What is E-E-A-T in SEO and why should anybody care?
The answer to that first question is easy. E-E-A-T stands for experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. The answer to the second question is that we all care because Google cares, and if we want our sites to rank, E-E-A-T is the acronym of the day, every day.
Whether you’re generating all your content in-house or easing your load by contracting with top content creation services, here’s everything you need to know about E-E-A-T, Google’s algorithm updates and lots of fun tidbits in between.
Table of Contents
A is for Algorithm
Google is constantly updating its algorithm — and that statement is not an exaggeration. In 2020 alone, Google made a whopping 4,500 changes to search. That works out to about 12 tweaks per day, all of which impact how sights rank on the search engine results pages (SERPs). And here’s the kicker: Google never shares what exactly they’ve changed.
While most laypeople and even some experts may not see the immediate side effects of those daily changes, even the smallest update is important. And sometimes, there’s an overhaul that makes everyone from SEO experts to copywriters sit up and take notice.
Take Google’s May 2022 core update, for instance. This update was so hefty it took two weeks to fully roll out, and it made a correspondingly significant impression on site rankings. Google’s intent was to reassess how they analyzed sites, likely fine-tuning the algorithm to further the search giant’s mission to reward content that’s accurate, user friendly and relevant.
But why the big change in mid-2022? And more importantly, did it work as intended?
Aftershocks From the May 2022 Core Update
After the May 2022 core update rolled out, Google saw volatility in rankings across the board, though some industries were affected more than others.
On desktop, real estate saw the biggest jump in rank volatility, followed by books and literature, hobbies and leisure, and travel, with pets and animals snagging the fifth-highest spot. The list was similar on mobile, with one notable exception: health replaced travel in the top five.
Even more significantly, research showed that 6.7% of the search results making up the top 10 post-update were previously ranked in the 20th spot or lower.
Whatever Google changed, it clearly affected some verticals more than others. So how can site owners prep for updates and protect themselves from that volatility?
Google has never deviated from its quest for content that provides superior user experience. The past half decade or so has seen updates that fueled mobile optimization, targeted spam, and boosted helpful content. None of these changes should come as a surprise. Really, Google is putting its tech where its mouth is and changing its algorithm to reward sites that are doing what Google has asked for all along.Pssst… curious what Google has up their sleeve next? Here’s a look at the Google algorithm predictions for 2023.
E-E-A-T: Google Spells Out Their Vision (Literally)
While Google technically abstains from sharing the nitty-gritty details of their updates, those details are, in many ways, totally irrelevant. It’s not important how Google analyzes sites. What’s important is that people understand what that analysis is meant to do. In other words, site and content creation should speak to the mission, not the methodology.
And the mission, should site owners choose to accept it, is to E-E-A-T.
Google E-E-A-T is the newest iteration of the concept formerly known as E-A-T, or “expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.” The recently introduced extra E stands for “experience,” of course.
- Experience: Google believes searchers are interested in reaching content created by people who have actually lived the topic. It may not be coincidental that Google added Experience as artificial intelligence-generated content gained traction. This “E” also looks at technical aspects like load speed, visual stability and interactivity (all emphasized in Google’s May 2021 update aimed at page experience).
- Expertise: Expertise goes behind experience to look at the credentials and overall track record of the person and/or publisher behind a piece of content. Having an MD attached to medical content or using a gold-medal athlete to talk about the Olympics demonstrates expertise.
- Authoritativeness: Authority builds on expertise by finding ways for the content itself to feel important, accurate and reliable. Well-written content that contains links to other authoritative and high-ranking pages can help legitimize a site. It also helps if the content is referenced by other professionals with their own proven track records.
- Trustworthiness: Trust is a fickle thing in the SEO world. For a site to be trustworthy, it has to tick a lot of boxes ranking from up-to-date, factual content to off-site links that are properly anchored (using relevant text) and lead to similarly credible content. Sites that have most of the trustworthiness boxes ticked but screw up on one or two significant aspects — keyword stuffing, for instance, or fudging the facts to suit an agenda — can lose trust and traction quickly.
Keep in mind, these critical components are not weighted equally. Google looks at “trust” as a primary factor, “because untrustworthy pages have low E-E-A-T no matter how Experienced, Expert, or Authoritative they may seem.”And transparency is improving. Google now shares documents outlining their search quality rater guidelines. And yes, there are actual people involved in the evaluation process. While AI plays a vital role in ranking, so apparently do the people tasked with reading content to see whether it’s really answering search queries or just pretending to. Real, live people can be especially helpful when looking at that first “E” — bots can scan and analyze content, but they can’t get a gut feeling about how slow load times or a stagnant site make them feel (yet).
