Subject Matter Experts (SMEs): What They Are & Why You Need to Use Them

Discover why subject matter experts (SMEs) are vital for content creation and their role in enhancing EEAT for accurate and reliable content.

We all know that content is king, but the truth is—not all content deserves a crown.

If you want to build a strong online presence for your brand, blogging must be at the core of your marketing strategy. You need to publish content on your website consistently. High-quality, high-performing, and high-conversion content. The type of content that positions you as an expert and thought leader in your industry.

The only proven way to do this is through subject matter experts.

What are they, and why do you need them? Here’s everything you need to know about SMEs.

What Is a Subject Matter Expert (SME)?

Think of an ocean filled with different kinds of fish. That’s the market. Now, picture a specific area within that ocean where a particular fish likes to hang out. That’s the niche market.

Your business has a niche market. It targets a specific segment of the broader market.

A subject matter expert (SME) understands the ins and outs of your business’s industry. They know your target consumer’s needs. They know their interests. They know the products they like. They know what their price range is. They know the features that stand out to them. They know how to speak to them in a language they understand.

Businesses seek out SMEs to solve specific challenges plaguing them. They use them to acquire in-depth insight into the industries they operate to optimize their business development and marketing strategies.

Where do SMEs get their expertise? How do they become so knowledgeable in their respective areas of specialization?

Simple: Through good, old-fashioned experience.

SMEs have spent several years working in their specific niche. They engage in continuous learning. Many have obtained multiple advanced degrees. They’re constantly upskilling to stay ahead of the game and position themselves as experts in their industry. They stay current on the evolving industry trends. They’re active in online community forums and social media and are a treasure trove of knowledge and insights that take years to acquire.

Every industry has subject matter experts. You’ll find them in sales, marketing, customer service, software and IT, finance, healthcare, eCommerce—you name it. They’re everywhere.

The Role of SMEs in Content Creation

The days of posting recycled, mundane, uninspired ads in the local dailies are long gone. Consumers are now online. They’re on Google, Bing, and other search engines looking for products that resonate with them. They’re hopping from site to site, looking for value. 

Today’s digital landscape is the ultimate equalizer. Smaller brands have just as much chance to stand out as the bigger, more established ones. Competition is at an all-time high, which means your website needs to stand out.

Your goal as a brand should be to:

  • Develop a website that’s visible to your target consumer on search engine results pages (SERPs);
  • Get them to click your link and visit your website;
  • Have them stay there long enough to earn their trust; and
  • Convert them into a loyal customer.

Subject matter experts are integral to the content creation process. By working closely with them, you ensure that the content you put out on your website is accurate, engaging, and has high conversion rates.

With that in mind, here’s an overview of SMEs’ role in content creation.

Ensuring Accuracy and Credibility

Having a good writer is one thing. Incorporate a subject matter expert into your content marketing arsenal, and you have an entirely different kind of beast.

Without great content, your website can’t get visitors. Without visitors, you can’t get conversions. Without conversions, your business will inevitably close up shop.

Subject matter experts are the unsung heroes of content marketing. A quick way to tell whether you’re looking at a credible website is to check the terminology and jargon used.

SMEs understand the industry lingo and can communicate with readers in a way they find relatable. They’re aware of the language nuances specific to your target audience. They ensure content is accurate and can be backed up with credible sources. Content that is accurate and credible converts.

Enhancing Content Quality and Depth

Nothing destroys your website’s credibility faster than bad content. Never underestimate your readers’ ability to sniff out nonsense.

SMEs are called “experts” for a reason. They ensure the content you create is factual, reliable, and trustworthy. High-quality content resonates with readers. It makes them view you as an expert and thought leader in your space.

Collaborating with a subject matter expert and using their references and expert quotes throughout your website effectively reinforces the ideas and information you’re presenting to your readers. Site visitors are more likely to keep reading what you put out if you look like you know what you’re talking about.

With an SME, you can convert a site visitor into a fan.

Catering to Target Audiences Effectively

Subject matter experts provide invaluable insight into your target audience’s thoughts and questions. They improve your website’s authority and reliability to a larger extent than if

someone with limited information and knowledge of the inner workings of your industry wrote the content.

