by Astrid Kramer, first published in german here

Have you ever visited a doctor and prepared yourself by Googling your symptoms beforehand? You might recall how the expert reacted to your newly acquired knowledge. Let me guess: in most cases, doctors do not appreciate it when patients come in with what might be deemed dangerous half-knowledge.

Today, however, I want to advocate for Google doctors. Aside from the fact that it has never hurt to educate oneself in addition to listening to experts, Google and other gatekeepers are increasingly ensuring that information about illnesses becomes more reliable. So-called YMYL topics (Your Money Your Life) are under particularly close scrutiny by search engines.

According to search engine operators, not everyone should be able to express opinions on topics that directly impact the lives of readers and still rank well. Google and other search engines aim to rank expert contributions higher when it comes to critical content related to health or financial security.

A Google Core Update in 2018 was even named the Medic Update. However, this name is somewhat misleading, as not only sites with health information experienced ranking shifts. The Medic Update primarily affected sites in the fields of medicine, financial services, wellness, and insurance, i.e., the already mentioned YMYL topics.

Search engines aim to provide their users with the most relevant, accurate, and trustworthy information possible, and EEAT is one way to achieve this goal. EEAT stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness and has gained increasing importance in recent years. Especially in times of crisis, EEAT has become a crucial factor in evaluating online presences.

This was particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. Certain trustworthy sources that have proven themselves in real life were ranked significantly better by Google than newer or less easily identifiable content. In the US, for example, the Mayo Clinic or the CDC were and are preferred when it comes to questions about the coronavirus.

During this turbulent and precarious time, search engines faced a larger flood of fake news or low-quality content and had to decide which sources to trust. Insights into this challenge are provided by Google’s whitepaper “How Google Fights Disinformation”. Google itself states: “Over the past several years, concerns that we have entered a ‘post-truth’ era have become a controversial subject of political and academic debate. These concerns directly affect Google and our mission – to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. When our services are used to propagate deceptive or misleading information, our mission is undermined.”

Now, EEAT cannot be understood as a classic ranking factor like PageSpeed or the use of SSL. Instead, it is a comprehensive concept for evaluating websites, mentioned 135 times in the Google Search Quality Guidelines.

What Google does not provide, however, is a formula for calculating EEAT. Given what EEAT is and what it is used for, this approach is logical: Google wants to find the most trustworthy sources possible. Any form of targeted manipulation of EEAT contradicts this approach but would be the logical consequence of a “How to EEAT” guide from Google.

We all know how the SEO industry reacts when Google announces an official ranking factor. The frantic optimization for Core Web Vitals over the past three years is a good example. So imagine if Google published a detailed list of factors that enhance a website’s EEAT. The realistic assessment of expertise and authority by Google would be significantly complicated by the targeted manipulation of individual aspects by SEOs.

Nevertheless, in this article, we will try to approach the concept of EEAT as best as possible and show you what you can do to perform better in a quality analysis by search engines. Be warned in advance: there are no shortcuts! Quick and dirty will not work in the area of EEAT. But let’s start at the beginning:

What Exactly Does EEAT Stand For?

As mentioned earlier, EEAT stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. But what do these terms mean in the context of online presences? Let’s take a closer look:

Experience: This refers to the extent to which the author has personal experience with the product, service, or medical or psychological condition. This layer was recently added by Google and showed its impact in the latest Core Update.

Expertise: This questions whether the author is an expert on the relevant topic. For authors who write about constantly changing topics, it is ultimately much more challenging to build an online reputation. The more specific the topic area, the easier it is to build clear expertise.

Authoritativeness: An authority is an acknowledged expert in a particular field. Online, this form of authority can be recognized and evaluated based on the backlinks and mentions the person receives.

Trustworthiness: This questions how trustworthy the author and the website itself are. An indicator of this is, for example, whether the author shows their face, states their full name, and provides references to LinkedIn or other platforms, in short, is transparent about their identity.

