In this episode, we’re talking about Google’s E-A-T, what it is and why it is so important for your content strategy. Establishing your site’s authority takes time, resources and patience. We will discuss what you can do now to ensure your website demonstrates expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.
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In today’s episode, we’re talking about Google’s E-A-T, what it is and why it is so important, and then what you can do now to improve your site’s credibility.
E-A-T is not a new concept. It has been around for a couple of years now. For some reason, people are still unsure what it really is. While I love content marketing, I believe it plays a huge role in driving your brand, we have to keep up with Google’s ever-changing guidelines. If you don’t, the content you worked so hard on will not get found and you’re going to miss a ton of organic search traffic.
Is Google’s E-A-T a Ranking Factor?
E-A-T is one of Google’s criteria for analyzing content and it stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
It’s not a ranking factor like page speed or HTTPs but it has been mentioned a lot in Google’s Quality Guidelines. It’s a page signal that helps guide Google’s quality raters to gauge which are high and low quality content.
Google Quality Raters
According to Google:
They are real people, over 10,000 search quality raters worldwide to evaluate its search results. Raters are given actual searches to conduct, drawn from real searches that happen on Google. They then rate the quality of pages that appear in the top results — hence the “quality rater” name.
However, they cannot alter Google’s results directly. A rater marking a particular listing as low quality will not cause that page to be banned or lose ranking.
Instead, the data generated by quality raters is used to improve Google’s search algorithms, an automated system of ranking pages. Over time, that quality rater data might have an impact on low-quality pages that are spotted by raters, but the algorithm will also impact pages weren’t reviewed.
Google E-A-T Definition
Let’s break it down for you:
- Expertise – high level of knowledge in a specific domain (subject matter expert, ex a nutritionist is a good resource person to talk about paleo diet)
- Authority – being an expert is good but do you have a strong reputation? You are considered an authority and cites you as a source of information. Ex Elon Musk is someone who has authority about electric cars. (driven by links)
- Trustworthiness – Trust is about legitimacy, transparency and accuracy of your website. And bad review or legal complaints can easily tank this and must be addressed right away. (how’s your brand perceived online).
I know this has been a thing for a while now, but it still weirds me out that Google would know all this. I guess the fact that there are people who manually rate content as trustworthy or not would explain some of it, but wait, is this Skynet developing in front of us? Hasn’t Terminator taught us anything?
E-A-T still stirs controversy within the SEO world because it isn’t clearly defined by Google. Also, the point that it seems impossible for Google to be able to check all links or there’s no way they can determine how expert someone is based on their reputation. But Lily Ray, the authority in E-A-T believes this is exactly what Google is trying to achieve.
E-A-T and Y.M.Y.L. Sites
When we talk about E-A-T, one very important thing to note is that it only affects what Google officially calls YMYL sites. These are pages or topics can be considered YMYL (your money, your life) if they “could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety”
So the sites that are affected:
- Medical, legal, financial, news, and political sites
- Women’s health, diet sites, natural medicine, wellness, rehab
If your site falls outside of this, you shouldn’t worry too much about E-A-T but it’s still good practice to always work on your content’s authority and credibility.
The first time I came across this was in 2019, when I was working with a health and wellness supplement store client. Traffic was steady, revenue was growing until the medic update hit. I think we immediately felt at least 40% dip in traffic which was substantial since we’re really SEO-focused and organic was our main channel. Immediately our content strategist reviewed our content and we focused on E-A-T.
Why Google Rolled Out E-A-T
The Medic update first happened in 2018. It was coined the “Medic update” by Barry Schwartz, founder of Search Engine Roundtable because out of the 300 sites he analyzed, 41.5% of the affected sites belonged to the health niche.
Simply put it aims to address misinformation related to health and wellness.
- Curb fake news
- Influence on political campaigns
- Misinformation on health scares/self-diagnosis
- A recent study by eligibility.com found 89 percent of patients nationwide Google their health symptoms before going to their doctor.
- E-A-T should be viewed as Google’s criteria for analyzing the trustworthiness of content – and the people who publish it – in order to mitigate the spread of misinformation.
How to Demonstrate E-A-T in Your Content Strategy
I think it would be best to answer with an illustration. Whenever the E-A-T is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is Healthline.com, they are the gold standard for E-A-T.
Let’s look at this particular page: https://www.healthline.com/health/cancer/baking-soda
Without talking about content just yet, I’ll comment on the overall look and feel of the site. It has lots of white spaces, it has anchor links to help you navigate the content, it has a couple of ads in the article but they were able to keep the site looking clean, and professional.
