Updated: August 2020
Two years ago many website rankings saw big fluctuations and experienced a significant dip in traffic and sales.
These changes were very likely caused by Google’s E-A-T algorithm update.
Want to know how to stop this update from impacting you in the future?
We’ve done our research and have all the latest information regarding Google’s EAT update.
And what’s more…
I’ve listed all the actions you need to take so you don’t lose your rankings and visibility in Google.
Google’s E-A-T algorithm update
As you’re probably aware, Google rolls out changes and tweaks to its algorithms on pretty much a daily basis. Some are local, some are technical but every change is designed to refine search results to make them as high quality and relevant as possible.
In addition to these small daily changes, every once in a while Google rolls out a core algorithm update that causes big shifts in how some websites rank.
You’ve heard of Google Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and others – well, the core algorithm update, which rolled out on 1st August 2018, was all about E-A-T and it’s certainly made its presence felt.
This global update was one of the biggest algorithm shifts we’ve seen from Google and there continues to be further tweaks to the EAT update.
I’ve put together this guide to bring you up to speed with everything we know so far.
What does E-A-T stand for?
E-A-T stands for:
This is not a new term. First leaked in 2008 and published in its latest incarnation in late 2015, Google released a 160-page document detailing its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. These guidelines (last updated in July 2018) are used by the 10,000-plus ‘raters’ worldwide that Google contracts to assess the quality of its search results.
Throughout the document, there are references to the most important factors affecting Page Quality Ratings (see section 3.1 below):
We can see that Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness is listed here as an important quality characteristic, which is defined in more detail in section 3.2 of the guidelines:
Since they were published, these guidelines have been seen as a clear signal that Google wants to deliver search results full of pages created by trusted experts with plenty of recognised authority in their field.
I’ll be looking at how you can deliver E-A-T in your own websites later in this guide.
‘Your Money or Your Life’ (YMYL) websites
Expertise, authority and trust are especially important within the context of so-called ‘Your money or your life’ (YMYL) websites, which are the types of sites that have been primarily – but not exclusively – impacted by the algorithm update.
I’ve pulled the full definition of YMYL websites from Google’s Search Quality Evaluation Guidelines so you can see the examples provided by the search engine:
In other words, YMYL websites are those that have the power to negatively affect users’ finances or lives if they contain the wrong advice or information.
Google doesn’t want to send searchers to sites that could damage their health, lose them money, hurt their families or even risk their physical safety. The E-A-T algorithm is about weeding out low-quality YMYL sites in favour of those containing safe, genuinely helpful products and information.
Initial reports showed that many websites in the diet, nutrition and medical device niches had been rocked by E-A-T, leading Barry Schwartz from Search Engine Roundtable and other SEO experts to originally dub it the ‘medic update’.
It is Google’s intention that medical websites promoting products or devices must have the support of the wider medical community and be backed by research and appropriate approval to maintain their visibility in searches. Products that go against the consensus of the scientific community will have a much steeper hill to climb to rank highly in SERPs.
There is further evidence of this in the Search Quality Evaluation Guidelines about what constitutes high E-A-T content:
Local businesses vs. national businesses with multiple locations
It’s also worth mentioning here that the algorithm update seems to have affected many organisations with multiple locations, seeing them take a drop in rankings in favour of small local businesses with just one or two locations.
Marie Haynes has mentioned this in her excellent article about the August update and there’s also an interesting discussion in this thread by Joy Hawkins on the Local Search Forum.
It would appear that the algorithm changes apply to both organic and local searches rather than just organic searches.
Google says that it is trying to prioritise relevance and we can surmise that it perhaps sees local businesses as being more relevant to searchers than large multi-nationals.
What Google has to say about the E-A-T update
Google normally doesn’t say much about algorithm changes, rarely confirming they’ve happened, so it’s significant that they did mention this one.
On 1st August 2018, Google SearchLiaison tweeted the post below, which was subsequently retweeted by Google’s public search liaison, Danny Sullivan:
The comments in the August thread – which can be read in full here – show that many of the people taking part in the discussion had seen fluctuations in the rankings of their medical and finance sites, confirming that YMYL sites were seeing the biggest impact.
I’d also recommend having a read through the original post from March, the key points of which can be seen below:
As we can see, Google clearly states that there is no ‘fix’ for pages that perform less well other than ‘to remain focused on building great content’.
Takeaki Kanaya from Google Japan announced the August update on Twitter soon after it rolled out. As we can see from the translated tweet below, his advice to anyone affected by the update is to ‘create the quality content that search users are looking for’.
Does E-A-T matter if you’re outside the medical niche?
For a long time now, I’ve been telling my clients that they need to demonstrate their Expertise, Authority and Trust (EAT) if they don’t want to lose rankings and visibility in Google.
