Contents:

An EAT introduction

Google (and human beings for that matter) is keen on EAT: expertise, authority and trust.

Why? Because searchers are keen on EAT. If they know they’re dealing with an expert, the authority on a subject, then they’re more likely to be satisfied. And Google likes satisfied users.

They keep coming back.

Fact is, EAT has been cited as important for a few years. Google was talking about it in relation to its quality rater guidelines back in 2015 (the guidelines the 10,000 people all over the world Google employs to review the search results, manually use, to assess the quality of said results – in 2019, for example, Google used these human raters to conduct more than 383,605 search quality tests and 62,937 side-by-side experiments). But EAT really shot into focus in 2019 when a core algorithm update, focused on EAT, saw very popular sites take huge hits in terms of keyword rankings and organic traffic.

Affected sites were mainly financial and health focused – otherwise known by Google as Your Money Your Life sites (YMYL).

This makes sense. Misinformation on these sites has a major impact on the searcher.

Then in early 2021 Google launched the ‘About this result’ feature. Next to most results on Google, there’s a menu icon (three dots, like a vertical ellipses) that you can tap to learn more about the result. Users can now find what others on the web have said about a site including top news coverage or results about the same topic from other sources. It gives companies a good idea regards the results Google is associating with their domains and a steer on their EAT signalling.

The EAT Q&A checklist

So, what’s Google’s advice if you’re suffering from a lack of EAT?

“Focus on content.”

In reality, this is both on and offsite content – owned and earned.

Look at the important pages on your site and analyse them one by one, keeping the following questions in mind (each of which is detailed in Google’s 2019 EAT blog and each of which I’ve looked to expand upon).

Content and quality questions

Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?

If you’re not adding value, then why would you be returned in the search engine results?

Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?

Word count is not a ranking factor, but Google’s Quality Raters (human beings who work for Google and spend their days assessing and reporting back on websites to help Google fine tune its algorithm) are being asked to assess content based on how comprehensive it is.

Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?

Once again, if you’re not adding value then why would you be returned?

If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?

Anyone can plagiarise, to be a genuine expert is to use your expertise to add value.

Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?

Yes, optimising your meta data is still important. As is providing descriptive headers and content menus and writing in a way that Google finds easy to understand. Google likes to provide instant answers (you may have heard them referred to as ‘featured snippets’. This is why they’re asking for menus and ‘helpful summaries’. This helps Google extract sections from a page and return those sections directly in the search results.

Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?

This is not Google punishing enticing news headlines, this is Google targeting clickbait.

Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?

Referrals remain the greatest indicators of quality.

Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?

If you produce quality original content, optimise it, and author it to an expert, then it’s very likely it’ll be a source in future. This will in turn result in followed links.

Expertise questions (and why authorship’s so important)

Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?

If you’re the best at what you do, then it’s never been more important to demonstrate this. Do you have experts? Then how can you promote their expertise?

Authorship reputation is regularly cited as important in the Search Quality Guidelines – take a look at section 2.5.2:

Every page belongs to a website, and it should be clear:

  • Who (what individual, company, business, foundation, etc.) is responsible for the website.
  • Who (what individual, company, business, foundation, etc.) created the content on the page you are evaluating. 

In 2019 Google’s John Mueller said:

With regards to author pages and expertise, authority and trustworthiness, that’s something where I’d recommend checking that out with your users and doing maybe a short user study, specifically for your set up, for the different set ups that you have, trying to figure out how you can best show that the people who are creating content for your website, they’re really great people, they’re people who know what they’re talking about, they have credentials or whatever is relevant within your field.

Then in a Google SEO office-hours from April 2021 he advised to: “Link to a common or central place – could be a social network profile page.”

This is because Google is trying to recognise who is behind something – it’s called ‘reconciliation’, recognising which entities belong together.

This raises an important point. Where should all author signals be consolidated to? An authorship page on your website? Or a social profile maybe?

From a B2B perspective we’d recommend LinkedIn because:

  • It’s not behind a login page – profiles are public by default and Google’s spiders can crawl profile pages and pick up EAT signals
  • It’s easy to generate EAT signals on a LinkedIn profile page. There are literally sections dedicated to ‘Experience’, ‘Education’, ‘Licenses & certifications’, ‘Skills’ and ‘Recommendations’ – all clear EAT indicators, some of which can be awarded by third parties on LinkedIn who themselves may have strong EAT signals associated with their profiles
  • LinkedIn profiles include historical EAT signals – as a B2B brand I want to benefit from EAT generated from my experts’ careers. It’s unlikely all of their EAT signals will come from their tenure at just your company

Given the above, it’s crucial to make sure your company is listed on your employees’ LinkedIn profiles as their current place of work. And that their profiles are up to date with their latest qualifications and expertise.

But don’t neglect your website either. Then think about your company profile. What kinds of awards and certifications do you have as a company? How good a job do your ‘About us’ and ‘Team’ pages do at promoting your expertise (after all, Google specifically requests quality raters look for ‘About us’ pages as part of their EAT review of a brand)? Why would a customer choose to work with you versus a competitor?

If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely-recognized as an authority on its topic?

