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Don't Dream E-E-A-T, Be E-E-A-T.

Don't Dream E-E-A-T, Be E-E-A-T.

I see you shiver with antici...

E-E-A-Ting High Quality Frankfurters

There's something a little delicious in the fact that one of the best bits of advice I can think of when it comes to trying to prove that pesky experience, expertise, authority, trustworthiness and the helpfulness of their content and sites comes from Dr. Frank-N-Furter's song towards the end of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Don't Dream it, Be It.

Whatever happened to Fay Wray (also my rankings)?

OK, so other than that refrain, the song perhaps isn't the most helpful advice for SEOs and site owners. But I think that line is at the core of what Google is trying to get at with E-A-T and high-quality content. They want you to be the expert, not to dream of ways to try and prove you're the expert to them. They want to send users to the best, most helpful content, not content that's just trying to look like it's the best, most helpful content.

Every time Google releases a core update or HCU update there's instant speculation about what's changed and what elements you need on the site to prove that your content is the most amazingly helpful content on the web, written by the highest authority in the field.

Surely you need X thousand words? An author bio in a certain format with the right structured data? What about the right amount of semantically similar keywords?

Every time a Google representative mentions something around this topic, every syllable is dissected for the secret hidden meaning. The one true fix.

It's an instant focus on the technicalities of it all. It's applying technical solutions to what in the end is a human problem. This is understandable because search engines themselves are technical solutions to human problems.

A focus on the technicalities tends to appeal, because it offers hope of a quick fix. If I just add "X" or remove "Y", everything will be solved! A compelling thing, when you have the C-Suite breathing down your neck, or it's your own site struggling. It seems actionable. "Do good content" doesn't seem actionable, it's not a checkbox in a CMS. There's no <quality level="high">Best Air Fryer 2024</quality> HTML element. It can't be run through a script or service to give a score and a step-by-step checklist on how to fix it.

Anyone who knows me also probably knows I'm rarely other than technical. But I do recognise that technical can only take you so far. Technical is making sure the restaurant is accessible, that the kitchen is efficient and hygienic, and that service is fast. But if the menu is full of unappealing dishes, and the food is slop, that clean kitchen means nothing to overall success, at best you'll be the most efficient crap restaurant.

That, of course, doesn't diminish technical SEO, or the technical aspects of making a great web experience. The best menu and most mouthwatering food aren't going to compensate if word gets out about your filthy kitchen or the doors are jammed closed.

Let's do the Time Warp User First stuff again.

So, what's the answer? If there's no quick fix? No code to add? No totally objective measure for output? How do you fix that?

Well, you don't. You can't. You can't "fix" it. You can't "fix" it because it's not broken in terms of something gone wrong in the code. It's not a technical issue to be fixed. It's a human issue to be addressed.

So if you can't fix the content, what's the answer?

Be it.

It's probably time to step back, slow down and think about what you're creating. Is your site genuinely best in class for what it's doing? Is your content there because it's making it better for the user? Or are you stuffing things on there hoping and dreaming that it will show Google that this is great?

Is that article written because it serves a purpose other than trying to rank for things? If you found it on another site, would you be delighted and/or satisfied by what you find?

That last part can be hard to do, no one wants to admit that their baby might just be the ugliest.

But it's a necessary step. It's a step that can't be automated, can't be scripted, can't be done by a tool. It's something that needs to be done by a human, with a human brain, and human emotions. And maybe that human needs to be a different one than you. Finding someone who's opinion you trust to be honest and truly let you know how your site is for real folks, not search engines, can be as invaluable as it is sobering.

And ongoing, that's where EEAT can really help you out. As a phrase, it's become somewhat contentious, from you "you NEED to do X,Y,Z to prove EAT", to "it doesn't exist, there's no such thing as E-A-T, even says so in the SEO starter Guide!!!1!". Both arguments are missing the point, and are back focusing on the technicalities of it all. It's a human framework to help humans assess things for other humans.

