If you have any familiarity with SEO, you’ve heard of EAT: Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness.
It’s part of the guidelines by which Google judges the effectiveness of its algorithm and a benchmark for content creators.
Like anything else in the SEO world, people have tried to hack it.
But Kevin Indig, Director of SEO for Shopify, let us in on how to authentically establish trust in your content that inspires shares and links and fuels your entire content machine.
1. Create content only you can create
For a long time, people have used the skyscraper method to improve their SERP ranking. That’s where you look at your competitors’ content on specific keywords and do the same but even better, like adding additional numbered bullets or new statistics.
It may work for some industries, but if you want to build a successful content moat that no one else can replicate, you’re better off creating content that only you can create.
People want to seek expert opinions and find authorities and brands that are trustworthy. Adding on to what someone everyone else is doing doesn’t do that.
Instead of adding on to what’s already out there, ask yourself these questions:
- What is the content that we have to create?
- What is the content we should create?
- What is the content we can create?
The content that falls into the last bucket—content only you can create—is arguably the most valuable. It’s much more defendable than other types of content.
“I would urge every company to think about what is the stuff that only they can bring up as the experts?” Kevin said.
A good content strategy is probably a mix of the answers to all three of those questions.
2. Provide robust arguments and evidence
Now that you’ve come up with the content areas that you have expertise in, it’s time to actually build that trust into your content.
Google measures EAT in multiple proprietary ways. But Kevin has a good idea about some of them. For instance, backlinks are likely factored in, so any content that encourages backlinks is good.
“That aside, there’s a lot of meta factors that are being factored in the content when it comes to trust,” Kevin said. “Part of that is just how robust your arguments are and the other part of that is how robust your evidence is.”
Particularly if your site falls under YMYL content (Your Money or Your Life), and deals with things like money or health, Google will hold your content to the highest standard.
“If you have a long list of medical research, that is one thing. But it is relatively straightforward to measure, even if the links point at something that’s relevant to the topic you’re writing about,” Kevin said.
Google can tell if the links are relevant to the topic, or just have the same keyword in the title. Make sure that your arguments and evidence are strong and relevant.
3. Give high-quality recommendations
Another way to establish trust with your content is to make accurate and high-quality recommendations that fit the topic.
For instance, a medical site that lists symptoms and diseases would also need to provide the right remedies and follow-up steps.
“A medical site can link to all the studies that might be relevant for a certain topic, but if they give the wrong recommendation, then that is something that’s being factored in, and of course diminishes the trust of users,” Kevin said.
Content needs to be trustworthy through every detail.
Kevin adds that there is also likely some user engagement factor that Google uses when assessing EAT.
“I don’t want to assume what it is,” he said. “Could it be clicks? Could it be the time people spend, the searches that they do, the search volume of the brand? It’s probably a mix of all of these things.”
4. Use original data
While Google probably doesn’t measure to the level of detail of recognizing original data, your readers will. Creating content that comes from proprietary data is another way to strengthen your content and the moat around it.
“I think there’s a point at which users will trust you more if your methodology is safe and sound,” Kevin said.
If you’re only analyzing five different data points, that’s not going to set you apart as trustworthy, but if you’re looking at millions of data points, that changes the game.
Your interpretation of that data becomes what seals the deal.
“At the end of the day, proprietary data I think is a super powerful vehicle to also display your expertise in a field,” Kevin said.
Whatever your data points are, if you have a statistician to analyze them and have your results reviewed by peers in your industry, that adds another layer of robustness and increases audience trust.
Another benefit is that a content pillar built on original data will be especially strong.
“What a lot of people miss in my mind is that the stronger your pillar, the stronger all the clusters will be as well,” Kevin said. “It makes a lot of sense for me to invest a lot of time and effort upfront, maybe even a lot of money, to have the most robust pillar ever because the clusters will benefit from it.”
That’s where you really land a competitive strategy, because it will be difficult for anyone to replicate the pillar that your content clusters are branched off from.
5. Have an SEO sandbox to experiment in
Content creators should have a place to experiment with different types of content and formatting that’s low risk.
When working on your own projects, you don’t have to follow all the SEO rules and you can see what outside of the box things work.
“What I do with my personal stuff is that I hack around a lot and then just try out some things,” Kevin said. “It could be things like CMS or tools, but it can also just be like, Hey, what happens if I do this to a title or do that to a featured snippet?”
Sometimes less SEO-optimized content works better in terms of backlinks. A personal site is a good place to experiment with that before trying it for a client or company that is looking to add more thought leadership pieces.
“I have this kind of theory that when something looks too optimized, that people are just more hesitant to link to it,” Kevin said. “Whereas if something looks more unoptimized, and can argue about what that actually means, people are just more open to link to it.”
You don’t have to set up a full experiment and define success criteria, you can just make quick changes and see what happens.
Whether you’re working at a company or as an individual, creating content only you can create can help you make decisions about what will work to establish trust and improve content rankings.