Google wants to make sure that the pages that it places in the search results answer searchers queries in ways that show expertise, authority and trustworthiness. It certainly doesn't want to serve up content that is weak, dubious or possibly fraudulent.
In this post, I'll go into some more detail about these three quality factors - Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness (known as E-A-T) and show how you can write content that meets these quality criteria in a more effective way.
What is E-A-T?
Keywords, speed, mobile friendliness, Core Web Vitals, security - all are important factors in where Google places a page for the search results. However, these are not enough to get a good ranking. You must also make sure that the content you publish is of high quality.
Google has created a set of Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG) which establish a set of criteria for determining whether a piece of content should be regarded as of good quality or not. The criteria centre around the content showing Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness - hence E-A-T.
This 168 page document was written for Google's rating team, who check out websites which do well in the Google results. Apparently, there are about 10,000 people employed by Google to do this work.
Google has established these guidelines because the people want to see good quality content and Google wants to put the sites that people want to read towards the top of the search results.
Why is it important?
E-A-T is more important for some sites than others. If you are an accountant, an IFA, mortgage broker or other financial professional, then E-A-T is especially important. Also, if your business is involved in healthcare of any sort, again, the E-A-T guidelines are especially important. Google refers to sites like this as YMYL (Your Money or Your Life).
The reason for this is that Google does not want to promote sites that offer information from poorly qualified (or unqualified) people when dealing with matters involving money or health as the advice offered could well be wrong and so be detrimental to the searcher.
If your business is not involved in finance or health, E-A-T is still important but less so.
So let's look at each factor individually.
Clearly, to write content that demonstrates expertise, you've got to know what you're talking about.
For most financial or health related topics, Google wants to see the qualifications and formal expertise of the author to establish expertise. Having an About page which is up-to-date with your qualifications, industry awards you have received, conferences you have spoken at etc, is a good way to establish expertise.
However, life experience, rather than formal qualifications, can also count in some circumstances, as Google says in its guidelines (page 20)
For example, there are forums and support pages for people with specific diseases. Sharing personal experience is a form of everyday expertise.
However they go on to say that
Specific medical information and advice (rather than descriptions of life experiences) should come from doctors or other health professionals.
For content that is not related to money or health, the rules are less stringent. The Quality Raters' Guidelines (page 20) say:
Some topics require less formal expertise. Many people write extremely detailed, helpful reviews of products or restaurants. Many people share tips and life experiences on forums, blogs, etc. These ordinary people may be considered experts in topics where they have life experience. If it seems as if the person creating the content has the type and amount of life experience to make him or her an “expert” on the topic, we will value this “everyday expertise” and not penalize the person/webpage/website for not having “formal” education or training in the field.
Being particularly knowledgeable about a certain subject is necessary, obviously, but, in Google's terms, you also need to know how to communicate that knowledge is a way that is engaging and appropriate to what the searcher needs.
Having expertise is a great first step but if, in addition, you are recognised by others in your area of expertise then you gain authority. This recognition comes through your articles/posts/pages being cited by others. This may be through
- being linked to from authoritative websites which are relevant to your area of expertise
- simply being mentioned on relevant and authoritative websites
- your content being shared on social media on a regular basis.
When you publish something, it's worth making an effort to publicise it, share it and promote it as this can help build your authority.
Google's Quality Raters are told to look for independent information about businesses when checking authority see page 17
When searching for reputation information, try to find sources that were not written or created by the website, the company itself, or the individual. For example, IBM might have official Facebook or Twitter pages that it closely maintains, which would not be considered independent sources of reputation information about the company
If you are a small business, there may not be much independent information available about your company, but this is not regarded as a negative.
Frequently, you will find little or no information about the reputation of a website for a small organization. This is not indicative of positive or negative reputation. Many small, local businesses or community organizations have a small “web presence” and rely on word of mouth, not online reviews. For these smaller businesses and organizations, lack of reputation should not be considered an indication of low page quality.
A very effective way of gaining authority is to have a Wikipedia page for your brand or for specific people in your company. Getting a Wikipedia page can be quite difficult but it will a considerable boost to your company's authority if you can manage it.
Bear in mind that authority is related to the subject matter. An established, well-known accountant is likely to have significant authority in the area of tax, but will have little or no authority in the field of veterinary medicine, for example.
Trustworthiness is about the verified accuracy of what is published on your website. It's also about referencing trustworthy external websites in the content on your site. You should also link to other experts in your field as this shows that you have researched the topic.
It's also important to be clear about who is responsible for the content on the website and provide a means of contacting them.
Trustworthiness can also be enhanced by
- If you are selling products, there should be a page about refunds and returns.
In addition, if people are posting reviews about your services, your products or your content, keep an eye on these. If there are negative reviews, address these quickly, as too many negative reviews will damage your trustworthiness in the assessment by the Quality raters.
However, getting positive reviews and testimonials will build trust in your brand and it is worth seeking these out wherever possible.
Another useful activity, would be to check that older posts and articles are still up-to-date. If not, link to more current content or add a note to the post to say it is out-of-date. Having content on your site which is no longer accurate will be damaging to your trustworthiness of your site.
Is E-A-T a ranking factor in the Google search algorithm?
Not directly, as a machine can't assess E-A-T. So Google does not assign a score to your web pages according to how well they match the E-A-T criteria. However, Google are constantly adjusting their algorithm in ways that aim to improve the quality of the search results using the data obtained through their army of quality raters.
E-A-T is an approach Google uses to protect searchers from dubious, poor quality content and limit the spread of misinformation, which is surely something to be applauded. So, if your site's content does not match well with the E-A-T guidelines, it is unlikely that your site will rank well in search.
Google has established these guidelines because this is what people want and Google want to put the sites that people want to read towards the top of the search results. So, adjust your content for E-A-T, not so much for Google's sake but for your site visitors' sake.
If you'd like some advice and guidance in the area of content writing, please get in touch.