Google often updates its ranking algorithm, meaning that search engine optimization (SEO) is always evolving. But, one consistent factor is that Google favors high quality content. E-A-T is a formula that will help your site rank higher. Let's take a look at what it is, why it's important, and how to implement it.
What is E-A-T?
E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Each have a similar meaning but differ in connotation. Together, they reflect Google's tendency to favor quality content over keywords and backlinks. These are relevant, but it's not like 10 years ago when you could increase your rank with keyword stuffing. Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines explain ideas central to E-A-T.
An "expert" describes someone with advanced knowledge of a topic. Expertise is a good way to separate someone with years of experience from a blogger or hobbyist. An expert may be someone with credentials such as a medical license, law degree, or Ph.D. in an academic field. Or, it could be someone skilled at a certain trade or profession, such as plumbing, cooking, or dog training.
Authority is a step beyond expertise. An authority is recognized in its field as someone whose information is reliable. An individual or group with authority has a reputation and a wide following. Examples of authoritative sites include Washington Post, BBC, Harvard Health, Statista, and PubMed. Many sites with the .edu and .gov extensions are also authoritative.
An SEO goal has long been to get backlinks from authoritative websites. Until 2016, users could determine a site's authority using the page rank toolbar, which assigned a score from 0 to 10. Sites with higher scores had backlinks from other high-ranking sites. Another major quantitative tool for SEO, Alexa, was also retired. Alexa scored sites according to an algorithm. Though it's not as easy to identify authority, Google still uses similar criteria.
As the word "trust" implies, these are sites with reliable and accurate information. As with the other factors, trustworthiness is especially important for YMYL sites. Trustworthiness may also be relative to certain topics. A top legal firm may be trustworthy when it comes to legal advice, but not for unrelated topics.
E-A-T and YMYL Topics
E-A-T ties in with another Google factor: YMYL, which stands for "your money or your life." These are topics that have a tangible impact on people's lives, such as medical, legal, or financial subjects. Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness are critical in these situations. It's more important for a legal website to prove expertise than a site dedicated to popular culture. Google will favor a medical website run by doctors over someone who republishes medical information.
E-A-T and SEO Ranking
While E-A-T is important for SEO, Google does not use them as direct ranking factors. While this may seem like a contradiction, the fact is that expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness are hard to quantify. Even Google's now defunct page rank scores weren't based on a formula that you could duplicate. At the same time, you can still be confident that boosting E-A-T benefits your long-term SEO. This effort will also go a long way in building your audience. Potential and existing customers will appreciate higher-level content.
How to Boost E-A-T
We mentioned sites that are widely considered authoritative. Yet what can smaller businesses and organizations without millions of followers, customers, or members do to build E-A-T, both with Google and their audience?
As mentioned, the old idea that you can rank by getting lots of backlinks is no longer valid. However, quality backlinks from authoritative sites are as valuable as ever. Here are a few ways to get more quality links.
Get citations. Listings on Google Business, review sites such as Yelp, and directories relevant to your industry.
Look for opportunities to guest blog on popular sites.
Ask influential customers, partners, or members to link to your website.
Send out press releases for new products, events, or any relevant news.
Publish Original Content and Research
To be considered an expert or authority in your field, you need to do more than publish the same content as everyone else. Being among the first to publish newsworthy stories and original research helps you build a reputation. One way to do this if you're a smaller company or organization is to interview experts on your blog, video, podcast, or webinar. If people don't have time to conduct a live interview, you may still be able to get quotes from them by phone or via email.
Post Accurate Contact Information
Many smaller blogs and websites have only vague or even absent information about who is creating the content. To project authority, you should have easily found contact info, including a name, physical address, email address, and phone number. For privacy, you may want to use a virtual office service. If you have multiple contributors, create author pages for everyone.
Publish and Update Your Content
Publishing new content on a regular basis helps to boost your authority. A site that hasn't published anything recently or that only posts new content occasionally will have a harder time ranking than one that is constantly updated. Additionally, go back to older content and edit it as appropriate. Look for dead links, information that is outdated, and anything that could use refreshing.
Get Reviews and Manage Your Reputation
Online reviews are a powerful way to display authority. Encourage customers to leave reviews on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and other review sites. Of course, it's also important to attract positive feedback. What others say about you can boost or harm your reputation. You can't ensure that all reviews are positive, of course. But, often, people will remove or edit negative reviews if you do your best to resolve the issue.
Use E-A-T to Build Your Reputation
While E-A-T is not a quick fix, it's essential for building long-term authority. Rather than a single tactic, it provides a framework to help you plan your content strategy. Building a reputation as an expert, authoritative, and trustworthy source will boost your SEO.