What is E-A-T?
E-A-T is an acronym for “Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.” These three essential elements can help increase your website’s SEO value from a digital marketing agency’s perspective. Let’s dig a little deeper into what each of these attributes signifies.
- Expertise: Gives users peace of mind knowing that the information they are getting is backed by research, written by credible experts, and referenced by scholarly sources.
- Authoritativeness: Showcases those industry experts, particularly those that have relevant credentials and are backed by relevant testimonials, reviews, or case studies.
- Trustworthiness: Shows users that the site they are visiting is safe, credible, and reliable, especially through badges, certifications, and SSL verification.
Why Should You Care About E-A-T?
While E-A-T guidelines have always been important for YMYL (Your Money Your Life) websites, recent algorithm updates have shown that websites incorporating strong E-A-T signals tend to outperform competitors.
Whether users are searching for wedding cake themes or skincare tips, search engines understand that users want information backed by sources and credible experts. Websites belonging to the YMYL category should definitely make it a priority to incorporate strong E-A-T metrics, but brands in other non-traditional industries should make an effort to implement these recommendations, too.
How to Improve Your Website’s E-A-T In 4 Steps
1. Add Sources
Including sources in your content, especially for sections that are being quoted or written by another author, is a great way to boost the perceived authenticity and credibility of your content. It’s also a very natural way to create a relationship with high authority domains or personalities in the eyes of Google.
How Do You Know If a Website or a Person Is Good to Include as a Source In Your Content?
When considering a person as a source, Google determines their credibility by looking for other work written by that person, not statistics or other machine-compiled information. In section 2.6.2 of Google’s quality evaluator guidelines, it states that “news articles, Wikipedia articles, blog posts, magazine articles, forum discussions, and ratings from independent organizations can all be sources of reputation information. Look for independent, credible sources of information”. As long as a person has additional accessible and acknowledged works on the internet, this boosts the likelihood he/she is a credible source to include in your content.
When looking at a website’s credibility, most organizations, institutions, news publications and government agencies are usually safe bets to the source. As a general rule of thumb, well-known brands or companies are typically credible in the eyes of Google and good options to include as sources in your content.
2. Add Author Information
It’s important to make it clear who is responsible for the content of your site. Search engines want to see that it is obvious who is responsible for the site’s content. While it can be acceptable for a site’s content to remain anonymous, this is not recommended.
To provide visibility into an article’s authorship, implement the following three key elements to your site.
Add an Author or Reviewer Section to All Posts
All articles on the site should either be written or reviewed by an individual contributor. In the author section, make sure to highlight the contributor’s credibility and expertise, including information on relevant credentials, industries, and years of experience. It’s also helpful to structure this linking towards relevant external profiles such as LinkedIn, and include an author headshot.
Create Individual Author/Reviewer Pages for Each Contributor
Similar to the author sections on each blog post, these individual author pages should include information on the contributor’s expertise, years of experience, and industry knowledge.
Tip: Be braggy! If the author(s) on your site has awesome qualifications, then write about them on either their bio page or about page. Include any degrees, credentials , or awards, and use words like “x years of experience” or ”…for [x] years.” Make sure to feature all of the articles written or reviewed by the author, as well as links that point to external profiles that highlight other areas of relevant expertise.
Create a Meet the Team Page
This page should link out to the individual author pages mentioned in the bullet above. Similar to the other elements, this page should include information that highlights your team’s credibility and expertise. Add links to external profiles, awards, testimonials, and positive press.
3. Add Disclaimer Statements and Affiliate Statements When Applicable
Website transparency is key. For any news or blog-type content, editorial guidelines should be spelled out clearly so that visitors can trust that the information they are reading is up-to-date and free of ethical concerns, conflicts, and misinformation. In the age of fake news, online content will be scrutinized more than ever. Publishers should be transparent about their commitment to fact-checking and process for making corrections for any false and/or updated information. As discussed earlier, any sources of information should be readily accessible to the reader, and any opinion-based views should be clearly defined by the author, as well as any group affiliations, relationships, and sponsorships.
