Google tends to be tight-lipped about the importance of its hundreds of ranking factors, and SEO practitioners typically need to rely on independent studies to learn which ranking factors carry the most weight.
E-A-T is the exception: Google openly proclaims its significance and even instructs its own Search Quality Raters to use it as a primary metric. So what is E-A-T and why is it so important? Find out and you’ll be able to gain a deeper understanding of Google’s standards and send your rankings soaring.
- What Is E-A-T?
- Is E-A-T a Ranking Factor?
- How to Increase E-A-T
What Is E-A-T?
In its section on overall page quality rating, Google introduces the concept of E-A-T, an acronym that stands for:
- authoritativeness; and
Specifically, it directs raters to evaluate:
- the expertise of the content’s creator;
- the authoritativeness of the content’s creator, the content itself and the website it’s on; and
- the trustworthiness of the content’s creator, the content itself and the website it’s on.
Whether or not a page demonstrates expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness directly influences its quality rating. In Google’s own words, E-A-T is “very important” for pages that have a beneficial purpose.
It also notes that high E-A-T pages and websites come in all shapes and sizes. They can be centered around:
- personal experiences;
- medical advice;
- academic subjects;
- forum discussions;
- financial, legal and tax advice;
- questions and answers;
- news; or
- product or service reviews.
So, E-A-T doesn’t just apply to pages about advanced subjects such as science, mathematics and history. Rather, E-A-T applies to (and therefore influences the Google rankings of) all types of pages.
Is E-A-T a Ranking Factor?
Here’s where things get persnickety: In general, ranking factors are defined as objective metrics that search engine algorithms can use to automatically determine quality without any human input.
Yet while E-A-T is undoubtedly used to determine page quality, it can’t be objectively measured by a computerized algorithm—that’s why Google employs real people in the form of its Quality Raters to analyze it.
So is E-A-T a ranking factor or is it not? Confusingly, both are true. As Danny Sullivan, Google’s Public Liaison for Search, explained in a 2019 tweet, the Google algorithm uses multiple signals to determine if content would have high E-A-T in humans’ eyes:
Is E-A-T a ranking factor? Not if you mean there’s some technical thing like with speed that we can measure directly.
We do use a variety of signals as a proxy to tell if content seems to match E-A-T as humans would assess it.
In that regard, yeah, it’s a ranking factor.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) October 11, 2019
In short, E-A-T is a ranking factor (and a very important one at that), even if it doesn’t fit into ranking factors’ strict definition.
How to Increase E-A-T
To boost a page’s E-A-T, you’ll need to individually address each E-A-T component.
In Google’s eyes, a satisfactory level of expertise can be either formal or informal—one is not preferred over the other.
For example, formal expertise can include college education or professional experience and tends to benefit content such as:
- medical advice;
- legal advice;
- scientific analyses; and
- academic reports.
On the other hand, informal expertise can include personal experiences or extensive research and tends to benefit content like:
- in-depth product reviews;
- discussions among peers;
- beginner- and intermediate-level how-to guides; and
- articles citing expert sources.
Depending on the context, even a topic as advanced as medicine may not require formal expertise. For instance, while a page outlining the symptoms of and treatments for an illness should come from a medically trained source, a forum post detailing an individual’s own struggles with said illness only needs to be informed by personal experience.
So when you’re evaluating a page’s expertise, it’s important to take a holistic approach and use your own reasoning skills to determine whether formal or informal expertise is required.
In the early days of Google, a page’s authority was determined solely by the number of links pointing toward it. Now, it’s not so clear-cut—Paul Haahr, a top-ranking Google software engineer, told Search Engine Land that:
We have no one signal that we’ll say, ‘This is authority.’ We have a whole bunch of things that we hope together help increase the amount of authority in our results.
Yet nothing in Haahr’s explanation tells us exactly what Google analyzes to decide whether a page is authoritative or not. So how can you work to improve a page’s authority if you don’t know how it’s calculated?
Start by considering the dictionary definition of authoritative. Merriam-Webster defines it as “possessing recognized or evident authority,” and “clearly accurate or knowledgeable.” From this we can gather that while expertise has to do with a page creator’s experience, authority has more to do with a page creator’s reputation for producing accurate, high-quality content about a given topic.
Knowing this, it makes sense why external links would play a role in determining authority: The more other pages link to a page, the more authoritative that page must be.
So, one of the most helpful things you can do to boost a page’s authority is to implement good link building practices such as building relationships through outreach, prioritizing content quality over quantity and encouraging social sharing.
You’d also do well to:
- ensure accuracy through thorough fact-checking;
- cite sources whenever possible; and
- ensure each page fulfills the overall purpose of the site it belongs to.
Google is heavily invested in improving the trustworthiness of the results it displays. It’s even partnered with the Trust Project, a consortium of news companies committed to promoting standards of honesty, accountability, accuracy and fairness in news media.
Those same principles apply to Google’s assessment of a page’s trustworthiness. In Google’s eyes, a trustworthy page should be transparent as to who owns it, link to reliable sources where appropriate and protect users’ privacy.
So if you’re looking to improve a page’s and site’s trustworthiness, make an effort to:
- include a thorough about us page on the website;
- publish easily accessible contact information;
- include author biographies for individually attributed writers;
- feature authentic user reviews where applicable;
- never publish spam, plagiarize content or engage in link schemes.
By following those practices, you’ll be able to build trustworthy pages that Google views as deserving of higher rankings.
Want Higher Rankings? Starting E-A-Ting Better
Some aspects of SEO are quick and straightforward—when you’re optimizing for page speed, for example, you don’t have to worry about abstract concepts like authoritativeness or expertise. Instead, you just need to keep experimenting until your loading times drop.
With E-A-T, though, success isn’t so clear-cut. To meet Google’s stringent quality standards, a website and all its pages must be accurate, transparent and trustworthy, and that can’t happen overnight. But by working to achieve a high level of E-A-T over time, you can help a site’s pages gain more trust, get more links and secure better rankings. Just like respect, E-A-T isn’t given—it’s earned.
Google / October 2020