How understanding Google's E-A-T can improve a small business's SEO performance

Posted by Andrej Kovačević on 1 Jun, 2021
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Read on for a deeper insight into what Google's E-A-T is looking for, and how this can help your content rank well in the search results.

Google E-A-T.

The internet is a crowded place with lots of competition and established sites, which makes it hard for small or new businesses to get noticed.  Search engine optimization is a way to gain visibility and there's a lot small businesses can do in this area, even without professional help.

One of the most important things you can do is learn as much as possible about how search engines rank web content. Understanding what search engines like Google look for in high quality web content makes it easier to create it.

The trouble is, Google doesn't really explain the secret sauce of its ranking algorithm to the public. But it does provide some clues now and then that offer guidance and insight into what it’s looking for.

One of the things it has been focusing on lately is E-A-T. This is the shorthand Google uses in its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines to help manual raters judge page quality.

It stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, and it tells you everything you need to know about creating the kind of quality content that Google is looking for.  

It’s a holistic view. Google says the following should be considered in terms of E-A-T when rating a page:

  • The expertise of the creator of the main content
  • The authoritativeness of the creator of the main content, the main content itself, and the website.
  • The trustworthiness of the creator of the main content, the main content itself, and the website.

Here's a breakdown of what each part of Google’s E-A-T looks for and how your business can use that knowledge to improve its SEO performance.

Expertise

On the face of it, you might think Google's appraisal of your content's expertise is all about how complete and correct the information in your content is. And you'd be right – partially. Google does care that you're providing useful answers to searchers' queries. But that's not all.

They're also expecting you to be proactive in answering other questions related to the user's original search within your content. In other words, they measure your content's expertise in terms of how well it prevents a user from having to keep searching for additional information beyond your content.

If that sounds confusing, don't worry. You aren't going to have to learn to be a psychic to create content that scores high on the expertise scale. Instead, you just have to understand your audience the same way that Google does, using your own expertise and also through keyword research.

As you identify target keywords you plan to base content on, you should also figure out what else the users driving those keywords are looking for. In other words, you're trying to figure out the searchers' intent so you can give them the right related information within your content.

Once you have that knowledge, you'll want to create content that contains the initial answers that those searchers came looking for, along with as much related information as you can. But the key is to provide the right information in a simple and easy-to-digest way – so no off-putting walls of text. Make good use of rich formats such as images, infographics, audio and video.

And if you're dealing with an especially complex subject, don't be afraid to give simple explanations that link to longer-form targeted content elsewhere on your site. You don't have to try and cram an encyclopedia's worth of information into every page.

Make sure your content fits the type of page. Is it providing a top-level overview, or a more detailed explanation?

PickHVac's website is a perfect example of this in action. They have a whole interconnected library of content that contains answers to almost every question related to their field. And if you check out the structure of one of the articles, you'll see they include brief informational sections that give the reader the choice to move on to more in-depth content if they wish. You can use that same structure to create high-performance content of your own.

PickHvac content.

Authoritativeness

Even if you manage to create content that meets Google's expertise requirement, you've still got some work cut out for yourself. That's because the next ranking factor – authoritativeness – is a bit more elusive. It's a reflection of how many other important websites cite you or your expert content within their pages.

To establish your content's authority you need to devise and execute a link-building strategy. The idea is to find as many ways as possible to get organic links to your content to show up on high-quality websites in your company's vertical. You can do this by providing guest posts on industry websites or by participating in forums related to your field of expertise.

Editorial links, those given freely which are not asked, paid or traded for, show that your content is considered good quality for further information or context.  A website producing good content will attract these links organically. They reflect another website's willingness to send their readers to you for more information – in effect indicating they think you're an expert worth listening to.

What you don't want to do is engage in any kind of paid link schemes or quid-pro-quo arrangements with other site owners. Google has highly developed systems for spotting unnatural link patterns and will soon catch on to what you're doing. When it does you'll likely be penalized, with your content rankings suffering as a result.

Trustworthiness

The last part of Google’s E-A-T content ranking puzzle – trustworthiness – has almost nothing to do with your content and what's in it. It has to do with who you and your company are and the prevailing sentiment around you (and it) online. In other words, if you create the world's best and most useful content but have a poor reputation among your customers, you'll have wasted a great deal of effort.

For that reason, it's essential to exercise as much control as possible over your business's reputation online. You need to encourage happy customers to leave positive reviews on relevant industry-related sites and work hard to address every unhappy customer promptly. Google sees those efforts as essential to measuring how trustworthy you and your business are. And if you don't have a positive reputation, your rankings will suffer.

It isn't just external factors Google will be looking for. There are elements on your business's website that matter, too. These include:

  • Clear and easy-to-find contact information
  • Available terms of service documentation
  • Available privacy policy
  • A listed physical address for the business
  • An up-to-date and functioning SSL security certificate
  • Outbound links to authority websites

Together with external reputation data, Google uses these on-page factors to judge your website's (and by proxy, your business's) trustworthiness. If you score well, Google will be happy to send search traffic your way. If not, well, you’ll need to clean up your act a bit.

Reputation

Reputation is very much related to E-A-T criteria. Google covers it in the rater guidelines, advising raters to use external source reputation research to find out what real users, as well as experts, think about a website.  Raters are advised to “Look for reviews, references, recommendations by experts, news articles, and other credible information created/written by individuals about the website.”

The bottom line

E-A-T is not a ranking algorithm as such but is one of many factors feeding into Google’s ranking algorithms. Google places strong emphasis on it in the rater guidelines and you won’t go wrong by making sure you adhere to it.

By keeping Google's E-A-T criteria in mind, any small business can create and promote content that will get them visibility on the search results pages. However, it's important to remember, you won't see results overnight.

Getting everything just right takes time, effort, and patience. But once you start seeing results, it will become easier to maintain and expand upon them. That's because your prior E-A-T-based success will factor into how your newer content gets perceived by Google. And, if you do it right, you'll end up with a beneficial cycle that drives floods of high-quality traffic to your business's digital doorstep.

For more practical tips on making sure your content is on track with E-A-T see our blog post.

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