Demystifying Google’s E-A-T Guidelines: Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness

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Any successful blogger will attest to the fact that ranking high on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) is the centerpiece of their success.

Today, bloggers have to be aware of the recent guidelines that govern how search engine algorithms rank websites and blogs.

Traffic raised from social media platforms has been a source of income for bloggers, but none can surpass the traffic one would get from search engine keyword queries.

People still turn to search engines when looking for concrete solutions to their needs; they don’t think of searching on social media first.

You must get a firm grip on these guidelines and use them to optimize your blog and rank higher on the SERPs.

Google’s current E-A-T guidelines are not your typical SEO tips. These are eye-openers into what Google is looking for in quality content from 2021 onwards.

#1: What is Google’s E-A-T?

In August 2018, Google introduced what was termed as the “Medic Update”, an algorithm change that affected the ranking of many blogs and websites.

The term E-A-T refers to Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness, and these are the three main factors that the algorithms consider when ranking your blog or website.

The E-A-T guidelines are a little tricky to understand. It does not affect your SEO ranking DIRECTLY, like the way your keywords, headings, and site loading speed might.

Google, however, uses people who are called “search raters” whose primary function is to check whether Google’s algorithms are working properly.

The search raters are given certain guidelines to follow including the E-A-T measures.

In 2019, a tweet by Google’s search liaison, Danny Sullivan, explained it in the following manner:

“Is E-A-T a ranking factor? Not if you mean there’s some technical thing like with speed that we can measure directly. We do use a variety of signals as a proxy to tell if content seems to match E-A-T as humans would assess it. In that regard, yeah, it’s a ranking factor”.

What Danny was trying to say is that E-A-T will definitely affect your ranking, but to check if your blog is a great candidate to rank high, they cannot just enter technical parameters into the Google algorithm.

Let take a look at an example.

Today, long-form content is technically preferable to Google’s SEO algorithms and will rank higher on the SERPs. However, it does not mean that a long blog post will necessarily have useful or reliable content.

With the E-A-T guideline, Google wants to give people results that will provide trustworthy, Authoritative, and Expert information.

This is where the search raters and the guidelines come in.

#2: Which Niches or Industries Are Affected by E-A-T?

The 2018 algorithm update did not affect all industries in the same way, even though E-A-T can be applied to all blogs and websites.

Barry Schwartz, a search engine marketing journalist, called it the “Medic Update” because blogs and websites in the medical industry were the most affected entities.

Apart from blogs and websites of businesses in the medical industry, any website that provides information that may have a long-term impact on the life of the reader was also affected.

Google uses the term “Your Money Your Life (YMYL)”, to aid the search quality raters in checking on sites and blogs.

Any website that shares advice about health and wealth falls into the YMYL category.

When Google released the guidelines for search raters, they described YMYL as follows:

“Some pages or topics could potentially impact the future happiness, safety, health, and financial stability of an individual. These are the pages called “Your Money or Your Life” pages or YMYL.

Although the update reduced the SEO ranking of most medical websites, the YMYL could also affect any other website that has a profound effect on the readers’ lives.

Google went ahead and listed some examples:

  • Civics, Law, and Government
  • News and Current Events
  • Shopping
  • Finance
  • Health and Safety
  • Information affecting decision-making in finding jobs, exploring education opportunities or housing
  • Groups of people – these are religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, veteran status, race, etc.

When you think about information that may have a huge impact on someone’s life, the term can be quite wide.

Although the medical industry suffered a bigger blow than most other industries, it would be prudent to create content that is truthful, helpful, and reliable using the E-A-T guidelines.

#3: What Informed Google’s Decision to Use E-A-T?

Google has primarily been looking for sites that give the best user experience for readers, but they now want the answers to be CORRECT and RELEVANT.

For example, The Medic Update hit providers of dietary information pretty hard. This is because these sites provide information that does not have the backing of medical research.

