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The year is 2017.
Google had been drawing a lot of flak for displaying blatantly silly results for medical and health queries. Example? How about a claim that carrots can cure cancer?
For most people, this might have been funny but for those anxiously looking for answers, this was mockery and even dangerous. With such issues getting reported very often, Google looked for a solution to enrich the quality of the content that gets ranked on the SERPs.
Enter 2018. Google released new guidelines for assessing the quality of content in their Medic algorithm. And thus began the saga of E-A-T — perhaps the most prominent acronym in the world of SEO today.
Even then, there is ambiguity surrounding the concept so even industry experts are confused about how to go about it.
So if you are one of them, worry not — we have the answers that you need (with lot of help from the industry experts). Let’s begin.
Understanding Google E-A-T and YMYL
Producing content for most brands is all about delivering a high-quality experience through their online presence. Google introduced the concept of E-A-T in the Medic algorithm of 2018 and highlighted its importance in determining SEO performance.
To understand better, Google — the most popular search-engine globally strives to exceed users’ expectations with its experiences. Indeed, that is the cornerstone of the E-A-T algorithm.
What is E‑A-T?
E-A-T stands for Expertise – Authoritativeness – Trustworthiness.
The logic behind the algorithm is : when users search for anything, they should get the most relevant results. Also, Google focuses on this by providing the most detailed and authoritative content for queries, produced by individuals who know what they are talking about.
For understanding this in a simple way, Google E-A-T takes into account the following factors:
- Quality of the authors behind the main content on your webpages
- Content quality of your webpages
- Quality of your website
Main content here refers to content that helps users get immediate resolution to queries, thus achieving their direct purpose.
E-A-T in Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines
To understand the importance that Google places on E-A-T, a great starting point would be their Search Quality Rater Guidelines. While listing down the most important factors that drive the overall page quality, its E-A-T is deemed crucial.
A distinct point that these guidelines specify is that E-A-T pages can exist regardless of the domain or subject. So, even gossip or humour websites can have high E-A-T depending on the information they cover, and their quality.
According to the guidelines, “some types of information are found almost exclusively on forums and discussions, where a community of experts can provide valuable perspectives on specific topics”. These are also deemed to be the perfect E-A-T pages. In many cases, Google will give more importance to “everyday expertise” in the content even if the author does not have formal education in the field.
E-A-T for YMYL Websites
E-A-T is more crucial for YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) websites as they act as important sources for people looking for sensitive and pertinent information. Google is determined to filter fake information and to facilitate only the most accurate information to people looking for queries in domains such as medicine, finance and science.
One of Google’s spokespeople, John Mueller, especially stresses the importance of E-A-T, and how YMYL websites should approach it. He says:
I think following the best practices in general for making a good website is always a good idea. Making sure that you can get the word out is important. But especially for medical topics, anything that’s a little more critical, I would also keep in mind everything around the EAT.
So the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness kind of make sure that the site that you’re providing represents like a really high standard. And that the content is of really high quality and that it’s put together by people who understand what they’re doing. That it’s not something like a run out of a garage kind of site.
Makes sense, right? When you look up medical information, you don’t want results that contain spammy links and fluff. Bottom line? E-A-T is not just another SEO trend that you need to implement. It is more of a tenet to imbibe.
How Important is E‑A-T for SEO?
Indeed, E-A-T has more benefits to offer than one, for content marketers.
It guarantees a better user experience for readers who land on your website looking for information. Plus, it has a significant impact on your SEO performance. Simply put, E-A-T is a measure of your credibility.
The E-A-T criteria directly indicate whether your web page or content is adding any real value to your readers. And Google’s USP is providing the most relevant and best results for users’ search queries.
Aside from the obvious SEO benefits, E-A-T is quite crucial from the business perspective. “E-A-T makes sense from a business perspective. You want your clients to trust you, and believe that you know what you are talking about.”, says Bill Slawski, Director of SEO Research at Go Fish Digital.
What is YMYL?
As we saw briefly earlier, YMYL is an abbreviation for ‘Your Money, or Your Life’.