The website looks great, passes all Core Web Vitals assessments, but that can’t be enough, right? I could create a page that’s fast and clean, perhaps even hire someone to write great content, I have a feeling that won’t cut it though?
Let’s look at their content.
- Medically reviewed by someone with a PHD. both author and reviewer have links to their bio and what’s unique about Healthline is that they have a medical review board upholds highest standards of medical integrity
- Additional citations/disclaimers that open up to give more information
- Fact-check labels, tiny verified mark that open a pop to show it’s a trusted source. Cancer research (Pubmed Central)
- Each of the medical blog is reviewed by a medical professional (an MD in author bio is not enough), some are tagged as fact-checked.
- Accessibility of ad and sponsorship policy
- Don’t endorse any products,
- Will review and choose ads,
- Clearly indicate sponsor content or co-branded from editorial piece.
- Reputable selection of contributors – all with great credentials, and highly renowned in their fields.
Just wanted to highlight that an author bio is not enough. Building authority requires effort.
Reputation and Knowledge Graph
A Knowledge Graph is a database of billions of facts about people, places, and things.
- Facts in the Knowledge Graph come from a variety of sources that compile factual information. In addition to public sources, we license data to provide information such as sports scores, stock prices, and weather forecasts. We also receive factual information directly from content owners in various ways, including from those who suggest changes to knowledge panels they’ve claimed.
- Knowledge Graph panels (cards) – the most common way of getting information from Knowledge Graph.
For instance, google “Dwight Schrute” panel on the right hand side, who the character is played by, who he was based on, who created him, which TV show he appeared on, and so on… At the top of the page there’s a section for “related to Dwight Schrute” where you’ll see other characters from The Office, also entries in this massive database.
- Importance of Schema and how to get a knowledge panel
- Google has a bunch of patents for techniques that help them determine who the author of an article is, and if you go back to Knowledge Graph, the author is probably one those billions of entities. And then they can also evaluate authority and expertise of that author, or even the publication itself.
- Everyone will tell you this is a gray area, and we’re definitely in the early days of something huge.
How to Get Started with E-A-T
Before I dive into the tactics, the 3 main takeaways I’d like to leave our audience are:
- It takes time: Establishing your site’s authority or improving E-A-T takes time, resources and patience. There are simply no shortcuts! You’ll reap the rewards later.
- Focus on your audience: While we’re discussing what Google is looking for or which signals to work on, focus on what’s good for your user. Design content to be helpful for people not Google. It’s more than your blog posts, it’s also the form of your overall site most especially your user’s experience with your page.
- First, audit all existing content and remove all unsubstantiated claims. Things like the #1 product for X or, better than competitor Y, lose weight in X days. Essentially, if you don’t have research done to prove it, remove it. You can either unpublish or re-write your content in a way that there are no false or misleading claims. Other red flags:
- Low quality content (includes comments)
- Headline clickbait?
- Ads are distracting or misleading
- Author information available?
- Publish only objective, evidence-based and well-researched content. A good tip is to cite surveys or research findings and only link to high-quality sites. If you look at our example earlier, you’ll notice that they mostly cite academic and medical journals or .edu sites which we know are highly reputable research body
- When linking to external sites, ask:
- Are they authoritative?
- Do you trust them?
- Do you want to be associated with them?
- When linking to external sites, ask:
- Another thing you can do is to be transparent. Create an editorial guideline, a review or means of fact-checking, an ads policy and make it accessible. Make sure there’s an easy way for readers to contact you especially if you’re selling a
product. Have clear T&C’s, shipping, refunds, returns policy.
And btw, this is common sense, it’s something that will influence your conversion rate as well, so don’t just do it to try to please Google, do it for your users.
- Blogs don’t need to always be written by an MD or lawyer. So it’s still okay to get a regular writer to publish a blog about wellness but again make sure all claims or research are cited.
- And if you’re a writer whether an MD or not, work on establishing your reputation. Bios/photos should be updated and accurate, build on your expertise by guesting in a podcast or blog, publish testimonials and case studies etc
- Sites can still make money through affiliates. Healthline does a lot of affiliate links and yet they maintain their site’s reputation. Just be clear about it.
Final Thoughts and Recap
E-A-T is more about users, work for them, and search engines will follow. This is very similar to Page Experience update and Core Web Vitals, where essentially you need to make the page work well for users and Google will reward you for that. Of course, E-A-T is not as black or white as passing a certain threshold.
If you want to dive deeper into E-A-T, Search Engine Journal has lots of good videos and podcasts about it. Lily Ray was a keynote speaker in the last SEJ esummit and she had a great talk on this. Make sure to check that out.
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