Ever since Google realized that the building blocks around which its ranking algorithm was built – links and content – were being gamed for profit, they have increasingly focused on identifying and incentivizing sites that provide beneficial and contextual information to their audiences. They have made every attempt to reward those who build a brand with SEO by chasing users instead of chasing the algorithm.
To provide high quality and highly relevant search results across the board, Google has zeroed in on a paradigm called E-A-T (Expertise-Authoritativeness-Trustworthiness) to assess the usefulness and accuracy of content on every webpage they crawl. E-A-T is now a key SEO component of any content strategy.
In the 2020 version of Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines, the concept of E-A-T is mentioned 135 times, and it explains in detail what Google wants in content. Here is just one section:
Anyone that is focused on building authority needs to understand E-A-T and YMYL.
In a recent #SEMrushchat, Sherry Bonelli discussed how brands can build a reputation with well-researched content, and in the process increase their visibility on search engines. Here are the things we covered:
- What is the fastest way to build authority by using SEO?
- What are the top three on-site areas where a site can build trust and authority?
- What Are Some of the Determining Factors of E-A-T?
- Ways Local Businesses Can Build Authority
- Metrics You Should Use When Identifying Good Brand Authority
- Building Expertise, Authority, and Trust: Sherry's Takeaways
What is the fastest way to build authority by using SEO?
There is no single path or shortcut to building authority and trust in SEO. Sherry outlines a lot of different ways, starting with great content, which is shareable, contains keywords, and highlights the opinions of thought leaders in your industry.
Once you have that base, try and promote your content on social media. Mention the people whom you have quoted – that might get you a ripple effect. Contact local media and find out if they will run your opinion pieces. Always keep your audience in mind when you do that. Further, Google uses reviews as a trust factor for SEO. Request customers leave online reviews for your business, especially on your Google My Business page.
Related reading: Social Media SEO: 7 Ways Social Media Can Improve Your SEO Results
Then make social media posts linking to your content and @ mention the people you quote in your content - they will share. Start writing local. Look for local magazines or newspapers and ask if they are looking for contributors. Google wants content that is relevant to the searchers. Writing for your audience is important. Ask your customers for reviews – especially Google My Business reviews.
Everyone agreed that building authority using SEO takes time. It is a complex mix of link building, content marketing, guest blogging, targeting mobile devices, personalization, and social media marketing.
The most important thing to do is to maintain the quality and frequency of your content. Your brand messaging needs to be consistent and trusted across all your digital properties if you want to establish yourself as a brand to be reckoned with in the eyes of Google.
- Gabriela Cardoza — "Fastest way to build authority using #SEO? Hm? It takes time. Ways to do this — link-building, searchable content, collabs and guest blog, mobile, optimize social, personalization, consistent quality, and thought leadership.
- Doug R Thoma: — "Do as much as you can to establish yourself as an entity, in the sense of having a consistent brand across all your owned properties. For local businesses, this is social media, local listings, and domains & websites."
It is people, not technology, that will help you develop this authority.
Hire industry experts to work and write for you. Promote them, their work, and their thoughts on your website and other owned properties. Publicize them as the face of your brand. Don’t forget SEO though – make sure you get your schema markup and Google My Business page information right!
- Demetrios Sourmaidis — "I would say start by hiring writers who already have authority in your niche if you want instant authority, and promote that person as the de-facto industry authority if possible. Also, work towards a solid backlink profile."
- Dawn Anderson — "Also look to connect real people (experts (staff)) to your company as entities (i.e. markup and add them via GMB and so forth). Display them as authors where possible."
Create Trust with Quality
As you build up trust and visibility with consistently good content, more people will come to you for information and advice. Aim to be indispensable to them. Don’t just talk about your brand; remain active in your community and get yourself involved in every conversation to which you can add handy inputs.
- Bill Slawski — "Become indispensable; a source of information and expertise on topics that people have an interest in, so that you become the go-to person on topics (Not convinced that there is an instant way to do this - it involves rolling up sleeves and working.)"
- JP Sherman — "It's 100% true that creating & sharing excellent content will help, but to do that, it's critical to be an active part of the communities that surround your product/ service."