It is how Google refers to pages that contain content that can influence important decisions for people. This includes content related to any niche that can have a potential negative impact on the readers’ lives or finances.
Google puts emphasis on determining the Page Quality of websites that produce and publish information related to such niches. YMYL generally highlights a deeper need for E-A-T, which is why the two concepts appear together in SEO blogs.
The transcript of such interviews can attest credibility to any piece of content and make it more authoritative. Once you curate the content, ensure to run it through the expert that you have cited, and be generous with links.
Some of the popular YMYL topics for which E-A-T is important to include:
- Medical Advice
- Scientific Opinions or Expertise
- News Articles
- Financial/Legal/Tax Advice
- Topics that might lead readers to make expenses amounting to large sums of money viz. Remodelling, real estate, etc.
Say, your website offers medical advice to readers — you need to run quality checks to ensure that the information is credible.
So, you need to work on your site continuously and ask yourself this question — “If a new user lands on our site looking for medical advice would we be able to give this person accurate information and ensure the piece of information is cited from different trusted sources and possibly written by a subject matter expert?” says Suganthan Mohanadasan, Co-founder and Technical SEO Lead of Snippet Digital.
How is E‑A-T Evaluated by Google?
Now that we know what E-A-T is and why it is important, we will now look at how Google assesses this. Here is a detailed overview of the parameters that Google factors in while assessing the E-A-T of your website:
As you may already know, expertise means to have advanced knowledge about a skill or subject. When it comes to E-A-T, this expertise is sought in your content and not your organization. Essentially, this means that Google is looking for content to be produced by individuals who are experts in certain fields.
If you are a legal firm and publish related content, it should be produced or proofread by a legal expert.
This should be at the forefront of your content creation process if you publish on YMYL topics. For other kinds of topics, it has a lot more to do with displaying relevant knowledge and “everyday expertise”.
For instance, you have a website that publishes tips and hacks related to motherhood. You would need to have social proof and evidence that you have the required expertise through experience.
Even for YMYL topics, Google does consider the aspect of everyday expertise to a certain extent. A great example is queries related to living with an Alzheimer patient. First-hand accounts and family members of people who have had Alzheimer’s would be better placed to respond than a doctor.
Your authoritativeness directly pinpoints your credibility as a source of information. If users rely on your website or content for queries as opposed to any other source providing similar information, you have authority.
Authoritativeness has a lot to do with expertise as the latter contributes to achieving authority in a specific domain. Now, raters will conduct reputation research to gain insights into what people are saying about your website. Online reviews, ratings and testimonials play a huge role in this process.
- The relatedness of the entity in relation to the topic/other entities, and the co-occurrence of them on the wider internet.
- The notability of the entity, based on mentions, links, and reviews, and sentiment of other ranked entities towards the one you’re measuring.
- How much the specific entity has contributed to a topic.
- How many “prizes” the entity has received as marks of recognition, and how important the prize is, is determined by the same four metrics.
The third tenet in the E-A-T criteria is trustworthiness, which is perhaps one of the most important parts of it.
Gaining trust is all about establishing better transparency, accuracy and legitimacy for readers on your website. Fact-checking the content that you post, and citing trustworthy sources are proven ways to reassure that your content is trustworthy.
Say, you are aggregating and publishing content related to scientific fields. Consider linking back to scientific journals or websites backed by scientists to ensure the accuracy and trustworthiness of your content.
What Types of Websites are Impacted by E-A-T?
Google is very clear on what is expected of websites that want to perform better on the search engine. “Websites and pages should be created to help users”, stresses Google in SQEG.
Basically, every website should have a beneficial purpose that fulfils the intended objectives, along with being user-centric. Google takes steps to assess the quality of each content piece. It then attributes it to the content creator who is expected to be qualified in the domain.
The assessment of EAT factors is just too subjective to perform at scale and can be misleading when applied to the content creator rather than the content itself (spoofing an author name or buying a domain with high EAT). However, I still believe that this is the direction that Google is heading, and a good set of ranking factors to optimize toward.
Websites that can cause readers any kind of harm, financially or otherwise, (read: YMYL) will be specifically impacted by E-A-T.
