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Written by Alys Marshall

Debunking E-A-T in SEO

In SEO copywriting, bolstering E-A-T is non-negotiable. Since the rollout of Google’s helpful content update in August 2022, the importance of E-A-T has resurfaced as a hot topic amongst search specialists.

If you’re only just dipping your toe into the (sometimes fickle) world of SEO, you might not know that E-A-T isn’t actually listed as a ranking factor, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a vital consideration. So how exactly does Google assess the Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness of your content?

First, let’s go back to basics. What is E-A-T?

E-A-T is one of the guidelines Google uses to measure the value of online content. While Google doesn’t give out a specific score for E-A-T, the information it gathers does help to determine where the web page will rank, based on the relevance, accuracy and legitimacy of the information provided.

It was first added to Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines back in 2014, and has remained a central part of the search evaluator’s approach ever since. In 2018, the Google Medic algo update launched, which was specifically designed to emphasise the importance of E-A-T, and punished pages that didn’t adhere to this guideline.

Why is it important to Google?

Google works out E-A-T by looking into the creator or author of the content, the content itself, and the credentials of the website where it’s published. This process marks the expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness of a web page, enabling Google to protect users from low quality content. So a web page that cites incorrect information, or comes from an unreliable source, should rank poorly in comparison to one with strong E-A-T signals.

It’s important to Google because it enables the search engine to prioritise high quality content, and serve users with these results first in response to specific key phrases.

Busting E-A-T myths

Out of all the SEO enigmas out there, E-A-T is one of the hardest to pin down. That said, there are a few myths which can be easily debunked if you listen to the right experts.

Myth one: it’s an official ranking factor

We’ve touched on this already, but as one of the biggest misconceptions about E-A-T, it’s worth reiterating, especially as the truth is a little confusing.

In short, while E-A-T isn’t technically a ranking factor, it’s so thoroughly baked into Google’s algorithm that it does still impact how you rank.

Myth two: it doesn’t really matter

Because it’s not one of the 200+ ranking factors, some people are dismissive of E-A-T and its role in determining positions in the SERP.

In 2019, Danny Sullivan – Google’s public Search Liaison – stated that they ‘do use a variety of signals as a proxy to tell if content seems to match E-A-T as humans would assess it. In that regard, yeah, it’s a ranking factor.’ And that’s good enough for us.

Myth three: it only applies to YMYL

The parameters of Your Money Your Life categories have shifted slightly since the helpful content update, but before this, it was often assumed that E-A-T was only important for content relating to topics that come under the YMYL umbrella.

In actual fact, Google applies E-A-T to every single result that appears for each query that’s entered into the search engine. So no matter what your content is about, E-A-T is key.

Top tips for improving E-A-T

The good news is, if you’re already committed to producing accurate, genuinely useful content, your E-A-T should reflect that. Here are some general rules of thumb for E-A-T best practice:

1. Write content that meets intent

It sounds like common sense, but you’d be amazed how many how-to guides turn into a sales pitch halfway through (here’s where we slide you our business card). If you’re targeting a specific search query, make sure the content you’re writing answers the question. Put yourself in the user’s shoes – is the information you’re providing helpful, relevant and accurate?  

2. Quality backlinks 

Securing a backlink from a reputable source is one of the best indicators of E-A-T out there. Don’t waste time chasing multiple links from obscure sites – instead focus on the quality of the recommendation. One mention from a reputable publication is worth hundreds of spammy backlinks from sites with bad domain authority.

3. Linking out matters too

Just as quality backlinks are a priority, solid hyperlinks out are important too. If you need to add an external link, make sure it’s the best possible source you can find. That could mean a public sector web page like GOV.UK, a news article from the BBC, or the official website for a tourist attraction, like the Natural History Museum.

4. Keep it recent and regular

With so much new data being put online every day, content can very quickly fall out of date. What use is your website if the information you’ve provided doesn’t consider the latest industry trends or regulations? It’s a labour of love, but planning a regular review of your content to keep it accurate is well worth it.

5. Collab with the experts

Enlisting an expert is another solid way of signposting the quality of your content. Interviewing a thought leader that’s respected in your field, asking them to write a guest post, or even just getting an authorised quote can help to beef up your credibility. 

6. Showcase your reviews

In SEO, your reputation matters. Adding customer testimonials to your site is one thing, but you could also try adding a plugin for impartial third-party review sites like Trustpilot or Google Reviews. Responding to negative press in a timely way can also boost your online image, and replying to bad reviews demonstrates your legitimacy too. 

To summarise: on Google, content is still King (sorry Charles). If you’re short on resource, keeping your site’s information accurate, relevant and up to date is the absolute bare minimum you can be doing for E-A-T. That’s a wrap for now, but let’s see what happens after the next algo update…