Candour

Episode 85: All about Google's EAT, YMYL and patents with Lily Ray

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What's in this episode?

In this episode, you will hear Mark Williams-Cook talking to SEO expert Lily Ray about Google EAT, patents, and specifics such as:

Does Google recognise individual authors and how important is this?

What is Google doing with speech recognition?

Is it possible to complete in YMYL niches with a new company?

Are links a big part of EAT?

And much more!

Show notes

“Understanding How E-A-T Works with the Help of Google Patents” https://www.searchenginejournal.com/how-e-a-t-works-google-patents/385562

Episode 80 of Search with Candour https://withcandour.co.uk/blog/episode-80-shipping-schema-gmb-messaging-ads-affecting-seo

Transcription

MC: Welcome to episode 85 of the Search with Candour podcast, recorded on Friday the 30th of October 2020. My name is Mark Williams-Cook and today we're going to be talking all about E-A-T, all about Expertise, Authority and Trust, and we're lucky enough to be joined by Lily Ray, the SEO Director at Path Interactive, who is an expert in this, to talk to us about it.

Before we get going, I just want to let you know this podcast is very kindly sponsored by Sitebulb. Sitebulb is a desktop-based SEO auditing tool for Windows and Mac. I speak about it every episode, I use it, our agency uses it. It is a really, really great tool. Every week I tend to go through some of the features I like about it and tell you that Sitebulb have a special offer for Search with Candour listeners, meaning if you go to sitebulb.com/swc, that's sitebulb.com/swc, you can get an extended 60-day trial of Sitebulb, there's no credit card or anything required, dead simple, there's no reason for you not to try it.

So I've run through loads of different features of Sitebulb before and one of the things I want to talk about today was a little bit more about internal link analysis. So especially on larger sites, lots of technical SEOs will know there's normally a lot of mileage you can get out of optimising internal links, and this ranges from everything from the absolute basics of making sure that your links aren't broken, to ensuring that the pages you want to rank that are competitive are linked to from important pages, have good anchor text etc. I've mentioned previously one of their really great features which was Sitebulb can calculate the importance of each page and then work out how many links are coming from these important pages to your other pages. But one really cool thing that I like that Sitebulb does is it will tell you their understanding of the internal link location. So this will mean, they will tell you if the link is present in the header, in the navigation, in the footer, in the content, in the Javascript, and this is really important from the absolute basics of sometimes on more complicated sites where you've got a Javascript and a non-Javascript version and you're finding broken links, tracking down where a broken link can be on a page can be very difficult, so Sitebulb immediately flagging to you, okay well this link is actually in your main navigation across 5000 pages, it's really helpful to prioritise that and make that go to the top of your priority list.

The other thing it can do as well, especially now, it can as we mentioned in the last episode, differentiate between Javascript and non-Javascript links is actually just give you an idea of if those important pages are linked to, from when they need to be. So you've spent ages writing that content, a week researching it, written this brilliant article, is it linked from your main nav? Is it linked from the footer? Or is it in the content? So really, really helpful breakdown of your internal link structure. It only takes a few seconds, you don't need to worry about crunching the data, it does that all for you. Give it a look sitebulb.com/swc.

And today, we are joined by Lily Ray, who is the SEO Director at Path Interactive, based in New York City. Welcome Lily.

LR: Hi, thanks for having me.

MC: Thank you for coming. I was just saying thank you for coming at such short notice as well because I literally just dropped you a message, and was like, hey would you like to come and talk about this, and you're like, yeah that's fine. So really appreciate that. I understand you've been really busy with conferences recently.

LR: Yeah, so basically what happened was a lot of these SEO conferences were waiting until the fall to see if they could do the conferences in person, and of course, nobody really ended up doing it in person, so everything became online and then it all just happened at the same time. So it was pretty busy!

MC: How do you actually find that then? Doing these conferences without being able to see the people in front of you and reacting? Do you find it a lot harder?

LR: It's hard to know how people are receiving what you're saying, so that's a little bit tricky. I mean, most of these conference platforms, the virtual platforms, have chat rooms so that's been helpful when people are like, hey this is great or they have a question, but it's definitely a different experience when you finish and you log out and it's like, did people like it? There's no applause.

MC: Just to a silence.

LR: Yeah exactly, it's just me and my dog. Like all right.

MC: I think it went well.

LR: Yeah, my dog liked it.

MC: I want to talk to you today about E-A-T, about EAT, about expertise authority trust which without getting too meta i think you have a lot of eat on eat in the industry is that fair to say.

LR: Thanks, yeah I'm working on it, it's definitely the topic that I speak and read about the most.

MC: So for those that don't know you, do you want to give a brief history of how you got to where you are and why you really took such an interest in E-A-T.

LR: Sure, yeah so I've been doing SEO a lot longer than I've been focused on E-A-T, I think that's a misconception that people have about me, that it just came out of nowhere and that's the only thing I know about. But no, I'm an SEO Director at Path Interactive, so I've been doing SEO for just over 10 years, and in the agency world for I think about 8 or 9 now. I lead a team of about 15 or so people at Path Interactive and dozens of different clients in different industries.

My former agency where I was at for about six years, I was really focused on retail and e-commerce, so that was really my strong suit at that point. But what happened when i moved to Path was we have a lot more clients that are in what we consider the your money, your life, ymyl space, so things like health care clients, financial clients, and before the August 1st of 2018 update which is now labeled the medic update, one of our clients that wrote about healthcare topics was like seeing this incredible SEO growth and when that update rolled out, that was the hardest hit client that we had by far.

It sent me down this rabbit hole of trying to figure out what happened and Google was like, look at the Search Quality Guidelines, so I looked at the Search Quality Guidelines and it was just so obvious that there was this big problem with the E-A-T, which I think we'll talk about, but it basically was that the site lacked or they didn't demonstrate medical credentials properly, and the more sites that I analysed that were negatively impacted by that update, it became more and more clear that the lack of credentials seemed to be this common problem.

MC: Okay, so there's a specific post that sparked my interest in contacting you and we'll link to this in the show notes. so if you're listening you can get the show notes at search.withcandour.co.uk, and that would link to a post that Lily did for search engine journal and you worked with Bill Swarsky on this post I believe, which was understanding howGoogle patents might give us some hints as to how E-A-T is working, and I did drop Bill a line as well, and hopefully he'll be able to join us as well in a couple of weeks to talk to us a bit more about patents.

But I found it a really interesting post because I know Bill does loads of stuff with patents and to be honest it makes some of us, certainly me, look cleverer than I am just because he's done all the legwork, going through them and and bringing out, extracting what ads or some quite interesting thoughts.

What are your thoughts on this approach of analysing patents as a way to understand what Google's possibly doing? So, we see people doing different controlled experiments and we see people obviously listening to what Google tells us, how do you think patents fit into this picture?

LR: Yeah so you know, I was really careful to provide a disclaimer in the article because Google hasn't explicitly confirmed that any of the patents that they have or that they've filed for directly play into the organic search algorithms. So I think it's really important to understand that they're not ranking factors, we don't necessarily know which products Google is using them for or not using them for, but there's so many parallels between the patents that they've applied for and what they seem to be wanting to do with their algorithms.

If you read the search quality guidelines and we've made it very clear, those of us that talk about the guidelines, this is not a guidebook of how to do SEO, it's not a guidebook of the things that Google's currently and actively considering ranking factors and in many cases the things that are in the search quality guidelines, they've explicitly come out and said we don't use that as a ranking factor, it's just something that you should consider when you're evaluating the quality of your content.

But there's so many parallels in that document and in what they've filed for as patents, so when it comes to identifying author's online and assigning a certain level of authority to authors and to brands. So we see what they're trying to do with their technology through patents, and we see where they're trying to make the algorithms go with the search quality guidelines, so it's kind of fair to assume that two things are probably connected.