Disclaimer and affiliate statements are especially important in building website trust and following Google’s E-A-T guidelines. Any product or service review should clearly state if the item or service was gifted to the publisher, or if any other incentive was provided that might sway the author’s review. Similarly, if a publisher gets a commission from any purchases from affiliate links within the page content, that should be clearly outlined as well so that the reader understands that the author might have a motive to push a particular brand or product.
Any affiliate links should be tagged appropriately as defined by Google. Disclaimer and affiliate statements do not need to be anything big or flashy; a simple statement at the beginning or end of an article works fine, as long as it is visible to the reader. Disclaimers, affiliate statements, and editorial guidelines are all great ways to build the trust of a website in accordance with Google’s guidelines.
4. Avoid Unnatural Backlinks and Over Optimization of Backlink Anchor Texts
A seasoned SEO Company knows that backlinks are a major factor that come into play as Google awards ranking positions to web pages. Not only do they help build up Page Authority (as well as overall Domain Authority), they also significantly impact a site’s E-A-T score.
Similar to how natural, relevant and strong backlinks can help push a web page’s keyword ranking up on search engine results pages (SERPs), backlinks can also send E-A-T indicators (both good and bad) to Google. Let’s dive a little deeper into how backlinks influence the E-A-T score that Google bestows upon a website:
- Expertise: It’s common knowledge that if your page has been shared by other reputable websites in or near your niche, it sends signals to Google that these people know what they are talking about.
- Authoritativeness: Somewhat of a carryover from how Google had traditionally viewed backlinks as they have always been seen as “authority” signals. If an authoritative website features a backlink to a page on your site, some of that authority is passed to the page (and, if structured correctly) throughout the rest of the site.
- Trustworthiness: Backlinks from trusted sites tell Google that this is a site that can be trusted to deliver accurate and relevant content to searchers (bonus points if they come from .org, .us, .gov, .edu, etc.).
As you might be beginning to see, off-page SEO techniques play a very important role in establishing your E-A-T profile once all proper on-page elements have been put into place.
Now, you might be thinking that an easy way to improve your E-A-T score would be to just score as many backlinks as you can. Unfortunately, that technique has largely gone out-of-date with the contemporary belief of “quality over quantity” taking its place.
It’s hard to compare the power of links, but it’s commonly understood that one powerful backlink from an expert, authoritative, and/or trustworthy link is worth more than a multitude of weaker links. Thanks to the Penguin and Medic Google updates, the power of strong backlinks is steadily growing as weaker backlinks continue to lose the SEO/E-A-T firepower they once had.
How to Use Backlinks to Improve E-A-T Score
In order to really improve your E-A-T score, your website’s off-page strategy should first focus on the quality of the content itself. You won’t be able to build backlinks that will improve E-A-T score if the content you put forward is lackluster (even if you have proper on-page E-A-T optimizations).
Next, plan on embarking on a personal outreach campaign to promote your content to authority leaders in your niche that would see your content as a valuable complement to what they are publishing. Although a time-consuming and labor-intensive process, the outcome of even a few powerful links can have a tremendous impact on your site’s E-A-T score in Google’s eyes.
Now that you have solid content on your site and are working with authoritative, trusted and expert websites to have a backlink included, it’s time to begin cleaning up your existing backlink profile. For better or for worse, backlinks can be made to your pages on your site by other websites, scrapers/bots and even malicious actors. While you may receive the occasional beneficial backlink, more often than not your going to naturally attract toxic backlinks that will harm your site.
Consistent review of the backlinks your site earns to identify potential problems will allow you to produce a disavowal list to submit to Google. (Google Search Console’s Links section will be your new best friend.) Since Google knows that the web is often an unfriendly place, you can use the disavowal list to tell it which backlinks to ignore.