When it comes to ranking your content high in search, Google E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness) really plays a massive role in 2021. If you want to drive a meaningful amount of traffic from Google’s search engine, you’ll need to nail these best practices for your website.
There are people who dedicate their careers to improving search engine optimization (SEO) and it’s no wonder, since ranking can be the difference between blogs and businesses surviving… or failing.
In this post, I will lightly touch on ways that you can boost your SEO strategies, but I am going to focus on something that Google calls E-A-T. This is a little different than your typical SEO tips-style article, but still very helpful for understanding what Google is looking for in terms of content quality.
Following the guidelines of E-A-T will not only improve your search rankings, but also improve your site and user experience.
Google E-A-T: Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness Explained (Content Quality Guidelines)
What is Google’s E-A-T?
What Industries are Most Affected by E-A-T?
Why is Google Using E-A-T?
What Are Quality Raters Looking For?
How to Master E-A-T
SEO Still Matters (Here’s How to Use SEO Strategies)
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In August 2018, Google dropped a big algorithm update. This update was also known as the “medic update” and it affected the ranking of many websites.
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. These are three things that Google uses to see how worthy a website is for ranking.
E-A-T is a little tricky to explain because it does not directly affect your SEO ranking the same way that your site speed or headings might. However, Google does use “search raters” which are people who confirm whether algorithms are working properly and if websites are providing the best user experience possible. These people are given guidelines which include the E-A-T criteria.
Danny Sullivan, Google’s search liaison, explains it like this in a 2019 tweet:
“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.”
To put it a different way, E-A-T certainly can affect your ranking, but to determine if your website is a good candidate to rank high they can’t just put in some technical parameters into Google’s algorithm.
For example, long-form content tends to rank higher on Google searches, but just because something is long doesn’t mean it’s useful or reliable.
Google wants to produce results that give people information that’s trustworthy, and they use quality raters to make sure that happens.
2. What Industries are Most Affected by E-A-T?
While E-A-T can be applied to any type of business or blog, the 2018 algorithm update did not affect all industries equally. It was called the “medic update” by search engine marketing journalist, Barry Schwartz, because people with sites in the medical industry were most affected by it.
Blogs and Businesses in the YMYL Community
It isn’t only the medical community that was affected, however. Any website that might have a lasting impact on someone’s life is also included. Your Money Your Life (YMYL) is another term that Google uses to help quality raters check sites. YMYL refers to any website that might share advice concerning a person’s health or wealth.
Some types of pages or topics could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety. We call such pages “Your Money or Your Life” pages, or YMYL.
The update tanked the SEO rating of a lot of medical websites, but the YMYL criteria can hit any website which might negatively affect someone’s life.
Examples that Google mentions are:
News and current events
Civics, government, and law
Health and safety
Groups of people (meaning information about groups of people such as ethnic origin, race, veteran status, sexual orientation, religion etc)
Things related to big decisions such as housing, education, or finding a job
When you think about things that can affect someone’s life the term becomes quite broad. So while some industries may have been targeted more than others (like medical), it’s a good idea no matter what your niche to produce content that’s reliable, helpful, and truthful.
3. Why is Google Using E-A-T?
Google is looking for sites that offer the best user experience for Google users as well as providing answers that are relevant and correct.
The diet website industry was hit particularly hard with the medic update, likely because diets can become popular even without researched medical backing. At times, people follow diet trends that are risky or are unsubstantiated. Google, not wanting to be liable for unsafe content, and wanting to provide the best possible content for their users, dropped certain diet sites’ ranking.
Another reason for this update was the increased use of voice searching. People using Alexa in their homes often ask questions about everyday concerns. An example might be someone looking for advice about how to stop a nosebleed or asking what to do when a child is running a high fever.
Alexa answers these questions by finding the website that ranks well because it’s trustworthy. Google doesn’t want to be responsible for sharing bad medical advice to its users.
Here is how they explain the role of E-A-T in an evaluation:
Remember that the first step of PQ rating is to understand the true purpose of the page. Websites or pages without some sort of beneficial purpose, including pages that are created with no attempt to help users, or pages that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users, should receive the lowest rating.