How Does Google Evaluate EEAT?

Google evaluates EEAT based on various signals, including the quality of the content, the reputation of the website and its authors, backlinks, and the use of structured data. Some of the key factors that Google considers when assessing EEAT include:

Author Biographies: Google prefers websites that provide clear information about who the authors of the content are. Ideally, author biographies should include information about the authors’ education, professional experience, and certifications.

Expert Reviews: Google favors websites that are reviewed by experts. These reviews can come from medical professionals, financial advisors, or other experts qualified on the website’s topic.

Structured Data: Clearly marking important information like author biographies and reviews makes it easier for search engines to capture and process this information.

How Can You Build EEAT?

Focus on high-quality content. Ensure your website contains high-quality, informative, and valuable content written by experts in your field. The information should be well-researched and based on expertise. The language used should be understandable and appropriate for the target audience. Grammar and spelling should also be considered. Note that Google now considers a web presence as a whole. Low-quality content can negatively affect the entire presence, so filter out subpar content.

Build your authority. Establish yourself and your brand as an authority in your industry by publishing content on reputable websites and receiving backlinks from authoritative sources. This aligns closely with “classic SEO”: without a functioning network within an industry, it is significantly more challenging to obtain high-quality backlinks or mentions. Network with relevant and high-quality contacts.

Promote trust. Build trust with your audience by being transparent about your business practices, providing contact information, and using customer testimonials and reviews. No one likes black boxes. The more transparent you are with your customers, the easier it is for search engines to assess the trustworthiness of your site.

Optimize your website. Ensure your website is user-friendly, easy to navigate, and loads quickly. Use HTTPS, implement structured data, and ensure your website is mobile-friendly. Websites that provoke a warning in the browser due to an insecure connection or take an eternity to load are far from trustworthy.

Stay persistent. EEAT is not a one-hit-wonder. Improving the quality of your website requires time and effort, but it is worth it in the long run. By focusing on producing high-quality content, building your authority and reputation, and promoting trust with your audience, you can enhance the credibility and reputation of your website overall. This can lead to higher rankings, more traffic, and better user engagement on your site. And remember: the internet does not forget! We often lose sight of our older content. Ensure that your content still meets current standards of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness even after months or years.

Too Vague? Take a Look at the Patent!

A practical, albeit often tedious approach to better understanding Google’s innovations is to look at public Google patents. For those who have delved into such a patent, the reading is usually not very entertaining and more heavy than light reading. Fortunately, there are experts who thoroughly examine patents. One such expert is Bill Slawski. In a 2020 article, he presented a Google patent that describes how Google uses vector space analyses to determine a source’s expertise and authority.

According to this patent, Google uses patterns and characteristics to classify websites. Websites and website content are classified as experts, apprentices, or laypeople on specific topics. Depending on the provided information, this status is either appropriate or inappropriate. For example, if relatives discuss in a forum how family members cope with an addiction, these individuals are experts based on their own experience for this information. However, they are not medical experts. The evaluation of their statements and, therefore, this forum by Google would be different if these laypeople discussed the neurophysiological and biochemical processes in addicts.

The vector space analysis enables Google to consider only specific websites that reach a certain classification for particular search phrases. When a search query is made, not the entire index is searched but only a part considered relevant for this type of search phrase. This kind of reduction represents a significant resource saving for Google and makes it clear how important it is to be classified correctly by Google to be considered for a search query.

Conclusion: EEAT is Much More Than Just a Ranking Factor

In conclusion, EEAT is more critical for you, the more critical the information on your website is for your readers. First, ask yourself: am I qualified to write about XY? And if so, how do I make it clear that I am the right person for the job? You have received some tips in this article on what you can do in the area of off-page and on-page SEO to highlight your expertise. However, you have also seen that EEAT is a comprehensive concept. “Fake it till you make it” is not the right approach here. The overall quality of your website and content will determine whether Google trusts you. And last but not least: whether your readers trust you. Because at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing.