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In 2024 SEO is all about authority

Happypath is a website development company in Melbourne. We build great websites for small businesses.

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You’ve probably come across website content like this before:

“When it comes to website design in Melbourne, you want a team that understands the unique needs and preferences of your local audience.”

“In Melbourne, where creativity and innovation thrive, it’s important to find a web design agency that can capture the essence of your brand.”

“Partnering with a skilled web design team in Melbourne is essential for achieving online success.”

No prizes for guessing what is going on here, it’s called keyword stuffing. The intention is to rank a page higher on Google for the overused keyword, but it also produces content that is disjointed, jarring and often hard to read. Especially if its overused or prominent on your homepage - it’s arguably slightly better if it’s buried deep in your blog section like this.

Of course it didn’t take long for Google to get wise to these SEO tricks. Back in the ‘olden days’ website developers used to hide their keywords by matching the text colour to the colour of the background. Then they would add ‘Webdesign agency Melbourne’ 100s of times so that the human reader would be unaware of the nonsensical text but the search engine crawler would lap it up and take the site to the number one spot.

Search engines became more sophisticated and to discourage this, they penalised obvious attempts to influence their results which is why hidden keywords are now a big mistake (black hat SEO), and keyword stuffers must be careful to not overuse the terms in an unnatural way, risking a lower result or even complete de-indexing.

Keyword stuffing produces a poor user experience, content is written for search engines not people and the text can become repetitive and unnatural (like the paragraphs above). When visitors read content that is clearly keyword stuffed it reduces the sites trust and credibility, which is not going to be great for your business.

In the case of ‘near me’ it’s also pointless, If John the Plumber in Sydney lands the top SEO spot for the keywords ‘Plumber near me’ it’s not a lot of use if I’m in Melbourne. In this case Google uses Local SEO which is different to Authoritative SEO. Local SEO determines your subject matter is plumbing then uses other signals to work out proximity to the searcher. Adding ‘near me’ in text is just a waste of letters.

A good tip is to read the content of your website aloud, it really highlights the unnatural pattern of a badly keyword stuffed sentence.

So what we need is balance, we need keywords but in the context of high quality, human focused informative content that naturally incorporates the search terms.

This is exactly what Google is now looking for when ranking website content.

E-A-T. Expertise, Authority, and Trust

EAT is Google’s current framework for assessing website content. It is contextual, so different based on the type of information that is being presented. Content that may have a greater impact on the readers health, financial wellbeing or personal safety is treated differently to more general content like funny monkeys, or the best biscuit for dunking.


Experts are good, we should value them. They know what they are talking about because they are experts who’ve already put the work in. To rank higher the content author, or site, needs to demonstrate they have knowledge or skill in the particular topic. This is more prominent in topics that require a higher level of expertise, such as medical or legal advice. Expertise doesn’t necessarily mean formal expertise, but subject area knowledge.

Establishing your level of expertise can be done with a variety of techniques. Creating content in and around a subject shows breadth of knowledge. Author biographies including any certifications or qualifications can help establish confidence. True experts may write papers, feature in news articles or be interviewed in other places. Linking to these and tying them all together helps to create a consistent ‘expert entity’. This can be self perpetuating as the more expertise you can demonstrate, the more likely you will be approached for your views and opinions.

This all sounds like you need to be a well known scientist or celebrity but you can apply it to your own business area of expertise. You need to get yourself out there and establish yourself as an expert. You can be an expert in anything, from engine repairs to cupcakes. Whatever your business niche is, you likely have knowledge that is of a higher level of expertise. You can build on this by creating subject focused content.

Another signal for Google on expertise is if the content answers the original search question, if so then job done. Extra marks for quality content.


How much authority does your content have? Google uses different signals to establish this. Being featured, linked from, or cited on other authoritative websites is a strong signal that you have authority in your field. Google expects this to be a natural process, because you are an expert you produce high quality, informative, useful content. Organically other sites will link to it because it has value.

Of course this is an obvious target for trying to game SEO. Many SEO companies will sell you links from authoritative websites specifically to try and raise your authority level. If Google detects these kind of activities they are likely to penalise your website. Cheap SEO operators usually provide fairly low quality backlinks but compensate for this with quantity. You might initially get good results from this but when Google recognises the patterns and signals that this produces you will likely incur a penalty. Often this is difficult to recover from, the lesson being be very careful who you engage for SEO services, you get what you pay for, and good SEO is time intensive and expensive.

There are services such as HARO, Help a Reporter Out (now called ‘Collectively’), that connect journalists with subject matter experts. The desirable outcome being a mention or even a link from a news site, although this is not guaranteed. These use a subscription model so you have to pay to play. Currently these services are being gamed massively by AI responses to journalists questions so you may get mixed results.


