Author: Olaf Kopp
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E-A-T & topical brand positioning as a critical success factor in SEO

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The topical positioning in topics relevant to your company is the basis for users and Google to perceive you as an authority or expert in these topic(s) and to trust you. Keyword: E-A-T. Here is this article in german >>>

E-E-A-T as a concept for brand identification and quality assurance

E-E-A-T is Google’s own concept to identify publishers and authors who are a brand. In this way, Google wants to improve the quality of search results and thus the user experience with the SERPs.

Google itself distinguishes between relevance and quality. Relevance always has one to the search query and refers to the respective document. (More about relevance in the article Relevance, Pertinence and Usefulness at Google). Quality can refer to content quality of the document or the publisher or author. Brand concepts can be used for the latter in particular to look at the E-E-A-T concept.

Brand Attributes

A brand possesses the following essential characteristics:

  • Popularity
  • Trust
  • Topical authority
  • Topical expertise and competence

Three of these characteristics can also be found in E-A-T. The pure popularity is not a meaningful characteristic for the quality determination, since it is detached from the topic. Transferred to Google, the exact match search volume for a brand is therefore not necessarily decisive for E-A-T.

E-E-A-T as gatekeeper and important ranking influence

That E-E-A-T has an important influence on rankings is clear to every SEO at the latest since the core updates since 2018. John Müller spoke of a relatively new ranking influence at Commerce Week 2021. However, E-A-T has been prominently mentioned in the Quality Rater Guidelines since 2014.

The latest prominent mention got E-A-T in 2019 in the course of core updates and Google’s official info about it (see What webmasters should know about Google’s core updates )

It’s important to understand that search raters have no control over how pages rank. Rater data is not used directly in our ranking algorithms. Rather, we use them as a restaurant might get feedback cards from diners. The feedback helps us know if our systems seem to be working.

If you understand how raters learn to assess good content, that might help you improve your own content. In turn, you might perhaps do better in Search.

In particular, raters are trained to understand if content has what we call strong E-A-T. That stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. Reading the guidelines may help you assess how your content is doing from an E-A-T perspective and improvements to consider.

It is very likely that since 2014 the manual ratings of search evaluators or quality raters have been used as manually verified the machine learning algorithms as learning material for building models for the algorithmic determination of E-E-A-T. These models are based on recognized on-page and off-page patterns that are significant for E-A-T.

Machine learning systems take time to build models, especially if they are supervised. This means that they learn with manually verified training data.

Therefore, it is not surprising that it took Google a few years to consider E-A-T in practice when ranking.

The influence of E-A-T on Google ranking

Those who have been following me for a while know that I’m not a fan of blanket statements, but here I’ll let myself make one anyway. I think that the topic of E-E-A-T and especially the thematic positioning of the brand determines 30% to 60% of the ranking in Google currently, depending on the YMYL topic or not. In YMYL topics, I even see E-E-A-T always as a kind of gatekeeper for the first page or top 20 results.

For non-YMYL topics, it is a ranking influence that is not a first-page requirement, but is on par with other factors.

Entities and E-E-A-T

Since the launch of Hummingbird, Google has sought to identify, extract, and relate entities. The relationships between entities, people, and topics are important to Google because this is the way they can algorithmically determine contextual relationships, the quality or strength of the relationship, and about it, authority and expertise.

For example, the entity Zalando is closely related to other entities such as fashion brands (e.g. Tom Tailor, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Marco Polo …) and product groups (shoes, dresses, bikini …).

Semantic relationships between entities

These relationships can vary in strength. Google can use the strength of these relationships to assess expertise and, above all, authority and incorporate them into the E-E-A-T concept.

Factors influencing E-E-A-T

I distinguish between onpage and offpage factors that go into E-E-A-T. Offpage factors are more important, because they are not so easy to influence.

Possible E-E-A-T onpage factors:

  • Person entities that themselves have thematic authority and are involved in content creation
  • Proportion and number of content assets on a topic on a domain
  • Content quality of the individual documents themselves. This includes further internal links and regular maintenance and updating of content
  • Use of https.
  • Website that is free of spam and hacks

Possible E-E-A-T offpage factors:

  • External links from authority sites with relevant anchor text
  • Removal of authoritative seed sites in the link graph
  • PageRank of linking sources
  • Frequency of co-occurrences of the authors and the publisher in the relevant topic environments on external websites, in podcasts, Youtube videos …
  • Frequency of co-occurrences in search queries from topic-brand combinations
  • Click behavior in the SERPs for relevant keywords on the own documents

Read more in the article 14 ways Google may evaluate E-A-T on Search Engine Land.