Content isn’t Evaluated in a Vacuum
There are blueprints to help site owners and content creators build content that meets E-E-A-T expectations. But it’s almost impossible to chase ranking by reworking faulty content and trying to make it more worthy.
This is partly because SEO takes time to gain traction and show results. But it’s also because sites aren’t evaluated in a vacuum, they’re analyzed in comparison with other sites fighting for the same SERPs. When site owners took to social media to complain about a shakeup in organic traffic numbers in March 2018, Google offered up some valuable advice:
It’s still worth pursuing the E-E-A-T ideals, though, because sites that publish content that shows high levels of experience, expertise, authority and trustworthiness stand to benefit beyond higher search rankings.
- Boosted behavioral metrics: Positive behavioral metrics on things like time on page and click-throughs to other pages can lead to a positive RankBrain score, which can then boost your performance in search results.
- Increased links and social shares: If your content is perceived as authoritative, people are more likely to share it with others. Social shares and links can boost SEO performance, but they also lead to general organic traffic outside of SERPs. Plus, since someone sharing your site is akin to a recommendation of your content, people who click through are arriving with some pre-trust built in, which can be of benefit to your conversion rate.
- Inclusion as a featured snippet: Being featured in the very top spot on Google search results is akin to claiming the SERP throne — and yes, these snippets can even steal the spotlight from paid pads (and you don’t have to fork over a single dime).
The Ultimate Checklist for Creating E-E-A-T Content
Time for a quick recap. So far, we’ve learned:
- Google makes lots of updates, and it makes them often
- Some more sweeping updates, like the one from May 2022, can cause some interesting swings in search result rankings
- We don’t know the exact changes Google makes, but we do know why they’re making them
- E-E-A-T is always the both the mission and the measuring stick
Here’s our E-E-A-T SEO checklist to help you craft content that answer’s Google’s call.
There are several noticeable differences between sites that rank high on SERPs and those that only appear a few pages into scrolling, but the biggest is that high-ranking sites offer content that is more than a simple regurgitation.
Anyone can list the top three reasons to sell your home. But it takes an expert to expound on those three reasons, offer real-life examples, and include information that goes above and beyond the initial ask.
To make your content more comprehensive:
- Conduct keyword research to see what people are looking for
- Think about your target audience and searcher intent
- Utilize tools like MarketMuse and SEMrush SEO content templates to analyze existing content and search queries before forming your own plan
- Play with Google’s autocomplete tool and review People Also Ask questions for ideas on how to expand your outline
- Leverage alternative content formats to appeal to different types of learners and boost engagement (Pro tip: Not everything needs to be a blog! Podcasts, infographics and call-out boxes are just a few of the ways you can shake things up)
Build Authority in Your Chosen Niche
In this arguably awful era of #fakenews, how often do we take people at their word? Does that number drop when you’re evaluating someone (or some site) that’s completely new to you?
Of course it does.
Humans are not naturally prone to blind trust. Fewer than half of all Americans say they trust mainstream media. People want proof something is true, and that requires going above and beyond a simple “trust me, I’m a writer” kind of statement.
In addition to creating comprehensive content that proves your knowledge, you can build authority (and therefore trust) by:
- Encourage links from related and authority sites. Publish high-quality content that people will want to share and link to and watch your network build naturally. Guest posting opportunities can also help (they’ll link to you if you link to them), as can acting as an expert and lending a quote to someone else’s authoritative content.
- Build reputable citations. Citations occur when your business is mentioned on another site. These mentions are especially powerful when they contain full NAP data (business name, address and phone number). Get involved with local and industry events, join industry organizations and claim your profiles on review sites to increase your online mentions.
- Generate social shares with content that helps or entertains. Amuse or amaze people and they’re more likely to share. Drive that engagement further by being active on your own social profiles and responding to comments.
- Include links to authority sites. It’s one thing to state a fact. It’s another to provide a source. We can shout about algorithm changes until we’re as blue as the Crowd Content logo is, but nothing drives home the point better than linking to an explanation by Google or Search Engine Journal.
Authorship Matters: Who Wrote This and Why Should Anybody Care?
Google cares about the who of content just as much as it cares about the what. This is especially true for certain types of pages. So why, then, are so many web pages, blogs and articles written by “staff” or with no name attached at all?
The answer is that authorship hasn’t always been as important as it is now, and some sites are still trying to catch up. This is where you have an opportunity to get ahead.
