Expertise is the second E in Google’s E-E-A-T quality guidelines.
But what does it mean, and how do you optimize for it?
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- Why “Expertise” is Difficult to Define
- 5 Facts About Google’s Expertise Criteria
- The Anatomy of the Perfect Expert
- 18 Ways to Build Your Authority as an Expert
Let’s dive in.
What is Expertise?
“Somebody who obtains results that are vastly superior to those obtained by the majority of the population (Gobet, 2011; 2015, p. 5).”
Pretty simple, right?
Not so fast.
“It’s difficult to provide a formal definition that everybody can agree with.”
Expertise is difficult to define because it comes in many shapes and forms.
1. Your Ability
Michael Jordan is a basketball expert. He doesn’t need formal credentials or a degree in a sport-related field.
Jordan proves his expertise through his ability to play the game of basketball.
You could study every element of basketball and still get crushed by Jordan.
2. Your Experience
Psychology.com says there’s a small correlation between time invested in a skill and the level of expertise you obtain.
For example, I’ve spent thousands of hours cooking, but that doesn’t mean I’m at Gordon Ramsay’s level.
Think about it.
Who do you know that’s spent an ungodly amount of time trying to be proficient in some skill like guitar or basketball?
“Deliberate practice accounts for only 29.9% of the variance in expertise in music (Hambrick et al., 2014).”
Hard work can improve you, but it doesn’t guarantee you’ll reach expert status.
3. Your Behavior
Do you know someone who practices the same guitar songs at 5:00 PM every day?
They may not be an expert.
According to Psychology.com, real experts attack complex problems with a high probability of making mistakes. As a result, they expand their knowledge.
In other words, real experts aren’t complacent.
“The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits. We can replace bad habits with good ones.” – Turning Pro
And they’re always looking to take their skills to the next level.
They’re obsessed with their craft, and it’s not a passive endeavor.
4. Your Official Credentials
Credentials or official titles are what Google cites (section 3.3.4) as a way to identify “expertise.”
It’s actually one of the worst ways to define expertise, according to Psychology.com.
The challenge is that credentials don’t equate to in-the-field expertise.
Also, you can have expertise without credentials.
Let’s take a simple example from the fitness and nutrition space.
Sally is someone who lost 200 pounds (kept it off for ten years) and now shares what worked for them but has no “official” credentials.
Tom is someone who has every nutrition and fitness credential but is 200 pounds overweight.
Who is the “expert” in this case?
On paper, Tom is more qualified.
But in reality, Sally is more trustworthy because the proof is in the pudding.
In other words, results demonstrate expertise more than general knowledge.
5. Your Perceived Expertise / Authority
There’s a difference between being an expert and being an authority in your field.
Expert = someone who is better than the general population at their craft.
Authority = an expert who has influence.
Van Gogh is an example of an expert who had no authority because his work wasn’t appreciated until he passed.
Marketing might have changed that.
Here’s the point:
You must market yourself to grow your perceived authority as an expert in your field.
Ignore the old motto of “built it and they will come.”
Never forget this:
People’s perception is reality.
For example, there’s a common myth in the NBA that Kobe Bryant is one of the best clutch players in history.
In contrast, Lebron is known to be a choke artist when the game matters.
But this is far from the truth if you look at the objective data (and this is coming from someone who loves Kobe Bryant).
This is an example proving that perception is often more powerful than reality.
Kobe named himself the Black Mamba to market the idea that he was a clutch player.
As a result, people began to perceive him as an expert when the game was on the line.
Here’s the point:
Becoming an expert is more than just getting credentials.
You need results, and you must work to grow your authority as an expert through marketing.
“The professional is patient, seeks order, demystifies, acts in the face of fear, accepts no excuses, is prepared, does not show off, dedicates himself to mastering the technique, does not hesitate to ask for help, does not take failure or success personally, endures adversity, and reinvents himself.” – Turning Pro
Why Expertise Isn’t Enough for Google
As you now know, expertise isn’t a simple thing to define. And that’s why expertise isn’t the only part of E-E-A-T.