Many times, people blindly adopt diet trends that have not been substantiated by medical research and are potentially harmful.

In an effort to avoid liability for providing access to unsafe content, and still, in keeping with their goal of giving the best content to users, Google dropped the rankings of a high number of diet sites in the SERPs.

Another reason for the implementation of the medic updates was the increased use of voice search.

People were asking sensitive questions using Alexa about crucial concerns.

For example, someone could ask about how to treat a child who has a running fever or stop a bad cut from bleeding excessively.

Alexa would then answer such questions by looking for ranking websites which it would deem to be trustworthy,

Google did not want to be giving out bad medical advice to users on the SERPs.

#4: What Are Search Quality Raters Keeping an Eye On?

Since Google’s quality guideline for quality raters is a public document, you can look into it to understand what the quality raters are keeping an eye on to rank a website or blog as being trustworthy.

Here is how quality raters explain E-A-T’s role in evaluating blogs and websites:

Understanding the purpose of a page is the initial step in Page Quality (PQ) rating.

If a website, page, or blog post does not have any beneficial information, then they will rank low.

Similarly, pages that are created without a specific beneficial purpose, spread hate messages, misinform or deceive, or cause any form of harm will also rank at the very bottom.

The role of the quality rates is to penalize websites or blogs that are causing harm, spreading hate, or misinforming users while rewarding those that are helpful.

Google understands that experience in a certain field can turn someone into an expert in that field.

However, when it comes to giving medical or financial advice, Google wants the owners of the blog or website to have an accreditation. This information should be given by “trustworthy sources that are updated regularly”.

This is not a blanket condemnation of blogs or websites that are not produced by accredited experts. Anyone can write a review about a diet or medical product that they have personally experienced. Anyone can also write about how it feels to live with a serious disease and how to cope with it.

Google goes ahead and emphasizes that people should think about the topic of a page, and determine the kind of expertise that is required to give credible information on the topic.

The level of expertise should be determined by the topic of the page.

Now that you have a rudimentary understanding of E-A-T, it’s time to look at each of the terms in detail.

#4.1: Expertise

You can be deemed an expert if you have the right experience, education r credentials to share the information you have on your website or blog.

Nobody would want to get medical advice from a blogger or website owner who has little or no medical expertise.

Similarly, nobody wants financial advice from someone with a terrible financial record or who has no understanding of the financial world.

Expertise is defined as having the qualification to be able to disseminate the information you have on your blog or website in a manner that will not have detrimental effects.

#4.2: Authority

This refers to how people look at your expertise. If your site has quality backlinks from trusted websites, then people will feel like your website or bog has authority.

You could also show a ranking from the Better Business Bureau or sites like Yelp.

Google will assign your Authority depending on the kind of reads that other people have for your content.

You can have a look at this PDF guideline to understand what it means to have a great standing as a blogger or website owner.

The reputation of a website is founded on real user experiences and also the opinions of experts on the topic that you are discussing.

These are real organizations and companies that think that your content has real value to users and that is why they would have links to your site.

Reputation research should include that of the website and the actual business or organization represented by the website.

The authority of a website helps users to understand what it excels in the most. What do people think about it and how it meets their needs.

A simple example is a newspaper, which is considered a great source of current affairs and newsworthy stories.

Some newspapers are known for their humor while others are known for their in-depth investigative stories.

Many bloggers go the era mile to show users how authoritative they are.

There are bloggers who read the quality rater guidelines and simply go out to write reviews on review sites.

However, for your blog or website to have a great PQ rating, you should also look for outside information on the reputation and authority of the site where you want to write a review.

If a website says that they are great, and a reputable external source thinks otherwise, stick with the opinion of the external source.

#4.3: Trustworthiness

Google does not want to direct their traffic to blogs that are scammers, which may rip them off or steal their identity for nefarious reasons.

Google also wants the information on the blogs or websites to be true. You may be an expert and have great quality content, but if you link your content to bad blogs or websites then you are still untrustworthy.

Clearly show the Terms and Conditions page, ns make sure that it is easily accessible to users.

Also clearly include your Privacy Policy and link it in your navigation for easy access.

#5: How to Meet E-A-T Standards

You are probably wondering how to go about meeting the standards laid out in the E-A-T guidelines, right?

The answer is quite simple; Create Good Content.

This is perhaps the most common phrase that you have encountered when it comes to getting high rankings in the SERPs, right?

Every SEO expert knows that creating exceptional content is one of the primary requirements for getting a high rank on the search engines.

However, this advice can sometimes rub you in the wrong way, when you feel that you have poured out your everything in creating great content and have not yet reaped the benefits.

You may feel like Google has thrown you to the dogs, and will never rank you better no matter how great your content is.

Now, this bad result may be because you have not yet included what is required in getting ranked according to the E-A-T guidelines.

Today, you will know what actions to take so you can start ranking well for the great content that you have created.

#5.1: Stop Thinking About Google, Think About Your Visitors

Google knows how much people want to be ranked high in the SERPs and what such high rankings would mean to websites and blogs that are listed on the first page of the SERPs.

However, Google cares much more about their users getting the optimal experience from their SERPs than ranking individual websites and blogs.

According to Google, bloggers and website owners should stop concentrating on the search engines and start thinking about their potential visitors.

If they send people to your blog or website and these people are happy with the experience, then Google will be happy and they will rank you higher. It is as simple as that.

Focus all your attention on creating the best content and user experience for your readers and they will reward you by ranking you among the best sources for information that people are looking for in your niche.

This means that you should stop stuffing your content with keywords and concentrate more on the quality of the user experience you provide.

Google has gone a step further and provided crucial suggestions in their Webmaster Guidelines:

  • The primary focus of your pages should be the users and not the search engines.
  • Be truthful with your visitors.
  • Avoid tricks aimed at improving your rankings. You should be comfortable explaining what you do to a Google employee or a website owner whom you compete with.

Ask yourself if the information you are writing is helping your users.  Ask yourself if this is something that you would write or display if it were not for the search engines.

  • Make your blog or website stands out from the rest by highlighting what it is that makes you unique from your competitors.

#5.2: Examine What Defines You as an Expert (Or Not)

One rule of thumb when you are starting a blog is to take a niche in which you think of yourself as an expert.

If not, then think of one that you are willing to spend time researching and coming up with helpful content.

There will be areas where you will automatically feel like an expert. For example, if you want to write a personal blog, then you are the most experienced person to do so. Nobody knows your life better than you do.

In the case of a fashion blogger, you should show your audience that you can keep up with the latest trends and that you have a fashionable personal brand.

If you want to write about fishing, and you have never been to any body of water larger than your swimming pool, then you definitely are not an expert in fishing.

You have to decide if you have what it takes to research issues related to fishing and create content that your readers will consume.

#5.3: Content Auditing Is A MUST

If your content has not been performing well in the past, despite it being of good quality, then you MUST audit it and see if it meets the E-A-T guidelines.

Ask yourself if the content was trustworthy

Ask yourself if you used enough expertise in creating the content.

Did you link to trusted websites when you wanted to explain a point or did you go to dubious websites that offer fake statistics and facts?

If you have a blog post or website content that is 3 years old, is the information still relevant? Are there new developments that you can use to update the content?

#5.4: Write New Content Using The E-A-T Guidelines

Once you have audited your content and rewritten it to conform with the E-A-T guidelines, proceed to write new content using the same concepts.

Ensure that your information is relevant, reliable, and true.

#5.5: Work on Your Branding

The way you brand yourself will establish your authority and expertise to Google and your audience.

This is why writing a great “About Me” page is a crucial part of SEO. This is the area where you prove your experience and qualifications so your audience, and Google, know that you write from an informed point of view.