What are the top three on-site areas where a site can build trust and authority?
According to Sherry, here are the top three places on your site that help you gain the confidence of visitors:
Use your “About Us” page to show off major media publications where you have been featured.
Implement schema markup on your site to give Google auxiliary information about your content.
Create a separate page to list customer reviews and testimonials.
- Nathan Driver — "It would depend on the market but the top 3 I think -> 1. Home page 2. About page 3. Products/services page...included should be blog/updates, testimonials, etc."
- Al Davies — "Quality content, pagespeed, and meta data."
- Carolyn Lynden — "Site structure, content, markup where you can. As @bill_slawski once said, we have to serve the users well, but spiders are users too. Feed the hungry humans and the hungry bots at the same time."
- David Rosam — "Probably (it depends on market/audience/client): Home page, Product/service/area pages, and About us page. However: Blogs, White papers and How-to guides may also squeeze their boot in the door."
Creating high-quality content on a variety of topics related to your industry is key to building authority and trust among your customers. Of course, it depends on the nature of your website, your industry, and the audience you are targeting.
Bear in mind that any content you create and distribute has to be laser-focused on your users’ needs; it shouldn’t be cluttered with sales pitches.
- Perfect Search Media — "Seriously. Creating high-quality content on an array of topics is key to building trust and authority. In addition, case studies/testimonials always help. Plus a well-optimized resources page!'
- Dean Brady — "Depends on the company/site. Build authority by BEING and authority. Add value in the space you live and to the audiences you serve."
- JP Sherman — "So, I'm seeing a lot of great bits about authority signals about reviews, about us, etc - but we need to balance out the fact that it's not all about us, they NEED to signal value to the user."
Dawn Anderson reminds us that the real builders of trust for your brand are your people, the team that is making your organization great every step of the way.
SEMrush’s Content Marketing Toolkit gives you an array of tools to audit your existing content, research new topics, plan and publish SEO-focused articles, see who is sharing your posts, and track the performance of this content vis-à-vis your competitors.
What Are Some of the Determining Factors of E-A-T?
According to Sherry, the quality of your content is the single most important factor influencing your page quality rating. “Quality” is not a subjective factor here; it is determined by the benefits it offers to your users. Mind you, if your content isn’t providing any value to your customers and simply promoting your business, Google will definitely ignore it.
Begin by understanding what E-A-T is. Then analyze and fix your content to reach those standards. Always use these standards as a benchmark while crafting new content. The shares, links, engagement, and brand awareness that you get as a result will be the measure of the trust your audience has in you. A simple guideline would be to follow human thinking patterns while assessing your trustworthiness. Does your organization have a human side to it?
- Simon Cox — "Might be easier to understand what isn’t good E-A-T to begin with then ensure you are putting time into fixing and then spend time x100 your content to build that E-A-T. Hard work pays."
- JL Faverio — "T or Trust would probably be #1 as that can be earned (over time, which is more natural) in many different ways such as shareable content, which increases links and engagement and brand awareness. #localseo not just nationally."
- Dawn Anderson — "Simply the things any human being would want to check and know about an organisation before buying or contracting with them. We all know when someone is truly trustworthy, has expertise and authority as humans (hopefully)"
Article Topic and Authority: Questions to Ask
- Do you really have expertise in that topic?
- How is it related to your business?
- How will your users benefit from what you have to say?
What experts suggest:
- Carolyn Lynden — "I think it depends on the site/topic, but overall--do you have any business talking about what you're talking about? Yeah, ok then. No, GTFO."
- CallRail — "Think about the topic of the page. What kind of expertise is required for the page to achieve its purpose well? The standard for expertise depends on the topic of the page." Quoted from the QRG."
Other Signals that Might Affect E-A-T Are:
- Bill Slawski — "How to measure E-A-T and Reputation: mentions from others, testimonials, interviews, social shares, links from hubs and authorities, associations with respected entities, Notable citations, Achievements (publications, awards, news coverage) That's a start..."
