My daughter is in drama at a local middle school. She loves to sing and loves being on stage. And, even in a middle school production, there are set changes. Parents and students spend months preparing these sets to roll on to and off stage in between sections of the play.  Some stay on stage during the majority of the production while others are added and removed only to be on stage for a few short minutes. If digital marketing were a stage, Google moves these set pieces quite frequently in response to market changes. And the market has once again changed.

As we are all aware, the pandemic changed things. Digital activities grew faster than ever before. Consumers shifted to the web to communicate. And, just prior to the pandemic, the 2020 US election also changed digital marketing due to concerns with Russian interference and social media behavior. Social media changes have happened at break-neck pace, with Meta alone shifting policies to require certain advertisers to have background checks. It frankly has been some of the most rapid changes I’ve seen in my 20 years in marketing.

During the pandemic, while some changes were made, Google did a good job of not overwhelming marketers with changes. They were issued at a manageable pace with an understanding that major changes were coming – just not all at once. Those major changes were held for 2022 where they announced Google Analytics 4 forced adoption and started significant changes to the search algorithm for organic search marketers (we call them SEOs).

Over the summer, Google made significant changes in the way that it approaches content. Known as the “Helpful Content” update, they’ve re-focused the algorithm to drive new and original content. So, if you’ve made it a habit to copy and paste content from other sources OR written content based on someone else’s content, the likelihood that you will rank is incredibly low.

In addition to these changes – last week, Google added these changes to the Google Quality Rater Guidelines. This document, known by those in industry as the QRG, is updated a few times each year. Lily Ray – one of the top SEOs in the world, recently outlined all of the changes in a story on SearchEngineLand. However, the biggest and most notable change that I want to discuss here was to the concept of E-A-T.

This simply acronym stands for expertise (E), authoritativeness (A), and trustworthiness (T). For years, SEOs have utilized this acronym to help develop marketing strategies for their customers. We first must understand the intent of a search query – why is the user searching for this topic? And then, decide if it’s a query that we can answer that would be benefit our business. So, in response to a search query, say “what is an HVAC system?”, we decide is it valuable for us to answer this and if so, how can we answer this question in such a way that we are seen as the expert on this topic? Or, better question, are we an expert on this topic? If so, and we can answer it, can we do it in a way that provides a better response than what is already published? Would it benefit our business or organization to do so?

If it is decided that it would benefit the organization AND we can produce better content, then the next question has always been – do we have enough expertise, authority, or trust (EAT) with Google that they’ll believe we’re experts on this topic? Many times, it’s like this blog. It’s attributed to me because I wrote it AND I have experience in this space. Is it enough that Google will place us #1 for this topic? Maybe or maybe not – but this is the game that is played on the web – and what our SEO services are all about.

As I mentioned, this E-A-T element of the search algorithm is something that we’ve worked with for years. In the update last week, E-A-T has been modified to add a new E at the beginning of the acronym – experience. This is related to actual experience in the field in which you’re writing about. It’s similar to what we find in academia where an academician stating that they are an expert in marketing. They can likely be trusted from a technical perspective due to their education, and have authority due to their title of Doctor, but having never worked in the field, may not know some of the nuances that we see daily. Therefore, they have expertise, authority, and trust – but lack experience.

In the update, Google also explicitly says that “trust” is at the center of E-E-A-T. They now state that no matter how experienced, expert, or authoritative a page may be, if it is untrustworthy then none of the other elements matter. They state that trust is the key to ensure that content is honest, safe, accurate, and reliable.

Trust is evaluated by what the website says about itself on its about page and other important pages, what other websites say about the website and its creators, and what is visible on the page – the proof that they can be trusted. They also now consider conflicts of interest – where a review cannot be trustworthy IF they are an influencer paid to review the product or work for the company.

Now, many of our clients don’t like to talk about themselves or their company. They’re much like we are – we prefer to be the “wizard behind the curtain.” However, with these changes, whether it’s video, blog, or a podcast, we believe that sharing your expertise is CRITICAL to long-term success. It’s ok to post your biography or the great things about your career on your website. And while it may seem braggadocios, we now have to prove to Google that we know what we’re talking about. So, if you’re a small business and most of your business is referral because of your experience, expertise, authority, trust, etc. that’s great! But, we have to say those things to Google – and that means sharing them.

So, as you think about what you want to accomplish in 2023 – don’t be afraid of who you are. Make sure others know so they can see your value and it’s ok to share it with Google too.

Merry Christmas and here’s to a great 2023.