5 tips to develop authoritative content for Google and searchers
Here's an inside look at Wirecutter's SEO strategy for creating content that ranks and helpful experiences for users.
Google’s mission is to deliver the most relevant and reliable information available to please searchers in the most efficient way possible.
So what does that mean for your content?
A keynote by Jaimie Clark, VP of SEO at Centerfield and former Head of SEO at Wirecutter (a New York Times property), opened Day 1 of SMX Advanced today. It was packed full of insights around creating authoritative, high-quality content that Google ranks and searchers need.
Regardless of the type of content you are producing, these are lessons you can apply to all your content initiatives.
The Wirecutter migration: SEO + content + rebrand
Before Clark joined Centerfield, she worked at the New York Times. In 2016, New York Times Co. bought The Wirecutter, a product recommendation site.
She led the migration of thewirecutter.com to nytimes.com/wirecutter in 2020. This migration resulted in Wirecutter doubling its search traffic within a year.
But two years of SEO work preceded the migration. And it started with a new mission: to help people effortlessly choose and buy the stuff they need to live a better life.
How they did this:
- Thorough reporting that got to the right answer.
- A hard focus on solving reader problems (not heroing products).
- Making actionable recommendations and communicating as a human would.
- Prioritizing long-term reader trust.
Here are five tips Clark shared during her SMX Advanced keynote on how to develop authoritative content for Google and searchers.
1. Focus on depth, not breadth
Clark said Wirecutter had a “mile-wide, inch-deep approach” to product reviews.
But their content strategy shifted in 2018 to go a mile deep. They started creating:
- Top-level pages: These acted as a collection of summaries for specific guides and related use cases. These pages were linked to mid-level pages for more in-depth analysis.
- Mid-level pages: These went deep on specific use cases or types of products.
- Supporting content: These included blog posts, how-tos and news. Meant to add breadth and depth of topical coverage by answering frequently searched for questions and linking to other pages when it made sense.
2. Build topical authority
One of Wirecutter’s goals was to own search results for the term “vacuums.” They had about five reviews on different types of vacuums (handheld, cordless, robot, steam, stick).
Clark said they looked at search data to find additional use cases to identify and fill content gaps. They also researched comparisons and supporting content people were searching for.
“And we always updated the topics page – the ‘best vacuum’ page, to link to and address each of those use cases as anything underneath was updated,” Clark said.
3. Have a purpose
There should be a clear, user-centric reason why a page or website was created.
That purpose can be singular or multifaceted.
By Google’s definition, each page should have a clear beneficial or helpful purpose for users, Clark said.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What is the main purpose of any given page on your site?
- Who do you expect to be on the page?
- What are they looking for when they get there?
- How do they expect to see the content formatted?
“We don’t want to help one random person make one decision. Instead, we wanted people to really Wirecutter their homes,” Clark said. “Helping them discover what they needed day to day, bigger picture, longer-term, tied to the largest events in their lives.”
4. Present content in the most useful way
You should make clear what’s more important by the way you present your content. You should then lead people deeper for people to dive into specific use cases as needed.
There are two main categories of content:
- Main content: Should directly help a page achieve its purpose. This can be text, images, tables, videos or any other page features that help someone understand what the purpose is and actually achieve the goal.
- Supplementary content. Should help users find and navigate the main content. Supplementary content should not distract the user from the main content.
5. Demonstrate your E-A-T
Here’s how Wirecutter approached E-A-T:
Structured data was added to author pages to reinforce that Wirecutter’s content was written by experts or enthusiasts who demonstrated expertise in a specific space.
Author pages started with a paragraph up top, with details about the writer:
- How long they have been covering a subject.
- Their background.
- Why they are qualified to talk about the topic.
The pages also included social media links (e.g, LinkedIn), an email contact and a feed of their latest articles.
These are the “tried-and-true” on-page elements for how Wirecutter generally structured its pages:
- Introduction: This provides an overview of the process and results in one paragraph. It’s meant to be a condensed form of the hours spent researching and testing. This paragraph always included a link to the product buy page to make it easy for people to make a decision.
- How we picked: This details the criteria and features evaluated. These types of elements are especially important in light of Google’s Product Review updates.
Wirecutter also preserved the original publishing date timestamps, using schema. Why?
They believed this way to demonstrate longevity and make sure Google understood that even though the page moved to a new location, it is the same authoritative piece of content that was first written by the same person years earlier.
This is a measure of two things:
- Accuracy: You can use an Update box to call out if something is out of stock or if some information has changed. This helps show that your page provides the most up-to-date information.
- Transparency: How do you recommend products? How do you test products? You want people to trust you. So you have to explain why they should.
Watch: Developing authoritative content that Google ranks and searchers need now
Below is the complete video of Clark’s SMX Advanced keynote.
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