MC: I noticed in those articles that you linked to a couple of tweets from Danny Sullivan, the Google Search Liaison. So to give everyone a little bit of background to this, I believe this was from previously when Danny had said something along the lines of, Google doesn't have a way to tell exactly how accurate a piece of content might be, and then kind of followed up with these couple of tweets. I'll just read them very quickly. So Danny said, ‘also I didn't say accuracy wasn't a ranking factor. Wasn't what I was asked. Asked if we could tell if content was accurate. No we can't, but again, signals we look for things we believe correspond to accuracy in that regard, damn right having accurate content is a ranking factor. It's almost like we look for signals that align with expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness, we should give that an acronym like E-A-T, and maybe suggest people aim for this, oh wait we did.’ And then he links to a Google blog post, a little bit salty, but it does like you say, this gives us a hint of them saying, look you know this is what we're aiming for and having again followed a lot of discussions about E-A-T over the years, I think as you point out again, there has been a lot of misunderstanding and sometimes people thinking it's just like E-A-T is a metric a number Google has as opposed to these combination of things. So could you give maybe our listeners what you would describe maybe as a very brief description of what is the concept of E-A-T and why is it important?

LR: Sure, yeah so again it exists primarily in the Google search quality guidelines which is the document that they use to train human evaluators, which they they do these experiments, like thousands of experiments every year with, I believe 10,000 plus human search quality evaluators, who basically check the quality of Google search results to make sure that it's in line with what's in the document. So the document's 160 pages that explicitly define what Google considers to be high and low quality content and that's where the acronym E-A-T first originated, I think about five years ago.

So Google says all over the document like E-A-T is the rubric that you should use when determining if something is good or bad quality, especially as it relates to topics like your money, and your life, and safety, and security and things like that. So that's where it exists and what makes it challenging for SEOs is SEO professionals are so used to having these metrics and these tactics that are like, you know you can optimise a title tag by putting a keyword in a title tag, and you can probably see a ranking benefit from that, but it's not the same with the E-A-T, it's not like, oh I did this one thing, I put an author name on my blog but I didn't see my blog increase in traffic three days later.

MC: I think that's a really good place actually to start, which is about authors and this really interests me especially as Google had this authorship thing going at one point, didn't they, with Google plus and trying to sort of tie in who did things and then it got killed off and pushed away like many Google things sometimes do. And in this document you talk about and a patent called agent rank, do you want to expand a little bit about that and what it is and your thoughts on Google identifying authors and why they might want to do that?

LR: Yeah, so I think agent rank was originally filed in 2007, if i remember correctly, and it was really interesting. It's basically just talking about if there's multiple experts on the page, can we evaluate the page from the level of expertise of all these contributors and being able to identify if an expert comments on forums in another place, does that contribute to the expertise of that commentary or that forum? So it seems like it was Google's original attempt at identifying authors and just assigning a level of expertise to those authors, but there's been so many evolutions since that point in terms of what Google has tried to do and then deprecated in its search results, as you mentioned rel authors one of them. And then at some point Google just came out and said, we don't need you to specify who the authors are because we're too smart now, like we're smarter than that. But they haven't made it clear what they meant by that, aside from the knowledge graph is an obvious example or things like establishing authors for google news. They haven't told us exactly how they're using author information in the organic search results.

So it's this ambiguous area and I think that's by design, they don't really want us to know exactly what they're doing because typical SEO behavior is to just spam everything.

MC: No.

LR: That's like one of the questions I always get from people is like, if i just put an expert's name on my blog will that work? No, that's not the point.

MC: So this is what I found interesting. So we have these patents around identifying authors and in your write-up, in your article you had said, in August 2018 John Mueller clarified that Google does not use individual author reputation as a ranking factor. So I guess my question to you is, do you think this is - I think it's easy to take that on board as Google doesn't use who authors are, or is this a carefully worded thing, similar to what Danny said about, no we can't measure how accurate content is but accurate content is important. Because you go on there to say, Bill's put in that it's important to distinguish here between an author's reputation, their expertise, their authoritativeness, and before we get on to writing styles, like do you think authors are important then at some level?