If you are running a blog or website that has numerous contributors, then create a Team Page that shows their expertise and credentials; throw in some lovely photos so people can relate to all of you.

There are bloggers who go the extra mile in showing just how much they make every month especially if it is about revenue generation.

When an SEO company shows statistics of how their client base is ballooning, then people will know that they are SEO experts. They will know that people come to them for SEO advice. They will trust what you tell them about improving the ranking of their websites and blogs.

Therefore, do create a list of businesses you have worked with on your main page, and show their logos in a gallery.

Testimonies are another way of proving that you are an expert in your niche.

Show what people say about your business and/or working with you.

ON your part, it is time you started thinking about the kind of people you want to work with, and who will be willing to give you great testimonies.

When it comes to branding yourself and your website, you should spare no effort to show off what you can do, or what you have already done.

#5.6: Write Guest Blogs

The E-A-T guidelines do not lay too much credence on backlinks that you may get from writing guest blogs. However, it does lend a lot of importance to building a reputation.

A great way to build a good reputation is to publish guest posts on other peoples’ blogs. You will then be able to create a backlink to your website, which Google’s algorithms look for when deciding on the reputation of a blog or website.

#5.7: Ensure That Your Site Is Secure

Trustworthiness is one of the pillars of E-A-T; Security is crucial to creating trustworthiness for your blog or website.

If someone is able to hack your site and get access to your customer’s personal data, then your blog or website will lose that trust they have in you.

When browsing the Internet, secure sites have the HTTPS, prefix in the URL. If it is simple HTTP, without the “S”, then this means that the site is not secure.

The “S” attached to the URL is a confirmation that the website or blog is secured using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

This ensures secure communication between an individual and the server hosting the website; nobody can intercept the communication and steal sensitive data.

Today, premium web hosts offer SSL for free when you pay for hosting.

#6: SEO Is Still Relevant

The fact that you have learned about how E-A-T can affect the ranking of your blog or website does not mean that all the SEO knowledge you have has become obsolete.

SEO is still Relevant.

Using good SEO practices on your blog or website is still crucial to Google finding your site, knowing how to rank you, and placing you in the top slot on the SERPs.

For those who do not have a firm understanding of SEO let’s go over the most important steps in this summarized list.

#6.1: Do Thorough Keyword Research

This is the first step to take when you are planning to write a blog post or any other content for a website.

For people who encounter challenges in finding something to write about, thorough keyword research can reveal these topics to you. Simply look for what keywords are being used in searches within your niche.

Sometimes you may have an idea but do not know which keyword to use when writing the content. Keyword research helps in this case too.

There are tools that you can use to research keywords. Ahrefs is a great premium tool to use and if you want to use one for free, then try Twinword Ideas.

These tools are effective in:

  • Finding out how many people look for a certain phrase or word every month
  • Words and phrases that people are using that are similar to the keyword that you want to use
  • The kind of competition you will face for every keyword you want to use
  • Which of your competitors is already ranking for the keywords you want to use?

Perhaps you want to write a topic that you think would be really interesting to your audience, but when you research the keywords you will use, you find that nobody is even using it in their searches.

This means that the content you write will not be found, and you should look for another topic to write about.

#6.2: Optimize Your Headlines and Headers

Headlines are another factor that affects your SEO performance. You need a headline that addresses the topic that you are writing about and has the proper keywords in it too.

The headlines should be written in a way that will attract the attention of the reader, and also let Google know what you are writing about so they can rank you accordingly.

The Search Engine Spiders, also referred to as crawlers, go deep into your content, looking for keywords in your Headlines, headers, and Subheaders that give an idea of what your content is all about.

Always contextually use keywords, in your content, headlines, headers, and subheaders.

#6.3: Pay Attention to The Metadescription

You may not know the purpose of a Metadescription and that is why you have never paid any attention to it.

When you get the SERPs for a query, there is a little blurb of information that is shown right beneath the main title in small text.

