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    Are You Feeding Google the Right Type of Content? Time to E A T

    Are You Feeding Google the Right Type of Content? Time to E A T-lsf-featured-author-1200.jpg

    Do you imagine Google’s Search Quality team much like a really cool science lab? A place where one impossibly smart scientist agonizes over the future of search, especially local search, while technicians and assistants go back and forth, monitoring the effect of every tiny change.

    You may thinks that’s a bit dramatic; OK it is. But back in November when the search giant gave us a peek behind the super-secret curtain by releasing their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, it felt a bit like finding the “holy grail” of search. And now, to wrap up the first quarter of the year, they've peeled back the curtain again, giving us an update as of March 28.

    The guidelines bring the importance of good content — Expert, Authoritative, and Trustworthy (E-A-T) content, front and center. Yes, Google has given us another fun acronym to help navigate the search journey. This update is only 146 pages, light compared to the 160 pages served up in November; but today I want to focus on this concept of E-A-T content. Where it appears in the guidelines, what it means and how I see it impacting digital marketers, their clients, and search.

    A Brief Look at Page Quality

    Before I jump into specifics, let's step back for a moment and get our heads around page quality ratings. The document is a training tool for Google’s search quality evaluators (raters). It goes into great detail, giving examples of websites and Web pages at both the Highest and Lowest Page Quality ratings.

    It’s worth noting, these human reviewers are only one factor in determining search values. The algorithm does the heavy lifting, but the eyes of actual people ensure the technology is working as it should.

    The sliding page quality ranking is as follows:


    • Lowest
      • (Lowest +)

    • Low
      • (Low +)

    • Medium
      • (Medium +)

    • High
      • (High +)

    • Highest


    Google’s quality raters also take other factors into account when determining Page Quality:


    • The quality and amount of main content (MC), which is considered most important
    • The accuracy or value of the information on the website and who is responsible for it
    • The website’s reputation
    • The amount of E-A-T content, that which is seen as expert, authoritative, and trustworthy


    Each of these elements is measured, then page quality is assigned. This translates later into search placement. The higher the page quality, the more likely a site/page will place higher in consumer search.

    The Main Course: E-A-T Content

    Good, solid content has long played a role in establishing a website’s authority, and the guidelines reveal just how true this is. MC now comes in many formats — from traditional copy to videos, shopping carts to online games — it’s this content that helps a site reach its intended goals. Whatever format it takes, it must show Expertise, Authority and be Trustworthy.

    According to Google, “the amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness a Web page/website has is very important. MC quality and amount, website information, and website reputation all inform the E-A-T of a website.”

    Certain websites are held to higher Page Quality standards because the content provided on them could negatively affect the lives of searchers. Google classifies these sites as Your Money Your Life (YMYL), and these “could potentially impact the future happiness, health or financial stability of users.” These sites are required to have higher page quality to place higher in search. In other words, they must have a high amount of E-A-T content.

    Let’s take a quick look at what these elements mean.

    Expertise-Authority-Trustworthiness

    Someone with formal training, a certain level of education and time spent applying it is considered an expert. When these people speak, create content or write they are received as an authority. Consumers accept them as trustworthy because of the time and talent invested. Doctors, lawyers and local search professionals all come to mind.

    But not every website is that serious. Some are for gossip, some for games, but all will be responsible for meeting these new guidelines to gain an effective place in search. No industry is exempt. What these sites must possess is what Google calls “everyday expertise”. In this case, “experts” (or those who have a trustworthy authority) are people who have invested time and care into developing themselves or their craft.

    Consider mommy-bloggers and how their parenting advice or tests of household items help others. The same can be said for those who offer some sort of online lessons, think musicians. Anyone who displays genuine knowledge of their craft by offering compelling content can achieve higher page quality ratings. To get to the top of search results, your content has to score higher than all of your competitors while passing the E-A-T test.

    Are We What We E-A-T?

    So now we have access to the standard, what will we do? Will this change how we operate as marketers? The short answer is yes. This emphasis could greatly affect many content marketing strategies. We all know it’s common practice in digital marketing to hire or contract writers to help us help our clients. With this update and the focus more firmly on E-A-T content, there will need to be a shift in how we go about this.

