So the perennial question: ‘Have you seen your rankings drop recently?’
Obviously, there can be a host of potential problems that might account for this but if it was between July to September of this year then it’s possible you received a penalty from the E-A-T update.
What is E-A-T?
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness and it is a collection of algorithms that were first acknowledged as being in use when Google published its Search Quality Guidelines in 2014. However, it updated it around the start of August this year and then that’s possibly where the pain comes in for certain people’s website rankings.
But what does each one mean in more detail?
Expertise – how knowledgeable the content editors or site owners are on their specific topic area
Authoritativeness – the credibility of the website as attested by external credentials, external reviews and testimonials
Trustworthiness – determined by the confidence that the site imbues which can come from a range of factors including site security
More about these later in terms of how you can improve how you’re viewed for these factors
Who was affected by E-A-T?
Reports vary as to the scale of the impact, but it was generally observed that the YMYL sectors were principally affected.
So what are YMYL companies?
YMYL stands for ‘Your Money or Your Life’ eg health and wealth related sectors. So things like financial and insurance services along with medical advice or fitness related sites.
I don’t fit into that segment and yet I’m sure my rankings have been affected?
It’s not quite as simple as it may first appear. For instance, a site that is transactional will fall into this category too since it could indeed take your money! So, if you’re running any level of e-commerce site then you will fall into this too.
Additionally, it appears that there may be a sliding scale in terms of what is deemed important. So it may be that a site that talks very little about health or money may still possibly experience some impact if there is a significant content that discusses pricing or well-being issues. When framed like this, it could be easy to see how many sites might be impacted.
But I’m sure I’m not in the YMYL space so should I care about E-A-T?
E-A-T isn’t going away and considering the update, it’s highly likely that anything you can do to establish your authority in your business sector will be of benefit. Moreover, why wouldn’t you want to do this from a business perspective regardless of any SEO benefits you may accrue from it.
So what action can I take to improve my E-A-T stature?
1/ Get the basics right.
This isn’t part of E-A-T but it has a more overarching consideration before you even consider E-A-T. So this can include:
On your website ensure:
You have contact details including address, phone and email. It’s surprising just how many websites don’t get this information populated for numerous reasons. Ultimately, however, Google wants to serve up real companies with knowledgeable staff that are responsive and offers great customer service. By doing this Google ensures it’s own existence as the search engine of choice.
Tell your audience about yourselves. This can mean a comprehensive ‘About Us’ section through to grounding your posts in how the issues you discuss impact on you personally or how you feel on the issue. Remember the old adage that people buy from people.
The benefits of doing this reach much further from an SEO perspective since it can help to support your local listings and help you rise in the map pack for certain terms. Critically, it can also mean that you might be easier to contact and people will more likely trust and believe in your offering which has to make sense!
2/ Work on your authorship and own it
This on the face of it sounds like some dry scholarly issue but it’s much more real-world than it first appears. Ensure that where there is the option to add an author area for posts that you have a well-populated bio. This helps Google to determine your credibility through posts on your site as being an expert in your field. For WordPress sites, you can go to the Users section and populate them and in the Blogs area, you can go to Quick Edit in to change which author you want for each post.
This also means owning your content. So if you have numerous copywriters or third party agencies writing content for you it’s vital that you sanction it, potentially re-edit it into your own individual style and have it posted under your author and not numerous faceless unknown or ‘team’ style authors that will have no expertise in your area or more importantly potentially expertise in an area that has nothing to do with your business. Arguably, the corollary argument to this is, it may also be in a copywriter’s interest not to create content that doesn’t demonstrate their expertise so you’d think it would be in their interests for your name to be on the post too!
3/ Consider your own contributions elsewhere
In much the same way as the above it is vital to consider where you appear. One big area is the topic of guest blogging. To appear in blogs with posts having very little to do with your own area of expertise may be damaging. This is not to say that making contributions to other related sectors where your authority is acknowledged, and you speak specifically regarding your own area of expertise may be beneficial. However, it’s important to ask yourself ‘How is this contribution helping to demonstrate my expertise?’. Of course, there will be examples where you may wish not to be brazen about this, eg a post on your involvement with a charity.
However, you may also want to consider any third-party content that appears on your site, for instance, sponsored content (SC) or ads. A high degree of this type of content will dilute the overall strength of a perhaps otherwise very strong article’s main content (MC).
4/ Build up your staff as authors
You might want to get several of your staff to provide or supervise the writing of articles. They nay be experts in their field so it makes sense to get them to lend their expertise. Moreover, you may have made previous contributions to other sites in previous employment so it could be a readymade asset for you. Of course, this strategy isn’t without its dangers with staff attrition but can help provide a wider skill base and helps to develop the perception that your company is more than just a firm with only one expert.
5/ Get mentioned on authoritative sites in your space
OK so this may seem obvious but it is frequently overlooked. If a site is easy to obtain a mention, paying for a link or incentivising the site owner then these will generally be a lot less authoritative than sites that don’t. So if you have stories that you think are newsworthy and have some backing of research as well then it well worth considering reaching out to journals, blogs and industry sites that may publish it.
6/ Get lengthy positive reviews
This makes a whole lot of sense as a general business point to be held in high regard online but it can also help in how your site is ranked. One issue that frequently arises is that clients can get obsessed with just the one channel. Given the re are a wide range of general review channels eg GoogleMyBusiness, Facebook, Yell, Trustpilot etc, and a lot of sector specific platforms eg Checkatrade for contractors, Beyond Life for funeral directors etc. it’s always worth trying to gain from as wide as range of platforms as possible.
I always stress to clients that one in-depth positive review is worth at least 5 thin reviews (eg maybe just star rating and/or a one-liner ‘Good, always use’. A rich review will often explain in some detail the expertise of what you do. However, it also gives you licence to go into the same length with a response. This definitely provides the opportunity for you to demonstrate your expertise in explaining how you ensure the great quality of the services or products you provide that the reviewer has complimented you on.
7/Contribute to your industry forums
Contributing to these forums again gives the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise on issues whilst gaining credibility amongst your peers. It also can raise awareness that importantly might mean you gain more mentions in the community. This again gives Google an indication of the overall sentiment towards you on the web.
8/ Improve the quality of your content
Though maybe not a direct E-A-T related factor it’s clear that to be able to display your authority in a certain field that you will need great content in great detail. Have a good review of your blog posts and be realistic. Do they demonstrate the wealth of knowledge that you and your team possess? Are they long enough to achieve this? Frequently posts/pages with less than 300 words at the bare minimum rank well for most topics. Frankly, I recommend for most posts and for that matter cornerstone content you look at a bare minimum of 6-800 words. Review your pages and determine particularly any thin pages. Determine can be improved upon or potentially could their thin content to make an existing good page on a related topic even better?
9/ Don’t be shy about your achievements
It’s not natural for people in the UK to brag about their accomplishments but it is important that Google is aware of what you and your staff have achieved. So ensure you show your qualifications on your author bio and your about page. Ensure this is also the case for your team. The same goes for any awards won or other industry recognition you’ve received.
10/ Secure your site
Bit of an obvious one, particularly since so many sites these days have this but it’s a big tick for your trustworthiness to have a secure site. However, it can frequently be an oversite for many SME sites. In fact, in a recent SME survey (admittedly of US SMEs) 51% of sites didn’t have an SSL certificate.
Of course, each and every organisation will vary in where they stand in relation to these tips. Please feel free to get in touch if you’d like me to individually evaluate your E-A-T profile or if you’d like me to review any other part of your online presence.
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