Google announced two updates in the past couple of weeks that could impact your business or blog. One was to the Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG) and the other was new ways to verify info with Google Search (new features).
Both updates are putting more emphasis on the accuracy, authenticity, and authority of content and who is writing it. There is a lot of information to digest, so I am going to pull out a couple of the key highlights that you should be aware of.
Let’s start with the new Google Search Features announced in this article on the Google website: https://blog.google/products/search/google-search-new-fact-checking-misinformation/
In this article, they address five (5) key new features that they are implementing to improve and inform you about the content you are reading.
- About This Result
- Perspectives on Top Stories
- About This Author
- About This Page
- Spotting Information Gaps
About This Result
This one seems to be the most relevant to businesses like ours. When someone does a Google search, you will now see three dots next to the results. By clicking on these three dots, it will expand and give you additional information about the source providing the information.
I did a quick test search for “Should I buy life insurance”. The first non-sponsored result was for Investopedia. One interesting feature of this that I noticed was that it tells you if other results are linking to this article. I recorded a quick video to show you what it looks like:
While this information is useful, I wonder how many users are going to notice the three dots and actually click on them.
Perspectives on Top Stories
I couldn’t get this feature to show up for when I was testing it, so I included the video from the Google blog demonstrating it. I like this feature, since I always try to research multiple perspectives on a particular topic or news story.
About This Author
I had a hard time getting this feature to pull up for me as well, so decided to record a video of what comes up when I searched for one of my own articles. I randomly picked an article from my blog titled “Everything You Need to Know About MOQ’s”
I am not exactly sure where Google is going for reference sites, or where it is pulling data from, but it shows that my site was first indexed 10 years ago and also pulls up some articles that I wrote a while back. The big takeaway me from this is that you should have a wide net of articles out there for Google to try to pull from. I am also going to do some deeper digging to find out how or why it isn’t pulling the author bio info from my blog posts.
About This Page
As you saw in the video, it seems to supply some details about the page, but even though my blog has been indexed for 10 years, it didn’t supply a ton of information. I tested out several other searches and it seems to be hit or miss as to whether Google is supplying information from reference sites (even large sites like Salvation Army and AKC.org were not pulling results)
Spotting Information Gaps
Google explains this as “Sometimes, there’s just not a lot of great information to show for a search, or the results are changing quickly – and that can be an important context for people to have, too. To address these information gaps, Google Search will automatically show content advisories in situations when a topic is rapidly evolving. We recently launched similar advisories, which trigger when our systems simply don’t have high confidence in the overall quality of the results available”
I interpret that to be covering rapidly changing topics or news that is evolving. I don’t see this impacting many e-comm or digital businesses, but at least Google is trying to address some of the disinformation and not 100% accurate news that is coming out in certain situations.
While most of that directly relates to the authority of the author of the content, there are further changes that also relate to the separation of authority and trust between the website and the content writer. Now they are stating that both of them should be factored in.
Google Quality Rater Guidelines
Searchengineland.com recently posted a great article from Lily Ray about the changes that occurred with the Google Quality Rater Guidelines. It’s not uncommon for Google to update the Guidelines several times a year, but this one had some notable changes that could impact e-comm businesses and blogs. To save you some time, I pulled out some of the highlights from the Guidelines and the Searchengineland article.
The most notable change (in my opinion) was changing the acronym E-A-T to E-E-A-T. So what the heck does E-E-A-T stand for and why should you care? Great question…. The acronym stands for:
By adding “Experience” to the factors that it uses to evaluate the content, it is adding value to the first-hand experiences of the author. Where I see this having an impact on e-comm businesses and blogs, is it increases the importance of having industry-specific and experience-specific authors on your team (if the writer isn’t you).
Gone are the days of mass-producing content that doesn’t provide first-hand experience, and doesn’t provide a depth of expertise on the topic. I remember the days when you could write an article, use a spinner software to create 200+ versions of it, and mass distribute it (not going to lie, that is how I built my first business).
As we shift into AI and all of these other writing platforms, it means the experience and expertise of professionals in the space will become more valuable. Having seasoned, and knowledgeable team members that can take a base structure article from ChatGPT, add their years of personal experience to it, add personality, and lend credibility to the article is going to be invaluable. It will make it harder for someone to break into a new niche without having that “legacy” experience and trust.
