Table of Contents
What is E-A-T?
E-A-T in SEO stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. This concept is discussed in great detail in Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines. Demonstrating good E-A-T both on and off your website can potentially help improve Google rankings.
We believe that E-A-T is very important to most sites. However, not all SEO’s agree that E-A-T is truly a ranking factor. The team at MHC has seen quite a few websites that we believe have been negatively affected by Google Quality updates because they have a lack of E-A-T. We have also had the joy of helping businesses to improve their Google E-A-T with resulting traffic increases. You can see some examples of this near the end of this article.
In this article we will explain what E-A-T is and how you can make changes to help improve your E-A-T which could potentially translate into better rankings and more traffic.
Update: In February of 2019, Google confirmed that E-A-T is indeed a very important part of their algorithms.
Update: In August of 2019, Google published a document on core algorithm updates. Their advice, if you have been negatively affected by a core update is to “get to know the quality rater guidelines & E-A-T “. They also linked to this very document you are reading now as a good guide on E-A-T.
Want to learn more about E-A-T?
Watch all three parts of our E-A-T webinar series to help you learn more about each topic in depth, listen to Marie answer common FAQs and how to improve your own E-A-T!
What do the Quality Raters’ Guidelines (QRG) say about E-A-T?
First, let’s talk about what the QRG are. This document is loaded with discussions on Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. We want to pay attention to this information as Google has told us that these guidelines are a key to helping us understand what Google wants to see on a website in terms of quality.
In a CNBC interview, Google’s VP of Search, Ben Gomes was asked about the connection between Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines and Google’s algorithms. He said:
“You can view the raters’ 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.”
If you have ever wondered what it is that Google considers “high quality”, the QRG are actually a textbook that explains this in great detail!
While Google’s algorithms are not an exact representation of what is in the QRG, as mentioned above, the QRG reflect what Google wants the algorithms to do. And there is a LOT of information about Google E-A-T in these guidelines.
Let’s look at what the QRG say about E-A-T. The following screenshots are all taken directly from the latest version of the guidelines, which at the time of publishing this article is the version released on December 5, 2019. E-A-T is mentioned in these guidelines 135 times!
Google says that E-A-T is very important
E-A-T is extremely important for Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) sites
If your site is a medical, legal, or financial site, then having good E-A-T is crucial. Your site may also be considered YMYL if your site gives advice that helps people make an important decision. You are likely also YMYL if you sell products from your website.
We personally think that most websites on the web are considered YMYL. You might argue that your site that sells ball point pens is not helping people make major life decisions. However, if you’re taking credit card transactions on your site, then people need to be able to trust you and as such, you are almost definitely YMYL.
The QRG tell us that a YMYL site that is lacking E-A-T is to be considered a low quality site.
Again, we believe that many sites are considered YMYL. Pretty much every topic area has people who are known as experts on this subject. Even if your topic is not an obvious YMYL topic, we still would recommend paying attention to Google E-A-T.
Did you know that Google has a list of characteristics of high quality pages?
The QRG list a high level of E-A-T as the first characteristic of a high quality page.
Author E-A-T is important
The signals that Google use to determine E-A-T can likely be applied to brands, to websites, to businesses, and also to authors. The QRG tell us that if the creator of the main content (MC), or in other words, the author, is lacking expertise for the topic, the page should be rated as low quality.
This is extremely important! Think of how many YMYL sites have articles that are written by people who are fantastic journalists, but who have no actual real life experience on the topic on which they are writing. If you are looking for tax advice, would you prefer to read an article written by someone with a journalism degree or by someone who has been a tax accountant for decades and is known as an authority in that field? If you have been diagnosed with cancer, do you want to read articles on your condition that are written by an SEO content writer or articles that are written by a physician who has been treating this condition for years and is known as the world’s leading expert on the subject?
Obviously, you want to read articles written by people with E-A-T. As such, Google wants to show searchers articles written by people who are known as the best in their field. If you are not currently recognized as one of the authorities in your niche, then getting more brand recognition is a must if you want to rank well on Google searches.
The QRG are loaded with examples of articles that Google considers low quality because of a lack of author E-A-T. This screenshot is from the QRG:
You can see that this is an article about a financial topic. Here is how the raters are instructed to assess a page like this:
As such, we think that it is vitally important for every author on your site to have a thorough author bio that talks about why they are qualified to write on this subject. They also should have a full author bio page that goes into even greater detail. We also recommend implementing author schema to give Google as much information as possible on your authors and their qualifications.
Here is another example from the QRG:
If you Google this author’s name, you will find that she is known as a content writer, but there is very little evidence that she has expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness as a medical writer.
