What is E-A-T and Why Does it Matter for SEO?
Simply put, E-A-T is an acronym for the three factors that Google looks at to try to determine whether or not content on a website, as well as the website itself, is offering legit content: Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trust.
Optimising for E-A-T
The short answer is, as usual: create the best answer for the user, and host it in the best experience possible. That said, there are human and machine readable ways that we can demonstrate to search engines and users alike that we are expert, authoritative, and trustworthy. Google is, of course, never going to come out and tell us exactly what they look at, but based on our collective SEO experience and Google’s information on the matter, here are some activities that would likely be worthwhile when optimising for E-A-T.
Think of Google solving the problem of expertise at a scalable, programmatic level. It wouldn’t be scalable for them to e.g. maintain a database of known experts on every topic known to humankind; instead, they’ll be looking to build connections between entities (such as authors and brands) and topics, to try to discern the level of expertise being brought to bear on a piece of content.
To optimise for Expertise:
Recruit subject matter experts to create content. Don’t rely solely on your marketing team to create your in-depth content. If it’s expert advice, it should be coming from someone with some demonstrable expertise in the subject.
Build out your own experts’ reputations on other sites. If someone has a lot of knowledge on a subject, how will Google know? The answer is that that person’s name will be repeatedly associated with the subject on credible sites on that topic. The great thing about this tactic is that it’s basically just brand building – you’re doing PR and building a personal brand for your subject matter experts.
Link to robust author profiles and mark them up with structured data. To make it as easy as possible for search engines to find and understand your experts’ credentials, make sure you’re building robust profiles listing all their certifications, marking that data up with structured data (such as Author markup), and linking to those profiles from the content they’re creating.
Consider your subject matter experts’ names to be keywords you should be monitoring. As you build your experts’ brands in conjunction with your brand, you should be tracking and monitoring their names the same way you would any other branded term. What pages rank for their names, both on your site and on 3rd-party sites? You should also be monitoring co-occurrence: use tools like Keyword Tool (or the tried-and-true “Don’t Hit Enter” method) to see what people search for along with your experts’ names.
I’m pretty sure Authoritativeness in this context really just means PageRank, or, put even more simply, links and mentions. Google has, at this point, gotten really good at figuring out which links are important and should pass value, and which shouldn’t. This is why we usually recommend focusing on building authority, rather than just links.
Building content on the web is getting easier all the time. This can be a boon for small business owners who can now build their own sites without a lot of tech-savvy – but it also means it’s easier than ever for scammers and propaganda artists to make a legitimate-looking site. It’s much harder to fake an entire active brand than it is to slap up a fake site, though – so users and search engines alike will be looking for evidence that they can trust you.
Make it easy for users to find out who you are. Have a prominent About Us page that lists, at the very least, your leadership team by name (fortunately, you’ve already created robust profile pages when you were building Expertise). Link out to their relevant qualifications, publications, and social media profiles.
Make it easy for users to contact you. The more information your Contact Us page has, the better. Anyone can put up a contact form – who’s to say where those form submissions go, or if anyone will see them? To build trust with your users, at the very least have an email address and a phone number where they can contact you.
We’d recommend going the extra mile and putting your company address on your Contact Us page, too, even if you’re not serving customers directly out of your location, a physical location is hard to fake, and being open about yours builds trust.
Cite your sources. Don’t be afraid to link out to other sites, if you’re citing another source in your content, link to the source in question. Showing that you’re backing up your content with information from other reputable sources builds trust.
If you’ve been in SEO for a while, none of this advice is going to sound particularly groundbreaking, because it’s not, most of the things a site would do to build E-A-T are things that search marketers have been encouraging their clients to do for years (this is, we suspect, the reason behind all the tiresome SEO discussion around it of late). E-A-T is, more than anything else, a new lens through which to view building a solid brand online.
In an online world increasingly filled with misinformation & disinformation, though, Google will be looking for ways to weigh these factors more heavily, and will only become more sophisticated in doing so. As search marketers, our best approach is to continue paying attention to the human-readable quality signals that Google is trying to detect, and trying to understand the machine-readable equivalents that we can optimise to send those signals.