Most SEOs understand the power inherent in link building: Links within a relevant context are generally rewarded with good rankings.
But it’s not exactly that straightforward. Concepts such as what represents a “quality” link are subjective because Google doesn’t reveal that kind of information.
However, in 2015, Google finally gave SEOs something to broaden their understanding with the release of their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
It’s been refreshed since then. What’s notable is that the concepts of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) are still held by those guidelines to be important baselines for defining content quality.
E-A-T is one of the main factors for judging page quality. But the concept E-A-T can do more than guide content goals.
By using E-A-T for link building, you can guide the cultivation of authoritative links from expert authors—which is just what you should do.
E-A-T isn’t the only acronym that you should know. Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) is a concept and acronym for sensitive topics that are about a person’s health or finances.
It’s important to understand them both and how they work together to create the best link building strategy and results.
YMYL stands for “Your Money or Your Life.” It describes content that affects a person’s life in important ways. Examples of YMYL topics include news, finance, law, health, and shopping.
This content is critical because it could “potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability or safety” (according to the guidelines).
Technically, anyone can create a site with YMYL content on it. And that’s why Google raises the standards for this kind of content. It is a signal that content on these topics are evaluated with a different standard.
How does YMYL work together with E-A-T?
E-A-T matters more in content that is classified by Google as YMYL.
Even if non-YMYL doesn’t require the rigorous standards of YMYL content, you should still use E-A-T to guide your content creation no matter what.
Just be aware that Google’s quality raters apply the concepts of E-A-T more intensely to YMYL content than non-YMYL content. That’s an indication that the standards for ranking in the YMYL search results may be higher.
In the quality raters guidelines, Google defines E-A-T as:
E — Expertise
A — Authoritativeness
T — Trustworthiness
This combination of E-A-T in well-written can be considered a gold standard for content.
But how does Google define each component of the acronym?
It’s been understood that these factors make sense for page quality, but in a general sense.
Let’s explore each component a little bit more.
Expertise is no surprise to those that employ link building in their SEO strategies. For best results, it’s important to use the sources that Google has already decided are experts in their respective topics.
Expertise is about the skill level of content creators expressed in the content.
Even content that’s on a widely regarded site can be brushed off as not expert enough if the author has a low skill or knowledge level in the content topic.
An example can be dog behavior advice. Let’s say you search “why is my dog peeing suddenly at night?”
Top results show The Spruce Pets has earned the coveted Featured Snippet.
She has credentials, education, and experience writing articles just like this. All of this helps us to understand that Jenna is a pet advice expert.
This expertise may indirectly help The Spruce Pets rank higher. Author information builds trust. Site visitors who trust a site return to that site and begin to search using branded terms.
That in turn can signal to Google that a site is relevant to users for a specific topic.
Keep in mind that expertise doesn’t always have to involve someone with as many formal credentials as Jenna.
There are sites where authority exists independently of this; forums and blogs are good examples.
Someone may not necessarily write for a major outlet or have quite the job history. But they could still be considered an expert due to personal experience, according to the quality raters guidelines.
This points up how the quality of expertise can be expressed in the content and is not exclusively tied to an author’s credentials.
Unlike expertise, which addresses the skill level of the content, authoritativeness is a measure of the correctness of the information.
Authority is defined as being accepted as factual by experts, as having documentary evidence to support the ideas.
Using the example of search results for medical information, Google tends to rank content that communicates scientifically accepted ideas.
Natural healing type content does not fit that definition of authoritativeness for many medical queries and consequently do not rank for many medical-related queries.
Good credentials build trust and can signal expertise. It almost guarantees that the ideas presented in the content are authoritative.
Google can understand that a page of content is authoritative when experts and site visitors link to it.
This is another reason why link building is critical.
Finally, what’s trustworthiness? We know that trustworthiness involves the creator, the content, and the site (just like authoritativeness).
Trustworthiness is the quality of being reliable and trusted.
It can be a quality of a page or of the entire site.
Communicating who is behind the site can build trust. About Us pages are useful for telegraphing why site visitors can trust a site, why a site is expert and why a site is authoritative.
Publishing endorsements on an About Us page or in the footer is one way to communicate the trustworthiness of a site.
Site visitors appreciate the quality of trustworthiness and that appreciation can help generate signals of popularity and relevance, which in turn can help rankings.
E-A-T content is essential to your SEO strategy and your link building. You can use the principles of E-A-T in a number of ways:
- Use expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness to guide you as you create your own site content and its links
- Use expertise and authoritativeness to identify which authors to pitch for guest posts on your site and the links in their content
These are useful methods of using E-A-T to boost your ranking.
You can employ these principles right away with your own content. You can even run a content audit on your site and determine where you can improve.
Remember that every single page you make should be helpful in some way to readers and clients.
Where possible, and especially on YMYL pages, make sure that your content makes sense, articulates topics and solutions clearly, and has the right mix of E, A, and T.
This ensures you’re contributing high-quality content that pleases users an in turn sends positive signals to Google.
Consider these questions in order to build rich content:
- What is your expertise?
- How can your site provide unique value?
It’s useful to think of E-A-T whenever you’re considering guest posts.
Make sure the authors you pitch are experts in their field, whether this is professional or personal, and add biographies to help qualify them.
E-A-T is especially important as you create pages with content from multiple authors.
Following E-A-T guidelines help acquire authoritative links. Google may then associate that authoritativeness with your own site.
Make sure your links go to content that’s also E-A-T.
Adherence to E-A-T builds momentum in linking and content creation.
Here is a direct quote from Google’s quality raters guidelines on E-A-T content that ties the two together:
Remember that the first step of PQ [page quality] rating is to understand the true purpose of the page.
Websites or pages without some sort of beneficial purpose, including pages that are created with no attempt to help users, or pages that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users, should receive the Lowest rating.
For all other pages that have a beneficial purpose, the amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) is very important.
- The expertise of the creator of the MC.
- The authoritativeness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
- The trustworthiness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
In other words, Google is looking for subject matter experts sharing ideas and information on respected sites.
That may seem like a no-brainer, but if you think about the state of the web today (and the increasing amount of disinformation circulating, you can feel Google’s pain.
Imagine crawling thousands of forums with investment advice or homegrown blogs. While the internet has enabled nearly everyone to say whatever they want, Google feels strongly that their standards must ensure that only the most accurate and useful content gets a high ranking.
E-A-T content helps sites establish their authority so that when someone searches for “mosquito bite cures,” the top-ranking pages provide accurate information that is not dangerous.
This is an example of YMYL content and why E-A-T is important in cases like this.
Google aspires to rank the expert content by authoritative sources.
Again, E-A-T content is something that every SEO should understand, and this connection between E-A-T and YMYL is key.
Just take a closer look at some of the results in this deck from Lily Ray, a leading SEO professional based in NYC. One doctor was able to increase traffic by nearly 3,000 percent after making some much-needed E-A-T updates.
E-A-T might be just one tool in the arsenal kit for SEOs and content creators, but it’s a critical one. We will probably never know everything that Google considers, but understanding and deploying E-A-T tactics in your content creation and link building strategies is smart for everyone.