December 3, 2018
Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness; or E-A-T for short, seems to be one of the most discussed ranking factors of the SEO world in the last few months.
This increase in emphasis on E-A-T has stemmed from the August 1st “Medic” Google algorithm update, where a website’s E-A-T seems to now be more important than ever. It looks like Google has turned up the notch significantly, meaning E-A-T is now a much more important ranking factor. The belief is that previously sites with a low rating of E-A-T were able to rank well, too well in fact.
Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) sites that influence important life decisions such as financial, legal and medical sites, seem to have been the most affected. Subsequently, the update has (unofficially) been named the “Medic update” due to the high percentage of health-related sites (more than 300) which were impacted in Barry Schwartz’s review of the affected sites.
The little known Google search quality evaluator guidelines were updated a month prior to August’s E-A-T focused algorithm update, which probably isn’t a coincidence. Google uses these search quality guidelines to train employees/evaluators to assess the quality of a website; feeding back information to the Google engineers who may tweak the algorithm based on their feedback. For instance, if a site is ranking extremely well but doesn’t match one or more factors in the guidelines which determine a site as high-quality, this will be noted.
Google kindly made these guidelines available to the public and it acts as a great guide and reference point for any SEO professional, providing some great nuggets of information around a range of topics, including E-A-T, which they reference frequently.
Straight from the horse’s mouth, here’s what Google’s general overview of E-A-T in the search quality guidelines is (notice that they say that E-A-T is “very important”):
Here when describing the characteristics of a low-quality page, “an inadequate level of E-A-T” is right at the top of the list. Does this mean that it’s the most important due to being at the top of the list? Possibly.
Breaking down each aspect ( Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness) here is what we know:
Google defines the “expertise” in the quality guidelines as: “the expertise of the creator of the MC (main content)”. To add context to this, content that potentially has the influence to affect someone’s life need to be written by a person or organization that is considered an expert in that particular field.
Google uses medical websites as an example in the guidelines stating: “High E-A-T medical advice should be written or produced by people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation.” For instance, Mind.org.uk would be considered an expert creator of mental health-related content and Martin Lewis (of Moneysavingexpert.com) would be considered as an expert author in personal finance.
Google likely looks at mentions and links on the web that associate (or don’t associate) an author or organisation with their expertise. Google’s reasoning behind using web mentions and links as a factor is that this should happen naturally to true experts, as people are inclined to only link to credible, well-known sources of information.
The “authoritativeness” aspect is most likely determined by the number of high-quality mentions and links from other websites with high authority themselves. So, think of links from the likes of well-known media outlets such as The Guardian and the BBC. If these type of well-known, credible websites are linking to your website as a source, this will aid your authoritativeness in Google’s eyes.
Don’t forget, Google can differentiate between high-quality natural links and mentions from places of authority, compared to, untrustworthy paid links. So where paid links may have worked as an old-school SEO tactic years ago, it’s not effective anymore.
Here’s what Google states can impact reputation or the authoritativeness of a website or creator:
Amongst other factors, reviews are one key aspect in terms of portraying trust. If a site has lots of negative reviews in places such as Google MyBusiness, Yell and Trustpilot – this is going to negatively affect the “trust” factor of their overall E-A-T score. This can be compared to a real-world scenario, for instance, if someone was researching a company they didn’t know before making a purchase, negative reviews would also have a detrimental effect.
Aspects such as contact information and customer support details also need to be accessible, especially on e-commerce sites, as this is also a sign of trust.
In terms of the trustworthiness of on-site content, as well as being produced by experts in the particular field, any claims need to be backed up by scientific research if possible.
Here’s what is noted in the guidelines regarding this:
Google provides another example in the guideline, highlighting that aspects such as insecure connection also impact the trust factor.
Websites portraying a high level of expertise, authority and trustworthiness, that provide unbiased expert information, such as the NHS and Mind, experienced big jumps in estimated search traffic. In fact, NHS and Mind experienced a 19% and 48% jump from July ‘18 to August ‘18 respectively.
While officially recognised bodies such as the NHS and Mind gained visibility, alternative health sites with a lack of E-A-T such as Prevention.com lost lots of visibility (-72%).
If your site was affected by the E-A-T algorithm update, the first thing you should do is read the search quality guidelines and pinpoint anything that Google determines as “High-Quality” that your site isn’t conforming to.
To maximise your chance of recovery, talk to one of our SEO professionals here at Blueclaw and we will run you through the different SEO services we provide that could help.