Back in December 2022, Google added an extra ‘E’ to the E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, trust) acronym in its Quality Rater Guidelines and it’s clear that E-E-A-T is going to be a huge part of SEO. This means that if you want to rank well in Google and be found by your ideal customers you need to know how to achieve better E-E-A-T signals.
So, now that the dust has settled a bit, what does the new E stand for in E-E-A-T and what does it mean for your website?
And how can you demonstrate E-E-A-T and enjoy high-quality rankings?
Let’s find out.
E is for Experience
I’ve written in the past about Google’s E-A-T algorithm, but if this is the first time you’re hearing about it, here’s the lowdown.
The new E in E-E-A-T stands for Experience and highlights the fact that Google wants to prioritise high-quality content created by people who have direct knowledge and personal experience of what they’re sharing.
Although Google says E-E-A-T doesn’t directly influence rankings, its Quality Rater Guidelines aim to help search raters evaluate the quality of Google’s search systems and algorithms (in other words, is Google doing a decent job of listing the right web pages in search results?)
If Google is asking its search quality raters to consider experience as a sign of excellent quality, we need to sit up and take notice.
E-E-A-T is particularly important if you have what’s known as a ‘Your money or your life’ (YMYL) website. These are sites where following guidance provided could significantly affect a person’s finances, health or wellbeing in some way.
The reality is though that most websites have a YMYL aspect, even if they don’t obviously fall into that category. For example, a lifestyle website might not provide medical or financial advice, but it could still impact a person’s mental health or social wellbeing with its messaging.
For this reason, Google wants to look at every website through the lens of how helpful rather than harmful it is for its audience, and why the content is trustworthy.
Trust is everything
In section 3.4 of the Quality Rater Guidelines, Google makes it clear that the T – Trust – factor matters more than anything else when it comes to E-E-A-T and high-quality rankings. It wants raters to consider the extent to which a web page or site “is accurate, honest, safe, and reliable”.
Demonstrable experience, expertise and authoritativeness are how we, as content creators, build that trust between us, Google, and our human audience.
And demonstrable is the important distinction here.
There are tens of thousands of websites that appear to communicate experience, expertise, and authoritativeness but they’re scams; no matter how well-crafted the scam is, the E-E-A-T factor isn’t there when you look beneath the surface.
Equally, there are sites that speak in a confident, authoritative tone and yet communicate information that’s potentially harmful.
We need to demonstrate – with evidence, reputation building, and independent validation – that everything we share is trustworthy.
Experience vs. Expertise
Before we look at what Google wants to see when it comes to your experience, I wanted to talk a bit about the difference between experience and expertise.
I’m an experienced parent, for example, but that doesn’t make me a parenting expert who can support people facing a wide range of parenting challenges.
Similarly, I have experience of keeping my own financial business accounts but that doesn’t make me an accountant qualified to give tax advice to other business owners.
On the other hand, I am an SEO expert with years of provable experience and results for many clients. Therefore, I can talk about SEO in terms of expertise and experience.
Expertise comes from knowledge, skills and lived experience, whereas experience doesn’t necessarily give someone the skills or knowledge to automatically become an expert.
With this in mind, you should consider where Google might see your content sitting. Sometimes, sharing your experience is enough to be helpful, but other times, expertise is essential.
It helps to keep thinking in terms of “Will my target audience find this content helpful?” and “Could this content cause harm?” (I recently wrote a blog about ways to create genuinely helpful content).
Google gives some clear examples of experience vs expertise on page 28 of the Quality Rater Guidelines:
As we can see, there are many ways in which sharing our life experience is valuable, but there are also scenarios when information or advice needs to come from experts to be trustworthy and safe.
What does Google want to see in terms of experience?
A lot of what Google wants to see to demonstrate experience will occur naturally for content creators who are writing about what they know with a defined audience in mind – and a clear intention to provide content of value.
But, for clarity, here are some of the things Google has identified as signs of experience:
· First-hand insights
Ideally, Google wants you to create content about things in which you have first-hand experience.
