Seven Things All SEOs Need to Know About E-A-T with Lily Ray

Seven Things All SEOs Need to Know About E-A-T with Lily Ray – New update 2024

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Most SEOs have heard of E-A-T but why has there been such a big emphasis on E-A-T? How does Google actually use E-A-T? And how do you optimize for E-A-T?

That’s what we’re going to be discussing today with a New York City based creative and passionate SEO professional originally from the Bay Area. She speaks at SEO conferences around the world about the latest developments in Google’s organic algorithms, and regularly publishes similar research across industry-leading SEO publications. A warm welcome to the In Search SEO podcast, the Senior Director of SEO and head of organic research at Amsiv Digital, Lily Ray.     

In this episode, Lily shares seven things every SEO needs to know about E-A-T:      

  • What is E-A-T?     
  • What is YMYL?     
  • How does Google use E-A-T?     
  • Why is there such a big emphasis on E-A-T?   
  • Can you see your E-A-T score?     
  • How do you optimize your E-A-T?       
  • Can you influence E-A-T in areas other than content?

Lily: Hi there. Thanks for having me.

D: Thanks so much for joining us. You can find Lily over at lilyray.nyc. So Lily, today you’re sharing the seven things you always need to know about E-A-T starting off with what is E-A-T.

1. What is E-A-T?

L: E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. It’s an acronym that comes directly from Google. It originates in Google’s search quality guidelines. I want to say around 2014 is the first time they publicly used that acronym. The search quality guidelines is a document that Google uses with real human search quality evaluators who they run experiments with thousands of times throughout the year around the world. Those evaluators check how well Google is doing in terms of meeting the expectations of its users in terms of providing good content quality and good, relevant results. The search quality guidelines define E-A-T and then asks search quality evaluators to analyze a lot of different examples of content to see how well that content and the authors behind that content are demonstrating expertise, authority, and trust.

D: So that is one acronym and YMYL is another related acronym. So what does that mean?   

2. What is YMYL?

L: So the two go together hand in hand. YMYL stands for your money or your life. It’s also something that Google establishes and defines in the search quality rater guidelines. What they say is that for content or topics that are more your money or your life in nature, things like safety, health, finance, law issues, politics, news, parenting, it’s actually a pretty broad range of topics. E-A-T is going to be more important for those topics. And the way I think about it, and the way that I’ve seen in my research is that there’s kind of a spectrum of how your money or your life content can be. So if something is discussing the COVID vaccine, heart attacks, suicide, or something that’s extremely important for Google to elevate authoritative information in the search results, that’s the most your money or your life content. And E-A-T is going to be so important for those topics, that it’s probably the single most important ranking factor, for extreme your money or your life content. Now you have the opposite side of things where maybe it’s somebody’s hobby blog where they talk about photography, or puppies, or something that’s light-hearted and nature, E-A-T might not be as important for ranking in those categories.

D: So how does Google actually use E-A-T then?   

3. How does Google use E-A-T?

L: The only way that they’ve really confirmed that they use it is through these search quality evaluator evaluations that they do. These evaluators provide feedback about the extent to which the content that they’re analyzing is meeting the expectations of what Google lays out with E-A-T. And the results of those tests are then factored back into future algorithm updates. There are these big broad core updates several times throughout the year. And we see very significant changes in website visibility as a result of these algorithm updates. There are also thousands of unconfirmed algorithm updates throughout the year. A lot of the time, especially if you work on sites that deal with your money or your life topics, you’ll see very big changes in SEO visibility after these updates are rolled out. I believe because my team and I work on sites that are affected by these updates pretty intensely, that Google is trying to better understand E-A-T algorithmically as a result of many of these core updates.

D: So why has there been such a big emphasis on this if it’s quite difficult to define how much of it comes into consideration with regards to algorithms?   

4. Why is there such a big emphasis on E-A-T?

L: This whole discussion became a big talking point for Google and also in the SEO community, beginning around 2016. This is probably when they started to try to incorporate E-A-T into their algorithms. And if you think about the context of what was happening in the world, and particularly in the US at that time, there was a lot of political volatility. There was this new concept of fake news and misinformation that kicked into high gear in 2016 in the US. I believe that Google created this notion of E-A-T and started to factor that very heavily into the organic results because they were trying to mitigate misinformation and fake news from circulating online.

There’s all kinds of scrutiny on Google as a business and the quality of its results for a number of different reasons. But what I think they’re trying to do with E-A-T, and what I think they’ve done better than other social platforms, is to mitigate the spread of misinformation. And in some cases, I think they kind of went too far in some examples. But you’ll also notice that they’ve confirmed that during what they call times of crisis, E-A-T becomes much more important. Authoritativeness becomes much more important. So if you have things like Coronavirus and monkeypox is a new pandemic, so during these moments where misinformation can circulate, Google ramps up the importance of E-A-T in the results.

D: It certainly seems logical, but it doesn’t necessarily seem that tangible. Is it possible for an SEO to discover their E-A-T score?     

5. Can you see your E-A-T score?

L: That’s the part that’s really hard for the SEO industry to conceptualize because there is no E-A-T score. There’s no hard metric that we can look at, or that Google gives us, in terms of how well we’re doing with E-A-T. In fact, Google is very elusive about what it means to have good E-A-T. If you read the search quality guidelines, there are plenty of examples of how they score. For example, this has a lot of expertise because the author has won these awards, or this has a lot of authority because the site receives a lot of links from high authority publications, or this is very trustworthy because we can tell on an e-commerce site, that the return policy is very transparent. They give a lot of tangible examples within the search quality guidelines. But with SEO, we like to put things into like scoring systems, and unfortunately, we don’t have that at all.

D: We like traffic lights. Practically, then, how does an SEO optimize for E-A-T? Are there a few steps that you can walk people through?   

6. How do you optimize for E-A-T?

L: I would start by reading the quality guidelines as it relates to what Google is looking for. Again, they have dozens of examples of what good E-A-T and bad E-A-T look like in practice with actual links to pages that are example pages. There’s one example in the search quality guidelines that’s a small business, I think it’s a restaurant, and the restaurant has a page that says About Us. And it’s two paragraphs that say, “We’re a restaurant, we’ve been in business for this long, we serve this type of food, this is a picture of the owner, etc.” And Google says this is a high E-A-T page because the restaurant knows about itself, it’s talking about itself, it’s obviously an expert in what it does and its own business. So if you demonstrate honesty and transparency and facts and evidence and everything, you’re doing the right things in terms of meeting their expectations for E-A-T. And there are all kinds of examples like that. So the nice thing about making this the focus of your SEO strategy is that this is great for users as well. So there’s almost no downside to meeting what Google is looking for and its criteria. Work with the clients that you work on to prove to the user why they can trust you and why you’re credible. And that’s a win-win for UX as well.

D: So is this primarily about publishing great quality content in the right place in the right format for users and search engines? Or is there also a place in this also for, for example, schema and for links as well to build your E-A-T score if there was one even further?     

7. Can you influence E-A-T in areas other than content?

L: Yes, because E-A-T is such a big topic that encompasses so many things. Even just thinking about expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness are three distinct concepts. There are so many ways that you can influence those three things. We’ve mentioned links, Google’s confirmed that links play into authoritativeness. So of course, you should try to get links from trustworthy sources, sources that are within your niche, reputable sources, and authoritative sources. That’s great for improving authority.

Expertise I believe is more on the personal branding and the content side of things. I’ve been very focused on expertise this year because I do think that’s something that we can work on with our clients in terms of the content that we add to the site. What Google is very clear about is they want to know who writes the content. This is not to say that having an author name is a direct ranking factor, I think a lot of SEOs make the mistake of trying to boil this down into, “I added an author name, and nothing happened in my rankings.” That’s not exactly how it works, it’s more about whether the website as a whole provides transparency to the user. And one of the best things you can do to do that is to tell them who’s writing the content. And if you look up that author’s name, ideally, they have a brand, and they have demonstrated expertise that they’re trustworthy in those topics.

We work with a lot of health publishers, for example, where Google is very clearly in the business of reducing misinformation and bad health advice. One of the big outcomes of these algorithm updates in the past few years is that sites that provided health and medical advice that was littered with ads, with no author on the page, and were providing questionable information, have lost visibility entirely. So you might think back to five or six years ago, a lot of sites ranked that had really sketchy medical advice, like how to use apple cider vinegar to treat a skin condition and things like this that are not necessarily backed up with science and data. Google has obliterated that type of content. I would say number one, don’t try to drive traffic through content that’s not actually helpful or safe for users. But also prove that you’ve done your research and the people that are writing the content with you have demonstrated expertise, so you can trust them to provide good medical advice.

D: Great advice. So you’ve mentioned Google quite a few times there as well. Is E-A-T a mindset, a way of thinking that’s also useful for other search engines like Bing?

L: Yeah, so Bing was pretty clear with us a few years back. They put out their own version of how they rank content. And they talked about their own version of E-A-T, which is called QC, quality, and credibility which is basically the exact same thing. Bing actually has documentation that defines exactly what that is. They look at the author of the site, the level of discourse, the transparency of the authorship, and doing things like name calling, or adding offensive statements to the content can actually demote a site’s rankings. What I think is really interesting about Bing’s version, like many things between Google and Bing SEO, is that Bing is much more transparent with SEOs about how this factors into rankings. They quite literally say, “If you have good quality and credibility we’ll rank the content better, if it’s bad, will rank the content worse.” Google doesn’t explicitly say that. But the good news is that if you’re doing the right things for E-A-T, you’re probably also going to benefit from Bing’s notion of quality and credibility.

And that’s just Bing. But Google also owns a lot of different products. There’s Google Discover, YouTube, and Google Maps, and I believe that they’re echoing this notion of E-A-T throughout all the different products that Google uses.

Pareto Pickle – Provide Helpful Content Where You Demonstrate E-A-T

D: Superb stuff. Let’s finish off with the Pareto Pickle. Pareto says that you can get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. What’s one SEO activity that you would recommend that provides incredible results for modest levels of effort?

L: I would say honing in your content strategy to only provide helpful content where you demonstrate E-A-T and not producing content for the sake of producing content. Also, if you’ve done that, where you’ve created a lot of content, you can get a lot of benefit from pruning that content, and consolidating that content. Just working with a limited set of resources, and then treating those as the most valuable content on your site. So updating them and just paying attention to them. Basically, less is more. And a lot of what my team and I do is take content that’s not performing well, perhaps content where we don’t demonstrate good E-A-T, or Google doesn’t trust that we’re credible on those topics. And either noindexing it, consolidating it, or removing it, and just focusing on a finite set of resources that actually do well for the business.

D: Great advice. There are a couple of other questions that spring to mind in relation to that. Obviously, in relation to pruning, you can create massive long pieces and perhaps redirect smaller, less authoritative pieces of content, I have just one follow-up question. Do you have any preference in terms of content length and style nowadays? In terms of what’s more likely to appeal to Google? Or is it simply about answering the question in relation to the keyword as succinctly as possible and length doesn’t really matter?

L: It’s completely dependent on the query itself. I think there are plenty of case studies and data that you can look at that most likely show a positive correlation between content length and performance for many different categories, especially in the Your Money Your life space. I’m doing some analysis right now that shows it’s something like 1000 to 1500 words is the top performing content for the stuff that I’m analyzing, but it completely depends. So if you have a dictionary site, you can probably get away with having 300 words on the page for most of the pages and that answers the question. So it depends on the query. But I think when we’re getting into these topics that are defining a medical condition, or defining a type of savings account at your bank it’s important to cover all the different things that the user needs to know. So generally, the content is going to be longer but there’s no hard and fast number.

D: I’ve been your host David Bain. Lily, thanks so much for being on the In Search SEO podcast.

L: Thanks for having me.

D: And thank you for listening. 

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