TL;DR: Why should you—a business owner or marketer—care about SEO changes? Because what you don’t know may be impacting your website performance. Here, we discuss how expertise, authority, and trustworthiness influence your online success.
In February 2019, Google announced its effort to combat the circulation of false information across search, Google News, YouTube, and the company’s advertising products. It’s undeniably important that changes are being made—especially in a sociopolitical climate that frequently encounters the misleading, deceitful, and even malicious dissemination of content.
Google’s announcement confirms that it gives preference to sites that display high levels of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness—a ranking factor that is commonly known in the industry as E-A-T. By no means a new concept, the recognition of this acronym not only comes at a convenient time, it confirms information that many in the industry already held to be true.
Google admits that its current ranking system is not designed to the accuracy of all content. While we’re not quite at the point where our digital overlords can objectively deem the factuality of every piece of content, we’re getting closer to that reality.
Providing useful, relevant information should be the goal of all internet users, be they advertisers, journalists, content creators, or businesses. When everyone plays nicely, the internet works as intended: information is easy to find, use, and share.
So, what does this mean for your business?
Simply put, E-A-T quantifies the quality of a webpage—and high-quality pages perform better.
To have a high page quality (PQ), your websites or pages must have a purpose. The first step of PQ is to understand your goals. Websites that don’t benefit users receive the lowest possible rating. According to Google, the most influential PQ factors are purpose, quality, information, reputation, and (you guessed it) expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
To ensure your content is working for you, and your pages have a high PQ, let’s breakdown each component of E-A-T.
Simply put, expertise means industry knowledge. According to Google, pages with a beneficial purpose must display a level of this insight—or, at the very least, include a link or citation to a source that does.
It’s important at this stage to think holistically about the topic of your webpages. Do they require specific expertise to achieve their purpose? Ultimately, this depends on your topic.
Google specifically categories YMYL (Your Money Your Life) pages as those that directly influence the health or financial stability of its users. This includes pages from the finance, legal, and healthcare industries. In the case of YMYL verticals, formal education or knowledge is often needed. In the healthcare sector for example, Google awards pages that are written by—or cite—those with certified medical expertise. Likewise, legal pages must include appropriate research and evidence and should represent a general consensus when possible.
But wait, pages in non-YMYL verticals still require a level of knowledge, right? Correct. It’s important to note that there are authoritative pages of all shades, including humor and satirical websites, Q&A pages and forums, and (wait for it...) digital marketing blogs!
Websites that deal with professions or hobbies as far-reaching as, say, interior design, e-commerce, or real estate should still take E-A-T into consideration. This even includes things like fashion blogs, restaurant review aggregators, and parenting advice sites. While these topics may require less formal expertise, and can be based on life experiences, Google still takes “everyday expertise” into consideration—and does not penalize for a lack of formal training.
Whereas expertise zeroes in on individual-level proficiency, authoritativeness deals with the way that Google responds to your greater organization. As Marie Haynes points out, Google’s recent announcement suggests that the most established signal of both trustworthiness and authority seems to be PageRank.
This comes as no surprise, as PageRank has been an important factor since the early days of Google. But what does this mean for your business? That authoritative backlinks are still highly influential—and that an effective link building strategy should still be a central component of your SEO strategy.
Basically, backlinks are the way that websites communicate with each other. And the best conversations are awarded a high PageRank. They serve as the roadmap that enable users and search engines to circumnavigate the internet by directing them to the best content. Backlinks essentially confirm that someone trusts your content enough to link to it.
Quality is key here. The authority of the website linking to your site is highly influential—and just a few links from several high-authority sites can be more powerful than many from low-authority sites. Having an agency analyze your backlink profile can help build your credibility and improve these conversations.
I’ve recently discussed the importance of quality content (it’s the cornerstone of content marketing). And, as Google’s announcement confirms, it’s essential to focus on your user by asking and answering relevant questions. Creating content with the goals of your users in mind is one of the best ways to build trust.
To do this, ask yourself the following: “How well does my webpage accomplish its goals?”
To answer this question, you must first understand the motive behind your pages. Webpages are designed for specific purposes. While Google has confirmed numerous page purposes, some of the most common in the B2B industry include sharing information about a topic, expressing an opinion, or selling products or services.
According to Google, a high-quality page serves a purpose and accomplishes its goals. These pages include a satisfying amount of quality main content—including a descriptive or relevant title—and information about who’s responsible for that website. And as Google claims, writing quality content requires either time, effort, expertise, or skill.
Ultimately, it’s important to be honest about the goal of your page.
So, what’s the overarching take-away from Google’s recent announcement?
If I’m being honest, there’s no remarkable new developments here (at least yet). And that’s not a bad thing. If anything, Google’s confirmation has only increased our accountability as internet participants. As marketers and business owners continue to publish content—no matter its purpose—it’s important to do so with intent and integrity.
This is done by:
- Leveraging an appropriate level of expertise across your content
- Focusing on building high-quality links from authoritative sources
- Analyzing your backlink profile—or having an agency perform this task
- Striving to accomplish specific goals with each piece of content
- Being transparent about the intent of your webpages
Stay hungry, my friends. And if you have any questions about E-A-T, please reach out to our SEO team (who can provide you with enough technical goodies to satisfy your cravings).