The truth is expertise can be faked and manipulated.
So Google needs the other parts of the equation to mitigate bad actors.
“There are harmful pages that are seemingly “official,” “expert,” or “authoritative.” (QRG, Section 3.0)
And this is why Google can’t rely on expertise on its own.
5 Facts About Google’s Expertise Criteria
Many general myths and misconceptions about E-E-A-T exist, but especially with “Expertise.”
Here are the facts according to Google:
1. It’s Not a Direct Ranking Factor
E-E-A-T as a whole is not a ranking factor in Google. Instead, it is a tool that Google’s quality raters can use to determine the quality of information on a website.
But, optimizing for E-E-A-T can indirectly influence rankings because it forces you to improve your content, website, and reputation.
2. Expertise is Largely Based on Off-Site Signals
Backlinks are still the most important ranking factor in Google. It’s no different for E-E-A-T.
“A site’s overall link authority (as measured by Ahrefs Domain Rating) strongly correlates with higher search engine rankings.” – Backlinko
Google relies on external signals because they’re the hardest to manipulate.
3. The Absence of Expertise Does Not Help or Hurt Your Rankings
Google says the following in section 3.3.5 of the QRG:
“A lack of reputation about people who post personal content is neither a positive nor a negative sign in your assessment of the page.”
I’ve worked with countless small business owners with no online personal brand. However, they’re 100% an expert in their field.
That’s why audience size doesn’t determine expertise.
For example, you might be an expert at building an audience, but you may not be an expert in your field.
The opposite is true as well.
You might be an expert among experts, but you may suck at marketing yourself and building an audience.
This conundrum is why Google can’t rely on expertise alone.
4. Expertise is Only One Part of the E-E-A-T Equation
While I’m heavily focusing on expertise in this guide, it’s still only one part of the equation.
Don’t overvalue it.
View it as a part of the total equation.
The truth is that many of the E-E-A-T factors overlap.
So working to improve your perceived expertise will also influence your brand’s authoritativeness and trustworthiness.
5. Expertise is Important for All Industries
Google assigns more weight to the E-E-A-T variables in YMYL industries.
However, you should apply the E-E-A-T guidelines to every website because it makes your site and content substantially better and more trustworthy.
Plus, improving your external signals will likely influence your rankings.
So it doesn’t matter whether your site’s about funny cat pictures or you’re reviewing weight loss pills.
Aim to establish credibility.
I’ll show you how in a second.
At this point, you might be wondering:
What does an expert actually look like?
Check this out:
Now that you know what the “perfect” expert looks like, it’s time for some action steps.
18 Ways to Build Your Authority as an Expert (Even If No One Knows You)
- Audit Your Expert Footprint
- Start with the Company’s Website
- Build a Website for Your Personal Brand
- Update All Other Owned Assets
- Reverse Engineer Successful Contributors
- Get Interviewed
- Use the Oprah Technique
- Do Joint Webinars
- Get Testimonials
- Become a Speaker
- Create Epic, Topically Relevant Content
- Start a Newsletter
- Create a YouTube Channel
- Build an Audience on Social
- Write a Book
- Create a Course
- Stack on More Official Credentials
- Associate with High-Status People
Warning: None of this is easy, which is why most experts are unknown and have no influence. If you want to become an authority, you need to market yourself as an expert. That means you’ll need to do things that push you outside of your comfort zone.
“This comfort zone I’m in is a f*cking danger zone.” – Greg Plitt
Up for the challenge?
If so, let’s roll:
1. Audit Your Expert Footprint
Before we dive into how to upgrade your perceived “expertise” in the eyes of Google, it’s essential to establish a baseline.
Read this from Google’s QRG (section 3.3.1):
In short, you need other entities to confirm your expertise.
