In this episode, Chris and Michael break down the acronym “E-A-T” (expertise, authority, and trustworthiness), digging deeper into what these three terms mean and how companies can leverage each one to increase customer trust and loyalty and improve their overall SEO.

In this episode, we cover:

What do expertise, authority, and trustworthiness mean in terms of Google’s ranking algorithms and SEO?
How can brands achieve stronger web authority and customer trust?
What types of content contribute toward achieving E-A-T?
The importance of understanding customers’ “pain points” or specific needs in building customer trust and loyalty and exhibiting expertise/authority.
The importance of conducting keyword research and/or teaming up with a local SEO expert to help.
The importance of creating a wide variety of content, both broad and specialized.
Why do in-house pictures (as opposed to stock photos) make a difference?
The power of testimonials and online reviews, both onsite and offsite.

For more information on the tools and resources mentioned in this episode, please visit:


Michael Utley: Increasing your EAT… expertise, authority, and trust… starts with something a little crazy: getting out of your own head and understanding the pain that your customer’s experiencing and what’s driving them to the web. Today we’re going to understand EAT. Let’s dive in.

Michael Utley: Welcome to Grow Your Painting Business, a podcast for commercial, residential, and industrial painters to grow their businesses in their local or regional markets. We’re experts in digital marketing for painters and other trades, and this is a show to share our experience with you. Grow Your Painting Business is a free podcast from, the experts in digital marketing for the trades.

Chris Raines: All right. Welcome to episode 17 of Grow Your Painting Business, a podcast through I’m Chris Raines. I’m joined by

Michael Utley: Michael Utley.

Chris Raines: Michael, how’re you doing?

Michael Utley: Good.

Chris Raines: It’s a beautiful day today in Nashville, Tennessee. Today… Well first, before we get started, Michael, you know what I love?

Michael Utley: What do you love?

Chris Raines: I love free stuff. I’m the guy, when the t-shirt cannon comes out at games, I’m just pushing old ladies over to get to it because I’ve got to have that free t-shirt. That’s just a segue into our offer.

Chris Raines: If you’re listening to this, and you own a painting contracting business, we have something to offer you. It’s a free audit of your website. Michael, tell them what they need to do to take advantage of our free offer.

Michael Utley: Yeah, it’s pretty common for people to reach out to us, and as a first conversation off the clock so to speak, to look at a handful of tools that we use to measure how websites are doing, how well they’re ranking, how well their page speed is working with Google, what sort of traction they’re getting with keywords on either the top five pages of Google or the top page of Google.

Michael Utley: We’ll do all that in an introductory phone call. For us it’s a good way to get familiar with companies and see if they’re a good fit for what we do and for them to get familiar with what an SEO agency can do. We work with a lot of painters and other services for commercial and residential customers all across the country. So these don’t have to be just one-truck house painters. We do this for big commercial companies in markets like Chicago, Boston, Houston, and Dallas. So we’re happy to go through that same initial conversation with lots of different kinds of companies.

Chris Raines: And it’s a free audit, so if you’re not ready to go ahead with any ongoing services, you can take it and run with it, right?

Michael Utley: Yeah, that’s right.

Chris Raines: Yeah, great. So just go to to take advantage of it. There’s a big button right on the front page called Get a Free Audit, I think is… There’s a big button right there at the top of the website. So check it out, click that button, get your free audit.

Chris Raines: Okay, Michael. Today we’re talking about increasing your EAT. That’s an acronym for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. Now if you’re in the SEO industry, that’s probably something you’ve heard. It’s basically what Google’s looking for when they’re looking for who to list. For any given keyword or search query, they’re looking for sites that have expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. So Michael, why don’t you just break those down a bit and tell us what those mean, and what it means to increase that and thereby increase your rankings.

Michael Utley: Right. Search engine optimization, SEO, can get pretty technical. There used to be a lot of gimmicks and tricks to do SEO. We still do a lot of little gimmicky things, but for the most part, a lot of that’s been beaten out of the system. As a marketer, I think that’s good.