Trust is established by the reliability and honesty of the content. Transparency and accuracy are key here with contact details and attribution being available.

Google also encourages better website security so having an SSL certificate is an easy win. When setting up your website happypath can help with this.

E-E-A-T. Google added an extra E

In 2022 Google spoilt its nice acronym when it expanded on its E-A-T framework to add an additional criteria - Experience. Google now rewards content that demonstrates practical experience in the subject area. This is great for small businesses who do generally have first hand experience in what they do.

Demonstrating Experience in content can be done by discussing details, challenges and insights gained through direct involvement in the subject. Writing in the first person is thought to be beneficial. Creating how to guides and tutorials is where you can really showcase your own experience and personal involvement.

The SEO’s wearing black hats

Unlike a classic western, SEO’s don’t tend to wear actual hats. So how do you know if SEO services are using honest tactics (white hat), or more manipulative tactics (black hat).

There’s a few giveaways that your SEO might not be so beneficial.

  • Purchased links come from low quality websites (these are often PBN’s Private Blog Networks that contain 1000s of unconnected blog articles with links to different websites)
  • Pages or blog articles stuffed with keywords
  • Duplicate content with only a small number of changes
  • They promise unrealistic results - SEO can take months if not years and top search result rankings cannot be guaranteed except perhaps for really, really niche subjects.

Black hat SEO techniques can be very successful until they’re not. Then you’re in trouble. Sites can be penalised which is the opposite to the desired effect - you’ve pretty much paid for a lower Google ranking! Content that is manipulated for a result also tends to produce a poorer user experience because often it just reads badly.

Should you use AI blog content in 2024?

There is some debate in SEO circles about using AI content to rank your website. There are some interesting experiments with sites adding 1000s of blog posts weekly to see how it influences rankings. Google doesn’t discriminate specifically against AI generated content, just poor quality content. Arguably a lot of AI content is poor quality, especially paired with older GPTs and minimal knowledge of prompts.

Luckily poor quality AI content is easy to spot. If the blog post starts along the lines of ‘In this age of…’ hit the back button and find a better way to spend your time. AI generated content tends to overuse metaphors, bullet points and headings often producing little more than ‘listicles’. This can be improved by creating specifically tailored prompts but often this is not done. The resulting content is bland and somewhat lifeless, but it may rank.

Google updates its algorithms regularly so worth bearing in mind that what works today might not work tomorrow. There may come a day when AI content plummets and sites drop out of search results, this is always the risk of trying to game SEO.

Ultimately my opinion is that it’s best to produce content for people, with ranking in search engines as a secondary consideration. Remembering the two are not mutually exclusive.

Disclaimer: At happypath we do not offer offsite SEO services such as backlinks, and guest posting. We concentrate on technical or ‘onpage SEO’ as part of all our website packages. All our websites are optimised 100% for technical SEO using semantically correct code, E-E-A-T content, high speed loading techniques and content schema (unseen code that tells search engines more about the content). We don’t sell links.

The extra bit

How does Google penalize websites for keyword stuffing?

Google and other search engines penalize websites that use obvious keyword stuffing. This unethical SEO practice can lead to lower rankings or even complete removal from search results. The penalties are part of search engines’ efforts to ensure the best user experience and discourage manipulative ranking tactics

Can a small business establish expertise and authority in their niche for better SEO?

Yes, small businesses can establish expertise and authority in their niche to improve SEO. By creating high-quality, informative content that demonstrates knowledge and skill in a particular topic, a business can boost its search engine rankings. This process involves showcasing breadth of knowledge, linking to external authoritative sources where the business is featured, and producing valuable content that answers users’ queries effectively. Expertise and authority are especially important in areas that require a higher level of expertise, such as medical or legal advice​​.

Is it risky to use SEO services that promise quick results?

Yes, it’s risky to use SEO services that promise quick results, especially if they employ black hat techniques like keyword stuffing. While these methods may offer short-term gains, they are likely to harm your website’s long-term SEO performance. Search engines like Google have evolved their algorithms to prioritise user experience and natural language, so manipulative practices like keyword stuffing are often penalized. Therefore, focusing on creating user-centered, high-quality content is the safer and more effective approach

Should small businesses use AI-generated content for their blogs?

Using AI-generated content for blogs can be a double-edged sword. While AI can produce content quickly, it may lack the quality and authenticity that search engines and users value. Google does not specifically discriminate against AI-generated content but focuses on the quality of the content. If AI-generated content is of poor quality, repetitive, or lacks depth, it could negatively impact your website’s SEO. Therefore, it’s recommended to prioritise creating original, high-quality content that offers value to users, even if it’s assisted by AI.

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