If, for example, you’re recommending a product, Google wants you to have used it. If you’re talking about a topic, Google wants your insights to come from personal experience or first-hand knowledge you’ve gained. This doesn’t have to be academic qualifications (topic dependent, of course) – lived experience is fine too.
In section 7.3 (page 62) of the Quality Rater Guidelines, Google says that forums, for example, often represent very high-quality content because they’re full of people sharing their experiences.
So, think about how you can demonstrate that you’re a trustworthy source for the content you’re creating.
The most obvious way to achieve the above is by providing evidence of your first-hand experience.
If you’re reviewing a product, you could take photos of you using it or a video of the product in action. If you’re writing a blog about productivity hacks, they should be hacks that you personally use with real-life examples of how they are effective. If you’re talking about holidaying abroad, you could show photos of the time you visited the country in question.
And, of course, if you’re selling products or services, you’ll need to explore how you can get other people to provide evidence of their experience of what you sell too. This could include asking for genuine reviews from customers when they buy from you or publishing case studies about how your products or services made a difference.
Another approach that works well is adding a paragraph to your content explaining how you went about creating it or why you’re creating it.
For example, if you are launching a new service based on customer demand, you could talk about how many people you surveyed to establish interest or quote what people are saying about the new service.
If you’re quoting stats in an article, you should link to the source or explain how you arrived at the stats if they come from your business.
· Information about why your experience is relevant
Google tells its search quality raters to look at who has created the content of a web page and then explore what they say about themselves on their About page, author bio and/or social media bios.
This means that you don’t need to highlight your experience every time you create new online content – just sharing this information in some key places will help to establish trust in your credentials.
Your About page is a great starting point.
Here, you can highlight things like:
- Why your company exists and who it serves
- Your personal journey/experience/background
- Features in the press
- Published articles
- And more…
Always try to relate this back to your audience though. Your website’s About page shouldn’t be about ego – instead, it should show people how your experience, expertise and authoritativeness or reputation make you a trustworthy source when it comes to a particular topic and how the reader stands to benefit.
· An author bio for your blogs
While Google Authorship may have ended with the demise of Google+ in 2019, authorship as a concept remains important to SEO.
Google still wants to see who has created a piece of content and what makes them a trustworthy source. This is where reputation matters!
So, I’d recommend creating a short author bio for anyone who is publishing content on your website.
You’ll notice that I have my own author bio at the bottom of all my blog articles. Here’s how it currently looks, although I do regularly tweak it!
You’ll notice that I mention SEO several times and give examples of my expertise and experience.
· High-quality content
While it should go without saying that websites should offer high-quality content (and a good user experience), the reality is that many don’t!
In the Quality Rater Guidelines (section 3.2, page 21), Google tells raters to look for effort, originality, talent or skill, and accuracy.
These are all strong signs of experience. As Google says, running an active forum takes a lot of effort. Hiring someone to create a website with a great user experience takes effort too, and it’s a sign that the creator understands what their audience wants – something that comes from experience.
Equally, it’s easier to be original when you have direct experience of something. Without experience, you have little choice but to end up parroting what other people say (or what AI says for you!) without fully understanding the nuances. When you have lived experience of something, your unique perspective will shine through, creating that originality.
As Google says, talent and skill are also signs of experience. They show that you’ve practiced something, repeatedly. And accuracy is a sign of research and cross-referencing sources, which requires effort – and experience – to do well.
· Reputation information
Google is looking for signs of your reputation from independent sources too – and there will be some crossover between experience and expertise here.
Reputation information can include:
- Citations and mentions of your work
- Independent reviews
- Peer reviews
- Articles published in your name
- Press/media coverage
If your content comes more from a place or experience than expertise, Google might look at the purpose of your website, examples of your experience that show you are able to talk about something first-hand or engagement with other people who share similar experiences.
Less formally, the search engine – or certainly the Search Quality Raters – might even consider what other people are saying about your or your business in comments on blogs or social media.
