Want to know what Google wants?
Google recommends that publishers review their quality raters guidelines.
SEO professionals have been doing that for years, looking for any clues to unlock some secrets of Google’s algorithm.
But here’s why much of what you’ve read about optimizing for E-A-T may need an update.
What Is E-A-T?
E-A-T is an acronym for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. It is a concept created by Google for third-party quality raters as a standardized method for judging search results.
Google also recommends it to publishers as a way to measure the quality of their content.
The reason Google created E-A-T is strictly for measuring the quality of content, particularly for third-party quality raters.
According to Google’s Search Quality Guidelines:
Unless your rating task indicates otherwise, your ratings should be based on the instructions and examples given in these guidelines.
Ratings should not be based on your personal opinions, preferences, religious beliefs, or political views.
Personal opinions would make the ratings submitted to Google unreliable. That’s why the concept of E-A-T was developed.
The search quality raters guidelines and the concept of E-A-T reflect the kinds of sites Google’s algorithm attempts to rank.
E-A-T As Ranking Factors – Is It Possible?
There are no actual patents or research papers that establish the existence of those three concepts (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness) as ranking factors.
What Google has admitted is that there are signals that indicate that a site is trustworthy but Google has never said what those signals are.
It must be repeated that the Quality Raters Guidelines do not provide hints for what those signals may be.
If the guidelines instruct the rater to review a page for an author, that does not mean that Google uses an “author signal” in the algorithm.
It is asking the rater to do that in order to be a better judge of website authority. That’s all.
There are concepts represented by E-A-T that can be expressed in real factors like links.
Expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness are not actual ranking factors or ranking metrics in use by Google.
How Does Google Know if Content Is Authoritative?
There are real factors like links that have traditionally been used to establish expertise and authority as well as understanding what users want to see.
If a webpage receives many links, particularly from webpages about similar topics, then the webpage receiving the links can be understood as being authoritative for that topic.
There is no actual metric called “authority” that Google uses. Authority is simply a quality of a webpage that Google can guess at based on (undisclosed) signals.
Links are pretty much the only signal that we know about that can indicate that a webpage is authoritative.
But it’s not the only one. In April 2021, Google disclosed that AI is used to identify if the content is authoritative or not.
Google Uses AI to Understand Expertise and Authority
Did you know Google relies on AI technologies to understand the content better?
Google is using AI to weed out low-quality content related to shopping and product reviews.
“…we wanted to make sure that you’re getting the most useful information for your next purchase by rewarding content that has more in-depth research and useful information.”
According to that statement, Google is using AI to understand if web content is superficial or if it has the contours and features typical of “in-depth research” and other qualities typical of sites that are useful to users.
Google Research & E-A-T
Ultimately, Google’s search results pages are about showing users what they expect to see.
Many of Google’s patents and research papers that describe link analysis, content analysis, and natural language processing all revolve around understanding what users want and understanding what webpages are about.
- Links can communicate what page is expert.
- AI helps Google understand what webpages are authoritative.
- Content analyzed by AI and links communicate which webpages are trustworthy.
- On-page signals may indicate expertise, authoritativeness, and authority… as well as their opposites.
How the E-A-T Concept Translates to Better Ranking
E-A-T is an abstract idea created to teach the quality raters how to judge a site.
The search quality guidelines do not provide clues to ranking factors.
The concepts of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness need to be defined in order to be understood.
Once E-A-T is understood, publishers will have a firm idea of how to improve and optimize content.
Qualities of Expertise
Expertise is the quality of competence and technical skill. Expertise demonstrates a mastery of the topic, depth of knowledge, and hands-on experience.
As an example, when a webpage is about curing an ailment the topic must generally be approached from a scientific point of view in order to qualify as an expert.
An expert page teaches, reveals, and provides knowledge. An expert webpage will demonstrate qualities of depth of knowledge that can be signaled by the subtopics it raises or maybe by the citations it makes to other work.
Depth of Knowledge Is Not Comprehensiveness
Do not confuse depth of knowledge with being comprehensive. Depth of knowledge means that a topic is deeply understood.
Comprehensiveness is concerned with how broad the scope of the content is.
When evaluating a webpage for expertise, it may be helpful to ask, how does this webpage signal that it communicates a depth of knowledge?