The algorithm update may have begun with the medical industry and other YMYL sites but EAT has become increasingly central to how Google ranks web pages from all industries.
As I said in a recent Facebook and LinkedIn post:
It doesn’t matter if you’re offering a low-cost, low-threat product or service; from this point onwards you should prioritise showcasing why you are the expert in your industry, an authority whose views and opinions are sought out, and the person or brand which everyone trusts.
There are dozens of ways to do this and, while this includes encouraging people to link to you or leave reviews and testimonials about you online, it also extends to what people think and say about you offline.
10 ways you can demonstrate E-A-T
It’s all very well knowing that Google values expertise, authority and trust but how can you demonstrate that you have these qualities, especially if you run a small business or you’re just starting out?
These are my 10 key recommendations:
1. Create quality content
The message from Google is clear; quality content is key to establishing E-A-T.
The main focus for your website should be creating engaging, factually accurate content that covers the page topic thoroughly and, where possible, includes links to evidence from authority sources.
If you already have content on your website, it’s important to regularly conduct a content audit to check its quality.
- Is the information current or out of date?
- If the latter, can it be updated or should it be deleted?
- Do you have ‘thin’ content that would have more value if you fleshed it out?
- Could you add links between older and newer articles to tie together related content? Check out my internal linking cheat sheet for advice about this.
- Where you’ve made factual claims, is there a link to the source so that readers (and search engines) can fact check?
- If you’re giving an opinion, what’s it based on? What are your credentials to share that opinion?
With each page, it’s important to assess whether the content is giving searchers as much value as it could.
In researching this blog, I found an excellent thread on the WebmasterWorld forum titled Hope to recover from Google August core update. On it, goodroi – the site’s administrator and a seasoned SEO who has been through virtually every Google update – advised the original poster:
“Create new content that isn’t already on 100 other websites. Your original content two years ago, has probably been spun by many other sites so you need to constantly produce original content. Mine your contact forms & industry forums for original content ideas. Then make sure your site provides a superior user experience (fast, secure, good usability, professional design). Just because you like your site, doesn’t mean its a good site. Run real usability tests and make the right changes. Then engage & promote to your audience (Twitter, YouTube, email, etc). Think less about Google and think more about running a successful website. Google loves to rank popular sites so make your site popular without Google.
It is not easy or cheap and every year it does get harder. If you like challenges & can innovate new solutions to address the new SEO landscape, you can survive.”
I think this is spot-on advice about content. If you prioritise originality, expertise and giving customers value, you should be able to grow your reputation or recover from any loss in rankings caused by this algorithm change.
2. Monitor and improve your website’s Domain and Page Authorities
The Domain Authority of your website is a score out of 100, calculated by Moz, to “predict how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). A Domain Authority score ranges from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank”.
New websites start with a Domain Authority of one because they are an unknown entity. Established, information-focused websites such as Wikipedia have a Domain Authority of 97 but SMEs are more likely to sit in the 20-30 zone.
As well as an overall Domain Authority, every page on your website will have its own Page Authority, which can vary greatly depending on the amount of shares, backlinks and comments the page has earned.
It’s a good idea to look through your site for the pages with the highest authority.
- What is it that sets them apart?
- What topics do they cover?
- What sources did you link to or how did you show your expertise when writing them?
This could give you helpful pointers about creating future content or refreshing what’s already on your site.
You can track your Domain and Page Authorities using MozBar (a free Chrome-extension), Link Explorer (a backlink analysis tool from Moz), the SERP Analysis section of Keyword Explorer (also from Moz), and dozens of other SEO tools across the web.
3. Add or refine your website’s About page
The ‘About’ page plays a crucial role because it’s the logical place to demonstrate your expertise, authority and trust.
Section 4.3 of Google’s Search Quality Evaluation Guidelines tells raters that websites should have an About page that makes clear who is responsible for the information on the site.
As well as including your company’s name and address along with the mission and goals of the site, make sure that you highlight your professional credentials, any press coverage, awards, years of experience and anything else that shows why you’re qualified to offer the products, services and information found on your site.
This information will help to build the sort of genuine trust that Google wants its users to feel.
4. Engage with your target audience on social media
Set up and use the main social media platforms to engage with your target audience, build trust and promote new website content. Social signals such as engagement and sharing are a good indicator of relevance and authority.
As an extension of the content you create for your website, your social media presence should be about E-A-T and providing useful information that resonates with your audience.
Try to make it easy for users to share the content from your website to their networks. If you have a WordPress site, there are some great ‘social sharing’ plugins (I personally love Social Warfare).
5. Add an FAQ page to your website
An FAQ page serves several important functions on a website. Primarily, it should be there to help your visitors with any common questions they might have about your service and products.
This can help to save them – and you – time, streamline the buying process by removing uncertainties that might otherwise hold people back, reiterate that you know your stuff, and also cover some of the natural language questions that people often ask when making voice searches.
