Google's E-A-T in SEO: Expertise, Authoritativeness & Trustworthiness
If you want to reach page #1 on Google, you have to E-A-T.
Google’s E-A-T is an important ranking factor that determines the authoritativeness and relevance of any given web page — and in turn, where it lands in search results.
This acronym has been in the lexicon of SEOs ever since Google’s Medic algorithm update in 2018. However, most businesses don’t have the faintest idea of what Google E-A-T is and how it affects their website’s position in organic search - until now,
In this post, we answer your most pressing questions on E-A-T, including:
Ready? Let’s go.
What is Google’s E-A-T?
Google E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. These are the three pillars that Google lists in its Search Quality Rater Guidelines to protect searchers from low-quality content.
Why does this matter?
Google’s goal is to ensure that its users not only get relevant and useful content that’s tailored to their searches, but also that they get the highest quality of results possible. This means content on websites that users can trust, created by people who know their stuff. Expertise-Authority-Trustworthiness is Google’s way of filtering out the junk to show the most reliable and useful content possible for its users.
Let’s look at this in action. Say you’re running a Google search for the best exercises for lower back pain. An article on WebMD that’s written by a physiotherapist is going to be far more trustworthy than an article on joesfitnesstips.com written by an anonymous author with no track record in the industry.
Google quality raters look at three components when evaluating Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness:
Overall website quality
The quality of the content on a page
The expertise and authority of the content’s author(s)
"[Google has] a collection of millions of tiny algorithms that work in unison to spit out a ranking score. Many of those baby algorithms look for signals in pages or content."
- Gary Illyes, Google
Why is Google E-A-T SEO so important?
E-A-T SEO is important because it’s one of the key factors that Google quality raters use to determine whether a website is high-quality or low-quality. If these quality raters audit your website and decide that your website, content, or authors don’t tick all three boxes for their E-A-T criteria, you’ll have a pretty tough time ranking well in Google's search engine results.
However, Google E-A-T quality rating matters more for some queries than others. For example, if someone’s looking up “Lord of the Rings memes”, E-A-T won’t be as big a ranking factor as a search query about mixing ibuprofen and paracetamol. This is because, with the former, anyone can create content without needing to have a qualification or expertise; whereas with the latter, misleading or incorrect information could literally put someone’s life in jeopardy. These are known in Google Quality Rater Guidelines as “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) topics or YMYL sites.
“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.” - Google
Think of it this way: when a person is searching for information that requires expertise or experience, chances are an E-A-T score will play a big role in the websites that appear at the top of search engine results. And if your business is built upon YMYL topics, like a medical practice offering medical advice or a personal training business offering fitness news, articles and tips, you’ll need to have a high level of E-A-T to get to page #1 in Google search.
Understanding Google E-A-T criteria
For YMYL topics, Google's quality raters evaluate websites, authors and content against the three pillars: Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
We’ll cover off each one in more detail below, to make it easier to understand exactly how Google E-A-T score works — and where you need to focus your efforts to improve it.
Google E-A-T: Expertise
When you’re looking for information, it’s better to get it from someone with a high level of expertise. That's why Google quality raters are specifically looking for content that’s created by:
An established expert in their field, such as a qualified professional or a known and trusted industry figure. These might be chartered accountants, financial advisors, or doctors.
An individual who has enough real-life experience on the topic to make them an expert, such as an entrepreneur, known public speaker, or content creator.
A person who demonstrates “everyday expertise” by sharing their personal experiences. For instance, someone might have “everyday expertise” in living with a chronic condition and share their story with others on blogs or forums.
Keep in mind that Google uses E-A-T expertise to evaluate a page at the content level, not at the website or the organisation level. This means that the author matters more than the website or the organisation itself EVEN if your business is widely recognised as an industry leader.
Google E-A-T: Authoritativeness
Authoritativeness can refer to authority at an individual level, a website level, or an organisational level. This criterion is all about influence and reputation: if an individual or website is a ‘go to’ source of information for a specific topic, they’re authoritative in their field.
Authoritativeness is relative, but it generally depends on two things: the opinion of real people and the opinions of experts. Google gathers this information through reviews, references, expert recommendations, media coverage, awards and accolades that reinforce the individual or website’s authority, and even their Wikipedia page.
A final word on authoritativeness: a website or an individual can hold unique authority on a certain topic, depending on what the subject matter is at hand. For example, Coca Cola’s website is most likely going to be the most authoritative source of information for Coca Cola products.
Google E-A-T: Trustworthiness
Legitimately, transparency and accuracy are crucial components of trustworthiness. Google doesn’t want to direct users to websites with questionable business practices or invite customers to make a purchase from a platform that offers no contact information — particularly for Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) topics.
