Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness

If you pay attention to your site’s organic traffic and SEO (search engine optimization), you might have heard a new acronym being tossed around over the last year or so: E-A-T.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, but unfortunately, E-A-T has nothing to do with eating pumpkin pie (though I would argue that maybe we should cover more pies on the Willow blog). E-A-T stands for “Expertise,” “Authoritativeness,” and “Trustworthiness,” and it’s a major factor in Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines. To be considered “high quality” in Google’s eyes, a website or piece of content needs to show high levels of E-A-T.

So what does that mean? How do you make sure your site shows E-A-T? Let’s break it down a bit:

Expertise

“Expertise” is is all about providing quality content that meets a searcher’s needs. When considering your content’s level of expertise, ask yourself the following:

  1. Do you have content on your site that answers the main questions someone might have about your organization, services, or products?
  2. Is your content comprehensive, valuable, and factually accurate?
  3. Is your content well-cited when appropriate and in line with expert consensus?
  4. Does your content deserve to rank at the top of search engines for your desired topics and keywords?
  5. Is your content easy to navigate and digest? In other words, is it easy to find the answers I’m looking for?
  6. Is your content written by someone with the experience and knowledge to appropriately cover the topic—and is that author’s expertise clearly communicated?

Expertise is really nothing new when it comes to SEO—Google’s main goal has always been to show the best content for a given query. But it’s good to remind ourselves that as useful as it can be to optimize for different keywords and work on other elements of SEO, the most important factor is the quality of our content, first.

Authoritativeness

Having expertise on a topic is the first step, but being proven as an authority in your field puts you at another level of trust. To prove “authoritativeness” on a topic, it’s important to have supporting, external sources that reinforce your site or authors’ credibility. This can be demonstrated by links from other sites or public mentions, or it can be impacted by the visibility of your brand. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are you mentioned on the internet by authoritative, credible industry sites other than your own?
  2. Are you cited as a reference or resource in relevant content on credible sites?
  3. Is your content widely shared by others?
  4. Do people search for your organization, association, or company?
  5. Are you linked to by credible, trustworthy sites?
  6. Does your author have a reputation on the web as an authority on this topic?

One way to evaluate your site’s authoritativeness is to do a Google search on your topic and author/brand while filtering out any results from your own site. This will allow you to see mentions of your brand other than mentions you’ve made yourself. For example, say I wanted to determine the authoritativeness of Martha Stewart when it comes to pumpkin pie. I could do the following search, adding “-marthastewart.com” to my search query:

Martha Stewart Pumpkin Pie Google Search

This allows me to see where Martha Stewart is mentioned in connection with pumpkin pie other than on her own site (and will give me a better idea if I want to use her recipe).

Trustworthiness

“Trustworthiness” has to do both with the sentiment around your brand or organization (i.e. BBB ratings, Google reviews, etc.) and the security and transparency of your site. There’s some overlap here with expertise and authoritativeness, in that doing the work to prove yourself as a top voice in your field carries with it a degree of trustworthiness as well. To evaluate trustworthiness, ask:

  1. Does my brand come across as one to be trusted?
  2. Are the mentions of my brand on external sites positive?
  3. Does my brand have positive reviews on relevant third party sites?
  4. Are the people writing my content trustworthy?
  5. Is it easy to find information on my site about who is behind the brand and content?
  6. Is the mission and purpose of the site or content easy to identify?
  7. Is there clear contact info, a privacy policy, and terms and conditions information?
  8. If I’m selling anything, are the return and refund policy clear?
  9. Is the site secure (on HTTPs)?

Together, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness help to push industry leaders to the top of Google results—so it’s crucial to ensure you’re doing what you can to clearly signal your brand or organization’s credibility. E-A-T is important for all sites, but it’s especially important for what Google calls “Your Money or Your Life” sites. These are sites that, if they give the wrong information, could have a negative impact on a viewer’s finances, happiness, safety, or health. This includes any site that allows online purchases or any that offers financial, medical, nutritional, or life advice—which fits many of the sites on the web.

If you’re not sure how to evaluate your E-A-T, or you’re looking for ways to improve search engine optimization in general, reach out to our digital team. Maybe we’ll treat you to a piece of pumpkin pie 😉

Haley Kuehl headshot

Written by Haley Kuehl

“Your website is the face of your brand online—I help put it in the spotlight.”