Is E‑A-T a Ranking Factor?
Although Google has categorized E-A-T as a ranking factor, it is undoubtedly an important parameter considered in the ranking process.
Framing E-A-T as a ranking factor is a simplification. In my view, E-A-T is a lens through which Google’s quality raters judge the quality of websites and Google’s algorithm updates. There are likely tens or hundreds of algorithms working under the hood to surface pages with good E-A-T because these pages are most likely to help searchers find accurate, quality answers.
While it is not possible to quantify the role of E-A-T as a ranking factor, it can enhance your website quality, which can help you rank better. Remember that the goal of putting out great content on your website is to engage and hopefully educate your readers. It is not simply for SEO.
“E-A-T is a method for Google’s Quality Raters to determine aspects of a site they are looking at and is not part of their algorithm to determine ranking. When developing a content strategy you should be aware of E-A-T, but write for your readers and market – not Google.”, says Simon Cox, Technical SEO Consultant at Cox and Co Creative.
11 Ways to Improve and Demonstrate Your Site’s E‑A-T
Now, let us take a look at and understand some of the proven ways to improve the E-A-T of your website.
1. Create a quality website & build quality content
Well, this advice might seem generic to those who do not perceive it holistically.
It is important to take a hard look at your website and its content, and the changes it requires for achieving more authority on SERPs.
Ask yourself pertinent questions such as:
- Are the website and its interface well-designed?
- Are there adequate backlinks to establish the website’s credibility?
- Is all the content and information on the website fact-checked?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, work on improving your website accordingly, and make your content richer and more high-quality.
2. Become a quality author
As we have already discussed, the E-A-T criteria works on establishing the quality of the content, the website as well as the author.
Google does place a certain level of importance on the qualifications of the author behind the content on your website. But if having subject matter experts on board becomes challenging, you can work on having your authors build credibility.
Create a strong author bio, including your qualifications and any information that might add to your authenticity. Doing so can even improve and solidify your credibility. Joy Hawkins, Owner of Sterling Sky Inc. says:
One thing that you can do to help show that you are an authority on a specific topic is to make sure your website has detailed author bios. For example, this therapist talks about how many years he’s been practicing, what types of people he has experience helping, and also lists some local groups that he’s a part of, which is helpful if you’re a local business. This wealth management company takes a slightly different approach with their financial planners’ bios and lists out information about the person that would help a user trust them more. The questions listed help users get to know the individual they are hiring, which would be crucial for someone that is handling your money.
3. Build quality links from authority sites
Posting relevant content on websites with high domain authority, and building links is a great exercise for improving your credibility. Of course, the most crucial thing to do for this is to consistently produce high-quality content that other credible websites would want to link to.
“Link building is basically word of mouth, but digital. You’re travelling to a new place, and you want to go out to a nice restaurant, you would want some local expert to give their opinion. That is what a referral from high authority websites does!”, says Bishal Shrestha, Senior SEO Specialist at Supple Digital.
Backlinks from websites with high domain authority will also contribute to the DR of your website. Plus, link building activities establish a vote of confidence between the websites and thus contribute to your EAT.
4. Keep content accurate and up to date
Unless you have a website with static information that is unlikely to change, there is a good chance that many pages and parts of your website might now be obsolete or ready to be deleted.
Needless to say, ensuring accuracy and keeping it up to date is quite crucial to the visibility and performance of your content. Remember, updating the old and existing content is as important as uploading new and high-quality content.
Updating content will help you maintain accuracy, especially in aspects such as statistics and eliminating broken links.
5. Check the facts
In order to consistently improve and maintain the quality of your content, it is important that your fact-checking is on point. A vital thing to remember here is that even if you fact-checked your content while publishing, some of the points may change over time. In such cases, it is important to refresh your content based on fresh updates.
In this process, also remove any content that you think may lead to a lower E-A-T, so that you can maintain your credibility.
6. Get more reviews (and respond to them)
Getting a buzz going about your business is undoubtedly one of the best ways to solidify your online reputation and presence.
Positive reviews go a long way in consolidating your trustworthiness, and reviews in general — positive or negative, are important for E-A-T. Your responses to the reviews are equally important since they can act as proof of your importance and credibility as a brand.