Google's Quality Rater Guidelines outline a number of factors that influence a site or an author’s trustworthiness, including:
The level of clarity and transparency on who is responsible for the website content
Sufficient contact information, such as a physical address, email address, phone number and social media page
Accurate content that’s supported by a consensus when possible (such as scientific consensus)
Mentions or references to trustworthy sources in their content
Learn how to achieve a high E-A-T score using Topical Authority and drive your SEO results
While E-A-T is an important initiative that businesses should be using to evaluate the subject matter, most marketers struggle to understand or measure it objectively (in other words, in the way Google sees it). This can have huge run-on effects when it comes to building an SEO campaign, investing in the right initiatives, or knowing which tactics to prioritise over others.
So how can you turn E-A-T into something that helps your SEO efforts instead of just another acronym? It all comes down to understanding and improving your topical authority on any given subject.
What is topical authority?
Topical authority refers to your website’s perceived authority over a broad range of ideas within an idea set. In a nutshell, this is how Google measures your website against its E-A-T to evaluate how trustworthy and reliable your content is. When it comes to SEO, you can think of it is as targeting a broad net of keywords related to your industry and area of expertise, and generating significant volumes of high-quality content on your topic.
If you map it out, it looks like this:
Beyond search, building your topical authority offers a TON of benefits to your business:
You’ll be the go-to source when people look for a reference or a link to share via social (for instance, Gymshark for fitness advice or Hubspot for inbound marketing).
If customers have a question, they’ll be able to find the answer on your site — rather than having to turn to your competitors.
You’ll have more answers to the questions that your audience is searching for in Google.
Bottom line: you’ll have more high-quality pages, more target keywords, more backlinks to your site, and massively improved rankings.
Measuring your website’s authority
Before you get to improving your topical authority, you need to know how your site currently stacks up. Your topical authority boils down to the depth and breadth of content you create for keywords in your broad topic or industry.
For example, if you’re a B2B business that’s offering a product management tool, your content should cover keywords and questions like these:
Image source: Spyfu
Make a list of relevant keywords and questions based on your industry and the topics that are relevant to your audience. Once you have this, you can begin to get a sense of your authority based on how well you’re ranking in Google search results. If you hold the top spot for 50 out of 55 of your target keywords, chances are your topical authority is pretty strong in your field.
Another way you can do this is to hop onto a tool like Answer the Public and see what people are searching for in any given topic. For example, entering in the topic “widgets” returns a graph like this one:
Image source: Search Engine Journal
Using this chart, you can get a pretty good idea of the types of subjects you need to target for topical authority and begin to analyse where you stack up.
Benchmark your topical authority with competition
After you’ve pulled together your list, you’ll need to benchmark your topical authority against the competition — also known as a content gap analysis. A content gap analysis reveals the type of content you’re ranking for versus your competitors and helps you understand where you need to focus your time and effort.
If you already know who the competition is, you can map out a list of your target keywords and see each site is performing in search. In this case below, this heatmap from MarketMuse uses data to show how an SEO website compares to others for keywords related to topical authority:
Image source: Market Muse
Every red block indicates an area with a content gap. If this is you, it’s time to focus on filling that gap with high-quality beneficial content for that related topic. On the other hand, if there’s an industry-wide content gap (like “geo topical authority”), this is a chance for you to build up your own topical authority and own this space.
Another way to do this is to work backwards from a keyword to unearth your topical keyword competitors. For example, in Spyfu, you can take a look at the top pages for any given keyword like so:
From here, you can then generate a Top Pages report to see what your competitors are doing with their content and where they’re trying to build topical authority. In the case of ProductPlan, their list of top pages suggests they’re trying to improve their authority for keywords around “agile product management”:
Use content and the Topical Authority metric to improve your organic results
Got an idea of your own topical authority and how you stack up versus the competition? Now it’s time to get to work building up your topical authority with content in order to improve your organic search engine rankings. Topical authority should be one of the foundational considerations in your content marketing and SEO strategy, as it’ll help improve your rankings AND the overall user experience for your customers.
Determine where you want to build your topical authority
The first step to building up your E-A-T through topical authority is to figure out which topics you want to focus on (i.e. “agile product management” or “women’s health and fitness”). Once you’ve defined this, you can start building out topic clusters to group your content based on your previous research.
Let’s take that women’s health and fitness example. In this case, you might have topic clusters that break down news articles into training for beginners, training while pregnant, meal plans, and workout calendars. Break this down even further into target keywords within each cluster.