Here are a few of the sections of the guidelines that Lily highlights in her article: “E-E-A-T and major updates to Google’s quality rater guidelines”
Understanding the Website – Section 2.5
“Start by finding out who is responsible for the website and who created the content on the page… Then, look for information about the website and/or content creators on the website itself.” (page 15)
This addition implies that it’s important to know who actually owns and operates the website, even if that relationship is not directly clear on the site.
Google also began to refer to the reputation of the “website and/or content creators” instead of just the website, indicating that the reputation of the people contributing content to the website should also factor into consideration when evaluating that website.
Big Takeaways: Have a well written and detailed “About Us” page, Contact page, and Author Bios about each writer, with links to social proof and authority/credibility.
I also read this to mean that having local listings associated with a business, industry affiliations, and links to the parent company if you own multiple companies/sites will be equally important. Trying to set up fake review sites, or hiding who owns a website won’t fly moving forward
Finding Who is Responsible for the Website and Who Created the Content on the Page – Section 2.5.2
“…for pages on websites such as forums and social media platforms, people may post content using an alias or username in order to avoid sharing personally identifiable information online. In these cases, the alias or username is an acceptable way to identify the content creator.”
Google also added a brand new table to help quality raters identify who created the main content on a webpage.
(image source: searchengineland)
This table helps raters identify who is responsible for the content on various types of sites, given that some websites entirely control their own content, while others are comprised primarily of user-generated content or contributions from authors.
Google seems to be focused on distinguishing the website owner from the content contributor(s) on that site.
Big Takeaways: Google is trying to clarify and assign value to three buckets: the website, the content, and the reviews/comments. If you notice is each of the descriptions above, they are differentiating whether likes and comments should be factored in.
Add authority and credibility to your bios, even on social channels and forums.
Overall Page Quality Rating – Section 3.0
Google significantly shifted around the order of some of its advice related to rating page quality and analyzing reputation information.
The updated QRG offers a new 3-step process for assessing Page Quality:
- Assessing the true purpose of the page and how harmful/deceptive it is
- Assessing the potential of the page to cause harm or otherwise be untrustworthy or spammy
(If the rater determines the pages are harmful, untrustworthy or spammy, they should rate them Lowest quality)
- If the page is not harmful, the quality rating is based on how well the page achieves its purpose
Google also added a new table to consider when evaluating page quality:
(image source: searchengineland)
Some notable things in this section are the differentiation of page quality ratings for large corporations versus small websites that you and I might own.
They acknowledge that we need to make money (which is great) but want reviews to factor in the impact ads might have on the user experience.
Big Takeaways: While this shouldn’t be a big surprise, the quality of the content and its ability to help people make decisions is becoming a big factor. Don’t fill your website with fluff articles just because the keywords have a lot of traffic.
While it is tempting to create one-page negative review sites about your competitors, or fake “third party” reviews of your own products… don’t. Google will now be displaying exactly who owns the site and their trustworthiness.. any sites that choose not to display who owns it will be negatively impacted.
If you are doing product reviews on your blog, take the time to actually get the product, do a real review and share first-hand experience.
Lastly, when it comes to monetizing your site, start thinking about how the ads impact the user experience. One idea that comes to mind for me for our blogs is to start thinking about placement ads for specific complimentary products versus multiple ads from the ad networks that may diminish the user experience.
Quality of the Main Content – 3.2
Up until now, the four main factors for the quality of main content were:
As you can see in the image below, they are now swapping out time for originality, and putting a larger emphasis on effort.
(image source: searchengineland)
Why the change in focus to time and effort?
A couple of things come to mind
- The introduction of ChatGPT to content writing
- The increase in outsourced writers who are taking other writers’ content and repurposing it
- The use of content optimization software such as SurferSEO and even Ahrefs to just optimize existing articles
Big Takeaways: Don’t rely on JUST cheap outsourced writers or AI for your content, unless you want to sacrifice rank. Even if you don’t hire an industry expert to create the entire article, have experts (if you are not one yourself) on staff that can review everything, add context and expertise, and lend their name to the final product. On any content, run it through originality software and make sure that it passes before just slapping it up on your site.
Don’t make claims or statements that can not be backed up by facts. While this probably effects certain niches more than others, YOU are ultimately responsible for the claims and statements being made on your site (whether they are in your sales copy or blog content.
Take the time and effort to create high-quality, well-researched content.
Reputation of the Website and Content Creators – Section 3.3
There were a couple of changes in this section of the guidelines. Google clarifies that a websites reputation can be weighted based upon the relevancy of the content to the overall topic of the website.
