With an almost 90% share of the search engine market in 2019, Google is the undisputed king of internet search.
Consequently, the algorithm the company uses to rank and display billions of webpages in search results is hugely significant for businesses. Effective SEO can ensure you have maximum visibility on Google, driving up traffic and potential sales.
Keeping up with changes to the ranking algorithm will help to increase your chances of being found on the world’s biggest search engine. One of the most significant recent developments was the E-A-T update.
What is E-A-T?
E-A-T stands for:
- Expertise - The level of knowledge of either the owner of the site, or the author of a piece of content, on the subject they are discussing
- Authoritativeness - The credibility of the website, based on criteria such as external reviews and testimonials
- Trustworthiness - How trustworthy the site is deemed to be, taking into account key factors such as site security
The general consensus in the SEO sector is that the E-A-T update came into effect in August 2018. At the time, Google confirmed that it had released a “broad core algorithm update”, something it does several times a year, but didn’t give any more detail. The change prompted fluctuations in search rankings that were reflected in algorithm trackers such as MozCast.
One of the most significant repercussions of the update appeared to be a disproportionate impact on so-called ‘your money or your life’ (YMYL) pages, which Google defines as:
“pages [that] could potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users”.
Given the significance of these issues, Google places a lot of emphasis on the perceived expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness of pages providing information or advice in these areas.
The theory that E-A-T was at the heart of the August 2018 algorithm update was supported by a trend that saw several health and wellness sites experience a drop in their rankings during the first week of that month.
Moz reported that even well-established sites like Prevention and LIVESTRONG saw their share of page-one rankings drop by more than 60% over seven days.
In February 2019, Google provided some more insights into the significance of E-A-T when it published a whitepaper on its attempts to fight disinformation.
How to stay on the right side of E-A-T
Google’s emphasis on E-A-T means it’s vital to consider the source of the information on your site, which can be either the entire website or brand, or the author of a particular piece of content.
One of the search giant’s guidelines is that a page will be considered low-quality if “the author of the page or website does not have enough expertise for the topic”. If you’re publishing content that doesn’t come from an expert, authoritative or trustworthy source, it’s unlikely to get a high ranking in search results, particularly for YMYL topics.
There are steps you can take to address this, such as ensuring every author on your site has a detailed biography that shows why they are an authority on the topic they are writing about.
Another important factor is brand reputation, particularly for well-known content creators and large businesses and organizations. Google rewards pages that come from a site or creator whose reputation is backed up by third parties, and penalizes those that are known for spreading misinformation.
Interaction with influencers and your audience, well-developed social media profiles and thought leadership content on trusted platforms can all contribute to a strong brand reputation.
Furthermore, it’s a good idea to think about other factors that can have a negative impact on your E-A-T performance, such as sub-standard website security. If your site doesn’t have an SSL certificate and doesn’t automatically redirect to an HTTPS URL, for example, Google will take a dim view of your security measures and consequently your trustworthiness.
Strong security is absolutely vital if you have shopping checkout pages on your site, or have any involvement in financial transactions or handling of sensitive data.
There are many other steps you can take to boost the quality of your content and get better results from SEO. Whatever direction you choose to go in, it’s clear that E-A-T has never been more important.