- David Rosam — "Excellent reviews, spread around the web. Links from authority sites. Quality, authoritative content and/or - Social activity, perhaps."
- Perfect Search Media — "Backlinks, appropriate keyword usage, age of webpage, site speed, crawlability. We could go on...Google is oh so speculate-able."
Links still matter very much in deciding authority. Google’s PageRank algorithm was built on the back of links, and links are still one of the biggest factors affecting ranking.
- JM Thomson — "Links still matter, reviews matter, citations matter, your content matters, who you link to might matter (are you hanging out with the right crowd)."
- ThinkSEM — "Links have always been -- and we believe will continue to be -- a major factor in determining credibility and trust online. Anyone who doesn't think so can E-A-T it :)"
Ways Local Businesses Can Build Authority
Being interviewed on a podcast, guest blogging, and receiving awards are Sherry’s preferred ways of building authority for local businesses.
Start by getting your domain and website fully functional, so that you project a professional image. Pay attention to the real-world, traditional marketing you already do, and get the basics right.
- Lisa Radin — "Make sure their website and all social media is working right across platforms for starters. If saying professional, must act professional."
- Sean Bucher — "Because these are service-based businesses, doing the traditional LLM plus leveraging their local partnerships and sponsorships is a big one here. There is a threshold though, a low-quality local domain may not be worth it if it tilts your toxicity negatively."
Citations from business directories and other prominent sites in the region are crucial to building authority for local businesses. Continually track these citations and make sure your Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP) are consistent across all listings.
You also need to put a local link building program in place. Soliciting customer reviews, responding to them, and engaging customers in conversation will help local businesses like no other. Schema markup and Google My Business (GMB) will help you remove any ambiguity that Google might have about your business details.
- Marccx Media — "Oh, right off the bat, auditing their existing citations (including their own socials) and updating any errors, followed by submitting citations to local & business directories, soliciting customer reviews, and local-focused link building."
- CallRail — "Make sure your listings and citations are complete (and maintain NAP consistency). And then the key—make sure to CHECK THEM and interact with reviews, questions, etc."
- Dawn Anderson — "Schema. For at least -> Local Business, Service, Area Served, Organisation, Points of Contact. There is a schema for organization type 'plumber' I think. Also, tie down NAPs. Use photos in GMB, use the posts, and add additional information."
Don’t Just Focus on Google My Business
Go to all social platforms where you can find customers and where they can find you! Reply to all reviews, across the board. Social signals are great for building your online reputation. Scour your local Facebook Groups and other places to see where you can join the conversation.
- Carolyn Lyden — "Don't just complete the GMB profile. Make sure to engage with users on it. Answer questions and reply to ALL reviews (yes, even bad ones). Update social citations and engage with audiences. Be where local users are looking for you."
- Dhaval Shah — "For local businesses, nothing beats social signals. And whether you like it or not, GMB and online reputation management is THE most important factor for any local business. No great link building will solve it."
- Clockwork Talent — "Many people forget about the benefits of #social for local business, your area's Facebook Gossip Group may not seem like the most attractive place to post, but if you find specific 'business posting days' you can hit the jackpot!"
Get the Right Mix of Authoritative Content and Links From Local Websites
Your content needs to be very relevant and contextual to your niche, as do your links. Work with other local businesses to understand your customers better and provide the right answers. Link and refer to each other at every available opportunity.
- Heather Harvey — "Work together & share valuable knowledge with each others customers via your blogs/ sections on your sites. Link to each other to provide answers to your customers that you may not have on your site."
- JF Amprimoz — "From an authority standpoint, content is still the dominant factor. A plumber's site should have a lot of content answering questions people ask about plumbing. Backlinks from inside the locality probably have an edge. Make sure GMB is in good shape!"
Remember Your Local Community
It is critical that you don’t ignore the local community and keep yourself visible and active there. Encourage community members and customers – especially satisfied ones – to leave reviews and don’t be afraid to respond and build your brand messaging around these reviews. The more reviews you have, the more chances a potential customer will trust you. Finally, leave no stone unturned in making your community better. Supporting each other is the best way for local businesses to grow and build trust.
