do and why you can be trusted.
According to Path Interactive, 90% of the top-performing sites in analysis conducted after August 1 have “robust ‘About Us’ pages”.
People relate to people, and so exposing the human element behind your site gives consumers something to attach to.
Video is another great way to humanise your site. It’s easily digestible, and there is nothing more transparent than content straight from the horse’s mouth.
For more practical suggestions see the how semantics can help small businesses post.
As much as it helps to tell people how trustworthy you are, Google considers a third-party appraisal more valuable than what you say about yourself.
Reviews of your services posted on review sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor or Google My Business are factored into your site’s rankings.
If you want to improve performance, encourage customers to leave positive reviews.
Not only will this send traffic your way directly, by influencing the decisions of consumers on those sites, it will also increase your sites trustworthiness in the eyes of search engines.
Get links and mentions on authority sites
While links are no longer Google’s only way of assessing trust, links from sites already determined to be trustworthy are still of value.
Having your site mentioned on and linked to from sites with good trust will, in turn, improve the trust of your own site.
This effect will be further magnified if these links are related to your industry and are generating referral traffic to your site.
A link is only as valuable as the number of people using it.
Doctors, for example, will benefit significantly if mentioned in medical journals. The same is true for plumbers and local directories, or SEO experts and well-known SEO forums.
Links as a whole may be considered too gameable to rely on, but links from trusted authorities in your industry are a reliable indication of trustworthiness.
Create quality content
It may sound obvious, or hard to put into action, but this really is the best way to have your website perform.
If you are creating good quality content that people want to see, it is in Google’s best interest to push that up in the rankings.
So write about what excites you. Write about a topic you know and love, and express that expertise and passion through your writing.
Be trustworthy while you do it. Don’t hide behind your webpage, show some of yourself in everything you do.
Don’t just write to rank and don’t try and manipulate the algorithm. Your site will suffer in the long run.
Be the type of content creator your readers want you to be and you will be rewarded.
If you feel you have done all of the above, and your site is still performing poorly, you might need to call in an objective third-party to provide feedback.
We all suffer from ‘site blindness’. When you are too creatively involved in a project it can be hard to see past that and honestly evaluate its faults.
Getting the feedback of your intended users can highlight where exactly you are missing the mark.
Google themselves provided a list of 23 questions to ask visitors to your site to determine whether they think it is of ‘high-quality’. You can find those questions here.
Good marketing isn’t easy.
It’s time-consuming and forever changing. Most small and midsized businesses don’t have the time or resources to dedicate themselves fully to it. Get help.
Here are a few reasons why you should consider outsourcing your marketing.
Understanding E-A-T should give your business a window into exactly what Google is aiming to reward with their changes to Search.
If you want to stay ahead of these changes, it is always valuable to look not at how the algorithm is changing, but at what those changes are trying to achieve.
If you want to learn more about where Google is trying to take Search, I would strongly recommend reading their Quality Rater Guidelines.