07 Nov Airo Security Report: Busting 10 of the Biggest Misconceptions
E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) is a concept Google first published in its 2014 edition of the Search Quality Guidelines.
These guidelines are used during Google’s search quality evaluations, in which it hires thousands of quality reviewers who are tasked with manually reviewing a set of webpages and submitting feedback about the quality of those pages to Google.
The raters’ feedback is then benchmarked and used by Google to improve its algorithms. E-A-T serves as Google’s criteria for these reviewers to use to measure the extent to which a website offers expert content that can be trusted.
According to the guidelines:
“For all other pages that have a beneficial purpose, the amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) is very important.”
Google instructs its evaluators to consider:
- The E-A-T of the main content of the webpage they are analyzing.
- The website itself.
- The creators of that website’s content.
In the current version of the Quality Guidelines, E-A-T is mentioned 135 times in 167 pages.
Within the past year, E-A-T has become a major topic of discussion within the SEO industry, particularly as it relates to organic traffic performance changes due to Google’s core algorithm updates beginning on August 1, 2018.
SEOs began speculating (and Google later confirmed in a Webmaster Central blog) that E-A-T played a major role in the updates, which seemed to overwhelmingly affect YMYL (your money your life) websites with significant E-A-T issues.
As is often the case with the exchange of ideas within the SEO community, the discussion around E-A-T quickly led to confusion, misunderstanding, and misconstruing of facts.
Many of these misconceptions stem from a disconnect between what is theory and what is currently live in Google’s algorithm.
Surfacing results with good E-A-T is a goal of Google’s, and what the algorithms are supposed to do, but E-A-T itself is not an explanation of how the algorithms currently work.
This post aims to debunk 10 myths and misconceptions surrounding the topic and clarify how E-A-T actually works and how Google is using it.
1. E-A-T Is Not an Algorithm
E-A-T is not an algorithm on its own.
According to Gary Illyes in a recent Q&A during Pubcon, “Google has a collection of millions of tiny algorithms that work in unison to spit out a ranking score. Many of those baby algorithms look for signals in pages or content” that can be conceptualized as E-A-T.
So while E-A-T is not a specific algorithm, Google’s algorithms look for signals both and on off-site that correlate with good or bad E-A-T, such as PageRank, “which uses links on the web to understand authoritativeness.”
2. There Is No E-A-T Score
In the same Q&A, Gary Illyes confirmed there is “no internal E-A-T score or YMYL score.”
Not only do Google’s algorithms not assign an E-A-T score, but neither do quality raters, who analyze E-A-T in their evaluations, directly affect the rankings of any individual website.
3. E-A-T Is Not a Direct Ranking Factor – Expertise, Authoritativeness & Trustworthiness Are Also Not Individual Ranking Factors
This is more of a discussion about semantics than it is to say that E-A-T isn’t an important consideration for rankings.
Google has at least 200 ranking factors, such as page speed, HTTPS, or the use of keywords in title tags, which can directly impact the rankings of a given page.
E-A-T doesn’t work this way; its role in rankings is more indirect:
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.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) October 11, 2019
According to AJ Kohn, when asked about how E-A-T factors into the current algorithm:
“I feel too many SEOs are thinking expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness are ranking factors, but they are not how the algorithm works; they just approximate what it should do. A far better conversation would be around, for example, what would Google do algorithmically to impact those things? When it comes to, say, health – would Google employ BioSentVec embeddings to determine which sites are more relevant to highly valuable medical texts? I’m not sure they are (I tend to think they’re experimenting here) but either way, this is a far better conversation than say, should I change my byline to include ‘Dr.’ in hopes that it conveys more expertise?”
4. E-A-T Is Not Something That Every Site Owner Needs to Heavily Focus On
Google is explicit in its Quality Guidelines that the level of E-A-T expected of a given website depends on the topics presented on that website, and the extent to which its content is YMYL in nature.
For example, “high E-A-T medical advice should be written or produced by people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation.”
However, a website about a hobby, such as photography or learning to play guitar requires less formal expertise, and will be held to a lower standard in terms of E-A-T analysis.
For companies who discuss YMYL topics – which can have a direct impact on readers’ happiness, health, financial success or wellbeing, E-A-T is of the utmost importance.
It is also important to note that ecommerce sites are considered YMYL by definition because they accept credit card information.
5. Focusing on E-A-T Is Not a Replacement for Technical SEO Auditing or Any Other SEO Objective
Addressing E-A-T does not improve SEO performance in a vacuum.
All the traditional initiatives that go into a successful SEO strategy, such as on-page optimization, earning high-quality backlinks, and technical SEO, must also be executed for E-A-T efforts to be successful.
For sites that have been negatively impacted by algorithm updates, E-A-T…