In recent days, there have been innumerable tweets citing the “fact” that Google uses E-A-T, or expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, as ranking factors.
The problem is, this could not be further from the truth.
Google first introduced E-A-T shortly after the medic update in August of 2018, when many websites tanked after an algorithm update due to quality issues and overall issues with trustworthiness.
They introduced the concept of E-A-T within their search quality guidelines for human quality raters. This PDF can be found here, if you want to read it in detail.
Basically, the concept of E-A-T introduces some elements human quality raters should consider when looking at their websites: namely expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
The other acronym explained in the guide is YMYL, or Your Money or Your Life. This refers to the attributes of a website that attribute it to affecting several real-life factors that could impact people through their use, including:
Despite Evidence to the Contrary, Many SEO Professionals Believe E-A-T is Quantifiable
There have been a flurry of tweets in recent months talking about E-A-T and how it’s the greatest ranking factor known to man.
Certain SEO professionals (we will leave this spot nameless as it’s not our habit to attack other SEO professionals in a public forum) continue to push E-A-T as if it influences ranking factors in a positive way. It does not.
Clearly, the validity of E-A-T as a ranking factor is a hotly-debated topic in the SEO realm.
Sadly, E-A-T is nothing more than a concept used to illustrate certain desirable qualities, and Google has stressed this on several occasions.
It doesn’t help that other highly visible SEO professionals preach E-A-T as if it is something that’s physically measurable.
It’s actually not. Danny Sullivan has mentioned this on several occasions.
We want to put the issue to rest once and for all.
Danny Sullivan on the Issue of E-A-T
Google’s explanation of E-A-T has not helped matters, because on a certain level, it has been technical-ish and hasn’t communicated everything.
He says two things here.
One, he explains that there is absolutely no way to quantitatively measure E-A-T, and that it does not exist as an algorithmic attribute.
Two, that normal ranking signals are used as a proxy (which means that something is being used as something else) to understand whether or not it’s valuable as an E-A-T attribute.
He also says that it’s a ranking factor.
The problem with this statement is that some SEO professionals have taken E-A-T to new heights and integrate it everywhere as if it’s a real ranking factor that will have an impact on specific rankings.
This is dangerous, because it perpetuates myths—in particular the myth that E-A-T currently has anything at all to do with Google’s live ranking algorithms.
Next, let’s talk about some components of E-A-T, and drill down into how and why E-A-T does not exist outside of being a concept.
Expertise and Authoritativeness: There is No Rel=Authorship Signal
Google’s John Mueller is on record as describing that, while there is no authorship tag anymore, Google is able to recognize the works of an author, along with the author themselves as they appear all across the web, without the aid of a physical authorship tag.
They do this through entities.
But, even though they do this recognition via entities, that still doesn’t make it true that entities are E-A-T, or even a part of the entire E-A-T- concept.
Google uses links, Schema, and other items to recognize an author across the web as its own entity.
John explained in his Google Office Hours Hangout on April 23, 2021:
In order to have actual E-A-T ranking factors, at least some accurate individual author factor must be involved.
Otherwise, how would you gauge expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness if you have a bunch of random sources, all of which could have complex similarities with their names, but could all be different people?
One element that could contribute to trustworthiness, as speculated on by some SEO professionals, are trust seals.
However, Google does not use trust seals as a signal for ranking.
There has been speculation by some SEO professionals that being listed on the Better Business Bureau, or BBB, and in turn utilizing trust seals such as the BBB trust seal, or or other certificates from leading authorities, conveys trustworthiness in a site.
Could something like this communicate E-A-T? For the answer to this question, we turn to Google’s John Mueller.
John Mueller was asked this question in his hangout on April 16, 2021:
The user was referring to trust seals, such as those from the BBB, certification seals, or security seals. Basically any type of seal that conveys trust signals—the trustworthiness part of E-A-T.
John Mueller explained:
Once again, things like badges don’t help, because E-A-T is not a thing in Google’s algorithms.
It’s Still Possible to Rank a Site Without an Author Anywhere
Recent case studies and tests have shown that it’s still possible to rank a site without an author anywhere.
And doing so is not niche-dependent.
While the Google Quality Raters Guidelines call for the reputation of an author and a high-quality one at that when sites are rated by human quality raters, this is something that is considered only by proxy algorithmically.
While things like links from their articles can help, their past content being linked to a new site they are working on through the author profile, most high authority sites nofollow these types of links.
If the high authority site allows the following of that link to the new page, then you’ll get the credits for that link.
But this is what the “by proxy” part means. Content, links, authors, and entities and so on by themselves are what contribute to how Google sees a site overall. Not E-A-T.
E-A-T and YMYL are simply concepts from a guide Google put together for their human quality raters—concepts that have absolutely no bearing on the Google algorithm itself.
It’s important to understand this, because making recommendations at the higher level on E-A-T and YMYL could cost your clients time and money that they don’t have to spend.
E-A-T is Not a Google Algorithm Thing
At least, not something that can be measured directly.
This is why it’s important for SEO professionals to dispel these myths, because there are clients out there who are spending thousands of dollars to have their site optimized for signals that don’t help and don’t otherwise have much of an impact on their site’s performance on Google.
They trust what most SEO professionals say, because they don’t know any better. But, in case it’s not clear in terms of what a ranking factor is and isn’t:
Content is a thing. Links are a thing. Anchor text is a thing. These are known ranking factors.
But, the Google algorithm does not use E-A-T as a ranking factor. There is no E-A-T score. There is no E-A-T quotient, or whatever.
This is something that needs to be explained and dispelled at the outset.
Before you wind up being in this situation:
Screenshots by Author / June 2021