Create your link structure
Your site structure plays a big role in your topical authority. Using the topic cluster model, you can begin to build out a site structure that:
Makes it easy for your audience to understand and navigate your website
Makes it easier for search engines to crawl your site
Passes on internal link juice for pages that sit within a specific topic or cluster
You should end up with a framework that looks like this:
Image source: Animalz
On top of your landing page for your competitive keyword, you can also build up topical authority by creating a long-form piece pillar post that serves as your main content resource for any given topic. Going back to the women’s health and fitness example, this could be something like “The Ultimate Female Training Guide” or “The Essential Guide to Women’s Health and Fitness”.
Step up your on-page SEO game
On-page SEO is a great way to make your content work as hard as possible to build up your topical authority. When you’re building out any piece of content, ensure you’re following on-page best practices, such as:
Using meta titles and meta descriptions that talk about your target topic and the purpose of the page.
Structuring your content effectively using heading tags that feature long-tail keywords.
Internally linking to other relevant articles whenever possible.
Including links for your audience to subscribe or share your content on social media.
Adding relevant target keywords into your image alt text.
Optimising your site speed to make browsing as snappy as possible on any browser.
Build your authority with off-page SEO (AKA link building)
Backlinks are an essential part of increasing your website’s topical authority. If your website has a ton of backlinks from high-quality domains, Google is more likely to see you as an authority on a specific topic — and bump your website up in search engine results.
Good backlinks should be from websites that people know and respect, be relevant to your topic and your industry, and natural. Generating a handful of links from trusted sources like Forbes or a .edu or .gov website are going to be far more valuable than a ton of backlinks from random blogs that have no link to your topic or your industry.
You can get an idea of your current backlink profile and domain authority using a tool like Moz’s Free Domain SEO Analysis Tool, Ahrefs’ Backlink Checker, or SEMRush’s Domain Overview. The same goes for websites linking to you: you want to target sites with a high domain authority out of 100.
Some of the tried-and-tested ways you can build up your backlink profile include:
Doing round-up posts on your target topic or topics with insights from industry experts. Once you’ve published the post, ask the experts to link back to your site or share the article on social media.
Getting your website into link round-ups. These could be lists of the best articles in your industry (i.e. “25 top content marketing articles of 2021”) or links promoting a specific product or service (i.e. “10 amazing gifts for mum under $100”).
Check for broken links on a relevant authoritative website using Check My Links. Once you find one, email the site owner to let them know about the link and offer your site as a replacement.
E-A-T SEO: 4 practices to avoid at all costs
Omitting sources or evidence
If you want to demonstrate E-A-T, you need to prove that your evidence is well-researched and written by a credible author. The last thing your audience (or Google) wants is a piece of content by “Guest blogger” with no links to substantiate any of the claims.
Avoid these 5 practices if you don’t want to damage your E-A-T and your rankings:
Not listing out the content creators or biography
Not including any evidence or links to expert content, particularly for YMYL sites
Not citing resources
Not having proof to back up your claims
Offering dangerous medical advice, financial advice or legal advice
Duplicate content is a surefire sign that a website or author DOESN’T know what they’re talking about. On top of this, having duplicate content may also put your business at risk of being penalised by Google, which can further hurt your rankings and online visibility. There have been countless core updates to Google's ranking algorithms that have been designed to weed out duplicate content, including the Panda and Penguin core update, so doing this is an absolute no-no.
Creating generalist content
Creating content about every topic that’s vaguely relevant to your business may seem like a good idea, but it could actually be hurting your E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness). This “jack of all trades, expert of none” approach means that you never end up actually being an expert in any given subject. If you want to boost your expertise and authority, it’s best to focus on publishing content that’s hyper-relevant to your area of expertise.
When you’re publishing content on a regular basis, it’s inevitable that you’ll rack up a spammy comment or two. However, leaving these unchecked can damage both your E-A-T and your rankings — particularly for YMYL topics.
Let’s say you’re running offering wealth management services. You’ve created a series of posts around investing, and these posts have a bunch of comments from random people talking about get rich quick schemes. Google actually takes this content into account when evaluating your content quality, which means that having questionable advice in your comments section can actually significantly hurt your expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.
Start building your E-A-T today.
Reaping the benefits of your optimisations doesn’t happen overnight. It can take months or even years before Google sees you as an expert on any given topic or a leading website in your industry. In other words, you need to start now if you want to get ahead.
That’s where we come in.
Our SEO gurus will help you achieve a high E-A-T and get game-changing SEO results. Best of all, it’s completely FREE to get started. Claim your digital marketing audit today, completely free of charge, and find out how you can maximise your online presence and revenue with OMG.
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@ Toast Creative