E-A-T is an acronym for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness — three things that describe content and websites that deliver exceptional value to readers and, as a result, tend to perform better in organic search results.
These symptoms of quality content have always been important, but following the so-called Google Medic update of August 2018, they’re even more critical. So much so that brands that didn’t have high-levels of E-A-T found themselves closing up shop after the August 2018 update brought their web traffic to untenably low levels.
But that doesn’t have to be your story. Discover everything you need to know about creating awesome SEO content to support E-A-T below so you have a better chance at winning some of the prime SERP real estate and withstanding future Google algorithm updates.
Once Upon 2018: A Google Algorithm Story
Google makes updates all the time to its algorithm. That’s the programming that helps the search engine rank pages in search results. Small tweaks happen daily — often multiple times a day. Moz reports that in 2018 alone, Google updated search processes as many as 3,000 times.
Typically, these small changes aren’t noticeable in and of themselves, although they tend to shape how search performs, generating trends over time. Occasionally, though, Google releases an update that can cause visible ripples in the SEO pond. One of those updates occurred on August 1, 2018.
It was nicknamed the Medic update because sites that publish health and medical information seemed to be the hardest hit. Sites such as prevention.com, verywellhealth.com and patient.info lost between 40 and 53% of their traffic in the week following the Google update.
But the SEO community quickly figured out two things:
- The August 1 update didn’t come out-of-the-blue
- The update impacted far more than medical content
The Bread Crumb Trail that Leads to the Medic Update
After the shock of the SEO hit wore off, many in the industry were able to see that the August 1 update wasn’t a sudden firing of the cannon from Google. Instead, it was simply the conclusion of a slow ramp-up to supporting higher quality in the SERPs.
In March 2018, for example, many sites also experienced a shakeup of organic traffic. At that time, Google SearchLiaison took to Twitter with advice about how sites could recover traffic.
This early March update was in line with Google’s history of moving increasingly toward user experience and satisfaction as a success metric. In short, Google wants to provide the best, most relevant, most user-friendly links possible for every query. It also wants to increase positive user experience on its own pages.
The push for positive user experience was evident again later in March 2018, when Google rolled out the mobile-first index update. Then in July 2018, the search engine implemented an update focused on mobile page load speed, making it a significant ranking factor. The takeaway for these updates was that if your site didn’t load well for people on any device — and load quickly — Google wasn’t going to prioritize you in the search results.
With all this emphasis on quality and user experience, the August 1 update, perhaps, should not have taken the SEO world by such surprise. Google didn’t seem to think so either, given its Tweets on the matter.
“As we covered here” meant Google SearchLiaison’s March 12, 2018 Tweets, which advised online marketers to continue working toward “great content.”
The Wide Range of the Update
So, if the Medic update impacted more than health sites, just how wide-ranging was this SEO hit? Business2Community reports that more than half of all sites lost at least 5% visibility in SERPs. Half of all sites that were ranked on the first page of search results took a hit, some falling completely off page one and some dropping out of the first 100 results.
Some smaller businesses that relied heavily on organic search results closed, while other brands added to their SEM budgets to drive traffic via paid ads while working to regain lost spots in organic rankings.
And while the update hit sites in all types of niches, it did seem to have the biggest effect on YMYL sites. YMYL stands for Your Money, Your Life, and refers to content that provides information about wellness, finance or other critical factors required for a healthy, happy life.
Enter the New Hero: E-A-T Content
It’s all well and good for Google to Tweet about the benefits of creating high-quality content, but what does that mean exactly? Check out the response Tweets back in August 2018, and you’ll see that many people didn’t know, and they were frustrated by the ups and downs of the search rank game.
Luckily, Google offers a document that explains exactly what quality means. It’s called the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. The guide runs more than 150 pages and is meant to instruct search quality evaluators, which are people who rate how well a web page or site answers specific queries. Because yes, even Google doesn’t do everything with artificial intelligence yet.
In the guidelines, Google tells its rankers that E-A-T is important. As of September 2019, this is what Google has to say specifically about what E-A-T content is:
MC stands for Main Content, by the way. And, as previously noted, E-A-T stands for:
- Expertise: The person or organization creating and/or publishing the content demonstrates expertise on the topic. They have credentials (such as a lawyer creating content about bankruptcy or family law matters), experience (such as a mom writing about parenting) or Google authority (such as a writer with numerous published bylines in a niche).
