SEO is an ever-changing game.
We think we know what we’re doing for a while and then a Google algorithm update hits us like a ton of bricks.
Google’s August 2018 update, commonly known as the medic update, showed that SEO has expanded far beyond its technical aspects. Experts soon realized that this update was all about E-A-T (Expertise-Authoritativeness-Trustworthiness).
The update makes sense. Google wants to provide the best results for a search query. A decent copywriter can write on any subject but it doesn’t mean they’re an expert.
Health sites were hit hardest by the update (41.5%). You might be tempted to breathe a sigh of relief if your site isn’t health-related…
But the trouble is, it impacted sites in all manner of niches, including eCommerce, finance, travel, business, technology and more.
E-A-T is and will continue to be a major aspect of SEO for everybody. But, what exactly is E-A-T? Why is it so important? And what can you do to increase the E-A-T of your content?
What is E-A-T and why is it important?
Google updated its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines alongside the August 2018 algorithm update. And those guidelines now mention E-A-T all over the place.
Here’s a brief overview of what Google means by E-A-T from the guidelines. They’re asking the following questions about your content:
- Expertise: Does the creator have knowledge and skills in their field?
- Authority: Is this the go-to person for advice? Is this the best place to find this information on the web?
- Trustworthiness: Do they present honest and reliable information/advice?
If your content scores well in these aspects, you should see better rankings and, therefore, more organic traffic. While unreliable content from underqualified authors gets bumped in the search results.
For instance, a physician review site saw a 72% drop in organic traffic to their blog and a 44% drop in their content pages after the medic update. But by improving their site’s E-A-T, not only did they recover but they also managed to surpass the rankings they held prior to August 2018.
Thus, it is possible to recover. And ensure that you maintain, or even increase, your rankings through content enhanced by E-A-T.
Here’s what you need to do:
1. Optimize for search intent
To demonstrate your expertise you need to prove that you fully understand your audience’s needs. Traditional keyword research doesn’t provide enough insight for you to be able to do this.
State of Digital writes,
“One of the biggest mistakes made by business owners and native digital marketers is being too focused on vanity keywords and search volume as the indicator of SEO success.”
Instead, you need to focus on the user and the intent behind their search query. As stated above, Google wants to provide the best solution to what the user is looking for.
The first step is to ensure your content provides a comprehensive answer or solution. Use real-life examples, screenshots, walkthroughs and so on to provide value to the reader. Also, include the most relevant and up-to-date information on the topic at hand.
Think about what stage the user is at in their journey. For instance, if somebody searches “how to file my taxes”, it’s clear that they’re new to the topic. So, your content has to be simple, clear, jargon-free, etc.
Finally, anticipate what kind of information the user may seek out next and be ready with supplementary content.
For example, at the end of their post, “17 Ways to Finance Your Small Business”, a loan provider suggests further reading and resources where the reader may wish to head next:
The trick is to figure out your audience’s needs and not only meet them but surpass them.
2. Improve content quality
It goes without saying that E-A-T is all about quality.
When SEOs and marketers started to chatter about the August algorithm update on Twitter, Google SearchLiaison directed tweeters to the advice they gave the previous March:
Thus, Google indicated that those who create “great content” will be rewarded by the search engine.
But what are the components of quality content?
- Use descriptive headlines – It’s important to Google that you do not mislead users.
- Back up claims with supporting evidence e.g. data – This shows that your content is honest and reliable.
- Create long-form content – Naturally, comprehensive content is going to be lengthy.
- Make it look good – Your posts must be well-organized and optimized for mobile so that they’re easy to read/follow.
- Provide genuine value – Link out to relevant resources, engage readers with a poll, provide a useful freebie, such as a template or worksheet.
This is how you prove your authority as the go-to site for information in your niche.
3. Display credentials
Audiences need to be able to trust the advice they’re receiving. Put it this way… Would you rather get advice on that boil from a doctor or a random off the street?
This is why E-A-T is so important in certain areas, i.e. health, business, finance and so on. If somebody is going to make an important decision based on the advice in your content then it needs to be legitimate.
Google knows this. So, they care about the level of expertise of the author as well as the content itself.
You can send trust signals to readers and Google by clearly displaying the credentials of everybody that contributes to your site. Include things such as awards, academic achievements, sites and businesses they have founded or been featured on.
Simply use a byline. And flesh out your About/Team pages with all of your lovely trust signals.
Another way to add legitimacy to your content would be to collaborate with industry experts or influencers.
Here, a health blog clearly displays the fact that their articles have been medically reviewed by a real doctor:
Essentially, you need to provide evidence that there is a high level of expertise behind the scenes.
4. Expand authority across the web
Can your E-A-T be vouched for?
We’re not all lucky enough to have an influencer on staff. Or maybe your authors do have the skills and knowledge of an expert. But how do you prove that?
The solution is to build the authority of your site and authors across the web.
Authors can get their name out there by guest posting on leading sites. The best way to find guest posting opportunities is through a simple Google search.
Use search strings such as “keyword” + “write for us”. Check the authority of sites as you go, using a tool such as MozBar:
You should also attempt to earn links and mentions on authority sites. If a renowned site links to your content, it’s a big indicator that your content can be trusted.
Of course, there are tons of methods for earning links. But we come full circle here because link building starts with having quality content that’s worth linking to.
Your E-A-T score will have an impact on rankings no matter what industry you’re in. But thankfully there are simple ways you can up the E-A-T of your content.
You need to take a two-fold approach. First, produce high-quality content that caters to the needs of your audience. Also, be sure to build the credibility of authors and clearly display those credentials like a proud mama.
Is your existing content up to scratch? Now, it’s up to you to make sure all existing and new pieces are packed with E-A-T.
Guest author: Kelly O’Hara is a marketing, SaaS and B2B writer. She is the creative mind behind the content of many industry leaders. Her work has been featured on Social Media Week, Monitor Backlinks and more. Find her at Copy Goals.