E-A-T auditing: How to level up your credibility game
Reading the Quality Raters Guidelines, all the blog posts and opinions and tests and trying to make sense of it can feel overwhelming.
How do you actually figure out whether your website lacks E-A-T, or evidence of it?
What is E-A-T
E-A-T stands for:
E-A-T isn’t a direct Google ranking signal. You can think of it more like a collection of all the things that really matter and impede your potential. Marie Haynes has a great E-A-T summary here.
In my 20 years of experience outside of technical-only updates from Google, just about everything has been leading up to this. Every update has been an aspect or forerunner of E-A-T.
How to audit for E-A-T
What follows is the exact approach my agency follows when auditing for E-A-T, with everything you need to consider and all the potential gaps.
Off-site reputation signals
1.1 Online recommendations
We’re looking to find any recommendation or commendation of the company, anywhere else online, on a site that isn’t owned or operated by the business. It could be a forum posting, or number of forum postings, or a nice word or two on one of those neighborhood sites that’s indexed well, unlike Facebook’s walled garden.
1.2 Online press
Here we’re looking first to see just how much journalist-written media coverage there is about the business. In particular, we’d be looking at the velocity and recency of coverage.
We’d also look at sentiment analysis on the past month, to three months worth of coverage if there’s a lot. Nothing too deep, just a top-level positive, negative, neutral vibe.
While we have no hard data that negative sentiment throttles rank and I think it’s been largely debunked, if I was building an algorithm that identifies and rewards trust, I’d be sure to add temporal dimensions and an emphasis on sentiment or writing from trusted authors. It’s an interesting topic for R & D, but at this stage we’re definitely collecting the data/
1.3 Key players
Expanding on the previous point, that exercise again, but here we’re going a level down to see if any of the business team are referenced in online coverage.
At the other end of this is a picture of linked entities, which is why it’s important for us to dig a layer deeper. Again, we’re not just looking at whom and how often but we’re also looking at a top-level sentiment analysis.
1.4 Third-party review sites
Consumers trust and value review sites, like TripAdvisor, Trustpilot and more.
Here we’re looking for how many review sites, how many reviews, general sentiment and importantly – interactivity (i.e., does the business visibility and positively interact with reviewers?).
Really important, and not just because you may be able to obtain a link from a known editor. Wikipedia is a great source of trusted links in a place that naturally collates a business’ history and story. Thus, solidifying entity understanding as well as graphing together social elements like “owners” and “managers” schema i.e. management team. (There’s much more on entities in section 4, below, specifically 4.3.)
1.6 Social media
Importantly not so much on operated social media sites (i.e. those that the business operates itself) but rather on social media public profiles and social groups. Are there reviews and comments widely available here – and, again, if so… sentiment?
1.7 Link quality
Does the site have a disavow file and what’s in it? Is there evidence of poor quality link building practice? Basically is there an engineered backlink profile that sticks out a mile?
If a site looks trustworthy in all other ways, but has a backlink profile consisting of 20 Russian PBNs then they’re probably not what they seem.
On-site reputation signals
2.1 Professional bodies
Are there any references to any professional bodies that may regulate, accredit or otherwise validate the industry or individuals therein?
2.2 On-site reviews
Are there positive testimonials or reviews on site and are any negative reviews responded to?
2.3. Links to industry authorities
Does the site make any reference to a wider professional community?
2.4 About us
Does the site have an about us page? Does it include the legal order of the site? Is there a limited company name or registration number to validate further?
2.5 Proof signals
Does the site state how long the company is doing business? What makes them an authoritative? Why should they be considered a trustworthy source of information? What proof is there?
3.1 Content writers/authors
Who writes the content for the site? Is it particularly clear are there any references to these writers elsewhere online (e.g., LinkedIn or have they contributed to content elsewhere?).
3.2 Team qualifications
Is the team qualified in particular the senior management team or any R&D team members, particularly if the company is producing ‘product’ that might be sold to regulatory standards?
3.3 Author profiles
Do content writers have author profiles, including a bio as well as links to other places like LinkedIn or known media where the author contributes?
3.4 Structured data
Are all structured data from the site marked up this can be as simple as author structured data or even explaining qualifications and more. The more structured the data, the more signal.
4.1 Knowledge Panel
Does the business have a knowledge panel that appears in the Google Search results for brand name queries? Is it comprehensive? Do commonly used variants of the brand name give a result with the business Knowledge panel?
Super important, as Wikidata is one of a few original sources of entity validation used by Google. Here we’re looking for a broad and error-free entry.
4.3 Organization structured data
Using structured data has already been mentioned. However, does this extend to the organisation wherever it is referenced? This helps with entity recognition; thus reinforcing exactly who the business is.
Think about all of the rich aspects of an organization or corporation and the scheme for “owners” or “members.” There’s just so much you can mark up here.
4.4 Social consistency
Does the site link to all social profiles and do all social profiles in turn link to the site and each other. Moreover, are they all using the most current direct URL?
4.5 Site ownership
Is there a clear listed site owner? This can be different to the site name. For example, if a publishing company owns a number of “titles” (i.e., websites).
You can see this, if you search for [Conde Nast Magazines] or look at the footer of a Conde Nast website, the company details are clearly displayed.
Now having ads above the fold and where the page subject should be has been the explicit focus of algorithms in the teens, such as Google Page Layout. There was a particularly wild tuning in January 2012, which the industry quickly labelled “top-heavy” but the point is poor quality ads, in places where the page subject should be is one of the oldest signs of poor quality.
Poor quality is the exact opposite of trustworthiness. Pages with bad ad experiences are not going to score well in terms of trust. But AdSense is cool, so where exactly are we defining the line?
Here we’re looking for the time to pop, the number, if obtrusive; then if hard to close or if deceptively impossible to close.
Here we’re looking specifically for stuff like advertising disguised as content. It’s the worst.
It might be currently something that seems to fly below the radar, but it won’t be long until we start to see more “traditional” media types eroding further in the SERPs for stuff like this.
Does the content have a clear purpose, and does it fulfil that purpose? Does it offer some benefit or usefulness to the user?
Is content generally free of errors and mistakes/typos? Does it concur with scientific consensus online (if there is one)? Does contradict erroneously and without other sources to amplify the contradiction?
Are statements backed by source references for any information if it’s used or cited? Are the references to high-authority, reliable or credible sources? Do these sources evince symptoms of authority (like qualifications, professional validation, published as experts.
Is the content easily readable? Is there any evidence of keyword stuffing or repetitive sentences that add no meaning?
Is it frequently reviewed and updated? Are statements fact checked as times change. Is it tended like a rose bush or left to rot and disappear in the wind like a pile of autumn leaves.
6.6 Misleading content
Yes, it is incredibly easy to mislead people on the internet, but it is very unethical and should be avoided.
Do the titles over-promise and the content under deliver. Clickbait titles are so awful and jarring on site pages. We find that they will not help, but hinder your progress.
Compliance & Safety
I am so pleased you are still with me Dear Reader, as compliance and safety are very important. So please pick up your clipboard and dig deep..
Are all of the formal policies that the legal entity (LTD company for example) is operating under, clearly displayed. These may be things like:-
- T&Cs of using the website and your data
- T & Cs – for customers, if you by a product there are further terms
- Shipping information
- Returns Policy
All of these should be really clear and usually linked in the site footer.
Does the site have any known security vulnerabilities? Does it make use of HTTPS?
Has the site been hacked? Is there any evidence of hacking? Malicious intrusion or any other form of nefarious activity that renders the security ergo, trustworthiness of your site a moot point.
Qualifications and awards
Huzzah! Let’s end on a high note, dig out that Duke of Edinburgh award and sew that Gymnastics Level 2 onto your Leotard; because being proud of your achievements shows that you have persevered to accrue some level of expertise and authority.
8.1 Author authority
What makes the author qualified to write about how much collagen is actually bioavailable following ingestion? Get those letters after the name; link to their University profile page, link to their Linkedin page which also shows all their other professional references and recently published works!
8.2 Business awards/accreditations
Has the business won any awards or does it have any accreditations? Are these mentioned on-site? Are these mentioned on third-party sites?
Your potential customers need ways to evaluate if they can really trust certain organisations. However passing these accreditations; investing in your standards and people, is all part of building a credible business with growing Expertise, Authority and Trust.
As a process; this approach is exhaustive and provocative; but the prioritised outputs drive immediate and long-lasting results for your business.
Working on anything that improves your company E-A-T is never time wasted. That said, it takes experience and context to understand which items to prioritise and which to park temporarily or permanently.
I hope you enjoy the process and relish working through the opportunities you discover!
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