- Authoritativeness: The content creator, the content and the publishing platform all demonstrate authority. We don’t just see that the author of the medical content is a medical doctor because of the credentials in his byline; we see his bio, resume or LinkedIn profile. The content is well-written, links to other authority pages and generally follows through on what it promises. The site the content is published on regularly publishes this type of content, is cited by others and is professional and well-maintained.
- Trustworthiness: Again, this applies to the content creator, the content and the overall site. Trustworthy content is comprehensive, factual, up-to-date and follows through on the promises made by titles and headings. Trustworthy sites, among other things, load quickly, have easy-to-navigate menus, back themselves up with credible about us pages and never lead someone to a questionable off-page link.
According to Google’s ranking guidelines, high-quality pages have a high level of expertise, authority and trustworthiness with regard to the topic at hand. And publishing this type of content on your pages leads to benefits that can include:
- Higher search rankings. Because Google intrinsically values content that supports the E-A-T of your site, the content itself is likely to rank well before any additional ranking factors play in.
- Boosted behavioral metrics, such as time on page and click-throughs to other pages on your site. Positive behavioral metrics lead to a positive RankBrain score, which in turn can boost your performance in search results.
- Increased links and social shares. If your content is perceived as authoritative, people are more likely to share it with others. Social shares and links can boost SEO performance, but they also lead to general organic traffic outside of SERPs. Plus, since someone sharing your site is akin to a recommendation of your content, people who click through are arriving with some pre-trust built-in, which can be of benefit to your conversion rate.
- Inclusion in the featured snippet, which is the very top spot on Google search results. It’s position zero, taking the spotlight even from the first paid ads.
The Comprehensive Checklist for Creating E-A-T Content
Now that we’ve told the Medic bedtime story and you know why content that supports E-A-T is so important, you might be ready to go out and make it happen on your site. Follow this checklist to create content that has high expertise, authority and trustworthiness.
Create Comprehensive Content
Anyone can regurgitate the five main points of a topic that everyone else has discussed online. Prove that you’re not just another site churning the same information by showing off your expertise. One of the best ways to do that is to create comprehensive content that fully covers and satisfies the searcher’s intent.
- Conduct keyword research to find out what people are looking for.
- Consider who your target audience is, what they want to know and why they want to know it (that’s searcher intent).
- Use tools such as MarketMuse and SEMrush SEO content templates to analyze existing content and search queries to understand what needs to be included in your content.
- Use Google’s Autocomplete tool and check out the People Also Ask questions on Google to discover related topics that people want to know about.
- Leverage different content formats to make information easily digestible and accessible to all types of learners and users. That means using formats including on-page text, bullets and subheadings, images, infographics, videos, audio podcasts and Q&As.
Build Authority in the Niche
“Crowd Content is an authority on SEO and content marketing.”
It’s a statement we can — and do — make. But if that’s all we had for you, would you believe it? Probably not, because claiming authority is not the same as demonstrating it.
Consistently creating comprehensive content on your subject helps you demonstrate authority, but it’s not usually enough to get you to the top of search results pages. Add these steps into your content marketing plan to help boost your authority and SEO performance.
- Encourage links from related and authority sites. Do this by publishing high-quality content that people will want to share and link to, networking in the industry and sharing other people’s pages. You may also want to look into guest posting opportunities or offer to provide quotes to others who are creating their own content in exchange for a link to your site.
- Build reputable citations. Citations occur when your business is mentioned on another site, and they’re especially powerful when they contain full NAP data (business name, address and phone number). Get involved with local and industry events, join industry organizations and claim your profiles on review and other sites to increase the number of times you’re mentioned online by others.
- Generate social shares with content that helps or entertains, and be active on your own social profiles to drive engagement and increase the likelihood that others will share your content.
- Include links to authority sites in your own content. You’ll notice in this piece, we link to numerous leading sites in our niche, such as Moz. We’re not doing that to pander to Moz — we’re doing it to provide some additional, high-quality resources for our readers. That increases the value of our own content and builds trust with the reader, all of which drives up our authority. Do this with your own content.
Authorship: Why It Matters and How to Leverage It
Google’s guidelines say that the expertise, authority and trustworthiness of the content creator is as important as the quality of the content itself. This is especially true for certain types of pages.
But take a quick cruise around the world wide web and you’ll notice that a great deal of the content published online is seemingly anonymous. At the very least, all you know is that it was created or okayed by some marketing professional with the company in question.
