Not All Content is Created Equal: The Value of Expert Authors in an AI-Driven Search Engine

Travis Bliffen
by Travis Bliffen 22 Aug, 2017

SEOs know that machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) have their part in ensuring keyword stuffed, poorly written content will no longer rank the way it once did, but over the years many have found other systems to exploit. 

Those looking for quick wins, for example, learned to abuse Author Rank (which could provide a boost to well-known, trustworthy authors); Google "ended" the program to prevent it being spammed but certain elements are at play and Google is still very much paying attention to who is writing what content. Let's take a look at some of the criteria being used to determine an author's credibility and what strategies to avoid.

The E.A.T. Principle

Google evaluates pages using the E.A.T. principle, which stands simply for expertise, authority and trustworthiness. This is especially true of what it calls YMYL pages or "Your Money or Your Life." These are pages that according to Google "could potentially have an effect on future health, happiness, or financial stability of users."

Examples of these pages are:

  • Shopping or financial transaction pages
  • Financial information pages
  • Medical information pages
  • Legal information pages
  • Other pages (any subjects which can be considered YMYL, like "child adoption, car safety information, etc.")

Some pages that contain reviews of some products or services can be created by anyone and still rank well in Google as long as they are informative and well written and do not contain slanderous claims.

Experience Matters

This means these pages should be written by those who have verifiable authority in certain areas. There are several ways Google might gauge this:

  • Education: Most bylines contain educational information that is easily verifiable using-well, Google.
  • Certifications: These can also be easily verified. This means creating fake personas with fictional credentials is no longer viable.
  • Other Writing: The author should have written on the same topic on other sites that have high authority in the same field. This can include whitepapers, case studies or even other blogs.

Expertise can be somewhat objective, but think of it this way: a post on medical treatments written by a medical doctor will have much more authority (and therefore rank better on Google) than one written by a freelance writer using their bio.

You might be skeptical that Google can connect the dots but remember, before AI and machine learning were in full force, they picked up on guest posting footprints and took action to eradicate low-quality sites and content.

Establishing Expertise

Expertise can also be established through writing: a business expert might show expertise not by a degree or certifications, but by writing with authority in the area of business. A quick Google search easily reveals a person's past writing history and credentials.

The place this starts is with the writer's own website. The site should contain high authority content in the area they write in and in some cases, material written by other experts on the same topic.

Google is paying attention to all those signals, so establishing expertise in your field is essential to the success of your content.

The Bottom Line

The simple facts are this: not all content is created equal. You can get someone to write blog content for your website off Fiverr or a job board, but you may not be happy with the results, and Google may not either.

The expertise of the author of the content matters not only to you and your Web users, but to Google as well. Going the cheap route can hurt your brand and your image, but it can also hurt your Google rankings, especially if Google classifies a site as YMYL.

Whether you work to establish your own expertise or hire others to write for your site, the value of expert authors should never be underestimated, especially as AI works around the clock to connect the dots between author, expertise and perceived content value.

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