Google E-A-T for SEO and Content

What You Really Need to Know & How to Build E-A-T from Scratch

In this article, you will learn the key aspects behind Google's EAT -- an acronym that has become a buzzword in the SEO community over the last years. 

You will understand the relationship between E-A-T and YMYL, another acronym by Google, and find out why mastering these concepts is so crucial for any modern SEO and Content Marketing strategies.

You will also learn tips on how to build a high EAT business from scratch.

What is Google E-A-T?

E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.

Google's EAT stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. The acronym has been around for at least 5 years, when it was firstly introduced in Version 5.0 of Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, which dates back from March 2014.

According to Google Rater Guidelines, E-A-T is one of the most important factors to consider when selecting an overall Page Quality rating. The other very important factors are: The Purpose of the Page, Main Content Quality and Amount, Website Information and Website Reputation.

On Section 3.2 of the latest version of these guidelines (September 2019), Google states that "the amount of E-A-T is very important for all pages that have a beneficial purpose." The company makes a point of stressing that "there are high E-A-T pages and websites of all types, even gossip websites, fashion websites, humor websites, forum and Q&A pages, etc."

Expertise

Raters must consider the expertise of the creator of the Main Content (MC)

Authoritativeness

Raters must consider the authoritativeness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website

Trustworthiness

Raters must consider the trustworthiness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website 

Expertise

Expertise is defined as [1] a high level of knowledge or skill.   

In the context of Google's search quality rating guidelines, Expertise is important not only as a desired attribute of the content creator, but also to support the process of assessing a website's reputation. On section 2.6.1, Google states: "When a high level of authoritativeness or expertise is needed, the reputation of a website should be judged on what expert opinions have to say."

"Everyday expertise" is also highly valued by Google, which claims that formal education is not the only source of expertise to be considered. For topics that require less formal expertise, there are many "ordinary" people who are capable of providing extremely valuable contributions based on their life experience on forums, blogs, etc.

To figure out what kind of expertise is required for any given page or topic, raters are instructed to also rely on their own everyday experience when needed, as "the standard for expertise depends on the topic of the page." In the end, what is important is that the page has the kind of expertise that is required for it to achieve its purpose well.

For a website or page to be authoritative and trustworthy on their topic, Expertise is imperative, as stated by Google on Section 4.5 of the raters' guidelines.

For YMYL topics such as medical, financial or legal advice, formal expertise is important -- as indicated on Section 5.3.

Authoritativeness

A content is authoritative when it [1] contains complete and accurate information, [2] substantiated or supported by documentary evidence and accepted by most authorities in a field. 

In the context of Google's search quality rating guidelines, it's interesting to note that a website can be considered authoritative when it's providing information about itself -- as informed in the PQ rating explanation of the first example on page 22 (Section 4.6 of the guidelines). This is a confusing line of reasoning by Google considering that most websites contain information about themselves.  

A page providing a highly satisfying amount of helpful information on a given entity is considered uniquely authoritative if the page is on the official website or is the official social media page about that entity. This can be deduced from this example on page 27 (Section 5.4 of the guidelines), this example on page 31, among others that can be found throughout the document. This is also the case with our fist example on page 22.

If the page provides information or content about a specific product or service, for example, it is considered highly authoritative if located on the official website of the company that produces/provides the product or service. This can be inferred from these examples [1 / 2] on page 27 of the guidelines, this example on page 28, among others that can be found throughout the document.

A website of an entity that has good reputation and expertise on its field, or information/content provided by this website, is presumably highly authoritative, as can be inferred from this example on page 64 (Section 10.3 of the guidelines), this example on page 140 (Section 17.0), among others throughout the document.

Trustworthiness

Trustworthiness is [1] the quality or fact of being trustworthy, [2] deserving of trust or confidence; dependable; reliable. 

In the context of Google's search quality rating guidelines, Trustworthiness seems closely correlated with reputation and users can generally trust information from a website with positive reputation information. This can be inferred from this example on page 16 (Section 2.6.4 of the guidelines), this YMYL example on page 29 (Section 5.4), among others throughout the document. 

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is mentioned in the guidelines (page 16; Section 2.6.4) as "a nonprofit organization that focuses on the trustworthiness of businesses and charities", and is also referred as a source of reputation information and reviews.

On page 19 (Section 3.2), the guidelines mention that "High E-A-T advice pages (...) should also come from 'expert' or experienced sources that users can trust". From this excerpt, it's possible to infer that Google deems the amount of expertise and experience from the source as an indicative of trustworthiness. This is illustrated later on the document through this example on page 27 (Section 5.4), a site deemed trustworthy for its expertise in debunking non-YMYL stories. This may also be the case with this example on page 102 (Section 13.3.1), a site that is most likely being considered highly trustworthy for its expertise/reputation on the tickets sale business.

The availability and amount of information about the website helps users feel comfortable trusting the site, as informed on page 20 (Section 4.3 of the guidelines). This is especially true for YMYL sites, which demands a high degree of trust.

A page can be considered uniquely/highly trustworthy if it represents the official information source about a certain topic. This can be inferred from this example on page 28 (Section 5.4), this example on page 31, among others throughout the document.

