Google’s algorithm is a mystery to most people. From hundreds of tiny tweaks to major updates, it keeps SEOs and marketers on their toes with Google only offering limited information about how it works. We know about how bots crawl sites looking at content, how page speed affects ranking, and other technical aspects of how search engines determine page ranking. However, what about the human element? After all, search engines are used by humans not robots, so they can’t rely on machines alone. That’s where E-A-T comes in.
What is E-A-T?
First and foremost, E-A-T stands for Expertise Authoritativeness Trustworthiness. It comes from a document published by Google called the Search Quality Rater Guidelines. These guidelines are used by Google’s human raters who go through and determine the quality of search results. These guidelines don’t give us definitive answers as to how pages are ranked for E-A-T, but they do give us lots of clues as to what Google is looking for in the content of a webpage. Before diving into each of the three parts of E-A-T, let’s define another couple of concepts that are key to it:
Your Money or Your Life (YMYL)
YMYL topics are those which Google says impact a person’s future quality of life be that financial stability, health, safety, or happiness. It might be topics such as the side-effects of a type of medication, or information about how to complete your taxes. These are topics where Google needs to ensure the quality of the content is to a high enough standard to be shown in search results. Topics that fall under YMYL include news and current events, finance, shopping, health and safety, and a range of other topics that can affect a person’s daily life such as housing information and job searching.
This concept is all about what the intent of a page is; why was it created? What is its purpose? To have value, every page should be created with the intent to help users in some way. When we say “help”, we don’t necessarily mean something like advice or information although those are important. Helpful pages might have the intent to entertain, to share information about a topic, to share media, to allow users to download a file, or to sell products or services. All of these are considered quality purposes for a page. Above all else, Google wants to provide users with websites that are helpful or relevant to their search intent, so pages should always have a user-first purpose in mind.
Let’s now move on to discussing E-A-T itself
Expertise - The content should display a high level of knowledge on the subject matter at hand. For YMYL topics such as medical, legal or financial information, content should come from a place of formal expertise such as a qualified professional like a doctor or a lawyer. For other topics that don’t fall under YMYL, these should still be verified with “everyday expertise”; for example if you were to look up information about character traits of a border collie, then the source of the content should have “everyday experience” of living with a border collie.
Authoritativeness - While expertise tends to be based on the individual source of the content, authoritativeness comes from the reputation of the site hosting the content. Reputation is determined by what independent sources have to say about a site through references, expert recommendations, news articles, etc.
Trustworthiness - Trust is a big part of the user experience both in how they interact with Google and with a site. Google wants to see content that is transparent in who produces it, and accurate in the information it gives. It can be determined through things like positive or negative reviews. This trust element is especially important with ecommerce as people need to be able to trust you with personal information such as credit card details.
Why is it important for SEO?
E-A-T is mentioned 119 times in the most recent version of Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines, which goes to show how important they find it. The reason being that E-A-T represents what Google wants the algorithm to do. Machines and bots can only go so far in determining the quality of a webpage, there’s a human element that they simply can’t be taught. E-A-T isn’t something quantifiable or tangible that a machine can understand because it’s subjective. It can crawl a site to determine its architecture, it can measure load speed, but it can’t evaluate if a page has been written by an expert or if the content is factually correct. By having human raters, Google can ensure that the algorithm works the way they want it to.
As for its effect on SEO, the most important thing to note before we get started is that Google doesn’t give pages an E-A-T score, and E-A-T isn’t a ranking factor - at least not directly. This is because it isn’t something measurable like we mentioned above, however it is taken into account alongside other signals. The raters determine whether or not a result is good based on E-A-T, and then Google correlates signals its algorithm can measure such as page speed, mobile friendliness etc. By having raters look at results using E-A-T and other related concepts like YMYL, it helps tell Google if the algorithm is working the way they want it to. This then helps them to learn the sort of pages that should rank, and the bots look for the signals typically found on pages raters have determined to be high quality.
