Google probably won’t ever tell us how its algorithms work – but that doesn’t mean it won’t drop a few hints.
Google’s Search Quality Rater guidelines mention E-E-A-T (experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness) 126 times – which is a pretty big indicator that this is important, according to Melissa Fach, lead SEO content manager at Kelley Blue Book & Autotrader.
Leveraged correctly, ensuring your content delivers E-E-A-T to a high standard can supercharge your SEO, she explained.
Here’s how you can use experience and expertise to your content advantage, as presented by Fach at SMX Advanced.
Experience is a priority
Google updated its E-A-T guidelines in December 2022 to add an extra ‘e’, which stands for experience – and it’s a factor all SEOs should prioritize when it comes to their content strategy. Fach explained:
“The experience aspect is really great because anyone can learn to write about any topic – but only someone with experience can provide the insights people need to make a decision that could impact their life, whether it be health or financial or even just what they’re going to eat for dinner.
“So does your content demonstrate it was produced with some degree of experience, such as actual use of a product? Or has the writer actually visited a place they’re discussing?”
“There are some situations where really what you value most is content produced by someone who has first-hand life experience.”
Demonstrate your expertise
The level of expertise leveraged in your content can help Google to understand the quality, making it an important consideration, Fach said:
“In August 2022, Google launched its first helpful content update and asked, does your content clearly demonstrate firsthand expertise in a depth of knowledge?
“Please go read the guidelines on that. Be helpful as quickly as you can by adding value. Remember consensus because accuracy is a critical effort. The level of effort will help Google determine if your content was written by a human or by AI.
“I also suggest you have a very detailed strategy for winning With every piece of content that you produce, prove that you are a true expert. Experts have experience and thus are authoritative on the topic. You’re going to have to prove that in your content in new ways.”
Think about authoritativeness
Authoritativeness is vital in E-E-A-T because it establishes credibility and trust, ensuring that content is reliable and valuable to users. This, in turn, contributes to improved search rankings and user satisfaction, according to Fach:
“It’s important to think about how you will always be the most authoritative voice in your field. Think about what will keep you above everybody else in the space.”
Trust is crucial
The word ‘trust‘ is mentioned 213 times in the latest update of Google’s guidelines, which means SEOs should pay close attention to it:
“Google says that trust is the most important member of the E-E-A-T family because untrustworthy pages have low E-E-A-T no matter how experienced, expert, or authoritative they may seem. You may have a great writer, but if your trust factors are not there, it’s an issue.
“My recommendation is to read Google’s guidelines. Please, if you haven’t read them, go read about trust and learn what you need to do for your website and your content to have this most important member of E-E-A-T.”
Consensus is important
Fach emphasized that Google’s guidelines mention “consensus” a whopping 32 times, underscoring the need for SEOs to ensure their content aligns with the platform’s quality standards. She explained:
“There was an auto site that always ranked in the top 10 for car reviews. But when the site wrote about this specific vehicle, it wasn’t ranking in the top 10. Because I was so used to seeing this auto-site ranking, I went to look at the review to see, well, what did they say? How did everyone else outrank them?
“This vehicle had a lot of electric batteries in the back that took up a lot of room, so it didn’t have a spare tire in the back. This meant that the vehicle came with what we call run-flat tires – so it’s a little bit more expensive than a regular tire.
This is a factor to keep in mind if you’re going to buy a vehicle because of the cost. So is that a YMYL topic? Possibly it is.
“However, the website said the vehicle did have a spare tire. Was this the thing that hurt the well-established site? I can’t say for sure. I don’t know how Google’s algorithm works for sure, but as someone who looks at cars and car sites all day long, this was a huge mistake that could negatively impact the buyer or the consumer on that site, so it didn’t match consensus.”
Put in the effort
Google’s guidelines reference the importance of effort with regard to content 101 times – so it’s another factor SEOs need to take into consideration, according to Fach:
“Google advises in its guidelines that it considers the extent to which a human being has actively worked to create satisfying content. That is a massive statement. ‘A human being’? They knew AI content was coming. They want a human making the effort – not AI.
“They said that for most pages, the quality of the main content can be determined by the amount of effort, originality, and talent or skill that went into it. They want original content – not content if it’s copied with little or no effort, has no manual curation, or has no added value for the user.
“Moving forward, the amount of effort you put into content is going to be an important factor.”
Are the user’s needs met?
Fach highlighted how crucial it is to make sure your content meets user needs and aligns with their intent, something Google’s guidelines emphasize 119 times. She explained:
“Do you provide a helpful answer to someone’s query in your content? And did you do it fast or are you making them work to find the answer? Because we all know that people do not like to work – and they’re not going to work, so needs met is an issue.
“The other thing I want to say is that content does not have to be long form. Gone are the days of creating 5,000 words on this topic to beat your competitor. Needs met doesn’t need 5,000 words. Short-form content works. Short-form answers are good and help the user to find their answer quickly.”
YMYL should be taken seriously
“Your Money, Your Life” isn’t casually mentioned in Google’s guidelines; it’s actually highlighted 120 times, which means you need to pay attention to it, Fach said:
“Google says that some topics have a high risk of harm because content about these topics could significantly impact the health, financial stability, safety, welfare or well-being of society. Google doesn’t want to put up bad information in these areas.
“In fact, Google has removed harmful content because it takes the safety, welfare and wellbeing of society very seriously.
“If this is your niche, you’re going to have to work harder than everybody else to make sure that your content is correct.”
The AI dilemma
While AI is continuously getting better, it can’t quite replicate human experience, just like how it can’t review the luxurious feel of a leather couch. Keeping this in mind, Fach cautioned SEOs against over-reliance on this emerging technology:
“Of course, AI can be a great time-saving tool, but it isn’t capable of evaluating and creating an SEO strategy to outrank a high-ranking, highly competitive website. An inexperienced SEO may think that AI content is enough, but it isn’t.
“I’ve seen many guides on ChatGPT replacing SEO human processes, but they’ve missed key elements – so don’t depend on those completely. Question everything – as you should as an SEO.
“As we underscore the importance of experience as an element of helpful content, we continue our focus on information quality and critical attributes like authoritativeness, expertise and trustworthiness. So what I want to say to businesses out there who are trying to make the call, do we save money by letting writers go and using AI? My recommendation is absolutely not.
“Please do not depend on AI to replace your employees.”
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Here are five key takeaways on how to effectively use E-E-A-T to supercharge your SEO content strategy from Fach:
Study: “Moving forward, my recommendation is to study every SERP change across at least five industries. What you see change for one will eventually come over and apply to you in one way or another.”
Test: “Test, test and retest everything. Failure is learning.”
Plan: “Plan to win in 12 to 18 months. Yes, you may have your winning content now but you need to anticipate what will happen in 12 to 18 months out because of the way that Google and AI are changing.”
Anticipate: “Try to guess what will change and where you want to be when that happens. You have to always think about the progression of search.”
Competitive analysis: “I’m not saying Google is your competitor – but it is! Google’s SERP features will compete with you. You have to find a way to integrate yourself into them. So study them deeply across multiple industries to get an idea of where the progression of change is going in the future.”