Michael Utley: Now, what Google says is just focus on producing good content that your audience wants. The way that shakes out can have a lot of technical applications, thinking about schema and meta content and how to best use keywords on a page. If we back up away for a minute from all those technical questions and we think just about the challenge that Google has on the table to everyone, which is just, “Hey, produce good content; people will find you,” that’s a pretty big category.

Michael Utley: So the first pass a breaking that down… and this is an acronym and a phrase that has come from Google just through their conversations, notes, and their publishing information about how they’re thinking about search indexes, so this is all very publicly available information from Google. It’s not a total black box how Google works. They tell us what they value. One of the things they value is content that follows this acronym: expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness.

Michael Utley: A real simple way to think about this expertise is that you are the creator of content, that you’re generating new, original content in an area of subject matter. Authoritativeness is that you can reflect on the subject matter with comprehensiveness, and that it is something that other people are pointing to.

Michael Utley: Trustworthiness, put really simple, is just that it’s correct, that there’s information that’s not taking people off on a tangent or it’s just bad information. Instead, it’s information that other people find useful, and it can even be discovered to have been referenced on other websites, in social media channels that are publicly indexable, all sorts of things that are indirectly measurable by Google to see that a source of information is valuable over time and across a lot of different types of interactions that can be incorporated into their search index.

Michael Utley: So yeah. The acronym is EAT. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Chris Raines: Maybe it would be good to have a hypothetical example. So let’s say I open a painting company, and I call it Raines Painting Incorporated. I’m just starting out, got a great new website, and I want to increase my expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.

Chris Raines: So let’s go, one by one, some just top level things that I’d want to think about as a new painting business to… because I want to list. I want to get those good jobs. I want to get commercial jobs. I want to get jobs that are lucrative, but in order to do that, I have to list on Google for the things that I want to list for. So how do I increase expertise? Just really practically speaking, what would I need to do?

Michael Utley: The first thing we do is… well, I’ll say this. We take a three-step process.

Michael Utley: Number one is we understand the pain points of the consumer. The consumer in this case, we’ll say it’s a commercial/industrial painting project. Maybe there’s a production space in a manufacturing facility. It needs to be painted without disrupting the work that’s being done there. Maybe this is a production line that doesn’t really shut down during business hours. It doesn’t have long periods of time that it’s out of commission.

Michael Utley: So you have… somewhere in there, there’s a pain point. The customer needs something done, but they’re really nervous about safety. They’re nervous, maybe, about contamination of their manufacturing process. Maybe they’re nervous about work stoppage. So you, as the commercial/industrial painter, have ways to mitigate that, and you can speak to it with authority. Number one is getting out of your own head and starting with the pain point that the customer has.

Michael Utley: We’ll simplify this. We’ll say it’s work stoppage. Articulating it that way, and coming at even title development and subheader development from their point of view, you’re coming up with a hook. The hook of a piece on that, if you’re just in your own head and you’re doing self promotion, you may come up with something like, “How we avoid accidents and work stoppage in your factory while we’re doing our work.” That’s good, but it’s not great.

Michael Utley: What would make it really better is if we could switch and have the audience’s point of view and come at it from their pain point. Their pain point is, “I have to get this done, and I can’t afford a work stoppage. So how am I going to deal with this?” So then your title might be something like, “Work stoppage avoidance: how to hire commercial painters and plan for no work stoppage.” You’re shifting it completely, 100%, to coming from their point of view. So that’s number one.

Michael Utley: Number two is keyword research. Get familiar. It’s easy to do this, and this is the sort of work that we do for SEO clients. It’s easy to get familiar with which keywords people are using to search for problems for their pain. It may be the things that you’re thinking of. It may be some things that surprise you a bit.

Chris Raines: Give me an example.

