If you’ve walked the SEO walk for even a mile or two, you’ve likely stumbled upon the challenges of Google algorithm changes. Google is in the business of serving up the highest-quality, most relevant pages possible for every search query, and it’s always tweaking its algorithms to do just that. But several times a year, the search giant makes a big enough change to its ranking algorithms that the aftershocks are felt across the web.
That’s what happened in March 2019 when Google released its March Core Algorithm update. While SEOs are still debating exactly what changes that update made (which is tough to identify, as Google describes the changes as not targeting specific tactics), evidence is showing that sites following E-A-T guidelines benefited most.
E-A-T content was definitely important to the Medic Update that happened in late 2018 (named the Medic Update since it hit online health brands the hardest). Out of the ashes of that update, Google offered advice about creating great content (E-A-T content) that might fare better against future updates.
What Is E-A-T Content?
E-A-T content is something Google talked about in a white paper that supports their comments on the Medic Update. It explains how Google measures the quality of each page — and we know that quality is a critical factor in ranking.
According to Google, three factors play a major role in quality determinations:
Expertise refers to whether the site owner (or the author) is knowledgeable about the subject at hand. There’s a difference, for example, between a licensed RN with 15 years in the business and a high-quality LinkedIn page writing health content and a random author without any credentials doing so.
Authoritativeness refers to the credibility of the website. Is it long-standing? Do other credible sites link to or reference it?
Trustworthiness refers to whether the website inspires trust. Is it known for high-quality, accurate content? Again, do others reference or link to it?
How Do You Create E-A-T-friendly Content?
Consistently producing high-quality, relevant SEO content that’s accurate goes a long way toward having content that keeps the principles of E-A-T in mind, but marketers can take it a step further with a few of the tips below:
- Make use of bio and about pages. If you have the expertise, don’t let it go unsaid. Create bio pages and bylines for blog posts and articles your staff or freelancers write, and include specifics that position the authors as experts or influencers in the niche. Do the same on your about pages for the company as a whole and its leadership. Consider your entire team; if you have experts on staff, talk about them online.
- Regularly audit content performance. A blog post you published last year that hasn’t gained any views or traction may be dragging your entire site down when it comes to E-A-T. Don’t be afraid to purge some of your poorest-performing content to right the ship.
- Up the ante on your backlinking game. Sure, link building and old school black hat SEO tactics don’t push you up the search engine pages anymore, but links are still important. They help establish your credibility and authority. Study new linking tactics to score some support for your pages.
- Work with writers who can deliver authoritative content. You don’t have to write all your own content to stay authoritative in the niche, but do vet your freelancers and writing teams to ensure you’re working with people who understand your industry and can write high-quality content.
Long-Term Benefits of E-A-T-friendly Content
Creating content with E-A-T in mind does seem to help pages rank better on their own, but it also has a variety of knock-on effects that can strengthen your content now and in the future. Here are three ways E-A-T content can be good for traffic, page performance and search engine rankings:
1. Boost Behavior Metrics
The type of content that passes muster under Google’s E-A-T requirements is also the type of content visitors are likely to spend time engaging with. When users trust the content you provide and perceive that it’s high quality and authoritative, they’re more likely to read the entire article or follow internal linking to other pages on your site.
That improves behavioral metrics, such as increased time on page and decreased bounce rates. Those in turn drive up your RankBrain score, which is a factor in search engine ranking.
2. Increased Links and Social Shares
True E-A-T content is more likely to impress and resonate with readers, and that leads to more social shares and links. This is fantastic news in its own right, because that means more people are likely to connect with your brand online. But it’s also good news for search engine rankings, because links enforce credibility.
3. Inclusions in Featured Snippets
Finally, E-A-T content that impresses Google is more likely to be included in featured snippets. These are concise answers to specific queries that Google pulls from various pages; the site with the featured snippet gets prime placement on top of the organic search results — and often on top of paid, map or local pack results.
Check out the image below for an example of a featured snippet. The query was about types of screwdrivers, and Google pulled a short answer from Primer Magazine. You’ll notice that the site answers the question in a few short sentences and even includes an image.
It’s also important that you consider what type of featured snippet Google would show for the keywords you’re targeting, and you should structure your content to match.
In the case above, that means posing a question and an image (and alt-image attribute) or subhead and then answering the question in around 25 to 50 words. You can also provide a structured list to answer the question. Adding schema markup to your page may also help you get placed into the snippet section.
You don’t have to limit your own page content to those 25 to 50 words; in fact, it would be disastrous to do so. Continue on providing E-A-T-quality content for the rest of the page, addressing other elements of the topic or expounding on the information in the short answer. After all, longer content also performs well in the search engines.
Our Crash Course on Becoming an SEO Content Writer dives into why you should care about featured snippets.
The Final World on E-A-T
This is nothing ground-breaking. Search marketers have known for a long time now that quality is a critical component of success in the search engines. But Google’s provided us with a more detailed breakdown of what it considers quality, and by sculpting your pages to match E-A-T requirements, you can help safeguard them against future algorithm updates.