The latest update of the quality raters guidelines brought the attention of the SEO community on the relevance of the E-A-T values of a site and the authors of its contents: although it is not absolutely new, the concept of Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness continues to be rather difficult, generating a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about how it works and how Google uses this paradigm, to the point that there are at least 10 myths that you need to debunk and overcome in order not to make mistakes.

Google EAT, still too much confusion about meaning

The task of debunking these bias and clichés about Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness is Lily Ray, who is not new to these forays on the subject – for example, we had already mentioned in the advice to strengthen the EAT of the site through structured data.

First of all, the expert recalls that EAT is a concept that Google has published for the first time in the 2014 edition of the Guidelines on Search quality, which, as we know, are used during Google Search quality assessments for the thousands of quality raters who have the task of manually reviewing a set of web pages and sending feedbacks on the quality level of those pages to Google.

Feedback from raters is then evaluated and used by Google to improve its algorithms, and E-A-T serves as a criterion that Google asks reviewers to use to measure how much a website offers expert content that you can trust.

In particular, guidelines state that “for all other pages that have a beneficial purpose, the amount of expertise, authority and reliability is very important” and Google recommends its raters to consider:

  • The E-A-T of the main web page content they are analyzing.
  • The site itself.
  • The content creators on that website.

Misunderstandings about the EAT

In the current version of the Quality Guidelines, updated on October 19, 2021, the expression E-A-T is mentioned 129 times in 172 pages, and more generally the paradigm has become an important topic of discussion in the SEO sector, especially in the analysis of changes in the performance of organic traffic after the broad core updates of Google that followed the now famous one of August 1, 2018.

As Ray explains, SEO professionals started speculating (and Google later partially confirmed) that E-A-T had an important role in algorithmic updates, which seemed to impact significantly on YMYL sites (your money your life) which complained of significant problems in the parameters of competence, authority and reliability perceived by the search engine.

As often happens with the exchange of ideas within the SEO community, however, the discussion about E-A-T quickly led to confusion and misunderstandings of the facts: for the expert, many of these misconceptions arise from a disconnection between what is theory and what is currently present in Google’s algorithm.

Bringing out results with a good E-A-T is Google’s goal and that’s what algorithms should do, but “E-A-T itself is not an explanation of how algorithms currently work“, she summarizes.

10 myths about Google EAT debunked

Thanks to her experience, Lily Ray has then identified 10 myths and misconceptions surrounding the topic, debunking them to clarify how E-A-T actually works and how Google is using it.

  1. E-A-T is not an algorithm

Many people think that E-A-T is a single, stand-alone algorithm, but it is not. Back in 2019, in a famous Q&A at Pubcon, Gary Illyes said that “Google has a collection of millions of tiny algorithms working in unison to generate a ranking score”, and that many of these baby alghoritms” look for signals in pages or content”which can be conceptualized as E-A-T”.

Thus, E-A-T is not a specific algorithm, but still Google algorithms seek both offsite and onsite signals related to good or bad levels of E-A-T, such as the Pagerank “which uses links on the Web to understand authoritativeness”.

  1. There is no E-A-T score

Another cliché concerns the presence of an E-A-T score, but on the same occasion mentioned before Illyes assured that Google has “no internal E-A-T score or YMYL score”.

In addition to not having an E-A-T score assigned by Google’s algorithms, we must remember that the quality rater ratings, which analyze E-A-T in their work, do not directly influence the ranking of any single website.

  1. E-A-T is not a direct ranking factor and Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness are not single ranking factors

We have said that E-A-T is a relevant concept for the positioning of a content, but we can not technically define it as a direct ranking factor, one of the 200 and more signals that Google uses to determine the position of a specific page in its Serps.

E-A-T cannot be measured directly and does not work as “page speed, HTTPS or the use of keywords in title tags”, so its role in the rankings is more indirect though sensitive.

  1. Not all sites need to worry the same way about the E-A-T

In the guidelines for quality raters, Google explicitly clarifies that the level of E-A-T expected by a given site depends on the topics presented on that site 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 persons or organizations with adequate medical skills or accreditation”. In contrast, a site focused on a hobby, such as sewing, photography or learning to play guitar, requires less formal skills and will be held to a lower standard in terms of E-A-T analysis.

For companies that discuss YMYL topics, which can have a direct impact on the happiness, health, financial success or well-being of readers, E-A-T is of utmost importance; e-Commerce sites are also considered YMYL by definition, because they accept credit card details.

E-A-T meter, misuratore del livello di EAT necessario per i topic dei siti

The E-A-T meter in the image helps illustrate the extent to which Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness are important for websites of different categories.

  1. Improving the E-A-T does not replace other SEO optimizations

Focusing on the E-A-T levels perceived by Google does not replace the work of routine SEO optimization and alone does not improve the performance and visibility of site pages.

