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E-A-T: The Biggest Ranking Factor You Didn't Know About

Modern search engine optimization is much more sophisticated than it was even a year ago. Google's ranking algorithm continues to evolve, and each day marketers are racing to keep up. The latest evolutions revolve around a Google concept known as “E-A-T.” Businesses that neglect this critical component of SEO are likely to drop in search rankings, sometimes dramatically! In this article, we’ll outline just what E-A-T is, and how businesses can leverage E-A-T to achieve and maintain good search rankings.

E-A-T for SEO: Expertise, Authority, Trust

The Importance of Quality

Google first cemented their position as the leading search engine with the invention of the PageRank algorithm. The PageRank algorithm used the inbound links to a page as a measure of that page’s quality: each link represents a “vote” for the page. This concept still serves as one of the most important ranking factors today. As SEO experts find ways to influence search rankings, Google continues to modify their algorithm with new ways to identify high-quality content and determine which pages deserve the coveted first-page spots. All of these enhancements share a common thread: they are all designed to improve the user experience.

In 2004, Peter Morville published the “user experience honeycomb,” which illustrates seven key facets of the user experience: Useful, Usable, Desirable, Findable, Accessible, Credible, and Valuable. Each enhancement to Google’s algorithm is focused on improving their ability to identify content that delivers a great user experience.

High-quality content became more “findable” when Google leveraged technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence to better understand the intent of a user’s search and the meaning of content. And when Google integrated page speed and mobile support as ranking factors, they helped users find content that was more “usable” by prioritizing websites that load quickly and work well on mobile devices. Now, Google has turned its attention towards identifying which content is most credible.

What is E-A-T?

Around 2005, Google began building a team of “Quality Raters.” Their role is to review and assess the quality of search results and the pages they link to. To do this, Quality Raters are given a set of guidelines for rating these results. Several revisions of this document have been made available over the years, but in 2014 Google completely rewrote the guidelines and introduced a brand-new concept: E-A-T. These updated guidelines instruct Quality Raters to evaluate sites in three key areas when assessing page quality:

  • Expertise – Does the creator of this content have sufficient expertise on this subject?

  • Authoritativeness – Can the content creator or the website be considered an authority on this subject?

  • Trustworthiness – Can users trust the content creator, the website owner, and the content itself?

Simply put, E-A-T is a model for evaluating whether information is credible. Since 2014, these guidelines have been updated periodically (most recently in July 2018), but the core concepts remain the same. Pages can only be considered high quality if they are clearly credible (demonstrate high levels of expertise, authoritativeness, or trustworthiness). On the other hand, pages that are unable to demonstrate an adequate level of credibility should be considered low quality. The guidelines clearly state:

Important: The Low rating should be used if the page lacks appropriate E-A-T for its purpose.

While the concept of E-A-T is important for ALL pages, the appropriate level of E-A-T depends on the purpose of the page, the purpose of the website, and the actual content itself. Some topics are subjected to heightened scrutiny and more rigid standards, while others don't require quite as much formal expertise. For example, medical advice should be created by people or organizations with formal medical experience and education. But an ordinary person with a thorough review of a product on their blog could be considered an “expert” if they have enough first-hand experience with the product (and other similar products) to provide valuable insight.

Google refers to pages with content about topics that could have an impact on happiness, health, financial stability, or safety as “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) pages. A few examples of YMYL pages include webpages that provide: advice about investments, information about medical conditions and treatments, or legal information. Google recognizes that bad information about these topics has greater potential to make a lasting negative impact on user’s lives, so high levels of E-A-T are absolutely essential. Ultimately, content creators need to provide the most appropriate and most convincing evidence they can to help users answer the question: "Can I trust what this person (or organization) has to say?"

Why does E-A-T score matter?

E-A-T is one of the primary factors that Google’s Search Quality Raters use to evaluate the quality of search results. The importance of the E-A-T score comes down to how Google actually uses the ratings from their Search Quality Rating team. There are far too many pages to manually rate them all. So Google looks for patterns in the data and common characteristics that can indicate when a page is likely to be high- or low-quality. Ultimately, Google incorporates these new indicators into the search algorithm to improve the results for all users.

Over the last two years, many of the largest updates to Google’s ranking algorithm were designed to address page quality – more specifically, to either reward sites with high E-A-T, or penalize sites with very low E-A-T. The “Fred” updates from March 2017, and the more recent “Medic” update in August of 2018, all had a big impact on search ranking – especially for YMYL pages. For many organizations, these updates have resulted in a dramatic shift in search rankings. More importantly, this recent trend underscores the reality that Google is working hard to present users with higher-quality content from reliable and trustworthy sources.

How do I get a high E-A-T score?

It’s important to remember: Google’s website crawlers and ranking algorithms are largely an automated system. While the human Quality Raters actively rank page quality, Google uses this information to design new ranking factors and incorporate them into the algorithm. These ranking factors are like clues that help detect high-quality or low-quality pages. This means that the Google-bot must look for measurable things in order to evaluate E-A-T. Here are some of the most important techniques for achieving a high E-A-T score.

High-Quality Main Content

One of the most important ways to demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness is to ensure that the content itself demonstrates credibility. Well-written, thoroughly researched content is far more trustworthy than thin, hastily-written content. Here are some of the most important considerations:

What to do Why you should do it

Spelling & Grammar

Helpful content written by an expert takes time and effort. Content that is riddled with spelling mistakes and poor grammar is a sign that the author didn’t put much effort into creating it.