Several examples on Section 7.7 correlates Lowest page quality characteristics with a high degree of untrustworthiness. Pages that potentially misinform or deceive users, that lacks purpose or fail to achieve their purpose, that are potentially harmful or that potentially spread hate are generally considered highly untrustworthy. This is mostly due to the fact that such pages have no or bad reputation.

A comprehensive amount of reliable, accurate MC from an authoritative site can also be an indicative of trustworthiness, as can be inferred from the page quality explanation of this example on page 136 (Section 15.0).

E-A-T and YMYL Topics or Pages

YMYL stands for "Your Money or Your Life" types of pages or topics.

YMYL is an acronym created by Google and mentioned 112 times in its search quality rating guidelines. It stands for "Your Money or Your Life" types of pages or topics, which are categorized as being able to potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.

E-A-T is considered particularly important for YMYL pages or topics for they can negatively impact a person’s happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of examples of YMYL topics:

  • News about important topics
  • Information important to maintaining an informed citizenry
  • Financial advice or information, particularly webpages that allow people to transfer money online
  • Information about or services related to research or purchase of goods/services, particularly webpages that allow people to make purchases online
  • Advice or information about medical issues
  • Information about or claims related to groups of people

On Section 4.3 of the guidelines, YMYL websites are referred as demanding a high degree of trust, which affects the amount of information needed for E-A-T assessment on these types of sites. On the other hand, "websites that are not YMYL may need less website information than YMYL ones, depending on the purpose of the website," according to Google.

Throughout the document, there are several examples on YMYL pages that are considered of high quality only because, among other factors, they have high E-A-T for their purpose.

On page 25 (Section 5.1), Google states that "content created with a high degree of time and effort, and in particular, expertise, talent, and skill may provide evidence for the E-A-T of the page." On that same paragraph, they say that "for YMYL topics, there is a high standard for accuracy and well-established medical/scientific/historical consensus where such consensus exists." Since accuracy is a characteristic of the MC, which, in turn, may provide evidence of E-A-T, it's possible to conclude that there is a high standard for the E-A-T of content on YMYL pages/topics.

The same kind of association can be established for reputation. On page 25 (Section 5.2), Google states that "for YMYL topics especially, careful checks for reputation are required." Since reputation may also provide evidence of the website's E-A-T, it's possible to conclude that there is a high standard for the E-A-T of YMYL topics/pages regarding reputation.

On page 26 (Section 5.3) Google states that "formal expertise is important for YMYL topics such as medical, financial, or legal advice." On that same section, they explicitly conclude: "YMYL topics will require higher standards for E-A-T."

The Importance of E-A-T to SEO and Content Marketing

The buzz term to which SEO and Content strategists cannot remain indifferent.

The term E-A-T has been getting a lot of hype from SEOs and marketers in recent years. While some people are building their reputation around this topic, there are many others who still overlook its importance.

The debate over whether E-A-T is a ranking factor or not seems to be reignited month after month -- and what a silly debate that is. Of course EAT is a ranking factor, or why would it be so extensively addressed by Google in its search quality rating guidelines and other media! 

The discussion should not be around whether E-A-T is a ranking factor (what about just stopping saying "ranking factor"!), but on how Google's algorithms could possibly be measuring it. Are websites assigned an E-A-T score by Google? Or is this more of an abstract concept that is built up and measured by other more specific quality attributes? 

Well, luckly, the discussion seems to have shifted to address these more inteligent questions lately. According to Google's Gary Illyes, "there is not a single score for EAT. (...) E-A-T is made up of many many algorithms, baby algorithms, that are made up of in the Google core algorithm."

Not that knowing these details makes us much of a difference in practice, but at least these are aspects of the topic that make more sense to discuss.

In fact, figuring out how qualitative measures are translated into algorithms shouldn't be your business if you are not a search engine company or an enthusiast of SEO and Search. Knowing only the conceptual aspects of what Google is looking for, which are outlined in the raters' guidelines and are mastered by experienced search quality evaluators, should be enough for marketers to take actions and improve the relevance of their content.

And it's precisely because it brings together so many important quality aspects in one term, E-A-T, that this concept is so important for anyone serious about ranking well on Google.

Search Evaluator's Tips to Building E-A-T from Scratch  

Learn how to create a high E-A-T business in three steps.

E-A-T has been a popular term among SEO and Content strategists for some time.  As such, we can find many articles online with tips on how to develop or improve a website's Expertise, Authority and Trust.

Most of these articles though, such as this one, focus on more immediate recommendations that may be easier to implement but which do not carry the most potential for widespread, long-term effectiveness.

Things like having up-to-date, high-quality content bylined by experts definitely help with E-A-T, but a more overarching approach is needed for sustained benefits.

The following are tips on how to build a high E-A-T business from scratch in three simple steps. Especially for businesses that have not yet been launched, these steps should be taken as the foundation on which to build to gain Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness in a particular field.

Step 1. Focus on a particular topic to master on a specific business niche 

What sets you apart from what there is?

Step 2. Create unique, high-quality content that is inherently related to your topic of expertise

What makes your content valuable?

