Google’s E-A-T: Busting 10 of the Biggest Misconceptions

find out about google algorithm e-a-t

Google is known for its famous catchphrase, “Don’t Be Evil.” In the past, it meant that users could trust Google to do right by them. But in a broader sense, it means that businesses should treat their customers the way they’d like to be treated themselves.

In other words: Conduct your business with integrity and respect for your customers. And if you follow this simple rule, Google will reward you.

That’s still Google’s mantra, only that it’s now framed as their latest guidelines for E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness).

So, what does it mean?

 A lot of things. But most important for businesses is that “Expertise” relates to how well a company can answer or solve a customer’s problem.

“Authoritativeness” is about how trustworthy a business is when it comes to content and facts.

And “Trustworthiness” is simply that: whether or not users trust the entity providing the information.

In other words, when you conduct your business in a way that would make you proud to have Google recommend it to friends and family, they will return the favour by recommending your website.

So, what does this mean for SEO professionals? Well, in simpler terms: If you want more traffic from Google, your efforts need to be focused on building a website that users appreciate and trust.

How the E-A-T Concept Works

To understand Google’s E-A-T concept, it’s important to remember that Google is not just a search engine; it’s an information network. For almost 20 years, Google has been at the forefront of information retrieval.

You also have to note that the E-A-T guidelines aren’t created for users or web owners but Google search quality evaluators. You read that right — Google hires thousands of reviewers whose work is to manually review web pages and supply feedback on the quality of those pages to Google. The E-A-T guidelines are meant to make the job of Google’s reviewers easier.

Once the information is submitted, Google will benchmark it and use it to improve its algorithm. That is important because Google is always striving to provide accurate and up-to-date information.

Google instructs evaluators to check on three things:

  • The E-A-T of the main content of a page.
  • The website itself and whether it provides the information that it claims to provide.
  • The website’s owner or author and whether they are a legitimate source of information.

Does this mean all websites need to become authorities on every topic? Well, not exactly, but evaluators will check if a business is trying hard enough in its capacity to be a legitimate source of information.

What Qualities Are Evaluated?

Note that, in their 175-page quality guidelines, Google mentions E-A-T 137 times.

That’s a lot, and considering that, it’s no surprise that the guidelines go into great detail about what Google is looking for regarding E-A-T.

First off, the information needs to be reliable.

Second, evaluators need to analyse how accurate and up-to-date the information is.

Third, it has to be comprehensive, covering a topic at a reasonable depth.

E-A-T has been a trending topic for a while, and that’s why we’re seeing more and more businesses trying to get their websites up to Google’s E-A-T standards.

As always, SEOs jumped on it with speculations, often without even reading the guidelines. After all, it’s an opportunity for anyone to improve their authority and get more traffic.

Based on popular opinion, it’s safe to say that many SEOs have been playing the catch-up game. Some claim E-A-T is everything, while others insist it’s not even a real thing and even more believe it is right around the corner.

The truth? It’s already here, but many websites are still not doing enough to meet Google’s E-A-T standards.

15 of the most common misconceptions about E-A-T

Misconception #1:  Google created E-A-T to give ranking preference to higher-quality sites

This is simply not true.

E-A-T is really about helping Google’s evaluators determine the quality of a site. The guidelines are not meant for web admins to gain organic ranking power but to help Google provide helpful information.

Misconception #2: E-A-T is an algorithm

During a Q&A at Pubcon, Gary Illyes quickly pointed out that Google has a collection of millions of tiny algorithms working in unison to determine a website’s ranking. These algorithms look for signals on a webpage or content, theorized as E-A-T.

For example, suppose your site is known for great content on pets, and you’ve recently started publishing clickbait articles about celebrities with dogs. In that case, you’ll likely experience a drop in organic rankings.

That’s because Google will see that your recent content lacks E-A-T and might conclude that your website isn’t working hard to provide accurate information.

Misconception #3: There’s an E-A-T or YMYL Score

No, there is no E-A-T score. The quality guidelines might sound like a simple list of instructions or a “how-to” guide for businesses that wish to improve their organic rankings in the SERPs, but it’s much more than that.

