Search engine optimization, as many retailers might know, died a natural death in May 2020 when Google made major changes to its search algorithms. This “Core Update” effectively gave more weight to Google’s E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) principles. Google introduced E-A-T as guidelines for its human search quality raters and subsequently published these guidelines to “help webmasters understand what Google looks for in a web page.”
With E-A-T becoming more of a significant ranking factor, retailers will need to optimize their websites, aligning with these new algorithmic requirements to improve search rankings. Brands adapting their websites to E-A-T should focus on the following:
Creating Fresh, Quality Content
Google’s latest core update makes fresh, high-quality content king. User-friendly, accurate and up-to-date website content is critical for establishing the expertise, authority and trust that Google’s search engine loves. Google notes that assessing content in terms of E-A-T criteria “may help align it conceptually with the different signals that its automated systems use to rank content.”
In this context, it’s important for retailers to develop web content, such as blogs, product descriptions, and customer testimonials, that are relevant, useful and engaging to website visitors. In the COVID-19 environment, retailers should also be particularly mindful of providing updated website information on opening and closing times, social distancing measures, and available services (e.g., deliveries, curbside pickup, etc.).
Maintaining a Strong, Active Social Presence
Social media can help brands amplify content which is king under the new Google algorithms. Engaging with target audiences through quality, link-worthy content that garners more shares, clicks and comments results in backlinks that help boost SEO.
Retailers can maximize their presence on social media platforms by frequently asking customers to be followers of their pages and developing a regular cadence of posting that keeps their brand visible.
Managing and Responding to Reviews
Reviews, which help build authority and trust (two key components of EAT), have always been important for retailers and are now an even more significant weighting factor in SEO. Retailers should make it a consistent practice to keep an eye on company ratings on sites such as Google Places, Facebook, Yelp, and Tripadvisor, and aim to have between five to 10 reviews with an average score of 4.5 stars or higher.
It’s also important to note that in reputation management it’s not only critical to have reviews posted, it’s just as critical to respond to these reviews. Retailers can elevate trust with customers and Google by thoughtfully and genuinely responding to negative reviews and working to resolve any issues.
Google’s algorithm uses citations to verify the existence, legitimacy and trustworthiness of a business. Citations referencing a business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) online across a number of relevant and trusted websites signals to Google’s algorithm that the business exists and is a key ranking factor for local SEO.
Choosing the right directories and ensuring that business information is updated and accurate can boost retailers in local search rankings. To build citations, retailers should work to update business information in reputable directories such as Facebook, Apple Maps, Yelp, and YellowPage.
As Google continues to roll out new algorithms to fulfill its mission of organizing the world’s information, retailers will need to lay to rest outdated SEO strategies and get ready to reinvent these strategies to adapt to the next major algorithm update.
Steven Clayton is the founder and CEO of NetBlaze, a provider of small business marketing automation tools, management, and consultancy services.