April 15, 2020

Last month, as the COVID-19 crisis firmly took hold, search engine results pages showed huge, volatile swings. As brands adapt to a “new normal” and adjust their digital marketing budgets, remember there is one acquisition channel that stays on even during spending cuts: organic search.

Maintaining – even improving – your organic search rankings may be more important now than ever. Google even started a blog series this month highlighting the importance of search engine optimization (SEO). If web traffic to your business has dropped, have faith. It will be back. But the time to work on your organic search rankings is right now.

Create quality pages on your website

Time and again, Google’s advice to improve page rank is to publish great content. That hasn’t changed. And the best place to consult is inside Google’s own Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (SQEG).  This 168-page guide is used by human “search quality raters,” whom Google trusts to evaluate websites and search engine results pages (SERPs). These raters then deliver ratings on “page quality” and “needs met,” which helps Google fine-tune its search algorithm.

While the SQEG doesn’t directly affect search rankings, it does offer clues to improving your content. This, in turn, can improve your page quality, which can improve your rankings. But what constitutes great content?

3 important ranking factors for Google

There are more than 200 factors that affect a page’s ranking, the most important being the quality of your content. Three important questions that the SQEG asks raters to consider when evaluating a website’s content are:

● Does the page have a beneficial purpose?

Google wants its users to find relevant and helpful results from search. Its algorithm is updated and optimized regularly to send pages with beneficial purpose to the top. The best way to reach your users is not just with content, but content that matters in their lives.

What that means for your short-term SEO content strategy will depend on whether your specific brand and industry are “essential” or “non-essential,” which is determined by local guidelines. No one knows how long the economic impact of COVID-19 will last, but SEO by nature is a long-term organic process.

In the short-term, we recommend having dedicated coronavirus content, which many have done. Check your website and update language that seems to go against current isolation and social distancing practices. Let people know how to access your products or services if they are available. And if you sell or make physical products, be sure to include cleaning instructions.

To rank well, you should be writing to help people. After all, when content lines up with the searcher’s intent, it makes people happy (including you).

● Does the content show Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)?

This is an important quality characteristic based on the quality of the main content, the information about the website and the website’s reputation. E-A-T is a way Google determines what others say about your site.

Anyone can call himself or herself an expert. But if someone citing your expertise links to your website, that’s even better. That’s called a backlink, and if that backlink has high E-A-T value, it may pass “link equity” to you and improve your authority rating.

Just as having backlinks makes a big difference to your expertise and authority, highlighting the credentials of your content creators affects your trustworthiness. This comes from reviews, testimonials, awards and other trust factors. Google wants to rank content it can trust, especially when it comes to your money or your life.

● Is the content related to Your Money or Your Life (YMYL)?

Websites are held to a higher page quality standard when they could negatively affect a user’s happiness, health, financial stability or safety. This means Google pays closer attention to content around health, banking, local and national news, the law and even shopping.

Searches related to “coronavirus” are inherently YMYL, and should generate search results that display the highest possible levels of E-A-T. If your website is related to health care, you can expect significant changes in your organic results. You should also pay attention when developing content and monitoring performance, as Google heavily evaluates YMYL content searches to increase users’ trust in them.

People are more likely to come back when search results are relevant and helpful. When a business can grow while helping its community, everyone wins.

Why does SEO content matter?

While the COVID-19 pandemic will someday end, its effects will likely last long into the future. When you build your SEO strategy around great content about your products, services and brand, you have a good chance of riding out the storm.

Having your website near the top of a search engine results page can do more than drive sales and leads. It can connect your product or service with people who want it or need it. After all, Google wants websites to have a beneficial purpose.

But it is more important than ever for top-ranking websites to be trustworthy sources of information. Misinformation, scams and malicious content abound on the internet.

Writing good content that ranks well can be difficult, especially with Google’s complex algorithm – not to mention your competition. EAT and YMYL are just parts of the overall spectrum, but understanding their importance is vital to your overall goal of growing your brand.


Nikia Sayre, Director of SEO Strategy, TruStar Marketing, LLC.


TruStar Marketing fuses the art of the brand with the science of analytical marketing to increase ROI. We specialize in Account Based Marketing, Voice Search and Mobile First Website Strategies design and development for health care, financial & insurance and global manufacturing industries.

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