The myth of manufacturing author E-E-A-T

Most brands are getting author E-E-A-T wrong. Here's a pragmatic approach to leveraging and showcasing true subject matter expertise.

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When it comes to expertise, experience, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T), SEOs have been eating up what Google’s been serving – that it’s not just about what you say (content); it’s about who’s saying it (content creator) and where (host website).

There is no doubt that you can craft content with E-E-A-T in mind and that you can ensure a brand’s website displays E-E-A-T signals. But as a brand, can you systematically build and maintain authentic, legitimate and meaningful author-level E-E-A-T at scale? My money’s on “no.”

Don’t get me wrong. Author E-E-A-T is real and it matters. Done right, it will have a notable impact on content visibility across the Google ecosystem.

But SEO “experts” have been parroting that establishing author E-E-A-T is easy. Just throw up an author profile page, and voila! Insta-E-E-A-T!

But this is wrong.

For Google to understand an author-entity and their reputation takes much more than that.

The harsh reality is that most people will never achieve true author-level E-E-A-T.

Doing so takes personal motivation from the author, ongoing dedication to a topic to the level where you become a subject matter expert, and maintaining that reputation.

Brands cannot easily manufacture such a reputation for their authors at scale without the author’s involvement and personal investment.

Why real author E-E-A-T is important to Google (and hard to game)

Google has to be picky these days. With a flood of AI-generated content on top of the usual keyword-targeted SEO spam, not only are the search results clogged up, but indexing the majority of articles just isn’t an option anymore.

That’s where author E-E-A-T comes in.

It can be used as a signal not only for visibility across Google surfaces but also for indexing. Google can allocate its resources more efficiently at scale, focusing on what’s expected to be quality content as it comes from credible sources.

If and how an author is known to Google can be found by querying their name in the Google Knowledge Graph and reviewing their knowledge panel. Think of the knowledge graph as Google’s digital rolodex. It makes it easier for Google to assess an entity’s relevance based on their established reputation in that topical area.

A little more work is involved for authors who are unknown to Google. Google needs to use named entity recognition (NER) to determine who the author is based on their digital footprint. This type of machine learning is less likely to find evidence that supports author E-E-A-T.

If you want to explore this further, I recommend reading Olaf Klopp’s excellent article on evaluating authors through E-E-A-T.

Tactics to build author E-E-A-T and why they commonly don’t work

There are many legitimate tactics to build and showcase a writer’s reputation to Google – essentially corroborating what you say about the author on-site with third-party evidence of this off-site.

But most brands stumble on execution. The decision power to implement the tactic is outside of their direct control; they’re often reliant on the author and constrained by people, processes and technology. 

On-page: Author bylines and profiles

Sample author byline and profile

Comprehensive author biographies linked from the article byline can be powerful E-E-A-T amplifiers. They’re a platform to showcase the authors’ qualifications and industry clout.

The issue is that some brands have no linked byline, relying solely on a profile box at the base of the article.

And for those that do, most author bio’s are bare-bones: a name (or only part thereof), poorly cropped pic, a few inane sentences and a grid of posts.

The content exists because the author was told to fill it in, with little to no guidance on how or why. Thus, you get poor-quality pages such as the one below.

Example of an empty author bio

If you have fields for the author to add relevant education, accreditations or awards, they will most often be blank, either because the author does not have such qualifications or because the author is disinclined to provide the information. 

So technically, an author bio exists. But does it build E-E-A-T? Certainly not.

To positively influence Google’s assessment of E-E-A-T at the content creator level, author pages must have:

  • Professional name and title: “Joe Wright, Technology Journalist at XYZ Publication.”
  • Headshot: High quality, professional and polished.
  • Active social profiles and ideally personal website: Showcasing online influence.
  • Topical credentials: Relevant background, industry activities and achievements, notable certifications or awards.
  • Author bio: Including a persuasive explanation of why this author is uniquely qualified to write about a certain field.
Example of an optimized author profile and bio

Marking up this up with comprehensive “Person” structured data can further strengthen the impact.

But why not just fake it? Perhaps, make up an imaginary author?

Because it doesn’t work.

Author E-E-A-T does not rely on taking your word for it. Google uses lots of other signals beyond author profile pages and Person structured markup, including signals from external parties.

As Google Search Liasion Danny Sullivan explained in an X post:

  • “It’s not a ranking factor. It’s not a thing that’s going to factor into other factors. Having an expert write things doesn’t magically make you rank better, because 1) anyone could self declare someone to be an expert, and that means nothing and 2) we don’t somehow try to check and say “yes, that’s an expert.” What would be a good thing is having an expert write content that people like an appreciate, because the expertise they have is self-apparent. And if people like your content, you’re naturally lining up with completely different actual signals we use to reward people-first satisfying content.”

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Off-page: Corroboration sources

An author bio is just the starting point. To achieve E-E-A-T, author’s need a clear digital footprint that confirms their legitimacy and notability.

Social media profiles directly attributed to the author through sameAs structured data might be seen as a quick win. However, to have influence, said social profiles must be topically relevant, actively posted and have an engaged followership.

Already, this is uncommon in the professional sphere. But that’s only the start of the problems.

Forcing authors to use their personal profiles for work sits on a scale from taboo to liable. 