LR: Yeah that was a really interesting curveball, but I love what Bill offered in terms of that's more semantics than anything. So I think the person that asked John Mueller if Google looks at the external reputation of an author. So like if Google looks at ratings on third-party websites about what someone said, or if somebody has a really controversial reputation, and John said no, but I don't know that that's necessarily him saying that Google doesn't have an assigned value or attribute for a given author or entity about how authoritative it thinks that person is on a certain topic. I think those are two different things. I think that Google generates its own E-A-T evaluations for certain entities, but maybe that's separate from what people say about a person, does that make sense?

MC: Yes, it does. Interestingly, I think it was probably a dozen episodes or so ago, we spoke to Dawn Anderson about information retrieval, and this is closely aligning to this Google patent you mentioned around generating author vectors which, and this is a quote from the article it ‘enables them to be able to identify authors throughout the internet based on their writing style alone, even when their names are not explicitly mentioned on the page.’ So that to me sounds like one of those slightly unnerving things, and it's interesting because it goes in line with other conversations we've had previously as well about GPT3 and Google being able to detect algorithmically generated content versus human written content.

It just seems to me that if it was like a non-starter this, identifying an author important, as some component of the ranking algorithm it seems like they're putting an awful lot of effort into doing it if it's not important, is that fair to say?

LR: I can't imagine why it wouldn't be important. They've made it so clear. If you read the search quality guidelines every single sentence is about it, even like there's a recipe that they provided on a new article that's not the search quality guidelines, but it was a recent article that Google published about how it uses human evaluators and the example it provides is, we tell them to look at, for example, a carrot cake recipe and when they're evaluating how good the carrot cake recipe is - obviously the first few questions are like, is it a good recipe, is it easy to follow? But then the next questions are like, did the person that write it - is there evidence that they've written other recipes before, and how good are the recipes that they've written, how much do people like those recipes? So, that's the most innocent example of baking a cake and Google's still asking people to think about the author's expertise.

MC: Google love giving recipe examples. I don't know why but every example I see for something is a recipe.

LR: Totally.

MC: Okay, I think we're gonna get probably as far as we can doing this amount of time on authors and I have loads of other questions I want to throw at you.

LR: Sure.

MC: A favourite of mine around E-A-T and I'll just ask you outright, are backlinks, so external links, in your opinion part of E-A-T?

LR: Yeah, 100%. They've said that actually, numerous times, that's actually the only ranking factor that they've confirmed as part of E-A-T and they just continuously talk about that every time because they're like, well we've already admitted this so you might as well just keep using that as the answer to E-A-T.

MC: Yeah, I think that's it sometimes i feel get left out of the conversation of a way Google can measure things like trust, and just following on to this without straying too far off this topic of E-A-T, I've just seen a lot of discussions recently and I think it's fair to say it's the link building that's in fashion, if you like at the moment, it is very heavily digital PR focused and this has only been, I think, increased by Google's announcement about, okay we're going to take nofollow as a hint now, so maybe we're counting those leagues maybe we're not. but i've really seen a big divide on opinion for if people are just kind of uh will say you know putting 99% of their outreach effort into things like you know newspapers and they're just earning no follow links how successful the these actually are for getting rankings, do you think this is this has any bearing on E-A-T and how google is looking at the types of links we're getting now?

LR: I think as it relates to E-A-T, it's less about follow and nofollow especially given that it's just a hint now, I think it's more about authoritativeness of that industry or like relevance to that industry.

So Bill actually provided a really amazing example when we were talking about it because Bill's an attorney and he was an attorney before becoming an SEO, but he found an example where this lawyer, who was highly specialised in one area, started a legal blog and it was so beneficial and he just came out of nowhere and the website didn't exist before that point. But he started providing these super valuable resources or articles for lawyers and as a result, the lawyers were all linking to him, because they found it super valuable, and then he came out of nowhere and started ranking number one for everything because he was so authoritative in his field and then eventually his company got acquired.

So I think that's a really interesting example and I might have been paraphrasing a little bit what the story was, but the takeaway is that if you are highly authoritative in one area, you will probably earn authoritative links from that area. So if you write really great SEO content, you're going to get authoritative links from the SEO articles. Personally, when I write content, I don't care about follow or no follow at all, if I am checking back on the links, I'm just hoping that they're coming from reputable SEO resources and that builds authoritativeness in whatever category that you're in. so

MC: Notice there that we picked the words earn and not build links.

LR: Oh yeah, because the content that you're writing is relevant to the audience that you care about, that's my fundamental link building policy.

MC: So the other thing that really interests me in this article, again has gone in line with other things we've seen Google doing around Google indexing podcasts, understanding the content in there. They just recently announced as well about jumping to the right point in YouTube videos that's relevant to the query. And you mention here about speaker identification, which is a patent Google's granted that allows them to identify a speaker by using speech recognition.

LR: Right.

MC: So how do you see that fitting in terms of, right people do podcasts like this, you know is this podcast going to help me, help you, do you think, in the bigger picture?

LR: I think it helps both of us.

MC: Or if it was a more authoritative podcast, we'll send you a better one.

LR: No, I think it's clear that if you connect all the dots, they're indexing podcasts, they're now able to identify who people are just by their voice. Google home is a thing that they're trying to push people to have in their homes. They're just trying to further extend their abilities to understand people, and who they are, and what they talk about and I think that it's all connected for sure. So it's just another fact that they own YouTube and they have all this video and audio content, it's just another place for them to go to understand, not only who people are, but what they talk about, how they talk, accents inflections in their voice, all kinds of data points that they could use. So I think it's all connected.

MC: So going out as a random stretch here, we've talked about links being used as a component to E-A-T. So you appear, for instance on this podcast, if Google knows who you are and decides that you have expertise in SEO and E-A-T, that's almost a similar signal to a link, almost that you're interacting with this other entity that's writing about that. Would you think that - I'm just trying to get an idea for our listeners, okay Google can I identify people by voice and authors by voice, what is the use of that? is it to almost track their fingerprints online and say, well they've touched this therefore that's now more relevant to this topic?

LR: Yeah so think about, I don't know if you've used Sparktoro at all?

MC: Yeah, I have.

LR: So think about when you put an entity or an author into Sparktoro and it tells you these are all the affiliated podcasts, these are all the affiliated YouTube channels, these are the influencers in that category, like there's no way Google doesn't have similar data for a given expert or topic. So, if you see that you're a nutritionist and the food network YouTube channel has interviewed you, yeah that's the same effect as a backlink, in my opinion. That's like making connections because the food network is an expert, brand and they only feature trustworthy people. Maybe not, I'm just making this up as an example, I don't actually use the food network very often, but you know what I mean. It's what Google says in its search quality guidelines. They say when you're evaluating if a chef is an expert, you should look at the other health and nutrition and food magazines that they've been featured on. So I think they're trying to replicate that process through all the different data points and places on the internet that they can look to.

MC: I know we're kind of stretching, really stretching here what we found in patents. But I mean this is actually key to a lot of the training we give on SEO which is about not just looking at tactics that we know and have been confirmed are ranking factors. But as you've alluded to, really trying to understand what Google's long-term strategy is and try to align what you're doing with that. We can chase our tails all day about whether this is definitely this or is it not, and I don't think it's a smart long-term move to rule out doing something just because you can't 100% confirm, at the moment, it's going to be a thing. Obviously if you do things that even Google doesn't measure right now, but are in that long-term goal, there's no reason why it can't retroactively look back at those things as they update their algorithm and get better as well.

LR: Totally. Just to add to that, like that there's almost no E-A-T focused recommendation that's counter to a good branding strategy.

MC: Yeah, exactly and that links actually. So, in this write-up, there's one line that particularly interests me which says - so, you're going to talk about how Google determines if a person or a brand is a real expert or an authority in their fields and you said that some of these implications suggest that faking good E-A-T is going to be quite difficult. And again, you mentioned about Google being specific about ranking factors, because you're exactly right, as soon as Google is specific about something, people are going to try and optimise the big pre-penguin. The easiest example was obviously links and we had huge, quite public, link selling platforms that were doing millions of dollars, millions of pounds of business just trading links, and it was working really well and it was basically breaking Google to a point.

So, how do you think E-A-T and this focus is going to change what SEOs do day to day? If it's having this less direct impact on our work essentially.

LR: Yeah, it's a great question because for a lot of people it's not going to be good news. For a lot of the people that you mentioned like that focused on short-term hacks and gimmicks and even to this day, I get people responding to my work like, oh thanks for pointing out all those things that you should do because i'm just gonna go spam them and I’m going to win - that's just not gonna work. Maybe it'll work temporarily but real SEO nowadays, especially for sites that are being impacted by these E-A-T concerns, it's really hard work. It's also not necessarily something where you can see the immediate results of your efforts in terms of traffic and rankings and everything. It might take a year, it might take two years, especially if you've already run into trouble.

I have some clients where they used to provide really dangerous advice on certain topics, and now they have to go back in there and update all the advice so it's not dangerous anymore, and it can take Google a really long time to trust your content. So it just makes the work harder, it requires creativity and it also just requires authenticity which a lot of people don't have time or patience for, so I think that it's going to change the SEO strategy for a lot of people quite a bit.

MC: That's interesting. So when we are talking about Google determining if a person or brand is a real expert, if they're an authority, we talked about, sorry you talked about in the article, website representation vectors patent which this patent tells us that Google is capable of classifying websites into various categories of expertise such as expert, apprentice, and layperson, and rank pages based on the authoritativeness of the content found on those pages. They give a few examples of how Google might do this such as analysing text or images on the site, looking at other website content like links, combination of the above. If we can get more specific, something like images, what might Google be looking for in images, in terms of working out if someone is authoritative or a real expert in their field?

LR: Well it's hard to say exactly, but I think that looking at their vision AI tool is a nice place to start, because there's some surprising attributes on there. So, let's say you put in 50 different pictures of lawyers, and it always tells you that this person has this type of look on their face, or this type of outfit on, or they're in this type of environment where it's like very corporate and buttoned up. This is an extreme example, but maybe a picture of some guy in his pajamas, who's pretending to be a lawyer, they'll be able to tell from the image…

MC: or an SEO.

LR: Yeah, a fake expert; where's the picture of that guy in the suit, in the courtroom. It is just the little things like that where I think that using that tool is very informative because it starts to tell you like 50 different attributes about the picture and about the person that you didn't even consider something that they're looking at.

MC: It's certainly a discussion we've had with other people around things like e-commerce sites, and using things like stock photography, even on the very basic level of we know some people their purchase behaviour is they start on Google images, so maybe if they're looking for a suit or something, they might do a search and then go straight to Google images. The people who were using stock imagery supplied by the supplier were at a disadvantage because Google's not going to show the same photo again, and again, and again. So it's going to pick whatever site. Whereas if they've done their own high quality photography, they're way more likely to appear in those that search and that did start me down this line of, I wonder how this plays into what Google's expecting in terms of images and reuse.

I just found these quite interesting examples when Google did say something like images because again, I know I've backed you into a very specific corner here, and like you said there's lots of different products that Google have, so it may not even be like you say relevant to universal search results, it might just be a thing for Google images. But, there's a few other things I did want to pick your brains about in terms of ads as well.

So, in August we had the the virtual webmaster Unconference that we covered in episode 80, and one thing I found really interesting there was in Google's webmaster guidelines, it talks about not having ads that are, I can't remember the exact words, basically obstructive of your main content like popping up and tricking you into clicking on stuff.

LR: Right.

MC: One of the myths that was busted by the Google team during Unconference was that there's no algorithm or no ranking difference for a site as to whether they have ads or not. So we sort of concluded it was more about how you implemented the ads. It's fine if you have ads, but obviously if you're popping them up everywhere then that might withdraw from that. But then again, when I go back and read this in your article about this patent around obtaining authoritative search results, it describes a process Google uses to rank authoritative sites for queries that require authoritative results, and how Google can distinguish authoritative sites - i'm going to get tired of saying authoritative in a second - from sites that are low quality because they contain shallow content or too many ads.

And something else that we'll get onto there about this authority of sites and smaller pools to pick from is, do you think and again, I'm asking you just to wildly speculate here with me for fun, so that's the caveat, that on sites that are maybe going to this your money, your life territory, is having ads maybe a bad thing because you're monetising what's on the page? Because it seems logically to me, maybe if you're trying to sell people off that page that's not a good thing? So this is open to you to wildly speculate now, we won't hold you to it.

LR: I think it's a great question. So there's a fine line for sure and Google understands, and they've made it very clear we understand that for many sites that's how you make money. I mean the biggest, most authoritative sites on the internet make money through ads. The New York Times makes money through ads, that's fine and that's a business model that is perfectly fine. I think the real question is, are you deceiving people with your ads or are you frustrating people with your ads? And even some of the big players like The New York Times, you could probably ask a lot of people that use that site and they would say, yeah the ads are frustrating because that's how they make money and they have to be somewhat aggressive with their ads to pay the bills.

MC: Yeah.

LR: But there's a fine line. So when you're on a piece of content that is offering medical advice and I'm not going to name names here, but when you have “related articles” at the end of the content that say, you won't believe this horrible skin condition that this person got with like a really grotesque photo, and that's an ad and that's a page that's supposed to be providing like skin care advice. I think that's a problem and Google's made it clear they don't like those types of ads.

Healthline is another example, they make money off ads, but they have ads that are like nicely placed on the page that don't get in your way and they're easy to use, they're high quality ads, and they have a whole page about the ad disclaimers and how they choose their ads, and when they do sponsored content, they make it very clear. So there's a time and place for it. There's a way to do it properly and the days of providing really low quality content and hoping people click on ads are tricking people into clicking on ads, I think that those days are pretty much over for good, if you want SEO performance.

MC: So one thing we did cover in episode 80 as well, and I haven't seen it personally, was Glenn Gabe pointed out when he went back from a site to the SERPs, he was offered a little question on how much did the ads bother you on this site. So Google was literally saying, did the ads basically negatively affect your experience, and I thought that was really interesting because we know they're rendering the pages, and they're trying to recreate what the user's seeing, and it's quite a difficult, subjective job to work out if the ads are bothersome and of course, if you really wanted to, you could hide your ads from Google by roboting them out and stuff. Again, it clicked to me that this does for me feels like something Google's still working hard on, apart from quality raters, they're getting random people to answer questions like how bad were the ads on this site, and trying to build that model of what's good and what's not.

LR: Yeah, it does seem to be a really big area of focus for them. I think that the update that we're seeing with core web vitals is yet another example of Google trying to crack down on ads that provide a poor experience, or more importantly, deceptive ads or experiences. I provided an example the other day where it's like, you go to a site, such as converter websites, where you're converting an mp3 to a mp4 or something and then you click download and suddenly you have malware on your computer.

MC: They're hard to use, that takes a lot of internet experience to use one of those sites.

LR: Definitely. So it's stuff like that, that I think they're really paying attention to. But I mean what you said about showing Google one thing and showing the user another as it relates to your ads, those are the types of strategies where you're just going to put so much effort into something that's going to get you in trouble, or they're going to catch on to it eventually. I just don't think it's a good approach.

MC: Time is flying on, so let's talk about your money, your life, ymyl. So very quickly, do you want to give an intro to people who might not have heard of that before and how Google decides which sites are your money, your life and can we tell if they are?

LR: Yeah so that also comes from the search quality guidelines, it almost goes hand in hand with E-A-T every time. So basically, it just defines your money or life and I've said this so many times in two years, I should know by heart - pages or topics that affect people's well-being, safety, happiness or things like political awareness basically, so like news and political content, that's all they say. So they don't say here's the 50 categories that we consider your money or life, they do provide some examples where it's like news and finance, and legal and health, but there's a lot of gray areas.

MC: No recipes.

