Have you ever looked at a piece of content online and thought: Hmm, I’m not sure I can trust this? Who wrote this? Why should I believe a word of what they are saying? This happens more often than you think, especially if you are looking for content you use to make decisions that can impact your life: i.e., financial or medical information. This is where E-E-A-T comes into play: Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness — a range of signals Google uses to evaluate and judge content.
Table of contents
- E-E-A-T is a core concept in Google’s Search Quality Raters guide
- What are YMYL sites?
- What does E-E-A-T mean?
- Is E-E-A-T a ranking factor?
- How to improve E-E-A-T
- Connect the dots with Schema.org structured data
- E-E-A-T will play a role in separating fact from fiction
E-E-A-T is a core concept in Google’s Search Quality Raters guide
Google is constantly fighting a battle over good and bad content. Today, generative AI like ChatGPT, Bing Chat, and Google Bard are churning out content more than ever. Misinformation abounds, people are gaming the system, and a pandemic makes for an ever-growing need to provide trustworthy content.
Google is working hard to train its systems to recognize and reward high-quality, expertly written, factual content — this is where we see E-E-A-T pop up. The Helpful Content updates and many Product Review updates reinforce the need for high-quality, original content written by experts.
Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness are mentioned a lot in Google’s Search Quality Raters guidelines (pdf) and other posts by Google. These core signals help Google assess and judge a piece of online content. The Quality Rater Guide represents how Google wants its algorithms to function. Ben Gomes, Google’s Vice President of Search, famously said in an interview with CNBC:
“You can view the rater guidelines as where we want the search algorithm to go. They don’t tell you how the algorithm is ranking results, but they fundamentally show what the algorithm should do.”Ben Gomes
Of course, E-E-A-T is not used the same for every search, although Google has gone on the record that they look at E-E-A-T for every query. E-E-A-T is especially important for web content that describes things that can impact the lives of visitors. These are so-called YMYL sites.
What are YMYL sites?
YMYL stands for Your Money or Your Life. These concern pages feature content that, quite literally, can cost you your money of your life. Pages like this can impact the visitors’ well-being, health, financial situation, or safety. It could also impact the welfare or well-being of society itself. This is very broad and touches loads of sites. This way, even accepting credit cards for an online purchase makes your site a YMYL.
Here are some of the examples Google gives as heavy on the YMYL:
- News and current events,
- Civics, government and law,
- Health and safety,
- Groups of people,
- And a big bucket of other things and decisions can influence a person’s life.
The reason that Google identifies these YMYL sites is that they need extra scrutiny. As the content on these sites can impact lives, it must be assessed extra carefully. In the age of generative AI, fake news, and misinformation, it is increasingly hard to find, critically judge, and trust online content. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Google fought hard to keep misinformation about the virus appearing in the search results.
To do this, Google uses various signals to determine a site’s trustworthiness. It also has search ranking systems to judge the experience, expertise, and authoritativeness of so-called experts. These signals help Google better understand which sites to rank and which to sweep under the rug.
What does E-E-A-T mean?
As mentioned, E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Google uses these quality criteria to evaluate the credibility and relevance of web pages and websites.
Google has stated that E-E-A-T is particularly important for your Money or Your Life content, as it can significantly impact users’ well-being and safety. These criteria are interconnected and are used to evaluate a site’s performance. Sites with good E-E-A-T can appear in every sector and industry — it’s not limited to YMYL sites.
In December 2022, Google added an extra E to the acronym to form E-E-A-T. The extra letter signals an increased focus on Experience — do writers have real, first-hand, or real-life experience using the thing they write about? Pages created by individuals with abundant personal experience tend to be reliable and effectively accomplish their objectives. An instance of this is when considering whether to trust a product review from someone who has personally used the item or similar content from someone who hasn’t.
More on experience vs. expertise
The difference between experience and expertise might be small. Google uses them both interchangeably in different situations. A table from their Search Raters Guidelines makes it a bit more insightful:
|YMYL Topic||Valuable sharing of life Experience||Information or advice best left to Experts|
|Sleep challenges when|
(YMYL Health or Safety)
|Safe and non-medical tips and tricks for|
sleeping in the last trimester of pregnancy,
provided by people who have personally
struggled with this challenge, for example:
how to use pillows to sleep comfortably in
a position that is safe for babies
|Sleep medications that are safe during|
|Liver cancer treatment|
(YMYL Health or Safety)
|A sincere and respectful forum discussion|
where people are describing how they’re
coping with liver cancer treatment
|Different treatment options for liver cancer|
and the associated life expectancies
under each treatment
|Filling out tax forms|
(YMYL Financial Security)
|A humorous video from a non-expert|
content creator about the frustration of
|Instructions on how to fill out tax forms|
|Saving for retirement|
(YMYL Financial Security)
|Reviews of retirement saving services by|
people with first-hand experience using
|Advice on how to invest for retirement:|
how much to save, what kinds of assets to
invest in, how much money you will need
to retire by a specific age, etc.
|How to vote|
|A social media post by an ordinary citizen|
describing why they personally believe it’s
important to vote in local elections
|Information about who is eligible to vote or|
how to register to vote
How much of an expert is who wrote the article you are reading? Can you find out anything about them? Are they renowned experts, won any awards? Studied at Harvard? Is the article on mortgages written by an experienced financial advisor specialized in financing housing property — or did a content marketeer write it to get links? For a lot of topics, this matters.