This is a description of what your blog post or page content is about.

This is a snippet that informs the reader what they should expect to find should they click on the Search result.

Using the Metadescription properly will ensure that readers engage better with your content and not your competitors.

Your Metadescription should be like a small sweet titbit that is designed to make your reader curious about what your content is about.

A Metadescription is only 50 to 160 characters long, so make sure that yours fits into that margin too. Anything extra will be cut off by the search engine and will be of no use to the reader.

Ensure that your Metadescription has the keyword(s) that you are targeting. This way, they will be highlighted on the search engine in bold text and alerts the reader that your blog has relevant information regarding their search query.

Once again, the keywords in your Metadescription should be used contextually.

#6.4: Optimize Your Photos and Videos

People can also search Google using images or videos. When you search for a keyword, you can click on the “Image” or “Video” tab at the top of the SERPs to see the results.

Images and video do not account for as much traffic as the regular search, but you should not ignore people who will search for images or videos that address their needs.

If your blog has a lot of images, including infographics and videos too, you should optimize these so they help improve your ranking.

Google and other search engines do not view an image or video in the same manner as humans do, so the only way to optimize them is to give them a description that has relevant keywords included.

This way, the search algorithms can pick them out based on the keywords and include them in the image or video SERPs.

Add the Alt Text and Title to your images and videos and use keywords when you do so.

Another way of optimizing images and videos is to change the filename before uploading them to your website or blog.

The search engine spiders look for keywords even in the file name, making it more relevant when people conduct searches using images or video.

Do this for the featured image or video in your blog post, since it is the one that gets the most views on your blog page and the one which is shared by your readers on social media or pinned to sites like Pinterest.

#6.5: Speed Up Your Site

The longer it takes for your pages to load, the more frustrated potential visitors are, and they are likely to browse to another related site.

Google considers the speed since it affects the user experience we mentioned earlier; Remember, the happier the user is, the higher you will rank on the SERPs.

There are many factors that could affect the load time of your blog or website:

The first is the speed provided by your host’s servers. Take time to find out which hosting companies offer the fastest speeds.

Using a lot of plugins. Always ensure that you use only those that are absolutely necessary to give your user the optimal experience on your site.

Using large image and video sizes. You should reduce the image size so they load faster. There are free tools such as TinyPNG that can help you with this.

Decluttering your pages will also improve the speed at which they load. Sometimes a minimalist look can be your best option.

#6.6: Keep A Keen Eye on Your Keyword Density

There is a thin line between what Google considers as appropriate keyword density and what is considered as keyword stuffing.

When you use the right keyword density, Google will rank you accordingly. However, if you stuff your content with keywords, then the system will penalize your blog or website.

Keyword Stuffing is referred to as using excessive keywords or using keywords in a manner that the meaning of what you have written gets lost.

There was a time in the past when keyword stuffing used to work when it came to ranking, but the evolution of the search algorithms has snuffed out the practice.

So, what exactly would be considered as the best keyword density?

There is a lot of argument over the number of keywords that one should use in their content. However, it is good practice to keep the density between 1% to 3%.

If you go above this, then the search engines will think you are stuffing your keywords and rank you lower.

For people who are using WordPress, the Yoast plugin can be of great help since it shows you the appropriate keyword density to have in any content piece that you create.

It will calculate this based on the total length of the content and the number of times you use the keywords.

Wrapping Up E-A-T

Google’s E-A-T requirements are not as complicated as many people think. It all boils down to creating thoughtful, well-researched, useful, and truthful content.

If you are inadvertently doing that then keep on writing as you have; if you have not, then you should do an audit of your content, rewrite it, and adopt this new way of writing content.

Once you get used to writing according to these guidelines, your ranking will improve, your traffic will increase and your revenue generation will improve.

Take the time now to plan how you will be creating content for your blog or website. Think about the steps you can take to improve the user experience for your visitors and improve your ranking.

 

 

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