Use Descriptive Headings

Using headings to divide your content into more digestible blocks helps people skim the content. Plus, descriptive headings provide search engines with additional information about the topics covered in your content.

Highlight expertise and authority within the content

Incorporating references to credentials, examples, awards, or any other indicators of expertise and authority gives users easy access to evidence. Try to include some of this evidence early in the content, and then build upon this foundation throughout.

Reference Trusted Sources

Including external sources that support the information in your content helps lend it further credibility. Try to include references to sources with high E-A-T. This demonstrates that you stay informed on the topic, and have the expertise to curate and add value to content that already exists.

Write Comprehensive Content

To rank well for a given topic, your content needs to have enough meat to satisfy the user’s intent. Make sure to include content that answers key questions that readers might have, and include “next steps.” What should the reader do with this information? Where can they go to learn more?

Try to incorporate ALL of these into the content you create. Keep them in mind while you write new content, and update older content to adhere to these principles.

Focus on Relevant Topics

Another way to boost E-A-T is to focus on creating multiple pieces of content about the same topic. By covering the same topic from multiple angles, or publishing a series of detailed articles about a deep and nuanced topic, you begin to establish credibility through focus. For example, an article highlighting tips for tax preparation would be considered much more credible if it was posted on the website for a CPA firm as opposed to a cooking blog. Play to your strengths and stay on target by focusing on relevant topics, and build a strong collection of articles that support each other.

Once you have multiple pieces of content centered around a few key topics, you can then link them to each other to reinforce that relationship. Topic clusters not only help users find more content they are likely to benefit from, but they ALSO help communicate to search engines that these pages form a comprehensive collection of content about that topic.

Highlight Author Information

An important part of the E-A-T score relies on evaluating the author of the content to answer questions like: “Is this person qualified to publish this content?” or “Can I trust what this person has to say?” Google’s guidelines stress that researching the reputation of content creators is extremely important to establish whether the author has a sufficiently high level of E-A-T. In order to provide both users and search engines with easy access to this information, be sure to:

What to do Why you should do it

Provide Easy Access to Author Information

When this information is hard to find, both users AND Google can lose trust resulting in a low E-A-T score. Some common ways to do this include adding an author block at the bottom of the page, or linking to a separate biography page on the website.

Optimize Biographies

Biography content serves a very real purpose: it helps readers, as well as search engines, verify that the author is credible. Make sure that the bio content clearly and explicitly states why the author is qualified, and then provide access to evidence of this. Link to LinkedIn profiles and other social networks that reflect the author’s expertise. Include links to other content this author has written, especially those within third-party publications.

Curate a Personal Brand

An important source for reputation information is social networks, and an author's public social profiles should be tailored to reinforce their reputation. Distributing content through social media, interacting with influencers, and contributing to relevant conversations are all great ways to build visible credibility and a positive reputation.

Contribute to Industry Publications

Google places special emphasis on using “sources that were not written or created by the website, the company itself, or the individual” to find reputation information. Further build a reputation by creating content that gets external coverage, and create partnerships to publish your original material with trusted industry sources. Contributing content to relevant blogs and industry publications helps to bolster expertise and authority. Ensure that Google can associate this content with "you" by including bio information, and links to your website and social profiles.

The more ways an author can connect their content with their digital persona, the more likely they are to receive a high E-A-T score. This is particularly true for content that is published on websites that the author does not control. Ideally, try to ensure that content is connected to the author’s profile on multiple social platforms to add further legitimacy.

Highlight Organizational Information

Similarly, the reputation of the organization is also an important part of the E-A-T score. Quality Raters are instructed to explore the organization’s website, check out third-party reviews, and investigate press coverage to research the reputation and legitimacy of the organization. To help website visitors and search engines find this information, organizations should:

What to do Why you should do it

Include a Robust “About” Section

Website visitors often explore the “About” section of a website to build confidence in the company. Think in terms of what the user wants to learn, rather than focusing on what you want them to know.

These pages should clearly summarize what your organization specializes in, and additional content should provide evidence for this – why should the visitor consider you an expert? Highlight your team’s experience and qualifications, your company’s growth and accomplishments, and the awards or recognition you’ve received.

Encourage Customer Reviews

Reviews are a big part of the purchase decision. Ensure that your organization maintains a positive reputation by encouraging customers to leave reviews on the sites that matter most.

Beyond the most popular sources for reviews (like the Better Business Bureau, Google My Business, Yelp, or Facebook), try to find additional opportunities. Search for your company name on Google and see what comes up. Search for phrases like “best [your industry] companies” and look for sites that rank companies like yours. Then, make a plan to encourage customers to review your organization on these sites.

Leverage Social Media

A strong online presence also includes active use of social media. Use social media to build a positive reputation for your organization by publishing helpful content, reacting to posts from others, and contributing to meaningful discussions. These interactions help to position your organization as a valuable and trusted member of the community. Be sure to include links to your social profiles throughout your website, such as in the header or footer, and on your contact page.

Secure Your Website With SSL

Ever since Google began using a website’s support for secure protocols (HTTPS) as a ranking factor, businesses have scrambled to update their websites to implement it. But integrating SSL can also impact your E-A-T score. The verification of an organization is an important part of acquiring an SSL certificate, so the usage of a secure connection provides users and search engines with verifiable evidence that they can trust your organization.


Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness have become critical factors for success online. It’s no longer enough to “talk the talk” – organizations need to “walk the walk” by building, maintaining, and drawing attention to an ever-growing array of evidence that shows visitors that they are a high-quality, credible source of information.

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