E-A-T, BERT and PR—mastering Google rankings in 2020

by | Dec 19, 2019 | Analysis, Public Relations

“Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers.” — Brian Clark

If you’ve been keeping up to date on Google’s ranking factors throughout 2019, then you’ve probably heard or read about Google’s focus on E-A-T – Expertise, Authority and Trust. Since this has had and will continue to have a significant impact on website rankings into 2020, it is important for public relations professionals and other blog writers to understand what it is and how to apply this information to website and blogging strategies.

However, while you are E-A-Ting your way to a more SEO-effective website, there is yet another factor coming into play when it comes to people’s needs for information, goods, and services. Meet BERT and its focus on context.

E-A-Ting for healthier results

Before we delve into Google’s latest changes to their ranking factors, it is important to understand what they most recently implemented. The current ranking system, which will stay in place, determines your posts’ levels of relevance for online searches. It is known as E-A-T or Expertise, Authority, and Trust. Expertise is defined as “the education, experience, skills, or specialized knowledge that allows you to speak to your audience on specific topics,” according to this article by smallbizdaily.

To unpack this definition, it essentially means that Google scans your posts to see if you have the credentials to authoritatively speak to your audience. To accomplish this goal, smallbizdaily’s article suggests having a list of your qualifications on your author bio page, hire qualified people, and carefully edit your content to make it the highest possible quality. The result is best said in this article by LinkNow when they say that “you are giving the people what they want while showing them that you’re an expert at the same time.”

The next letter of the algorithm is “A” for authority. That same LinkNow article explains this best when it states that “Google as well as potential customers want to know that you are a professional in all respects.” They go on to say that the way in which this authority is established is through backlinks from high authority websites. This comes down to getting out there, conducting business, and having others refer you with a link to your site on theirs. In doing so, you are showing Google that you meet the criteria for the “A” portion of the algorithm.

Lastly, “T” if for Trust, which is arguably the most important factor in this as it can “gain or lose potential customers in an instant,” according to LinkNow. Although this can seem vague, smallbizdaily provides some clarity on this and explains that it comes down to “positive reviews on your platform, having a clear way for visitors to contact you, having a link to your privacy policy and terms of conditions, and associating your website with a physical location.”

When you consider this last factor along with the others, it becomes clear that what Google is looking is a seemingly well-rounded repertoire of your business’ qualifications and abilities. However, the issue with Google’s system lies not in its ability to establish you as an outlet for conducting business, but in how it leads people to you when they may not know what they’re looking for, or how to articulate what they’re looking for in a way Google understands. This is where Google’s newest innovation, BERT, comes into play.


Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or BERT for short, is Google’s newest innovation that promises to create “a question answering system that you can train” according to Google’s Blog post, “Understanding Searches Better than Ever Before.” What they mean by this is that because we often use Google to learn rather than build upon prior knowledge, formulating a query that is understood by Google can be difficult.

google search word cloud

In order to combat this difficulty, Google rolled out BERT with the intention to “process words in relation to the others in a query rather than on a one-by-one basis.” The intended result is that the engine will have a better understanding of the context of your search rather than looking for articles or sites that contain a single word within your larger question while disregarding the rest. The hope is that this will sift out the useless and often irrelevant results that you usually receive when your query is either long or not fully understood by the current algorithm.

What does this mean in relation to marketing a business?

With new technology often comes new adaptations. However, as Search Engine Land explains, “It is unlikely that you will be able to optimize your business’ site for BERT.” This is probably because Google is trying to better understand the language of a search rather than focusing on specifics and applying priorities to terms. This does not necessarily mean that your business will suffer because of this innovation. In fact, it could benefit you if your business is more niche or if people have an abstract idea of what they need done. Just keep in mind that BERT is looking to return search results that put information into context. Search Engine Land also suggests that “you continue to write and promote your content as you usually do and allow Google to take care of the rest in their efforts to better understand and match the inquisitions of searchers.”

Although people will probably still be able to stump Google with searches, BERT looks to be a promising step in the right direction in terms of receiving relevant information to ever increasing needs for knowledge, goods, and services.

In 2020, because of changes made to the way people will find it, your site content will be more important than ever, especially if it is able to provide context for what you are communicating. Work to add E-A-T—Expertise, Authority and Trust—to your site overall, then ensure that your content is relevant within the context of what you provide. In doing this, you should see improvement in your search ranking results and, therefore, traffic to your site.

This article originally appeared on the St. Conti Communications blog; reprinted with permission.

Donna St. Jean Conti
Donna St. Jean Conti, APR, is president of St. Conti Communications, an award-winning, full-service, marketing communications agency specializing in public relations, social media, and writing support. We are based in Mission Viejo, Calif.


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