Note: We recommend that you do this kind of search for your authors. Google their name. You may need to add a keyword if they have a common name. You’ll also want to use a negative site query so that you don’t just see posts from their sites. For example, here is a search for “marie haynes” seo -site:mariehaynes.com.
You can see that I am mentioned in places that are recognized as authoritative for SEO:
Another great way to check for perceived authority is to do the same search on Google News. You can see here that I have a couple of hundred mentions in Google news for my name in connection with SEO:
I did this same search for one of my employees, Dylan. Even though Dylan is really good at SEO and has a lot of knowledge, he is likely seen as lacking in E-A-T for this topic because there is no one else mentioning him online.
This doesn’t mean that Dylan is not good at SEO. (The opposite is true!) But, if he wanted to start publishing SEO articles, they likely would not rank well until he builds up online authority.
Going back to the example in the QRG, with the author who has written about the flu, this is what the QRG say about her:
It is vitally important that your authors are recognized as an authority in your vertical.
Characteristics of a Low Quality Page
The very first characteristic of a low quality page listed in the QRG is a lack of E-A-T.
How does Google measure E-A-T algorithmically?
While no one outside of Google knows the answer to this, I have some theories. I believe that a major unnamed algorithm update on February 7, 2017 was Google’s first strong attempt at determining which sites have good E-A-T and implementing this in their algorithms. The concept of E-A-T has always been important! But Google’s ability to measure it and include this information in their decisions for determining where to rank sites has changed over the years.
Shortly after February 7, 2017, we had a large number of people approach us for a traffic drop assessment after seeing drops that looked like this:
In each case, it was really obvious that according to the criteria in the QRG, they would be considered as lacking in E-A-T. Most of these sites were losing ranking positions to the sites known as big players in their field. Their articles were all being outranked by ones that were written by authors with loads of E-A-T.
Another update that had a strong E-A-T component was the one released by Google on August 1, 2018. This update caused huge drops for YMYL sites that were lacking E-A-T.
Our point in showing this screenshot is to say that we believe that February 7, 2017 was one of the first dates on which Google started to make E-A-T an important part of the algorithm. While Google has valued the aspects of E-A-T for much longer than this, we do believe that February of 2017 marked an important date in which they became much better at measuring whether a site was lacking some components of E-A-T.
Just five days after this update, Gary Illyes tweeted a “random” reminder to read the QRG:
There are other quality updates as well that have been confirmed by Danny Sullivan to be connected to the QRG. When asked how to recover from the August 1 (Medic) Update, he told us that the QRG was a great source of information to tell us how to improve site quality.
You can see my algo update post for a full, regularly updated list on which algorithm updates were likely connected to E-A-T and Google.
We have a few thoughts on how Google determines E-A-T.
1) Links and even unlinked mentions are measured
I asked Gary about E-A-T. He said it’s largely based on links and mentions on authoritative sites. i.e. if the Washington post mentions you, that’s good.
— Marie Haynes (@Marie_Haynes) February 21, 2018
Gary Illyes said at Pubcon Austin in 2018 that Google is really good at determining which links and mentions to count. If your business is getting amazing press mentions, this really can help. The incredible thing though is that Google feels really confident that they can determine which mentions are there because there is true buzz circulating about your company, and which are just there because they’re paid, incentivized or self made.
There is a big difference between a mention from a Forbes contributor and a Forbes staff journalist. Google knows to ignore the former, and most likely, they can recognize the latter as a vote for your brand’s authority. In fact, we believe that this was one of the reasons why Google made changes to rel=nofollow. It is possible that now, if Google comes across a great link on an authoritative site, we think they can consider this when assessing your E-A-T even if it is nofollowed.
2) Google knows a lot about which mentions to trust
How does Google know which parts of the web to trust and which to ignore? The new Penguin algorithm (released in September of 2016) is supposed to just ignore links that are not from trusted sources. We think that Google is ignoring a large number of links that are on the web and only trusting ones that are true votes for a site. They’re not perfect yet, as some spammers can still get away with ranking sites using Private Blog Networks (PBNs) and other tricks. But, they are really good at figuring out which links should count in terms of passing PageRank.
Bill Slawski wrote about a Google patent that gives us some insight into how Google would know which pages to trust. This patent, which was updated in April of 2018 is called, “Producing a ranking for pages using distances in a web-link graph.” It talks about the original PageRank patent, saying:
“Some web pages (called “spam pages”) can be designed to use various techniques to obtain artificially inflated PageRanks, for example, by forming “link farms” or creating “loops.”
It then goes on to propose a solution so that pages using spammy techniques would not be able to game PageRank:
“One possible variation of PageRank that would reduce the effect of these techniques is to select a few “trusted” pages (also referred to as the seed pages) and discovers other pages which are likely to be good by following the links from the trusted pages.”
