Google is keen on EAT: expertise, authority and trust.
Why? Because searchers are keen on EAT. If they know they’re dealing with an expert, the authority on a subject, then they’re more likely to be satisfied. And Google likes satisfied users.
They keep coming back.
Fact is, EAT has been cited as important for a few years. Google was talking about it in relation to its Search Quality guidelines back in 2015, but it’s zoomed back into focus since June when a core algorithm update, focused on EAT, saw very popular sites take huge hits in terms of keyword rankings and organic traffic.
Affected sites were mainly financial and health focused – otherwise known by Google as Your Money Your Life sites (YMYL).
This makes sense. Misinformation on these sites has a major impact on the searcher.
So, what’s Google’s advice if you’re suffering from a lack of EAT?
“Focus on content.”
In particular, look at the pages on your site that have taken the biggest hits and analyse them one by one, keeping the following questions in mind (each of which is detailed in Google’s August EAT blog and each of which I’ve looked to expand upon).
Content and quality questions
Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
If you’re not adding value, then why would you be returned in the search engine results?
Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
Word count is not a ranking factor, but Google’s Quality Raters (human beings who work for Google and spend their days assessing and reporting back on websites to help Google fine-tune its algorithm) are being asked to assess content based on how comprehensive it is.
Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
Once again, if you’re not adding value then why would you be returned?
If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
Anyone can plagiarise, to be a genuine expert is to use your expertise to add value.
Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
Yes, optimising your meta data is still important. As is providing descriptive headers and content menus and writing in a way that Google finds easy to understand. Google likes to provide instant answers (you may have heard them referred to as ‘featured snippets’. This is why they’re asking for menus and ‘helpful summaries’. This helps Google extract sections from a page and return those sections directly in the search results.
Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
This is not Google punishing enticing news headlines, this is Google targeting clickbait.
Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
Referrals remain the greatest indicators of quality.
Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
If you produce quality original content, optimise it, and author it to an expert, then it’s very likely it’ll be a source in future. This will, in turn, result in followed links.
Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
If you’re the best at what you do, then it’s never been more important to demonstrate this. Do you have experts? Then how can you promote their expertise? Are you listed on their LinkedIn profiles? Are their social profiles up to date with their qualifications and expertise? Authorship reputation is regularly cited as important in the Search Quality Guidelines (“reputation of the creator of the content”) – take a look at section 2.5.2:
Every page belongs to a website, and it should be clear:
- Who (what individual, company, business, foundation, etc.) is responsible for the website.
- Who (what individual, company, business, foundation, etc.) created the content on the page you are evaluating.
What kinds of qualifications and certifications do you have as a company? How good a job does your ‘About us’ and ‘Team’ pages do at promoting your expertise? Why would a customer choose to work with you versus a competitor?
If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely-recognized as an authority on its topic?
How do you present yourself as an authority on a subject? Well, one way we know Google favours is PR. They haven’t come out and directly said “hire a PR agency” but they have said that featuring in high profile publications is a ‘good thing’. This comes back to positive brand mentions in contextually relevant publications. If you’re an expert on back office processes in manufacturing companies then you need Google and its Quality Raters to see you talking about the topic in the right places – for starters, the manufacturing press. You wouldn’t be featured if you didn’t know your stuff.
On the other hand, if you pop up on some random guest blog site that anyone can feature on, or simply a site that’s totally unrelated to your business and expertise, then that’s not going to convince anyone you know what you’re talking about.
Go and Google your name in speech marks (e.g. “Luke Budka”) and then search for your company’s name (e.g. “TopLine Comms”). What’s returned? Are you convinced you’re an expert in what you sell based on the search results? If not, then why would anyone else be?
Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
Comes down to profile once again – note the difference in language though ‘expert or enthusiast’ – suggests that Google believes you can be a trusted source simply based on frequency of publication of content related to a particular topic. Makes sense right. There are plenty of businesses where there’s a limit to the official qualifications you can gain (SEO being a prime example) so how else do you demonstrate authority? Via self teaching and dissemination of logical value-added content.
Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?
Yeah, this is 101 stuff.
Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?
This is YMYL specific but an interesting point.
Presentation and production questions
Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?
This is also 101 stuff.
Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
Quality, not quantity, if quantity impacts quality. Doesn’t mean the page has to look wonderful (take Google’s own aesthetically bland Webmaster blog) but it does mean it has to adhere to everything we’ve discussed already regards expertise, and it has to be well laid out, in an easy to read format.
Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
This screams spam. It’s also very difficult to properly maintain multiple websites as a brand; brand journalism was all the rage a few years back, but you’re spreading your brand authority over multiple domains. This question from Google is not in reference to brand journalism but it’s an important point to make. If you want your domain to rank for a series of keywords then why would you publish all of your best content on another domain? Yes, there are things you can do with canonicalization etc. but is it worth it?
Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
It’s unlikely as a B2B company you’re running ads, but you’ll still be familiar with this problem. You land on a page, particularly on mobile, and you can’t navigate it because of ads popping up everywhere. It’s not hard to get this right. Also, Google has previously flagged intrusive interstitials as a ranking no-no, so take the hint.
Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?
Google runs a mobile first index. If your site doesn’t work well on mobile then this is a BIG issue. It’s also, however, wise to consider mobile on a page by page basis. Google won’t necessarily penalise the whole site if certain pages provide a poor mobile experience. Make sure your most important pages are as good as they can be from an EAT perspective (this includes AMP – no good having content-less AMP pages – they need to replicate your main site) and can be easily viewed and navigated on a mobile device.
Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
This is an obvious but often ignored point when developing B2B content. You have a keyword target but have you reviewed what appears on page one when you search for the keyword? Do you know what you have to be better than? Do you know which area of the topic you can add value to? This is SO important. It’s a crucial part of producing great content and relatively easy to do.
Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
Content for the sake of ranking is not going to do as well as content designed to solve a visitor’s query. Google is getting very good at understanding when you’re trying to game the system.
There you have it. Some basic thoughts and theories on how B2B companies can tackle their EAT problems.
A lot of the above is fundamental to any B2B SEO strategy. All content, regardless of whether you want it to rank or not, should be expert-led and should position your organisation as a trusted source. You can then take that content and use it in a variety of ways across multiple channels.