These quality raters are making sure that websites are useful to users and not misinforming people, spreading hate, or causing harm.
Google does qualify that a person could become an “expert” in a field because they have an experience with something. For medical advice, Google wants people who are accredited and have the right expertise. Financial advice should be produced by “trustworthy sources that are updated regularly.” That doesn’t mean that everything that ranks on Google has to come from a person in a specialized field. For instance, someone can produce a great review of a product simply because they’ve used and have experience with that product. People may also share life experiences that are personal to them, such as what it’s like to live with a serious disease.
Google explains, “Think about the topic of the page. What kind of expertise is required for the page to achieve its purpose well? The standard for expertise depends on the topic of the page.”
Now that we’ve introduced E-A-T, let’s take a closer look at each part of the acronym.
Expertise means having the right experiences, credentials, or education to share the information you’re sharing. As I explained earlier, you wouldn’t want to get medical advice from someone who has no medical expertise. You also wouldn’t want to get financial advice from someone who doesn’t know anything about finance and has a terrible financial record.
Expertise has to do with whether or not you’re actually qualified to share the information you’re sharing.
Authority has to do with how others view your expertise. You could boost your authority with backlinks from other websites, a good ranking on the Better Business Bureau, or good reviews on things like Yelp.
Google is making sure that a website, business, or blog is held in high regard by other people.
In its quality rater guidelines Google sheds some light on what it means to have a good “reputation” as a website owner:
A website’s reputation is based on the experience of real users, as well as the opinion of people who are experts in the topic of the website. Keep in mind that websites often represent real companies, organizations, and other entities. Therefore, reputation research applies to both the website and the actual company, organization, or entity that the website is representing. A website’s reputation can also help you understand what a website is best known for, and as a result how well it accomplishes its purpose. For example, newspapers may be known for high quality, independent investigative reporting while satire websites may be known for their humor.
Many websites are eager to tell users how great they are. Some webmasters have read these rating guidelines and write “reviews” on various review websites. But for Page Quality rating, you must also look for outside, independent reputation information about the website. When the website says one thing about itself, but reputable external sources disagree with what the website says, trust the external sources.
Websites should also be trustworthy and reliable. Google doesn’t want to send people to scam websites where they’ll be ripped off or have their identity stolen during a transaction.
They also want your website to share information that’s true. If you’re an expert, but you’re using bad sources to back up your writing, you’re still not trustworthy.
5. How to Master E-A-T
So how do you meet and exceed Google’s E-A-T standards? The short answer is make good content.
If there’s ever been a more repeated phrase in blogging-dom it would be to make sure you’re producing the best content on the market. That’s the number one way to succeed in this industry.
Of course, that isn’t particularly helpful when you already feel like you’re pouring a lot of effort into your blog and haven’t yet reaped the benefits. It can also be maddening advice when you’re producing good content and Google is treating you like an outcast.
That’s why I’ll go into further detail here about how you can do better in an E-A-T score, and give you actionable advice that you can start using today.
Google Wants You to Pretend Like Google Doesn’t Exist
Google knows how badly people want to rank in their search engine, and they know how much a difference it can make to businesses and bloggers to hit those top ranking spots. All the same, Google cares far less about bloggers wanting to rank high and far more about their users getting the best possible experience.
Google’s own advice? Stop worrying about Google, and start worrying about your potential visitors. If you’re providing the best possible content for the people they’re sending over to your site, their users are happy, they’re happy, and you’re happy. It’s a win-win-win.
You know how people say “stop looking for love and it’ll find you?” It’s sort of the same with Google. If you focus your main attention on creating the best, most helpful, most reliable content for your audience, Google is going to take note and you’re far more likely to rank higher than you will be stuffing your content with keywords.
Here’s what Google suggests to website creators in their webmaster guidelines:
Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
Don’t deceive your users.
Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.