By all means outsource your content, but add a byline that highlights an expert from your company before you publish. This helps add authority and anchors the content as something that’s important enough for a person on your team to take ownership of.
You can further amplify authority by:
- Creating and linking to author profiles for your in-house team that highlight relevant credentials and experience
- Using Googlespeak (aka author markup best practices) to communicate authorship to search engines
- Encouraging those who contribute content to your site (freelance writers, for example) to write their own detailed, authoritative bios
To see these tips in action, mosey on over to NerdWallet’s site. This behemoth of financial industry news and insights lists not only the writer on each piece, but the editor, too. Each name is linked to a bio page that includes the individual’s title, their areas of focus, a bio highlighting credentials and experience, and the person’s top pics for other authoritative titles. You can also see what that person has written or edited previously, laying out a road map of their expertise for the public to follow.
This isn’t just a Jane Doe, put-a-name-to-AI situation, it’s a real person with real insight. Google loves that, and other real people should love it too.
Recruit Expert Contributors
In-house content creators are nice to have, but with the benefits of outsourcing content consistently mounting, it’s important to know how to make the most of freelance contributions, too.
First, let’s look at what “expert” really means in ContentLand:
- A literal expert with the credentials and accreditation to back it up, like a Culinary Institute of America graduate writing up recipes or a CPA writing personal finance advice
- Someone who has written enough online content in a particular niche to have Google authority
The first option is better for projects that demand a high level of verifiable authority, like interpreting medical studies. The second is typically better suited for niches where credentials aren’t as plentiful or necessary, such as gardening tips or parenting blogs.
To ensure your team of contractors is bringing enough to the table:
- Hire freelancer writers who have either Google authority or credentials in your field and are willing to use their own names and bios
- Contact industry experts who would be willing to participate in guest blogging for your site.
- Pepper content created by non-credentialed writers with quotes from experts (you can give them a shout out and a link as a thanks) sourced from:
- LinkedIn profiles and groups
- Industry Facebook groups
- Networking Slack groups
- Help a Reporter Out
Another pro tip: Try a content roundup (one way to repurpose content) that includes quotes and tips from experts to master both the “comprehensive” and “authoritative” aspects of Google’s ask.
E-E-A-T More Than Just Your Blog
Gordon Ramsay wouldn’t have his Michelin stars if he ponied up a mouthwatering main course but totally biffed it on the appetizer, sides and dessert. The entire meal matters, which is why you have to evaluate your entire site through an E-E-A-T lens if you want to win the SERPs.
Ace your About Us page
If we had a dime for every time we happened across a weak and emaciated About Us page, we’d be swimming in Franklin D. Roosevelt profiles. For some reason, companies tend to phone it in when it comes to their own people and accomplishments, but that’s the exact wrong approach.
Instead, craft an About Us page that’s packed with:
- Company history
- Names, titles and backgrounds of your team
- Awards and accolades
Among the sites that won biggest after the May 2022 Google core update were mega brands Etsy, Instagram, Apple and Wikipedia. All have robust About Us pages — or in the case of Apple, a group of seven pages under the About Apple umbrella that address everything from company news to ethics and compliance info. Etsy’s About Us is the warm and artsy welcome you’d expect from a global marketplace focused on handmade and vintage goods. The brand discusses its mission, describes how the marketplace works and clearly illustrates what they have to offer versus the competition. There are even links to investor relations info and product announcements.
Humanize your company with team bios
Team bios are important enough to mention twice. Faceless corporate entities don’t command the same loyalty as brands that showcase team members, putting faces with the names of the powers that be.
Would you be more likely to buy baby blankets from Blankets R Us, which has no About Us page and no clear ownership, or Mama’s Baby Blankets, which shares Mama’s real name and bio along with pics of her knitting those fuzzy covers with her own two hands?
Etsy understands the assignment. Their team page kicks off with a sweeping vision statement: “The people who work at Etsy share the vision and values of community.” We’re already prepped to like these people. Then comes headshots and names, linked to bio pages, for each person on the leadership team. And then, Etsy knocks humanization out of the park by sharing a collage of hundreds of Etsy employees tasked with building and maintaining the site.
It’s practically impossible not to feel connected, because it’s just so easy to believe that all these fine humans are on the same wavelength as the people they’re serving. Apple’s leadership page is less cozy knits and garden chats, which is what you’d expect from a tech company. The focus is instead on the titles and credentials of the executive team and those on the board, illustrating how bios and proof of authority can change from niche to niche.