In other words, what the algorithm wants to do is to select “trusted” (also known as “seed”) pages that are known to be good and trustworthy and then to build a network of trusted sites by following the links on that page.
For example, let’s say that the New York Times has been established as a trusted seed site. Google’s algorithms can then determine that sites that are linked to from the New York Times are probably good sources for trusted seed sites as well.
The patent actually specifically mentions the New York Times as a manually selected trusted site:
“For example, Google Directory and The New York Times are both good seeds which possess such properties. It is typically assumed that these seeds are also “closer” to other high-quality pages on the web. In addition, seeds with large number of useful outgoing links facilitate identifying other useful and high-quality pages, thereby acting as “hubs” on the web.”
The patent talks about the struggle in determining which sites are seed sites. This makes sense, because every vertical is going to have different sources of authority. The rest of the patent discusses ways to mathematically determine seed sites and it gets super complicated. The main point though that we want to take from this patent is as follows:
Somehow, Google has created a small handful of trusted sites and pages. These are the sites that are recognized as authoritative for your vertical. Links and mentions on those pages, or pages linked to from those pages are the ones that Google wants to count.
We think it is possible that this practice of choosing seed sites has evolved so that sites with high Google E-A-T are automatically considered seed sites rather than being manually selected. But this is a discussion for another day.
Given that Google is super confident in its ability to know which parts of the web are trusted authorities, this means that gaming E-A-T is hard.
If you are not known as an authority and have no natural mentions in authoritative places (or even places linked to from those authorities), it is likely going to be quite difficult for you to rank well.
In a later section of this article we will talk in more detail about which kinds of sites Google instructs the quality raters to look at when they are trying to find information about a website or author online to determine their E-A-T.
3) There are many different signals that Google can glean from across the web that contribute to E-A-T
The QRG speak about the importance of reviews, the reputation of the company, and even forum mentions when it comes to E-A-T. We’ll now look at each of these in great detail and talk about how we can learn from this information in order to make improvements that should translate into better rankings for our business.
How to improve Google E-A-T
We have established that E-A-T is an important part of Google’s algorithms. A lack of E-A-T makes it very hard to rank. So, does this mean that only sites recognized as authorities can rank well? Is there nothing else that can be done?
E-A-T can definitely be improved upon. At the end of this article we will share examples of sites that we believed saw ranking improvements after implementing our E-A-T suggestions.
To discuss ways of improving E-A-T, we’ll look again at quotes that come from the QRG.
1) Get good reviews
What people say about your business online matters. Here is how the quality raters are instructed to do reputation research:
They are told to look at Yelp, the BBB, Amazon and Google Shopping amongst other sources:
John Mueller from Google has said in a help hangout that it is unlikely that Google specifically uses ratings from third party sites in their algorithm, saying, “I would venture to guess that you are correct that we wouldn’t use something like the BBB score for something like this. As far as I know that’s certainly the case.” However, given that that quality raters are told several times to look at this type of information, and given that Google says that the information in the QRG reflects what Google’s algorithms want to accomplish, we believe that you should be paying close attention to what people are saying about your business online.
If you want to read more on our theories on this subject, you can read this post on how Google likely uses information from sites like the BBB.
What we believe the quality raters are trying to do here is to determine what the overall public sentiment is for your business. If you have the odd bad review, that is not likely to hurt:
But, if it is obvious that most people who are reviewing your business online are complaining, then we believe that this can affect Google’s assessment of quality for your site.
When we do site quality reviews, here are some factors that we look at based on things described in the QRG:
- Do competitors have significantly more reviews online? If more people are talking about your competitors, then this might be a sign that they are more highly recognized as an authority than you are.
- Do competitors have a much larger number of positive reviews than you do?
- Is the general overall sentiment of reviews negative?
- Do competitors tend to have BBB listings with positive reviews? If so, how does that compare to your BBB profile? If not BBB, are there listings on other trusted sites such as TrustPilot or others?
2) Get Wikipedia mentions, or better yet, your own page
Wikipedia is mentioned a lot in the QRG. It is clear that Google recognizes them as a trusted seed site. In the past, SEOs would often say that links from Wikipedia don’t matter as they are nofollowed links and don’t pass any PageRank. But, we think that this is where mentions come in to play. Even if PageRank is not flowing through Wikipedia links, being mentioned on such a large authoritative site can really help.
Getting your own Wikipedia page is really hard. You have to meet Wikipedia’s standards on notability which include the following:
- All information about your company has to be verifiable.
- The business has to have received significant coverage from reliable sources.
That sounds a whole lot like E-A-T, right? This is why it is hard to fake authority. Having a Wikipedia page can help improve your perceived authority, but you can’t get a Wikipedia page unless you already are perceived as an authority!
