As the E-A-T algorithm is becoming more and more crucial to the success of websites, creators, and businesses online, it’s vital that you work to optimize your content to meet Google’s quality standards so you aren’t penalized in their rankings.
So to help you better optimize your website for Google’s E-A-T algorithm, let’s dive into what E-A-T is, how Google measures it in your content, and how you can maximize each E-A-T element before examining the ways some businesses fail to optimize for E-A-T and a few of the many ways you can ensure you succeed.
E-A-T is a principle that Google first released in its 2014 “Search Quality Guidelines” publication. The acronym stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, the three pillar criteria Google’s reviewers measure when quality-checking web pages.
These thousands of reviewers then submit their findings back to Google where the information is used to improve the search engine’s algorithms and measure just how expert the site’s content really is, considering not only the text and image content of the webpages they check but also its content creators and website as a whole. This extension to include not only sites but creators as well caused significant upheaval as quality evaluators are now being asked to check the credentials of content creators as it related to their subject matter to ensure everything is E-A-T compliant.
However, despite this 2014 origin, E-A-T didn’t gain much notoriety until the August 2018 Google algorithm update, otherwise known as the “medic update.” This update was designed to help Google deliver not only the most relevant content to its audiences but also the most correct information. Within Google, especially with specific kinds of searches, there is a lot of room for an individual user’s life to be negatively impacted whether through misguided, false, or even malicious information if the wrong kinds of recommended pages pop up.
So, to combat this and control quality, Google set out to ensure there were safety systems put in place to protect their users’ happiness, health, and wealth, deciding to highlight higher-quality sites that feature expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.
In the early stages of this update, it became obvious that websites offering health and medical advice were being called out significantly more often than other sites, prompting journalist Barry Schwartz to label it the “medic update.” But while these kinds of sites were certainly hit hard, there were many others that were also affected. These are known as YMYL sites, or “Your Money Your Life.”
Websites that fall under the purview of Your Money Your Life are those that have “the power to influence a major decision related to a person’s money or their life,” (Forbes). And while medical and health-related articles certainly fall under this category, they are by no means the only sites that have been affected. Rather, any web pages that discuss health, financial issues, happiness, safety, or other related topics may be more closely monitored under E-A-T.
This is to ensure that the content provided meets Google’s standards for expert, authoritative, and trustworthy material. It’s Google’s way of helping protect its users from potentially harmful content that is lower quality than it will tolerate on its search engine.
E-A-T has become even more vital over this past year with more and more industry discussions revolving around it. In fact, within the most recent edition of Google’s Quality Guidelines, E-A-T is mentioned approximately 130 times throughout the 167-page document. But why is it so important?
Well, those professionals in the SEO industry, particularly those concerned with organic traffic flows and performance, are now realizing that E-A-T majorly affects updates, which in turn caused a lot of upheaval for YMYL websites that had existing E-A-T issues. If your site isn’t meeting the quality control standards Google is setting in E-A-T, it won’t reflect well for your business as your pages will rank far lower than you would like, and may result in loss of viewership and engagement if the low-quality continues to miss Google’s standards.
Additionally, it is overwhelmingly clear that Google itself highly values E-A-T, as reflected in how often it is referenced and discussed in the company’s published Guidelines, white papers, and articles about their core updates, disinformation, and other topics.
E-A-T is very broad, so the ways that Google may be measuring it are also quite extensive. Let’s take a quick look at five key ways your site and content creators may be evaluated by the company’s reviewers.
E-A-T consists of three key elements that work in synchronicity to measure the quality of your website and content. But what factors and considerations do your Google-employed quality control evaluators consider when examining your expertise, authority, and trustworthiness? To get a better understanding of how each of these elements is evaluated and measured to determine your site’s long-term ranking success, let’s take a closer look at each one.
According to Google’s algorithm, having expertise in the area you choose to create content in is an absolute must. Whether you have years of education or experience or both in your field, it’s important to skillfully communicate your knowledge in a way that an audience will want to read and engage with.
So, to create expert content, you must first understand your topic well. Then, you have to figure out just what aspects of your topic others want or need to learn about the most. Only then can you begin drafting content that is going to rank well under E-A-T.
Additionally, you will need to consider just who will be searching for your content so you can expertly tailor it to communicate best to them. For example, if you’re writing to industry professionals, you are welcome to use industry-specific jargon and talk about issues with more complexity and depth. However, if your audience is targeting beginners in your field, or if they’re outsiders with little to no pre-existing knowledge of the subject matter, you’ll need to take that into consideration by modifying your content to exclude complex jargon, acronyms, and terms that they may not be familiar with.
Once you’ve established your expertise, you must then work to ensure your brand is recognized not only as a contributor to your field but as an authority within it. Google recognizes this happening on sites when outside creators and websites begin citing your content and brand on their pages. At that point you become more than an expert in your field, you become an authority.
There are several different KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that Google evaluators may consider when evaluating your site for its authoritativeness. Among these may include:
You can spend years building up your brand’s expertise and authority, but no matter how much effort you put in, you can lose all of your credibility in a heartbeat if your brand loses its trustworthiness. If you aren’t extremely conscious of your brand’s public image and actively working toward leaving positive impressions on your audience, then you’re likely to lose any trust you’ve gained with them and your Google rankings along with it.
Your trustworthiness is about more than being knowledgeable in your field and delivering accurate information. It also concerns the sentiments that may surround your business, reviews you may receive, and systems you have in place to deal with feedback.
If you start seeing a lot of negative sentiment around your brand and do nothing about it, you will very likely drop your rankings. So even if you receive negative reviews or feedback, it’s always wise to leave polite, respectful responses that address any concerns your reviewer may mention. Keep in mind that the more bad reviews you receive, the lower Google will drop your brand in their rankings.
This kind of response is also true of any scam reviews you may receive. Recently, one-star scam reviews have become popular online with individuals threatening to keep submitting negative feedback to independent and small businesses unless the owners pay them to remove the content. And while the reviews are fake, their impact is very real.
In this situation, publicly responding to these comments lets both Google and your audience know that there is a scam involved that is impacting your ranking. This goes a long way to assuage hesitations your audience may feel about working with you after seeing the scam reviews.
But despite this new difficulty, having your business listed on review sites like Google My Business, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tripadvisor, Trustpilot, the Better Business Bureau, and others can help bolster your customer interactions, increase positive sentiment, draw new business to your company, and most importantly show Google and potential customers that you are trustworthy.
There are several things businesses and websites do that don’t meet E-A-T’s standards, causing them to rank lower on Google and be seen as YMYL pages. By understanding what they do wrong, you can ensure that your page can avoid those pitfalls and meet a higher standard of quality that promotes your content.
Now that you have a better understanding of what E-A-T is and what to avoid when trying to rank higher within the algorithm on Google, let’s look at several key things you need to be doing now to optimize your page for Google’s ranking systems.
Optimizing your brand and webpages for Google’s E-A-T algorithm isn’t hard, but it does require time and dedication for you to see real results and keep your site off of the YMYL low-quality categories. Remember to create accurate, consistent, unique content that speaks to your audience in a way that they understand while avoiding the pitfalls of low-quality sites like ignoring comments and spamming audiences with unnecessary ads or CTAs.
As long as you’re dedicated to delivering and maintaining the best content you can, you’re sure to optimize your site well.