Long story short, Google wants to see great content! But if you’re looking for a more detailed understanding of E-A-T and how best to optimise for it, keep on reading.
What is E-A-T?
E-A-T is one of many acronyms that Google uses in the world of SEO. It describes the three pillars that Google evaluates content against on the web, and essentially tells you what your website needs for its content to rank well in the SERPs. It stands for expertise, authority and trust.
The origins of E-A-T
Google officially released their ‘Search Quality Evaluators Guidelines’ back in 2015 in the interest of transparency of Google’s conception of high and low quality sites. Since then, the document has evolved in conjunction with improvements in Google’s crawling and contextual understanding ability. This (at the time of writing) 168-page PDF gives readers an understanding of where Google stands and where it’s headed, with its main development over the last few years being around E-A-T. In fact, ‘E-A-T’ currently appears (at the time of writing) 135 times across the PDF.
When did E-A-T impact Google’s ranking algorithm?
Well, E-A-T has always been a consideration for Google (they want to find the best content for their users), while their ability to crawl and understand content in such a way that could accurately evaluate these qualities has only been about a few years. Exactly when E-A-T found it’s way into the ranking algorithm is a topic SEOs disagree on, but a few key dates indicate it was likely introduced in 2017.
‘Medic’ August 2018 Google Algorithm Update – Your Money Your Life (YMYL)
This update was a key date for SEOs – especially if they worked for a company that has the potential to impact somebody’s well-being, such as their money, happiness or health – thus the acronym YMYL.
The broad search algorithm update was originally coined as the ‘Medic’ update due to the volatility seen in the health sectors SERP’s post update. It was later realised that this was more influential than originally anticipated, and it demonstrated Google’s objective in becoming more critical of content online – especially for YMYL sites.
When Google searches a page, they are looking for relevant and accurate content that matches a user’s search intent. The main aspect of this update changed the weighting given towards the ‘accuracy’ factor within the ranking algorithm for YMYL sites, as Google now evaluates the searches displayed against their potential for causing harm.
How did it improve its understanding of accuracy?
In introducing E-A-T, Google evaluated the expertise, authority and trust of the content to enable a better understanding of accurate vs inaccurate information.
After this update, E-A-T was something most SEO’s had heard of, largely due to the related shift away from ‘keyword stuffing’ and ‘growth hacking’. These practices continued to decline as industry experts realised that focusing on E-A-T would bring them better and more sustainable results.
How to optimise your website for E-A-T
When asking yourself ‘ what does expertise mean for SEO’, it’s important to compare it to someone you would consider an expert in your industry. How do they relay information to you? It’s likely in a way that’s clear, detailed and with additional snippets of information that others may overlook. This is similar to how Google considers expertise; they want the content on your website to deliver accurate, reliable information on the subject matter in a way that’s well-structured and considers user flow.
How to optimise for expertise?
Firstly you need to understand your audience and what information they are looking for. It’s no secret in SEO that keywords are a great place to start when trying to understand your audience – in order to identify the best content to deliver for your audience, you need to understand where users are in their journey.
An understanding of search intent from keywords enables you to create highly relevant and accurate content for users at each step of their journey.
Many people misunderstand accuracy and detail. For example, producing something detailed may make it seem like you need to produce a lot of content, but in reality, Google’s only looking for information that’s accurate and relevant – regardless of its length. When creating content, you need to find the balance between comprehensive and simple.
Structure the headings in a simple-to-understand manner, cover the main intent comprehensively and format your content so it’s easily digestible. Visual aids, rich media and links to further supplementary information around the topic (either internal or external) can go a long way in helping a user understand the information on your page.
Becoming an authority within your industry has always been considered a goal for site owners as it will bring in direct traffic through improved brand recognition. However, it’s now something that SEOs are trying to push towards as well.
If industry specific experts (or in our case industry specific websites) cite (or link) to you or your business, you are perceived as an authority in your industry. To put this into perspective, when you see your rankings change significantly and you’re trying to understand why, I’d go to Search Engine Land or listen to Barry Schwartz’s weekly update. Why? Because I know they have a team of experts analysing SERP volatility across multiple tracking tools and trust their evaluation through the demonstration of the accuracy of information found within the content.
Ultimately, they are an authority within the world of SEO and in particular Google Algorithm Update analysis. If you want to test this out, just search for ‘Barry Schwartz SEO’ and you’ll see just how much other people trust this information.
