“Content”—what does it mean?
A couple of loose definitions might be simply, ‘stuff’, or ‘the absence of nothing’ in the sense that, If there’s something in the box, then the box has ‘content’.
When it comes to writing lead-generating business content, the ‘stuff in the box’ has to be more than just stuff in a box—it’s got to shine in ways that will have Google’s algorithm purring.
Each time Google makes drastic algorithm changes, websites gain or lose traffic, and leave us to adapt.
In this guide, we’re going to break down the major changes Google have made and the content optimisations your marketing team need to do; so what you’re publishing online collects leads and not dust.
Share this guide with your content team and make sure they’re up to speed.
Google’s 2018 ‘E-A-T’ Algorithm Update and Why Your Content Creators Should Be Intimately Familiar.
Google has a habit of rejigging their computer algorithm every now and then. Most of the time these changes are little more than negligible tremors.
Every few years, however, Google lets loose with truly seismic changes to the core algorithm that organises search results. Every time they do, it sends shockwaves across the online business landscape as websites scramble to figure out exactly how their presence and traffic have been affected.
2018 was one of those years—as we all slept, Google quietly threw a few SEO switches that brought wins for some, and losses for others. The problem for business owners is, this stuff doesn’t get announced on the nightly news, and the consequences for your profits can be profound.
Why Did Google Change the Core Algorithm in 2018?
Online content is about the exchange of value.
Content writers deliver value to the reader in exchange for reader attention that can bring value in the form of business dealings, partnerships and relationships.
For what seems like decades, Google placed emphasis on keywords within online content as a way of matching content against Google searches.
Writing online content quickly became an exercise in pandering to the algorithm, leaving readers out in the cold as content writers focused on content littered with broken-record phrases and keywords aimed at scoring Google points.
Great for getting ranking in search back in those days, not so great for enriching the user experience in a way that adds value to their cause.
Those still in the ‘keyword’ mindset should make efforts to change that. This doesn’t necessarily mean spending time and energy writing new content—make the right tweaks, and you can actually get your existing content to jump higher in Google’s search results.
What Did Google Change, Exactly, In the 2018 Update?
The answer is, quite a lot, although not all of it that pertinent. Aside from the ‘E-A-T’ content update (which we’ll get to shortly), Google made a whole raft of changes. Some important, others less so.
If you’re feeling brave and are well-versed in Google jargon, Google’s full General Content Guidelines have the details on the 2018 algorithm changes.
For the rest of us, here’s a rough breakdown:
- Image Search Update (February 15)
With this tweak, Google did away with the longstanding ‘search by image’ buttons and started insisting people visit the source website where the image is hosted.
- “Brackets” Update (March 8)
Google’s algorithm updates tend to come in waves. The “brackets” update was effectively Google starting to place more emphasis on content quality. Like with most Google changes, some win, while others lose—in the case of this specific update, Google commented that the change would start “benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded”.
- Zero-Result SERP (March 14)
This update helped searches find answers more quickly to black and white questions relating to time, weather, currency and calculations, and so on.
- Mobile-First Index Roll-Out (March 26)
A minor tweak that now means mobile versions of websites are indexed with priority over desktop versions: No surprise, given the rise of tablet and mobile browsing. If your site’s not properly set up for mobile devices, you need to sort that now.
- Snippet Length Drop (May 13)
The ‘snippet’ in Google search results is the small bit of preview text that sits beneath links. Before, the character limit was 300. Now, we’re down to 160. Google’s advice is not to spend too much time obsessing over snippets, since snippets aren’t always taken from Meta Descriptions anyway.
- Video Carousels (June 14)
Facebook founder chap, Mark Zuckerberg, forecasts that video will become the dominant online content type. The video carousel update, that now displays video thumbnails right in search results above the links, suggests Google think the same.
- Mobile Speed Update (July 9)
Starting to get the feeling mobile browsing is a big deal? Us too, and that’s probably because it is. From 2018 and ever since, the loading speed of your website on mobile devices impacts how Google ranks you in mobile searches, so it’s worth looking at that if you haven’t already.
- Medic Core Update / The E-A-T Content Update (August 1)
And last, but by no means least, the infamous medic update. This took the marketing word by storm. With this update, Google made sure queries were matched by the best quality, most relevant content.
So, without further ado, let’s tear apart this 8th and final update.
Google’s 2018 Medic Update and Why You Need to ‘E-A-T’ Your Content
Every time you produce a written piece of content, ‘thou shalt E.A.T content’ should be your mantra. E-A-T your content just right, and you’ll have Google purring.
What does the ‘E-A-T’ part stand for?
While the ‘E-A-T’ in Google’s 2018 algorithm update has been part of the lexicon of those in Digital and SEO for a while, it seems to have evaded the radar of the broader business audience it also impacts.
Here’s an excerpt from a white paper published by google explaining the shift of focus from on-page technicals like key words, to more abstract, quality-oriented SEO considerations.