By collaborating with an expert who is knowledgeable and interested in the same things your audience is, your content becomes a gateway for your readers to access thorough, up-to-date, well-researched information that speaks to their needs and interests. They’re also more likely to share your content with their audiences, enhancing your online reach.

SMEs and EEAT

Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (EEAT) is a framework Google uses to assess a website based on its content quality. The search algorithm uses EEAT to determine how high websites rank on SERPs based on the credibility and value of their content.

Experience: Demonstrating Firsthand Knowledge

For content to be deemed high-quality, it should demonstrate the author’s firsthand experience with the subject. Writing from an experienced point-of-view communicates to the reader that the insights and suggestions provided are authentic and proven.

Expertise: Establishing Authority and Credibility

For Google to rate a website as credible and authoritative, it must determine whether the author has subject-matter expertise. In other words, what makes you an authority on the topic? What credentials or qualifications do you have for your information to be credible?

Keep in mind that while there’s often an overlap between experience and expertise, the two are not the same.

For instance, one person might seek investment advice from an accredited investment analyst (expertise). Another might be interested in investment strategies from real people for whom the strategies worked (experience).

Both content types would perform well under Google’s EEAT framework since they offer value to readers.

Authoritativeness: Enhancing Content Reliability

For Google to rate content as authoritative, it looks at the author and website’s overall reputation in their niche. It’s not a question of whether you consider yourself an authority on a subject matter but rather if your peers consider you as such.

Do professionals and influencers in your industry think of you and your website as an authority?

When authoritative websites in your space start linking back to your site content, it signals to Google that your website provides value; that people look to you as a thought leader; that readers trust you as a credible, reliable, and valuable source of information.

Trustworthiness: Ensuring Transparency and Integrity

According to Google, the Trustworthiness component of the EEAT framework is the most important out of all the four aspects. It looks at the author, website, and content in their entirety to determine whether the site can be trusted and how high it should rank on SERPs.

It doesn’t matter how much experience or expertise the author has or how authoritative a page might seem. If Google deems the website untrustworthy, the pages will have low EEAT regardless.

Google’s page quality rating of your site based on trustworthiness assesses the following aspects:

  • What the website owners or authors have to say about themselves: Does the information on the About Us page depict the authors as trustworthy sources of information?
  • What other people say about the website or authors: What do news articles, independent reviews, and third-party references say about the author’s or website’s credibility? Is there reliable information indicating they cannot or should not be trusted?
  • What type of content is visible on the page: Do the reviews, comments, and main content sections of the page point to the author’s level of experience and expertise?

How SMEs Can Build Your Content’s EEAT Score

Subject matter experts can boost your content’s EEAT rating by:

  • Including author profiles alongside their credentials: This includes details about their educational background, relevant qualifications, certifications, and licenses, and an overview of their professional experience.
  • Incorporating personal opinions and firsthand experience: This may involve providing expert interpretation to decode raw information or sharing unique points of view that differentiate your brand from the competition and provide valuable insight to the reader.
  • Backing up content with evidence and data from reputable sources: This includes citing industry publications, research studies, and other credible information repositories.
  • Spurring inbound links from websites with high domain authority: Content authored by SMEs often results in authoritative websites in your industry linking back to your content.

Why Should I Use SMEs for Content Creation?

Subject matter experts can elevate your content to a new level since their insights and suggestions are based on firsthand experience instead of being conjectured. They can provide valuable information on the latest trends and happenings, which can form the basis for new content ideas. They can also shed light on various pain points plaguing your industry and offer strategies to give you an edge over your competitors.

Here are some top reasons you should leverage SMEs in your content creation strategy to get the best results from your digital marketing efforts.

How Do SMEs Contribute to the Accuracy of Content?

High-performing content must be well-written, engaging, helpful, and—wait for it—factual. Things can get tricky if you don’t have experts to turn to during the content development process.

Collaborating with subject matter experts takes the guesswork out of content creation. The more information SMEs provide on particular topics, the more detailed the content pieces will be. Their in-depth, expert knowledge of the subject matter positions them as authorities and thought-leaders in their space, so you know your published content will be accurate, relatable, and reliable.

Engaging highly qualified SMEs when creating content for your website ensures that content is written correctly from the get-go. It means you don’t have to spend much time fact-checking and editing before publishing it to your site. It frees you up to focus on other content marketing strategies that boost your web presence.

