Senior Content Manager
Nicknamed the ‘medic’ update – thanks to its impact on mainly health-related sites – Google’s 2018 algorithm update diagnosed content authority and relevance as critical for SERP survival. And a refresh of its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (SQEGs) in June 2019 put an even greater focus on Expertise, Authority and Trust (E-A-T), sending sites from lifestyle to finance reeling from visibility crashes.
We've seen multiple updates to the SQEGs, and in December 2022, the biggest yet came in the form of an E-A-T expansion. Dubbed by many as 'Double E-A-T', the acronym was updated to E-E-A-T, adding Experience to the trio. In this same update, Google highlighted Trust as the most important member of the E-E-A-T family.
So what is E-E-A-T? And how can you kick-start a healthy content regime to strengthen your site?
Google wants to give readers a quality experience by serving up content that's both relevant and trustworthy. In short, it only wants to display sites that it trusts to provide value to readers.
E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. It represents a set of guidelines that help Google determine the quality and reliability of a site's content, and therefore whether it's a trustworthy source of information.
Experience – The content author has demonstrable first-hand experience in a topic, such as a lived experience or a verified purchase of a product.
Expertise – The content author has a high degree of knowledge, skill or understanding of a particular product, whether that's via qualifications or lived experience.
Authoritativeness – The site is an authoritative source of information, with a strong reputation for accuracy and reliability, particularly among industry experts.
Trustworthiness – The content is accurate and trustworthy, perhaps written by an expert to offer clear value to the reader.
To evaluate the effectiveness of the algorithm, Google regularly conducts manual reviews of its results using the SQEGs; making them essential reading for anyone planning, producing or publishing content. Google's E-E-A-T-focussed SQEGs show reviewers what defines high quality.
Ultimately, trust is key to content quality. An untrustworthy page will still be considered low E-E-A-T, no matter how much experience or expertise the author might have.
"Content is king" is bandied around. But churning out low-quality content for the sake of it provides no value to searchers, Google, or your site. If your site fails to meet the principles of E-E-A-T, Google will prioritise another that does, impacting your visibility.
The addition of Experience focuses on providing the best value to searchers. But how does it differ from Expertise?
While professional experience is integral to expertise, there are other, valuable, forms that enrich content for the reader; like first-hand lived experience and opinion.
The E-E-A-T algorithm update has had the biggest impact on YMYL pages. Google classifies these as any page that could impact a user’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety. Essentially any page on which low-quality content could negatively impact users’ lives.
Google’s SQEGs define these pages as:
News and current events. Specifically, news about important topics such as international events, business, politics, science, technology, etc.
Finance. Financial advice or information regarding investments, taxes, retirement planning, loans, banking, or insurance. Particularly webpages that allow people to make purchases or transfer money online.
Health and safety. Advice or information about medical issues, drugs, hospitals, emergency preparedness, how dangerous an activity is, etc.
Civics, government and law. Information important to maintaining an informed citizenry, like voting, government agencies, public institutions, social services, and legal issues.
Shopping. Information about or services related to research or purchase of goods, particularly purchase pages.
Groups of people. Information about or claims related to groups of people, including but not limited to those grouped on the basis of age, caste, disability, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, immigration status, nationality, race, religion, sex/gender, sexual orientation, veteran status, victims of a major violent event and their kin, or any other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalisation.
But, YMYL content aside, every site should show Google, and readers, that it can be trusted. So, with Google continuing its drive to encourage brands to be responsible publishers, how can you make sure you’re cooking up content that’s as valuable and trustworthy as possible?
To demonstrate experience…
Outline lived experience. Google notes that for some topics, the most expert sources of information are “ordinary people” sharing their life experiences and “everyday expertise” on personal blogs, forums, reviews, discussions, etc. The most recent update makes lived experience more relevant than ever.
Align experience with established consensus. Lived experience is considered to have high E-E-A-T if the content aligns with established expert consensus. Google will not deem the page to be trustworthy if the advice and content go against what has been established by experts in the field.
Verify your reviews. If you can verify that an individual has experience with a product, or has visited a location etc., their review would be considered far more valuable.
