E-A-T, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness
Google updates their search algorithms frequently to improve end user’s search experience and make sure users find the best and most accurate piece of information that matches their search query. Every time there is a new algorithm update, some brand websites see drops in the rankings and visibility, and some brands are impacted positively! So yes, your website can really be affected, due to a Google core algorithm update. When that happens, you are most likely to turn to your SEO specialist to figure out how to get back on track, but investigating the reasons why rankings have dropped and implementing a solution could take weeks and sometimes months.
We understand. You can’t afford to lose website traffic and potential customers. What if there were steps you could take today to anticipate any sudden negative ranking changes whenever Google decides to do a core search algorithm update?
Google is always looking to perfect their search algorithm, and they rely on the feedback from a qualified group of internet users called quality raters, who run various online experiments or rating projects, as Google calls them. They follow specific instructions from Quality Raters Guidelines, a 168-page document used as a guide on what to look for in terms of the content quality of a website.
We took some takeaways from studying the Quality Raters Guidelines and put together this list of 7 important tips to focus on, that will help you tweak your SEO strategy, so your website can be ready to weather future core algorithm updates from Google.
1. Online reputation matters
- The accuracy of the information, name, address, phone number, you enter in your website and other online directories must be 100% consistent
- Researching all directories and websites you want to list your business information prior to submitting it, is very important
- Check the author’s reputation in all articles where your company name is mentioned online
Focus on quality content and engaging user experience
The main purpose of your website should be to provide original content with a purpose and to answer your customer’s questions in an engaging and transparent way.
Encourage customers to leave reviews in your Google My Business (GMB) listing
Having great reviews on your GMB listing can affect your local rankings in a positive way and could potentially become an overall ranking signal in the future. All reviews matter especially when customers include details in reviews by describing the positive experience or interaction they had with your brand, product or service, and how it made them feel, it indicates a positive signal to Google. On the right is an example of a customer review for one of my clients.
How about not so positive reviews? The important thing to remember here is that the business owner is responsive and is taking action to address the customer’s concern. Not only Google sees this as a positive signal but it also shows that you care and are a responsible and conscious business owner. Google always adds new features to GMB, to enable local businesses to get maximum exposure, so it is recommended to keep your profile up to date. Read more about how you can take advantage of Google My Business listing
Create a solid link profile
Just like bridges that connect two pieces of land or islands, the purpose of links on the internet is to connect users to other web pages or better yet to other information sources that fulfill the intent of the web users.
Google’s page rank algorithm takes into consideration both the quality and quantity of links pointing to your website, so if you are spending time building links, it better be with authoritative websites that have a good link influence score (LIS) and good online reputation.
One approach is to research websites that publish similar content to yours, or websites where you can contribute by writing content or blog posts that will enable you to link naturally. By becoming a writer or content contributor, you show your expertise in your niche and build a reputation as an author.
There are various online paid tools like Sitebulb, Ahrefs, Link Explorer, your local SEO consultant can discover reputable online sources, find opportunities to strengthen your backlink profile and uncover competitive insights. Or, you could simply start researching by using Google and experiment with different keywords.
It is best practice to avoid links from pages with low influence scores or pages that could mislead your customers to other spammy websites. Remember the reputation of your website and business is on the line. Be very skeptical when accepting to link to misleading sites
Links can exist in many content forms such as text, images, videos, PDF files etc.., and the website owner and SEO team are fully responsible for choosing the websites to link to. Read more information on other link building tactics
The word Expertise is quoted 99 times in Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines! The word E-A-T is quoted over 135 times. That’s a clear indicator that expertise, trustworthiness and authoritativeness (more on these below), are a strong signal on how Google categorizes websites and how they rate page quality. E-A-T it is currently not considered a ranking factor but the fact is that Google has placed a lot of emphasis on E-A-T, in the recent algorithm core updates, and it could become part of ranking signals in the future.
Let’s see what each component of E-A-T means
How does Google rate the Expertise of your page?
Google uses different standards to rate the level of E-A-T, depending on what topics your website covers. For example, if your website is in the medical sphere, news, science, financial, safety and well-being or so-called YMYL (your money your life), the standards are higher. Websites in the YMYL niches should include in their content advice from experts in the field, as well as an extensive bio of the experts, including their background, industry achievements and links to their social media profiles, to satisfy user’s search intent and increase credibility. The standards differ for websites that do not cover YMYL topics, which by focusing on providing helpful information to customers through articles, FAQ pages, making the content interactive and engaging in discussions that help answer their questions, can build a solid and positive online reputation.
On the right is an example from Medscape.com, a website that provides updated information on the latest perspectives in medicine. You notice that by clicking on disclosures, the bio card of the author comes up. This is very important because it instills trust in the website user.
The following factors are considered important signals that Google looks for:
- The main content of your website where the information must be purposeful and helpful to your customers
- Page depth shows how much content is on the page, and if the amount of content satisfies the purpose of the page. It is important to remember that your content can include diverse types of content such as text, images, video, infographics, slideshows etc.
- The accuracy of the information on the page.
- Author’s expertise and reputation in the industry
- The quality of the external links, other webpages that link to your website
Knowing how much emphasis Google places on expertise, the most important thing you can do is research carefully all backlinking opportunities and author bios.
What makes your website authoritative?
- Author’s expertise, knowledge and reputation in the industry
- The website itself is a reputable source on a specific topic. (Example: if you have a website about horses, all the content on the website page should revolve around horses or equine topics.)
- Appropriate use of ads on your website. Ads should not interfere with the user experience and the main content of the page.
Trustworthiness is another important signal Google’s search algorithms look for when categorizing a website. So, what are some of the important signs of trustworthiness?
- The credibility of the content creators who are writing the main content on your website.
- Having a dedicated customer service page, clearly listing phone numbers, email addresses, how customers can contact your company or if your organization has many divisions, then list the contact info for each division
- Providing enough content that will justify the purpose of your web page (more on this below)
- Using clear headlines or titles that describe what the page is about, rather than amplified words
- Deal with negative comments by removing them from your website.
5. The amount of content on the page should satisfy user search intent
- Wants to simply know about a topic (this could be of informational nature)
- Wants to know about a topic in detail (this could be investigational in nature)
- Wants to do something, take an action such as purchase, subscribe, book (this could be of transactional nature)
- Specifically looking for a place near their location
So, if you are selling a tangible product, make sure to include in your content:
- A detailed description of the product
- Enough product photos. Photos must be properly optimized and tagged for image search. Read more about how visual search can help local brands rank better
- Price, or pricing options
- Product reviews from customers or third-party sources
- Links to video on how to use the product
- Additional information such as links to the product brochure links to the manufacturers website
For YMYL websites selling intangible products such as financial, life insurance, health the topic being discussed should be based on facts, research and experience, including the names and bios of content writers or contributors.
If you want to read more about how to use search intent for your business, SEMRush has written a really good article
6. Make your website secure
7. Optimize your GMB profile
While most of the tips we discussed above are currently not ranking factors, It is only a matter of time Google will start making them part of their search algorithm. From the SEO standpoint we break down the Quality Raters Guideline document to anticipate what Google might be doing with the next algorithm update, and make recommendations to our clients on the best practices to optimize their website, so they don’t get caught off guard when the next core update hits.