Michael Utley: An example might be, there may be some sort of industry term for some sort of certification. I’m just going to make this up: “We’re an A59B contractor, and we’re really proud of it.” That may or may not be what your audience is using, but if it isn’t, then don’t depend on that to be the way that they find you. If it’s something where they just don’t care… and we see this all the time. Industry lingo, especially with… we also do work in healthcare, especially over there. You have to have a radical level of commitment to shifting to the customer’s point of view.

Michael Utley: When you do this, what you’ll find is a couple of things. If you get into the Google keyword planner… it’s a free tool from Google you can get online… start poking around there and see what the volume is for certain geographies. You can select a section of the United States and see what the monthly search volume is. When you shift to take on the customer’s point of view, you find that some keywords are used frequently and others are not. You also find that, in a batch of words you thought were all pretty good, some have a really drastically different search volume. They’re much more popular.

Michael Utley: Finding out which phrases are used more often, and which phrases are used versus ones that maybe are not as important as you thought they were because they were sort of inside baseball, that’s a pretty big deal. So that’s number two, keyword research.

Michael Utley: Number three, just start developing new pages of content. This could be expanding the details on your services pages to have subsidiary services pages, so third level service pages. You might have a bullet point that you offer sandblasting on one of your commercial painting pages. Well, guess what? Go ahead and throw in a new page for sandblasting. Have that bullet link to that page.

Michael Utley: Lots of new content, not just in blog, but expanded service pages, deeper third level service pages, everything that you can do to build out the company culture, about the team. All of those are good pages that are great opportunities for keywords.

Chris Raines: And I would add to that, what I see a lot is people search for… this gets back to your point about having the customer’s point of view… but a lot of times, potential customers will search in a context that you wouldn’t think they would.

Chris Raines: An example might be any commercial painting company could handle painting a gymnasium, for instance, but someone who’s a property manager for a gymnasium may not know that. They might think that they have to hire a gymnasium painting specialist or something. So that’s a good opportunity. They might go out there and type in “painting companies that specialize in gymnasiums”.

Michael Utley: That’s right.

Chris Raines: You and I know, and painting companies know, “Yeah, we can handle gymnasiums. We can handle any kind of building, really.” But from the customer’s perspective, you’re meeting them right where they are in that pain point because they don’t know who can handle a gymnasium. They don’t know, and they’re trying to find out.

Chris Raines: If you can go out there with authoritative content… and that’s an idea for a piece of content, like “gymnasium painters in Baltimore”… you can show them, “Hey, we do gymnasiums. Here’s a work example. Here’s how we approach gymnasiums.” You can develop that authority in the way that the customer needs to see it because they’re trying to check that box of, “Can these guys handle gymnasiums?”

Michael Utley: That’s right. I’m glad you mentioned regional or localized information. So, say we’ve got a commercial painting company in Boston, and they want to show up well for projects like gymnasiums. What we would end up recommending, and what we would do and build, and this is the type of stuff that we do hundreds of every month here. is a page called “Gymnasium painting contractors in Boston”. That would be a great title for a page.

Michael Utley: We would have that linked. We would point to that page from a service page on educational or municipal services. We would have pictures of cherry pickers and scaffolding working and not damaging the floor in a gymnasium setting, doing the things that are uniquely required with equipment choices, prep, and everything to show that we can paint gymnasiums. Pictures become really valuable, having authentic real pictures from job sites.

Chris Raines: Not stock photos.

Michael Utley: If you’re doing anything right now and you’re wondering what the first step is on developing more content, start capturing photos at job sites. Everything that’s unique… a unique bit of carpentry, a unique bit of commercial/industrial painting that showed a workflow around maybe a difficult area, or maybe if you’re doing a company logo on a wall in a factory, capturing images of that once it’s done, and-

Chris Raines: And it doesn’t have to-

Michael Utley: … before and after is really good.

Chris Raines: And it really doesn’t have to be hiring a photographer to come in and spending a lot of money for a pro. You might want to do that at some point, but it’s better just to start out. Take the phone out of your pocket. Make sure it’s exposed to a level where it’s not super dark, and just take the photo. That’s going to communicate that expertise and authority that you need, proof.