Go to Google and enter the following search string:
- [EXPERT NAME -site:yourwebsite.com]
- [andrew huberman -site:hubermanlab.com]
You’ll now see everything related to the expert.
It should be immediately obvious that reputable websites trust your brand or you as an expert.
If that’s not the case, it’s time to get to work:
2. Start with the Company’s Website
The most basic thing you can do right now is to get your website in order. Here’s how:
Create an Author Box
I always find it awkward to write about myself.
So I actually used ChatGPT to write a short bio using this prompt:
Project overview: Write a bio (no more than three sentences) about “[EXPERT NAME]” using the details below:
[List accomplishments, credentials, social proof, etc.]
Here’s the result:
Now it’s time to create an author box. The goal of the author box is simple:
Establish why the author is qualified to write about the topic.
You can accomplish this goal in 2-3 sentences.
If you’re on WordPress, there are countless plugins you can use to create author boxes.
I personally use GeneratePress (affiliate link) and GenerateBlocks to create author boxes.
Here’s the tutorial I used:
Keep in mind:
Custom solutions are always better than using more plugins.
Plugins make your website heavy and slow (loading speed is a ranking factor).
Create a Dedicated Page for the SME
Expand on the previous step by writing an in-depth bio that will live on a dedicated page like this:
Then make it clear who authored the content:
- There should be an author box on all of your content
- You should have dedicated “bio” pages for your experts (like this)
- Make it clear who authored the content (above the fold)
Now it’s time to take things to the next level:
3. Build a Website for Your Personal Brand
Your personal website is a hub for marketing your expertise and feeding Google’s Knowledge Graph. Think of it as your home base and a way to set you apart from other experts in your field.
Here are some key elements to include:
Write Your Story
Most people are not born experts (unless you’re Mozart).
That’s why you should share your “hero’s journey” as an expert.
What did it take to get to where you are?
Don’t leave anything out. Show the struggle.
Show Your Highlight Reel
Don’t be shy here. The goal is to establish credibility and trust. It’s your time to show off.
My partner at Gotch SEO, Simon, does this perfectly:
The goal here is to build trust.
The more you share your “scars,” the more people relate with you.
Instead of just being a flawless “expert,” you’re now a person (just like everyone else).
Highlight Your Media Coverage
Share interviews or any instance where you’ve been featured online.
Check out Seth Godin for inspiration.
Now it’s time to markup your “About” page on your personal website.
ChatGPT can create the schema markup for you with this prompt:
Create “About Page” schema markup for [NAME], [EXPERTISE OR POSITION] of [COMPANY] with these details:
Same as: [URLs: social media profiles, author accounts, etc]
Email: Job Title: Gender: Birth Date: Brith Place: Spouse: Childeren: Country: Alumni: Works for: Affiliation: Awards: Credentials: Knows:
ChatGPT will spit out the code to use:
I then go to the “Elements” section with GeneratePress and create a “Hook.”
Then add the code ChatGPT gave you:
And update the “Display Rules:”
Lastly, make sure you test the markup. If there are issues, go back to ChatGPT and tell it to fix them.
4. Update All Other Owned Assets
Start by creating a short elevator pitch for all your owned assets.
Here’s a great example:
Then you’ll need to go through and update all of your profiles.
Consistency is key.
5. Reverse Engineer Successful Contributors
Becoming an author on authoritative publications in your industry can fast-track your authority.
Here’s how I would do it if I was an expert in the health space:
Go to a top publication like Healthline and look for an author who has published multiple articles.
Go to Google and search “[AUTHOR NAME + -theirdomain.com”]:
Now you’ll have a list of websites in your industry that accept guest contributors.