    Any copywriter worth their salt quickly becomes a “subject matter expert” with a little research, but now I think we need to evaluate our content providers more closely. All too often, we allow someone who is not an expert to serve as an authority to ensure we regularly pump out content.

    With knowledge that there’s a direct effect on page quality, and search placement as a result, based on E-A-T, we’re responsible for implementing and following best practices. It’s up to us to give extra thought to pages or sites Google would rate as YMYL, and get the right information out there for our client’s and our own success.

    Need an example? Say your client is a clothing retailer. A writer with knowledge of fashion, merchandising, and sales is going to be able to provide you with expert knowledge for your specific industry. And if you’re representing lawyers, you’ll want a writer who specializes in legal matters, or at least ensure your generalists fact check with actual professionals. Niche marketing also applies to marketers, and you’ll find there are many writers who cover specific fields.

    Google continues to make changes, and it remains to be seen whether we will continue to receive quarterly updates. But for now, we know Google has no intention of dethroning content as king. If anything, they are doing their part with E-A-T content to extend the reign.

    Click to tweet:
    Are You Feeding #Google the Right Type of #Content? It’s Time to E-A-T by @BernieColeman #LocalSearchForum

    What are your thoughts on this update? What have the guidelines taught you, and what do you plan to implement as a result? This is your forum, let’s discuss.

    (Want to read more articles like this by me? Visit BernadetteColeman.com and subscribe!)
    Last edited by Linda Buquet; 04-06-2016 at 08:30 AM. Reason: Had to change title from E-A-T to E A T because Google+ kept spitting out the URL with dashes.
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    Lightbulb re: Are You Feeding Google the Right Type of Content? Time to E A T

    Bernadette thanks for dissecting the E-A-T section of the 146 page document into something we can take a bite out of.
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    re: Are You Feeding Google the Right Type of Content? Time to E A T

    Whoa! I always love your content Bernie, but what a great way to start with your 1st featured article here!

    Your post raises so many important points and I think likely some local search consultants don't tune into organic issues like the quality rater guidelines as much as they need to.

    I wanted to point out the updated/updated GMB help doc:

    Improve your local ranking on Google

    Prominence

    Prominence refers to how well-known a business is. Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and search results try to reflect this in local ranking. For example, famous museums, landmark hotels, or well-known store brands that are familiar to many people are also likely to be prominent in local search results.

    Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business from across the web (like links, articles, and directories). Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business's local ranking. Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization.

    Before I get to E.A.T - I've been wanting to bring up that last paragraph...

    Although we all know it, this is the 1st time Google has come out and confirmed web ranking is a Local ranking factor. (Also the 1st time they've mentioned review count AND score.)

    But back to Bernie's article about E.A.T - Expertise-Authority-Trustworthiness...

    We all know your site is important to ranking and is also the most important citation for your business... But with the current algo I think content is more important than ever. So when you create content keep E.A.T in mind and think of things you can write about that demonstrate Expertise, Authority & Trustworthiness.

    Thanks Bernie for the great food for thought!

    I echo Bernie's Qs in bold above. Plus wonder if any of you have given much thought to E.A.T as you generate or outsource content creation???
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    re: Are You Feeding Google the Right Type of Content? Time to E A T

    I am glad Google is sharing so publicly their expectations relating to E-A-T. Over the last few years people have been writing to just be writing and publishing on their site.

    Personally, I prefer quality over quantity every time! Thanks Bernadette for putting a spotlight on this topic.
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    Re: Are You Feeding Google the Right Type of Content? Time to E A T

    A lot of great information in this document as many others have already pointed out. So often I am seeing that content is created for the sake of creating content without a thought about the Expert, Authoritative, and Trustworthy (E-A-T) of the content.

    Thanks Bernadett for putting this article together for us to E-A-T some content. Sorry, could not resist the pun.

    jnosal
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    Re: Are You Feeding Google the Right Type of Content? Time to E A T

    Great insights, Bernadette! Thanks for highlighting this piece of Google’s report and making it applicable to marketers.

