Google has hundreds of search ranking factors. Every time it reads a piece of content, it uses these ranking factors to determine how to index that content in its search engine results pages (SERPs).
Nobody knows for sure how these ranking factors are used. Sure, content quality & length, AI signals/engagement metrics, click-through-rates and backlinks are important, but these factors are only a small piece of a very large pie.
What we do know, however, is the acronym E-A-T.
In this blog post, I’ll explain what E-A-T is, and how you can use it to create even better content for your site.
What is E-A-T?
E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.
It’s an acronym used by Google’s own in-house evaluators to help them determine where to index a piece of content, and it was leaked to the public back in 2014.
Since then, Google has officially released the Quality Rater Guidelines.
Search Quality Guidelines
These guidelines are used to train Google’s Quality Raters.
Quality Raters are people who manually check the quality of SERPs. There are said to be over 10,000 of them working for Google.
Quality Raters cannot directly impact what happens to your website but they are responsible for flagging lower quality websites so they don’t rank as well. Google engineers then use their feedback to make tweaks to the algorithm and improve search results.
Quality Raters are used to evaluate algorithm changes. An algorithm update is rolled out and any further changes to it are based on the manual, human feedback provided by the Quality Raters.
The Search Quality Guidelines should be read carefully by everyone. They provide the answer to what Google is looking for in a good site.
If you understand how raters learn to assess good content, that might help you improve your own content — and, in turn, perhaps do better in search. You can find the raters guidelines here:https://t.co/MDdKOyEjrv— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) October 11, 2018
Here’s a link to this year’s 2018 Quality Rater Guidelines
E-A-T is mentioned no-less than 186 times throughout.
E-A-T is the primary characteristic under ‘What is a high-quality page.’
Inevitably, an ‘inadequate level of E-A-T’ lowers the rating of a page.
And is, yet again, the first characteristic flagged to Google’s Quality Raters to check.
There is a strong emphasis on content creators in these updated guidelines, particularly around the reputation of the author or creator of the content.
The importance of E-A-T cannot be overstated.
So what is it?
But before we dive in, we should go back to the beginning. Google’s mission statement is:
To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
It’s important to focus on the word ‘useful’ here.
To determine how useful a piece of content really is, it must be expertly written. It must come from an authoritative source. And it must be reliable and trusting information.
3.2 of Google’s user content guidelines outlines how E-A-T works. It explains that the first step of a page quality rating is purpose.
It then outlines that:
Websites or pages without some sort of beneficial purpose, including pages that are created with no attempt to help users, or pages that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users, should receive the Lowest rating.
Of course, when it comes to news, it’s difficult to determine what’s true and what’s false. Fake news is everywhere.
But for businesses looking to use inbound marketing to make sales, content should aim to educate, inform and entertain. To do this well, E-A-T must be strictly followed.
There are many factors Google considers under the umbrella of expertise. First and foremost is ‘the expertise of the creator of the main content’.
Yes, believe it or not, the trustworthiness of the author is a factor in how expert a piece of content is. Think about it. If Gordon Ramsey publishes a blog post about food, Google will recognise that the author is an expert in this field and trust the content. If I write a blog post about food, it wouldn’t have the same impact.
The example Google gives is medicine. A lot of people turn to search engines for medical advice. The wrong information could lead to heightened paranoia or vice versa, scepticism about how trustworthy Google’s content is. To index the right medical content, then, Google states that:
High E-A-T medical advice should be written or produced by people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. High E-A-T medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis.
After the expertise of the content creator is determined, Google looks to the overall website the content is published on. Domain authority remains to be one of the most important factors for indexing content, and for good reason.
A big way to increase domain authority is through inbound links (backlinks). Websites like Wikipedia and Facebook, although publicly curated, have extremely high domain authorities because most people are linking to and from these sites on a daily basis.
Another consideration for authoritativeness is positive reputation. Google states that:
While a page can merit the High rating with no reputation, the High rating cannot be used for any website that has a convincing negative reputation.
In short, a website with no reputation at all is better than one with a negative reputation.
However, this perhaps makes it easy for saboteurs to destroy the reputation of a competitor website by leaving bad reviews, for example. To mitigate this, Google ensures that its evaluators do research to understand the reasons behind a negative rating, and don’t just take a website rating at face value.
Trustworthiness: What it’s all been leading to
The overarching theme of E-A-T is:
- How trustworthy is the main content?
- How trustworthy is the author?
- How trustworthy is the website it’s published on?
Expertise and authoritativeness determine trustworthiness. But there are many other ranking factors that determine trust, too. For example, if a website is unsecured (i.e. using HTTP and not HTTPS), this will negatively affect how trustworthy your content is.
Neil Patel outlines that 68 percent of internet users believe that the current laws for protecting their rights are not good enough. Add this to the recent Facebook data scandal and the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and we can begin to understand how trustworthiness affects Google’s determination of content.
To round off
E-A-T seems simple in theory.
Only write about what you know, only publish it on a website that’s known for that topic, and make sure your information is accurate.
There are, of course, many factors in play to determine E-A-T. A few out-of-the-box examples include:
- The length of a piece of content
- The security level of a website
- Where advertisements are placed on a website
- The reviews a website has received
- The level of expertise the author has
- A page that lacks purpose
To ensure your content is well indexed in the SERPs, then, you must make concentrate on expertise, you must make it authoritative, and it must be trustworthy information.