In the wake of the August 1, 2018 update, though, increasing numbers of sites are catching on to the importance of authorship. Google, and presumably internet users, want to know who is presenting this information. Leverage authorship to add authority to your pages by following the tips below.
- Include bylines to tell people who wrote the content, even if it was one of your staff members.
- Link to the author’s profiles online to help show that they are experts or have authority in the niche.
- Use author schema to code all this information so the search engines know what it is.
- Encourage contributors to your pages or blogs to write detailed bios that demonstrate their authority. Include those bios on your site and link to them from the content or bylines.
Here’s a great example of authorship in action. NerdWallet currently owns the top spot for “what is a savings account?”
The content at the link is a fairly comprehensive definition that also covers why you need a savings account, how much to keep in it and other factors to consider when dealing with a savings account. It’s high-quality content, but NerdWallet ups the E-A-T ante by adding an author byline.
Clicking on Tony Armstrong’s name brings you to his bio (which is also published at the end of the piece for good measure).
The bio includes links to Tony’s email as well as his Twitter and Facebook. The message is clear. Tony is a real person you can interact with, and he has credentials that allow him to write about this topic with expertise. The bio also lists high profile publications and sites he’s been featured on. Google is getting more sophisticated and including mentions (not just links) in evaluating content, so it may interpret reputable publications in the author bio as building authority.
Recruiting Experts to Contribute to Your Content
You can do a lot with the experience and bios of in-house staff, but recruiting experts to contribute to your pages can help increase the authority of your content. For this purpose, “expert” can refer to two different things:
- Someone who is a literal expert in the field, with the credentials and accreditation to back it up. Examples include a medical doctor for health content, a CPA for personal finance content and a certified beautician for content about hairstyles.
- Someone who has Google authority, which means they have built an online reputation as someone who knows about or writes in the niche. Examples include successful bloggers who write content about specific niches, such as gaming or parenting, or freelance writers who have specialized in a certain field and have the clips and bylines to back this up.
Here are some tips for getting experts to contribute to your content.
- Hire freelancer writers who have either Google authority or credentials in your field and are willing to use their own names and bios.
- Contact experts — bloggers and otherwise — who would be willing to participate in guest blogging for your site.
- Write your own posts, but include quotes from experts. Many people are happy to provide a short quote in exchange for a mention or link on your site (Hey, everyone is trying to build their own authority, and there’s definitely a bit of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” here). Some places to connect with experts include:
- LinkedIn profiles and groups
- Industry Facebook groups
- Networking Slack groups
Want to see an expert round up in action? Check out our guide to repurposing content, which includes a round-up of quotes and tips from experts to boost the page’s authority.
E-A-T Is a Site-Wide Strategy
Remember that Google is always concerned with the big picture as well as the small details. Which means effective E-A-T content strategies cover your entire site. Put the following tips into action to ensure your entire site is poised to perform in SERPs.
Don’t phone in your about us page.
Use it to tell people why what you say about the topic should matter. Things you might want to work into your about pages can include company history, lists of awards and profiles of your team.
Let’s look at a site that won during the Google Medic update to discover some tips from its about us page.
Search Engine Land reports that CARFAX came out the clear winner of the August 1 update, gaining a whopping 68% increase in traffic in the nine days following the Medic rollout. Not all of that can be attributed to the about us page, but CARFAX definitely does a good job of achieving authority here.
You can see that even before you move below the fold, CARFAX has established expertise and authority. It’s given credentials (its presence on NASDAQ) and backed up its knowledge with stats (the fact that it receives data from 100,000 sources and has a database of more than 17 billion records). That first section is simple and to-the-point, and it gives a justification for every claim of expertise.
The CARFAX about us page goes on a bit more, explaining how someone might access this information and why they might need it. It also offers a number of internal links to helpful pages on the site. In short, the about us page doesn’t exist in a vacuum — it’s a helpful, functional part of the overall site.
Add team bios to about us pages and other areas of your site.
Sometimes it’s more important to readers to know that your team members are experts in the space. CARFAX stands on the expertise of its process, but if you’re looking for financial or medical advice, you want to know that the person writing it knows what they’re talking about. Team bios let you highlight how and why your team members are experts in your space. Include these in the about us section or build pages to promote the expertise of each person.
Here’s a look at three sites that gained traffic after the Google Medic update with takeaway tips for handling bios.