    I definitely echo your comment that “Any copywriter worth their salt quickly becomes a ‘subject matter expert’ with a little research,” but now we can be sure that Google (not to mention the websites we write for and the consumers who read them) are closely judging us by how much Expertise-Authority-Trustworthiness our content delivers. That puts pressure on writers and the people who hire them.

    Background checks are critical!
    One of the first questions a company should ask any writer or content agency they consider hiring is: “What other work have you done about my type of business or industry? Can I see examples?” I get this all the time, so I have to provide examples of web copy I’ve written for other law firms, case studies I’ve written about other construction projects, or whitepapers I’ve written about other technical topics like label converting specifications for durable goods.

    But just because a talented writer doesn’t specialize in a certain topic – or just because a subject matter expert (SME) at your client's company doesn’t specialize in writing copy – doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not qualified to write about it. It does mean, like Bernadette says, that “we need to evaluate our content providers more closely,” and that means diversifying how and where we get content. Maybe copywriters and SMEs just need to join forces.

    Consider multiple paths to E-A-T content.
    Several examples of this came up yesterday at a forum I attended for marketing executives in the A/E/C industry (architecture, engineering and construction) – which is a niche so technical that most of their business cards contain letters like CPSM (Certified Professional Services Marketer) and FSMPS (Fellow of the Society for Marketing Professional Services). In other words: niche experts.

    These experts have very diverse approaches to producing authoritative content at their companies. The marketing manager of one local engineering firm explained that he has a marketing team of 8 in a company of 150 – which is a larger presence than you’ll find in most companies that size, but it illustrates their commitment to having content specialists on staff, including a copywriter, a graphic designer, and a photographer. This allows the company to “diversify tasks and capitalize on strengths,” in his words.

    A business development manager from another engineering firm explained that, because their firm is so large and spread out across the country, it’s easy for individual market experts to become “siloed” in their own divisions. So the firm charged its division leaders with writing whitepapers about the value their division adds. Though they have editing support from their internal marketing team and an outsourced marketing agency, the division leaders draft most of this content themselves. It’s distributed internally to inform each office about what their colleagues are up to, and externally to educate potential customers about what each division can do.

    Both companies are leveraging different resources and expertise to produce content, using senior leaders as well as copywriters.

    Team up for E-A-T content.
    Whether a copywriter specializes in your client's particular industry or not, and whether your client's subject matter experts excel at writing copy or not, I think Google’s E-A-T requirements emphasize that brands need to break down the barriers between “copywriting experts” and “subject matter experts,” and build strategies and processes for these experts to work together more seamlessly.

    Any writer you hire to produce content for your company (or client’s company) needs to be able to effectively:
    • identify, access, and interview the appropriate subject matter experts,
    • conduct thorough background research,
    • and, perhaps most importantly, translate industry-specific expertise and jargon into clean, compelling copy that satisfies Google’s requirements as well as searchers’ interests.


    Even if a company has writers on staff who are subject experts in their industry, they might need to interview product developers or division leaders sometimes to get a closer insider look at technical topics. Other times, they might need to hire a freelance writer or content agency to rewrite web copy, contribute weekly blogs, or produce eBooks. Depending on the format, depth, and topic of each piece of content, it might make sense to blend the expertise of SMEs and copywriters in varying combinations in order to produce E-A-T-worthy content.
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    Re: Are You Feeding Google the Right Type of Content? Time to E A T

    Great points Brooke. Thanks so much. You are 100% right about blending SME's & Copywriters. Thanks
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    Re: Are You Feeding Google the Right Type of Content? Time to E A T

    Glad to hear that I'm not the only person crazy enough to read all 160 pages of the quality guidelines.

    Very concise write up Bernadette. "Bernadette Notes". Thanks for sharing.

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    Re: Are You Feeding Google the Right Type of Content? Time to E A T

    Brooke, love the Team up for E-A-T content! This is an excellent way to not only have the content Google likes on your website, but also the "experts" quoted will most likely share it with their audience, which drives even more site traffic and social sharing. And the cycle will continue to repeat itself.