Michael Utley: That’s right. Getting good with the iPhone, and getting lots of good data moving in, it really comes down to, get good at taking an iPhone photo. I would say, turn the camera sideways whenever possible to get a landscape orientation rather than a portrait orientation because it’s a bit easier to work with on computer screens. Even a square image is good because so much website traffic now is mobile.

Michael Utley: We tend to enjoy landscape images a bit better because we still think in terms of a good bit of the traffic being desktop. Sometimes a landscape photo will typically work well in both desktop and mobile environments, but a portrait image generally only works well in mobile, and even then isn’t that great because it can take up too much real estate and let people forget where they are scrolling through the page. They can lose interest.

Michael Utley: The more important challenge is to make sure you have a good workflow, whether it’s naming files or how to get those from site managers back into home office and get them to the right person to be able to put them on the website.

Chris Raines: That’s great. Those scenarios cover the expertise and authority angles. So let’s talk a bit about trustworthiness. This is, again, Michael, from both Google’s perspective and the user’s perspective, right? So let’s talk about ways that you can build your website such that you appear trustworthy to both Google and the people that are searching for you.

Michael Utley: It’s important to decide. You need to make sure that your top nav is not making people go on a scavenger hunt to find what they’re looking for. Your top nav needs to be really simple.

Michael Utley: When we talk about a third level page, like a sandblasting page, we don’t necessarily need to have all of those. That might be a bulleted point on a service page, like an industrial painting service page, but it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be in the top nav.

Michael Utley: Part of what search engines do when they look at your website is they’re saying, “Hey, what do they think they’re relevant to? What kinds of keywords are in their top nav? What kinds of keywords are in their footer on every page? What sorts of keywords are they using in links to their service pages?”

Michael Utley: You’re going to want to focus, and it can get really hard, especially if you have… There are a lot of companies that are going through growing pains right now. Sometimes they’re saying, “Well, there’s a lot that we could do, but what we really want is this.” We’ll often suggest pulling things from the top nav.

Michael Utley: Once you have that set of services that you really want to be known for, and you’ve perhaps trimmed it down to match what subject matter you want to be an expert in, then you’re just making sure that you’re producing a steady supply every month or every week, if possible, of new content on your website that’s relevant and valuable around those terms and nothing else.

Chris Raines: Another part of trustworthiness… I just saw this on the outline, and I think it’s worth mentioning. This is more towards the user perspective, as opposed to strictly Google. Testimonials: people want to know who they’re evaluating, who they’re going to use. They want to know that other people have trusted them. If another company that’s similar to them has trusted your company, well then, they’re going to be more likely.

Chris Raines: Talk about that. Where do you put those, and how should you go about… We don’t want to get too deep. We have other episodes on testimonials if you want to go to and click on the podcast link. We’ve got episodes on that. But talk about how to build that trustworthiness through testimonials.

Michael Utley: We do that in a couple places. We do that onsite and offsite. SEO, search engine optimization, who shows up higher in search results, is heavily impacted by both. It’s impacted by what’s on your website and it’s impacted by offsite factors.

Michael Utley: We do two things. We’re putting reviews on the homepage now. Typically we’ll have some bit of real estate, maybe one full-width block, on the homepage devoted to testimonials. We try to make those as clearly local as possible. So we might not just say Jean S. as a testimony provider, but Jean S. in North Shore, MA. That way, we’re showing that that’s a relevant person who’s in the geography. It’s another place to put in some localized terms.

Michael Utley: Then for offsite factors, there’s really been nothing bigger in the last couple years than Google My Business. Really, it can be heartbreaking when we get to know someone and we’re talking to them for the first time, and we find that they have a one-star rating on Google My Business. We just say, “Guys, how did this happen? Tell us about this. Help us understand this because we want you to be able to invest effectively, but this is a real problem.”

