If you follow the latest SEO news to any extent , you’ll have seen the acronym E-A-T in recent months. Google first introduced the concept back in 2015 but, despite some early interest, talk about E-A-T faded away from popular SEO topics.
So why the sudden surge in
It all comes down to Google recently updating its search quality guidelines and, perhaps more importantly, a core algorithm update that makes Google more capable of enforcing those guidelines – an update that shook the SERPs harder than we’ve seen for years.
Here’s what you need to know.
Back on November 12, 2015,
Google published its Search
Quality Evaluator Guidelines for the world to see. While these guidelines
are designed for its team of human evaluators to judge the quality of Google
Search results, they offered the most comprehensive insight into how Google measures
When Google first released these
guidelines, it made a real stir in the marketing industry. It was as if the
search giant had suddenly revealed its most coveted secret and handed over the
key to SEO success for marketers everywhere.
The most talked-about element of the guidelines was the concept of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness or E-A-T.
It comes down to a combination of Google updating its search quality guidelines and a recent core algorithm update that rocked the SERPs. The Daily Mail reported a 50% drop in search traffic following the June 3rd core update, which Google announced the previous day.
Naturally, when any algorithm
has this kind of impact, people take notice – especially when such an
established name takes a heavy hit.
E-A-T has been playing a gradually stronger role in Google’s core algorithm since August last year. Health and medical sites were hit hardest during the August 2018 core update but this has since expanded to most industries.
There are two key things that have happened since the Google E-A-T guidelines were introduced in 2015. First, there was the rise of fake news, which has forced the likes of Google and Facebook to reassess how they deliver trustworthy content to users. Then there’s the fact that Google’s technology has matured over the past four years and its ability to accurately measure the expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness of content has greatly increased.
Either way, the bar has been
raised significantly for content creators.
First of all, E-A-T isn’t a
ranking factor or a metric (or, at least, this hasn’t been confirmed). Instead,
it’s a guideline Google provides human evaluators to judge the quality of its
search results, but this still gives us a lot of clues about what Google is
looking for from content and web pages.
So what does Google itself say about E-A-T? You can find the full explanation in its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
Here’s a summary:
“For all other pages that have a beneficial purpose, the amount of
expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) is very important.
Keep in mind that there are high E-A-T pages and websites of all types,
even gossip websites, fashion websites, humor websites, forum and Q&A
pages, etc. In fact, some types of information are found almost exclusively on
forums and discussions, where a community of experts can provide valuable
perspectives on specific topics.”
Related reading: The SEO’s guide to Google quality raters
Expertise is one area where Google has become more strict after recent updates. The search giant wants to see content from proven experts where necessary, this is where a lot of cryptocurrency websites have been hit by E-A-T recently.
Most of these websites are very new, putting them at a disadvantage when it comes to authoritativeness. Many are publishing content written by people with no financial background whatsoever, telling people how to invest their money.
Not all websites require expert knowledge though – something Google explicitly states in its guidelines:
“Some topics require less formal expertise. Many people write extremely
detailed, helpful reviews of products or restaurants. Many people share tips
and life experiences on forums, blogs, etc.”
“These ordinary people may be considered experts in topics where they
have life experience. If it seems as if the person creating the content has the
type and amount of life experience to make him or her an “expert” on the topic,
we will value this “everyday expertise” and not penalize the
person/webpage/website for not having “formal” education or training in the
The other area where websites are really getting hit is in the trustworthiness department – and could this be where the Daily Mail was hurt? The publication clearly has the clout and budget to get expert writers on board but its reliability has come under question in recent years.
Microsoft’s Edge browser warned
users attempting to visit the Daily Mail earlier this year, but the Newsguard
algorithm powering the feature was promptly changed to remove the Daily Mail from
In 2017, Wikipedia editors also voted
to ban the Daily Mail as a source for citing information.
Either way, we know Google has
embarked on its own kind of fact-checking mission when it comes to measuring
the reliability of content – a technology that’s been
in development since 2015 or earlier. As this technology continues to
mature, Google’s ability to measure the trustworthiness of content is only
going to improve.
The truth is E-A-T has been an SEO priority for many years but Google has now cranked up the role it plays in search rankings. The impact has been significant too, which is why everyone is talking about it again.
Google’s algorithm is more capable of understanding concepts like trustworthiness than it was when its quality guidelines were first published in 2015 and this has been reflected in recent updates. Essentially, the bar has been raised and Google’s technological advances mean it’s able to enforce its own rules more effectively.
The good news is these guidelines give us a relatively clear idea of what Google is looking for in quality content – so no excuses left really.
Update March 2020: Google updated their original blog to add the following:
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.Danny Sullivan, Google Blog
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.
So it is important to assess your site for E-A-T criteria, as Google is trying to algorthmically detect those signals.
Kerry is Head of SMB SEO. Kerry started her digital marketing career with a web design company back in 1996, then moved in-house as a digital marketing manager before moving back to the agency fold with Vertical Leap as an SEO specialist in 2006, moving to the department head role in 2011. She currently lives in Bishop's Waltham with her husband and daughter.
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