Content is expert if a topic contains a specific kind of information for a given topic. For example, it is almost required for an article about headaches to mention aspirin.
Understand Depth of Knowledge in Order to Understand Expertise
Adding “expertise” to an article is more than the laughably simplistic practice of adding an author box with the author’s academic credentials.
Expertise in webpage content is the expression of the depth of knowledge and experience.
One can’t simply cannot add an author biography and expect it to magically become an expert article.
The first step toward adding expertise to webpages is understanding what depth of knowledge actually is.
What Is Expertise?
Expertise has been studied in a number of disciplines. Some researchers state that “expertise results from practice and experience, built on a foundation of talent, or innate ability.”
The educational field has a system for measuring student’s depth of knowledge called Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. In it there are four levels of depth of knowledge.
The beginner level starts with the ability to remember facts. The fourth level consists of the ability to bring together facts and ideas from different areas and stitch them together into a coherent thesis.
A scientific research organization called Global Cognition states that there are two kinds of expertise. One kind of expertise (Routine Expertise) is the ability to solve problems using similar routines and solutions over and over.
The second kind of expertise is called Adaptive Expertise. Adaptive Expertise is characterized by the ability to formulate solutions for problems that are changing or not previously seen before.
In both cases the results are:
“…the thinking and qualities that lead to consistently superior performance.”
Expertise is generally defined as the result of:
What Does It Mean to Have Content With Expertise?
Given what is known about expertise and depth of knowledge, it can be said that expert content contains evidence that the author physically handled the object of the article, has actual experience in the topic, provides analysis, measurements, and comparisons.
Example of Expertise in Content
I wrote an article about structured data. None of the top-ranked articles on the topic mentioned that structured data is a markup language (like HTML is).
Google’s machine learning (and whatever else they use to understand a topic) probably knew that and may have responded favorably to that expert observation.
It’s not that my observation was good because it was different than the top-ranked pages. It’s that my observation demonstrated a deep understanding of what Schema.org structured data is.
Being authoritative is not the same thing as being comprehensive. This is a common mistake that publishers make when attempting to create authoritative content.
The Difference Between Authoritativeness and Comprehensive
- Authoritativeness has to do with being reliable, trustworthy, and accurate.
- Comprehensiveness has to do with the quality of having a wide scope.
Accuracy (authoritativeness) and a wide scope (comprehensiveness) are not the same things.
Elements of Authoritative Content
So when reviewing content for authoritativeness, go back to the definition of authoritativeness and review the content for qualities such as accuracy, soundness of ideas, and validity.
Can You Optimize for Authoritativeness?
What is authority? Metrics for authority can be the links that point to your site. That’s pretty much what is known and confirmed for authority.
But authority and authoritativeness are just concepts and are not actual ranking factors or metrics that Google uses. There is no “authority” metric at Google unless you call PageRank an authority metric.
So if you talk about “optimizing for authority,” in a way you’re really talking about how to optimize for PageRank, which is kind of silly. One does not optimize for PageRank. PageRank is something that is accumulated by a webpage.
People will link to your page, talk about your site on social media, and cite a wide range of pages from your site if your webpages satisfy users on a consistent basis.
That kind of user satisfaction on a wide scale can cause individuals to regard your site as a trustworthy source of information, services, or products.
It is generally understood that Google does not use social signals for ranking purposes. If Google uses them for anything it’s not something that is known.
But social signals can be the smoke that tells you there’s a fire raging that indicates you are doing something right.
Optimizing for Trustworthiness
Googlers have made references to the trustworthiness of a website. Research papers and patents have made references to trustworthiness.
Interesting research into trustworthiness relates to link analysis (Read: Link Distance Ranking Algorithms for more information).
Google likely does not use Knowledge-Based Trust as a Ranking signal for Google Results. Xin Luna Dong posted the following slide in a presentation (https://t.co/R4tfgUabn8) which show low accuracy site are often popular sites, and high accuracy sites are often unpopular ones. pic.twitter.com/b30nMALAIL
— Bill Slawski ⚓ (@bill_slawski) September 9, 2019
A specific trustworthiness metric where a site accumulates “trust points” to indicate trustworthiness isn’t something that Google has researched.
