Google and other search engines invest vast sums of time in crawling the Internet to determine the websites with the most authoritative content. They want to display relevant results on their results pages in response to users’ search queries.
The entire search engine business model depends on identifying and presenting the most accurate and informative content. If searchers don’t find the results useful, they will lose trust in the search platform and turn to another.
This creates a reciprocal relationship between websites and search engines. The more authoritative content a site provides, the more Google will promote it, for mutual benefit.
What is authoritative content?
In general, search engines define authoritative content as unique, relevant, informed content that shows subject expertise. This also needs to be fresh and regularly updated. Above all, it should be useful and trustworthy for users, providing the correct information they’re looking for.
Establishing your website as an expert on the subject and a trusted voice is achieved through the creation of authoritative content.
Why is authoritative content important for SEO?
Search engines today are much more sophisticated than in previous decades, when simply placing the right keywords in the right places with sufficient density was enough to improve website rankings.
Google, for example, has long been working on the challenge of teaching its search crawlers to “read”, so to speak. In the early 2000s, it patented an algorithm based on “latent semantic indexing”. Essentially, this is a method of natural language processing that allows a computer to work out the conceptual content of a web page, based on statistical co-occurrences of words and previously learned context. It uses this to extract the meaning from the content by recognising word associations it has previously encountered in similar contexts.
To oversimplify, Google and other search engines using similar methods now have the ability to parse website text and “understand” it sufficiently, to tell the difference between informative, relevant content and less useful copy.
The importance of Google E-E-A-T
The latest Google EEAT search quality guidelines cite four crucial factors it uses to identify and rank website content: expertise, experience, authoritativeness and trust.
The EEAT method is used by Google’s human search engine quality raters to evaluate the purpose and quality of content the algorithm returns. This is an update on its previous EAT guidelines, which initially only emphasised expertise, authoritativeness and trust. It is believed that those who have first-hand experience with a subject are more likely to provide trustworthy information than those without it, hence the addition of experience as a consideration.
Google places high value on trust – rightfully, given that this is probably the most important factor behind any kind of customer conversion. Thus, it evaluates content according to the expertise it shows, the authority it carries in its field and the first-hand experience of the creator, combining these to create a picture of how trustworthy the content is.
How to create authoritative content
It would seem natural that if you’re an authority on your market subject matter, any content you produce will carry that authority. Theoretically, this is true. However, there’s more to creating authoritative content than merely putting digital pen to paper.
Only publish high-quality professional writing
Your content needs to be well written to start with. No matter how much useful information it contains, if it’s not easily readable and understandable, Google won’t rate it as highly. So it’s worth having an expert ghostwrite your content if you don’t trust your own writing skills. Outsourcing your writing will also free you to focus on your own work, rather than spending your time constantly creating all the fresh content required to boost your website.
Do your own original research
Demonstrating original research is another important factor. By diligently researching the topic and citing credible sources, you can create highly relevant and authoritative content that both informs readers and improves your standing in the eyes of search engines.
You need to be rigorous with the content you create. It’s not sufficient to find a few online sources and merely regurgitate the information. What you publish must be original and fresh, preferably providing the reader with new knowledge. Remember that Google has a complete index of everything already published online and can compare this with new content.
Create different types of content
Create as much varied content as possible, from short-form copy to videos. Search engines use every kind of available content to evaluate your website, and the more varied it is, the more authority you’ll gain.
In addition to your core website copy, you should regularly publish fresh content. The typical way is to create a collection of thought leadership articles in a blog or knowledge centre on your site.
Think of different ways to present your content, such as infographics and how-to guides. Write opinion pieces, or publish case studies and white papers. You can create animated videos or record explanatory interviews on a topic. The more variation the better.
Use multiple platforms to showcase expertise and create trust
Your website should always be the central online hub of your online activity geared towards customer conversion. The most pertinent reason for this is that you have full control of your content and conversion funnels, rather than relying on other platforms to convert customers. These so-called “walled gardens” dictate what you can and can’t do, and the rules can change overnight. You don’t want to rely on these for your ability to market yourself successfully.
That said, you should certainly use them as an extension of your website to show expertise, experience and authority. Search engines can collate the content you create on other platforms to form an overall impression of your authority and trustworthiness.
Examples would be uploading videos to YouTube, writing opinion pieces on LinkedIn or creating presentations to publish on platforms like SlideShare. A Google Images search can also help you, so make sure to include useful images on your site with proper alt tags to appear on those results pages. Infographics are especially powerful for this.
Measuring the authority and success of your content
Generating expert, authoritative content is one side of the equation. You also have to monitor and measure its success, both to gauge its tangible effect and to optimise future content.
There are plenty of key performance indicators you can use. The first is your website rankings and visitor numbers. You can use Google Analytics and Google Search Console to investigate search engine activity around your content. With GSC, you are able to see the top landing pages in terms of organic traffic, and the top queries driving traffic to your website.
Other important metrics include your click-through rate (the number of people who click on your website on the search results page), and your bounce rate. The latter refers to the percentage of visitors who click through to your site and then immediately leave. This usually indicates your content didn’t provide the information they were seeking.
Also, look at your referral traffic: the number of visitors who reached your website via another one. This is an important indicator of the authority that other content publishers bestow on you, which Google highly values.
You can then use these metrics to optimise the content you publish, or take it further and perform A/B testing on it. This will help you refine your messaging to better engage visitors, leading to higher conversions. For example, you could write two different landing pages and equally direct visitors to one or the other. This will show you which version is more effective.
Remember who your real audience is
Generating authoritative content is a crucial factor in improving your search engine rankings. However, don’t lose sight of who you’re really writing for. It’s very tempting to create reams of high-quality content with the sole aim of ranking higher in search results, but this can backfire on you if it doesn’t engage readers.
The key to creating successful online content that improves your search rankings and converts is to write with a human audience in mind. The best content connects with your potential customers in a personal way that engenders trust in your business and successfully leads them through your conversion funnel.