E-A-T Your Heart Out – How to Improve Expertise, Authority & Trust
In its 2014 edition of the Search Quality Guidelines, Google introduced the concept of “E-A-T,” or Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. This is also sometimes referred to as E-E-A-T, or Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. In a recent version of the Guidelines, “E-A-T” has grown in importance and focus, and is mentioned 135 times!
Google has a small army of human site reviewers who use the Search Quality Guidelines to manually review and rate web pages and then give feedback to Google about those pages. Google then tries to tailor its ranking algorithms based on the feedback. The goal is to reward the sites that are the most trustworthy and authoritative with the highest rankings.
Among the things the Search Quality Raters are instructed to do is gauge the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness of each page they review. They’re supposed to evaluate the content, the website, and the author through the lens of E-A-T.
When Google released a core algorithm update in August of 2018 that affected YMYL (your money or your life) websites, E-A-T signals seemed and were later confirmed to play a part.
YMYL is the acronym of “Your Money or Your Life.” According to Google, any page that includes quality content about future happiness, health, safety, investment or financial stability is a YMYL page.
Google does not want to reward sites that aren’t authoritative or trustworthy and aren’t written by experts when it comes to serious issues like health, finances and safety.
Bear in mind, even if you don’t have a YMYL site, you still need to be concerned with this subject. And your page must have as good or better E-A-T signals as the top 10 results to expect to rank on the first page of Google for its main topic, regardless of your industry.
This likely exists on a continuum, where YMYL sites are affected more strongly by this part of the algorithm than other sites.
But Google cannot exactly tell if something is true, better or safer. Its algorithms must determine E-A-T signals in more indirect ways.
What Are E-A-T Signals and How Do You Improve Them?
There are things you can do to help send positive E-A-T signals to Google.
On-Page Improvement Suggestions
Positive on-page E-A-T signal assessment got turbo-charged in 2011 with a huge core update named Panda. Today Panda is baked in and must always be kept in mind. This means ensuring that your website presents itself in such a way that shows it is a real business, and not a fly-by-night spam site. Here are some suggestions:
- Make sure you have a robust and descriptive About Us page.
- Include a Terms of Service or Terms & Conditions page and make it easily accessible to users (usually from the footer).
- Make your site secure using HTTPS instead of HTTP.
- Include clear refunds and returns policies if you have an ecommerce store.
- Ensure your grammar is excellent, everything is spell-checked, and your authors are actual experts in the subjects about which they are writing. If a page is written by a good writer and researcher, but is not an actual expert in the subject, it’s going to show and is not ideal.
Off-Site Improvement Suggestions
Obtain Links from Trustworthy & Authoritative Sites
In an effort to explain how they fight misinformation (or disinformation) in the era of ‘fake news’, Google penned a whitepaper that explained that E-A-T is an important ranking signal. It said this regarding how it assesses E-A-T:
Google’s algorithms identify signals about pages that correlate with trustworthiness and authoritativeness. The best known of these signals is PageRank, which uses links on the web to understand authoritativeness.
This means a primary way that Google determines if a site and page has high E-A-T is through the links that point to it. Therefore, you want to get links from other sites that are authoritative.
You can discover sites that are authoritative by using a third-party tool such as Majestic or Ahrefs.com. They rate sites based an authoritativeness. Just remember it’s not Google’s ratings. However, the numbers are still very useful since they help you compare sites’ relative authority.
And you can use Majestic’s “Trust Flow” and LinkResearchTools’ “LRT Trust” metrics to determine how trusted a page and site are too.
You then need to get links from the sites that are the highest in authority and trust. (How to get these links is unfortunately beyond the scope of this article – but reach out to OpenMoves if you’d like help with your site!)
Manage Your Off-Site Reputation
It is a bad E-A-T signal if your business has mostly bad reviews on other sites. It is believed that Google actually goes out and ‘reads’ the sentiment in reviews on third-party sites and uses that information to rank your site. Maybe they read sentiment, or maybe just the number of stars. It would make sense that this would be part of the E-A-T signal, namely the ‘T’ in E-A-T.
To help with this, try to get positive reviews from now on, and go back and reply to any negative ones if you can. Many third-party review sites let the business owner, once verified, comment and reply to negative reviews. This is likely better
Get Unlinked Brand Mentions
Even if you don’t get a link from another site but are just mentioned, it likely helps your site’s overall reputation.
If your site or business name keeps popping up all over the web, especially when surrounded by positive sentiment words, Google will notice and consider it a positive signal.
These are often called unlinked brand mentions: when your company is mentioned on another site but isn’t a hyperlink that people can click on. Evidence suggests that even these contribute to your overall link profile, albeit to a much smaller degree than links.
Get a Wikipedia Page
According to the Search Rater Guidelines, it’s a positive signal if a site is referenced on Wikipedia.
And it’s likely even better when your site has an actual company page on Wikipedia. This is not an easy thing to do. Your business needs to be noteworthy in some way for it to be allowed on Wikipedia permanently. Either try to do this, or at least get a link from Wikipedia by contributing to its citations in an existing article.
Take a holistic approach to improving your E-A-T signals. This idea is from Stephan Spencer at Search Engine Land. He explains how doing any one of these things isn’t going to be enough. Rather, tackling as much as you can, across all these areas, both on-page and off-page, over a sustained period of time, is the winning strategy.
Use common sense to be as honest, open and transparent as possible when presenting your business and its practices on the web, and you’ll be well on your way to E-A-Ting your heart out.