Link distance ranking is the closest thing that Google might be using that approximates trust, but there is no actual trust score. Link distance ranking can identify spammy sites as well as quality sites.
Aside from being careful about where you get links (which you should be doing anyway!), there’s no way to “optimize” for trustworthiness.
You just have to be a reliable and trustworthy source of information. If people notice then Google might also notice, perhaps by the way other sites link to your webpages.
E-A-T Is Not an Algorithm
In October 2019 at Pubcon Gary Illyes confirmed that E-A-T was not an algorithm.
Gary Illyes was asked about E-A-T point-blank and everything he said matches up with what Googlers have been saying about the QRG and E-A-T.
As Gary also said, there are lots of Baby algorithms that taken together approximate something like EAT. This may seem like semantics. To a degree it is, if they don’t have one large adult algorithm that looks for EAT signals. The baby ones probably need to be fed too.
— Bill Slawski ⚓ (@bill_slawski) October 11, 2019
Optimizing for E-A-T
You can build expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness using all of the above approaches that focus on excellence.
Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness in content are more than just descriptions and perceptions of your site. They are qualities that your content can contain.
So it makes sense to think hard about what those words expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness mean and apply your insights to every webpage that you publish.
Featured image: Paulo Bobita/SearchEngineJournal
How to Write For Google
Are you writing your SEO content based on the latest best practice tips?
I originally wrote this SEO copywriting checklist in 2012—my, how things have changed. Today, Google stresses quality content even more than before, conversational copy is critical, and there are revised SEO writing “rules.”
I’ve updated the list to reflect these changes and to provide additional information.
As a side note, I would argue that there’s no such thing as “writing for Google.” Yes, there are certain things you should do to make the Google gods happy. However, your most important goal should be writing clear, compelling, standout copy that tells a story.
I’m keeping the old headline in the hopes that I can convert some of the “write for Google” people to do things the right way.
Whether you’re an in-house SEO content writer, a DIY business owner, or a freelance SEO copywriter, this 27-point checklist will help you write engaging, Google-happy content—every time.
Items to review before you start your SEO writing project
– Do you have enough information about your target reader?
Your copy will pack a powerful one-two punch if your content is laser-focused on your target reader. Ask your client or supervisor for a customer/reader persona document outlining your target readers’ specific characteristics. If the client doesn’t have a customer persona document, be prepared to spend an hour or more asking detailed questions.
Here’s more information on customer personas.
– Writing a sales page? Did you interview the client?
It’s essential to interview new clients and to learn more about their company, USP, and competition. Don’t forget to ask about industry buzzwords that should appear in the content.
Not sure what questions to ask to get the copywriting ball rolling? Here’s a list of 56 questions you can start with today.
– Writing a blog post? Get topic ideas from smart sources
When you’re blogging, it’s tempting to write about whatever strikes your fancy. The challenge is, what interests you may not interest your readers. If you want to make sure you’re writing must-read content, sites like Quora, LinkedIn, Google Trends, and BuzzSumo can help spark some ideas.
– Did you use Google for competitive intelligence ideas?
Check out the sites positioning in the top-10 and look for common characteristics. How long are competing articles? Do the articles link out to authoritative sources? Are there videos or infographics? Do the articles include quotes from industry experts? Your job is to write an essay that’s better than what’s already appearing in the top-10 — so let the competition be your guide.
– Did you conduct keyphrase research?
Yes, keyphrase research (and content optimization) is still a crucial SEO step. If you don’t give Google some keyphrase “cues,” your page probably won’t position the way you want.
Use a keyphrase research tool and find possible keyphrases for your page or post. As a hint: if you are tightly focusing on a topic, long-tail keyphrases are your best bet. Here’s more information about why long-tail keyphrases are so important.
If you are researching B2B keyphrases, know that the “traditional” keyphrase research steps may not apply. Here’s more information about what to do if B2B keyphrase research doesn’t work.
– What is your per-page keyphrase focus?
Writers are no longer forced to include the exact-match keyphrase over and over again. (Hurray!) Today, we can focus on a keyphrase theme that matches the search intent and weave in multiple related keyphrases.
– Did you expand your keyphrase research to include synonyms and close variants?