Really, it's about making sure you're doing the best for your user and putting out your best work. That can mean adding great author bios, but because as a reader, for this bit of content, knowing who is behind it helps. A piece of investigative journalism is likely to benefit from a byline, so I can see who's done the work, and if I might be inclined to trust them. A product description for a pencil case, I couldn't care less who wrote it.

But even if you're selling pencil cases, it's about doing a great job of that, make sure you tell the user what they need to know about it, even if that is that it's cheap and the pencils don't fall out.

That's why there can be no one true guide to high quality, one true metric to quantify your E-E-A-T. Because it's variable depending on what the site is, what it does and for whom.

The outcome of this might mean that you need to make huge, wholesale changes to your site. A hard pill to swallow, it's a long, daunting journey where the destination might be unclear, and let's be honest it might be even longer before Google reflects your changes, months or years even. If it does at all.

No matter what that short to medium-term outcome is, what you will have at the end of this is something of quality, and rewards for that can come in other places, from users engaging from other channels. It can have a life outside of search, and over the years, I've come to find that things that have a life outside of Google search tend to have a life in Google search.

If everything is tuned purely in terms of what you think will rank, you might find that it's dead on arrival outside of search. It's the kind of content folks dislike wherever they find it.

Life outside of Google is important for another reason too, Google can and does get it wrong. You might have a really good site and Google might not be able to see that, it might rank inferior stuff above yours. Because it's a technical solution trying to solve a human problem, and as such, is unlikely to get it right EVERY time. However, historically that's where they are aiming, and you're far more likely to be understood eventually for great quality than maintain great rankings for poor quality over the long term.

As painful as it is, a sensible conclusion to doing all the above might be that it's not something you have the will to do, the resources to do, or the time to do. Perhaps it might be better putting time into something you can do that for.

Times Change, Tastes Change, and Google Changes.

A major pushback you always see is "My content was ranking well last month, so it must be good!". Things change, tastes change. Number one hits don't all still sound like Elvis or the Beatles. We don't all dress in the latest Edwardian fashion, and the latest box office hits aren't Charlie Chaplin. Google changes to try and reflect that, as well as change how they rank content to (in their eyes) improve accuracy.

Sometimes change is because something technically better, like the talkies killed silent movies, or as The Buggles sang "Video Killed the Radio Star". Sometimes change is more down to taste.

So perhaps take a look and think if your site, and its business model, are still viable today? Even if it is the best example of its kind, does anyone want it? The answer could be no. Or it could be yes, but wanted by far fewer folks than before. Like Elvis. Perhaps that smaller market is still valuable (Elvis is still apparently the King of Rock-n-Roll). Perhaps offering the best in that is better than being mediocre in the latest, greatest thing.

Fix the cause, don't tinker with the Symptoms

I guess what I am trying to get at is that without having something people want, in the way they want it, covering the things they need, the rest is really just messing around at the edges, hoping it will help.

Create something compelling, and then the sprinkling of technical magic like structured data all becomes much more worth doing.

I get that this all read perhaps a little like a "get gud" rant against all the folks who's sites were were decimated in the last HCU and Core updates, It's not. At least not totally.

Many sites affected probably didn't deserve the rankings they did have. That's a sad truth, but for those site owners, the previous success was probably quite rationally being taken as confirmation that they were doing everything right.

You probably can blame Google a bit for letting that go on so long in the past. You can't blame them for telling sites to be like that though, they've been signalling for years that chasing excellence and users should be the goal. But success in search is going to far outweigh words in support documentation for the vast majority.

I certainly don't take glee in seeing the rewards for people's hard work evaporate.

What couldn't happen though is Google doing nothing. It might be much later than hoped, and definitely not perfect, but they couldn't and shouldn't keep the Status Quo just because there were sites that were doing well that aren't now.

And there are bound to be some genuinely good sites hit, because it's a technical thing trying to solve a human problem. And it must hugely suck to be a false positive or edge case unfairly hit. For those, I hope you can ride it out through other traffic sources whilst Google gets it act together on accuracy for this.

... pation

About the Author:

Dave Smart

Dave Smart

Technical SEO Consultant at Tame the Bots.