How do you present yourself as an authority on a subject? Well one way we know Google favours is PR. They haven’t come out and directly said “hire a PR agency” but they have said to their quality raters: High quality news articles and informational articles may be good sources of information for both companies/organizations/entities and content creators. Search for such articles.

This comes back to positive brand mentions in contextually relevant publications. If you’re an expert on back-office processes in manufacturing companies then you need Google and its quality raters to see you talking about the topic in the right places – for starters, the manufacturing press. The rationale being, you wouldn’t be featured if you didn’t know your stuff.

On the other hand, if you pop up on some random guest blog site that anyone can feature on, or simply a site that’s totally unrelated to your business and expertise, then that’s not going to convince anyone you know what you’re talking about.

Google advises search operators are used to find reputable sources of information, using IBM as an example.

  • Step one: identify the homepage of a brand’s website e.g. ibm.com
  • Step two: using ibm.com as an example, try one or more of the following searches on Google:
    • [ibm -site:ibm.com]: a search for IBM that excludes pages on ibm.com
    • [<ibm.com= -site:ibm.com]: A search for <ibm.com= that excludes pages on ibm.com
    • [ibm reviews -site:ibm.com] A search for reviews of IBM that excludes pages on ibm.com
    • [<ibm.com= reviews -site:ibm.com]: A search for reviews of <ibm.com= that excludes pages on ibm.com

The guidelines also point out that a brand’s social media profiles may be returned when the above searches are conducted but said profiles should not be considered as independent sources of reputation information about a company, which is kind of obvious. Google then directs its quality raters to a Wikipedia page on independent sources for more guidance.

Also worth noting that a less in depth way of conducting the above checks (but one that may be more reflective of what Google’s algorithm is actually seeing) is to use the aforementioned ‘About this result’ tool Google launched in 2021. This tool provides more information on a search result including detail about the page, the source and the topic.

Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?

Comes back to authorship once again – note the difference in language though: ‘expert or enthusiast’. It suggests that Google believes you can be a trusted source simply based on frequency of publication of content related to a particular topic. Makes sense right. There are plenty of businesses where there’s a limit to the official qualifications you can gain so how else do you demonstrate authority? Via self-teaching and dissemination of value-added content.

Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?

Yeah this is content 101 stuff.

Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?

This is YMYL specific but an interesting point.

Presentation and production questions

Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?

This is also content 101 stuff.

Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?

It’s about quality not quantity. Doesn’t mean the page has to look wonderful (take Google’s own aesthetically bland AI blog) but it does mean it has to adhere to everything we’ve discussed already regards expertise, and it has to be well laid out, in an easy to read format.

Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?

This question screams spam. It’s also very difficult to properly maintain multiple websites as a brand.

This really harks back to the old days when spammy SEO companies would buy keyword optimised domain names and barely populate them with any decent content because they didn’t need to, for them to rank.

Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?

It’s unlikely as a B2B company you’re running onpage ads, but you’ll still be familiar with this problem. You land on a page, particularly on mobile, and you can’t navigate it because of ads popping up everywhere. It’s not hard to get this right. Also, Google has previously flagged intrusive interstitials as a ranking no no (something you may potentially suffer from if you’re a B2B company engaged in content marketing – think of a download form that pops up and covers the screen when you visit an organisation’s’ homepage), so take the hint.

Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?

Google runs a mobile first index. If your site doesn’t work well on mobile then this is a BIG issue. It’s also, however, wise to consider mobile on a page-by-page basis. Google won’t necessarily penalise the whole site if certain pages provide a poor mobile experience. Make sure your most important pages are as good as they can be from an EAT perspective and can be easily viewed and navigated on a mobile device.

Comparative questions

Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?

This is an obvious but oft ignored point when developing B2B content. You have a keyword target but have you reviewed what appears on page one when you search for the keyword? Do you know what you have to be better than? Do you know which area of the topic you can add value to? This is SO important. It’s a crucial part of producing great content.

Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?

Content for the sake of ranking is not going to do as well as content designed to address a visitor’s original search query. Google is very good at understanding when you’re trying to game the system.

EAT and Google News

The barrier to Google News entry is lower than ever before. Your site is automatically considered for Google News if it regularly publishes original news-related content, complies with Google’s news policies (i.e. you’re not printing sexually explicit or dangerous content) and demonstrates high levels of… you guessed it, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.

This is a big deal for B2B brands (and something I’ve written about separately for PR Week) because it means EAT is key to driving traffic from Google News. Google News that drives billions of searches to publisher websites every month. Not something that has gone unrecognised by B2B brands who are now taking the EAT piece very seriously in their quest to bypass traditional news publishers and become the source.

All full up yet?

There you have it. Some basic thoughts and theories on how B2B companies can tackle their EAT problems.

A lot of the above is fundamental to any B2B SEO strategy. All content should be high quality, adhere to the above guidance, and regardless of whether you want it to rank or not, should be authored to experts with demonstrable EAT signals associated with their public profiles, positioning your organisation as a trusted source. Easy, right? If the answer’s ‘no’ then don’t panic, just give our B2B SEO team a call and they’ll be happy to undertake an EAT audit on your behalf!

Written by: Luke Budka, director of digital PR and SEO at Definition.

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