LR: I don't think recipes are included on there, but they do go on to say in many cases you can have good E-A-T for recipe content. So I have a graph that my graphic designer Haley, who's amazing, made me this beautiful image of my E-A-T meter and how much E-A-T matters because I think the more ymyl you are, the more E-A-T matters.

So they actually say in their documentation E-A-T matters most when a crisis is developing, like Coronavirus 2020.

MC: I can't think of one…

LR: Or like elections or things like that. But I think there's a spectrum, so if you write about fixing guitars and it's your personal blog, you could just be a hobbyist that's fine, but if you're writing about how to cure cancer, you need the highest possible levels of E-A-T. So that's the YMYL spectrum.

MC: So where you talk about patents that look at maybe Google looking at a reduced pool of sites when it's dealing with these sensitive queries, or at least sites that have “high E-A-T” and I think it's fair to surmise from what we talked about so far, E-A-T isn't a thing you earn overnight just by updating some tags on your page.

So the million dollar question is, if you are a new company, in this space, we'll just say you’re in your money, your life space, that's maybe giving medication advice or anything like that. How long can you expect it to take to get into that pool of sites Google might consider trusting?

LR: Yeah, I love this question because a lot of people, especially in the health area…

MC: Don't lie, no SEO likes the question how long is it going to take.

LR: No I mean, it's unfortunate to have to answer that question when clients have limited budgets and no patience of course, but I don't think it's impossible to break into certain YMYL areas as an expert.

It's really about how you approach it and this is what I love about it is that I think it's become the job of an SEO team. We have clients, for example, where there's a person at the company that goes out there and speaks at conferences, and they're well known in the industry, maybe they've been published on Google scholar, like they're truly experts. For most brands there should be at least one expert - if you're a plumbing company, there's an expert in plumbing hopefully at the company who's certified and has the right credentials to be fixing the plumbing in your house. But in many cases they're not communicating on the website who that expert is.

So I think it's the job of an SEO team to talk to those brands and say, can we go interview the plumber about their background, and where they went to school, and what credentials they have and can we make that stuff all clear on the website, and more often than not, the brand's are like, oh yeah we never thought to do that before. So we've been doing this with a lot of our clients who do have experts on taxes, or experts on finance or whatever and we're just tying it all together with structured data, and the places they've been listed online, and building out more robust author biographies.

So I think it's an exciting time in SEO and to your question about how quickly it can happen, if you're well credentialed, and hopefully people link to you because they trust your content, or maybe you've already been listed somewhere online, it's just a matter of tying those things together, I think it can happen relatively quickly, maybe in a few months with the right with the right lengths of visibility,

MC: So I was going to ask you as a closing question, for those managing SEO internally what they should be thinking about strategically in terms of E-A-T, but you've literally just answered that perfectly, I think, which is around, the SEO team thinking more outside of just we need to make content about keywords and we need to get links, and about how can we get hold of the people that are the actual experts, how can we make that visible on the site, get those people out talking to other people, use the technical knowledge we've got to link it all up and make it visible. I think that's a fair summary and you've actually just done that perfectly without even asking.

LR: There you go.

MC: We're already at 40 minutes here, so Lily thank you so much for taking the time and so on the spot just to come on! That's what an expert you are, all that you needed was an hour's notice to come and talk about this and it will be fine. Have you done any talks recently that we can link to about E-A-T if people want to learn more about you, put something in the blog post?

LR: Yes I’m trying to think which ones are public. I did the search engine journal one earlier this year that's public. And a few ones recently, Pubcon I spoke about E-A-T, the on crawl summit we love seo, I just spoke about E-A-T, a couple ones in Spanish i spoke about E-A-T as well. But actually I have a new page on my own personal website which is lilyray.nyc/e-a-t-expertise-authoritativeness-trustworthiness/

MC: If you want to find out more about E-A-T, go and check that out. Again, thank you so much and we're going to be back in one week's time which will be Monday the 9th of November. So if you do enjoy the podcast, do come back, subscribe, share with a friend, link to it - no follow, follow, we don't mind and have a great week.

LR: Thank you, thanks for having me.

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