Think About What Makes You an Expert (Or Not)
If you’re just starting a blog and trying to determine your niche, it’s a good idea to consider what you’re an expert in (or what you’re willing to dedicate a lot of time and research into).
There are some things you’ll be an expert in immediately. For example, if you’re writing a personal lifestyle blog, you’re an expert about your life. No one else could be a better expert than you.
If you’re a fashion blogger your audience will consider you an expert if you’re able to keep up with trends or if they like your personal style.
If you want to start a blog about mountain biking but haven’t ridden a bike since you were a kid and you don’t know anything about bikes, it’s probably not the niche for you.
Audit Your Content
Look back over the content you’ve made in the past and see if they follow the E-A-T guidelines. Did you have the expertise to share the information wrote? Is your content trustworthy?
Did you use reliable external links that prove your points, or did you use bogus facts and statistics from unreliable sites? Is the information you shared five years ago still true, or is there new research that debunks what you’ve previously written?
Write New Content With E-A-T in Mind
After you audit your old content, use the same concepts with the new content you’re writing. Make sure you’re using true, relevant, and reliable information for your readers.
Clearly Identify Who You Are and Why You’re an Expert (Work on Branding)
One way to establish your authority and expertise on your website is to show your audience (and Google) why you’re an expert in your field. A good about me page is very important to identify yourself and take ownership of your blog.
If you’re a website that has multiple contributors, a photog and bio section including their credentials is helpful. Google wants to know that everyone who writes on your site is an expert in the things they’re writing.
On my blog, I show my expertise by showing exactly how successful my blog is each month in my blog income reports. In it, I share things like my monthly income, blog stats, and email subscribers.
I also show visitors on my main page why they should trust my advice by sharing my accomplishments. Here I show other businesses I’ve worked with (which helps show my authority).
I also have quotes from people who I’ve worked with that would be familiar to my audience.
And while you may not have the same kinds of industry connections today that’ll lend credibility to your name with a supportive quote, now is the time to start thinking about the people you’d like to build relationships with and eventually earn their trust.
Next on my homepage, I include another section showing why I’m an expert in two very specific categories:
Google wants to know who the person behind the blog or website is—and if they have the expertise to back up their work.
Make Sure Your Site is Secure
One of the important elements of E-A-T is trustworthiness, and to achieve that, your site needs to be secure.
If you’re browsing the internet with Chrome and come across a site that is an HTTP as opposed to an HTTPS, Chrome will alert you that the site is not secure. That little “s” attached to the URL means that a site is secured with Secure Sockets Layer or (SSL). SSL makes sure that there are secure communications between a person and a server.
Those of you that are using WordPress to power your site will have to use a hosting plan. Many hosting plans, including Bluehost, offer free SSL certificates with a hosting plan.
Guest Posting on Other People’s Sites
Although backlinks aren’t specifically mentioned in the Quality Rater’s guidelines, it does talk about building your reputation. One way to do that as a blogger is to guest post on other people’s blogs. Guest blogging will give you the backlinks that Google’s algorithm looks for and the reputation that quality raters are checking for.
6. SEO Still Matters (Here’s How to Use SEO Strategies)
Creating content around the E-A-T construct doesn’t mean you toss out all the other good SEO advice you’ve learned. Good SEO strategies are essential for Google finding your website, knowing how to rank it, and putting your website as the #1 hit.
For a more detailed guide to SEO strategies, check out my guides 10 Blog SEO Strategies and On-Page SEO Strategies.
For a quick checklist of SEO tips, here are some of the most important ones to keep in mind:
1. Keyword Research
Keyword research is the first step I take when I’m thinking up content for my blog. Sometimes my keyword research gives me an idea of what to write about. I can look up terms related to blogging and see what people are interested in.
Other times, keyword research can help me find the correct word or phrase to use for an idea I already have.
Blogging tools like Ahrefs (paid) or Twinword Ideas (free) can help me figure out things like:
How many people are searching for a given word or phrase each month
What words or phrases they’re searching for that are similar to the one I’ve searched
What kind of competition there is for the keyword
Who is already ranking for the keyword I’m interested in
I may want to write a blog post about a topic that’s interesting to me, but if no one is searching for it on Google, there’s a low chance of it driving a lot of traffic in the future.
