If you want to get noticed online, you have to conquer Google. There are other search engines out there, but Google is practically everywhere. And, to their credit, Google wants their search results to be as accurate and relevant as possible, which will help them remain the number one search engine in the world.
To understand how to master search engine optimization (SEO) on Google, we spoke to Lily Ray, SEO Director at award-winning digital agency Path Interactive, and found out that you are what you E-A-T.
What is “E-A-T”?
“E-A-T” stands for “Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness”. Having these qualities in your content affects your ranking in Google’s search results. Ray says: “Beginning about August 1st of 2018, if not a little bit sooner, we did see that Google started to incorporate an emphasis on E-A-T into what it means to be a high-quality, high-ranking website.”
How to E-A-T better
The good news is, if you’re building a strong brand, you probably follow E-A-T principles already. So, let’s look at how we can make sure they are communicated properly on your website.
Your website needs to show that you are an expert in your field and that you are trustworthy. This can be done by demonstrating your knowledge—what you do, who does it and who your people are. This is a combination that makes users feel good about interacting with your brand. According to Ray, “the things that we recommend to improve E-A-T are universally good practices that brands should be implementing regardless of who or where their audience is”.
E-A-T and going global
Google looks for authenticity at global and local levels. Being Google, they’re pretty clever, so they can spot when something has been auto-translated, for example, and since they know it’s not genuine content, it slides further down the rankings.
The more information you can provide to Google about your brand across all their platforms—Knowledge Graph, Google My Business, Google Maps, etc.—the more the information ties together. This assures that your content is accurate, allowing your company to perform better in search rankings.
E-A-T particularly applies to what Google refers to as “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) pages. This is content that Google believes authors need to be more responsible for because it is handing out potentially life-changing advice, products or information. Pages dealing with health, finance, legal and political topics fall into the YMYL category.
Is your business a YMYL business?
This is a big question, because different people might interpret it in different ways. For example, maybe you run a hair salon, and not only do you wash, dye and cut hair, but you also give advice on hair care products. Is this “life” advice, according to Google? What if there is the potential for those products to harm consumers? How does Google interpret YMYL?
The fact of the matter is that Google doesn’t clearly define every category that they consider to be YMYL. The reality is that there’s a spectrum and the lines between certain categories blend into each other.
Ray gives an example: “If you write about something like cancer treatments or having a heart attack or at the moment, the coronavirus, that’s about as YMYL as it gets—and Google really cares about this. But you can have a blog where you write about being an expert on baking chocolate chip cookies because you’ve been doing that for 20 years. That’s perfectly fine, and Google can consider you an expert in that capacity. It becomes tricky when you claim to be an expert on heart attacks and you’ve never been to medical school.”
Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines say that you’re allowed to have expertise in any field, but you have to be prepared for scrutiny. If you’re providing advice that could affect people’s safety and security, that’s when Google will apply E-A-T the most.
Optimizing your international SEO performance
Just because you’re a big brand with a strong web presence and a translated website doesn’t mean you’re automatically going be at the top of the Google ranking when you move into a new market—even if your website is number one in your home market. You must do more than just translation. If you’re up against local competitors who know what it’s like on the ground in that market, chances are they’ll be ranking much higher than you.
So, how do you compete with this niche competition? Your strategy must involve creating quality, localized content that gets local people and local websites linking to it and sharing it.
“If Google can see that you have relevant links from local news publications, community centres, organizations or charities, that’s a strong signal to them that your website is relevant to that target audience,” says Ray.
Considering the right keywords
Keywords, obviously, are a massive driver in SEO. They need careful consideration depending on your strategy—are you taking a geo-specific or global approach? If it’s the former, then you don’t need to be targeting keyword that contain the name of the city or region you’re in for Google to determine you are local.
Ray gives us an example: “If you search for ‘plumber,’ that’s going to be localized to where you’re searching from. The ranking factors that matter the most for geo-modified queries like this tend to be the ones that show you are a relevant, local business—especially as it relates to your ranking in Google My Business or Google Maps.”
If your strategy is more global, then your translation might reflect that and you would want to use hreflang tags in your translated webpages to link or share the SEO value with that of your native-language pages. Hreflang tags tell Google which language you’re using on a specific page, so it can give that result to users searching in that language.
Entities are important in SEO because they show how Google understands human language.
Google defines an entity as “a thing or concept that is singular, unique, well-defined and distinguishable.” Entities can be anything from a physical object to a place to an idea. Google has identified 5 billion entities, for which it has 500 billion facts, and these numbers will keep growing as the search engine gathers data from just about everywhere.
Entities are shown in the Knowledge Graph, or Knowledge Panel, that appears on the right-hand side of the screen when you do a Google search.
So, how do you make sure your information is easily found, categorized and associated with an entity? The best way to do this is to take control of that Knowledge Graph information by having your structured data reflect all the most relevant and accurate details about your business.
Ray gives us a good example: “Let’s say you have a creative work, like you’re a musician and you’ve written a song. You can provide structured data that says this is the name of the song, this is how long it is, this is who wrote it and this is what album it appears on. Structured data can feed into Google in that way—and there’s some other databases that Google pulls from, things like Wikipedia, Wikidata and dozens of other websites that have data about different entities. So, the more you can get your brand listed in those places while making sure the content is accurate, the better you’ll perform.”
Your guide to good content for Google
If you really want to know how to optimize your content for Google, you should read their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. It’s not a guide to their SEO ranking factors; it’s about what Google considers to be high- and low-quality content. And we know that Google, as probably the smartest search engine out there and definitely the most important, likes high-quality content.
These guidelines even link to live webpages so you can get a real understanding of what they’re referring to. The more you know what good content looks like, the better chance you have of creating it.
Have your cake and E-A-T it too
E-A-T is about looking long term, so it should be a considerable asset to your brand if you’re looking to build sustainability. Ultimately, Google wants to know who is responsible for a website and who created the actual content on the page.
When it comes to SEO, Ray sums it up: “Incorporate the strategies around E-A-T into your content creation process…The more you can show depth of expertise in an area, the better you’ll be able to perform…[because] it’s really important for Google to be able to tell what your website is an authority on.”
If you want to hear the full conversation between RWS Moravia’s SEO expert Hinde Lamrani and SEO Director at Path Interactive, Lily Ray, check out episode 109 of Globally Speaking Radio.