What is E-A-T in SEO?
When it comes to digital marketing, acronyms are pretty much the trend — SEO, PPC, SEM, SMO, SERP, UI, ROI, and more. There’s another being added to the ledger and it’s an important one — EAT. Now, what is EAT you ask? No, it does not have anything to the process of consuming food for biological purposes.
In this post, we’ll be covering:
- What is E-A-T?
- Why is E-A-T so important for SEO?
- Off-page E-A-T for better reputation
- What is ‘high EAT’ quality content?
- Matching intent
- Core content
- Supplementary content
- Content Quality
- What to avoid for good E-A-T?
- Quick recap
So, let’s begin!
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Trustworthiness, and Authoritativeness. It is the crux of a very important portion of Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines. Initially leaked around July 2014, Google ended up officially releasing them and has slightly updated them a few times since. These guidelines are a gift straight from the horse’s mouth to the digital world, so to speak. They basically give a rare and much sought-after glimpse into the methodology of Google assessing content and authors. The following is our in-depth analysis of the guidelines and tips for you to improve your content for your SEO and digital marketing agency effort.
Now called the “Medic” update due to its impact on sites in the medical sector, Google confirmed an umbrella core algorithm update on August 1, 2018 that seemed to be largely geared towards content. The update reflected Google’s goal of serving up more credible, relevant, and valuable content in its search results. Sites across various industries saw massive drops in rankings and subsequent traffic, sending webmasters into a panic.
Google emphasized the fact that it wasn’t any kind of punishment and nothing needed to be fixed as such. Danny Sullivan and John Mueller from Google, who have touted high-quality, relevant content for years now as a way to improve or maintain rankings, simply suggested creating “better content.” The Medic update specifically targeted the pages and websites with ‘low EAT’. So, when we say ‘high EAT’ we actually mean ‘high quality’.
What is E-A-T?
As we mentioned above, E-A-T is short for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. What does that mean exactly in the context of SEO? Here is the answer.
Expertise — the writer/author of the content should ideally be an expert in the field or topic that is being written about. That gives the content credibility and authenticity and Google loves that more than anything else. What’s important when thinking about the ‘E’ factor is how knowledgeable the author is on the subject matter and if they have the required experience to speak about the topic accurately.
Authoritativeness —the author of the content should be an authority in the field, along the same lines. How does Google determine that authority? It does so by relevant and verified credentials, good reviews, authentic testimonials, etc. So, to ace the ‘A’ factor, make sure your content is comprehensive, honest, valid, and useful for your visitors.
Trustworthiness — the website on which your content resides should be trustworthy, ensured by factors like site security, overall site quality, inbound link profile, reviews, etc.
Essentially, your visitors need to be able to trust your website and any content you put there. Google’s main goal is to provide the best possible results for the best user experience. E-A-T aligns with that goal and that is exactly why it is so important for you to pay attention to it, especially in your SEO and content marketing efforts.
Why is E-A-T Important for SEO?
As we have discussed so far, E-A-T basically gives Google a way to analyze and quantify a page’s value. The quality rater guidelines don’t determine a page’s rankings. But they are for human raters who are potentially manually assessing your page with those criteria in mind. Google employs hundreds of people whose only job is to manually rate and assign scores to content pages and sites around the web that appear in its search results. All things considered, a ‘high EAT’ page will theoretically outrank a ‘low EAT’ page so it is important for competitive analysis as well. Google has always emphasized that a great user experience is essential for good rankings. EAT is one of the main components of that.
Off-page E-A-T for Better Reputation
So far, we have only referred to on-page content but in all honesty, there are numerous off-page factors that influence E-A-T since good user experience is holistic. Things like press coverage, reviews, guest posts, testimonials, inbound links, speaking engagements, etc. factor the trust in. Ensuring that sites mention you link to your website is one way of doing this. Disregarding any potentially spam links, soliciting reviews, and growing your audience is another. You need to invest in your branding via better social media presence and better interactions with your audience for a ‘high EAT’ signal.
The Google Search Quality Guidelines mention clearly that “popularity, user engagement, and user reviews can be considered evidence of reputation.” Taking that literally, you should monitor channels where your audience comment or reviews, and respond to those for excellent customer service. All the little things build up to a rewarding result.
What is ‘High EAT’ Quality Content?
Your content needs to match the intention of the query the user searched to land on your page. Is it navigational like “cafes in London” where the searcher is trying to get to a physical location? Is it informational like “regent street school fees” where the user is looking for specific information? Or more?
Recently, an addition to the official guidelines was added called a ‘Needs Met’ rating. This rating, like the name suggests, refers to how well the page matches meet the needs to the user’s intent for search. In two words, user satisfaction. The range of the ‘Needs Met’ scale variates from “fully meets, highly meets, moderately meets, slightly meets, and fails to meet”. For the best on this rating, Google lists out certain purposes of a page you can keep in mind. What are the purposes of a page?
- Sharing information about a topic.
- Share information of personal or social nature.
- Sharing forms of media like pictures, videos, etc.