Can SMEs Improve Search Engine Rankings?

The short answer is—yes, subject matter experts can help with your website’s search engine ranking, keyword ranking, and authority. The reason for this has to do with clout.

SMEs have clout. They are well-known, well-connected, and well-respected within their respective industries. Others have clout that extends beyond the scope of their niche.

Collaborating with qualified subject matter experts translates to more exposure for your content. When your site gets more exposure, more sites, especially the authoritative ones, start linking to yours. The more backlinks you have to your content, the better it will be for your overall search engine rankings.

How Can SMEs Help Establish Trust With Readers?

You’ve built a brand from scratch. You’re passionate about it. You’re proud of it. You want the whole world to know it’s the best thing since sliced bread (and it very well might be). It’s unique and authentic. All you want is for people to give it a chance so that they see what you see in it.

The real question is: Why should people trust you or your brand? Your word alone just won’t cut it. It isn’t enough to cultivate a loyal following.

Your audience needs to know that you have their best interests in mind.

That’s why you bring in the big guns—subject matter experts well-versed in the industry in which your business operates. Recognizable names that can vouch for you and your brand.

By leveraging an SME’s authority in your industry, you can begin building trust with your readers. Your target audience is more likely to believe an SME’s opinions and insights into your company than a little-known brand representative.

Where Can I Find SMEs?

So far, we’ve established why you need subject matter experts and the value they bring to your content marketing efforts. The next step involves knowing where to find them.

First, you must get clear on what you’re looking for as far as the SME’s online visibility goes. Are you looking for a celebrity-type figure, or do you simply want to collaborate with someone who has a large social media following?

Next, do you need them to write the content pieces themselves, or do you simply want to consult with them?

Finally, what’s the size of your budget, and what timeline are you working with?

The answers to these questions will help narrow down the SMEs you can reach out to for collaboration. With that in mind, here’s a list of places you can find them:

  • Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram
  • Industry professional associations and expert groups
  • Author bylines and expert pages in competitor sites
  • Your business and personal network

Alternatively, you can leverage the vast SME network that content marketing agencies like Content Refined and Crowd Content have at their disposal. These firms offer expert review services with verified subject matter experts in dozens of industries, including automotive, eCommerce, financial, legal, marketing, medical, real estate, and more.

Get in touch with them for a custom quote if you’re looking for expert-level, high-performing, authoritative content that converts.

SME-Driven vs AI-Generated Content: Which Is Better for Ranking?

ChatGPT is taking the world by storm. Content marketers worldwide use this powerful AI-powered technology to draft scripts, develop content ideas, and even generate full blog posts, web copy, and other forms of online content.

As impressive as ChatGPT’s capabilities are, nothing beats the experience, expertise, and thought-provoking insights of having a human subject matter expert in your content marketing arsenal. AI cannot replicate the thought leadership and acquired knowledge true industry experts bring to the table.

While AI-driven content is useful in the digital space, brands and content marketing agencies cannot rely on it entirely.

As far as ranking goes, Google rewards high-quality content that meets its EEAT requirements, regardless of whether it is AI-generated or human-written. That’s their official position. Suffice it to say meeting the Experience and Expertise ranking aspects of the framework is virtually impossible to do without an actual human expert.

Final Thoughts on SMEs

In a world of fake news, clickbait, perpetual spammers, and content overload, the role of subject matter experts in content marketing is undeniable. Their expert insights are more important than ever. They add value, credibility, and authority to your content, propelling your brand several steps ahead of the competition.

If you’re looking to improve your website’s EEAT rating to make it trustworthy in Google’s view, consider collaborating with an SME in your content creation process and watch your business soar to new heights.

Tran Danh

Tran Danh

I'm Tran Danh, the author behind Smart Passive Income (SPI), a blog dedicated to online business and entrepreneurship. I started this blog in 2008, following in the footsteps of Pat Flynn, the founder. Being one of the leading business blogs globally, SPI attracts over 2 million readers each month. Through my content, I aim to assist individuals in generating passive income from various online sources. Join me on this transformative journey as we delve into the world of online business and uncover the strategies and tactics that have led to tremendous success for myself and countless others.

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