Make it easier for your customers to review your business using a direct link generator for your Google business reviews. Your Google reviews go a long way in establishing your credibility online.
Lastly, businesses today need to consider the undeniable fact that third party indulgence does show that your website already has growing clout online.
7. Hire experts
One of the most effective ways to prove that you have the expertise and authority required for your content to be deemed credible is, of course, to hire experts. If you have a YMYL website and need only high-quality content, experts can bring in the required E-A-T to gain credibility and performance.
One of the most common issues sites have with regards to creating YMYL content is the cost of creating content with expertise. It’s much easier to find an expert in your YMYL field than it is to find an expert who happens to be a good writer with time to learn what an SEO-lead content brief is. A more cost-effective approach may be to categorize People Also Asked (PAA’s) by intent and rapid-fire record the answers from an expert. Wired Magazine’s “Autocomplete Interviews” with famous people is a great example.
Websites can benefit from getting experts involved at least to a certain extent, and identify the sources that they are likely to rely on for answers.
8. Flash your credentials
If you have the necessary qualifications, knowledge and experience to back the kind of content that you are posting on your website, do not hesitate to show it off.
If you have a YMYL website, there is a good chance that you post a lot of information that is sensitive in nature. This may include topics related to finance, healthcare, or politics, and the standard practice for such content types is for it to come from authorized personnel or experts.
In such cases, authors that are visible online and post authoritative content are considered more credible than others. So, if you have the right credentials at hand, ensure that your readers know about it.
For instance, Healthline and The Balance mention the professionals who write or review each article. They even provide links to their detailed bios, thus providing more transparency and adding credibility to their content.
9. Show your contact details
The Google guidelines are clear on the fact that authors and owners of the content should display their contact details. Having contact details of people associated with your content on the website can be highly helpful as it allows transparency.
Transparency on your website will go a long way as it helps in building trust among readers. Mention direct links to the author’s social channels, or email id to establish their credibility.
10. Get a Wikipedia page
Wikipedia has been often cited as one of the best ways to build the E-A-T of your website.
If you have a Wikipedia page for your brand, it will inevitably serve as a great verifier for you. It will also indicate to Google that there is enough information on the Internet to prove your credibility.
But beware, setting up a Wikipedia page is easier said than done. Even the most popular companies sometimes do not have a Wikipedia page if they do not have enough editorials, and content on them published on external sources.
11. Get more mentions from trusted sources
This works along the same lines as the logic behind having a Wikipedia page.
When you get features on trusted sources, you will not only be adding to your online visibility, but also be cementing your credibility. Here’s where link building can help you out significantly. Get in touch with prominent publishers in your domain and check if you can get featured on their website.
Remember, the more your name comes up on trusted sources online, the more Google is likely to perceive you as a trusted authority. There are plenty of avenues you can explore to secure such mentions. This includes speaking at events, leveraging interview opportunities, partnering with influencers, and of course, good ol’ guest posting.
Google E-A-T Winners Case Study #1 – Healthline
When we look at YMYL websites that have truly embodied E-A-T through their content, Healthline is definitely at the top of the pile. Healthline is a content exploration platform for everything medical. It offers readers tips, tricks and expert advice on topics that are relevant to the field.
A study conducted by Amsive Digital in 2020, analyzed the visibility of more than 1000 websites across 38 categories. The results showed that Healthline’s visibility grew by nearly 24%. In the same period, the visibility of Medline – one of the biggest competitors of Healthline, dropped by more than 12%.
Right off the bat, you are greeted by a clean and easy-to-use interface that directly gets to the point.
You can see that for any article that you open on Healthline, you will find the author details and their credentials besides the content. This reassures you as a reader that the information that you are reading has been written and/or reviewed by an expert. Such transparency can help readers in perceiving the website as an authoritative source in the domain.
Healthline takes transparency a notch higher by providing a detailed bio of the medical representative consulted for the content. This includes a description of their educational background, qualifications, achievements and experience in the field.
