What is E-A-T and why is it important for SEO?
Google has a clear vision with its search engine.
Google wants to help find (not search for!) information on the Internet - this accumulation of incredible masses of content.
The algorithm, which separates the wheat from the chaff within milliseconds, is further developed and optimized on a daily basis. Until 2018, the focus was primarily on content aspects (content), networking aspects (external link profile) and user-friendliness aspects (page speed, encryption & mobile optimization).
In 2018, this perspective has broadened: What is new is that Google wants to take more account of what expertise, authority and credibility an author has in order to define which search results are the truly relevant ones.
This is where the E-A-T principle comes into play, which will be examined in more detail in the following article. At the same time, measures will be described that have a positive effect on the rankings of a page in terms of E-A-T.
What is E-A-T?
E-A-T is an acronym and stands for the keywords: Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthyness. Google used it for the first time in 2018 in what it calls the Quality Rater Guidelines (PDF). These guidelines serve as guidance for a team of more than 10,000 quality assurance professionals at Google who collect data every day to assess the quality of search results. This document defines the loose verbiage in more detail and fills it with life.
Expertise describes the qualitative level of a content. Unlike the classic criteria for content quality, however, it is not about the written words themselves, but the author!
How is it measured whether an author brings expertise to the table?
The answer to this question is not easy to answer, because it depends on what topic is at stake. In the field of health, law and finance, the expertise of an author is strongly measured by formal criteria such as education and qualifications. Google describes this area with the acronym "YMYL" - Your Money Your Life.
In other areas, practical experience also comes into play. Google writes:
"If it seems as if the person creating the content has the type and amount of life experience to make him or her an "expert" on the topic, we will value this "everyday expertise" and not penalize the person/webpage/website for not having "formal" education or training in the field. ", QRG, P. 20.
If the intention of a search query is of a personal nature, Google refers to everyday expertise, which can be understood as personal life experience:
"For example, there are forums and support pages for people with specific diseases. Sharing personal experience is a form of everyday expertise," QRG, p. 20.
Authority describes the reputation of the author and the website as a whole. The quality raters are asked to search the web for the company and the author, looking for ratings, references and recommendations. If such signals can be found and are predominantly positive, this indicates a higher authority. A distinction is made according to subject: a lawyer with great authority in the legal field is far from being a good investment advisor.
"Look for reviews, references, recommendations by experts, news articles, and other credible information created/written by individuals about the website [...] Look for information written by a person, not statistics or other machine-compiled information. News articles, Wikipedia articles, blog posts, magazine articles, forum discussions, and ratings from independent organizations can all be sources of reputation information. Look for independent, credible sources of information."
In the Quality Rater Guidelines, trust consists of credibility and transparency. A content can only be trusted if it is clear who the sender is. An assessment of the sender, in turn, is only possible if the sender is tangible. Similar to expertise, a distinction is made by area as to how much transparency is necessary about the author & page operator.
"However, the amount of information needed about the website or creator of the MC depends on the purpose of the page. For personal websites or non-YMYL forum discussions, an email address or social media link alone may be sufficient.", QRG, p. 35.
For YMYL sites (this also includes any form of online store), it is therefore all the more important to show face and offer the visitor a short contact path in case of problems - for example, problems in the payment process.
At the same time, credibility is called into question when statements accumulate on a website that contradict generally valid views or views held by many experts. It also declines if the seriousness suffers greatly due to ads, popups or unencrypted connections on pages with data input.
Effects of E-A-T on SEO
The data collected by the Quality Rater team does not directly influence the ranking. Google describes sense and purpose of these surveys well in following article.
Further, there is no E-A-T score or the one important signal on which everything hinges. Danny Sullivan describes that there are a variety of individual signals that are assessed to evaluate expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.
In sum, however, E-A-T is a principle that strongly influences the composition of search results. Since 2018, major core updates to the Google algorithm have become known on a regular basis, which have strongly mixed up the search results. The Medic update in October 2018 kicked things off, and in retrospect, the SEO industry agrees that there are strong connections with the E-A-T principle.
Anyone who still wants to successfully operate search engine optimization in the area of YMYL in the future cannot avoid adapting their external presentation strategy to the E-A-T principle. The following guiding principles are helpful here:
- Consultative content should be created by experts or at least have content validation.
- Expertise must be communicated to the outside world through participation in the discourse of the industry. Engagement at conferences, in associations, etc. pays off.
- Active reputation management must be practiced. However, all measures to generate ratings & recommendations can only work if customer criticism is accepted and leads to changes in the service and product.
The multiple signals Danny Sullivan wrote about on Twitter are not fully known. Nevertheless, experience shows that concrete measures do have an effect:
- Provide information about the site operator
It must be visible who operates the site. In addition to an imprint, a detailed section with information about the company is helpful. The use of structured data helps to make information machine-readable.
- Show face
On pages with advisory content or in-depth information, an author should be named. In the best case, this happens with an author box that contains a picture, a name and a very short description text. Ideally, the author box is linked to an author details page. On this author details page, the author's education & qualifications should be described and provided with structured data. If practical experience is available, this should also be included. Furthermore, it can help to provide links to social media profiles such as Xing & LinkedIn, which confirm all information publicly viewable.
- Highlight contact options
There should be easily visible contact details on YMYL pages. Attention. Google works mobile first. This means that email addresses, phone numbers, etc. should be displayed on mobile devices. Phone number, address and email address should be marked with structured data.
- Recruit experts as guest authors
Drawing on the expertise and authority of other experts can help to improve your own authority and credibility. Guest authors are usually easy to find. At the same time, networking with other experts opens the doors to participation in the industry discourse.
- Networking & linking
As described, authority depends, among other things, on whether traces of positive reputation can be found in neutral sources. These traces arise automatically when participating in the professional discourse of the industry. Offer yourself as an expert for technical papers at conferences or as a guest author on industry-relevant digital magazines. This also generates external links, which are evaluated like a recommendation for your own site.
- Review management
If the company's own products and services are already well aligned with the needs of the market and customers, customers should be actively invited to submit a review on industry-relevant portals as well as on social networks and Google Maps. Caution: Direct incentivization is prohibited in most portals. However, there is nothing to be said against combining a nice giveaway with the invitation to submit a rating.
Most companies already build on a large foundation of expertise. In the course of search engine optimization, it is only necessary to ensure that this expertise is presented transparently and communicated to the outside world. All signals outside of one's own site must be approached with a great deal of patience and consistency. Those who consistently stick to these topics will also be successful in the organic search in the future.