Early in the history of Search, backlinks reigned supreme. They were a proxy for everything including relevance, authority, and quality — not surprisingly, SEOs became good at gaming the system.
Or so they thought.
Among their many improvements, Google’s Medic Update in August 2018, brought the concepts of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness to the forefront. These ideas are embodied in their Search Engine Quality Evaluator’s Guidelines. Initially, this document was only available to Google employees and third-party contractors.
Fortunately, it’s now publicly available. In this guide, you’ll learn what Google E-A-T is, how it may impact your site, and what you can do to improve it yourself.
What is E-A-T in SEO?
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. It’s not actually a specific algorithm, despite what you might read. Instead, E-A-T is used as a human feedback mechanism to help Google improve its ability to rate websites according to that criteria.
It’s intended to lead to algorithms that surface helpful, thoughtful, and trustworthy articles and resources. That’s doubly valuable for search engines. First, it helps people find sources that actually match user intent. Second, it ensures that the search engine builds and maintains user trust.
People go online looking for good sources of information. However, since it’s easy to create websites, anyone can go online and post complete lies about any topic. Implementing algorithms that follow the E-A-T principle helps filter out low-quality sites, guiding searchers to relevant websites with reliable answers. Users are more likely to use search engines that surface valuable results. As a result, E-A-T is fundamental to modern SEO.
But what do the elements of E-A-T actually mean? They serve as guiding questions that algorithms seek to answer about sites when generating their SEO score. These questions include:
- Expertise: Does the site’s content demonstrate a high level of knowledge about its topic? Was the content written by a subject matter expert?
- Authoritativeness: What is the reputation of the page or site with other experts in the field? Is the site regularly referenced as a helpful source of information by other trustworthy sites?
- Trustworthiness: How legitimate and transparent is the site? Is the content accurate? Is it secure? Is it easy to find out who runs the site and get in contact with them?
Since E-A-T is relatively vague, it’s not a direct ranking factor for Google. However, sites with great E-A-T tend to rank higher. Why? Because these sites are more likely to include elements that are considered ranking factors. For example, a site might improve trustworthiness by implementing security certificates like SSL, which is a ranking factor.
What does E-A-T apply to?
It is considered for a broad range of site components. When E-A-T-based algorithms examine a site, they look at elements like:
- Topic: The topic of a page determines the E-A-T standards to which it’s held. Different issues have varying E-A-T requirements, depending on whether or not they’re considered a YMYL topic. We’ll cover YMYL shortly.
- Page: SEO algorithms determine whether specific pages are relevant and trustworthy based on E-A-T standards.
- Domain: Pages are considered in the context of the site domain. A single page can be excellent, but if the rest of the domain doesn’t have great E-A-T, that page won’t be surfaced. Similarly, a domain overall can have great E-A-T but get dragged down by a few poorly-built pages.
- Author: Finally, authors are taken into account for many pages. A blog post or webpage with an authoritative author has a better E-A-T than a page without an author.
An SEO expert will take all of these factors into account when building an optimized site for E-A-T.
E-A-T and YMYL
E-A-T always matters, but search engines consider it more important for some subjects than others. For example, E-A-T is more heavily weighted for sites that cover YMYL topics.
YMYL stands for “your money or your life.” It is a dramatic acronym for topics that can significantly impact your future. Google judges sites to determine the degree to which their content affects visitors’ happiness, health, financial stability, and safety. Webpages that cover these topics are considered “YMYL pages,” and they’re held to different standards than other sites.
Examples of YMYL topics include:
- News: Sites that disseminate information about current events are often YMYL sites. Specifically, news sites covering international affairs, business, science, and politics are likely to be YMYL sites. On the other hand, entertainment and sports news sites are unlikely to be considered YMYL.
- Law and government: politics are a common YMYL classification. Any site that covers information about voting, accessing social services, or handling legal issues is typically a YMYL site. Furthermore, sites about government agencies and public institutions are generally YMYL.
- Finance: any site that covers investing or financial and accounting advice is a YMYL site. These sites can steer how people spend their money and plan for the future so that they clearly fit the “Your Money” portion of the algorithm. Sites that allow for financial transfers are even more heavily scrutinized.
- Health and safety: sites that offer information about drugs, healthcare, medical issues, and emergency preparedness are YMYL because they pertain to people’s health.
- Demographic groups: sites about “groups of people” are considered YMYL, not for site visitors but for society as a whole. If a website makes a false claim about groups of people such as certain races, genders, religions, or sexualities, it could impact the lives of those who fit that group. As such, YMYL algorithms hold sites that make claims about groups of people to very high standards.
- Shopping: online stores are held to YMYL standards. These sites must be accurate, honest, and trustworthy if people are to safely make purchases from them. Google uses YMYL standards to judge online shopping and product review sites to ensure they aren’t likely to scam customers.
Other topics Google considers YMYL pages include college information, job searches, housing information, and fitness and nutrition, to name a few. Essentially, Google considers any topic that could permanently impact someone’s quality of life and wellbeing a YMYL subject.
How E-A-T impacts YMYL pages
Because of the potential impact YMYL topics can have on people’s lives, Google holds those pages and sites to exceptionally high standards. That’s why E-A-T is so important to YMYL SEO. A poor-quality YMYL page or site could impact someone’s health, happiness, safety, or financial stability. When Google’s algorithms detect that a page falls under YMYL, they automatically perform more in-depth analysis and weigh site elements connected to E-A-T more heavily.
This is much more than a minor change. If you’re new to YMYL content, you may need to readjust your entire SEO strategy. The tactics that work for non-YMYL topics like media reviews or entertainment sites won’t work independently. While it’s still important to include keywords and internal links, your E-A-T compliance will have greater impact.
How does Google determine E-A-T?
So the question becomes, “How does Google determine E-A-T?” The answer is complicated.
E-A-T isn’t directly a ranking factor — there’s no score, no signal, and no algorithm. Google works with Search Quality Raters. A search quality rater follows the in-depth quality rater guideline provided by Google to determine whether the site meets E-A-T standards.
Fortunately, the guidelines provide dozens of examples from which marketers can learn. Let’s take a look at some examples of high-quality pages. One general observation is that E-A-T appears to apply at the topic, page, author, and domain level. Another is that E-A-T is evaluated in the context of reputation and content quality.
This first instance is from a recipe site. You’ll see that they reference evaluating both main content (MC) and author – something to think of when looking at your own site. Notice that you can have a high level of E-A-T without being popular.
In this example, the website has a very positive reputation as the result of its numerous National Magazine awards. We’ll discuss in greater detail how to improve E-A-T later in this article.
As stated earlier, shopping pages are considered YMYL because there’s a financial translation involved. Here the manufacturer of the product is also selling it; therefore they’re considered experts on the product, making their page authoritative.
Keep in mind that a page needs to have an appropriate E-A-T for its purpose. According to Google’s guidelines, “For some topics, such as humor or recipes, less formal expertise is OK.”
How to improve E-A-T SEO
The Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines state that “One of the most important criteria of page quality (PQ) rating is E-A-T. Expertise of the creator of the main content (MC), and authoritativeness or trustworthiness of the page or website, is extremely important for a page to achieve its purpose well.”
If your website covers any topic related to money, health, or world events, it’s probably considered a YMYL site and subject to heavier scrutiny. Improving your site’s E-A-T can have a significant impact on your SEO. But what tells you how to improve E-A-T SEO?
Section 6.1 of Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines offers some examples of pages lacking expertise, authority, and trust. In particular:
- Authors that don’t have adequate expertise on the topic. (e.g. a tax preparation video create by someone with no obvious experience in tax preparation)
- Websites that are clearly not an authoritative source. (e.g. tax preparation information appearing on a recipe site)
- Content that is not trustworthy (a checkout page on a shopping site that’s not secure)
We can use this to inform our approach to improving our E-A-T.
1. Address author credibility
Authors are essential for showing expertise. You’d think very differently about a nutrition book written by a college student compared to one written by a dietician with a medical degree. Google treats your web pages the same way.
They can identify page elements like author bylines and biographies with ease. That means that you can quickly improve your site’s E-A-T by adding bylines and bios to each page.
Make sure that the content creator lists their most relevant qualifications, too. Degrees and certifications in the field they’re writing about should be listed at the top of their bios. It’s also helpful to include links from the bios to the author’s professional site or portfolio to increase the richness of the links on the page.
2. Implement an “About” page
Just like an author’s bio demonstrates the credentials of your writers, an About page supports your entire site. A good About page will improve the E-A-T of your whole site.
Remember, Google takes your entire domain into consideration when evaluating E-A-T. Your About page can enhance your site’s SEO by providing helpful links, mentions, and other demonstrations of these principles.
This is your time to brag. Don’t be humble and leave out relevant details. You can and should mention things like:
- Industry awards
- Positive reviews
- News coverage
- Conference appearances
Think of your About page as your site’s cover letter. You’re trying to make a good impression and demonstrate that you’re trustworthy and an expert authority in the field. This is the time to explain exactly why that’s true.
3. Use SSL
Part of what makes a site trustworthy is the security features it includes. One feature that every site can implement is an SSL certificate. This is a website feature that proves your site’s identity. If a site has an SSL certificate, the URL will start with
HTTPS:// instead of
HTTP://, so it should be easy to check if your domain already has this feature.
Sites with SSL certificates are less likely to steal visitors’ information or otherwise compromise data. Google considers that a critical feature, and it’s relatively easy to implement. Adding SSL certificates to your site can dramatically improve its E-A-T.
4. Target backlinks
Backlinks play an important role in SEO, and they’re still helpful if you’re targeting E-A-T. Backlinks specifically demonstrate that a site is authoritative. When other credible sites link to your site as a resource, it shows Google that other reputable people trust your information.
The thing to focus on is credibility. It’s not enough just to have tons of backlinks to your page. The links need to be posted on sites that also have great E-A-T. Even having other reputable sites mention your brand may be enough to raise your E-A-T.
5. Build a brand
One of the things that sets Google’s algorithm apart from other search engines is how it tracks “mentions.” A mention is just that: whenever someone discusses your brand or site elsewhere on the internet, they’re “mentioning” you, and Google takes note. Even if these mentions don’t link back to your site, they’re still tracked.
That’s why building your brand across the web is so important. You want to create a consistent identity that people can refer to online. Furthermore, you should make sure that you’re building a brand that people like. Positive mentions, such as good customer reviews or brand comparisons on other sites, can significantly impact your E-A-T.
Just like backlinks, the quality of these mentions matters. Press releases posted on trustworthy news sites are a great way to get mentions, as are reviews on sites like the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Reports.
6. Generate original high-quality content
Google is not a fan of plagiarized content. The search engine’s goal is to pull up a range of quality results, not the same information repeatedly. To improve your E-A-T, you should regularly post original, quality content. This helps you to stand out as an authority.
Regularly doesn’t mean daily, though. It’s better to post one or two high-quality content marketing pieces a week than to churn out short or inaccurate articles. The goal is to be an authoritative, trustworthy expert, after all. You want quality content, not quantity.
Referring to the example about tax information on a recipe site, stick to what you know. Create content around one theme and work to expand the cluster into related topics. Just be careful about getting too far away from the core topic of your site.
7. Use social media
Social media can do a lot for your brand and your online presence. An excellent social media presence can spread your posts and raise awareness about your site. As a result, people are more likely to organically perform actions like searching your brand or linking to your content.
You can also use social media to monitor your reputation. If people are complaining about issues on social media, you can address them before they escalate to negative reviews. This can help you keep mentions of your brand positive across the internet, improving your E-A-T.
E-A-T is a fundamental part of how Google ranks pages and websites. While it’s not a direct ranking factor, it impacts every aspect of Google’s algorithms. That’s why it’s so essential that your site demonstrates it strongly.
You can start improving E-A-T on your sites today. By focusing on factors like building a solid reputation and producing high-quality content with expert authors, you can make your site a trustworthy, authoritative source. Give your site the best possible SEO by making E-A-T your priority.