Step 3. Make yourself visible by reaching out to the community and sharing your perspective

Are you recognized in your field?

Step 1. Focus on a particular topic to master on a specific business niche

Have a broad vision but start with a limited scope.

You need to think big if you are looking to develop a high level of Expertise, Authority and Trust -- that's for sure. Experts are well-known, and being regarded as an authority requires acceptance from a wide range of individuals or organizations in your field. Not to mention that big business are usually easier to trust as well.

Sometimes doing SEO is nothing but an exercise of business strategy. If some level of "greatness" is desired for E-A-T, then how to get there if you are starting from scratch?

Now, for someone starting, do you think it's easier to be "great" in something more specific or something broader? 
- Think big but start small. This is a tip for entrepreneurs that also relates to E-A-T and SEO.

When you start by focusing on a particular topic of a specific niche, it becomes easier to gain a high level of knowledge or skill on what you are doing -- to be an expert and start building up reputation.

When Google notices your website has good reputation and expertise through a variety of different quality signals that are being collected by their algorithms (e.g. mentions, backlinks from reputable sources, etc.), it presumes your content is authoritative -- provided it is comprehensive for its purpose and of high quality, among other factors.

The more authoritative your website or content, the more reliable, or trustworthy, it becomes -- a virtuous cycle.

However, needless to say, it is important that you have familiarity, interest and aptitude in the topic you will focus on. This is the fuel that will keep you motivated to make progress in the next steps of your E-A-T journey.

If you need some inspiration, you can follow these steps to find your niche market, or check out these business ideas you can launch for cheap or free.

Step 2. Create unique, high-quality content that is inherently related to your topic of expertise 

Content rules.

When it comes to the digital ecosystem, there is hardly any expertise, authority or trust where there is no content. Content is what binds everything together, from attracting prospects to garnering attention to your business.

Our second step to creating high E-A-T from scratch is where all the "action" starts to take place. 

First, you find a particular topic on a specific area of expertise to focus on. From there, you can start building your actual business and reputation in your niche.

Web content comes in a variety of forms -- text, image, video, audio, etc. You need to use the formats that works best for your audience, and through which you can provide information at the highest level of quality.

Here is a list of tools to help you create better content. If your content is in text form, this article provides a list of some of the most amazing online writing tools out there.

Overall, high-quality content is unique, original and comprehensive for its purpose. On page 25 (Section 5.1) of the search quality rater guidelines, Google stresses the peculiarities of what constitutes original content depending on the type of website. It's really worth a look.

By creating unique and very high-quality content, you will be paving the way for people, sites, and businesses to look upon you and your organization as a reference for them. And this is how the E-A-T magic starts to happen!

When your content becomes a reference for other people, it begins to draw attention. As it gets more attention, you become considered an Expert, which makes your content increasingly Authoritative. In turn, this increase the degree of Trust people have towards your business.

Well, in theory, this all seems quite obvious indeed. You create great content, which gets people's attention and, before you know it, voila E-A-T!

In reality, however, a lot of extra effort is required to attract attention. You can't just create content and expect people will find out about you. You need to make yourself visible by reaching out to the community -- which is our next step in the process of creating high E-A-T from scratch.

Step 3. Make yourself visible by reaching out to the community and sharing your perspective 

Give others the chance to know you.

The web is a breeding ground for promotion opportunities. If you are expert in, let's say, architectural photography, there is going to be a lot of architecture blogs out there who might be interested in having you sharing your knowledge with their audience. You gain for getting exposure, they gain for getting high-quality, original content for free.

When you guest post for a reputable blog in your niche, it means some curation was already performed on your work, which is good enough to be featured on a reputable website.

Websites need content and producing quality content is expensive -- it may take many days to create a unique, original article. So, there is a lot of demand for insightful thoughts.

Unfortunately, the only kind of digital presence that many professionals and companies have is a website with information about the business and the services they provide. What kind of clues does this yield for E-A-T? Not much.

What if the company decides to create a blog and populate it with very high-quality, original content? That's better because now potential customers may get a glimpse of the expertise behind that business.

Now, what if besides being featured on their own website, insightful content produced by this company now starts to pop up in other reputable websites on its niche? That's a further evidence of Authoritativeness, which may end up contributing for the overall Trustworthiness of that business.

If you don't reach out to other people, you are missing out on countless opportunities to make your work visible. And you need to do it proactively because the demand for attention online is enourmous. 

Don't wait until that reputable blog knocks on your door, because they are probably getting dozens of good pitches for guest posts every week. You become relevant when you take the initiative. 

This article provides a comprehensive and organized list of websites that accept guest posts. For tools that can help with content promotion, you can check out this list.

Another hugely helpful tool for marketers looking to share their perspective with the world is HARO, which stands for Help A Reporter Out. You can sign up for free and become a source for some of the most respected media outlets in English.

You can also try reaching out to experts and influencers directly through their websites or social media pages. Overall, good old Twitter is by far the best social network for following experts and influencers in a variety of different business sectors. You may grab their attention if you approach them tactfully, especially by engaging in threads for which you can offer valuable opinions and insights.