For example, a dog trainer might publish lots of videos that show them working with dogs (ostensibly demonstrating experience and expertise), but there could be a reputation issue if comments about these videos clearly highlight that the trainer is using unethical methods. This would a raise a red flag about how trustworthy the reputation of the trainer really is.
In this scenario, the Search Raters might look for reputation information such as qualifications or accreditations from respected organisations, or even what other influential people in the same sphere are saying about the person in question.
As you can see, E-E-A-T is incredibly nuanced. Providing clear reputation information can help you to stand out and build trust.
Google wants its Search Quality Raters to consider the purpose of every piece of content online and to consider potential conflicts of interest.
In section 3.4 of the Quality Rater Guidelines (page 35), Google points out that a manufacturer is bound to say its products are great in reviews, or that an influencer paid to review a product isn’t likely to slate it. The reader deserves to be aware of any potential bias.
Instead, the real value comes from content created to provide value that is transparent about who created it and why.
If you do ever create content where there might be a conflict of interest – for example, you’re an affiliate for a service you’re promoting in a blog – it’s vital that you state this clearly, so that people understand your perspective. You can always say that you’re an affiliate because it’s a product you genuinely believe in, but people have a right to know that you stand to gain from making this recommendation.
How experience shows up in search results
Currently, E-E-A-T is a feature in the Quality Rater Guidelines but hasn’t been the focus of an algorithm update.
A core update did roll out in March 2023, but Google said this was about “improving how our systems assess content overall. These changes may cause some pages that were previously under-rewarded to do better in search results.”
In its announcement for this update, the tech giant reiterated that people should continue to focus on creating “helpful, reliable people-first content”. It’s possible that a future update will prioritise E-E-A-T to support this.
Certainly, we can see some ongoing changes to search results. Where people are using search phrases like “Is X, Y or Z worth it?”, “How does X, Y or Z feel?” or “What is X, Y or Z like?”, the top-ranking results tend to be experience-based. This is because the search intent behind those sorts of queries is, as Google says (section 3.4.1, page 28 of the Quality Rater Guidelines), “to find comfort or inspiration, and [to] learn from others”.
I typed in “is visiting Disneyland worth it” to test this out and received a list of experience-informed blog articles in response. In fact, the top-ranking results (not pictured below) were a TripAdvisor message board and various Quora discussions.
You will also notice that if you type in “X, Y or Z” for beginners, page one of the search results will be dominated by instructional videos from people who have demonstrated their experience in the relevant area (see “Pilates for beginners”, “painting for beginners”, “plumbing for beginners” and so on!).
When was the last time you audited your content?
I would suggest conducting a site-wide content audit through the lens of the E-E-A-T update. For each page, ask the following questions:
- What is the purpose of this page?
- Will people visiting this page find it helpful?
- Is there anything that would make it more helpful?
- How do I show that people can trust the content?
- Is there anything on this page that could harm the reader or someone else if they followed the advice?
You might also want to double-check:
- Does your website have a strong About page?
- Are all your current accreditations or professional memberships listed on your site?
- Are you using author bios on blog articles?
- Are there proof signals on your site, such as client logos?
Don’t forget to look at off-site reputation signals that show your site has the E-E-A-T factor too. You can always add links or screenshots to your website of anything of note.
- Can you find mentions of your site on a third-party site?
- Are your products or services, or brand/business talked about on forums?
- Has your business been in the press?
- What are people saying about your business in reviews on trusted sites?
- Are people positive about and engaged with your business on social media?
You don’t need to tackle all these questions at once. If you’re working ethically anyway, the chances are that your site is already demonstrating E-E-A-T. Anything you can do to enhance this though is time well spent.
When announcing the “double E”-A-T update, Google said that none of the above reflects “fundamentally new ideas”. Experience has always been important because, logically, no one should be publishing content unless it’s backed by knowledge or personal experience.
What Google is attempting to do by refining its Quality Raters Guidelines is to reflect the nuances of content, the fact that sometimes people have a wealth of experience that their audience might find valuable if shared.
If you’re able to view your audience with the intention to share your own experiences to be helpful to them, then you can’t go far wrong!
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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