Still, we do think that positive mentions of your company on other Wikipedia pages can help as well. In some areas, you can edit Wikipedia articles in order to place a mention of your company. But, you need to be really careful. If the Wikipedia community perceives you as self promoting, you’ll get your link quickly removed.
When we do our site quality reviews we look at whether competitors have their own Wikipedia page. If all of the top ranking sites for your keywords are recognized as authorities by Wikipedia and granted their own page, and your site does not have one, there is a good chance that you’re going to struggle to rank for these keywords.
What we don’t know is whether Google’s algorithms say, “Ah, this site has a Wikipedia page, so it must be an authority!” or whether Google is picking up on the same information that Wikipedia is to help determine whether you should be considered an authority. Regardless, we would recommend that if your business is notable enough to possibly have a Wikipedia page, you should attempt to get one.
3) Get mentions on authoritative sites
This is probably the most important aspect of Google E-A-T. The “A” in E-A-T, meaning “Authoritativeness” is most likely determined by your authoritative mentions.
As mentioned previously, Google is getting much better at determining which mentions across the web truly are votes for your business. If a link or a mention is easy for you to obtain because you have provided content, paid for the link, or in some way incentivized the site owner to link to you, most likely, this mention will not do much to help.
But, if people in authoritative places are truly mentioning you because they want to recommend you, then this is the type of thing that can speak to your authority.
When Barry Schwartz mentions me on SERoundtable, that likely helps improve my perceived authority on the topic of SEO.
Good authoritative mentions are usually difficult to get. But, if you want to be known as an authority, it is vitally important that you find ways to get them.
In the QRG, they give this as an example of an author who has good E-A-T:
Remember when we Googled the name of the author who did not have E-A-T to write about the flu? When you Google the name of the author in this example, you can see that she is mentioned all over the place, on authoritative sites, in connection with parenting:
And here is what the QRG say about this author:
It is not enough to just have experience, in order to have good E-A-T, you also need to be known online as an authority in your field.
If you are struggling to get authoritative mentions, here are some ideas that may help:
- Publish original research. This often will get mentions from authoritative places.
- Summarize current scientific research. Let’s say you have a site that sells products for diabetics. Let’s also say that new research has just emerged that explains in great scientific detail a new treatment for diabetes. You can take that information and summarize it in layman’s terms. This often attracts links and mentions.
- Connect with journalists on HARO or via Twitter.
- Create connections with people who are known as authorities in your field. You would not believe how many emails I get from people whom I have never heard of who want me to promote or link to their latest blog post. The people who have a much better chance of getting my attention are those whom I have met in person at a conference, or have had good discussion with online. You will have better success in getting links and mentions if you can truly develop good relationships with influencers in your field.
4) Get mentions on forums
This may not be applicable to every business, but if people all over the web are raving about your competitors, then you want to have the same thing be true of your business as well. It may seem ludicrous for me to suggest that forum mentions can help improve your rankings. After all, this is something that could be easily gamed. However, this is what the QRG say:
I believe that it is not difficult for Google to determine which forum mentions are worthy of contributing to E-A-T and which ones are not. For several years, my main line of work was in doing link audits. I have seen thousands of forum mentions. It is usually quite easy for me to determine whether the chatter is real or whether it is artificially generated by an SEO.
Why would Google look at forum information? Think of how you search. I recently had the privilege of speaking at the RD Summit which was held in Florianopolis, a beautiful island in the south of Brazil. When I researched Florianopolis I started by looking at sites like TripAdvisor and even Wikipedia. But, the most helpful information came from me reading the user generated content on sites like Reddit and other discussion forums.
I know that there are some of you right now who are preparing angry tweets and blog posts because I have just suggested that mentions in Reddit posts and forum mentions could contribute to rankings. I am not suggesting that you spam forums to get links. But, I do think that Google can again, gather information from these kinds of discussions in order to determine the overall public sentiment surrounding your business.
If your competitors are being discussed in forums all over the place, and you are not, then most likely, you are not as well recognized as an authority.
While I do not recommend spamming forums, I do think that we should all be monitoring the internet for discussions about our brands. If there are negative discussions happening online, then jump in and try to rectify the problems. If people have questions that you could answer, then join the discussion and get your brand known.
5) Be trustworthy
We believe that Google made significant changes to their algorithms in an attempt at algorithmically determining trust, starting with the August 1 (Medic) update. Just prior to this update, Google released a new version of the Quality Raters’ Guidelines. While a lot of things changed in this version, the most notable, in our opinion, is the addition of the words “safety”. The highlighted words below were added to the QRG just prior to the Aug 1, 2018 update.
The wording has changed slightly in the most recent publication of the QRG as the words “of users” have been removed from the above paragraph. But, safety is still important.
With the August 1, 2018 update, and again with the September 27, 2018 update, we saw that sites that dropped in rankings consistently had issues with trust. These included things like the following:
- Loads of negative reviews online.