Google doesn’t generate E-A-T or even YMYL scores.

The quality guidelines describe what Google wants to see on websites that fall under those categories. And, as we have already seen, E-A-T has a lot to do with trustworthiness and authority — confused?

It’s okay because I’m going to explain it in detail right now.

Misconception #4: Every website needs to meet E-A-T standards

Nope, not true at all.

In the same way that Google doesn’t generate a YMYL score, there’s no such thing as a universal website E-A-T score or complete ranking criteria for every site on the web. It all depends on the site’s content, trustworthiness, and authority.

You also have to note that E-A-T doesn’t affect a site ranking directly. Google may use it to adjust its algorithms, but it doesn’t play a role in the actual algorithm.

Misconception 5: E-A-T Is a Ranking Factors

Nope, it’s not.

E-A-T is a quality guideline that helps Google’s evaluators review websites and supply Google with helpful information. That means that E-A-T can’t be directly associated with SEO or technical factors.

It doesn’t directly impact a site’s ranking, at least not in the sense that we all know.

However, you should note that YMYL pages (which require high E-A-T) are the only type of web page for which Google’s evaluators use E-A-T. That’s because these YMYL pages impact users’ well-being or safety.

Google has over 200 ranking factors, of which E-A-T is not part. While ranking factors do include E-A-T criteria, it’s not a direct measure of E-A-T in the strict sense.

Misconception #6: A site must pass Google’s E-A-T standards to rank well

Nope, nada, zilch!

Google only uses the guidelines when evaluating websites for YMYL pages. That means that not all websites need to be assessed for E-A-T.

What impact does this have on website owners?

Well, since E-A-T is mainly used to determine the ranking of YMYL sites, it doesn’t affect non-YMYL sites. If your website isn’t considered a YMYL site by Google, you don’t have anything to worry about.

If you want an analogy, then think of Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines as a match-fixer. It doesn’t impact the game directly but only comes out when there’s a need to correct things or make vital decisions.

Misconception #7: Every Web Owner Needs to Focus on E-A-T

It depends on what type of site you’re running.

If you own a YMYL page (the only website that needs high E-A-T), then focus on your content’s trustworthiness and authority. That means that you should use vetted sources, fact-check your content and keep it free from errors and plagiarism.

Also, you can boost E-A-T by getting an expert to write your content.

On the other hand, if your site isn’t YMYL, you don’t have much to do in terms of E-A-T because Google doesn’t use the quality guidelines to evaluate your site.

E-A-T only applies to YMYL sites.

For example, Google expects high E-A-T medical websites to be written and produced by organizations like the Mayo Clinic. The same guideline doesn’t apply to news sites like CNN or sports blogs like ESPN.

Misconception #8: E-A-T Is Not a Replacement for Technical SEO and User Experience

Well, a little yes and a little no.

E-A-T isn’t going to replace technical SEO or UX testing. It’s just another quality guideline that Google uses for YMYL pages. That means that it won’t influence non-YMYL sites rankings or traffic.

Addressing E-A-T while neglecting all the other aspects of SEO won’t do you any good. However, integrating E-A-T with technical SEO and UX can help improve the user experience while boosting your site’s authority and credibility at the same time.

All the traditional initiatives that go into SEO, like keyword research, on-page optimization, and backlinks, still apply. And they must all be considered first before applying E-A-T.

E-A-T isn’t everything…

but it’s a critical quality guideline.

However, Google still expects your site to load faster, run smoothly, and provide a good user experience.

Does that mean that your site must have a fast TTFB, high uptime, and a responsive design to pass the E-A-T test?

Well, not exactly. But these aspects are still considered when evaluating your site’s E-A-T because they indirectly affect the site quality and user experience.

You see, high TTFB, slow page loads, and a lot of 404s can result in lost conversions. That is why these technical factors are considered as some of the main ranking factors nowadays, even if they aren’t explicitly used for E-A-T.