Don’t be afraid to include keyphrase synonyms and close variants on your page. Doing so opens up your positioning opportunities, makes your copy better, and is much easier to write!
Are you wondering if you should include your keyphrases as you write the copy — or edit them in later? It’s up to you! Here are the pros and cons of both processes.
— Do your keyphrases match the search intent?
Remember that Google is “the decider” when it comes to search intent. If you’re writing a sales page — and your desired keyphrase pulls up informational blog posts in Google – your sales page probably won’t position.
— Writing a blog post? Does your Title/headline work for SEO, social, and your readers?
Yes, you want your headline to be compelling, but you also want it to be keyphrase rich. Always include your main page keyphrase (or a close variant) in your Title and work in other keyphrases if they “fit.”
– Did you include keyphrase-rich subheadlines?
Subheadlines are an excellent way to visually break up your text, making it easy for readers to quick-scan your benefits and information. Additionally, just like with the H1 headline, adding a keyphrase to your subheadlines can (slightly) help reinforce keyphrase relevancy.
As a hint, sometimes, you can write a question-oriented subheadline and slip the keyphrase in more easily. Here’s more information about why answering questions is a powerful SEO content play.
– Is your Title “clickable” and compelling?
Remember, the search engine results page is your first opportunity for conversion. Focusing too much on what you think Google “wants” may take away your Title’s conversion power.
Consider how you can create an enticing Title that “gets the click” over the other search result listings. You have about 59 characters (with spaces) to work with, so writing tight is essential.
– Does the meta description fit the intent of the page?
Yes, writers should create a meta description for every page. Why? Because they tell the reader what the landing page is about and help increase SERP conversions. Try experimenting with different calls-to-actions at the end, such as “learn more” or “apply now.” You never know what will entice your readers to click!
– Is your content written in a conversational style?
With voice search gaining prominence, copy that’s written in a conversational style is even more critical.
Read your copy out loud and hear how it sounds. Does it flow? Or does it sound too formal? If you’re writing for a regulated industry, such as finance, legal, or healthcare, you may not be able to push the conversational envelope too much. Otherwise, write like you talk.
Here’s how to explain why conversational content is so important.
–Is your copy laser-focused on your audience?
A big mistake some writers make is creating copy that appeals to “everyone” rather than their specific target reader. Writing sales and blog pages that are laser-focused on your audience will boost your conversions and keep readers checking out your copy longer. Here’s how one company does it.
Plus, you don’t receive special “Google points” for writing long content. Even short copy can position if it fully answers the searcher’s query. Your readers don’t want to wade through 1,500 words to find something that can be explained in 300 words.
Items to review after you’ve written the page
– Did you use too many keyphrases?
Remember, there is no such thing as keyword density. If your content sounds keyphrase-heavy and stilted, reduce the keyphrase usage and focus more on your readers’ experience. Your page doesn’t receive bonus points for exact-matching your keyphrase multiple times. If your page sounds keyphrase stuffed when you read it out loud, dial back your keyphrase usage.
– Did you edit your content?
Resist the urge to upload your content as soon as you write it. Put it away and come back to it after a few hours (or even the next day.) Discover why editing your Web writing is so very important. Also, don’t think that adding typos will help your page position. They won’t.
– Is the content interesting to read?
Yes, it’s OK if your copy has a little personality. Here’s more information about working with your page’s tone and feel and how to avoid the “yawn response.” Plus, know that even FAQ pages can help with conversions — and yes, even position.
– Are your sentences and paragraphs easy to read?
Vary your sentence structure so you have a combination of longer and shorter sentences. If you find your sentences creeping over 30 or so words, edit them down and make them punchier. Your writing will have more impact if you do.
Plus, long paragraphs without much white space are hard to read off a computer monitor – and even harder to read on a smartphone. Split up your long paragraphs into shorter ones. Please.
– Are you forcing your reader onto a “dead end” page?
“Dead-end” pages (pages that don’t link out to related pages) can stop your readers dead in their tracks and hurt your conversion goals.
Want to avoid this? Read more about “dead-end” Web pages.
– Does the content provide the reader with valuable information?
