Senior Content Manager
Nicknamed the ‘medic’ update – thanks to its impact on mainly health-related sites – Google’s 2018 algorithm update diagnosed content authority and relevancy critical for SERP survival.
And a refresh of its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (SQEG) in June this year put an even greater focus on E-A-T (Expertise, Authority and Trust), seeing sites from lifestyle and finance reeling from the pain of visibility crashes.
So what is E-A-T? And how can you kick-start a healthy content regime to strengthen your site?
Follow this easy-to-digest guide...
Google wants to give readers a quality experience by serving up content that’s both relevant and, crucially, authoritative. In short, it only wants to display sites that it trusts.
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority and Trust. It’s a set of guidelines that helps it determine quality content; grading it as either high or low E-A-T, with high being the goal.
To evaluate the quality of its algorithm, Google regularly conducts manual reviews of its results using the SQEGs; making them essential reading (marketing consultant Marie Haynes tallied up 186 mentions of E-A-T) for anyone planning, producing or publishing content.
E-A-T has had the biggest impact on ‘your money or your life’ (YMYL) pages, which Google classifies as any page that could impact a user’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety (where low-quality content could negatively impact users’ lives). So finance and health/medical sites saw the biggest changes.
With Google continuing its drive to encourage brands to be responsible publishers, how can you make sure you’re cooking up content that’s as expert, authoritative and trustworthy as possible?
Consider your consumers’ search journey. Mapping this out can help you understand audience intent, evaluate the existing content on offer and identify the gaps you could fill. Try to anticipate the user’s next click so you can show them (and Google) that you’ve got the breadth and depth of information needed to be their expert.
Find the right format. Check what types of SERP features Google is serving for your target terms, and audit your current content to see how changes to format and structure could help you secure image, video, voice search and featured snippet hotspots. The more visible your content, the more expert it’s deemed by readers.
Write clear, high-quality content with descriptive, relevant titles. How? Use keyword research to find out what your audience is searching for, use relevant key terms within your H tags and make sure each article section is relevant to its title. Split complex topics up into separate but connected pieces to keep your reader’s (and Google’s) focus.
Create content with purpose. Do you want to inspire, inform or entertain? Spend some time pinpointing the why, who, what (before the where and when) when planning your content. And review the top-performing pieces in that space to provide your audience with content that’s not just fit for purpose but gives you an edge against competitors.
Be link-worthy. Really great content should naturally attract links from reputable sources, and this in turn will demonstrate your site’s authority. But there are other ways to become part of the in-crowd on a particular topic, like content partnerships. Working with a renowned expert or influencer in your field – especially one with a strong online presence – can lead to natural backlinks and social shares. And that’s not the only reason why you should consider an expert voice…
Involve an expert author. Expert authors are a biggie for Google. “For news articles and information pages, high-quality [content] must be factually accurate for the topic and must be supported by expert consensus where such consensus exists.” (Google’s Search Quality Guidelines).
Although Google notes that for some topics, the most expert sources of information are ordinary people sharing their life experiences on personal blogs, forums, reviews, discussions, etc.
Top tip: Find a subject matter expert in your company to interview. It won’t take much of their time to gather a little wisdom and they’ll probably be flattered!
Add author tags. Using schema author tags will provide search engines with structured data on authorship, giving them precise information about the author and their work.
Add author bios. Spell out the author’s qualifications and the input they’ve had in the content. Have they reviewed it, or penned the whole thing? Creating an author page that links to all their content can also demonstrate expertise in a particular field.
Own your knowledge panel. That’s the information box that appears on Google when you search for something. The more open your business is online, the easier it is for users and Google to recognise you as a reputable source of information.
Improve your linking, internally... Crawlers use links to navigate through your site, so linking to other closely-related content not only helps the reader (by anticipating their next question) but also lets Google know you’ve got the subject covered. To really nail this, make sure there's a wireframing step in any content audit or strategy work.
…and externally. Linking to sites with high domain authority such as scientific studies helps to build trust.
Update your content to keep it current and relevant. We recommend creating a content catalogue with planned refresh dates, making updates part of your business as usual programme. And remember to alter the live date whenever you refresh pages so the reader knows the information is current.
There you have it: an E-A-T recipe for SERP success.
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