- Customers complaining about not being able to get a refund.
- Medical articles that had no scientific references, or that were making claims that contradicted current scientific consensus.
I have written a very thorough article on Trust and how it relates to E-A-T. I would encourage you to read this article if you want more information on how Google likely algorithmically determines trust and how you can improve on this metric.
6) Do all that you can to demonstrate your E-A-T on your website
While Google has told us that E-A-T is mostly determined via off-site links and mentions, we feel that we have seen improvements by extolling your E-A-T on your website. We like to see this type of information on both the homepage and your About page. In our site quality reports we usually have several pages dedicated to ways in which the business can better display their E-A-T. At the end of this article, you will see examples on how we feel that this has helped these businesses.
Is E-A-T really a ranking factor?
At MHC, we do believe that the E-A-T conceptualizes many ranking factors. We also think that E-A-T is connected with links. As mentioned previously, you really want to get good links from authoritative places in your niche. Most likely though, Google is attempting to measure things beyond links in determining E-A-T. We know that they instruct their quality raters to determine whether a business has a good or bad reputation, whether they are being mentioned in authoritative places and whether they are a trustworthy business. We also know that Google has said that the QRG reflect what Google wants their algorithms to accomplish.
It is possible that some of the things that I mentioned in this post are not yet being algorithmically measured. But, it is my belief that if something is mentioned in the QRG, then Google is either already measuring this algorithmically, or they are working on ways to do this. You do not want to ignore E-A-T!
Update: In March of 2020, Google added the following wording to their documentation on what we should know about core udpates:
“Since we originally wrote this post, we have been occasionally asked if E-A-T is a ranking factor. Our automated systems use a mix of many different signals to rank great content. We’ve tried to make this mix align what human beings would agree is great content as they would assess it according to E-A-T criteria. Given this, assessing your own content in terms of E-A-T criteria may help align it conceptually with the different signals that our automated systems use to rank content.”
Our systems aren’t looking for EAT. Our raters are using that to see if our systems are working well to show good information. There are many different signals that, if we get it right, align with what a good human EAT assessment would be. See also: https://t.co/1fs2oJ9Gtl pic.twitter.com/GBbnYEjJUV
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) February 19, 2020
E-A-T Success Stories
We have seen quite a few websites make nice improvements after implementing changes to help improve their Google E-A-T. Here are some examples of sites that have worked on improving E-A-T and have seen gains. I am using screenshots from SEMrush here as not all of our clients have given us permission to share their analytics data. Please know though, that I will only share SEMrush traffic estimates when they are similar to what we are seeing in Google Analytics.
Early E-A-T success story – Saas brand
This is a site that we had been working with for months and were struggling to see improvements for. They were one of our first E-A-T success stories even before we knew what E-A-T was. We had recommended the following which we believe contributed to their success:
- Getting better known as a top player in their space (software as a service). This meant getting a lot of authoritative mentions.
- Being more clear on displaying why users should engage with them. In other words, we put more verbiage on the website to encourage people to trust this business.
- Cleaning up thin content. While this is not directly an E-A-T issue, we do think that it can contribute to trust. If Google sees that 90% of your content in the index is junk, this likely can lower the quality of your site.
Medical site sees great gains after improving author E-A-T
This is a large well known site. They were hit hard in February of 2017. Most of the changes that we recommended centered around E-A-T:
- They added author profiles to each of their posts. Each profile boasted about the author’s E-A-T and then linked to a full article on that author that went into great detail on awards they had won, places they had been mentioned, etc.
- They hired physicians who were well known in their field and had them medically fact check each of their articles. Physicians were also given an author box and their E-A-T was extolled.
- Improved upon the use of medical scientific references.
- Added a “last updated” date to all of their posts and made quarterly reviews to determine whether new information should be added to these posts.
News site sees nice improvements after beefing up author E-A-T
This site reports on tech news and has a lot of competition. After they were hit hard in February of 2017, they had us do a site quality review. This site has been seeing nice gains. However, we don’t attribute all of these gains to E-A-T as we also worked on improving technical issues and trimming out thin content. However, here are the E-A-T related changes that we recommended:
- Less aggressive use of annoying ads. (This likely contributes to trust)
- Added more information to the About page to tout how much experience they have and awards won.
- We encouraged them to get more authors who were already known as authorities in tech.
- Less writing on subjects for which they did not have E-A-T. For example, previously they had articles that really should have been written by medical experts. Now, they focus much less on medical topics and more on tech topics.
eCommerce site jumps to page one for competitive terms
This is one of our favourite stories. This site is a brand that is relatively well known in their space. They sell a big ticket item with a lot of competition. Although they hadn’t been hit by a quality update they came to us to see if we could help them do even better.