“We assume that users expect us to operate with our strictest standards of trustworthiness and safety. As such, where our algorithms detect that a user’s query relates to a YMYL topic, we will give more weight in our ranking systems to factors like our understanding of the authoritativeness, expertise, or trustworthiness of the pages we present in response.”
In other words, Google started giving more weight to the validity, accuracy and usefulness information published where Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) websites are concerned—that is, websites that deal in serious and important ‘your money or your life’ topics
What’s important to note is that, even if your website doesn’t publish information relating to YMYL topics, the same rules about, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness still apply.
Let’s break those down and have a closer look at how you can create strong indicators of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness consistently across all content published anywhere against your brand.
The ‘E’ of ‘E-A-T’ stands Expertise.
Jumping clean through Google’s ‘we’re the experts’ hoops can be done in a variety of ways. Here’s a few of them.
- Awards and Accolades
If you’ve got an award or two displayed on your mantelpiece, don’t be afraid to brag about them. Naturally, you want to avoid humble-bragging directly in your written content about accolades you’ve picked up. Instead, write about it in your About Us page.
- Author Bios
To have Google think of you as a topic expert, transparency is key. Have a look at major sites like Forbes, and you’ll notice an author image and a link to the author’s bio at the top of the article. This isn’t just a neat decoration—Google’s algorithm spiders will actively follow the link through and review the author bio details. If they decide the author is meritable and genuinely knows their stuff, they’ll reward you with some Google ranking juice.
- Technical proficiency
“Keep it simple”, “write conversationally”, “don’t use jargon”.
All worthy advice, generally speaking, since you don’t want to isolate and bewilder your audience. However, it’s worth pulling a few technical moves by using recognised, industry-relevant terminology to show your expertise.
The ‘E-A-T’ content guidelines don’t only apply to how you’re writing individual pieces of content. They also preach that you should consider your content real estate top-down and think carefully about how you curate the entirety of your content. This means selecting a core set of content pillars and topics to write about, and then sticking to them. Find out what’s buzzing in your specific niche, what the in-the-moment talking points are and stay within those parameters.
We thought the same. How is ‘authoritativeness’ different to ‘expertise’?
Being an expert means truly knowing your stuff. Showing authority relates to how your brand is positioned against others.
For example, suppose Forbes and a well-known diet blog publish a news story on topical events. Who will have the higher authority?
- Building Authority Backlinks
One of the yardsticks by which Google judges your content authoritativeness is through judging the external sources you associate your content with that are already renowned as trusted. In other words, backlinks. Measuring up against that yardstick means backlinking and backlinking well.
This is likely not news to most, though there are backlinking pitfalls to steer around if your backlink real estate is to accrue value.
The best way to build strong backlinks is to identify who the authority voices are in your space, or even outside of your space. For example, linking to Google’s own resource pages, YouTube, Wikipedia, Yelp, Medium, Pinterest, Facebook, or any other major online brand you care to name, will score ranking points.
Trust is a massive deal for Google.
That’s why the bulk of frequent background algorithm tweaks revolve around making sure the sites people are using are absolutely reliable and trustworthy. This is particularly true of sites that have online payment systems, with an ecommerce element
Signalling trustworthiness is a little technical.
Look in the browser address bar and you’ll notice either http or https right at the start of the web address. Without straying too deep into the technicals of this, you’ll want to have https, given that the ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’.
- How do you switch from ‘http’ to ‘https’?
The best answer is, by getting your techies on the case. Chances are, you’re already covered. If you’re not, have them download and implement the relevant SSL certificate, and that’s it, job done.
This simple website tweak alone will gain you more kudos from Google than you think and your website might jump a few spots—all for having thrown one simple security switch. And it’s worth doing. Don’t get labeled ‘not secure’, or you’ll be digging yourself out of a hole for a while.
- Build Trusted Reviews
Many businesses want nothing to do with reviews because they can make you vulnerable to unfair attacks.
Reluctance to get on board with reviews and have yourself put in the stocks to run the risk of facing hail of unjust rotten fruit is understandable, given that fluctuations in review ratings is directly associated with changes in revenue. Regardless of the risks of inadvertently opening yourself up to critique, or worse still, mischief-making competitors, the perks of featuring your brand on review sites like Trust Pilot—or any others from the countless available—are difficult to ignore.
The all-seeing Google spiders keep an eye on those sites and they’ll associate the plaudits with your brand. Gain regular kudos that signals your trustworthiness, and your SEO will gain significant boosts for it.
And there you have it. Hopefully a few useful tidbits have fallen out of this guide to get you tweaking and optimising your way up the ranks. Remember that the tenets of Google’s ‘E-A-T’ guidelines aren’t just for applying to new content. Dive into your existing blog and give your legacy content an ‘E-A-T’ makeover is probably a good place to start to get the maximum SEO perks with the least energy spent.
If you want to chat to us about helping you in this area, then please drop us a line here.