Google constantly updates its search algorithms without warning or fanfare. Rankings go up, rankings go down, but Google rarely shares more than the odd cryptic Tweet meant to put the minds of webmasters at ease.
Over the past year or so, algorithm updates have increasingly rewarded websites that demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T) through their content. It’s worth noting, however, that this has always been Google’s intention. These three pillars of content quality are discussed in Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines, a 166-page manual given to the ‘search quality raters’ who evaluate Google’s search results.
For advice on great content, a good starting point is to review our search quality rater guidelines. Raters are people who give us feedback on if our algorithms seem to be providing good results, a way to help confirm our changes are working well….https://t.co/bVOAoKgDP2
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) October 11, 2018
Demonstrating E-A-T is especially important for ‘Your Money or Your Life’ (YMYL) websites. These publish content that could “potentially negatively impact users’ happiness, health, financial stability, or safety”. This generally means websites that provide financial or medical advice.
Below we’ve provided some tips for how websites – particularly YMYL websites – can improve E-A-T.
Audit the content on your website regularly
Google expects content on a YMYL website to be “edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis” to ensure high standards of accuracy.
It’s crucial that you review the content on your site periodically. One way to do this is to set yourself future reminders to update any information that is subject to change, such as tax or exchange rates.
Collect a full list of the URLs on your domain and match them up to the volume of traffic they drive. Pages with little or no traffic over the course of a year indicate that they don’t fulfil the intent of the user.
A thorough content audit will reveal whether it’s worth improving, removing or consolidating the low-value pages on your site.
A content audit is a complex task and, depending on the size of your domain, can take days if not weeks to do it properly. Beyond looking at traffic and engagement metrics, you should review each page on your website to ask questions such as:
- Is there a helpful and descriptive title?
- Is there a satisfying amount of content on the page?
- Does the content need to be updated?
- Does the page work as it should do?
- Are there links to other pages that help to fulfil additional queries?
You can then use the insights from your audit to create a plan for updating the content that’s already on your site.
Prove expertise through authorship
Google’s experiment with displaying content authors in its results pages – by using Google+ profiles as a means of verification – didn’t last long. But it tells us that Google goes deeper than what’s on a page to understand who’s creating the content and whether they are qualified to do so.
Google expects a high level of expertise from websites that publish YMYL guidance, giving the example that “medical advice should be written or produced by people or organisations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation.”
Being transparent about the people who are responsible for the content on your website is not enough. You need to shout about why they should be trusted. Any informational page on your website – whether that’s a guide page or a news story – must include an author byline and either a short summary of the author’s credentials or a link to a page that contains more information.
This may mean rethinking your approach if you’re currently reliant on freelance copywriters who lack specialist knowledge. If you’re fortunate enough to have genuinely expert authors in your ranks, make sure their author pages include any awards they have won or a list of articles they’ve been cited in.
For authors who are still learning the ropes, think about what you can do to highlight their existing experience and further their development – can they gain certification or perhaps write for other publications?
Developing a robust editorial process will help ensure the accuracy and overall quality of the content you publish. If content needs to be approved by an expert before it’s published, it’s worth being transparent about this.
Own the SERPs for branded queries
Raters need to conduct “extensive reputation research” to assess the credibility of the author and the organisation.
To manage your brand’s reputation online, you should start by assessing what people see when they type your brand name into a search engine.
It’s likely that searchers will encounter at least some of the following results in relation to your brand:
- Social media profiles
- Third-party reviews e.g. Trustpilot, Feefo, Glassdoor
- Wikipedia listings
- Media citations
- Forum discussions e.g. Mumsnet, MoneySavingExpert
- Directory listings
You can go a long way to influence these results by leveraging PR, partnerships and any other promotional opportunities to own the SERP for your brand name and ensure it sends a message of trustworthiness.
Get your PR team on-side to boost authority
Raters score YMYL websites with a “mixed reputation” poorly, resulting in damaging bad press.
Many SEOs have followed the adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, so long as it includes a link to your website. Being solely focused on link-building, however, can leave you blinkered to the importance of sentiment and the impact it can have on your brand’s reputation.
This may mean changing your link-building strategy somewhat to ensure your brand – and its spokespeople – are being cited by authoritative publications. Equally, it’s vital that you react to negative press quickly.
If you don’t have the budget for a digital PR agency, you can set some time aside each week to respond to media requests or offer guest articles to relevant publications. You might not think your brand is particularly newsworthy but sending out a quick press release to announce a new product launch or to tie in with a seasonal event can provide journalists with real value. What’s more, product guides are a proven link-building tactic.
Supercharge your brand’s ‘about’ page to prove trust
We have already discussed the importance of influence, or what people see when they search your brand name online, but the ‘about’ page on your website is your chance to curate all this reputational information to convey the kind of message that you want your audience to see.
As YMYL websites demand a high degree of trust, Google expects them to provide a “satisfying amount of information about who is responsible for the content on the site”.
A good ‘about’ page should include in-depth biographical information about the company. It should include up-to-date contact details and give users a compelling reason to trust your brand. This could be a list of awards, proof of accreditation or legitimate reviews that are embedded from third-party websites.
While E-A-T has been the party line for Google over the past year or so, it’s important to reiterate that it’s not a direct ranking signal – at least, for the time being.
The big caveat here is: following Google’s quality guidelines – or the tips within this article – will not necessarily boost your search rankings. However, it’ll give you a good compass for content quality, which is something that Google is taking increasingly seriously.
The bigger question though is arguably one about improving user experience. If you need any more reason to include trust signals – like reviews from happy customers – try testing and measuring whether it has an effect on your conversion rate.