1. Sciencedaily.com (36% traffic gain)
Science Daily puts in-depth bios for its founders on its about us pages. You can see from the above image that the bios comprehensively cover experience related to the niche, including work for and participation with other authority agencies in the industry.
In addition to these in-depth bios, Science Daily is very careful to attribute all articles to credible sources, including scholarly articles and studies.
2. Businessinsider.com (24% traffic gain)
Business Insider takes an approach to bios that’s similar to NerdWallet’s. Articles come with clickable bylines for the authors, and the click takes you to the author’s bio page. Here’s one for writer Ben Gilbert.
The bio is simple, but it includes all the elements needed to craft authority and trust:
- Name and picture. We can see in seconds this is a real person.
- Ben’s credentials: He has a BA in journalism. That tells us he knows how to research and report information in an accurate way.
- Ben’s experience: This isn’t his first gig writing articles. He’s done this for a while, for numerous recognizable brands.
3. Tasteofhome.com (21% traffic gain)
Taste of Home takes an even simpler approach to author bios, packing a few facts to support authority into a small space above links to all the writer’s content. In the example above, we see:
- A link to Shanna’s own blog, showing that she has created her own place in this niche
- A sentence that tells us why we should listen to Shanna: She’s got a master’s degree and has experience in food blogging
- A few fun things about Shanna that make readers more likely to care about what she has to say in this space
As you can see, the differences in these three bios are big. That’s because these are three very different niches, and what people are looking for with regard to authority and trust are unique. It’s critical to understand what your target audience needs to feel comfortable and able to trust your brand. Make sure you provide that info in bio and about us pages.
Understand how to use content clusters in a site-wide content strategy.
Try to cover each topic you identify exhaustively. Consider these 13 types of blog posts you can use to cover the topic, but don’t cannibalize by having multiple pages cover the same very specific information.
Instead, create content with a site-wide strategy in mind. One of the best ways to do that is by creating content clusters. Building out topic clusters sends a signal that you’re an authority on a broader topic. Here’s how to do it.
- Choose a broad topic that’s relevant to your brand and of interest to your audience. Use keyword and topic research tools such as SEMrush to discover potential topics.
- Write a pillar post about the topic. A pillar post is long-form content that covers all of the board strokes of a topic. For example, if you’re writing a pillar post for the topic “cremation,” you might cover basic info about the history of cremation, what cremation is, how it works, when it’s beneficial, what products and services are involved and how to get starting planning for cremation.
- Write shorter, more in-depth posts related to the pillar content. In the cremation example, these posts might include the cost of cremation, cremation and religious belief, why you might want to plan ahead for cremation, how to talk to your loved ones about your wishes or guides to picking out urns.
- Link from the pillar post to the supporting posts. Link from the supporting posts back to the pillar posts. Even link from supporting post to supporting post when relevant. While you don’t want to get silly with linking (always keep user experience in mind), it’s important that every page in your content cluster have at least a few of these links. They help readers and search engines see that you’ve covered a topic comprehensively, which can boost perceptions of authority.
By creating a complete topic cluster with high-quality, E-A-T supporting articles, you signal to Google that your site is an authority for the broader topic.
Auditing Your Site to Ensure E-A-T Content
You probably aren’t creating a website fully from scratch. So, do you scrap your existing pages and start anew with content that meets E-A-T requirements?
No. We never blank the slate and start over entirely. First of all, that is a lot of work. Chances are, you don’t have the time or resources to do it properly. Plus, if you’re getting any amount of organic traffic, then something on your site is working. You just have to figure out what.
Conduct an audit of your site, reviewing each page with the Google E-A-T guidelines in mind. Update content that doesn’t offer expertise, authority and trustworthiness by adding authorship, rewriting content to be more comprehensive, updating content that is stale or obsolete and linking out to authority sites.
Here’s what to look for when you’re doing this audit.
- Any content without an author that could have an author
- Lack of author bios or links to demonstrate expertise
- Lack of backlinks, especially if your page has been published a while — authority content tends to earn backlinks, and a lack of backlinks may be an indication you’ve missed the mark
- Whether or not the existing page is ranking for the right keywords — this is a good indicator that your content isn’t seen as the best resource, and you might need to do a competitive audit to figure out what other companies are doing that you’re not
- How well content is covered and whether it answers searcher intent
- Whether content is out of date — you should review content to ensure it’s current at least once a year as well as each time a big change or new technology hits your industry
- The number of links on each page to other authority sites (aim for a few)
- The number of links on each page to your own content (aim for at least a few)
E-A-T Tips for Specific Industries
While everything you need to get started creating E-A-T content can be found above, we know it can be difficult to know just how much expertise and authority you really need. If you’re selling clothing for babies, do you need a pediatrician to write blog posts for you? The answer is probably no. Unless you’re selling clothing meant to help with specific medical conditions, MD credentials on your blog might be overkill.
