Hiring subject-matter experts (SMEs) as authors for a website’s content—mainly blogs and articles—helps increase the credibility and authority of the website; for both users and search engines. Expert writers are good for E-E-A-T<span class="material-symbols-outlined">open_in_new</span>. In case you don't have enough reasons to hire an SME to create your content, scroll to the bottom of this page to see a list of benefits.
Prospects and clients ask us about content quality and E-E-A-T... a lot. Questions like:
Does quality really matter?
Answer: Yes. Quality content attracts a quality audience no matter the channel.
But does it really matter for SEO?
Answer: Well, what are your SEO goals, and do your SEO goals include anything additional to ranking in search results? If yes, then yes it really does matter for SEO. Bad content won't convert. Inaccurate content will harm your brand in the long run. But if the only SEO goal is ranking high in search results, then I don't think SEO is something you should be spending time and resources on.
Steps to find & analyze potential SME writers with Ahrefs
<div class="post-note-cute" role="note">We are not paid for our endorsement of Ahrefs products. Actually, we pay full price for Ahrefs, and we're writing about it because we think it's a really good tool.</div>
Step 1: Open Ahrefs Content Explorer
Enter the main topic we’re trying to create content about. For most scenarios, we'll start with the “All pages” filter, but if the brand is a true publisher, we might want to start with the “News” filter.
Link to Ahrefs Content Explorer<span class="material-symbols-outlined">open_in_new</span>
Step 2: Execute the search & click on the “Author” tab
Some notes to consider in the Content Explorer "Author" tab:
- The number of pages represents the number of bylines the author has for the searched topic. The higher this number, the higher the likelihood is that this author has topical authority and is an SME.
- The number of websites represents the number of different websites where this author has a byline on a piece of content related to the searched topic. The higher this number, the higher the likelihood is that this author is open to working with various publications.
- Sometimes Ahefs maps a person’s name to a Twitter handle. This might be representative of a higher likelihood that the author is in Google’s knowledge graph
Step 3: Find the author in Google search
Regardless of the status of the “@” column, let's grab the author’s name and find them on Google search.
Sometimes there will be a lot of noise around an author’s name like in this example for Nicole Cosgrove, a pet writer:
We're going to make a note that Nicole Cosgrove doesn’t have the primary authority in search for her name. But, it’s not a deal-breaker. By the way, there's a free template link at the end of this guide to help you organize, analyze, and rank prospective writers.
Next, we’ll refine our search in hopes of finding the Nicole Cosgrove we're looking for—the one who is a pet expert:
What exactly are we looking for?
There are some positive signals here—three websites rank above the fold:
- One page is an author biography for our writer
- One page us our writer is an editor in chief for a relevant publication
- One page is a relevant article written by our writer
These three results tell us the author is specialized within our parent topic: pets. There are also signals that Nicole Cosgrove is a writer open to work, because she has content published on multiple websites.
Step 4: Read the author’s content (do not skip)
We are going to grade the author’s content against a simple rubric.
- Do the different pieces of content appear to be similar in tone and style?
- Is the content objectively good? Does is feel like it’s written by an SME?
<div class="post-alert">If the author's content doesn't pass this test, throw them out as a prospect. It's too risky that they are either: A) not an SME, B) not a good writer, and/or C) using generative AI (like ChatGPT or Jasper.ai) to writer content.</div>
Step 5: Find a way to contact the author
Preferred methods are either personal website or LinkedIn.
<div class="post-note-cute">If you're having trouble finding SMEs using the methods above, consider posting job listings on freelance websites, such as Upwork and Freelancer. Be sure to include a detailed description of your project, how much you can pay, and the minimum professional qualifications you need the SME to hold.</div>
It's very important to make sure writers are actually SMEs
<div class="post-alert">Really serious note: It’s our job to execute due diligence when referring or hiring a writer. To properly research whether a writer is a subject matter expert, make sure to complete the following.</div>
Before reaching out to the writer
- Review the writer's professional profile (LinkedIn & Personal Website)
- Search for the writer's name on Google, and look for articles, blog posts, or other pieces of writing that they have published.
- This gives us an idea of the topics and subjects the writer is knowledgeable about, and the quality of their writing.
- Review and grade their published work.
- Check to see if their writing performs well in organic search.
- Check their social media presence and engagement with other experts on social media.
When reaching out to the writer
- Ask for references (past clients) or live links to examples of their work. Ask for live links because it will help you verify that they wrote the content and the quality was high enough to publish.
- Schedule a call to discuss their expertise and experience in more detail.
- Make sure you're clear about expectations, timelines and budget.
Ahrefs alternatives for finding SMEs to write for your brand
If you're not an Ahrefs subscriber, here's some other ways to find SMEs that are 100% free or free to try. Choose a method below and once you have a list of writers, execute steps 3, 4, and 5 above. You'll get a similar result.
Use Google search to find SMEs
This is manual and can get tiresome, but the bonus is you'll see articles that meet SEO requirements right away. You're job will be to figure out if the author has value or if it's the website that's holding the author up. Make sure you read and analyze the quality of the published content!
Steps for using Google search to find SMEs
- Search the topic or an article idea
- Click through and read the content that ranks
- If the content is high quality, look for E-E-A-T signals on the website. If E-E-A-T signals are high, the website is likely helping the author's authority. Add the author to your shortlist!
Use SparkToro audience research to find SMEs
SparkToro<span class="material-symbols-outlined">open_in_new</span> has a free membership level that allows you to perform basic audience research tasks. The free tier is likely enough to help you start a list if you're efficient with your searches. SparkToro is an all-around fantastic tool for understanding your audience, so support them if you can. (No, we're not paid by SparkToro for kind words either)
Steps for using SparkToro to find SMEs
- Create a free SparkToro account.
- Search for your primary topic.
- Make note of the names and brands listed in the "Here's what this audience follows, visits, and engages with" sections.
- Manually visit the social profiles and websites of these brands to discover potential writers.
- After you have a list of writers, go through steps 3-5 above to rank, analyze and vet the writers.
Use LinkedIn search to find SMEs
This is a manual process, and it is best when you know the desired job title or organization the author works for. But, if you have really good patience and drive, just start searching and make a list.
After you have a list, follow steps 3-5 above to analyze and vet the writers.
Use Twitter to find SMEs
Use Twitter search, Twitter lists, and follow relevant topics. This is also a manual process, and you'll get better results over time. If continually finding SMEs is a priority definitely add this to your workflow. Make sure to use the advanced search functionality to hone in on relevancy, recency, and posts with engagement!
Make a list of accounts that contain potential writers, and follow steps 3-5 above to analyze and vet the writers.
Free Google Sheets template for comparing & ranking writer prospects
<div class="post-note-cute">💡 Use this template to track your research and progress. Top SME / EEAT Writer Prospects<span class="material-symbols-outlined">open_in_new</span></div>
The obvious benefits of hiring SME writers
By hiring an SME who is a good writer, you will get:
- Knowledge. SMEs possess specialized knowledge and expertise in a particular field. This builds the authority of the publication, and it differentiates the content from the glut of generic articles found on the internet and in search (yes, we're looking at you, ChatGPT prompters).
- Accuracy. Most true experts producing high-quality, well-researched content that are engaging and informative, because they take pride in their craft. This makes the website more attractive destination for readers and potential advertisers, if relevant.
- Relevancy. Expert writers create content that is interesting and relevant to the target audience. Their expertise and perspective is unique and valuable.
- Bonus! Sometimes SMEs already have enough authority attached to their name that they are part of Google’s Knowledge Graph. This can help a website tap into the authority that’s behind their name. More about Google’s Knowledge Graph<span class="material-symbols-outlined">open_in_new</span>.