Misconception #9: E-A-T is New

NOPE!

The E-A-T guidelines have been around since 2014. And it’s not new at all.

That’s right. Google published the E-A-T guidelines way back in 2014, and it has been using them since then to rate YMYL pages.

But the reason why you haven’t heard of E-A-T yet is that it’s used as a quality control tool rather than an explicit ranking factor. And that’s partly the reason it’s not mentioned in the Google Quality Rater Guidelines.

On August 1st, 2018, Google rolled out the “Medic update” (not its official name) to punish non-authoritative websites.

It was in line with the E-A-T guidelines, and it quickly gained a lot of attention in the SEO community for punishing low-quality YMYL pages.

It turns, this wasn’t Google’s first attempt to crack the whip at low-quality sites, with thin content, unverified facts, and lack of expertise.

Google had a string of initiatives (some predating E-A-T) that aimed to improve the transparency and trustworthiness of its search results.

They included:

  • Google Project Owl (rolled out in April 2017): Google released a major update back in 2017 to fight fake news. The initiative sought to eliminate fake news by removing search results that had untrusted/unreliable sources. The update allowed Google to address such queries better and get rid of spammy or malicious content.
  • Google Panda (rolled out in February 2011): This was one of the first initiatives launched by Google to fight low-quality content and thin pages. It identified spammy sites and content by looking at the amount of text on a page, user engagement metrics, and several other ranking factors. It targeted sites with little to no content, too much advertising, and pages that didn’t load quickly.
  • The Trust Project: This is an open industry initiative co-founded by Google and several top publishers, including the New York Times, Facebook, Washington Post, and The Economist. It seeks to increase transparency and trustworthiness in online news.

The Trust Project introduced a set of guidelines that makes it easier for users to identify quality journalism. That includes labeling stories from reputable sources with “Trust Indicators” to protect users from misleading content.

Misconception #10: The August 1st, 2018 Update was Officially Named the Medic or the E-A-T Update

NOPE!

The August 1st, 2018 update was NOT officially named the Medic or E-A-T Update. But it’s popularly referred to by the name because the update strongly adhered to Google’s guidelines on YMYL pages. And since Google had previously announced its plans to launch an update that would target these types of pages, there was a strong connection between the update and Google’s E-A-T guidelines.

The name Medic was unofficially coined by Barry Schwartz, a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land and a member of the programming team for SMX events

He went on to say that search result pages were “suddenly missing some of their usual suspects” when he tried running queries for medications during the early days of the update.

Some SEOs refer to the update as the E-A-T update, which is misleading considering E-A-T wasn’t the only thing affecting websites’ performance at the time.

Misconception #11: Adding Author Biographies is a Ranking Factor by Itself

Adding an author biography to your content isn’t going to influence the way Google rates your website.

However, you should include a bio for each author of the content on your website because it will help with E-A-T and appear as a “Trust Indicator” in search results.

A common recommendation for improving EAT is to ensure all of your content has an author by-line. In addition to that, each author should have a dedicated page explaining who they are and why they should be trusted.

How you choose to do this is up to you. You can either put together a short bio with links back to their best work or go the extra mile and link out to their social media profiles (where possible).

However, the Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, John Mueller, note that this is not one of their technical requirements. Nor do they have specific schema markup for the author by-line or a specific way to implement it.

Here’s what he had to say about it:

He also talked about entities. An entity is a unique subject, topic, or person that deserves to be described in its own right. For instance, Barack Obama and James Cameron are both entities.

An entity can also be an executive for a popular publication, such as the Washington Post. In such a case, you’re mentioning the author because they’re an entity and not because of authority.

John Mueller said that you should mention the authors in your content when it makes sense, but don’t go out of your way to do so just for SEO purposes.

Misconception #12: The Core Algorithm Update Only Affects YMYL Sites, and E-A-T is the Only thing Causing Performance Decline for Websites

If your website is in the YMYL category, you should be concerned with E-A-T and its impact on your search rankings.