2. SEO-Friendly Headlines and Headers
Another important element of SEO is writing the right kind of headlines for the topic at-hand. You want to write headlines that catch your readers attention, but also alert Google to the kind of content that you’re writing. They should also include the keyword you’ve decided to write about.
Google’s crawlers look at things like headlines, headers, and sub-headers to identify what your content is about. That’s why I suggest repeating your keyword or keyword phrase in your headers when it’s natural to do so.
3. Write Enticing Meta Description
A meta-description is the little blurb of writing that people see when they’re searching for things on Google. It’s the short amount of words that appear below your headline that tell people why they should pick your blog post.
Here’s what the meta description looks like for my post 10 On-page SEO Strategies:
If you’re using WordPress and have the Yoast SEO plugin activated, you can edit your meta description right in the WordPress publisher. Here’s what it looks like in the editor:
A meta-description is short, sweet, and let’s your reader know why your content is worth checking out.
When you’re writing a meta description, understand that you have between 50-160 characters to write. Anything more than that will be cut off and the searcher will not be able to see it.
Your meta-description should also include your keyword or keyword. When someone searches for a specific phrase, your keyword will show up in bold and alert them to your content. Just as with the headlines, the keyword should be natural and fitting in the meta-description not forced.
4. Optimize Your Images
One of the ways that people search on Google is through optimizing your images. Though this may not account for as many visitors as regular search, there are plenty of people that do search images as well. If your blog is image-heavy, it makes it even more important.
Search engines can’t see an image the way a human can, so you have to provide a description so the algorithm knows how to categorize it.
In WordPress, you have the option of adding an alt Text and Title to each of your images. You can see how I did this in my blog post below.
You can also change the file name of your images before you upload them to include keywords you expect people to be searching for. If you had to choose only one image to do this with, make sure it’s your featured image. This is the one that will be getting the most attention and is often the one that’s pinned and shared.
5. Reduce Load Time
How quickly your website loads is another factor that Google uses to determine ranking. This is largely due to the fact that websites with a long load time have a higher bounce rate, and lower user satisfaction. People don’t wait around very long for a website to load either growing impatient or believing that something is wrong with the site.
To improve your load time, it’s good to start with a hosting company that provides fast load times. Dreamhost, Bluehost and GreenGeeks are known for having fast load times and a good first step for making sure your website loads quickly and correctly.
Other ways to improve your site speed are:
Removing unnecessary plugins (for WordPress users)
Optimize your images (reduce image sizes)
Remove unnecessary clutter on your page (a minimalist approach looks clean and lowers load time)
6. Consider Keyword Density
SEO expert have to walk the line between including enough keywords that Google knows what their post is about and falling over the other side and unnaturally stuffing keywords in their post just to rank higher.
At one point in Google’s history, the blog with the most keywords would have a better chance of ranking higher. Google has greatly improved their algorithm since then, and this type of keyword stuffing will come across as spammy leading to a lower ranking.
So how much keyword density should you use? Or in other words, how often should you use your keyword(s)?
This is a pretty controversial topic and it really depends on which SEO expert you ask. I try to keep my keyword density between 1-3% and feel that going above that can be a bit too aggressive.
If you’re using the Yoast plugin on WordPress, they have a handy feature that can help you figure out if you need to include your keyword more or less for optimal SEO.
Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (Google E-A-T) Explained
As a recap, Google’s E-A-T guidelines are really not that complicated. It just comes down to sharing good, well-researched, truthful content. If you’re doing that, you’re ahead of the game and Google and your visitors will take note.
Now that I’ve given you an explanation of E-A-T and an insight into what Google is looking for, what are you going to do to improve your blog?
What are some steps you can take right now to give your visitors a better user experience?
If you have additional tips about E-A-T I’d also love to hear about them in the comments below!
Want to Start Your Blog the Right Way?
Check out my ultimate guide How to Start a Blog (on the Side) Today.