And the results of going through these efforts, as you can see, are proving to be stellar. Healthline has a domain rating of 92 — a feat very few content platforms achieve. Moreover, the website ranks for 42.7 million organic keywords and attracts 221 million organic visits per month.
Google E-A-T Winners Case Study #2 – The Balance
Another great example of a YMYL website that follows E-A-T to the T (quite literally) is The Balance. The Balance is a great website for people who are looking for credible financial advice online. The website updates recent industry news, trends, and strategies to help users take responsible financial decisions.
The home page of The Balance leaves no doubts in the minds of the readers. It sets expectations right away about the quality of the content to expect from the website. The website also highlights the quality standards that they adhere to, front and centre.
As you can see, the website makes it a point to mention the author as well as the reviewer. Any reader wondering about the credibility of the mentioned information can easily access their profile. What profile, you ask?
So, readers can take a look at how qualified and credible the authors and reviewers of each article are, including their educational background, experience and certifications. And of course, the results of doing this are reflected in the website’s SEO performance.
The Balance enjoys a Domain Rank as high as 90 and ranks for more than 2.8 million keywords organically. More importantly, the website enjoys 3.6 million organic visitors per month — the true signs of a winner.
Google E-A-T and YMYL Myths & Misconceptions
By now, you would have a comprehensive understanding of Google EAT, YMYL and all the different ways in which they contribute to your SEO performance. But as is the case with any popular phenomenon, there are many myths and misconceptions about E-A-T that might make it difficult for websites to perform well.
Here are some that you should keep your eyes out for:
#1 E-A-T is a ranking factor
This one is quite a common one among teams that are still learning the ropes of SEO.
E-A-T is definitely not one of Google’s ranking factors — not directly, not yet. Having said that, it is understandable that people often confuse it with one because Google places a lot of importance on strengthening the E-A-T of websites. However, websites that follow E-A-T deliver better user experiences to readers, which in turn can send signals to Google via Search Quality Raters.
Better SERP results as quantified by E-A-T is how algorithm improvements are kept; so think of E-A-T as a clearer but still murky bare-minimum guideline from Google on what makes “great content” identifiable to a search engine, says Victor M Pan of HubSpot.
#2 You Need to Work On Your E-A-T Score
There is no such thing as an E-A-T score.
It is true that Google heavily emphasizes improving E-A-T of websites, and encourages businesses to follow the best practices that can help them do so.
How does Google measure E-A-T then, you ask?
Well, E-A-T has been extensively discussed and defined in the Google Search Rater Guidelines. Plus, there is enough evidence to suggest that Google has the necessary algorithms to assess the user experience and usefulness of your content.
E-A-T improvements on your website will directly reflect on these parameters which would then let Google know that your website is delivering a better experience. Thus improving your ranking on SERPs, thus improving your overall SEO performance.
#3 Just Focusing on E-A-T will not Boost your Performance
Sure, E-A-T is an important factor to consider while creating content, especially if yours is a YMYL website. But it will not solve all your SEO performance issues.
According to Lily Ray, Sr. Director, SEO at Amsive Digital, E-A-T is just one area to consider among a plethora of different things you can do to improve your SEO performance. More importantly, it is definitely not a replacement for Technical SEO.
So, if your website experiences issues such as website loading, content rendering or crawling, you will need to run a comprehensive check on your website and fix an array of different areas apart from E-A-T.
Pro Tip: Consider working with an adept SEO agency that specializes in solving issues related to SEO, and help you upgrade your website performance.
To Conclude – E-A-T and the Future of SEO
As the future of SEO continues to unfold, one thing is clear — E-A-T is here to stay.
The last few years have seen Google experiment with newer and more advanced algorithms to gauge content quality and trustworthiness. This is likely to continue in the future, and Google will assign a certain level of emphasis on the authority and expertise of the content creators.
Considering the alignment of E-A-T with the mission of Google, it can be said with certainty that newer algorithms and micro-adjustments may come, but standards will remain high. So, tweaking and refreshing your content and holding it to these quality standards might definitely be a good start.
But remember, that a lot more goes into enhancing your SEO performance and that your content should first and foremost be written with your readers in mind, as opposed to just for search engines.
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