Editing for EAT: What Managing Editors Need to Know

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If your content marketing efforts involve search engine optimization, you’ve probably seen the appetizing term “EAT” floating around the Google universe. For those who are new to the term, let me crush your dreams and tell you that it has nothing to do with actual food. (I know. I was disappointed, too.)

So, if not food, what are the new EAT guidelines about? And what can we do to make them part of our editorial strategy?

EAT stands for expertise, authority and trustworthiness, and it’s part of Google’s latest efforts to elevate what we read online. Google wants to keep publishers from taking advantage of its algorithm and the readers who use it (a motive also evidenced by the Google News Initiative).

These EAT guidelines are particularly applicable to YMYL (your money, your life) sites. So if you work with e-commerce content or any content that offers medical, legal, financial, or safety advice, listen up. Here's how to approach editing for EAT.

Show Expertise in Your Field

Expertise can be defined in a million ways by Google, so you’ll need to decide what expertise looks like for your industry before you work on strengthening it. Look to thought leaders or industry standards in your vertical: What are they doing that you aren’t? If you’re not sure who the leaders are, conduct a quick Google search to see who’s ranking higher than you for terms you’d like to capture.

Attending industry conferences, signing up for industry newsletters, networking with people who work in your field and asking to contribute to relevant, credible sites in your industry are all great places to start. You can also make yourself available as a resource for journalists. For example, our tech writers at HighSpeedInternet.com are frequently asked to weigh in on newsworthy subjects like 5G, the rural-urban divide and more.

Another way to show expertise is to publish reports based on data specific to your site. HighSpeedInternet.com has an internet speed test tool that receives thousands of tests a day. Our team took this data and made a report by ranking the fastest and slowest states for internet and included it on our speed test page. That’s just one example of how adding content that appeals to target members of the media is a good way to attract attention to your most helpful tools and resources. This is the essence of editing for EAT.

 

Screenshots courtesy of HighSpeedInternet.com

Of course, it’s difficult to do any of this without the right people on your team. Working with expert writers is the baseline standard for successfully building expertise with your content. Google is getting smarter about figuring out when people are faking expertise, and readers are pretty good at recognizing it, too. Additionally, Google is improving its algorithm with regard to distinguishing contextual nuances, which means it’s more focused on finding the absolute best answer to a search query rather than one that just hits the same keywords.

How do you make sure you’re the best answer? Start by deepening your expertise and then work on deepening your team’s. Coaching and hiring writers who are already experts or who can become experts will be easier to do when you’re an expert yourself. It takes an expert to know an expert (and to create more experts).

Once you have your team of experts, it’s time to dig deep on what content matters to your user base, and why. Show Google that you know everything about your particular process by publishing content that’s wide and deep: wide in that you cover not only your primary subject matter but also ancillary subjects, and deep in that you don’t just settle for one-and-done answers.

For example, if you’re writing a piece on the best wireless routers, include not only the routers you recommend but also why you recommend them, principles for choosing a good router, info on how to get one that works with your internet connection and anything else your team of experts feel is relevant. Be sure to also link to other content on your site that makes sense for different user paths, like best routers for gaming or how to boost your Wi-Fi signal. If you don’t have content that makes sense to link to, create it!

Demonstrate Your Authority in Your Vertical

Doctors and dentists demonstrate their authority by displaying their school credentials, and your site needs to display its credentials, as well. Readers (and Google’s algorithms) need to know why your editorial team is qualified to discuss your site’s subject matter.

The first step in editing for EAT is to give your bios, “about” page and contact page a makeover. If you don’t have any of these, add them. With bios, include information about education, certifications, experience and publications. Your “about” page should state who your team is, why you exist and how you make money. Include brands you’ve worked with or have been featured by, along with any applicable stats that strengthen your authority.

Screenshots courtesy of HighSpeedInternet.com

But, like I mentioned in the previous section, the main way to gain authority is to build expertise and brand recognition in your space, so be sure to start there. To get a closer look at how Google evaluates site authority, dig into some of the examples given in its search quality guidelines.

Make It Clear You’re a Trustworthy Resource

If readers are going to take your advice or give you their money, they need to know they can trust you. Include a clear methodology section, explaining your editorial process, where it makes sense. If you’re hesitant to include that because you feel it’s weak, revamp it to something more robust. Sites such as Safety.com and NerdWallet are great examples of how to spell this out on your site for your readers (and Google).

You can also add methodology sections that are specific to certain pieces of content. Here’s an example of what HighSpeedInternet.com did to show our methodology on our 2019 catfishing report.

Screenshots courtesy of HighSpeedInternet.com

Always back up any claims you make in your content. As the editor, you can act as the final gatekeeper for sources and assumptions. Only link to highly reputable sources. You don’t want to tarnish your site’s reputation by Google associating you with a less-than-stellar site.

For example, if you link to a news piece that cites data from the Federal Communications Commission, that might be OK as long as it’s a reputable publication such as PCMag or CNET. But if the article you’re linking to is from a news site with spammy articles or a low domain authority, you’re better off linking directly to the report on the FCC website instead.

Another way to become trustworthy is to regularly refresh your content. This sends positive messages to Google that your site has the most up-to-date information and that your content producers care about maintaining it. Remember to update the publication date and put it in an easy-to-find spot. Don’t cheat — moving around commas or adding a few words doesn’t count, and Google may penalize your site if you try to pass off something like that as a refresh.

Here’s a common example of how this might play out: If you wrote a piece on the “best of” in your industry for 2019, then you need to update it for 2020. If you just change a few sentences and update the date in the title but keep everything else the same, that won’t look good to Google and your rankings might suffer. A true update, in the spirit of editing for EAT, would constitute using your methodology to reevaluate the landscape and update your recommendations and other information in the piece accordingly. Ideally, this would constitute some rewriting and other updates that are significant enough to merit a publication date change and a thumbs-up from Google.

Editing for EAT: Commit to the Long Game

The EAT guidelines are focused on creating deep, trustworthy content that’s focused on helping users find viable solutions for their lives. They’re not a miracle product that’s guaranteed to raise your spot in search engine results pages in 30 days or less, but they will help you build a solid editorial strategy that will only get better as you continue to apply the principles. The core purpose of EAT is to create search-based incentives for companies to build trust with their user base, and trust doesn’t grow overnight. Sure, you’ll have to be patient. But, like the Navy SEALs say, slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

Cara Haynes is a senior editor at HighSpeedInternet.com, a site that helps millions of users find answers about internet service primarily via the Google gods. When she's not editing, she's usually writing, reading, or overanalyzing product labels—anything to feed her obsession with words. She's also a firm believer in the majesty of dogs and Birkenstocks.

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