Let me tell you a little SEO bedtime story.
For years, over the history of early SEO, there were whispers of a secret, confidential document Google covertly used as a guide to evaluate and grade websites, determining who was spammy and who was not. As you can imagine, SEOs, the good and the bad, desperately wanted to get their hands on this document so they could use it for both good and evil (black hat SEOs lived to game the search engines and manipulate their way to the top without doing all the hard work).
As much as Google wanted to keep these guidelines secret, they would get leaked every now and again.
I even had a colleague whose job back in the 2000s was to manually spot-check websites looking for signs of spam and document her findings. Unbeknownst to her, she was hired as a Google Quality Rater and didn’t even know it as she was working through a third party.
In 2015, Google gave up the ghost. To be more “transparent,” they publicly released their Search Quality Raters Guidelines, a 160-page beast of a guide that explained how Google worked, and what they wanted webmasters to know they look for in web pages.
They continued to evolve and update the document over the year as they made rollouts of major and minor algorithm changes a regular thing.
And of course, every time a new version was released, dedicated SEOs across the land pored over the document, reading between the lines and analyzing the changes and speculating on what that could mean and how we needed to advise clients to keep up.
The most recent version was published in December of 2019.
And I’ll wrap up my story by telling you what you need to know today.
Future Proof Your Content By Showing Google You’re an Expert
Well, one of the many changes Google has made over the past few years, is introducing the concept of E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness).
They want to rank experts and those who have shown they are trustworthy and can produce authoritative, accurate content.
Why is E-A-T So Important?
Could your content potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety?
Check out the following potential Google searches:
- “What is the correct dosage of aspirin when pregnant”
- “Who is eligible for the SBA paycheck protection loan”
- “What are the signs of depression”
Do you think Google wants any Joe Schmoe ranking for those? Hell no!
Google wants to make sure they’re ethically doing their part presenting the correct information. And while they cannot guarantee the factuality behind content, they can design their algorithm to make sure they’re ranking content with the high-quality signals they find that authoritative websites, and experts, have in common.
Even if your content is not out there curing cancer, this concept translates to all industries.
You should be taking a page from the book to build your EAT and show signals to Google that you are the expert in your niche and deserving of Page 1 rankings.
So How Do You Build Your Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness
Hopefully, you’re out there doing all the things to build a great brand.
To make sure you’re also doing the things Google surreptitiously looks for, here are concrete recommendations:
- Optimize for “E” – Expertise: I’ve always said nothing beats content that is sourced from your SMEs (subject matter experts). When experts are behind content, it is detailed, nuanced, and comprehensive. Pair those qualities with a well-formatted page (headings, bullets, short paragraphs, scannability, internal links) and visual content (media, videos, graphics), and you’re well on your way. Make sure you’re creating content on-site and off-site.
- Optimize for “A” – Authoritativeness: you can say you’re an expert all day long, but does anyone else think you’re an expert? Do the respectable people in your industry link to you? Backlinks from quality, relevant sources show Google you’re an authority. So do quality citations and brand mentions across social media and other websites.
- Optimize for “T” – Trustworthiness: if you haven’t added new content to your site in 8 months, and you’re not keeping things fresh and relevant, is Google really going to trust your content that might be outdated? Is your site secure with “https” validity? What about showing proof of credentials, and social proof, on your pages? Are you displaying reviews onsite, and collecting reviews on other prominent sites (Facebook, Google My Business, TripAdvisor, etc.)?
Let’s recap: backlinks, mentions, high-quality content, up-to-date content, favorable reviews, displaying credentials & social proof. Create videos, optimize images, promote your content off-site and go be a good steward of your brand away from your site – these are all the things that help Google know you’re a great brand, an expert, and worthy of visibility and rankings.
And we all lived happily ever after.
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