The Google Page Quality Rater Guidelines, introduced in 2014, explain the importance of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T). Although it might seem like common sense that a high-quality webpage should have these qualities, what Google considers expert and trustworthy can get pretty confusing. Most of the gray area lies within the expertise section of the concept. But to understand what “expertise” in SEO actually means in this context, it’s important to identify why Google considers E-A-T essential to high-quality content.
Sharing your unique expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness on a topic helps Google understand that you know what you’re talking about and your website pages are a good fit to answer searcher’s questions. Even one page ranking well in the search results can boost overall website performance. As of 2019, on average, over 53% of traffic to a website comes from organic search. Therefore, with more visibility from well-ranking pages (and a website optimized for user experience and conversions) should come more interaction and leads.
Understanding E-A-T as a Whole
Google has explicitly stated how important E-A-T is when evaluating pages, but never actually explain how to “tick the boxes.”
The authoritativeness and trustworthiness aspects are considered within the main content, the website and the creator itself. Meanwhile, expertise deals specifically with the author. Authoritativeness basically deals with the relevance of the topic to the website or webpage. The main content of the page should also add value, such as new information or a new point of view. That page should also align with the website’s main purpose in order to stay on topic. Trustworthy websites have positive reputations and correctly cite outside sources. All three components play a part during evaluations, but high-quality pages exist when high levels of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness are all present.
What Goes Into High Levels of E-A-T?
Although E-A-T is an important aspect of rankings, it technically isn’t a ranking factor. E-A-T is a criteria that can be evaluated from the viewpoint of Google’s Quality Raters, page viewers and page creators. According to the Google Page Quality Rater Guidelines, there are high E-A-T pages and sites of all types, including blogs, forums and Q&A pages. To achieve high levels, relevance and appropriate expertise are some of the most important factors. The question now is, what is appropriate expertise?
As mentioned earlier, high levels of E-A-T can occur on all types of pages. Therefore, the expertise and backgrounds of authors will be very diverse. For example, there might be a medical page from a hospital giving advice about a certain condition. That author must have some expertise, such as educational and clinical experience as a doctor or nurse, or other healthcare professional. On the flip side, there could be a blog post from someone who currently has a medical condition they want to talk about. They may not be a formal healthcare provider, but can still share valuable information as an informal expert. As stated in Google’s Rater Guidelines, “The standard for expertise depends on the topic of the page.”
Additionally, the webpage and author must have a positive reputation. Negative press can impact a page’s credibility. Reputation is another reason to keep websites and pages updated. If there are negative comments or reviews, it is important to address them quickly.
Citing other well-known sources is one way to increase credibility. Using outside resources can show quality research and knowledge on a topic. That being said, make sure outbound links are high-quality and up-to-date! In addition, your credibility will increase if your webpage is generating traffic through backlinks. Inbound links and backlinks are both great ways to see what your audience is interested in.
Staying on topic and consistent in different articles is also something to keep in mind. If there is self-contradiction between two pieces of information on a website, the author may be discredited.
An author can also build credibility by creating an author profile page, such as the one below. By explaining their background, studies, skills and areas of expertise, readers and Quality Raters can better understand why an author writes about certain topics. The example below was linked to from an article Barbara wrote about beavers on the Washington Post. The profile clearly states her background, work and accolades.
Impact of Expertise on YMYL Sites
Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) sites require the highest levels of E-A-T because of the impact the information they share can have on a person. If it seems that information is misleading or inaccurate, a page will be considered low-quality. This can be determined by an author’s limited expertise, topic irrelevance or facts that are blatantly wrong. Having a good reputation and credible experience will help aid in the quality of a webpage. Being able to answer and respond to questions or reviews quickly is another good look for YMYL sites. For YMYL sites it is particularly important for the reputation of both the website and creator be positive. Google says that if either are lacking, the Low or Lowest page ratings can be applicable. They also provide some examples of low quality pages in section 6.7 of the page quality rater guidelines.
It seems that Google’s algorithms are constantly changing, and this includes page ranking criteria. Being consistent in how you show E-A-T on your website is an important step to ranking well on organic search. To be considered an expert in your industry, this is necessary. Staying up-to-date on the guidelines will help you improve the way you optimize your website. Whether you’re trying to increase traffic, engagement or conversions, using the concept of E-A-T will help. E-A-T is great to use when creating a new page, or auditing an existing one.