Therefore while E-A-T isn’t in itself a ranking factor, it does tell you a lot about the sort of content Google wants to show to its users. By using E-A-T as a guideline for your store’s content, you can create higher quality content that fares better on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
How to improve E-A-T on your store
Now that we understand what E-A-T is and its importance, it’s time to turn our attention to what this means for ecommerce stores specifically. Shopping is a YMYL topic because it involves users’ finances; Google wants to ensure that if a user is making a purchase then it’s with a trustworthy site. Selling products or services is also considered to be beneficial content. So there’s plenty you can do with your store’s content to improve E-A-T.
High quality, up-to-date content
This is something that is discussed a lot in SEO, but content is still king when it comes to search engines. The first step in creating high quality content is in understanding your audience - their needs, and search intent. You can do this through your keyword research and other SEO research, looking for the questions and topics that most frequently come up. You then want to demonstrate E-A-T throughout content on your site, including your blogs, product pages, and “About Us”.
Write articles that target users at different stages of the customer journey, especially during the research phase. Give them plenty of information about your products and brand, and position your store as an authority in your industry niche. Be factual, informative, and engaging, publishing content regularly and demonstrating your expertise on the subject matter. When relevant, back up anything you say with relevant and authoritative sources and fact check wherever possible to ensure your content is not only interesting but factual.
If something related to the article changes, be sure to update it with relevant information. For example if an older article is about a product that’s recently had a new feature added.
Your product page content should be unique, provide lots of useful information about the product in question, and any links to additional content that a user might want such as contact details or an FAQ page. Avoid duplicate content, or using manufacturer descriptions for products.
Part of your brand’s credibility and trustworthiness comes from who you are, what you do, and who is behind your business. Use your “About Us” page to demonstrate the expertise on your team, your experience, and your mission/vision/values. This is unlikely to have a big impact on your store’s SEO but it does help to build trust with users as part of your strategy.
If you want to revise your existing content in order to ensure it’s in line with what Google expects, then they’ve provided a list of key questions that can help guide your content strategy.
Great User Experience
Search users expect Google to give them results that provide a great user experience. They want sites that load fast, look good, and are easy to navigate. Factors such as speed are ranking signals, and ones such as navigational structure make a difference to how bots crawl and index your site. When it comes to E-A-T, a high quality user experience builds trust; a reputable ecommerce merchant should have a store that functions well and looks great. Some factors of the user experience that you’ll want to give special attention to include:
Navigational structure - Is it easy to navigate your store and access your most important pages?
Mobile friendliness - How well does your site perform on a mobile device?
- Page load speed - Do pages load quickly with little layout shift? This is especially important with regards to Core Web Vitals.
Essentially you want to provide users with content in a way that’s easy to navigate, looks just as good on mobile, and loads quickly. This allows them to get the answers they want in a fast and efficient way, and this in turn builds trust and signals to Google that your pages are of a high quality.
Reviews in general are great for your store’s SEO. They’re a big part of the user experience when it comes to search engines especially - after all they’re a great way to build trust with customers. If a customer sees several glowing reviews, then it gives them greater confidence in making a purchase. The more positive reviews, the more your store fulfills the “Trustworthiness” part of E-A-T. However you should also take the time to fully address negative reviews, so that you can promptly deal with them and prevent them from affecting the perceived trustworthiness of your store. You want to garner not only reviews on your own store, but reviews across the board on sites that your customers typically trust. For example Trustpilot and Google My Business, as well as on other influencer or expert blogs. Incentivize reviews from customers on the sites you want to see more social proof on, and be sure to display some of these on key pages throughout your store to demonstrate trust and authority.
Building links is always good for your store’s SEO, and it also helps to demonstrate E-A-T. If your store’s products, blog articles, etc. are linked from an authoritative source then this has a great impact on your store’s SEO. If you sell kitchen utensils and you’re linked to by someone like Food Network, then this is an indicator from an authority that your products are relevant and your store is trustworthy. Links boost your store’s reputation, and help Google to determine trust and relevance. Focus on high quality links, these are achieved in an organic way with outreach to sites and sources that are considered authoritative in your niche.
E-A-T may not be in and of itself a ranking factor, and that may make it seem like it isn’t all that important when it comes to SEO. However what E-A-T does tell us is the kind of content that Google wants to show its users; it’s a guideline for exactly how they want their algorithm to work. By creating content with an E-A-T approach in mind, you’ll be able to develop a store with a great reputation and build a stronger relationship with your target customers.