    Quote Originally Posted by Brooke B. View Post
    Team up for E-A-T content.
    Whether a copywriter specializes in your client's particular industry or not, and whether your client's subject matter experts excel at writing copy or not, I think Google’s E-A-T requirements emphasize that brands need to break down the barriers between “copywriting experts” and “subject matter experts,” and build strategies and processes for these experts to work together more seamlessly.
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    Re: Are You Feeding Google the Right Type of Content? Time to E A T

    Quote Originally Posted by advicelocal View Post
    Brooke, love the Team up for E-A-T content! This is an excellent way to not only have the content Google likes on your website, but also the "experts" quoted will most likely share it with their audience, which drives even more site traffic and social sharing. And the cycle will continue to repeat itself.
    Precisely! I think blending is the most efficient solution for most brands that want to produce E-A-T content.

    After my first reply on this thread, I was still left with this question:
    Should companies ONLY deal with niche writers, and should writers ONLY focus on narrow niche topics?

    I think it depends on:
    • the depth and technicality of the content topic
    • the purpose/target audience of the content
    • the cost of finding, let alone hiring, a niche specialist copywriter VS the cost, time, and quality of having a SME write content
    • the deadline for the content (which is something agencies have to certainly think about when planning, invoicing and measuring the content they produce for clients!)


    To create E-A-T-worthy content, companies basically have to decide if it’s more efficient/profitable for their writers to become experts, or their experts to become writers.

    When a company needs to get brand messaging out ON DEADLINE, (as in press releases, public comments, crisis communications, etc.) it may not always be realistic to produce this content in-house. Recently I partnered with a PR firm to manage a 32-month-long PR campaign for a construction firm. On several occasions, we were contacted by industry publications requesting the firm’s expertise on niche topics via bylined articles sharing “tips for renovating old hospital facilities” or “causes and solutions to common construction delays.” Basically, they wanted expert, authoritative content, but the catch was: they wanted these articles to be authored by engineers and construction managers with industry-specific certifications after their names. They required the expertise and insight of SMEs (not generalist copywriters) to create the content they delivered to their niche audience.

    Naturally, we assigned these articles to the appropriate project managers at the construction firm, helping them identify topic outlines and key takeaways before setting them loose with deadlines. But here’s the challenge we hit in nearly every case: the project managers were too busy executing construction projects and securing new business to sit down and write. And when they did, they were so overwhelmed and so far out of their comfort zones to make much progress writing. In nearly every case, the SMEs had to pass the baton to the PR firm to pick up the articles and drive them past the finish line in time to meet deadlines.

    Enter the copywriter...
    I stepped in and interviewed each SME about their topic (which only took an hour, as opposed to weeks of spinning their wheels trying to put pen to paper on their own), conducted background industry research, and ghostwrote the articles for them, then we worked together to fact-check and edit the technical details. My labor was an additional cost to the company, but when it came to timeliness and quality, ghostwriting was a better option for them than trying to add new writing responsibilities to an already busy SME.

    Content doesn’t come easy to everyone, and that’s where experienced copywriters can add E-A-T-able value – even if they don’t necessarily specialize in only writing about technical construction topics. If you’ve vetted them properly, you should know that an experienced copywriter will seek & leverage the knowledge of the appropriate SMEs to uncover E-A-T content and present it in a compelling (Google-friendly) way, using writing skills and SEO best practices that can be hard for SMEs to replicate on their own.

    More technical = more specialized?
    You might think that more technical topics require writers with more specialized experience within that technical niche…but I (as an admittedly biased writer!) might argue that the opposite is true. The right writer can provide invaluably fresh perspective on complex, complicated topics - using terms that Google and readers can understand, instead of relying on jargon. Experts, on the other hand, can become so mired in the details that they struggle to take a step back and pull out the most interesting key points because it’s just everyday business to them.

    For example, I ghost-blog for a luthier who makes custom 7-string heavy metal guitars - he's definitely a niche expert but he doesn’t think anything he does is interesting enough to blog about. Are you kidding me?! Some SMEs don't realize the goldmines of E-A-T information they're sitting on, so they need a copywriter to pull it out of them.
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