Again, we made some changes on this site that were not specifically E-A-T related such as improving upon their internal linking. But, we also recommended the following which we believe contributed to their ongoing success:
- Loads of improvements on their About page to demonstrate why they are known as one of the best in their field. This included adding information on awards won, celebrity endorsements and places in which they had been mentioned in the press.
- More information on their homepage to tell people information related to E-A-T.
- Added customer testimonials across the site which helps users to trust them more.
- Made it more clear who was responsible for the website’s content.
Another successful medical site
This site came to us after a strong hit connected with a quality update. We made the following recommendations:
- Added more information on each author to extol their E-A-T.
- Hired physicians to medically fact check articles.
- Improved use of scientific references.
Legal site that was hit hard with a quality update
This small legal site saw a big hit in late 2017. We recommended a number of technical changes for this site, but they also made big improvements in how they display E-A-T.
- Added loads of information the home page to tell potential customers why their office is known as one of the best in the city.
- Did a lot of boasting on the home page plus the about page on awards that the practice had won.
- Added customer testimonials.
- Added more boasting on their successful verdicts.
- Created a page for each lawyer that extolled the lawyer’s E-A-T by mentioning awards won, places that they have been mentioned, schooling, and more.
- Added a press page.
They’re not back to where they were before the hit, but they are getting there.
Additional E-A-T information and references
In this section, we will try to keep you updated on everything that you need to know regarding Google and E-A-T. If you want to stay continually up to date on new E-A-T news, I’d recommend subscribing to my newsletter:
We’ll be doing our best to keep this list of references updated each week as we publish new newsletter stories.
Google published documentation on how to rank in Discover, stating that “Our automated systems surface content in Discover from sites that have many individual pages that demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T). Those looking to improve E-A-T can consider some of the same questions we encourage site owners to consider for Search. While Search and Discover are different, the overall principles for E-A-T as it applies to content within them are similar.”
Great tips from Lily Ray on improving EAT for your authors.
The May core update, released on May 4, 2020 appeared to once again reward websites with strong E-A-T. Something we noticed was that in many cases, sites that demonstrated real life expertise on a topic were rewarded. An example given in the article linked to, of a site that did well with this update would be an affiliate site that instead of just posting other people’s reviews, actually used the products themselves before publishing their review.
Lily Ray wrote a great article, published on SEJ that will answer all of your questions about schema as it applies to your authors.
Bill Slawski wrote an article for Search Engine Journal describing how Google can tell whether your content is expert written and the role this could play in determining E-A-T.
This Bill Slawski article tells us that Google could be using something called Website Representation Vectors as a way to help measure E-A-T.
Marie’s Whiteboard Friday with Moz discusses E-A-T and the Quality Raters Guidelines.
Google announces their partnership with the Mayo Clinic. This is interesting as this could impact health SERPs. It could be possible that Google is mandating only trustworthy health site, which aligns with our theory on how Google could measure scientific consensus and whether alternative health sites could be suppressed.
Marie sits down with Barry Schwartz to discuss algo updates, E-A-T, and penalties (video)
Listen to Marie discuss the June Core Update with Authority Labs! (video)
Catch Marie talk about E-A-T, the Quality Raters Guidelines and more on her recent Digital Rage Podcast.
A leaked document shows more evidence of Google trying to algorithmically fight against sites contradicting scientific consensus (which in our opinion is what Google is trying to do with health sites in the June 3, 2019 Google update). If you’re a paid subscriber to our SEO newsletter, then you can get some of our detailed opinions on how this could be suppressing sites that contradict scientific consensus.
John Mueller talks about how Google tries to look at E-A-T for medical sites. John confirmed that they do look at information such as the author, the site overall, and reviewers partially through the content. He also recommends that you find an approach primarily for users, so it might not be best to hide it in structured data.
Google’s blog covers the topic: What webmasters should know about Google’s core updates. MHC was fortunate enough to earn a link from Google (to this very page) which provided additional reading for webmasters.
From Google: Would a federal medical centre benefit from adding doctor author bios? John Mueller says if the work has been written or reviewed by an expert, it makes sense to indicate this. Here is his exact response: “I I think that’s something that you probably have answered already in that if you’re providing information on your webpage and it is kind of checked or written/created by someone who has a lot of knowledge on that topic then that’s something I would definitely highlight.”
Are you a health/medical site with content written without relative medical expertise? You can improve your content, remove or, or noindex it. Should you want to improve it, John says that having a medical expert on hand is a good idea.
Author E-A-T: It is possible to rank using a pseudonym? John Mueller once again hints that yes it is possible as Google’s algo’s likely do not judge the realness of author names used. He also noted the complexities with understanding a name which was a rather fascinating read.
