Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) are not new concepts for Google but SEOs have been viewing them recently as important ranking factors, possibly the major factors behind recent Core Updates and something that will gain more importance in the future.
It is particularly important for sites dealing with subjects such as health, safety, current events, finance, education, real estate, politics and religion.
What webmasters should know about Core Updates
Several times a year, Google releases a core update of its search algorithms and systems. Since August 2019, these updates refer to a Webmaster Central Blog post entitled “What webmasters should know about Google’s core updates” and this document advises webmasters looking to improve the quality of their sites to “Focus on content” and “Get to know the quality rater guidelines & E-A-T.”
In a rare move, Google also pointed to resources created by independent SEO’s as further reading.
Quality Raters Guidelines
The Quality Raters Guidelines is an internal document used by Google to review search results. Thousands of individuals, known as Quality Raters, are given the task of searching for keywords and rating the quality of pages found in the results (they rate page quality on a 9-point scale from Lowest to Highest). They are asked to visit and evaluate the pages listed in the search results following a detailed procedure that includes background checks on the people and organizations who are responsible for the pages’ content.
The results they obtain allow Google to rate the quality of search results over time and following algorithmic updates.
The first known versions of this document date from 2008 and various versions were leaked from Google before official versions were published publicly from 2012. The latest version is available here – and the time of writing the latest version was published on December 5th, 2019.
The document introduces two important concepts as acronyms: YMYL and EAT.
YMYL short for Your Money or Your Life refers to topics that could impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety. Google wants quality raters to pay particular attention to the quality of pages that deal with YMYL issues because low quality pages could have a negative effect on the person searching in Google.
Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (EAT) are ways that raters can evaluate the quality of pages by looking at the creator of the content rather than the content itself. Although the content itself, including the usefulness of titles, is also reviewed.
EAT seems to be important for all types of searches but it is particularly important for YMYL searches. If you are looking for information about a serious health problem, Google wants to be sure that you will only see advice from qualified medical practitioners in search results. But it is equally possible that for less life-threatening searches like “french bread recipes” Google may also be able to reward content if it can recognize that it was produced by a French baker for example.
Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
EAT is often cited as a single factor but Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness can be assessed individually.
- Expertise applies to the creator (person or organization) of the main content on a page. It evaluates the expertise the author has on the subject.
- Authoritativeness applies to the creator, the website and the content itself. It evaluates whether the creator or the website owner is an authority on the subject of a page. An example is given of an About Us page on a business’ own website – the company is an authority on the subject of itself.
- Trustworthiness applies to the creator, the website and the content itself. This is proved through third-party review and trusted websites. For private organizations sites such as the Yelp! Or Better Business Bureau (BBB) are named in the guidelines as a good source of information on trustworthiness.
Raters rate page quality overall, but low EAT means that raters should rate a page as lowest quality. The examples given for this in the guidelines are that content that can potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users should have the lowest score. It also indicates that anonymous publications – where it is impossible to identify neither the author of a page nor the owner of the website – should also be considered the lowest EAT and therefore lowest quality.
EAT as a ranking factor
When a quality rater rates a particular page as low quality, this should not have any effect on that page’s rankings in Google. The rate is used purely in the assessment of results internally.
However, it is not impossible for Google to take these scores and integrate them in their index. We only have their word that they don’t do it. It is also possible for an engineer to receive a report from Quality Raters and refer low quality pages featured in the results to the Web Quality team. They could take manual actions against sites.
The big question, however, is whether Google has been able to code the evaluation of EAT into its algorithm and use it as a signal to rank pages. Although Google deny that there is something as simplistic at work, it is a very popular concept and many SEOs feel website owners should optimize for EAT or rather prove that they have EAT.
Optimizing WordPress sites for EAT
If you have Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness then you want to be able to show this on your WordPress site.
- Identify yourself or your company as owner of your website. For businesses make sure you have your postal address and telephone number on your website and use the appropriate schema.org (LocalBusiness for example) to identify the company more precisely for Google.
- Use the HTTPS protocol and make sure that there are no error messages such as “mixed content”
- For businesses, create an easy findable About Us page. Give some basic information about the company that will help identify it such as the date the company was created, the type of corporation, and who the founders were.
- For blogs published by individuals create an About Me page. Give information about your education and experience as it is relevant to your site’s content.
- Identify the author of each blog post. Some themes hide authors and many WordPress authors identify themselves as “Admin” – this needs to be improved to show EAT.
- Add extended author bios to each article posted or provide a bio on each WordPress author page. Give details of the author’s qualifications for writing on your site. If your blog gives medical advice, then you will want to state the authors’ medical qualifications on their bio page. If it is a recipe site you may want to state your experience cooking personally or professionally.
- If your authors have published books, use the Book Schema to identify books and author names more clearly. At the very least add ISBN or links to pages where the book is listed using its ISBN (such as Amazon).
- Make sure that authors have social profiles that give similar bios to the ones they use on your site. Encourage authors to publish posts linking to the articles they have written on your site.
- Add the sources of information you have used to write an article. If you are quoting facts and figures, you can link to reference pages on these subjects (on Wikipedia for example).
- If Google shows a Knowledge panel when you search for your name in Google make sure that you claim it
- Check backlinks you receive from other sites and work on obtaining more links from relevant sites
- Claim your business on Google My Business and yellow pages services
- Encourage happy customers to leave reviews on relevant review sites
- Share your knowledge and expertise on the web by writing great articles.
- Encourage comments on posts, but be very careful about who publishes comments and what they publish. They can be a double edge sword. The good news is that Google should be able to distinguish main content from comments on a WordPress post.
We hope that these tips give you the edge in ranking on Google now and in the future. We hope that you will also agree that whether Google uses EAT or not as a ranking factor, all these tips are good practice for any WordPress site.