For example, if my entire blog is about ecommerce and marketing, and suddenly I start giving medical advice…. you should probably question that or at least do some research on whether or not I have any expertise in that field. I won’t name any names, but we all know at least one or two “gurus” that suddenly are experts in whatever the latest trends are, right?
Similarly, if you or any of your authors are writing across multiple websites, make sure the content and focus are similar in nature (or there is at least social proof and third-party recognition/credibility to show you are knowledgeable on the topic).
(image source: searchengineland)
Big Takeaways: Going back to what I mentioned earlier, if you are going to position yourself as an authority on a topic, build up your credibility through guest posts, industry organizations, awards/recognition, and even work history.
If hiring outsourced writers, do some research on them as well. Make sure that they are niche specific and don’t hire someone that writes a finance article today, a health article tomorrow, and a product review for baby products the next day. Their credibility impacts YOUR credibility.
And this might just be how I am reading this sections updates, but it seems to me it is far better to go very narrow on the focus of your content for a small blog or e-commerce brand, versus going super broad.
Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trust (E-E-A-T) – Section 3.4
(image source: searchengineland)
As mentioned earlier, Google added another letter to the acronym E-A-T, which is experience, but they also note that of the four factors, trust is by far the most important.
Trust is the mechanism by which raters determine if the page is “accurate, honest, safe, and reliable”
What is notable for me as a marketer and e-commerce guy, is that they specifically address product reviews and whether or not someone has ACTUALLY reviewed the product versus just talking about it. The other interesting point to me is the expertise of the review: if you have a highly technical product or service, a product review from someone with industry experience should outweigh someone that is using it for the first time.
Big Takeaways: For a brand, focus on getting first-hand reviews from people that actually used your product, and steer away from trying to get a salesy keyword-rich review. This leads me to believe that it is far better to get a customer to review your product on a 3rd party site or social site that you can link to, versus having them submit a review that you add to your site.
When it comes to trustworthiness of the site, two things stuck out to me. “If you are claiming to have been on Forbes, MSNBC, etc” back it up…. Link out to where you were. Add trust badges from industry-recognized organizations and focus on unscripted and unpaid product reviews. In the past, I tended to not worry a whole lot about 3rd party business reviews and comments, but it might be more important than ever to keep eyes on your local business listings and any negative reviews you might get on 3rd party sites, and addressing them.
If you are doing product reviews as a source of monetization, focus on honest first-hand reviews that show you using the product. While it is easy to just grab images from the manufacturers’ website, the first-hand images and context of the review will add credibility and trust.
Lacking E-E-A-T – Section 5.1
Google provides examples of what it looks like to lack an appropriate level of E-E-A-T for the topic or purpose of the page. These are the examples provided (page 51):
- “The content creator lacks adequate experience, e.g. a restaurant review written by someone who has never eaten at the restaurant
- The content creator lacks adequate expertise, e.g. an article about how to skydive written by someone with no expertise in the subject
- The website or content creator is not an authoritative or trustworthy source for the topic of the page, e.g. tax form downloads provided on a cooking website.
- The page or website is not trustworthy for its purpose, e.g. a shopping page with minimal customer service information”
Big Takeaways: Give customers/readers an easy way to contact you or reach customer service. For brands, make sure you have a phone number, email, and/or chat clearly displayed so that you can increase the trustworthiness of the site. Even for blog owners, I would have different ways for people to reach you.
Avoid hiring or spamming sites with reviews, just for the sake of having reviews. Make sure they are from actual people, who have actually used your product, and give first-hand experience with it (I feel like I have said that multiple times in this article. LOL)
Lots to digest there, but the landscape of SEO and content creation is rapidly changing. A lot of the changes are focused on hot topics such as health, wealth, and politics where we have seen a lot of misinformation and fake news coming out over the past couple of years, but it still applies to businesses like yours and mine. Whether you write your own content or hire experts to do it… focus on:
– high-quality content that offers first-hand experience
– trust, authority, and expertise continue to become more and more important so make sure that you are building your resume and that it is easily searched
– stay in your lane and make sure your content reflects what your website and brand are about
– give Google what it wants to see… have a well-written about us page, easily found customer service options, and author bios that establish authority
– don’t fake it until you make it when it comes to reviews. Do the hard work and build up a real reputation versus writing fake reviews or trying to get influencers to do scripted product reviews. Unpolished, first-hand reviews from unpaid people will go much further.