Construct a site-wide content strategy using content clusters
We sound like a bit of a broken record yammering on about the need for comprehensive content, but that’s how important it is to avoid regurgitation and offer a distinct POV. But covering all your bases can quickly turn into content cannibalization if you don’t have a content plan and stick to it.
Start by considering the different content types — and even sub types, like multiple ways to create and structure blogs — to help vary your approach to each topic. Then map out your topics, using topic clusters to give readers an overall view of a subject as well as an opportunity to deep dive into specifics.
Hubspot has a great example of a topic cluster centered on content marketing. A list of relevant topics might include:
- Content marketing strategy
- Types of posts
- Content planning tips
- Blogging mistakes
- Buyer personas
- Buyer’s journal
- Approaches to brainstorming
- Writing tips
- Common grammar errors
- Gated content
- Benefits of outsourcing
- Distribution channels
- How to scale
The main/pillar page briefly touches on all of those topics/keywords, while the spoke pages would go more in depth on each topic or keyword, tackling the ins and outs one blog at a time.
This creates a comprehensive content web that’s packed with opportunities for expert contributions and backlinks galore.
To do this yourself:
- Use keyword and topic research tools such as SEMrush and the teams recruited by SEO content writing services to ideate potential topics
- Choose a topic for your pillar page that’s relevant to your brand and interesting enough for your audience to want to follow
- Write a pillar post that paints a broad picture of your chosen topic — and remember that this is long-form content, so no need to try to cram everything into a 500-word blog
- Follow up with shorter, more in-depth posts that refer back to and build on the pillar content
- Link from the pillar posts to the supporting posts and back again, then link from spoke to spoke (or supporting content to supporting content)
Do all of the above, and your topic cluster will act like a road-side flare, alerting Google that you’re churning out high-quality, E-E-A-T supportive articles that prove you’re an authority worthy of an appropriately high SERP ranking.
How to Audit Your Site to Ensure Content is Google E-E-A-T Compliant
Chances are you’re not reading this guide to Google E-E-A-T and SEO as you’re about to make your very first website. No, it’s more likely that you already have a website up and running with a decent amount of content published and available for public consumption. So, is it time to go on a deleting rampage and scrap it all?
Thankfully, there’s no need to take the nuclear option here. That’s just a waste of time, money, content and SEO traction. You don’t want to lose whatever organic traffic and site authority you already have, you want to build on it.
Put on your E-E-A-T hat and audit all your existing content (that means web pages too, not just your blogs), flagging the following:
- Content with no author name/byline attached
- Author bios that are lackluster or missing altogether
- Content that lacks appropriate backlinks, which is a sign that your content is either not visible enough or not viewed as authoritative by others in your niche
- Content that isn’t linking out to other authoritative sites and/or authoritative content on your own site (you should have at least a few of each type)
- Pages that aren’t ranking for the right keywords
- Accuracy and timeliness — content that isn’t evergreen may need to be updated or replaced
Let’s Get Specific: E-E-A-T Tips for Specific Industries
Because this is the ultimate guide to understanding and acting on the intricacies of Google E-E-A-T, we can’t just throw out an answer to “What is E-E-A-T in SEO?” and call it a day.
While the tips above will certainly help you kick start your content audit and site refresh in a meaningful way, there are also some insights that can help brands in specific industries tailor their content and overall content marketing strategies even further.
To save you time and tons of clicks, we’ve pored over the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines and put together this must-read cheat sheet, industry by industry.
Health and Wellness
Health and wellness is a very broad industry that encompasses everything from yoga poses and personal care products to preventative medicine and public health policy. The market was valued at a whopping $4.8 billion in 2022, a number expected to increase by $3 billion by 2030, so it’s no surprise the industry is as crowded as it is competitive.
This might feel daunting, especially if you make the mistake of assuming that all content in this niche has to be written by someone with clinical credentials, like an RN or MD. Luckily, that’s not the case.
Google has spoken up about E-E-A-T adherent medical content, stating: “It should be written or produced by people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. High E-A-T [now E-E-A-T] medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed and updated on a regular basis.”
In practice, “appropriate medical expertise or accreditation” is relative. A blog titled “Top 10 Yoga Poses for Stress Relief” may be best when written by a trained yogi with a decade of teaching experience, while an article discussing research into stem cells is probably better bylined by a research biologist or someone with similar credentials.