Google warns against sites with “thin,” low-quality content that’s poorly written. In fact, according to Google, spelling errors are a bigger boo-boo than broken HTML. Make sure your final draft is typo-free, written well, and thoroughly answers the searcher’s query.
Want to know what Google considers quality content — directly from Google? Here are Google’s Quality Raters guidelines for more information.
– Did you use bullet points where appropriate?
If you find yourself writing a list-like sentence, use bullet points instead. Your readers will thank you, and the items will be much easier to read.
Plus, you can write your bullet points in a way that makes your benefit statements pop, front and center. Here’s how Nike does it.
– Is the primary CTA (call-to-action) clear–and is it easy to take action?
What action do you want your readers to take? Do you want them to contact you? Buy something? Sign up for your newsletter? Make sure you’re telling your reader what you want them to do, and make taking action easy. If you force people to answer multiple questions just to fill out a “contact us” form, you run the risk of people bailing out.
Here’s a list of seven CTA techniques that work.
– Do you have a secondary CTA (such as a newsletter signup or downloading a white paper?)
Do you want readers to sign up for your newsletter or learn about related products? Don’t bury your “sign up for our newsletter” button in the footer text. Instead, test different CTA locations (for instance, try including a newsletter signup link at the bottom of every blog post) and see where you get the most conversions.
– Does the page include too many choices?
It’s important to keep your reader focused on your primary and secondary CTAs. If your page lists too many choices (for example, a large, scrolling page of products), consider eliminating all “unnecessary” options that don’t support your primary call-to-action. Too many choices may force your readers into not taking any action at all.
– Did you include benefit statements?
People make purchase decisions based on what’s in it for them (yes, even your B2B buyers.) Highly specific benefit statements will help your page convert like crazy. Don’t forget to include a benefit statement in your Title (whenever possible) like “free shipping” or “sale.” Seeing this on the search results page will catch your readers’ eyes, tempting them to click the link and check out your site.
– Do you have vertical-specific testimonials?
It’s incredible how many great sales pages are testimonial-free. Testimonials are a must for any site, as they offer third-party proof that your product or service is superior. Plus, your testimonials can help you write better, more benefit-driven sales pages and fantastic comparison-review pages.
Here’s a way to make your testimonials more powerful.
And finally — the most important question:
– Does your content stand out and genuinely deserve a top position?
SEO writing is more than shoving keyphrases into the content. If you want to be rewarded by Google (and your readers), your content must stand out — not be a carbon copy of the current top-10 results. Take a hard look at your content and compare it against what’s currently positioning. Have you fully answered the searcher’s query? Did you weave in other value-added resources, such as expert quotes, links to external and internal resources (such as FAQ pages), videos, and graphics?
If so, congratulations! You’ve done your job.
Google Execs Share Vision & Strategy For Google Ads
Twitter Agrees to $150 Million Fine from the FTC Over Past Misuse of Users’ Personal Information
Daily Search Forum Recap: May 26, 2022
Minecraft The Wild Update Releasing June 7
YouTube Analytics Now Separates Data By Video Type
TikTok Shares New Insights into Effective Promotional Approaches in the App [Infographic]
Hootsuite joins TikTok’s Marketing Partner Program
3 changes coming to Google Ads audience features
TikTok Brings Account Management To Third-Party Tools
Google Ads Adds Audience Targeting & Reporting Features
LinkedIn Adds Live Captions for Audio Events, Custom URL Listings on Creator Profiles
Daily Search Forum Recap: May 2, 2022
Six Ways to Adjust Google Ads to Save Budget
How Does Google Multisearch Affect SEO?
How to Write the Perfect Page Title With SEO in Mind
Where To Invest In SEO For Maximum Impact
Google Says You Can Use Hashtags In Meta Descriptions
Google Testing New Ad Format With Swipeable Images In A Carousel
Google Search Console URL Parameter Tool Is Now Offline
What’s A Good Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)? Ask The PPC
SEO3 days ago
Google Unveils New Ads Manager Tools For Video Ads
MARKETING4 days ago
50 Video Marketing Statistics to Inform Your 2022 Strategy [New Data]
SEARCHENGINES6 days ago
Google Displays Out Of Stock For Items Using Back Order Value In Structured Data
MARKETING6 days ago
How To Increase Conversion Rate For Your eCommerce Store