Add author information. In order to assess content for experience, Google needs to understand who wrote it. Add an author profile with a bio that outlines their experience and links to other posts and social media platforms that support this.
To demonstrate content expertise…
Involve an expert author. Expert authors are a biggie for Google. The guidelines specifically call out the need to consider “the expertise of the [content creator]” – particularly where they can provide valuable perspectives on intricate subjects like medicine, finance, law and tax, news and hobbies.
And again, include author bios and evidence of their expertise. Spell out their qualifications and experience, and the input they’ve had in the content. Have they reviewed it, or penned the whole thing? Share their credentials: education, professional experience, certifications, awards etc. Creating an author page that links to all of their content can also demonstrate expertise, authority and trustworthiness.
Map out user journeys. Mapping the journeys your audiences take, when searching for information and making decisions, can help you understand their interests and intent – to evaluate your content against. Try to anticipate the user’s next click so you can show them (and Google) that you’ve got the breadth and depth of information needed to be their expert.
Find the right format. Check what types of SERP features Google serves for your target terms. Then audit your current content to see how changes to format and structure could help you secure image, video, voice search and featured snippets. The more visible your content, the more expert it’s deemed by readers.
Write clear, high-quality content with descriptive, relevant titles. How? Use keyword research and social listening to find out what your audience is searching for, use relevant key terms within your H tags, and make sure each article section is relevant to its title. Split complex topics up into separate but connected pieces to keep your reader’s (and Google’s) focus.
To show content authority…
Create content with purpose. Spend time pinpointing the why, who, what (before the where and when) in planning content. And review the top-performing pieces in the competitor search space to provide your audience with content that’s not just fit for purpose, but gives you an edge.
Be link worthy. High quality, unique content should naturally attract links from relevant, reputable sources, which in turn will demonstrate your site’s authority. But there are other ways to become part of the in-crowd on a particular topic, like content partnerships. Working with a renowned expert or influencer in your field – especially one with a strong online presence – can help build natural backlinks and social shares.
Introduce your expert author or contributor, spelling out their experience and authority. Use schema author tags to provide search engines with structured data signals on authorship, giving them precise information about the author and their work.
Improve your internal linking. Crawlers use links to navigate through your site, so linking to other closely-related content not only helps the reader (by anticipating their next question) but also lets Google know you’ve got the subject covered. Create a live content catalogue so you can identify related content quickly, and consider whether you need to consolidate existing pieces as well as connect.
To show content trustworthiness…
Demonstrate Experience, Expertise and Authority. Google has confirmed that Trust is the most important part of E-E-A-T; but E-E-A help inform whether a site is trustworthy or not.
Improve your external linking. Linking to sites with high domain authority, such as scientific studies, helps to build trust. According to Google’s Search Quality Guidelines, “For news articles and information pages, high quality [main content] must be factually accurate for the topic and must be supported by expert consensus where such consensus exists.”
Own your knowledge panel. That’s the information box that appears on Google when you search for something. The more open your business is online, the easier it is for users and Google to recognise you as a reputable source of information.
Add a thorough company ‘About’ page, clear FAQs and easy-to-find contact information, so you can answer any questions. Sharing your contact information proves that you are a real company, with real people who are happy to help your customers. Transparency builds trust.
Respond to reviews. Positive reviews demonstrate customer trust. But replying to any - whether positive or negative - shows your commitment to customer satisfaction, and therefore, your reputation.
Keep your content up to date. Use your content catalogue to plan refresh and re-promotion dates, making updates part of your business-as-usual programme, and be sure to update your content when there are industry updates or developments. And remember to alter the live date whenever you refresh pages, so the reader knows the information has been reviewed recently.
There you have it: an E-E-A-T recipe for a better chance at SERP success.
Need a helping hand to create experienced, expert, authoritative and trustworthy content for your brand? Our content strategists and production experts can help. Get in touch.
Refreshed on: 21/12/2022
We believe that moving too slowly in digital is the biggest risk your business faces. If you are ready to move faster in digital, we are here to help.