How established are you in your niche and what are people saying about you? Google may be looking at prominence and what others are saying about you.
John Mueller discusses authorship and E-A-T in relation to using pseudonyms.
New info from a Google employee on the power of authority. This article from The Guardian says due to the rise in US school shootings, they’ve tweaked the algorithm to allow for adjustments to authority.
John Mueller says in a Help Hangout that if you’ve seen a drop and you’re worried about E-A-T, you should work on increasing overall site quality.
Google rewards reputable reporting says the Economist. The study reveals that Google does indeed assess E-A-T on a site.
Google confirms that they worked on improving medical search results in 2018. John also confirms that E-A-T is an important component to work on for medical sites.
Pedros Dias provides a great indication via Twitter regarding what composes quality. Check this out!
Building Trust for Your Service Area Business (article).
Possibly a minor quality update on May 9, 2019 . Many of our clients who have been working on E-A-T related changes saw slight increases on May 9. However a few saw slight decreases. We think that this was potentially a refresh of some sort in which Google re-assessed E-A-T signals for many sites.
Google’s new portal for How News Works (+touches on how E-A-T is a factor). Basically it says, “…our systems are designed to identify signals that can help determine which pages demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness on a given topic, based on feedback from Search raters. Those signals can include whether other people value the source for similar queries or whether other prominent websites on the subject link to the story.”
Interesting note from John Mueller in a Hangout. John says that it’s not impossible for a distributor to outrank a manufacturer. It boils down to value, quality, technical standpoint, and authority!
Great E-A-T reminder courtesy of Lily Ray: if you Google your “company’s name + scam” and you see legitimate results on page 1, this can impact your organic performance. Consider engaging in a reputation management program (and obviously do some soul searching to see why customers consider you a scam)!
Bill Slawski discusses Trust Metrics at Google (article).
Re: the March core update: John Mueller says to definitely check out the Panda questions from 2011 (more guidance on building high-quality sites). He also suggests that webmasters read the Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG) to understand what Google deems high versus low quality. This was such in important tip, John mentioned just days later that once again you should gather feedback from real users and read the Panda questions.
In a hangout, John says that for new sites, you won’t be an expert from day one. There’s no magic trick to appear to be an expert in Google’s eyes. Just work hard to have more expert-level content over time. Be an authority on a topic.
John Mueller regarding the March Core Update said, on the one hand, technical SEO issues are always smart to fix, but if the overall view of the site makes it hard to tell you’re an expert, then that can play a role as well
Advanced Search Summit tip: The website reputation matters. Google looks at words that co-appear with your brand name
Danny Sullivan preannounced a significant core quality update (March 12, 2019) which later was coined by Google as the “March Core Quality Update”. I wrote an article for Search Engine Land that provided many examples of sites that saw noticeable improvements with this update and also included the types of changes that these sites made).
Stone Temple (now part of Perficient Digital) released an excellent article titled ‘Why Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines Matter to Content Marketers – Here’s Why #203’. The article clearly lays out why you should be paying attention to E-A-T.
Google releases a whitepaper which basically confirms that E-A-T is incredibly important.
A possible small quality update on February 16, 2019 resulted in many of our clients who were working on quality improvements see small positive changes. In our opinion, we feel that this was likely a re-assessment of E-A-T for many sites.
Gary Illyes in his Reddit AMA says that E-A-T is connected to links (although states that that is an oversimplification).
Gary Illyes in his Reddit AMA says that relevance is something they are constantly trying to figure out and that is evolving rapidly. However he references the QRGs twice stating that that is the process through which they evaluate if the algorithm is doing what they want it to do.
January 31, 2019 was no a suspected update date, but some large sites saw major drops (for example, Irs.com (not .gov)) on this date. We think that this could reflect Google’s assessment of the “T” (Trust) in E-A-T.
John Mueller says it’s hard to measure author E-A-T algorithmically. A lot of things are soft quality factors that Google tries to figure out.
Part 1 of 3 of Marie’s E-A-T webinar is available. It covers the basics of E-A-T. What is it? Is Google using it algorithmically? And it wraps up with audience questions. Check out our video and transcript to see it in full.
An algorithm update from December 4-6, 2018 (likely a mild quality update) resulted in further drops for many sites with previous E-A-T related issues. There was no obvious pattern as to what was addressed with this update but we felt there was a link component to it based on the fact that many clients who we recently filed disavows for saw gains.
An algorithm update from November 23-26, 2018 — which we suspect was a core quality update — resulted in many gains for our clients who had been working hard to improve their E-A-T.
Debate begins on whether Google uses information from the BBB as a ranking factor. Marie joins the discussion on the 15th.