But don’t ignore other factors that could affect the performance of your website in general. Google has been testing different ways to measure “page quality” since early 2014, with varying degrees of success.

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The Medic Update was a big deal, though. In the months following the update’s release, many YMYL pages saw huge performance drops because their website either didn’t show enough E-A-T, or their authors’ lack of expertise showed in broken English. 

In addition to YMYL sites, other types of websites also saw drops in organic positions. In particular, sites that had their E-A-T compromised because of guest posts and other types of content that the website owner didn’t write posed a problem for Google’s quality algorithms to deal with.

Also affected were recipe sites. Despite having similar E-A-T levels and being run by well-decorated cooking enthusiasts, four competing recipe sites didn’t go back to the top of search results for months.

And while it’s likely that these sites faced a unique set of SEO challenges, such as poor site architecture, slow loading, and overwhelming ads that contributed to their drop in search engine ranking, we cannot rule out the possibility that their E-A-T was compromised.

Misconception #13 E-A-T Results are Immediate

You can’t plaster E-A-T on your website and expect to see immediate results.

Unlike other SEO tactics, like fixing technical SEO and optimizing metadata, where results show almost immediately once your website has been recrawled, E-A-T works a little differently.

Misconception #14: E-A-T Results are Immediate

You can’t plaster E-A-T on your website and expect to see immediate results.

Unlike other SEO tactics, like fixing technical SEO and optimizing metadata, where results show almost immediately once your website has been recrawled, E-A-T works a little differently.

It bears repeating that E-A-T isn’t a direct ranking factor. But an important contextual factor that Google uses to rate trusted authors and expert content.

It’s a resource-intensive undertaking that takes a significant investment of time and effort.

And while it takes time to gain users’ trust, it takes an even longer time to gain search engines’ trust. It also takes time for search engines to process the changes you make and rank your site appropriately.

This is especially true for sites that have been hit for E-A-T-related issues.

Keep in mind that Google never reassesses your website for overall quality until they roll out the next update. So, be sure to give your website several months before your efforts start paying off.

Misconception #15: E-A-T is Always Linked to Authority

Not all authority sites have high E-A-T, and not all pages that rank highly for specific keywords are considered authoritative.

Just because your website is number one on Google doesn’t mean it’s an authority site by default.
You might have a site that has been in existence for many years, decorated with rich metadata and numerous off-site factors. But you can’t just assume that your website is considered authoritative because it ranks highly.

How to improve and demonstrate E‑A-T

First, improving isn’t the same as demonstrating.

The reason websites and pages that rank highly in Google aren’t considered authoritative is because they don’t have it in the first place.

They have yet to work on their E-A-T and improve it to the point that Google can trust them and list them as an authority.

Mueller also said that “authoritative” is not part of how they assess websites for E-A-T.

What you need to do instead is work on improving your website’s E-A-T. You can’t show yourself as an authority until you have the authority to do so.

Lack of E-A-T is believed to be the main reason many YMYL website’s rankings dropped after the “Medic” update.

If your site was among those affected or are looking for a way to improve your E-A-T, here are ten ways to do it:

1. Build More High-quality Backlinks

Nothing about this is mentioned in Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines, but it’s always a good practice to build high-quality backlinks.

But of course, you have to do it the right way, not through spammy or manipulative tactics that are intended to manipulate your website’s link profile.

Google never mentions this in their Search Quality Rater Guidelines, but according to Gary, E-A-T is primarily based on the links you get from high authority websites.

As Marie Hayne puts it, Google is very good at understanding which links count and which ones don’t. Because of this, you want to prioritize high-quality links over low-quality ones.

2. Make Sure Your Content is Up to Date and Compelling

Google wants to know that your website can consistently produce high-quality content that answers users’ questions.

This is especially true with sites covering YMYL topics like finance and medical.

And if you rely on third-party information, make sure it’s accurate and comes from the best sources.

Remember that Google doesn’t want to serve outdated or inaccurate information to users, so its algorithms are always looking for ways that they can prevent websites with poor quality content from ranking high. Also, don’t produce thin or mediocre content just to get more traffic. Make sure your site’s content is compelling enough to engage and persuade users to stay on your site.

