One of the most prominent questions and mysteries surrounding E-A-T is whether, and the extent to which, it is a direct ranking factor in Google’s algorithms.
However, Google has been consistent about the role E-A-T plays in both its algorithms and how it is used by search quality raters, stating that “Google’s algorithms identify signals about pages that correlate with trustworthiness and authoritativeness,” as opposed to E-A-T itself being a quantifiable, measurable metric used in Google’s algorithms.
To solidify this point, Google recently provided an update on this question, indicating that E-A-T is not in and of itself a ranking factor, but rather, a framework that encompasses the many signals Google uses to evaluate and rank great content.
In this March 2020 update, Google stated that:
“Assessing your own content in terms of E-A-T criteria may help align it conceptually with the different signals that our automated systems use to rank content.”
Google’s communications about E-A-T leave a lot of room for interpretation and debate, which tends to result in one common question among many SEO professionals:
If E-A-T is so important, how can I optimize my content to improve its perceived E-A-T?
While Google’s official answers to questions related to E-A-T leave many SEOs uncertain on what next steps to take, there is one reliable, underutilized method we can use to improve not only E-A-T, but also overall organic performance: leveraging structured data (Schema.org) to its fullest capacity.
How Structured Data Can Help With E-A-T
Proper use of structured data can help with E-A-T for a number of reasons.
For one, structured data helps establish and solidify the relationship between entities, particularly among the various places they are mentioned online.
In Google’s own words, providing this markup “helps” them by “providing explicit clues about the meaning of a page” that Google then uses to “understand the content of the page, as well as to gather information about the web and the world in general.”
Using structured data to establish these relationships can streamline Google’s ability to assess the E-A-T of a given page, website, or entity, because it can help:
- Reduce ambiguity among entities.
- Create new connections Google wouldn’t have otherwise made in its Knowledge Graph.
- Provide additional information about an entity that Google might not have obtained without the structured data.
According to Knowledge Graph and Google patent expert, Bill Slawski:
“Structured data adds a level of preciseness that a search engine needs, and might not grasp, because it doesn’t have the common sense of a human.”
Without confidence about what entities are included on a page, it can be challenging at best for search engines to accurately assess the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness of those entities.
Structured data also helps to disambiguate entities with the same name, which is undoubtedly important when it comes to evaluating E-A-T.
Slawski provided a couple of interesting example of how this might work:
“When you have a person who is the subject of a page, and they share a name with someone, you can use a SameAs property and point to a page about them on a knowledge base such as Wikipedia to make it clear that when you refer to someone like Michael Jackson, you mean the king of pop, and not the former Director of Homeland Security – they are very different people. Businesses sometimes have names that they might share with others, such as the Band Boston, which shares a name with a city.”
Structured data essentially serves as a way of spoon-feeding Google crucial information about the topics on your site, as well as the individuals who contribute to it.
This is a crucial first step in Google then being able to accurately assess the trustworthiness and credibility of your site and the creators of its content.
Implementing Structured Data for E-A-T
There are a few different methods of implementing structured data: JSON-LD (which is preferred by Google), Microdata, and RDFa.
For WordPress websites, the popular SEO plugin, Yoast, has many built-in Schema capabilities and has been actively expanding on new Schema types and features in recent months.
For the purpose of improving E-A-T, the method of implementing structured data is less important than the types of Schema marked up on the website.
Improving E-A-T requires giving search engines as much information about the credibility, reputation, and trustworthiness of the authors and experts who contribute content to your website and who make up your company.
E-A-T also encompasses your brand’s reputation and the experience users have both on your website, as well as when using your products or services.
These aspects are particularly important to mark up with Schema whenever possible.
It is also crucial to properly structure your Schema, so search engines can understand the various properties of a given entity and the relationship between them and other entities.
Alexis Sanders offers a fantastic explanation of the benefits of nesting Schema and how to do it correctly in this article about JSON-LD.
For example, the Schema shown below comes from my personal website’s homepage, and demonstrates how nesting looks when it is done properly. (This was done by setting my site settings to a “Person” using the Yoast plugin, and filling in all relevant fields on my profile.):
Proper nesting of Schema makes it so you can:
- Essentially read the resulting Schema aloud from the Structured Data Testing Tool.
- Get an understanding of the main entities on the page, as well as their relationships to one another.
Nesting also eliminates the common issue of having multiple redundant or conflicting Schema types on the same page (often due to having multiple plugins injecting Schema simultaneously).
On a product page, for example, it’s important to clearly describe and differentiate the relationships between the Organization which publishes the website, and the Organization which manufactures the product.
By placing those correctly in a nested structure, you can clearly describe the difference in their roles – rather than just saying that both of them are ‘on the page’.
Which Schema Types to Use to Improve E-A-T
There are a variety of Schema types and properties that are crucial to have present on your website to send the right signals to search engines about your organizations’ E-A-T.
Below are 5 examples of some of the highest-priority opportunities to use Schema to signal good E-A-T, but there are many more where this came from.
1. Person Schema
Google’s first mention of E-A-T in its Quality Rater Guidelines starts by asking raters to consider “the expertise” as well as “the authoritativeness of the creator of the main content.”
This information can be communicated to search engines through the use of Person Schema.
This Schema type includes dozens of options for properties to be listed to provide more context about the person, many of which strongly support E-A-T, including (but not limited to):
Consider including Person Schema with the above properties at least once where your founder, content creators, and/or expert contributors are listed on your site. (Assuming this information is also displayed on the page – which is a prerequisite for structured data compliance)
An author biography page is a good candidate for featuring this Schema type.
Remember that any content marked up with Schema must also be visible on the page in order to avoid a spammy structured data manual action.
Another way to enhance your use of Person Schema is to use it to disambiguate that individual’s name from other identical names in Google’s Knowledge Graph.
If that individual is listed in the Knowledge Graph (which you can verify using this handy tool), consider linking to their Knowledge Graph URL using the sameAs property.
This effort can give Google the extra bit of confidence it needs to ensure the right individual’s Knowledge Panel is displayed for queries that are specific to them.
Even though Google announced that it has deprecated sameAs markup for social profiles, you can still use sameAs for other purposes, such as linking to:
- The individual’s Knowledge Graph URL.
- Their Wikipedia page, a freebase or Crunchbase profile.
- Other reputable sources where the individual is mentioned online.
Furthermore, it’s worth remembering that there are more search engines that use Schema than just Google, so listing social profiles using sameAs is probably still a good approach.
Organization Schema is undoubtedly one of the best Schema types to support E-A-T efforts.
This Schema type offers a variety of properties that can provide additional context about your company or brand, for example:
Many companies implement Organization Schema without leveraging these fields or the many other properties available using this Schema type.
Consider incorporating all of this information into your most relevant page about your organization (generally an “About Us” or “Contact Us” page) and marking up the page accordingly.
3. Author (Schema property)
Author is a Schema property that can be used for any Schema type that falls under the CreativeWork or Review classification, such as Article or NewsArticle.
This property should be used as markup for the author’s byline on a piece of content.
The expected types for the Author property are either a Person or Organization, so if your site publishes content on behalf of the company, it’s important to list the author as an Organization and not a Person.
4. reviewedBy (Schema property)
The property reviewedBy is a great opportunity to showcase your website’s good E-A-T.
If you use expert reviewers on your content, such as medical or legal reviewers, consider displaying their name on the page as the individual who has reviewed your content for accuracy.
Then, you can leverage the reviewedBy property to list that person (or organization)’s name.
This is a great approach to use if your authors may be lacking E-A-T or a strong online presence, but your reviewers are the true experts with a known online presence.
For WordPress websites using Yoast, a reviewedBy feature is currently being considered for their roadmap, which will allow you to indicate the individual who has reviewed your content by selecting among your authors in WordPress.
5. Citations (Schema property)
Using the citation Schema property, you can list the other publications, articles, or creative works your content cites or links to.
This is a great way to show search engines that you are referencing authoritative, trustworthy sources to support your work, which is a great strategy for E-A-T.
Furthermore, listing citations in Schema markup can help position your brand in relation to the other brands with which you associate, which can potentially provide Google with qualitative information about your trustworthiness.
Use Structured Data to Support E-A-T Initiatives
The Schema.org library is continually being expanded upon.
And while structured data itself is not a direct ranking factor, Google consistently recommends adopting its usage and using as much of it as possible to help its search engine make sense of your site.
Presumably, by helping Google better understand your content and the entities included on your site through structured data, this will also streamline and improve their efforts to assess your website’s quality and E-A-T.
Pay attention to the ever-evolving Schema.org library and take advantage of the many Schema types and properties listed there as a guide for how your content should be structured.
Screenshot taken by author, April 2020