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E-E-A-T: The Evolution of SEO

E-E-A-T: The Evolution of SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) constantly changes. That’s why it’s so important for businesses and websites to stay ahead of the curve if they want to rank high on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs).

Something to keep in mind is that in 2014, a significant change occurred in how Google evaluates and ranks websites. Google introduced the E-A-T concept in the Quality Rater Guidelines. 

Since then, E-A-T has evolved into E-E-A-T, becoming critical in determining a website's position on the SERPs, particularly for highly competitive keywords and Your-Money-Your-Life (YMYL) topics.

Keep reading to learn about the importance of E-E-A-T in today's SEO landscape. This article explains why a traditional, narrow approach to SEO is no longer sufficient to secure a spot on Google's first page.

Understanding E-E-A-T

E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, and it represents Google's quality concept for identifying thematic authorities and trustworthy entities. This concept is then used to influence the ranking of individual documents in the search results. E-E-A-T is a theoretical framework. This emphasizes the value Google places on these four key aspects when determining the quality and relevance of a website's content.

The evolution of E-E-A-T can be traced back to the Vince Update in 2009, which marked the beginning of Google's consideration of brands in its ranking algorithm. Since then, E-E-A-T has incorporated elements from various ranking systems, such as Panda, Coati, and the Helpful Content Update, operating on content, link, and entity levels.

E-E-A-T primarily focuses on thematic areas, serving as a rating layer that evaluates collections of content and off-page signals related to entities like companies, organizations, and individuals rather than assessing individual documents.

To determine the relevance of specific content to a particular search query, Google still relies on classic information retrieval factors, such as keywords in content elements, document structure, and semantically related keywords.

The Role of E-E-A-T in Crawling and Indexing

As AI-powered content creation tools like ChatGPT and jasper.ai gain popularity, Google faces the challenge of efficiently allocating its crawling resources and maintaining a high-quality search index. E-E-A-T can help Google rank content based on entities, domains, and author levels on a large scale without crawling all content. 

This macro-level approach allows Google to classify content according to author entities and adjust crawling budgets accordingly, even excluding entire content groups from indexing when necessary.

Google has consistently emphasized the importance of quality in crawling and indexing, making E-E-A-T a crucial factor in determining which content is worth including in its search index.

Vector Space Analysis for Quality Determination and Relevance 

Modern search engines increasingly rely on vector space analysis to assess relevance and quality. Words, phrases, and entities can be represented as vectors in thematic spaces and compared to one another. 

The Google patent, "Website representation vector to generate search results and classify website," outlines how a search engine can map websites as vectors and evaluate them using quality scores for specific topics. Only websites with quality scores above a certain threshold are considered for ranking for relevant keywords.

The classification process can consider factors such as the level of expertise of the authors, categorizing websites based on whether they are authored by experts, apprentices, or laypersons in a particular knowledge domain.

Off-Page and On-Page Signals for E-E-A-T Assessment

Numerous signals contribute to Google's E-E-A-T assessment of a website, including both off-page and on-page factors. Some of the critical areas that can influence E-E-A-T are:

  • Domain-level links and anchor text: In the context of E-E-A-T, links and anchor text have become increasingly important for the entire domain, not just individual landing pages.
  • Co-occurrences: The frequency with which author or company names are mentioned alongside thematic terms in documents and search queries can indicate high authority.
  • Percentage of content contributed to a thematic overall document corpus: The more content an originator has contributed to a thematic corpus, the better it is for their E-E-A-T assessment.
  • Document-internal knowledge graphs: One’s expertise can be determined algorithmically by comparing the similarity of high-quality, authoritative resources with those of document-internal knowledge graphs.
  • User signals: Content frequently consumed about relevant thematic search queries suggests high content quality and author E-E-A-T.
  • Topical authority: A domain with a detailed content corpus covering a specific topic is more likely to provide comprehensive information to searchers.

The Shift from Traditional SEO to a Holistic Approach

Historically, SEO primarily focused on optimizing individual HTML documents and building external links to those pages. However, with the introduction of semantic search and Google's emphasis on E-E-A-T, the focus has shifted from individual documents to the originators, authors, brands, and domains themselves. This shift is particularly evident in highly competitive industries and YMYL topics, where E-E-A-T determines rankings.

To achieve good rankings in today's SEO landscape, it is essential to focus on the content available in your domain and the content published in other media. Encouraging users to search for your brand in relevant contexts and getting multipliers to mention your brand positively in thematically appropriate contexts can generate positive signals for E-E-A-T.

This approach to building a strong presence on Google can be called Google branding or digital brand building, as it involves convincing Google that you, your website, and your authors are authorities or beacons in your industry.

The New SEO: Integrating Content Marketing, PR, and Branding

As outlined in David Amerland's book "Google Semantic Search," the new SEO involves activities that extend beyond traditional optimization techniques, such as:

  1. Creating extensive content that meaningfully connects all aspects of your business
  2. Guiding online conversations in social media networks to extend the boundaries of your company and brand
  3. Using social network profiles to link to value-adding content
  4. Generating high-quality content that delivers value to the end-user
  5. Offering an excellent online visitor experience in terms of usability, content, and navigation
  6. Encouraging conversations about your business on the web, blogs, and social networks
  7. Producing content that is reshared across social networks
  8. Engaging prospective customers in a personal way through a strong social component
  9. Staying current and consistently generating fresh content to demonstrate thought leadership and participation in online conversations
  10. Setting a monetary value to reputation
  11. Understanding the importance of building and maintaining trust

Many of these activities fall under content marketing, PR, and general marketing rather than traditional SEO.

The Importance of Cross-Departmental Collaboration

As the scope of SEO expands to incorporate elements of content marketing, PR, and branding, it becomes increasingly important for SEO professionals to serve as coordinators and liaisons within their organizations. SEO should evolve into a cross-departmental discipline positioned at the intersection of marketing, PR, data, content creation, and IT.

To be effective in this role, SEO professionals must proactively advise and collaborate with all relevant departments, ensuring that SEO considerations are embedded in their processes. This involves training and empowering team members to implement SEO strategies independently, with the SEO professional providing guidance and oversight.

Additionally, SEO professionals require input and insights from various departments, including market research, marketing, sales, SEA, UX, and IT/development, to optimize their efforts. Establishing regular communication channels and forums for exchanging information is crucial for fostering a collaborative and effective SEO strategy.

Employ E-E-A-T Today

The evolution of Google's ranking algorithms, particularly the introduction and refinement of E-E-A-T, has necessitated a fundamental shift in how SEO is approached. Traditional SEO tactics focused solely on optimizing individual documents and building links are no longer sufficient to secure top rankings, especially for highly competitive keywords and YMYL topics.

To succeed in today's SEO landscape, businesses and websites must adopt a holistic approach incorporating content marketing, PR, and branding elements. 

SEO professionals must embrace their role as cross-departmental collaborators and coordinators, working closely with teams across their organizations to ensure that SEO best practices are integrated into all relevant processes. 

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