To help with questions about E-A-T content for various industries, we’ve scoured the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines and come up with tips for some specific niches.
Health and Wellness
A lot of brands make the mistake of thinking all health and wellness content must be written by someone with clinical credentials, such as an MD or RN. But that’s not the case. Here’s what Google specifically has to say about E-A-T medical content:
[It] should be written or produced by people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. High E-A-T medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed and updated on a regular basis.
Here are the takeaways for health and wellness sites.
- Create authority with your site’s about us page and web presence, the bylines and bios of your content creators, or both.
- Make sure what you publish is accurate. Employ editors and fact-checkers who know what they’re doing and can double-check all the research.
- Update the content regularly. Well-written medical content that’s obsolete isn’t E-A-T content.
- If you’re not using writers who have credentials in the niche, use writers with medical writing experience who can create high-quality, polished pieces. It’s always good to aim for experts, but that doesn’t mean you need someone with an accreditation or specific degree.
Google says that advice and content that has to do with how people manage their money or legal affairs must:
- Come from credible sources (yes, that means paying attention to about us pages and authorship)
- Be trustworthy (get your facts right, and then double-check them to make sure)
- Be updated regularly
Credit.com owns a lot of the snippets and top spots in the personal finance niche, and one reason is that the publisher is always in the act of updating its content. Consider this article, which was last published on March 25, 2019.
The comments on this article date back four years before the publication date because this article has been published in multiple versions. That’s because Credit.com regularly updates all its content, adding new information and ensuring that facts, stats and advice are still relevant for current readers.
Home, Garden, Real Estate, Hobbies and Parenting
How far you go with a definition of expert in these niches depends on the topic and intent of your content. Remember the YMYL acronym. The more content is meant to impact someone’s money or future happiness, the more Google puts a burden on expertise.
So, if you’re giving specific tips for remodeling a home or installing a toilet, they should come from someone who has demonstrated expertise in building, plumbing or other relevant trades. But if you’re writing a blog post about choosing the best colors for your spring garden, you may rely on more personal experience.
Google also recognizes informal experience when it’s relevant and appropriate to the topic. It says:
Some topics require less formal expertise. . . Many people share tips and life experiences on forums, blogs, etc. These ordinary people may be considered experts in topics where they have life experience. If it seems as if the person creating the content has the type and amount of life experience to make him or her an “expert” on the topic, we will value this “everyday expertise” and not penalize the person/webpage/website for not having “formal” education or training in the field.
Science articles don’t typically get the “everyday expertise” free pass, especially those claiming to present new information or theories. According to Google, these types of articles should represent well-established facts and consensus. Some tips for creating E-A-T content in this niche include:
- Using expert content creators
- Sourcing facts and information from highly credible sites
- Leveraging primary sources, such as studies published in scientific journals
Food, Beverage and General Retail Products
As with all of the niches above, the type of content is a determining factor in how much expertise you need. But the everyday expertise rule is especially important to this category. First, because many people who create this type of content have knowledge of the products or processes simply by being immersed in them as a career or a hobby. Second, these niches also rely heavily on reviews — which Google does consider as a possibility for E-A-T content, saying:
Many people write extremely detailed, helpful reviews of products or restaurants.
The Final Word on E-A-T
Here’s the deal: Succeeding in Google search results doesn’t take some kind of fancy hocus-pocus or secret technical handshake that only the tops sites know. Anyone can win the top spot for a search term.
But it’s not always easy. Keeping up with the trends and producing the kind of content that ranks now and survives future Google updates takes time and work. Even if your industry isn’t a focus of Google’s E-A-T requirements today, creating better content for your readers has benefits, including:
- Better SEO performance
- Higher conversion rates
- The ability to stand up to greater Google scrutiny in the future
If you know you need to do something to improve your SEO and just don’t have the time, knowledge or in-house resources to get it done, we can help. Find out more about Crowd Content’s professional writing services and how they can help you create E-A-T content.