An algorithm update on October 31, 2018 appeared to be a significant core quality update. Many sites that saw drops on August 1, 2018 or September 27, 2018 saw further drops on this day. We saw a couple of clients who have worked hard to improve “trust” (the “T” in E-A-T) make nice improvements.
John Mueller reinforces that we should be doing more to promote author E-A-T including adding author schema.
Having a physical address isn’t always a sign of trust. It is often used this way for pure eCommerce sites and if your top competitors all have a valid address listed on their site.
Cyrus Shepard shares great tip for keeping an eye on your E-A-T.
Google confirmed that an algorithm update but called it “small”. On the dates of September 24-27, 2018 (and continuing into October) we saw some really significant changes in sites we monitor. It looked to be a tweak on the August 1 “Medic” update. Danny Sullivan of Google later confirmed that this was a broad core quality update and that it would roll out into October.
John Mueller said in a hangout that an author bio can be helpful to include on your site. Specifically he said, ““Often times, it makes it a little bit easier for users to understand the context of whatever you’ve written. If you have a link to an author profile that shows you really know what you’re talking about, you go to conferences, you’ve written about this is different places on the web. This gives them more trust in your content on the web. All of these things might be reasons why you might have an author profile page you link from your content.”
John Mueller made some comments in a hangout about Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines and how they relate to author E-A-T. He talks about how E-A-T is a factor rather than seeing this explicitly to rank your website.
There was a massive August 1 update likely related to E-A-T. Many sites in the health/wellness/medical space were heavily impacted, and was thus nicknamed the Medic Update, however this was not the only industry to be affected. There are also reports of non-YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) sites being affected as well. In my opinion, this is the biggest update we have had in a long time.
Great E-A-T idea from Marie RE: vet open house day.
A great E-A-T developing idea from Marie inspired by Lululemon.
Marie suggests, following a case study, that social mentions can increase your E-A-T.
Link building tip for E-A-T inspired by Domino’s filling potholes.
There was a quality update. At MHC, we saw some clients who had been working on improving E-A-T see nice gains.
Can social mentions improve E-A-T? In this newsletter episode, we give an example of a brand that found a way to make a crazy product go viral. We do believe that large amounts of positive social mentions can help improve Google’s assessment of your brand’s authority.
An algorithm update on April 16, 2018 may have been a tweak to the way in which Google algorithmically assesses E-A-T. We saw improvements for clients’ sites that had been working on E-A-T improvement.
A new Google patent, written about by Bill Slawski talks about a new way in which Google can calculate PageRank so that link equity only passes through trusted pages. Most likely, those trusted pages are pages that have good E-A-T.
An algorithm update on March 7-9 was confirmed by Google. Google confirmed that this update was primarily about relevancy. Many sites that were affected had E-A-T issues.
Customer testimonials can help improve Google’s assessment of Trust for your site. Here is a great article by Joel Klettke on how to get high quality testimonials.
Gary Illyes from Google said at Pubcon Austin that Google’s algorithmic assessment of E-A-T is largely based on links and mentions on authoritative sites.
A significant algorithm update on December 26, 2017 affected sites with E-A-T issues.
An update on December 12, 2017 occurred which appeared to be a significant algorithm update, dubbed the “Maccabees update”. We have noticed that many sites that were hit were sites that were hit with quality updates, and believe that a big component of this update dealt with E-A-T.
Google started showing new information in knowledge panels to show a publisher’s awards, and reviewed claims. This shows us that Google can determine information about awards (which speaks to trust) algorithmically.
An algorithm update on October 28-29, 2017 seemed to affect sites with E-A-T issues.
An algorithm update on October 8, 2017 happened. We saw nice improvements in a couple of clients’ sites who had worked to improve the E-A-T of individual authors.
An algorithm update on September 6-8, 2017 happened. We saw good improvements for a site that had been working at improving E-A-T.
In my newsletter I shared about how you can determine what industry Google thinks you are in. It is then important to make sure you have E-A-T for that industry. For example, if Google has you classified as a medical site, but you have no authors with medical experience, this could make ranking in your space difficult.
Fred update (March 7-8) – This was a major quality update. It appears to have affected sites that existed primarily for SEO reasons. I also think that at this time Google tweaked the algorithm to reward sites with good E-A-T (Experience, Authority and Trust).
Large core algorithm update. This update affected a lot of sites. I saw several sites that I think dropped in rankings because of a lack of E-A-T (Experience, Authority and Trust).
Dr. Marie Haynes is recognized as a leader in the SEO industry and has 10+ years of experience helping businesses of all sizes improve their site quality. She is a frequent contributor to Moz.com and Search Engine Watch and a regular speaker at Pubcon and SMX. Marie was named one of the top five industry influencers by Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, and constantly stays up to date with changes to Google’s algorithms to the benefit of her clients. To contact Marie, visit the contact page. For media Inquiries, click here.