- Expressing an opinion or point of view.
- Selling products and/or services.
- Interacting on a platform that allows users to question and other users to answer.
- Sharing files or downloading software.
Think about the intent of the users clicking on your page and the reasons of the page’s existence. Dig into your analytics and assess queries by users. Are you meeting the users’ need with your pages?
Whether yours is a product page, an article, or a video, users do not come to your page to have a look at your header image, sidebar widgets, or ads. The EAT guidelines specify that your primary piece of content or “main content” has to be the focal point of the page. This is in sync with the whole picture of a user-friendly and optimized page for the overall experience. Specifically, make your content the hero, make sure it’s the focus, and allow ads to be easily ignored or exited.
Most pages have what Google calls “supplementary content”, i.e. navigation links, multimedia, images, related article links, etc. The supplementary content accessorizes your “main content.” The guidelines mention how it “can help a page better achieve its purpose or it can detract from the overall experience.” You have to ensure that your supplementary content only elevates the user experience.
Now, let’s get to the meat of the matter. Quality, or as we like to call it, the most significant thing when it comes to content. It is an umbrella term that includes authenticity, credibility, reliability, originality, and much more. The guidelines by Google very clearly lay out what makes content “high quality”. The following 4 are the holy grail of high quality content:
- The main content should have ‘High E-A-T’, i.e. high level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
- High quality of main content should have a descriptive or helpful title and meaty content.
- Clear and satisfactory information about the website. For example, if the page is mainly for e-commerce, then there should be satisfying customer service information.
- Positive reputation of the website and/or the creator of the main content on the website.
On the flip side, the guidelines are clear that if a page has one or more of the following, it gets a low quality rating:
- Low EAT – inadequate and unsatisfactory level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
- Low quality main content.
- Main content for the page is dissatisfactory in quantity.
- The title of the main content is inappropriate.
- Distracting ads or supplementary content.
- The information about the website/creator of main content is lacking/anonymous.
- Negative website/creator reputation based on extensive research.
Simply put, the following are some tips we have curated from all the information:
- Make sure your content is valuable to the readers and not thin.
- Organize your content into subsections for better readability, and proofread for typos, broken links, and inconsistencies.
- Use an expert author. If you cannot find one, cite and link your sources.
- Fact-check any assertions in your content. Update regularly.
- Long is better! The average Google page-1 result has about 1,890 words. It is what we call “long-form content.”
- Link out from your site to other relevant authority sites. As mentioned in point 3, citation is important and improves trust while providing transparency to your readers.
- Use media like images and video, and utilize alt text and transcripts for better accessibility.
- Make it easy for the users to interact via polls, comments, reviews, etc.
- Think and decide if your content is worth sharing.
- Ensure that your page loads quickly. Nobody has the time to wait for loading.
- Install an SSL certificate and make your page secure for your visitors. You can use free services like Let’s Encrypt, etc. Site security is a ranking factor, and the Chrome now marks insecure pages as “Not Secure.”
- Make the page mobile-friendly. Mobile compatibility of web content is absolutely imperative for site owners. In fact, if a page is not mobile-friendly, the Google guidelines state that it will automatically be scored the lowest ‘Needs Met’ rating.
What to Avoid for good E-A-T?
The following might sound simple but they are imperative to avoid if you want ‘high EAT’.
- Auto-generated or badly-written content.
- Plagiarized or duplicate content from any other page.
- Clickbait titles.
- Keyword stuffing as it kills readability.
- Extensive monetization/ads.
- Masked redirects.
- Intrusive popups that take up majority of the screen.
- Too many distractions or ads.
- Spam comments.
- Outdated/irrelevant pages.
- Misinforming/harmful pages.
- Insecure pages with form fields.
When creating a page, make sure your standards are being met before you make the page live. Keep the brand voice, styles, and quality expectations consistent. ‘Low EAT’ pages negatively impact the reputation of the website as a whole. Update your older content for a higher quality rating. Use Google Analytics and improve your poorest-performing content first.
It’s extremely important to understand that E-A-T is only a factor in the whole spectrum of Google rankings. Having a “high EAT” does not mean you will automatically have page-1 rankings. The ranking algorithm have many factors that affect this. Google employs user feedback to better understand and improve their algorithm and its updates, and not to rank your individual page. And we have not even scratched the surface with how technical SEO factors in.
In conclusion, we hope your understanding of E-A-T in SEO has been improved by this introduction. The bottom line is for you to invest in your content and your team, and the expertise, authority and trust you establish will lead to ranking and revenue improvements over time.
- Google employs a team of raters who manually assess the value of webpages in their search results. They have a set of official guidelines for the raters and a large part of that revolves around E-A-T — Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
- All things being equal, a high-EAT page will theoretically outrank a low-EAT page.
- Manage your online reputation both on the page and off the page.
- Make sure your page matches the user’s intent.
- Produce high-quality content and put it front-and-center on the page.
- Check that your supplementary content also helps the user meet their needs.
- High-EAT alone does not guarantee page-1 rankings, and vice versa.