One Year On: Our Experts Share Their Thoughts on Google’s E-A-T Update
On 1st August 2018, Google released a change to its core algorithm, commonly known today as the E-A-T or Medic Update. Algorithm updates are common in the world of Google; however, the E-A-T Update was a major digital marketing event with notable impact across the Your Money Your Life (YMYL) industries. Over a year has passed since the official release, but further refinements to E-A-T have continued with the most recent taking place just last week.
We sat down with Emma Sibbles, Head of Content & Social, and James Betts, Technical Insights Manager, to hear their thoughts on E-A-T and how the updates have affected both content and SEO.
How has the E-A-T update affected your role?
Emma: My background is in journalism so the way I approach, and encourage my team to approach, writing is from a journalistic point of view which reflects the E-A-T update closely. It’s around the how, what, why, where and when, which is the approach you would take as a journalist. The update has also brought the target audience to the forefront and encourages businesses to think ‘audience-first’.
The main change in my role is the time it takes to create what we call E-A-T landing pages. The amount of research that goes into these is a lot more than you might expect, so they can take a long time to create. But overall, the premise is still that we want to answer search intent – that hasn’t changed for us.
James: For us on the technical side, it’s fairly similar. Previously we’d be more inclined to focus on commercially orientated phrases, but the E-A-T update has encouraged us to look at more informational style phrases. As Emma said, considering the who, what, where, when, how and why helps us understand the impact on the entire user journey, from the research stage all the way through to a goal completion stage. It’s had quite an impact from this point of view.
What effect has the E-A-T update had on businesses?
James: The impact depends on the type of business. If you fall under the Your Money Your Life category, then it’s had a far bigger impact than any other industry. One of the things we did within the few days of the August 2018 update was start building out a data matrix that considered all of this. We collated our client’s information from a ranking perspective and analysed what was moving. As a result, we were able to quickly narrow in on specific industry niches that were more impacted than others, whether that be positively or negatively. This is what guided us towards it being a Your Money Your Life update and more E-A-T based.
Some businesses have benefited from the update and some haven’t. For us, it’s about identifying the opportunities that now exist in the market and creating content that focuses on these knowledge gaps, with the aim to get users onto websites at an earlier stage than before. We see the update largely as an opportunity for us.
What would you advise businesses to do in order to satisfy the E-A-T update?
Emma: Everything comes back to answering search intent. What might work for one client, one industry, one page, one blog, might not work for another because they all have different needs. For example, whether it’s travel, finance or health, there will be similarities in how we would approach them, but they will also be quite different.
Also, the update stands for ‘Expertise’, ‘Authority’ and ‘Trust’ so those are naturally the key factors we always consider when looking at E-A-T style content.
James: It comes back to trying to assist the user rather than just trying to sell to them. It’s about educating and helping them through that purchase journey rather than just being at the bottom of the funnel. This is probably the biggest impact you can have. Look at your own website, look at your content and understand: is this content aiming to educate the user about our product/service or am I just looking to purely sell what I’m selling? That’s the biggest distinguishing factor.
Would this advice be the same if a business had been negatively impacted?
James: Yes, if you’ve been negatively impacted, it’s important to take a step back and try understanding where your website can improve. Who you are trying to target? How are you targeting them through organic channels? What part of the funnel are you targeting? Invariably, I would suspect if you’ve been negatively impacted, then there’s probably a certain degree of your website not assisting the user.
Emma: It’s also important to consider the quantity of pages within your website. Do you have enough pages in a certain section? Is there enough content on those pages? We often see landing pages that have really thin content which isn’t going to answer search intent.
To help with this, when we first start working with clients a content audit is completed. This involves going through their commercial pages, landing pages, blog pages, looking at the pages they have, what content they have on these pages and what they may be missing. We then consider their competitors so a GAP analysis can be completed to highlight competitive opportunities. That’s really important from an E-A-T point of view.
In your experience, should businesses be avoiding anything in particular?
Emma: Avoid anything that’s overly commercial and isn’t helping the user along their purchase journey. Anything that feels like it’s an old school way of creating content, I would just avoid altogether.
Instead, think about content best practice. It’s not just about answering this algorithm update but future proofing as well. When you look at the bulk of algorithm updates that have happened, a lot of them concern content and have been around helping the user. I don’t see that changing. Future proofing your content and making sure the right amount of content is on your website, that you’re showcasing your expertise and authority and that people coming to your site can trust you, will stand you in really good stead. Not just for this update, but for the next one and the next one and so on.
Google continue to release further refinements since the E-A-T update, how do you see this impacting the future of digital marketing?
James: Realistically, what we’re looking at is Google moving further into this arena. If you look at the quality guidelines that reference E-A-T, Your Money Your Life, page quality, and all those kind of metrics that measure content, they have increased significantly over the past year. I don’t think they’re going to introduce all of this to then remove it all. What we’re probably going to see is a further ramping up of “Content Is King”, the importance of content and the importance of educating the user.
Emma: I agree. I think it’s pretty much a given that Google will continue to make changes because it’s what they do. Whether those are big changes or incremental updates to a major algorithm update; we will continue to see them. Businesses must consider best practice and future proofing so your content is the best it can possibly be, now for the June and September 2019 update’s and for future ones. It stands businesses in much stronger stead than constantly being on the back foot of “as long as we’ve done enough to get through this update”, it makes you think about how we can get through this one but also what are we thinking for future updates? The current work we’re doing with our clients is about that practice. It’s answering the E-A-T update and all the incremental changes, but also future proofing their content too.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on the Google E-A-T update and how you think it could affect your online future. Get in touch to join the conversation.