3. Check Facts

Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines want your articles to be factually accurate. Check facts, update old news stories, and remove any outdated or inaccurate information from your website.

High-quality E-A-T articles should be supported by research and using credible sources, not personal opinions or anecdotes.

The same goes for scientific topics. Sites covering medical and health-related issues should make sure they cite their sources correctly.

Note that even if your website is considered authoritative, you still need to improve your content quality. So before publishing anything, double-check facts and ensure there are no inaccuracies (no matter how small) in the information provided.

4. Get More Reviews

There are a lot of websites nowadays that review products and services. You can’t just rely on them to build up your online reputation for you.

Even if they’re positive, these reviews need to come from actual customers who have first-hand experience using your product or service. These reviews need to be genuine and not manipulated in any way.

5. Hire Experts to Write for Your Site

If you want to establish yourself and your website as an authority in your niche, there’s no better way to do it than hiring experts who can write content that Google will love.

Again, this is not mentioned in the Search Quality Rater Guidelines, but many SEOs believe it’s an excellent strategy to improve E-A-T.

That is especially true if your website covers YMYL topics. You want to hire people with a proven track record and industry expertise to create the best content possible.

6. Flash Your Credentials

There’s nothing wrong with showing social media profiles, awards, and other accreditations on your site.

Just make sure these are relevant to the content they’re attached to. Add links that point back to the sites you got them from if necessary.

If you have a Ph.D. or have been a keynote at a well-known event or conference, don’t be afraid to show it off.

7. Pay Special Attention to Your Team Page

Google’s quality raters are looking for examples of real people who can be contacted. The best way to get their attention is by highlighting your team members and adding links that point back to other credible sites (i.e., LinkedIn profiles, About Us pages, professional online networks).

Note that you’re doing all this to demonstrate your Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. You don’t have to embellish or exaggerate the truth.

You also want to use schema markup to provide more information about your expertise and achievement in a more organized and structured manner.

8. Showcase Your Awards

Again, awards and accolades are a great way to establish credibility.

They also show that you have been vetted by a third party recognized as an authority in your niche, more like Google themselves with their PageRank system.

8. Provide Regional Search Results

If your site’s content is unsuitable for local audiences, make sure it only shows up in regional or global search results.

For sites specifically catering to users living in a certain area, be sure to provide accurate location data using Google Tag Manager or Bing Webmaster Tools.

9. Have a Google My Business Page

Having a GMB page will help your website build up its E-A-T. It’s important to fill out your profile details and link back to your website using relevant keywords.

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If you have an online store, be sure to register it on Google Merchant Center as well.

10. Show Your Contact Details

You want to list your address, email address, phone number, and point of contact.

If possible, add call tracking numbers, business hours (to show you’re not a spammer), and best practices like using an HTTPS connection to ensure visitors stay safe while browsing your site.

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Now, what if you’re a blogger who works from home?

No need to fret. Google isn’t going to penalize you for not having a brick-and-mortar office. It all depends on the nature of your website.

Just make sure whatever information you provide matches the content on your site as closely as possible to maintain a high level of E-A-T.

11. Get a Wikipedia Page for Credibility

Everybody knows Wikipedia is the number one go-to site for information on any topic. If you’re an expert in your niche, you should get a Wikipedia page written about you.

Use Wikipedia articles to educate people about your business or company and get links coming in from high-authority domains.

I am not saying that this is going to be easy. We don’t even have one ourselves. 

But hey, the bigger your brand is (or becomes), the more likely it is for Wikipedia editors to take notice.

12. Avoid Excessive Link Building

Over-optimization penalties aside, another way to dilute or ruin your site’s E-A-T is by acquiring low-quality backlinks.

You want to avoid buying links, participating and engaging with link exchange programs and forums, and anything that doesn’t pass the “Would I click on it?” test.

By all means, do not buy or trade backlinks. They will jeopardize the effort you’ve so far made.

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