In search marketing you create content for people not robots, and this in turn boosts your SEO. After all, Google and other search engines want to appeal to users with the content they recommend. That’s partly why Google employs a number of Search Quality Raters to help evaluate the quality of the content it recommends. The need for these raters demonstrates the value of putting the “human touch” back into search engines.
These raters use a document called Search Quality Rater Guidelines, which contains well over 175 pages of various standards for content. They update this document throughout the year, but in December 2022 among a number of important changes they also made a noticeable addition to their popular E-A-T concept.
Today, we’re going to look at what Google changed and why, as well as how you can optimize your store’s content to keep up with this latest update.
What is E-E-A-T or Double E-A-T?
Google processes 8.5 billion searches every single day. It also dominates the search market, with over 90% of search engine traffic. The continued success of Google is largely driven by the experience it gives its users, providing them with the most relevant content for their queries. Search quality raters ensure that the content being surfaced and recommended by Google’s bots and algorithms is of a high standard.
In its Search Quality Rater Guidelines, Google outlines the concept of E-A-T. This stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. In December 2022, Google added an extra “E” for Experience, dubbing this updated concept E-E-A-T or Double E-A-T. They highlighted in their update post that high quality content on specific topics often requires some kind of first-hand experience in order to be reliable. For example, if you read a review you want to know that the writer has actually used the product they’re speaking about.
So the definitions for our updated E-E-A-T now looks like this:
Experience - Content should demonstrate first-hand experience with the subject matter. E.g. a verified product review.
Expertise - Content should demonstrate a clear understanding and knowledge of the topic at hand. E.g. a barista writing about how to make a great coffee at home.
Authoritativeness - Content should come from a reputable source on the subject matter. E.g. a spirits industry publication writing about industry news.
Trust - This is harder to summarize, as raters are encouraged to use experience, expertise, and authority to help them form an assessment on the trustworthiness of content. As an addition to this, content should be accurate, and the source of it should be transparent.
As part of this updated concept, Google also put more emphasis on “trust” as a defining factor for E-E-A-T, citing that “untrustworthy pages have low E-E-A-T no matter how Experienced, Expert, or Authoritative they may seem”.
Through these along with some more in-depth guidelines, raters can then evaluate the quality of a given piece of content. Low E-E-A-T will ultimately rank lower, as it cannot prove that it’s trustworthy and valuable to search users. For the highest level of E-E-A-T, Google says:
“A website… who is the uniquely authoritative, go-to source for a topic has very high E-E-A-T. …A very high level of expertise can justify a very high E-E-A-T assessment. Very high E-E-A-T websites and content creators are the most trusted sources on the internet for a particular topic.”.
Why did Google add Experience to E-A-T?
There has been some speculation as to the reason behind adding “Experience” to E-A-T. Google’s official announcement states that this change is ultimately designed to more closely reflect what kind of diverse information users want from search.
As for other potential reasons, some point to the rise in AI generated content. As generative AI technology becomes both more advanced and prevalent in content creation, it does pose a question for Google as to what “quality” content really means. If a blog written by an AI tool simply draws from content it can find online about a topic, is this high quality? Is it useful for the reader?
Google would likely say no. In fact, in their guidelines they specifically highlight that originality is important:
“Consider the extent to which the content offers unique, original content that is not available on other websites. If other websites have similar content, consider whether the page is the original source.”
Experience factors into originality, and is counter to AI generated content. After all, that is something which AI cannot draw from – first hand experience. They can’t write a product guide that will have high E-E-A-T, because an AI can’t test it out for itself and draw from its experience.
Another possible reason behind Google’s decision to add “Experience” to E-A-T, is simply that they’ve recognised that expertise and authority isn’t quite enough these days for users to trust a piece of content. Consumers are highly aware of the manipulation that can happen when it comes to content, especially in areas such as retail and hospitality. Brands can pay for positive articles to be written about them in well-known publications. Restaurants can work with influencers in exchange for positive coverage. This kind of content isn’t what Google wants to recommend to its users, as it can be misleading. Adding experience into content evaluation strengthens the level of trust and therefore can indicate high quality content.
What’s the difference between experience and expertise?
