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Google’s EAT Score for Affiliates: How to Make Your Site Look Trustworthy
Including grey hat techniques that actually work
Greetings, Anons! Affiliate marketing has a bad reputation due to all of the scammers and the NGMI types who are doing the bare minimum amount of work. I blame the lame “affiliate influencers” who are selling the dream of “passive income”, which tends to attract lazy people who don’t treat affiliate marketing like it’s a real business.
Google is aware of this and it’s one of the reasons why they decided to roll out their EAT (Expertise, Authority, and Trust) scores for websites. Your site will not rank if you don’t demonstrate expertise in your chosen niche. Your site will not rank if you don’t come across as an authority on the subject. If you come across like a scumbag affiliate marketer, then users won’t trust your site and it will not rank.
In this article I’m going to give you ACTIONABLE tips that you can implement on your site immediately to make it more trustworthy. These are strategies that I currently use. Let’s start with what I consider to be the most important: rating criteria.
“How We Rate X Product”
It’s critically important that you post the rating criteria for each product category that you review on your site.
Create a separate page for each product category titled “How We Rate X Product”. List at least three specific bullet points that are tailored to that product. The bullet points you choose will depend on what niche you're in; but think of things like safety, comfort, taste, etc.
List the bullet points at the top and then provide detailed breakdowns of each of the criteria under separate subheadings underneath. Write how you’re going to judge each one using both paragraphs and sub-bullet points so that customers can be sure that you’re actually using honest criteria to grade each product you review and not just trying to get the sale.
Don’t rush through this. Take your time and honestly think about what factors would be most important to you if you were a consumer reading your own reviews. Would you really want to buy a product from a website that makes every product seem like it’s the best thing ever? Or would you be more likely to buy a product from a site that actually takes the time to review their products according to established criteria?
If you put a lot of work into this when you first launch your website then you likely won’t have to worry about it ever again. You can write it once and forget about it for a long time, unless you’re in some weird niche that constantly has new product categories coming out. This is one of the few areas in affiliate marketing where you can do the work once and continue to benefit from it for as long as you own the site.
Once you have detailed rating criteria pages, make sure you link to them at the bottom of all your reviews and best-of lists. You should include a subheading with the main bullet points and a link to the main page where they can get detailed information. Even if most people aren’t going to sit down and read the entire rating criteria, they WILL notice that it exists and it will reassure them that you’re being honest in your reviews.
Make sure that you have a subject matter expert listed on your about us page
Your “about us” page shouldn’t just be a list of random writers who don’t have any obvious expertise in your niche. At least one person on your staff should be a credentialed expert. Like it or not, we’re living in an age where people care more about credentials than they do about facts and logic, and if you want to gain people’s trust you’re going to have to cater to that. You have to live in the world as it currently exists with all of its flaws, not in the one that you wish existed.
For example, I own a site that is in the health niche (sort-of). I have a medical doctor listed on our “about us” page.
Hopefully you have a well-developed social network and you can find a credentialed expert in your field. In my case, I contacted one of my friends who is a doctor and told him that I’ll pay him a few hundred US Trash Token per month just to put his name and face on our site, as well as a link back to his personal website. Most people aren’t going to turn down free money, especially if they know you in-person and know that you aren’t going to do anything that will ruin their reputation. This is a perfect example of a win-win situation. You get added trust on your website, and your friend gets paid.
What if you really can’t find a subject matter expert? In that case, you can make one up. Use an AI face generator (LINK) to create a fake face. Add it to your site with a fake name, title, and bio. Boom. Instant trust.
Now this is obviously a really sketchy approach and I actually don’t recommend it. But you can definitely get away with it in the short term. At this time, Google DOES NOT have the resources to check and see if every single person on every single website is legitimate. At some point in the future they might be able to, but they definitely don’t have that capability in 2021.
I always recommend being as honest as possible when doing affiliate marketing, so going with the first approach and finding a real person is ideal. I only mentioned the second option because I think that everyone should make their own decisions about how they run their website, and because it’s a legitimate tactic that works. I have never done it and never will, but it’s your call.
Use unique product photos
If you’re at the stage in your growth where companies are mailing you free products, then you should be taking your own photos of them. Don’t use the photos that manufacturers provide or steal them from other reviewers. This makes you look really spammy and is against Google’s product review guidelines (LINK).
If you are just getting started or are established and want to review a product but the company won’t send you one, this is where Canva (LINK) comes in.
Take a picture from the manufacturer’s site, upload it to Canva, and use the background remover feature to delete the background. Then go to “photos” and find a different background to replace it with. Change the size of the product image, add a filter, and maybe add some text. Bam! You have a “unique” image in Google’s eyes.
Make it obvious that you actually tried the product and include negative information
Include both pros and cons for every single product you review. I like to use either a table or bullet points for this, and then go into my detailed writeup underneath.
Don’t use a passive, neutral tone in your writeup. When reviewers write like that it’s obvious that they are regurgitating information that they found on Google. That doesn’t exactly inspire trust in the reader.
Use a lot of words like I, you, we, us, etc. Make it obvious that you actually tried the product (even if you didn’t) and it will improve your EAT score.
Once again, this is something that Google explicitly states in their product review guidelines and is a no-brainer.
Include informational articles
Google has been penalizing sites that only feature product-based content without a supporting base of informational articles. You’re never going to rank if every single article on your site is either a product review or a best-of roundup list.
Your site needs to demonstrate topical authority if you want to rank in 2021. This means that you need to include “how to” articles as well as articles that answer common questions about your niche.
If you need help coming up with a content plan, the best way to do so is to use the “content planner” feature in Surfer SEO (LINK). You can also enter a keyword into Ubersuggest (LINK) (cheap option) and click on “Questions” to get further ideas.
If you want more info about topical authority, I recently wrote an article (LINK) that goes into more detail.
There are a lot of guides out there about how to improve your expertise, authority, and trust. Most of them are fluff or contain information that isn’t relevant to affiliate marketers. Most of the publicly-available guides are also completely blue-pilled, meaning that they won’t give you grey hat advice, even if it 100% works. Black hat techniques do not work in 2021. Grey hat techniques, on the other hand, are solid and almost always work if you apply them correctly.
As always, leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter if you have any questions about how to implement this advice.