E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness.
It is one of the most important factors considered by Google’s Quality Raters, as defined in the Quality Raters’ Guidelines.
Google Quality Raters are people employed by Google to conduct manual searches and rate the results that are ranking for their queries.
It’s important to understand that raters don’t manually alter search results to rank some websites higher than others, and they can’t have websites removed from results.
They are, however, employed to assess website quality and the data provided is used to improve Google’s algorithms over time.
To inform their decisions, quality raters use a public document called the Google Quality Raters’ Guidelines, which contains 167 pages of information.
It was last updated on 5 September 2019. The guidelines give specific factors that the raters should consider when rating the quality of search results.
As a result, the document is a rich source of information about what Google considers high-quality content and it is considered to be essential reading for both webmasters and SEOs.
E-A-T is a hugely important factor in the ratings and is mentioned in the guidelines 135 times.
It’s important to note that E-A-T is not an algorithm and there isn’t an E-A-T score that is given to your website.
Instead, E-A-T is a way of conceptualising the work of many smaller algorithms and signals that result in page rankings.
What’s more, there isn’t a checklist of specific signals that you can just tick off to optimise for E-A-T.
Essentially, it’s an overarching concept around trust and authority that should be adopted across the board by marketing teams and beyond. E-A-T is summarising what sounds like common sense; show your customers you know what you’re talking about and that they can trust you.
According to the Quality Raters’ Guidelines, pages that require a ‘very high level of E-A-T’ are Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) pages.
These are the type of pages or topics that “could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety”.
The examples provided in the guidelines include:
- News and current events: Information about international events, business, politics, science, technology, etc.
- Civics, government and law: Government agencies, public institutions, social services, information about voting, and legal information about issues such as divorce, child custody, creating a will, etc.
- Finance: Any financial advice or information regarding taxes, loans, banking, investments or similar, particularly where people can make purchases/transfer money online.
- Shopping: Purchasing goods or services, particularly e-commerce sites where people can make purchases online.
- Health and Safety: Advice around safety, medical issues, drugs, hospitals, ‘emergency preparedness or how dangerous an activity is etc’. This may also include health and safety training providers or training institutions.
- Groups of people: Information or claims about groups of people, generally those with protected characteristics such as race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, sexuality, age, and so on. This also includes veteran status.
- ‘Other’: This is the most elusive category as it describes ‘many other topics related to big decisions or important aspects of people’s lives which thus may be considered YMYL, such as fitness and nutrition, housing information, choosing a college, finding a job, etc.’
You could argue that almost any site is YMYL in some way or another, but not all sites are specifically affected by the very high page quality rating standards that YMYL pages are.
Quality raters look to identify the purpose of a webpage first. It’s important for them to determine the objective of the page in order to assess how well it achieves that purpose, whether or not the page is YMYL, and whether it intends to help or harm its users.
Helpful websites are described as having a ‘beneficial purpose’ and this encompasses everything that isn’t intentional harm or deceit.
Quality raters then look to identify the Main Content (MC), Supplementary Content (SC) and Advertisements on a webpage.
The raters perform a number of manual checks to decide what is Main/Supplementary content and whether or not it satisfies the original page purpose.
They then look to find out who is responsible for the website and the content on the page, and that is where E-A-T comes in. The raters are looking to assess the Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trust of the business/individual/company/foundation responsible for the website itself and the content contained.
What is a high level of E-A-T?
The pages that are given the highest quality ratings demonstrate a very high level of E-A-T, a ‘very satisfying’ amount of highest quality main content, and a very positive website reputation.
A very high level of E-A-T is defined in the guidelines as follows:
“Highest quality pages and websites have a very high level of expertise or are highly authoritative or highly trustworthy.
“Formal expertise is important for YMYL topics such as medical, financial, or legal advice. Expertise may be less formal for topics such as recipes or humour.
“An expert page on cooking may be a page on a professional chef’s website, or it may be a video from an expert content creator who uploads very high quality cooking videos on YouTube and is one of the most well-known and popular content creators for recipes in their area of expertise.
“Please value life experience and “everyday expertise” as appropriate. For some topics, the most expert sources of information are ordinary people sharing their life experiences on personal blogs, videos, forums, reviews, discussions, etc.
“Think about what expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness mean for the topic of the page. Who are the experts? What makes a source trustworthy for the topic? What makes a website highly authoritative for the topic? Standards for very high E-A-T will differ depending on the topic of the page. YMYL topics will require higher standards.”
The concept of E-A-T is one that should be adopted across businesses rather than just as part of an organic SEO strategy.
There are incremental changes that can be made to demonstrate E-A-T on your site. For example, you can:
- Optimise author biographies
- Set up profiles on third-party review sites
- Ensure your footer pages are easily accessible & provide company information, etc.
Use the examples given throughout the guidelines to help with optimisations.
The idea is to ensure that your business is seen as a legitimate, reputable source of information. You should demonstrate that:
- Your authors are experts and trusted by their respective industries.
- Your content is well-sourced and accurate.
- Your customers have left genuine reviews about your product or service.
E-A-T asks you to explicitly answer fundamental questions about your business:
- Why should my customer trust me?
- Why am I the best person to provide this advice?
- Why should my customer give me their money?
When the C-Suite asks about how your SEO team are optimising for E-A-T, the question should be, ‘how is our business optimising for E-A-T?’ or perhaps more importantly, ‘how do we show our customers they can trust us?’.
The issues addressed by E-A-T aren’t just highlighting the need for some on-page optimisations, they are highlighting a shift in focus from consumers that are becoming increasingly aware of where they spend their money and who they trust when making life decisions.