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E-E-A-T: What Google’s new guidelines mean for search marketing

Google has changed the way it judges search results. Here’s what that actually means for you.

E-A-T: expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. Until the end of last year, these were the three criteria which Google used to assess the quality of a webpage. In December 2022, that changed.

Now, Google talks about “E-E-A-T”: Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. On the surface, it might not be clear just what this change means and how it will affect rankings and search marketing strategies. This article will explain the new criteria and what it means for search marketing in practical terms.

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Google Search’s new criteria

Google defines its new criterion, Experience, as “the extent to which the content creator has the necessary firsthand or life experience for the topic.”

A travel blog, for example, could demonstrate experience if it was made clear that the writer had actually personally visited the places they wrote about, rather than using second-hand sources and repeating information which could be found elsewhere. Case studies and testimonials could also demonstrate direct experience. E-commerce sites, for example, might use these to demonstrate the direct experiences consumers have with their products or services, backing up their claims elsewhere. 

What Google has also made clear, however, is that not every part of E-E-A-T is considered equal. Trustworthiness is the most important thing. A search result could demonstrate experience, expertise and authoritativeness, but if it isn’t trustworthy it ultimately isn’t valuable. 

Experience vs expertise

The renewed focus on trust also means that trustworthy search results don’t necessarily need to fulfil all of the other criteria. In some cases, for example, a piece of content might have just experience or just expertise without having the other, and still be judged as trustworthy overall. 

Let’s return to our hypothetical travel blogger – they have direct experience. They might not be an expert on all the places they are travelling, but that layman’s approach might be part of the value of their blog. That doesn’t mean that the blog has less value in Google’s eyes than a guide on a travel agent’s website which also covers the same places from the perspective of someone with expertise, but without firsthand experience. Both demonstrate trustworthiness.

Why has Google made this change?

According to Google, the extra E was added “to better assess [their] search results,” but also clarifies that: 

These are not fundamentally new ideas. And we’re by no means abandoning the fundamental principle that Search seeks to surface reliable information, especially on topics where information quality is critically important. Rather, we hope these updates better capture the nuances of how people look for information and the diversity of quality information that exists in the world.

Firsthand experience – particularly experience without expertise – was presumably falling through the cracks when judging the efficacy of Google’s Search ranking systems. It’s also worth noting that, as more and more AI-generated content appears online, experience could be a key indicator that a Google Search result is actually coming from a real person. 

How to use E-E-A-T 

It can be very tempting to think of E-E-A-T as a box-ticking exercise which will help your pages get to the top of Google Search results. This is completely the wrong approach.

For a start, E-E-A-T is not the criteria which is used to rank results. Rankings are worked out using the multiple Google Search ranking systems, a whole other kettle of fish. E-E-A-T is, like E-A-T before it, a set of guidelines that Google uses to judge how well its automatic Google Search rankings are doing. If a sample of top Search results demonstrate E-E-A-T, then the software is doing its job. If not, something in the process needs to be adjusted.

E-E-A-T indicates what Google is looking for broadly – the bigger picture – and is a useful set of guidelines showing what you should try to demonstrate across your content or site. What it is not, however, is a four-part box-ticking exercise which will see you shoot to the top of the results page by taking advantage of the system.

More help

Got any questions about search marketing? Email me at [email protected].

Abby Webb

Abby Webb

Head of Search & Content

Abby heads up our SEO and content campaigns, with a strong background in copywriting, content and paid search marketing.

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