Michael Utley: So we’re often helping bring people back from the brink. It’s good because it can even provide a feedback loop for improving service that may have led to that one-star rating. Sometimes it’s erroneous. Sometimes they’re bad reviews or a disgruntled employee. Those things can be cleaned up as much as possible, but the best way to do it is just to go after it and drown it out with good reviews.

Michael Utley: Getting some five-star reviews moving to Google My Business and any other review platforms… and they have different standards, so you want to make sure… Yelp doesn’t really want anyone to do anything to influence their ecosystem. They want it to be as pure as possible.

Michael Utley: It’s helpful for marketers when they have a happy customer… say a project manager out at the end of a project down on the job site finishes a walk-through… it’s good to say, “Hey, we really value customers like you who are good to work with. The way that they find us is through reviews. Would you mind taking a moment? I just sent you a link to your email. Would you mind clicking that and giving us a review?” Doing it when it’s fresh, right after asking for it, we think that’s appropriate.

Michael Utley: We don’t think it’s appropriate to buy reviews. We would never recommend or do that. There are entities out there, I think, that probably offer that. I don’t think I’ve come across that in a while, but I know I’ve seen a lot of reviews that I didn’t think were real.

Michael Utley: It’s a good thing to do this because you need to be ready if you do have some erroneous reviews. Somebody doesn’t like the paint color they picked, and they ding you for it. It could be their fault, but you need to be able to absorb those kinds of things and… we talked about this in other episodes but… respond to it quickly.

Michael Utley: Online reviews, very important for authority.

Chris Raines: As we wrap up here, just one last thing: how much of this can you do or should you do in-house, as opposed to hiring a third-party vendor to help you with it?

Michael Utley: I’m going to say that we’re selling SEO services, but we’ve been providing this service… We’re now in our eighth year of business. We have clients who have been with us for years. We work with a lot of different-sized companies. I’ve got to say, just as a fellow business person to our customers, I can’t see them doing a good job trying to do this in-house.

Michael Utley: This is a situation where you typically need a writer, a search engine optimization expert, if we’re running advertising, a paid search management expert, a social media advertising expert. You’ve got to have, on top of that, all the things that only you can provide, which is the insight on the subject matter and project images.

Michael Utley: What we do is we really separate out everything that can be taken off your plate. We pull out, and then we just depend on you for phone interviews and pictures of job sites. I think that’s the best way to go. I’ve not seen any painters really get into this and continue to do everything themselves.

Chris Raines: It’s just too time consuming. Your effort is best spent running your painting business, doing estimates, and that sort of thing.

Chris Raines: I would add to that, if there’s one thing out of the list we gave that you can do in-house to start off, it’s probably the review generation and answering reviews. You don’t need a third party vendor to do that. That’s a pretty big impact in terms of, if you just don’t have the budget developed yet to hire a vendor, get started on reviews. Hammer down. Ask everyone that’s happy for a review, and respond. For a small amount of effort, that can make a good impact.

Michael Utley: Yeah, and you can look up the instructions online. You can do a search for this and work out how to find your place ID. Then create a link with your place ID so that, when you send the link to the person you’re requesting the review from, they can simply click once on the link and have it automatically pull up a star rating and a text box for your business. That keeps them from having to do any work, which people will not do. It’s hard to get reviews out of people. You’ve got to serve it up-

Chris Raines: It’s time out of their day.

Michael Utley: I would use that place ID link, and make sure that you understand what you’re sending, not just a link to Google.

Chris Raines: All right. Well, that’s all the time we have. If you like this episode, and you want more episodes like this, just go to, go to the top navigation and click on Podcast. I think we’re up… this is 17. We’ve got 16 more that do deep dives on various aspects of digital marketing and specifically tailored towards painting companies and companies in the trades. So check it out.

Michael Utley: And give us a great rating on iTunes if you enjoyed the content. Thank you.

Chris Raines: Yeah. All right.

Michael Utley: The Grow Your Painting Business podcast is a free service of Visit us today for more information on how you can grow your business using the latest tools in digital marketing: