What Are E-E-A-T and YMYL in SEO & How to Optimize for Them

Rachel Handley

Apr 27, 202311 min read
What Are E-A-T and YMYL in SEO?

TABLE OF CONTENTS

E-E-A-T stands for “Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.” Until a Google update in December 2022, it was just E-A-T (no “Experience”).

YMYL stands for “Your Money or Your Life.”

Understanding both concepts is crucial if you want to improve your SEO.

In this article, we’ll further define E-E-A-T and YMYL. And show you how to improve your site’s E-E-A-T so your content meets users’ needs and ranks higher in Google.

E-E-A-T and YMYL explained

What Is E-E-A-T?

E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) is part of Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines—the handbook that real people use to evaluate the quality of search results.

These people are known as Quality Raters. And their feedback helps Google measure the success of its algorithm updates.

E-E-A-T is not a direct Google ranking factor. But Google wants to serve results with strong E-E-A-T. So, it is an important concept in SEO.

Plus, high E-E-A-T can improve user trust. And lead to more conversions on your site.

Side note: Google updates the Search Quality Rater Guidelines approximately once per year. Here’s a quick history of key Google E-E-A-T updates:

  • March 2013: Google officially publishes its Search Quality Rating Guidelines
  • March 2014: Google adds E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) to the guidelines
  • December 2022: Google introduces E-E-A-T, adding an extra “E” for “Experience”

Now, let’s dive into the four components of Google E-E-A-T and how they intersect with your content.

Experience

Quality content often demonstrates the creator’s first-hand experience with the subject matter. This helps prove that suggestions are tried and tested. And that insights are authentic.

Consider this review for the board game Wingspan.

The author talks about their personal experiences and opinions. And provides unique product photos to prove they’ve played the game.

Screenshot of the review for the board game Wingspan

Expertise 

Search quality raters must determine whether authors have topical expertise. Do they have the knowledge, qualifications, and credentials required to give reliable information?

Expertise often overlaps with experience. But they’re not the same thing.

Consider the topic of saving money

Some people want financial advice from an accredited professional. (Expertise.)

Martin Lewis author biography demonstrating expertise

Others want real-life examples of strategies that worked for their peers. (Experience.)

Question about personal money saving tips on LifeHacks forum

Both types of content can offer value to searchers. So both can perform well under Google E-E-A-T.

Authoritativeness

Authoritativeness refers to your overall reputation in your industry. Especially among experts and influencers in your niche.

Google quality raters are instructed to review the authoritativeness of the creator, the content, and the website.

For example, an article on abdominal pain from WebMD is authoritative because:

  • WebMD is a well-known publication for medical advice
  • The authors—WebMD Editorial Contributors—are wellness professionals
  • They ask an expert (usually a doctor) to check their content for accuracy
An article on abdominal pain from WebMD as an example of authoritativeness

Ideally, other authorities in your industry link to your content because it provides value.

In other words, people know you, know your background, and look to you as a leader in your industry. They accept you as a good source of information.

Tip: Semrush Authority Score provides a measure of site authority out of 100. It’s not a perfect indicator of authoritativeness as it relates to E-E-A-T, but it gives you a general idea of where you might rate.

To compare your Authority Score against competitors’, enter your domain in Backlink Analytics and click “Analyze.”

lowes.com search in Backlink Analytics tool

Then enter up to four rival domains and click “Compare.”

Example of inserting rivals domains in Backlink Analytics tool

Trustworthiness

Trustworthiness is the most important part of Google E-E-A-T SEO. Quality Raters must take the creator, content, and website into account.

Be clear about who wrote your content, edit for factual accuracy, cite trustworthy sources, and avoid hiding content behind a wall of ads.

Keep in mind that this encompasses more than just content marketing, though. 

In the Search Quality Rater Guidelines, Google refers to “a shopping checkout page that has an insecure connection” as untrustworthy.

See here how Pashion lets its consumers know that all transactions are secure and encrypted to build trust:

All transactions are secure and encrypted by Pashion

It’s also important to provide contact information on your website—particularly for YMYL topics or online stores.

What Is E-A-T?

E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) was the original version of E-E-A-T. It was introduced to Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines in March 2014, to help human raters review the quality of search results.

Google added the extra “E” for “Experience” in December 2022:

Many creators are familiar with the concept of E-A-T, which is used in how we evaluate if our search ranking systems are providing helpful, relevant information. [...] Now to better assess our results, E-A-T is gaining an E: experience.

What Is YMYL?

YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) topics could significantly impact readers’ health, financial stability, safety, or well-being. Common YMYL topics include finance, medicine, and current events.

E-E-A-T is important for YMYL SEO because misinformation on such topics can cause harm to the following:

  • The person viewing the content
  • Others affected by the person who viewed the content
  • Groups of people affected by the actions of those who viewed the content

Here are a few examples of Google YMYL topics:

  • Clear YMYL topics: evacuation routes for a tsunami, news about ongoing violence, information about purchasing prescription drugs
  • May be YMYL topics: weather forecasts, news about a car accident, information about how often to replace a toothbrush
  • Unlikely YMYL topics: music award winners, news about a local high school basketball game, a music video

There are plenty of other YMYL topics. But Google says quality evaluators need to use their judgment to determine whether a page qualifies as YMYL content. These pages need to demonstrate the highest levels of E-E-A-T.

So while E-E-A-T and YMYL aren’t SEO ranking factors, they are important things to consider when creating quality content

How to Improve Your Site’s E-E-A-T

The good news is that you don’t need to overhaul your SEO strategy to improve your E-E-A-T and take YMYL into consideration.

Let’s uncover six practical steps to improve your site’s E-E-A-T SEO:

1. Create High-Quality Content

Your site should provide people-first content. This means content that answers questions, provides advice, and leaves the reader feeling satisfied.

Google has released helpful content updates designed to ensure content is:

  • Original
  • Helpful to users
  • Written by people, for people

Regularly audit your content to ensure that it’s useful and has a high level of E-E-A-T. Even if your content was once useful, it won’t be that helpful if it has outdated information.

And create new content that addresses your audience’s evolving needs.

Semrush’s Topic Research tool can help.

Enter a topic related to your expertise. Then select your country and click “Get content ideas.”

cryptocurrency search in Semrush’s Topic Research tool

Once the analysis is complete, click “View content ideas.”

View content ideas button highlighted

Trending subtopics are marked with a flame icon.

Expand any subtopic to see popular headlines, questions, and searches. 

Expanding the subtopic in Topic Research tool

Think you can help these searchers out?

Try drafting your content in Semrush’s SEO Writing Assistant. It provides readability, originality, and tone of voice suggestions that can make your writing more helpful.

Writing about cryptocurrency in Semrush’s SEO Writing Assistant

2. Provide Author Info and Transparency

Google wants to know that the person writing a piece of content is a legitimate source of information.

Be sure to create an About Us page to introduce your team (if applicable). And individual author pages to highlight specific writers.

Author bios help establish transparency and E-E-A-T by showing author credentials and past work:

Example of author bio

You can also leverage author expertise by becoming a contributor to authoritative sites in your space. 

This is easier said than done. But a great way to start is by writing guest posts for relevant, authoritative sites within your niche.

Lastly, hire experts when you can. If you’re a small business owner or don’t have the funds to do so, at the very least, hire talented writers who do their research to create informative content.

Tip: Have subject matter experts review your writers’ content. This will help you establish credibility and avoid any mistakes or misinformation.

For example, your finance team may not necessarily have the skills to create content. But they can review finance-related articles for accuracy or provide quotes.

This brings us to our next point: 

3. Use Credible Sources

When creating content, it’s always best to go straight to the source to establish credibility. 

Always link to official sources, studies, research papers, etc. This can even include tweets and blog posts by experts in your field.

It’s also best to use trusted sources. These may vary by field but could include academic databases, news publications, or established experts’ and agencies’ sites.

This is particularly important for YMYL SEO. Here’s a great example from Healthline:

Example from Healthline using trusted sources

4. Create a Positive Brand Reputation

Your brand’s reputation can impact the trustworthiness of your content and site overall. So online reputation management is crucial for Google E-E-A-T SEO.

This means you should keep an eye out for negative reviews or press. If something does come up, respond promptly and professionally.

Semrush’s Listing Management tool makes it easy for local businesses to stay on top of reviews. 

Enter your company name and follow the prompts to sign up.

Semrush’s Listing Management tool

Then see reviews from various platforms in the “Review Management” tab.

Review Management tab

If you have a Premium Location, you can reply to Google reviews without leaving Semrush.

How to reply to Google reviews without leaving Semrush

Tip: Respond to bad and good reviews. Positive interactions with customers can help your brand reputation over the long term.

5. Monitor and Leverage User-Generated Content

User-generated content (UGC) is any type of content created by consumers or website users rather than brands. When used well, UGC can act as a trust signal and establish brand loyalty.

For example, 79% of online shoppers say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions. So it’s crucial to get your customer base to back your brand.

UGC can include images, video testimonials, product reviews, YouTube videos, and blog posts.

This Instagram video by Whitney Anderson about her Pashion Footwear shoes is a great example of UGC.

Screenshot of Instagram video by Whitney Anderson about her Pashion Footwear shoes

According to Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines, UGC is considered Main Content (MC), which is “any part of the page that directly helps the page achieve its purpose.”

The guidelines state that any content on a webpage can be categorized into three areas: MC, Supplementary Content (SC), and Advertisements/Monetization (Ads).

So MC—which can include UGC—is clearly an important part of the picture.

One way you can gather UGC to improve your site's E-E-A-T is to prompt happy customers to share photos of your product and tag you.

You can prompt customers to post about you on social platforms by sending them a quick email or running a social media contest.

Here’s an example of an email that asks customers to tag them on social media using hashtags:

An email asking customers to tag them on social media using hashtags

And here’s an example of a contest run by a small jewelry shop. It asks customers to tag the shop in their Instagram stories:

Instagram post for the contest run by a small jewelry shop

Asking customers (and potential customers) to post about you gets you more exposure. And asking them to tag you gives you a whole folder of user-generated content that you can share on your own feeds.

For example, this is how Spanx reshares content made by their customers:

Spanx reshares content made by customers

Other ways you can leverage UGC to improve your site’s E-E-A-T SEO are:

  • Strategically using hashtags to easily sort through fan photos later
  • Running contests or giveaways that require users to engage and share content
  • Regularly engaging with fans to promote conversation
  • Running influencer marketing campaigns

Whenever you highlight UGC on your site or social profiles, always request permission from creators. (And credit them in the content.)

And remember: 

Getting quality UGC is about the long game. Engage with your audience on a regular basis to encourage them to interact with your brand and with each other.

Tip: Semrush has a variety of free social media marketing tools that make social media management more efficient and effective.

Earning backlinks from other trusted sites is an important part of your SEO strategy. Plus, it can show that your business is an authority in your industry.

In the example below, WWF links to a number of smaller brands. 

Because WWF is a global authority, earning a backlink from them is like getting a big stamp of approval. 

An example of backlinks on WWF page

Think of backlinks like word of mouth. You’d probably be more likely to trust a brand recommended by a friend. 

Similarly, you may be more willing to trust a site recommended by another site you trust.

The other great part about backlinks? They’re a critical part of any SEO strategy. As a general rule, the more high-quality backlinks you earn, the better off you are in Google search rankings.

There are many ways to earn backlinks. But a good start is simply creating great, useful content.

Here are a few specific things you can do to optimize with link building in mind:

  • Create linkable content assets (e.g., helpful infographics or video guides)
  • Share visuals or compelling data on social media (and always include links to your articles on those posts)
  • Publish original research that people might want to cite and link to
  • Create helpful how-to guides for topics in your niche

Once you create your linkable content, reach out to other publications to see if they are interested in linking to your piece.

You can also use Semrush’s Link Building Tool to find sites that might link to yours (link building prospects).

Enter your domain then click “Start Link Building.”

Semrush’s Link Building Tool

Enter a list of target keywords or use the ones suggested. (See our keyword research guide if you need help.)

Then click “Competitors.”

Entering keywords to Link Building tool

Enter a list of competitors or use the ones suggested.

Then click “Start Link Building.”

Navigating to Start Link Building button

When the Link Building Tool has finished collecting and analyzing data, go to the “Prospects” report.

You’ll see a list of sites that might link to yours. Along with their Authority Scores

The tool organizes results by “Rating,” a measure of the potential link’s quality and accessibility.

Overview of Prospects report in Link Building tool

The Link Building Tool helps you manage the entire link-building process. Click “To In Progress” alongside any opportunity to get started. And check out this knowledge base article for more guidance.

To get more link building prospects, try Semrush’s Backlink Gap tool. It finds sites that are linking to your competitors but not to you.

First, identify up to four competitors you want to compare your site with. 

Then, plug your and your competitors’ sites into the Backlink Gap tool.

Backlink Gap tool

After you hit the “Find prospects” button, you’ll see a table with a list of publications that link to your competitors. And how many times they do so.

Results for finding prospects in Backlink Gap tool

Click on the numbers to get more information about each backlink. Like which page it links to and what anchor text it uses.

Navigation to where to click to to get more information about each backlink

Use that information to gauge whether getting a backlink from that specific publication would be beneficial to your site’s authoritativeness or trustworthiness.

To send prospects from Backlink Gap to the Link Building Tool, click “+ Start outreach” and follow the instructions.

+ Start outreach button highlighted
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Rachel has over 11 years of content writing experience. She built her SEO knowledge at digital marketing agencies before working as a content strategist for an AI startup. At Semrush, she performs in-depth research and collaborates with our talented team to give fellow marketers advice they can trust.
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