AI vs. E-E-A-T: Why humans should still be at the heart of your website

By Lucy Dodds • 21 February 2024 • 4 minutes reading time

AI this, AI that. Artificial intelligence is everywhere – and just when you thought you’d heard enough, here’s ANOTHER blog about it! But something’s been on my mind for a while now and I really wanted to write about why AI can’t do everything when it comes to Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T).

I think we can all agree AI isn’t a replacement for digital marketers, but it certainly supports our work. Simply put, we’re better, faster and more efficient, thanks to AI.

There’s a ton of useful content out there about how AI can support your SEO efforts, including how you demonstrate E-E-A-T. But I’ve found there are parts of E-E-A-T that just can’t be created with AI and there’s still a great need for real humans.

Challenging the credibility of search: Unveiling the distrust dilemma in SERPs

I realised how much I affix my own search queries with ‘+ Reddit’ when I need an opinion. My search history includes everything from ‘good local brunches places’ to ‘best gym leggings’ to ‘tips on training a puppy’ – all of these with ‘+ Reddit’ tagged onto the query.

That’s when I realised: AI can’t replicate E-E-A-T, especially experience. I put more trust in a random person because they are a random person with nothing to gain; they are simply sharing an opinion. They have no agenda and aren’t subtly trying to get me to buy their product.

(I’m not ignoring the fact that some marketers do infiltrate Reddit, but you can spot fake comments a mile away.)

Perhaps I’m more sceptical of true expertise as an SEO. The average person will likely trust the opinion of a website’s chosen expert(s) who provides helpful information. But if we’re going to see an influx of unchecked AI content, some of which is blatantly untrue, then that trust will decline – and fast.

We’re already seeing examples of how Google is killing independent sites in this great article by the House Fresh team, but what happens when non-SEOs start to realise this themselves? I’m already appending most of my searches with ‘+ Reddit’ because I find it hard to discover independent, human content – what if this happens at scale?

So, if you’re aiming to improve a website’s E-E-A-T, here are five ways humans should be at the heart of your work, with real examples.

5 ways humans must be at the heart of E-E-A-T

1. Include a product’s experience into product listing pages with UGC

I bought my first home recently and online furniture shopping proved to be one of the harder tasks. How am I supposed to know what this product looks like without seeing it in person?

Sofology does a great job of combatting this. It embeds UGC from Instagram into product listing pages (PLPs), which help buyers picture a sofa in a real person’s home. It’s not just a bunch of sponsored posts from influencers either; there are plenty of more realistic accounts showing the actual use of the products.

Although, Sofology’s helpful content on a subdomain doesn’t quite get my vote…

2. If you don’t have UGC, create focus groups to embed experience within the shopping journey

It’s easy to say ‘do UGC’ when you’re a bigger brand with a large social following, but what if you aren’t? You can still demonstrate experience with a small focus group, here’s how:

Get in touch with real customers and incentivise them to record feedback of them using a product (usually a £20 Amazon voucher is enough). Create a product review page with video clips and quotes, then link to this from your product listing pages (PLPs).

As an example, below is a mock-up of how this concept could look on John Ryan by Design. It’s a great way to embed experience within the shopping journey.

3. Foster trust with real photos of experts providing helpful quotes

We know from Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines that the person creating content is as important as the website itself. Digital PR teams often outreach helpful quotes to get this person recognised as the associated expert of a website.

But often, photos of in-house experts are very professional. While I’m sure this is completely fine, they can look like stock images and feel less human (particularly since AI can create these images in an instant).

That’s why I really loved the approach taken by Vets4Pets who have used a real photo of one of their vets on their puppy vaccination page along with the expert quote. Personally, I feel like I can trust this vet a lot more than if there was a generic professional headshot, or worse, a stock image.

4. Embed real customer product reviews into product detail pages

There is nothing worse than seeing a website implying a product has five stars when that’s just the overall brand’s rating. Brilliant customer service is great, but don’t mislead customers about a product.

Instead, get real, human reviews and embed these into product detail pages (PDPs) with a widget from your review platform. This is especially useful for considered purchases that users can’t try before they buy, like a car, or a mattress.

Here’s an example from Dusk – see how the customer reviews refer to the product itself. Knowing Dusk is a good brand to buy from is important, but seeing specific product reviews makes buyers much more confident about their purchase.

You can also use Rating schema to grab users’ attention, get more clicks and take up SERP space by showing the ratings to customers searching for that particular product.

5. Speak to customers > keyword research

Google’s advice is to ‘create helpful, reliable people-first content’. But how can you get customers to trust you if you haven’t communicated with them on a personal level?

Stop relying on keyword research and third-party tools when creating supposedly ‘people-first’ content. If you haven’t spoken to any people, why should they trust your content and your website?

This normally starts with focus groups. A £20 Amazon voucher goes a long way when getting the opinions of real customers who did or didn’t convert. Find their pain points or learn what they love. Translate that into helpful content on your site.

If you really can’t speak to people, at least read through chatbot conversations or customer enquiries to discover details that keyword research alone would never show.

We took this approach for a client recently, and it’s evolved into us discovering an untapped niche of customers who want to buy their products but can’t find the right website to shop on. As a result, a new brand is being built!

So, while adopting AI is going to be essential moving forward, utilising human knowledge to demonstrate E-E-A-T on your website will hold more weight than ever for your customers in the future.

Are you taking an audience-first approach and working on E-E-A-T? Let us help. Get in touch and we’ll help you understand what your site’s missing and how putting humans at the forefront of your business can help convert.

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