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SEO 15 min read

What Is E-A-T And Why It's Important For SEO

Максим Астахов
Hannes Richter
Head of SEO at Сlicks Digital
Google changes the game rules for SEO every day. From time to time, these changes have a disruptive character. One of these major changes took place in 2018, where Google set focus on E-A-T as a new principle to evaluate web pages. This article will explain the background and highlight the impact of E-A-T on SEO.
What is E-A-T
E-A-T the new focus in Google's Quality Rater Guidelines
Almost every day Google rolls out new updates of the algorithm responsible for compiling the search results. What these updates are aimed at has been outlined in the so-called Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG). A team of about 10,000 Quality Raters is hired by Google to continuously classify thousands of websites according to the Quality Rater Guidelines' criteria. With this data, Google can review whether the search results have improved, i.e., whether the listed pages with keywords are ranked in correlation to the Quality Rater Guidelines criteria.

For reasons of transparency, Google has been publishing these guidelines since 2013. In 2018 for the first time a version was published that intensively describes quality criteria based on the E-A-T principle. This was followed in August 2018 by a Google Core Update, which caused strong fluctuations of search results in the medical field. Although far more than just pages with a medical character were affected, the update was called "Medic Update" by the SEO branch at that time. Further Core Updates followed quarterly, which had significant impacts. Looking back over all these updates, it is evident that these changes are strongly related to the E-A-T principle described in the Quality Rater Guidelines. Not all industries will be affected to the same extent in the future. Nevertheless, most site operators will not avoid this issue if they want to benefit from valuable search engine traffic in the future.
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What does E-A-T stand for?
So let's take a look at what Google understands by the E-A-T principle. E-A-T is the abbreviation for three central terms: Expertise - Authoritativeness - Trustworthiness.
Expertise is used to describe the qualitative level of content. It is important to note that Google focuses primarily on the author and not on the organization itself. Depending on the topic, formal quality criteria are more or less important. Topics that significantly influence health, legal, or financial aspects of life require expertise from Google's point of view, which can be formally proven by qualification and training. Google describes these topics as YMYL - your money your life:

"Formal expertise is important for YMYL topics such as medical, financial, or legal advice. ", QRG, p. 26.

Nevertheless, practical life experience is not ignored. This is especially important beyond the YMYL pages.

"If it seems as if the person creating the content has the type and amount of life experience to make him or her an "expert" on the topic, we will value this "everyday expertise" and not penalize the person/webpage/website for not having "formal" education or training in the field. ", QRG, p. 20.

Google even considers personal experiences if these correspond to the search intent.

"For example, there are forums and support pages for people with specific diseases. Sharing personal experience is a form of everyday expertise ", QRG, p. 20
Authoritativeness means primarily „reputation". With this perspective in mind, the Quality Raters should consider the entire website and the particular author of the content.

„Look for reviews, references, recommendations by experts, news articles, and other credible information created/written by individuals about the website […] Look for information written by a person, not statistics or other machine-compiled information. 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."

The more independent voices are added up, the more an author is seen as an expert on other sites. Or the more positive reviews of good experiences with a company are reported, the higher the level of expertise is considered. As in link building, the relevant context is decisive here. Expertise must be proven for those topics that a website should be listed in the Google search results.
Trustworthiness sheds light on the credibility of a website. Google makes a strong connection with transparency: does it become clear who is responsible for the content? Is there a way to contact a supporter if problems arise, for example, in financial transactions? Are these contacts easy to find? Is there a telephone number to solve a problem very quickly?

YMYL sites must also meet higher requirements than private websites: „However, the amount of information needed about the website or creator of the MC depends on the purpose of the page. For personal websites or non-YMYL forum discussions, an email address or social media link alone may be sufficient.", QRG, p. 35

Furthermore, the correctness of statements is contributing credibility. If false statements or unreasonable objections against an established consensus of other experts are accumulated, the trustworthiness of content decreases.
The impact of E-A-T on SEO
Is E-A-T a ranking factor?
As described at the beginning, several algorithm updates re-sorted the search results under the E-A-T principle. However, there is neither a concrete E-A-T algorithm nor a kind of E-A-T score for a website. This was revealed by Gary Illyes, as documented by an attentive listener:
Danny Sullivan confirmed this one day later in another tweet: There is no single metric, but rather many different signals by which expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness are determined. Altogether, these naturally influence how search result pages are put together.
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How E-A-T is influencing Google results
It is unknown which signals in total are used to determine expertise, authority and trust. But it is important to understand how the results of the Quality Rater team affect the search results. Google published an article with deep insights in August 2020:
It's important to note that this rating does not directly impact how this page or site ranks in Search. […] Instead, ratings are a data point that, when taken in aggregate, helps us measure how well our systems are working to deliver great content that's aligned with how people—across the country and around the world—evaluate information.
Google also tirelessly emphasises that E-A-T is not something that can be optimised quickly. Quality and reputation cannot be improved overnight. Nevertheless, it is possible to work towards a new form of public relation and presentation. If the Quality Rater Guidelines describe the main mission that Google is working towards, then it makes sense to base all SEO measures on these quality guidelines. It is possible to start with small steps: existing expertise has to be highlighted and transparency about the site operator and authors in the background has to be established.
How to optimize E-A-T from a SEO perspective
Short-term measures
In the short term and quickly, the following measures can be considered:
Outline who the person or team behind the page is.

For the E-A-T principle it is essential that it is clear who is running the site. An imprint is the minimum which in some countries worldwide is already a legal requirement. It is better if there is also an informative About Us page and structured data is used to make information available in machine-readable form.
Show which experts write for you.

Pages containing substantial information should mention a specific author. This author should also be identified within the structured data. Ideally, an author box should link to an author detail page. This page should provide further information about the author's experience and qualifications that enable him or her to give advice. If the author maintains social profiles, these should also be linked. Structured data can be used to store all information in machine-readable form.
Establish contact options.

If the website is dealing with YMYL topics, there should be telephone contact options in addition to an email and postal address. Ideally, the telephone number should be clearly visible on each page and also be marked with structured data.
Invite experts to write content for you.

If no experts are working in your own company or if there is a lack of reputation, it is legitimate to cooperate with experts. For example, experts can be recruited to publish guest articles on your own website. Freelance journalists with expertise in certain range of topics can also be engaged.
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Long-term measures
In addition to these short term measures it is necessary to work towards the status of an authority in the long run. The focus should be on the following:
Increase your reviews.

The Quality Rater Guidelines emphasise the importance of reviews. In the long term, it should be ensured that there are more and mainly positive evaluations. It is forbidden to incentivise evaluations, i.e. to combine them with something in return. However, depending on the business model, it is possible to invite customers to write reviews in the after sales process. Positive business relationships deserve a "thank you", which can be combined with a little attention and an invitation to write a review. Who could decline giving feedback at this moment?

Negative reviews should be reduced by paying attention to a customer-centred service that takes criticism as free advice and reacts to it with optimization measures.
Build up reputation and mentions.

Both for the website and for the authors themselves, a reputation should be permanently worked on. The most important means for this is the generation of links and mentions. This requires a profiled corporate identity and a good network. Both can be addressed through clear marketing messages and participation in professional discourse at trade fairs, conferences, industry events and in the digital area through interviews, guest post articles and much more.
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As Google has already stated, these factors cannot be optimized in the shortest possible time. As a rule, however, every company is based on a large pool of expertise. The major challenge is to make this expertise visible to the world outside. Whoever accepts this challenge will gain a decisive competitive advantage in the future and be successful in organic search in the long term.
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