6. Refresh your contact page
As Google also seems to be prioritising local businesses over larger organisations with multiple locations with the E-A-T update, it’s important to optimise your website for local searches, especially if you rely on customers near a geographic location (read more here about local SEO versus organic SEO).
One way to do this is to make your contact page as helpful as possible.
If there are multiple ways for people to contact you, let them know. Make your contact form quick and easy to complete with as few fields as possible – name, email address and message or a ‘Request a callback’ option is often enough.
I also recommend adding an embedded Google map to your contact page if customers visit you.
How to embed a Google map on your Contact page:
- Go to https://www.google.co.uk/maps and type in your postcode or address.
- Click on the hamburger-style menu on the top left-hand side of the screen.
- Click on ‘Share or embed map’ in the left-hand menu.
- Choose the ‘Embed a map’ option rather than ‘Send a link’ from the sharing panel that pops up.
- From the drop-down menu to the left, decide whether you want a small, medium, large or custom size version of the map to appear on your website then hit the ‘COPY HTML’ option to copy the iframe link provided by Google. You can then paste this line of HTML into the backend version of your Contact page that you edit to make changes.
If you have a WordPress site, you’ll find a choice of Google Maps plugins to make adding a map to your website even easier.
Finally, make sure that your full address – as it is listed on your Google My Business page – appears on every page of your website. The best way to achieve this is to add it to your site’s footer.
7. Encourage people to leave Google reviews or share testimonials
Having reviews or testimonials in places other than your website, such as on Google, Facebook or TripAdvisor, also helps with your ranking and the all-important trust element.
You might find my definitive guide to online reviews a helpful resource on this topic.
With E-A-T in mind, I would recommend featuring authentic reviews and testimonials throughout your website. If customers are willing to praise you, it shows that they trust you and are prepared to vouch for you, which is an important signal to potential customers and Google.
8. Feature author bios that showcase expertise and authority
Given that Google wants to see expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness from the sites it ranks highly, I think well-presented author bios will become incredibly important.
In her article about the ‘medic’ update, Marie Haynes observes that articles by authors with an established professional reputation saw a significant increase in rankings. Published doctors with dedicated pages on Wikipedia and a long-established authority within their field now rank higher than lesser-known authors.
Whether you feature multiple authors on your site, guest bloggers or you’re the main author, it’s important that your bios include as much about the writers’ credentials as possible rather than just a link to other articles they’ve written.
Use the author bio to mention awards, press coverage, experience, background and anything that highlights why you are qualified to write about the topic(s) in question.
If you use a copywriter/ghostwriter to create content on your behalf, it’s essential that you read through every article carefully and fact check what has been produced to ensure that you’re happy putting your name to it.
9. Take part in quality conversations on community boards and forums
If you usually take part in conversations on community boards and forums within your field, it’s essential to encourage and make high quality, expert contributions. If you can provide an opinion rooted in experience and truth, people will come to respect and look for your input.
10. Make people feel safe about visiting your website
In many ways, trust is about providing people with a sense of security or safety. Visitors to your website want to know that they are your priority and that you care about their health, wealth and/or wellbeing.
As well as providing honest, expert content, you can reinforce the feeling of safety with small touches such as converting to HTTPS, adhering to GDPR regulations, providing a clear returns policy or money back guarantee, or referencing corroborating sources of further information.
Other ways to demonstrate E-A-T
Before closing this guide, I’d like to give a shout out to Jason Thibault and Simon Besley who each kindly left comments with valuable pointers on my LinkedIn post about the Google update.
Jason suggested the following ways to demonstrate E-A-T on a website:
Simon also made the very valid point that we should all be backing up our E-A-T with hard stats such as ‘customer loyalty, independent reviews, genuine case studies and feedback’.
Other articles about E-A-T and the ‘Medic’ update
I’ve tried to cover as much ground as possible in this article without making it overwhelming. If you’d like to read more about Google’s latest algorithm update, you may find the following articles of interest:
- Analysis and Findings From The August 1, 2018 Google Algorithm Update – A Massive Core Ranking Update
- What is E-A-T? Why is E-A-T important for SEO?
- Google Medic Update: Google’s Core Search Update Had Big Impact On Health/Medical Sites
- My thoughts on the August 1, 2018 Google Algorithm Update
- What is E-A-T and How Can It Improve the Credibility & Quality of Your Content?
- What is the Medic Update?
How do you demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness on your site?
I’d love to hear your thoughts – let me know in the comments below.
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Hazel Jarrett, director of SEO at SEO+, is well-known in the SEO space, has won many awards during her 20-year career and has been published on various well-known sites. Through her services and training programs, her SEO strategies have generated 10s of millions of sales for her clients, earning her a big reputation for delivering the results that matter.
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