For YMYL content, expertise matters. People reading it need to know they can trust the expertise of the person who wrote it. Would you take medical advice from a mom blogger? I might if she’d become an expert because of their life experience.
For non-YMYL content, Google also uses real-life experience to signal that authors are considered experts in their field if they have life experience. The writer’s expertise is judged on the level of the content itself.
While determining authoritativeness, Google takes the author, the content, and the website into account. Are you and your site authorities? It’s all about who you are, who you represent, and your reputation. Is your site an authority on the topic? Do well-known experts link to or mention your content? Has it been used in research? Have you any reviews by fellow experts? Did Wikipedia link to or mention your content? Do you have your own Wikipedia page?
Trustworthiness is the main pillar of the system. According to Google, trust is the most crucial ingredient in E-E-A-T, as untrustworthy pages score low on E-E-A-T, irrespective of how expert, experienced, or authoritative they appear. The quality rater assesses trust based on experience, expertise, and authoritativeness.
By adhering to Google’s advice on E-E-A-T, one can successfully build trust, which quality raters seek. For trustworthiness, Google also takes the author, the content, and the website into account. Google uses many signals to determine your (site’s) trustworthiness. This could be as simple as technical trustworthiness — does it have an SSL connection? — to more abstract signals like online discussions about your business or how you respond to reviews online. Why would people risk their life on your site? Is your business trustworthy?
Is E-E-A-T a ranking factor?
Many discussions have been about whether E-A-T is a ranking factor, but it’s not. It’s not something you can directly point your finger to; you have to do this to get that. Google uses many different signals from its ranking systems to form an opinion about your site and to rank it.
Working on your E-A-T is good because you are working to improve your expertise, authority, and trustworthiness in the eyes of your customers. And that’s what every business should be doing, right? But it shouldn’t take away from your technical SEO work.
Go over Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines to see what they look for in the search results. Remember that it doesn’t describe the algorithm’s work, so you don’t need to obsess over it. ‘Simply’ make the best possible site out there. Make sure your content is top-notch and supported by experts if needed.
How to improve E-E-A-T
As you can imagine, E-E-A-T is an abstract topic, and there are no guidebooks on increasing the numbers. It’s not like a separate piece of the algorithm with different dials you can turn. It’s simply a range of signals that helps Google get a grip on you, your content, and your business.
Not every site needs to worry about E-E-A-T, but if you have a YMYL site, there are many things you can do to improve it. But, the results of those improvements are not set in stone. It’s much more than enhancing your about us page and author pages. You must work the hours if you genuinely want to be seen as an expert. Slowly but steadily, you’ll get there.
Some of the things you can do to improve E-A-T — depending on what type of content you have, of course:
- Get mentioned on Wikipedia, or get a listing (easy, right?)
- Get into Google’s knowledge graph
- More mentions from trusted experts
- Get links from high-value sites
- Appear in valued newspapers or on other well-known sites
- Arrange high-quality reviews
- Let topic experts review your content
- Enhance the quality of your content
- Don’t make your content too sales-oriented
- Do unique content like research papers
- Improve your business details/about us pages
- Improve your bio
- Fix your CTAs and UX (no dark patterns!)
- Keep your ads in check
- Et cetera, et cetera.
In short, practice holistic SEO and build a better, more trustworthy, and well-respected business! To start improving the quality of your content, our SEO expert Jono Alderson wrote an excellent guide on how to think about high-quality content — including a nice checklist with questions you can ask yourself.
Connect the dots with Schema.org structured data
A part of improving your E-E-A-T is describing your site to search engines, your authors, and all the entities on it. Schema.org structured data is a great help and an essential part of SEO — whether you are working on your E-E-A-T. Doing so can solidify what Google knows about you in a way that makes sense to a search engine.
Yoast SEO has a fully-featured structured data implementation that automatically does much of the work for you. For instance, Yoast SEO describes the author of articles, and information about them, making it easier for Google to evaluate their E-A-T. Yoast SEO Premium goes even further, letting you set additional properties per user. You can add the awards you won, the titles you have, or what expertise you have by filling in some fields.
On Schema.org, you’ll find options to declare that a webpage was
reviewedBy a person (on a date). Currently, we do not support this in Yoast, but you could use our Schema API to write the code for this. Schema.org also has some good options for defining things like
alumniOf — earlier in this article, we’ve mentioned Harvard attendance as an example of authority, which can be explicitly described in the structured data.
Soon, we’ll see many more things come out of Schema.org to help you support your E-E-A-T.
E-E-A-T will play a role in separating fact from fiction
In this article, you got an insight into a term you might have heard before regarding SEO: E-E-A-T. Experience, expertise, trustworthiness, and authoritativeness are key to identifying your quality, content, and business. It’s an interesting concept that gives insight into what’s important for Google to understand quality and expertise.
Although it’s easy to forget that you’re not doing this for Google — your customer deserves that high-quality content and services. Improve those!
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