Overview: Possible Factors for an E-A-T Evaluation


The thematic positioning of the brand significantly determines the keyword set for which Google lets me appear on the first search results page. Deciding on the thematic fields that you want to occupy as a company is a marketing strategy decision. The topic areas and the corresponding terms must be consistently pursued on the website, in content marketing, marketing and PR campaigns. This is the only way to generate the necessary signals to be perceived as a thematic authority and expert by the digital gatekeepers.

How do you position yourself in a topic area?

For this purpose, it is important to distinguish between owned media, paid media, and earned media in the broadest sense. IMPORTANT: Authority and expertise are transferred to me and/or my company from the outside. Sure, I can portray myself as an expert and call myself that, but so can anyone. However, the “proof of expert” comes from third parties, e.g. via references (links), mention of my name or that of my company in combination with the terms from the respective subject area, recommendations via word of mouth, search queries for me or my brand in certain thematic contexts.

Authority is determined by the frequency with which these conditions occur. This is relatively easy for Google to determine using statistical methods.

So what do I have to do to make it clear to users and Google that I am an expert and authority in one or more subject areas and can therefore be trusted?

  • Use PR and public relations to ensure that your brand or your company is mentioned as often as possible in thematic contexts. In terms of SEO, you should make sure that the results are also detectable/crawlable by Google.
  • In your marketing campaigns, always pay attention to the connection of the brand with the terms relevant to the topic.
  • Trigger users to search for you in the appropriate thematic context through your marketing activities.
  • In your content marketing via owned, earned and paid media, make sure that you consistently occupy the topic areas and the corresponding terms.
  • Publish content in your content hub of choice (blog, magazine, glossary … on your own website).
  • Create deep topic silos for each topic area to show Google and users how deeply you are engaged with one or more topic areas.
  • Network with other industry influencers and give them reasons to recommend or refer to you in the best case intrinsically motivated. Keyword: Influencer Relations.
  • Maintain the content on your website and keep it up to date if the topic requires it.
  • Make sure to remove off-topic content and low-quality content from the index or not to have it indexed in the first place. This way you avoid a possible thematic dilution and ensure the content quality of the website as a whole.

IIn addition, I will give you the following rules, which I consider to be very important in order to position and establish yourself sustainably:

  • Content marketing is the most powerful weapon to achieve positioning and topical authority.
  • Start with your positioning in niche topic areas and don’t get too generic. Position yourself pointedly at the beginning and then gradually expand it? Occupy a special topic. Large successful companies like Zalando (shoes) and Amazon (books) have done it before.
  • Select the topics you want to cover in such a way that you don’t run into topical dead ends that can no longer be scaled across the board.
  • Don’t change your topics every year, or worse, every month on impulse, but stay on course until you have reached your goal and are perceived as one of the top experts or authorities. Your rankings will show you when the time has come.
  • Have perseverance! Thematic positioning is a strategic goal that takes time and effort. Think in years, not months. It is worth it! From my own experience I can say that users and Google perceive you as a thematic authority even years later, even though you haven’t published anything on a topic for a long time. If you don’t feel like it, do Growth Hacking 😉

Everything I recommend here can be applied to personal brands as well as corporate brands. Make yourself and your company a brand!


About Olaf Kopp

Olaf Kopp is Co-Founder, Chief Business Development Officer (CBDO) and Head of SEO & Content at Aufgesang GmbH. He is an internationally recognized industry expert in semantic SEO, E-E-A-T, modern search engine technology, content marketing and customer journey management. As an author, Olaf Kopp writes for national and international magazines such as Search Engine Land, t3n, Website Boosting, Hubspot, Sistrix, Oncrawl, Searchmetrics, Upload … . In 2022 he was Top contributor for Search Engine Land. His blog is one of the most famous online marketing blogs in Germany. In addition, Olaf Kopp is a speaker for SEO and content marketing SMX, CMCx, OMT, OMX, Campixx...


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