Building Trust With Google
If you’ve been keeping up to date with the latest SEO threads across the Web, you’ll know what Google E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) is about.
But for a refresher, here are two things about E-A-T:
- In August 2018, Google rolled out a core update of their algorithm that Barry Schwartz of SEO Roundtable named “medic update” after noticing that it mostly hit websites in the health niche, followed by e-commerce and finance
- The E-A-T acronym was first mentioned in the 2014 Google’s Guidelines for Quality Raters and then again in 2018 when Google updated them and made them publicly available around the time the “medic update” rolled out
In this post, I’m going to explain how E-A-T can affect blogs and what to do if you or your authors don’t have the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness in your credentials that Google is looking for.
Google’s E-A-T is NOT A Direct Ranking Factor, But It Matters for SEO and UX
The relation between E-A-T and SEO is a somewhat complicated matter.
The basic idea is that Google wants to rank webpages that were written by people whose experience can tell users that they have the authority and proof of trust to make the content the go-to resource on the Web for a given search query.
And this is the only type of content Google wants to rank high.
But E-A-T is not a ranking factor.
First off, there is no penalty for not having E-A-T on your website.
I know that those Guidelines for Quality Raters are easy to misunderstand without some context, but E-A-T does not directly impact rankings.
There are plenty of myths about E-A-T out there, and I almost risked writing some myself when I wrote a Medic update post for Monitor Backlinks in October 2018 (it was no myth, thankfully, just a little bit naive still).
Is E-A-T a ranking factor? Not if you mean there's some technical thing like with speed that we can measure directly.— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) October 11, 2019
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 happens, however, is that as Google’s algorithms become smarter and smarter at implementing everything that E-A-T means, your website may not rank high for a given search term if it’s not providing that high standard of quality to users.
So What’s E-A-T Really About?
E-A-T is a group of (three) quality factors that Quality Raters can easily spot on a given webpage and assign a rating to it. The algorithm attempts to do the same via machine learning.
What does that all mean? It means that Google wants to preferably rank websites that show expertise, authority and trustworthiness in their SERPs, especially in the first pages.
That’s the ranking preference.
But it’s the way Google works, not a ranking factor. If you want your site to get listed in Google in the higher positions, it has to give searchers that standard of quality.
What Is a Blogger to Do, Then?
SEO was always about E-A-T.
Only, with the rise of fake news and an ever-growing need from people to get results that they can trust as an authority on the subject, Google is getting stricter about what it shows on the first SERPs.
Surely, guest posting and other ways of building a background of good credentials are very useful in this case, especially if there are also testimonials from people you have helped.
And it’s important to put a biography on your website and an author’s box under the article that is as complete as possible. You can look at this MOZ article for example.
But let’s get a closer look at that Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness from a blogger’s viewpoint.
As far as Expertise is concerned, surely if you know what is going on in your article, there are already expertise and competence.
Then there are various levels of expertise, from that spoken of by your titles to on-field built expertise, and if you “wrote the book” about a topic.
You can go only so far with your credentials (i.e. a PhD, a major role at a company, etc.) — the expertise that comes through your content is what matters the most.
That’s the most important place to show expertise in: if your article deals with a specific topic in your field and ways to do it, it’s useful to talk about strategies, to articulate your points in order to demonstrate the expertise and to do it using the simplest language possible.
And as Alice Stevens, Senior Content Strategist at Best Company, says, you can always rely on other experts sharing their views and knowledge on your blog:
“Whether or not you have credentials, it’s important to deliver thoughtful, comprehensive content through your site. It’s a great idea to allow other experts in your field guest post, host interviews, or even ask for quotes for the content you add to your blog. Anchoring your blog in existing conversations with experts can help you build your own expertise, authority, and trust.”
Moreover, there’s On-Page and tech SEO to assist you with conveying expertise.
Lennart Meijer, Co-Founder of TheOtherStraw, says that “Focusing on organizing your Schema markup date to include the expertise of authors and contributors on your blog can be a great tool to signaling to Google that the authors are experts in their respective areas. Include advanced properties like ‘affiliation, hasCitation, honorific suffix’ and more.”
Displaying authority is another matter.
Not everyone is an authority in their subjects. One could be competent and trustworthy, but they may not be an authority in the field.
It’s the way you offer your content (format, language, tone, background research, expert insight) that makes it authoritative.