Here are some other takeaways for brands in the health and wellness space:
- Use bylines and bios for all content creators and contributors (editors and subject matter experts SMEs) included) to create layers of indisputable authority
- Prioritize accuracy by requiring proper citations/sourcing and employing fact checkers to verify research and writer/editor interpretations of that research
- Update regularly to ensure content remains E-E-A-T compliant
If you can’t access (or afford) credentialed writers for every piece, try pairing up talented writers who are adept at research and can produce polished content with SMEs that can add authority and check accuracy. It’s often easier and less costly to find an SME who can check content versus one who can produce that content from scratch.
Money and legal issues are two things that the average person takes pretty seriously. Google gets this and has laid out guidelines accordingly.
According to E-E-A-T, financial and legal content must:
- Come from credible sources, with proof in the form of fleshed-out About Us pages and clear authorship
- Be trustworthy, requiring lots of research and fact checking
- Be updated regularly, especially if there’s a major change in regulations or another newsworthy event related to the industry
Remember Nerd Wallet? They own a lot of the prime real estate for finance-related topics (especially in the personal finance realm). Click on one of their featured snippets or top-ranking articles, like this one on how to raise your credit score fast, and you’ll quickly see why they’re winning the SERPs.
- The content has bylines for the writer and editor, and both names are linked to bio pages that list the contributors’ credentials, education and other published work
- As of our publish date for this guide, the NW article is listed as “Updated Nov 1, 2022,” meaning it was written earlier and has been updated at least once to ensure accuracy and timeliness
- There are tons of links and even a quote from the senior direct of public education and advocacy at Experian to help drive home key points and increase authority/ trustworthiness.
Home, Garden, Real Estate, Hobbies and Parenting
Before we dig into this industry, this is a good time to introduce another fun Google acronym: YMYL.
YMYL stands for “your money or your life,” which sounds like a bad line from a movie about a mugging but is really just what Google calls “pages or topics that could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.”
YMYL topics like crocheting or pruning tomato plants might seem “soft,” but they’re still subject to E-E-A-T guidelines. After all, if content is meant to impact future happiness and safety, among other things, expertise definitely matters. But the type of expertise and/or credentials required change a bit depending on the subject matter.
Google absolutely recognizes informal experience when it’s relevant and appropriate to the topic:
Some topics require less formal expertise. . . 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 field.
Here’s an example of credentialed expertise versus less-formal expertise around the same general topic:
- Tips for remodeling a home or installing a toilet should probably come from someone with demonstrated expertise in building, plumbing or other relevant trades
- Tips for maximalist bathroom décor may rely more on personal experience
Google doesn’t typically extend its everyday expertise free pass to science and tech articles, especially when the content claims to present new information or theories. Instead, Google expects these articles to represent and include well-established facts and expert consensus.
To publish STEM content that’s in line with E-E-A-T:
- Use expert content creators
- Source facts and other info from highly credible sites
- Go straight to the primary source for those facts, such as studies published in scientific journals
Food, Beverage and General Retail Products
Everybody eats and everybody has an opinion on food, so it’s not exactly shocking that everyday expertise often comes into play for content in this niche. There’s a lot of common knowledge surrounding cooking, for instance, and content surrounding retail products relies heavily on reviews.
There are some exceptions here. While a layperson could write a blog on favorite Cabernet and cheese pairings, you might want a trained sommelier to weigh in on deep-dive wine topics like vinification techniques. A frequent shopper could offer up tips on extreme couponing, but it would take an expert to confidently espouse on the psychology of retail product pricing.
To know whether you should recruit an expert or if you’re okay with “everyday expertise,” think about the topic at hand and whether someone would need to study to fully understand and explain the nuances of that topic or if a hobbyist has the chops to cater to search expectations.
The Final Word on E-E-A-T
There’s no secret handshake or magic potion that will earn you a shortcut to the top of Google’s search results. It’s a level playing field, and the top spot is open to anyone willing to put in the time and effort to meet E-E-A-T expectations.
But the road isn’t always well-paved and hurdles aren’t exactly uncommon — especially when Google’s averaging over a dozen updates per day. Keeping up with trends and investing in E-E-A-T friendly content is a solid, winning strategy that benefits rankings and readers alike.
Incorporate the tips above and you may soon see:
- Better SEO performance
- Higher conversion rates
- Increased strength in the face of Google’ scrutiny — no matter what updates are in the offing
ALSO – Expert Checklist: SEO for Blog PostsIf you know you need to do something to improve your SEO and just don’t have the time, knowledge or in-house resources to get it done, we can help. Find out more about Crowd Content’s professional writing services and how they can help you create E-E-A-T content.