This means you need a compelling argument as to why they should use their social media profiles for professional purposes of their own free will or a hefty employment contract that’s liable to be contested by the author and the courts.

In addition, it will necessitate implementing a clear social media policy and ensuring every author has time set aside during work hours to post on social channels.

This was simpler when just posting their published articles to LinkedIn, X or Facebook. But modern social algorithms demand more in trade for visibility and audiences more for engagement.

Plus, social media is now primarily video. Making it significantly more time-consuming as you must transform article insights into Instagram Stories and Reels, TikTok or YouTube Shorts. 

The business issue is that brand’s are unlikely to see an immediate return on that time investment unless the author is a noted subject matter expert with an existing follower base. Most authors do not fall into this category.

And if they do build up a following over time, that is as an asset the content creator owns, not the brand. When the author leaves (as no one stays with a company forever), those followers go with them.

And even if all your authors are active on social media, Google will demand more corroborating sources to grant strong author E-E-A-T, such as:

  • Additional author profiles from other third-party publications that the author has written for.
  • Press coverage, such as being quoted in publications or included in “best of” lists.
  • Directory listings, such as profiles on Crunchbase or Muck Rack.
  • Podcast or webinar presence as a guest or host.
  • Speaker profiles from relevant industry events.
  • Books that they have authored.
  • Awards, associations or accreditations that are verifiable and themselves notable.
  • Wikipedia presence, as a mention or dedicated page.
  • Google searches for their name, ideally in combination with relevant topics.

Third-party evidence like this, when it aligns with what’s said on the author’s bio page, increases the chances that the person will become an entity in the Google Knowledge graph. 

And can establish the author as a subject matter expert within the industry.

But as a brand, you’re often not in control of this evidence of an author’s reputation. You can enable it with time during work hours. You can make them ‘the face’ of the brand’s PR efforts. You can use the brand’s influence to open up opportunities. 

But ultimately, the author needs to decide to build their reputation. To be brutally honest, most people will not take advantage of offered opportunities. And for those who do, many will never become notable, as there are few experts in any industry.

So, even if one of your authors has the talent to rise to the top, which will be rare, what about the rest of your writers?

The crux is that there is no real effective way for brands to build author E-E-A-T at scale. Brands can support one or two key personnel to establish reputations but only demonstrate existing E-E-A-T for the remainder.

Rethinking author E-E-A-T: Build vs. buy

So, let’s face the reality of author-level E-E-A-T. For many brands, especially those not media companies, buying expertise may be more effective than trying to build it.

Instead of relying on in-house “SEO content writers,” brands should prioritize hiring subject matter experts and training them to be content creators.

This shift brings in genuine E-E-A-T and allows the brand to focus on curating existing credentials rather than trying to build them from the ground up.

For brands that can’t hire subject matter experts – for example, it’s challenging to employ a doctor as a content creator – transform the in-house role from writer to editor.

Instead of churning out banal content, their focus shifts to:

  • Identifying subject matter experts: Find and build relationships with experts in the topical area.
  • Collaborating on content: Work closely with experts to shape their knowledge into SEO-friendly, engaging pieces.
  • Publishing with E-E-A-T in mind: Securing the expert’s approval, the in-house team will publish in the expert’s name (if the expert did much of the writing) or under the editor’s name in a way that clearly credits the expert as a key contributor.
  • Distribution: Both on the brand’s channels and the expert contributors network.

But this strategy has its own challenges.

There are few notable, digitally active subject matter experts worldwide. This pool shrinks even further if your content is not written in English.

And these subject matter experts often know their value, so be prepared to pay. I recommend reallocating link building budget.

A realist’s author E-E-A-T strategy

I don’t dispute the theory behind author E-E-A-T. I believe an author demonstrating a topically relevant reputation in a way that can be understood by Google will positively impact organic visibility. 

But I take issue with the current SEO narrative that it’s as easy as marking up an author profile page. Especially when writing is a profession, not a passion, authors are often unwilling to display their social media profiles, let alone go the extra mile to engage the industry with these profiles or earn additional credibility from third-party sources.

This means there is not enough information for Google to know the writer. Without this deep understanding, Google can’t effectively disambiguate people with the same name. More importantly, it doesn’t really care who they are, resulting in no author E-E-A-T signals to ascribe.

Ultimately, it comes down to the content creator’s talent and continuous effort to become a subject matter expert. A brand cannot build this on behalf of its author.

The true role of brands in author E-E-A-T is to:

  • Find expertise: Hire or collaborate with subject matter experts with an established digital footprint in the field (or be ready to invest significantly in the right person to build it).
  • Enable growth: Offer a company culture where content creators have ongoing opportunities to grow or showcase their E-E-A-T within working hours.
  • Connect the dots: Clearly communicate the content creators’ existing E-E-A-T through comprehensive author profiles and structured data that incorporates off-site corroborations, being mindful that this needs to be regularly updated.

This approach leverages the power of the author’s topical influence while bolstering the brand’s credibility through association.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Jes Scholz
Jes Scholz is an organic marketing consultant and SEO futurist. She delivers award-winning audience development strategies focused on entity optimisation, smart content distribution and data-driven marketing from Sydney to enterprise businesses worldwide.

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