You can also use traditional guest post prospecting queries like:
- “guest post” + “write for us” + [your niche]
- “submit a guest post” + [your niche]
- [your niche] + “guest post guidelines”
- [your niche] + “accepting guest posts”
- [your niche] + “guest post submission”
- “become a guest author” + [your niche]
- [your niche] + “contribute an article”
- “guest blogging opportunities” + [your niche]
- [your niche] + “submit your article”
- “write for us” + [your niche] + “blog”
These queries will likely present you with guest posting guidelines.
But if you’re struggling to find contact info, use Hunter.io.
Then all you need to do is start pitching opportunities. Use this ChatGPT prompt to craft a guest post pitch:
Write a guest post pitch based on these guidelines:
[GUEST POST GUIDELINES]
Website: Author: Expertise: Qualifications:
3 Ideas: 1. 2. 3.
I recommend going after lower authority opportunities first. Then use your successful placements as leverage to climb the authority ladder.
6. Get Interviewed
Getting interviewed as an expert is the single fastest way to grow your authority.
Andrew Huberman does a nice job of this:
The best technique to find interview opportunities is to reverse engineer your competitors.
Enter a competitor into Ahrefs, go to backlinks, and search “interview.”
Now you’ll have access to interview opportunities:
The last thing to do is start pitching opportunities. Here’s a simple ChatGPT prompt you can use:
Write a podcast interview pitch for the [PODCAST NAME] podcast for [TOPIC] expert [PERSON]
7. Use the Oprah Technique
Ever heard of the Oprah effect? It’s real.
By associating yourself with other experts, your authority rises through osmosis.
Some modern examples include Joe Rogan:
And Tim Ferris:
Like guest posts, focus on micro-influencers to get some wins under your belt. Then leverage their names to secure bigger niche authorities on your podcast.
8. Do Joint Webinars
Again, do whatever you can to associate with other experts or known brands. Doing joint webinars with well-known brands is a win-win.
They get free expert-level content, and you get exposure.
Lily Ray does this well in the SEO industry:
Once again, just reverse engineer other experts.
9. Get Testimonials
The best testimonial you can get is from another expert in your field.
But getting testimonials from your clients is impactful as well.
That’s why I plaster them on your homepage.
You can never have too many!
10. Become a Speaker
Speaking is a powerful tool for growing your authority as an expert.
First, it increases your status because you were invited to speak. That means whoever is running the conference is endorsing you as an expert.
Secondly, it means you’re confident in your ability to have the confidence to speak on stage.
“The fear of public speaking is the most common phobia ahead of death, spiders, or heights. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that public speaking anxiety, or glossophobia, affects about 40%* of the population.” – National Social Axiety Center
The key is to take baby steps. Start by speaking in front of tiny crowds and then move to bigger audiences as you build confidence.
11. Create Epic, Topically Relevant Content
As an expert, you should share your advice and experience on your company website, personal website, or both.
As an expert, you should create blog content because you’ll:
- Build topical authority.
- Grow your audience.
- Influence prospects to know, like, and trust you by helping them (shocker, I know).
- Get relevant, organic traffic if you do SEO.
- Attract media coverage & backlinks, which will amplify your marketing efforts.
- Get reach on social media when people share your content.
And so much more.
12. Start a Newsletter
An email newsletter is the single best way to communicate with your audience.
You can also expand your influence by giving email subscribers exclusive info they can’t get anywhere else.
But that’s not all:
An email list is a powerful marketing and sales tool.
For example, my email list is the #1 driver of revenue in my business.
13. Create a YouTube Channel
Creating a YouTube channel is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for growing my business and personal brand.
I avoided it for years because of my insecurity about being on video, but I promise you:
It gets easier when you record more.
That’s all you have to do. If you want more confidence on video, record more.
Stop looking for “hacks.”
There are none.
Treat your YouTube videos like an athlete.
Record, “watch film,” make adjustments, and get 1% better with each video.
Oh yeah, and one last thing:
The only thing you’ll regret about YouTube is not starting sooner.
14. Build an Audience on Social
You may not like it, but:
Followers = status.
It’s also a surface-level mechanism for trust.
For example, take two people selling a weight loss product:
- Person A = 350 Twitter Followers
- Person B = 350,000 Twitter Followers
Who do you trust more without having any other information?
Humans aren’t as objective as we like to pretend.
“8 of 10 men think they’re above-average drivers.” – AAA
The point is that every expert (who wants to build authority) should publish native content on social media.
Look at this LinkedIn example from Andrew Huberman:
Or this Twitter post from Graham Stephan:
The key to building an audience on social is to stay within your circle of competence.
“What an investor needs is the ability to correctly evaluate selected businesses. Note that word “selected”: You don’t have to be an expert on every company, or even many. You only have to be able to evaluate companies within your circle of competence. The size of that circle is not very important; knowing its boundaries, however, is vital.” – Warren Buffett, 1996 Shareholder Letter
15. Write a Book
If you’re an expert, you’re shooting yourself in the foot by not writing a book.
For example, James Clear published his popular book, Atomic Habits, in October 2018.
Look at the growth of his personal brand immediately following:
Clear’s backlink profile has also grown exponentially:
With most of his backlinks hitting the landing page for his book:
It’s no coincidence that you’re favorite guru is also a published author.
Even celebrities love the book game.
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it if you’re serious about growing your authority.
16. Create a Course
Creating a great course is a significant time investment, but it can pay dividends for years.
I’ve created over five versions of Gotch SEO Academy at this point.
And I can tell you this:
It’s been worth every minute invested.
Creating a course can help you build a revenue stream, but it can also grow your authority much faster.
17. Stack on More Official Credentials
What are some official credentials that can expand your authority as an expert?
People largely evaluate expertise based on surface-level signals.
So working to acquire more credentials such as diplomas, PhDs, or professional certificates is worth it.
Here’s some inspo:
Money: BBA, MBA, CFA, CFP, ChFC, or CPA.
Business: MBA, CBAP, CAPM, PMP, CPIM, CSCP, CLTD, PHR, SPHR, IIBA Certification, MBE Certification, WOSB Certification, B-Corp Certification, VOSB / SDVOSB Certification, LGBTBE Certification, LEED Certification, SAFe Certification, or OMCP Certification.
Marketing: PCM, DMI Certification, SMS Certification, Facebook Certification, Google Analytics Certification, Social Media Marketing Certification, Inbound Marketing Certification, OCP, Salesforce Certified Administrator, or SEO Master Certification.
Sales: SPIN Selling Certification or Sandler Training Certification.
Health: MD, DO, MBBS, MBBCh, PhD, DNP, NP, PA, CNP, CNNP, CNS, CMM, CPR, AED, or LPN.
Fitness: NASM-CPT, NSCA-CPT, or ACSM-CPT.
18. Associate with High-Status People
To elevate your status as an expert, you’ll need to associate with other known authorities.
You can accomplish this goal through The Oprah Technique or by landing interviews.
But there are also some other techniques you can use:
Here’s a picture of me with my friends Rob Timmermann and Chris Dreyer:
Both of these guys run multi-7-figure SEO companies.
Association = mental shortcut for trust.
“Using an official, intelligent, or authoritative figure to promote a product saves consumers the trouble of researching or examining the issues, and they simply accept the facts and claims as true.” – Cashvertising, p. 59
When we see someone with other authoritative figures, our perception of their authority and status grows.
Join Communities or Clubs
Where do other high-status, authoritative figures in your industry hang out?
Whether it’s online or offline, be there and add value to these communities.
Final Word on Expertise
Every website should have experts write or at least fact-check your content. Whether it’s funny cat pictures or weight loss advice doesn’t matter. Just make it clear to Google that the author is an expert.
If that’s you, work to grow your authority as an expert daily.
“There is no finish line. No bell ends the hour. Life is the pursuit. Life is the hunt.” – Turning Pro
Thanks for reading!
Check out the rest of the E-E-A-T series: