E-A-T (short for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) is one of the most debated topics in the SEO world. Almost on cue, questions and advice around E-A-T make waves throughout the marketing industry after a big Google Core Update.
As many would likely agree, the specifics behind this topic are quite ambiguous.
The one thing that is more or less certain is that E-A-T plays a momentous role in how web pages rank on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
On August 1st, 2019 – Google recently released an official Core Update Guide written by Danny Sullivan. However, there is still plenty of murkiness surrounding the concept of E-A-T and how exactly it factors into different web pages.
Given Google’s infamous mysteriousness in regards to what exactly goes into their ranking algorithms, the best we can do as SEOs look at the results of the past, keep up with the latest news, develop our own theories, and put them to the test.
In a recent episode of The Marketing Microscope – our in-house podcast – we had the pleasure of chatting with Marie Haynes, SEO specialist and Google update recovery expert.
We got to pick her brain on the concept of E-A-T, the results she’s seen, and her theories on how it plays into the rankings of different types of web pages.
In this post, I’d like to share my insight (following our interview with Haynes) on how you can work to boost the E-A-T of your blog posts, service pages, and product pages.
Let’s dive in.
1. Blog Posts
There are currently more than 500 million websites that are recognized as blogs, with more than 2 million new posts being published each day. That’s a lot of content!
The reality of the internet is that anyone can publish blog posts about anything.
With this in mind, it can be extremely tough to determine which information is reliable and which is BS. Over the past several years, Google has taken serious strides with each Core Update to fight misinformation and provide users with the most credible content on the web to answer their queries.
Undoubtedly, content outlets in Your Money Your Life (YMYL) industries – including law, finance, health, etc. – are the ones that typically bear the brunt of the impact after Core Updates.
This is because misinformation here can potentially ruin the lives of readers.
Think about it this way:
If you ran into someone on the street and they gave you a speech about how to remedy joint pain while trying to sell you a topical cream, would you immediately fork over your money?
Hopefully, you would want some proof that they actually know what they are talking about.
This is a similar attitude we believe Google has when gauging the E-A-T of content and ranking it accordingly.
In regards to blog posts, there needs to be proof that the author or organization has the goods to back up what they are preaching.
Let’s discuss how you can play by the rules.
Let’s say you came across two pieces of content on stock investing. Both are well-written and provide similar advice. However, one was written by Warren Buffett and the other was written by some random person you’ve never heard of.
Which one would you be more inclined to listen to?
When it comes to the Expertise of a blog post, much of it can be traced back to the author.
Let’s Google the question, “how to invest in stocks” and see what comes up.
Now, let’s check out the author bio of the post published on TheBalance.com – which is ranked in the #3 position on a query with 60,500 searches/month.
This is the gold standard of author bios. The bio of Kimberly Amadeo has a TON of information that clearly shows that she is an expert on this subject. You can see everything like her education, experience, accolades, previous content, and even testimonials.
Given this information, there is no question in Google’s mind that Amadeo is fully qualified to write credible content on stock investing. In turn, the piece is ranked among the top results.
So how can you properly convey this information to Google’s all-powerful bots? Moreover, how can Google verify that it’s all true?
Marie Haynes believes it’s possible that Google sees the author of a piece of content, then scours publically available data to find information like education accomplishments, research published, case studies and more to determine that an author has the clout to produce expert content.
Keep in mind, there is more public information out there on people than ever before. Not to sound creepy, but Google probably knows more about you than you think!
Regardless of what industry you are in, chances are, Google’s bots can scan the web to verify that you know what you’re talking about when you publish content.
What can you do about this?
In order to help Google better understand what expertise you bring to the table, you need to get it out there as much as you can.
- Keep your social profiles updated with verified education credentials (degrees, certificates, etc.)
- Make this information clear on the author bios attached to your blog posts.
- Publish research and reports to demonstrate your success in the field.
Say you are a web design agency writing company blog posts to demonstrate your knowledge. You are wise to promote your education and previous experience in web design, as well as publish case studies from past successes to show both Google and readers that your knowledge has proven successful in the past.
Authoritativeness and expertise are concepts that get confused quite a bit.
The key difference is that expertise is related to how you promote yourself on the web; authoritativeness is how other experts perceive you.
Validation, in general, is extremely important in gauging Authoritativeness. Even if you have all the credentials necessary for a certain topic, not being recognized by others in the field could compromise the value of your messaging.
So what factors into Authoritativeness in a blog post?
In our podcast with Haynes, we outlined several factors that play into how Authoritativeness is (likely) judged in the eyes of Google:
- Mentions from industry experts.
- Backlinks from credible industry websites.
- Branded search volume. If there are a lot of searches involving your name or organization, this is a good sign that you produce expert content in your niche.
Each of these components act as an endorsement of sorts. Ideally, the more endorsements you have, the more authoritative your blog content becomes.
Now, it’s important to note that not all endorsements hold the same amount of value; it’s all about relevancy.
If you run a food blog, getting positive mentions from people like Gordon Ramsay, Martha Stewart, or a chef at a restaurant is going to hold significantly more weight than someone like Kyle Busch or LeBron James (two people who aren’t culinary experts).
How can you boost your Authoritativeness?
- Get guest posts published on high authority industry blogs (with a link back to your website).
- Conduct and publish interviews with proven industry experts. Chances are, they will give you a mention!
- Create easily sharable content. Chime in on a trending topic; tell a compelling story that pulls on people’s heartstrings, validate your readers’ opinions, etc.
One can see the concept of building Trustworthiness in relation to how you structure the content, as well as how it appears to readers.
In regards to blog content, there are several key factors that come into play.
Let’s start with first impressions.
Take a look at this homepage (straight out of the 1980s). Based on first impressions alone, how likely are you to buy into this blog section?
Even if the blog has the most insightful content the internet has ever seen, the outdated appearance alone would likely turn many people off.
Do yourself and readers a favor and update your blog so it doesn’t look super old. Additionally, be sure you have an SSL certificate to keep your readers’ minds at ease.
Now, in terms of the blog content itself, Trustworthiness likely involves how you support your claims. This is especially true for medical sites.
In the past few updates, some of the sites that have been hit the hardest are holistic medicine sites. The reasoning can probably be traced back to the lack of credible research.
Take CBD products for example.
While there is certainly data to back up theories in how this holistic medicine can help manage certain health issues, there simply isn’t enough out there for bloggers to make bold guarantees. In other words, it’s not trustworthy for a website to say that CBD cures cancer on their blog section.
So how can bloggers create a sense of Trustworthiness in their content?
In regards to YMYL industries, one of the most interesting tidbits we got from Marrie Haynes was the importance of telling both sides of the story.
If you are a medical website, don’t produce content that goes against widely accepted scientific evidence. If it’s clear to Google that your messaging actively contradicts large amounts of credible research, it can cause ranking issues.
When it comes to writing blog posts (regardless of the industry), the most important pieces of the puzzle in building Trustworthiness is that your platform is updated/secure and you are backing up claims with relevant, timely, and credible data.
In the marketing world, when people see articles published by outlets like Content Marketing Institute, Search Engine Journal, Moz, etc., there is a preconceived notion that informational blog posts coming from these organizations are credible.
Why is this?
These platforms have spent years building up their E-A-T in the eyes of Google.
They don’t just allow anyone to post content on their website. Most authors on these sites have proven expertise in the field and know how to create thought leadership articles.
As a result, there is an instantly recognizable stamp of credibility when both Google and readers see the content.
5. Service Pages
In the process of boosting E-A-T on service pages, a lot of the same principles of E-A-T in blog posts will apply.
When looking at Expertise, the thought leadership content you produce on your website likely plays a large role in the credibility you bring to the table.
For instance, say you are a digital agency specializing in SEO.
If you’ve got a long, comprehensive guide on link building that is ranking well on the SERPs for informational queries, this is a sign that Google sees you as an expert on the topic. And in turn, can likely rank your link building service page highly for queries that have navigational or transactional intent.
Additionally, if other industry experts recognize you and/or your organization as an expert (boosting Authoritativeness), this will likely improve the E-A-T of your service pages even further.
Let’s put this theory to the test, shall we?
Here’s what comes up when we Google the informational query, “project management guide”:
You’ll notice that there is a piece of educational content from ProjectManager.com placed highly on the SERP for this query.
Now let’s enter in the more navigational/transactional query “project management software”:
We can now see that the service page from ProjectManager.com is also placed highly on the SERP.
With this alone, we can clearly see that Google sees ProjectManager.com as a credible source of information, and therefore, promotes the service page as a reliable option for users.
But what about the signals that indicate Trustworthiness?
When it comes to service pages, there are a few key areas to note that Haynes discussed in the podcast.
First of all, you need to prioritize your review signals – especially with local SEO.
According to Moz, reviews make up 15% of local ranking factors – per 2018 research.
Keep in mind, a few bad reviews here and there aren’t going to be the grim reaper of your service pages’ E-A-T. However, if the general consensus is that you provide subpar services, scam people, or anything else of that nature, this is likely going to devalue the page.
Next, Haynes talked about the importance of having a terms & conditions page, as well as a privacy page clearly accessible from the service page. You don’t want to be hiding anything that could potentially mislead users. More importantly, you need to make sure those pages get indexed by Google!
Additionally, contact information needs to be easy-to-find and the process to get in touch shouldn’t force users to jump through a bunch of hoops.
Lastly (similar to blog posts), be sure the site looks secure and updated. This involves having HTTPS, trust badges, secure transactions, and so on.
To recap, let’s list out the key components to (ideally) boost the E-A-T of your service pages:
- High quality, informational content that proves you are an industry expert.
- A healthy amount of reviews – that provide generally good brand sentiment.
- Easily accessible (indexed) terms & conditions and privacy pages.
- Clearly visible contact information.
- Transactional security (trust badges).
When gauging service pages, Haynes noted that a good strategy is to take a small focus group with no affiliation to your business. Show them three different service pages – one being yours and the others your competitors’. Ask them which page they would buy from.
6. Product Pages
The topic of E-A-T and product pages are jam-packed with speculation.
Unfortunately, just about everything related to Google algorithms is merely speculation.
The good news is that some speculation seems to hold more truth than others.
These days, it appears that a killer product description simply is not enough to boost the E-A-T of a product page.
But what about if there are a myriad of product pages that sell the same item?
Say for example that you are selling the same item across multiple channels – your website, Amazon, eBay, etc. Obviously, you want the product page on your own website to rank the highest (to avoid paying fees).
We asked Haynes about her thoughts on this and got a very interesting answer.
Spending the time to create unique descriptions for every single product page you have probably won’t be worth your time, especially if you have a gigantic catalog. Instead, you are wise to prioritize the information that makes life easier for the buyer – going beyond comprehensive product details.
It’s a good idea to focus on areas including:
- Gathering/managing genuine customer reviews
- Multiple high-quality images
- Sizing (product specs)
- Product videos
- Easy-to-find contact information
- FAQ page
- Shipping/returns info
Ok, now let’s put this theory to the test.
Let’s Google the transactional query, “buy wheelchair online”:
We’re going to look at the first website that came up organically (from 1800wheelchair.com).
Here’s a fantastic example of a product page that essentially provides all the information the shopper would need.
- Lots of genuine customer reviews? Check.
- Multiple high-quality images? Check.
- Comprehensive product specs? Check.
- Product video? Check.
- Easy contact portal? Check.
- FAQ page? Check.
- Shipping/returns page? Check.
- Privacy page? Check.
This is everything a product page should be. As a result, it’s extremely well-favored on the organic SERPs – above anything on Amazon.
Ultimately, we believe the E-A-T of your product pages depends on how well you combat the universal pain point of e-commerce: buyers never really know what they get until it shows up at their front door.
The better your pages can remedy this pain point and provide the necessary information, the better it will ideally rank.
Over to You
Following a Google Core Update, we always seem to get the vague advice on E-A-T to, “just create good content that is focused on the user!”
As much as I roll my eyes whenever I hear this, it’s certainly the truth (and always has been).
The tough part of taking this advice is understanding how.
How do you create “good content?”
How do you create content that is “focused on the user?”
Hopefully, this long post has given you a better idea of how to go about this for different types of webpages.
To hear the full podcast with Marie Haynes, check out The Marketing Microscope!