- Simon Cox — "Interact with their local community and build that trust so that customers can give good reviews. Using social media is really effective for Small businesses and of course utilizing GMB. Write articles about your expertise for local newspapers and magazines."
- David Rosam — "Get involved with the local community and get them talking about you. Get satisfied customers to write reviews. GMB (keep updated). NAP (uniformity and consistency rule)."
- Express Writers — "Reviews are always crucial because people want to know they can trust you before hiring you."
- Bill Slawski — "Referrals and Opportunities to grow and become a trusted part of the local community (Build a supportive community that appreciates each other)."
Metrics You Should Use When Identifying Good Brand Authority
Online metrics such as SEMrush’s Domain Score and Trust Score will give you an indication of your site’s authority in terms of SEO. Your backlink profile and social media presence will add to the trust factors that influence your online brand authority. Use these metrics to build on your UX and content quality.
- JL Faverio — "Using the #SEOquake extension is useful to view Alexa Rank (yes you read that right) Domain Score and Trust Score and also shows their backlink profile and GI and more!"
- Demetrios Sourmaidis — "Domain authority, backlink profile, social profiles, online reputation, traffic (use @semrush when you don't have access to their analytics!)."
- Perfect Search Media — "Domain and Citation Authority are big indicators. Besides that, strong UX and webpage quality do a lot to convey brand authority."
If your brand is well known, it follows that people will recall it and search for your products by your brand name. See what percentage of your traffic comes from branded searches. See what other terms they are searching for along with your brand – are these related you your business or niche?
Another yardstick is the quality of backlinks to your content. Are authoritative sites in your industry linking to you? Do they mention your brand name? In what context?
- ThinkSEM — "Well, if you're doing branding properly, people know your name. So what % of traffic is branded search? Also, people tend to link more to highly credible sources, so if you're that, how're your incoming links?"
- Dawn Anderson — "Brand mentions & searches (search volume), brand + non-brand (what the brand does) searches, i.e. brand + service, brand + product, backlinks, citations connected with studies and research, general brand buzz."
Building Expertise, Authority, and Trust: Sherry's Takeaways
Building expertise, authority, and trust (E-A-T) are important to Google and potential customers. Having a trustworthy and authoritative presence online will help your SEO and build confidence in the people who are looking to purchase your products or services. Here are some ways to build expertise, authority, and trust.
Write Content People Are Interested In
Make sure that content is about questions people are asking. You can use the SEMrush topic research tool or a site like Answer The Public to find out what real people want to know about a particular topic. In the content you write, use SEO best practices, and cite authoritative sources. Mention those experts and sources in social media posts, and you’ll increase the likelihood that those authoritative sources will retweet or share your social media posts, which will increase your followers and get more visitors to your site. Google notices engagement and visitors to your website.
Build Reputation, Expertise, and Authority with Online Reviews
Online reviews are a known SEO ranking factor. Also, build your authority and expertise by getting publicity through public relations. Write press releases, apply for and win awards, get speaking engagements, write for reputable websites, be a guest on podcasts and webinars, etc. When you get any publicity for your company, be sure to write a blog post about that recognition and include it on your “About Us” page. Be sure to include logos (with permission, of course) of the sites you’re featured on. That shows visitors quick visual proof of your credibility and helps build trust, letting potential customers know you are better than your competitors.
Use On-site SEO Strategies to Boost SEO
On your “Contact Us” page, be sure to embed Google Maps. To do this, go to your Google My Business listing, click on the “map” image, click the Share button and copy the HTML code to create a hyperlink. You can then use this link as anchor text on your page. As a “top-secret tip,” embed driving directions in anchor text, too. It’s also a good practice to name image files with keywords and geolocations (i.e. Toyota-cars-cedar-rapids.jpg) and then actually geotag the photo itself. You can go to geotagmyphoto.com to add a geotag to the actual photo!
There are many more ways to build your expertise, authority, and trust. Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines talks a lot about E-A-T and how it impacts rankings, so it’s vital that you build these strategies into your SEO efforts so you can build authority with Google and trust with potential customers. So get started on your E-A-T SEO tactics! Good luck.