How to optimise for authority?
Links and Mentions is the simplest answer, but becoming an authority in Google’s eyes is now more difficult due to their understanding of E-A-T qualities. As they understand the quality of content to a higher detail, they evaluate the link and mention sources at a higher detail. This means our efforts to increase backlinks and mentions to our websites should be focused on receiving such endorsements from websites Google considers an authority within the specific topic your content focuses on.
If you want to understand who Google considers an authority, use some of the great tools the ‘authoritative figures’ in SEO have created:
Moz – Use their own ‘Domain Authority’ score
Majestic – Use their own ‘Trust Ratio’ metric
Of course these aren’t going to be exactly right as they certainly don’t know the exact weighting factors behind Google’s evaluation, but it’s a great place to start!
Other areas that aren’t normally something SEOs talk much about is Brand and Social Media. If your content is shared and mentioned across a lot of social media channels, or if your brand search keeps increasing in volume, it shows Google that people engage, cite and want to see more of your content, thus increasing your authority within your industry.
The trust factor within E-A-T operates differently to expertise and authority, in the sense that it isn’t something you build, it correlates more to something you can lose.
Negative sentiment around your brand can dissuade people from listening, reading and trusting your content and Google evaluates trust in a similar way. Google’s index is a great way to understand what sentiment is attached to your brand online. Using a YMYL brand (which no longer trades) you can see just how negative Google might perceive your brand:
If Google is constantly finding your brand in relation to negative sentiment, it won’t trust that your content is the best to share around the subject matter.
Whilst as SEOs we may not have the ability to change everything related to our business to improve people’s feelings towards our brand, we do have some tools.
How to optimise for Trustworthiness?
Addressing issues and complaints – responding to negative feedback or reviews, trying to listen to your customers issues and addressing them is a great place to start. Too many bad reviews will soon start to be noticeable in your rankings.
But there are some ways to generate positive reviews. Places like Google My Business (no surprise as Google owns it), Facebook and TripAdvisor are just some areas Google will review to understand the trust factor of your site. Working with your in-house teams to promote feedback from customers on these platforms can help – especially if you deliver a great service and your customers feel that way.
Other more ‘SEO’-focused efforts include:
- Clear NAP information (Name, Address & Postcode) across your website and other sites listing your business.
- Clear and effective methods of communication with your customer – for example, creating a well structured ‘Contact Us’ and ‘Terms & Conditions’ pages that are easily accessible and understandable.
- Website Security – the big one on this for Google is ensuring your website is delivered on HTTPS. However, any efforts to increase the security of your platform can improve the trustworthiness of it, especially if your website handles transactions.
- Clear information around your product or service – such as product specifications, health and safety aspects and returns/refund policies all aid in delivering this aspect.
- Linking to Authoritative External Sources – whilst SEOs love to keep users on their domain, when a topic references a specific issue, linking to an authoritative page within this vertical can help in improving your trust evaluation.
The future of SEO & E-A-T
E-A-T is the backbone on how Google evaluates content and it’s been their goal to do it in such a comprehensive way since the beginning, but technological advancements have improved Google’s ability to do this effectively. Further developments of E-A-T for Google may not be large changes to it’s ranking algorithm in terms of weighting factors – it will most likely be improvements in it’s ability to evaluate these factors – enter BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers).
Without going into too much detail on BERT (as it could have it’s entirely own post), it was developed by Google to improve the natural language processing of human language. This doesn’t specifically target any websites or industry, it’s just looking to improve how it understands human language. Improvements in how we understand human language enables Google to have a better sense of true quality content.
Updates like BERT and Core Algorithm updates all shift towards focusing on creating great content for your users. So really, the future of SEO and E-A-T is very much the direction Google has always stated they wanted to go – one that’s towards great content.
You can find a lot of information on E-A-T online, including how to optimise for it – however, you won’t find all your answers for your specific site or industry. E-A-T should be a consideration across the entire website process and the team in-house will have the best knowledge of your industry and your customers. I’d suggest bringing in all your experts and listening to what they feel your customers could want/need in terms of content and supplementary content online, then focusing your efforts to deliver this content in a well structured, easily digestible way.
Written by Jordan Hilliard, Senior SEO Lead at Blueclaw