With the definitions given for E-E-A-T, it’s fair to question the need for separation between experience and expertise. Put simply, someone can have experience, but not expertise on a given topic. For example, someone writing a review of a health supplement has first-hand experience of that product, but they may not be a doctor or health expert.
Here is what Google has to say on the matter:
“Pages on YMYL topics can be created for a wide variety of different purposes. If the purpose of a page on a clear YMYL topic is to give information or offer advice, a high level of expertise may be required for the page to be trustworthy.”
“ However, sometimes pages on YMYL topics are created to share personal experiences, often regarding difficult life challenges. People turn to each other in times of need to share their own experience, seek comfort or inspiration, and learn from others. Factual information from experts and authoritative sources may not satisfy this need.”
In a similar example to above, someone may be looking to learn about someone’s personal experience with a supplement rather than a factual account of the benefits from a doctor.
By making the distinction between experience and expertise, Google has essentially opened up what can be considered high-value, worthwhile content.
How to write content that falls in line with E-E-A-T/Double E-A-T
Demonstrate first-hand experience with your subject matter
When writing content for your store, consider how you can demonstrate to the reader that you have first-hand experience with the subject matter. This applies to any content for your store, including product pages.
If you’re writing a blog about a specific technique, product, production process etc, you want to indicate that your brand has direct experience with the topic. For example, if you’re writing about how you design your products, collaborate with someone on your design team. Alternatively, if you write about some kind of technique or recipe, include images or video content – this clearly demonstrates experience without explicitly stating so in the body of the blog.
In the above example from Thirdlove, they have a series of blogs called “Ask a fit specialist” where they discuss common issues and questions related to bra fitting. By relating this topic to a specialist opinion, it lends experience to the article. The Fit Specialist has first-hand experience with the issues the reader is looking into.
You can also demonstrate experience by ensuring other pages on your site include information about the background of your brand and team. This may be past professional experience of your team, awards won, research that went into your products, and so on.
Create original, high effort content
We’ve mentioned already that originality is important to Google when assessing content. Part of that is the effort, skill, and accuracy that goes into creating the content. Low effort content with errors can still be original and come from an experienced source! Therefore you need to combine that experience, expertise, and authority with some high quality content.
Let’s talk about each quality in turn.
Originality - For product pages, this will mean writing unique, interesting copy for each product description. Avoid copying and pasting manufacturer descriptions, or writing the same descriptions for similar products.
For blog posts and other site content, this will require you to do some research. Look at your niche, authoritative sources in your industry, and competitors. Identify content gaps where there’s little information on a topic you can speak with experience and authority about, or where you feel you could improve upon the content that already exists. Ensure you include your own original ideas in blogs. There may be overlap with other content that already exists about a given topic, so bringing your own unique take on a subject is essential.
Effort - Put in the time and effort necessary to create high quality content. In their rater guidelines, Google points to how much human effort is required to create a piece of content. Their example is a human taking the time to translate a poem into another language, versus using machine-generated translation. The effort for one vastly outweighs the other.
Skill - As well as the actual effort that goes into content, Google asks its raters to consider the level of skill or talent required to provide users with a good experience. This depends on the nature of the content, and the source. For example, Google wouldn’t require people posting on a forum to demonstrate skill or talent. However if a brand posts a how-to video, then this requires the skill to carry out the task in the video as well the talent to make it an interesting and enjoyable experience for the user.
Accuracy - Before you publish any content to your site, ensure that any facts included are correct. On a product page, that might be the size or dimensions of the product, or an ingredient. This is especially important to check, given that at times the packaging or formulation of your products may change over time. In blog posts, it may be checking names and locations are correct, ingredient amounts, facts about a specific product or place, etc. Accurate content is exactly what Google wants to show to its users.
In creating content which satisfies these criteria, you’ll be well on your way to optimizing your content to suit Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines.
As the way we use search changes over time, so too do Google’s algorithms and guidelines for what makes worthwhile content. While they don’t reveal every tweak and change, updates to search rater guidelines give us a useful glimpse into what they’re looking for from the content they rank in SERPs. The addition of experience to E-A-T is one such glimpse as to the direction of Google’s attitude to content creation in the near future.