For example, Barry Schwartz is an authority in the SEO sector. I’m not. It doesn’t mean that I cannot talk about SEO as an authority if I bring my own case studies, thoughts on current trends, strategies, and so on.
As for links and citations, you may not be linked from a Wikipedia page or other important sites (yet) but there might still be other authoritative sources linking back to your content because they found it valid.
Dustin Christensen, Founder of Territory Supply, suggests that you use some guiding questions to decide:
- “If I was looking for this information online, would I find my own content and site trustworthy?”
- “Does it appear to come from an authoritative expert?”
And “If it doesn’t feel like it, then that’s a great opportunity to start updating your site and user experience.”
That rings even truer for multi-author blogs: make sure that the people who are writing for you are real people with real credentials.
In Accelerated Growth Marketing Founder Stacy Caprio‘s words:
“Are they real people? Are the names you made up to trick Google? If they are real people, then you probably already have a bio with social links on your site so they feel recognized and your site feels trustworthy to readers. If they are names you made up to trick Google, then you probably need to start making sure your site has all the E-A-T guidelines. All Google is looking for are real, trustworthy sites where the authors have credentials, so make sure your site is giving itself the best chance possible.”
As far as trust is concerned, even if you don’t have your own credentials when writing the article, if you interviewed experts and cited sources correctly, your article is worthy of trust, because it offers the views of industry or niche experts through interviews and good citations, so the content is all factual, all correct.
There is no reason not to trust the author because they did their job well.
Furthermore, it’s useful to have website elements that add to trustworthiness, like contact forms or at least an email, a privacy page, testimonials, etc. so that the user knows that they are safe on this site and they can trust the blogger.
Dustin Christensen’s Story is Good Inspiration
“One thing I’ve done to improve my users’ experience is build out a more complete story of my blog, its background and who contributes to the site. In the summer of 2019, I had a short, super brief and uninformative about page that didn’t tell people much about my blog, Territory Supply.
When we were affected by a Google update in late 2019, we took some time to really build out our story and history on our about us page. Today, it discusses our roots, why we started the blog, which organizations we support and expanded bios and links for each contributor.
Our traffic has turned around, not necessarily just because of this change, but because we’ve implemented a number of updates that do a better job of presenting our expertise, trustworthiness and authority. Often, it’s not about having better credentials, but simply doing a better job of highlighting your E-A-T in a way that improves the user’s experience.”
Ask Yourself: Does This Blog Post Solve Users’ Problems?
The core question is that Google not only wants to show relevant results, but results that really help the user solve the problem at hand, especially when it can hugely affect life and finances.
☑ If I were a user reading my blog post, would I trust it?
☑ Would I think “the author knows their stuff” (expertise)?
☑ Would I think of it as coming from an authority in the industry or niche?
☑ Does my blog post answer a searcher’s query / user’s problem?
☑ Does my blog post cite trustworthy background sources (statistics, scientific papers, industry reports, etc.)?
☑ Does my blog post include quotes from experts and other relevant people in my niche or industry?
☑ Did I show my expertise, authority and trustworthiness in my blog post?
☑ Does my blog post, overall, inspire a sense of trust and safety?
These questions apply at various degrees to all niches. Even if your audience is toy car hobbyist.
Google E-A-T SEO: To Sum It Up
Your own experience and expertise matter.
Debashri Dutta, Content Marketer at Blog Tyrant, makes the example of information about cancer: since a user is looking for life affecting information, Google will demand that that medical information about cancer has comes from an impeccable medical source.
But that’s different if we’re talking about pages or groups where patients and their families discuss and share tips about dealing with the emotional aspect of coping with the disease.
So, what Dutta recommends to bloggers is “to write and talk about what they know and what they have direct experience with. They need to create good content with details, structure it well, and link it to appropriate sources and do the necessary keyword research to rank well. It should be fine so long as they write about things they have reasonable expertise over.”
And if you don’t have that expertise… at least do it like a journalist: interview experts on your blog who will give that authoritative and expert information that users are looking for.
How are you going to handle E-A-T with your content and author credentials?
Share your comments on our social channels.
By Luana Spinetti, enthusiastic B2B Copywriter and Consultant for the Marketing and Tech industry for 10+ years. Also a Cartoonist for hire since 2004.