As we often say, to be successful the SEO must be based on a holistic strategy in which all interventions – onpage, such as technical SEO or content optimizations, and offpage as the acquisition of high quality links – They shall also be performed so that E-A-T efforts produce results.

Even for sites that have been negatively affected by E-A-T algorithm updates is just an area to consider, and recovery from core updates requires improvements in many different areas of the site, starting from the overall quality of the pages and content through the resolution of user experience problems, the reduction of technical problems and the improvement of the website architecture.

In addition, if a site contains serious technical problems such as slow page loading times or difficulties with scanning or rendering content, Google may not even be able to properly index pages.

So, Ray recommends, you should give priority to E-A-T among other SEO efforts only based on the severity of other problems that may affect the performance of our site.

  1. Adding author biographies is not a ranking factor itself

One of the most common and immediate strategies to improve E-A-T is to add an author reference in each content and create a biography or dedicated page that explains who the authors are and why you can trust them to provide high quality contributions.

This advice comes from what is written in the Quality Guidelines, where Google repeatedly recommends quality raters to examine the biographies of individual authors as a way of determining the extent to which the authors themselves are competent about the topics they write of.

Here, too, however, we must clarify one aspect: the mere addition of biographies of authors is not in itself a ranking factor, because Google is not able to recognize or retrieve information about each author but, as we know, thinks by entity.

For example, John Mueller suggested that authors’ biographies are not a technical requirement, nor do they require a specific type of markup scheme to be effective, recommending rather to try to understand what are the expectations of users with respect to the content of the site and, in particular, how to best show that “people who create content for the site are really great, they know what they are talking about, they have credentials or whatever is relevant in the field”.

As said, however, you don’t have to work so much on the person/author, as on the entity: although Google is able to recognize authors established in the Knowledge Graph, it may not have the same skills to recognize all authors, but it is pursuing a number of initiatives related to authorship in recent years and so there may be evolutions for this functionality.

  1. Core updates do not only impact YMYL sites nor are only based on the E-A-T

It is another useful clarification: even if indeed the latest broad core update have overwhelmingly hit YMYL sites, especially those in the health or medical sector, there are also other categories that have been affected by the impact – remember for example the food recipes sites, which record huge fluctuations after each main update from that of August 2018, although “having similar levels of EAT and, usually, being run by cooking enthusiasts who are all equally qualified to publish recipes online”.

Confronto tra 4 siti di ricette

Lily Ray studied the performance of four competing recipe sites that have seen major impacts during recent updates of the basic algorithm, despite having similar levels of E-A-T. She found that many niche sites face a unique set of SEO challenges that extend beyond E-A-T, such as site architecture issues, overwhelming ads, and poor page loading times, and precisely these other problems may most likely be responsible for the decline in performance during core updates.

  1. E-A-T is not a new element

Even in the international SEO community there are those who are distracted and think that the speech on E-A-T is a recent news, at most dating the start of this focus around 2018 and the now notorious December update.

In fact, the phrase E-A-T was introduced for the first time in the 2014 version of the guidelines for Google quality raters, and since 2015 has become common use in the field of SEO; in addition, Google’s efforts to reduce disinformation and bring out reliable, high-quality content predates the 2018 update, with several initiatives to improve the reliability and transparency of its research results and to reduce fake news.

In fact, Lily Ray reveals that 51% of websites, analyzed by her study, which recorded a decline in performance during Google’s broad core updates of 2018-2019 had already been negatively affected by the Fred update of March 2017.

  1. The core update of August 1, 2018 is not called medic update

It was in all probability Barry Schwartz to christen the core update of 2018 “Medic update“, noting a trend in the early stages of the release, but this is an informal name and in fact the basic algorithm updates no longer have official names from Google other than those that identify their timeliness.

Compared to the 2018 one, other digital marketing experts called it “The E-A-T Update“, a name not only wrong but also misleading, since E-A-T was not the only problem that caused a drop in performance during that update.

  1. Tackling E-A-T takes time

The SEO times are generally long, and also E-A-T is not something that we can apply to the site and expect immediate positive results.

While with some SEO tactics, such as optimizing metadata or solving technical problems, you can see instant performance increases after Google scans and indexes updated content again, E-A-T does not work exactly this way, since it is not a direct ranking factor.

Improving the perceived reliability of our site is a resource-intensive activity, which to be completed requires a significant investment of time and effort, reiterates Lily Ray.

It takes time to improve trust among users and search engines can take even longer to process such changes, especially for sites that have been affected by algorithm updates due to E-A-T issues.

Usually, Google does its reassessments of the overall quality of the site only with the launch of the next main update, so any work done to improve E-A-T may take at least several months to start paying off.

However, what we need to understand and remember is that the benefits of improving E-A-T go beyond simple SEO, because these aspects also serve to improve brand strength and user experience, because people feel more confident that they can trust our website, our authors and our brand.