E-A-T is shorthand for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness—three elements that Google uses to evaluate the quality of a website’s content. While these three go hand-in-hand, they have notable nuances.
Expertise refers to the proficiency of an author to write about a certain topic (e.g. a doctor writing medical content, a lawyer providing legal advice, etc). People need to know that the content they are consuming was produced by someone with the credentials to back up their claims.
Authoritativeness is when Google looks at the author/s, the website, and the content. Authors need to show their credentials or official affiliations. A website’s reputation, meanwhile, has to be intact (i.e. What do other impartial sources say about it? Do reputable websites link to it?). The site also has to be populated with high-quality content relevant to the target audience.
Trustworthiness is more applicable to sites that gather sensitive information from users (e.g. credit card details). This can be technical signals like an SSL certification and guaranteeing secure transactions or more abstract signals like the accuracy of product descriptions and what customers say about the business.
Mentioned several times in Google’s Search Quality Raters guidelines, E-A-T rose to prominence during the August 2018 release of the Medic Update which affected health, fitness, and medical websites.
While E-A-T applies to all search queries, it impacts some more than others. To fight disinformation, Google places extra scrutiny on websites that can directly impact a user’s life. These are called Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) websites.
Common YMYL sites include news and current events, finance, shopping, health and safety, law, civics, government, and many others. If a website falls under this umbrella, adhering to E-A-T guidelines becomes all the more crucial.
Is E-A-T a Ranking Factor?
E-A-T as a ranking factor became a contentious issue within the SEO community when it was first published. The short answer is that E-A-T is not a ranking factor. E-A-T was created for Google’s search quality raters as guidelines for the websites that they review. This is akin to feedback cards that restaurants gather from their customers, making it more of a human concept than a tangible signal that a search engine can understand.
Google doesn’t give an E-A-T score. However, it uses several signals that measure a website’s expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, which then inform that site’s other ranking factors. Although there is no measurable rating that exists, it’s still considered vital best practice to follow, especially for YMYL websites.