The In Search SEO Podcast
The In Search SEO Podcast Community Question of the Week!
Creating a solid bio for your authors is a must, but what else helps build author authority?
Summary of Episode 30: The In Search SEO Podcast
In this episode, we welcome the fantastically fantastic Alli Berry of the Ascent to talk all about E-A-T – “Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness.”
- The difference between expertise, authority, & trust
- How to build up your E-A-T profile for different types of YMYL sites
- Beyond the bio, how to build up your authorship credibility
Plus, we dive into some data on the latest Google Update, the June 2019 Core Update!
Niche Data on Google’s June 2019 Core Update [2:37 – 15:07]
On June 4th, Google rolled out the June 2019 Core Update. In fact, Google announced the update before it ever rolled out when Danny Sullivan took to Twitter to prepare the SEO community for the pending update.
Let’s get into some of the data but before we start, a few caveats:
- We will not be talking about winners and losers. As Mordy says, “It doesn’t do anyone any good as these lists are not as definitive as some would have you think.”
- This is but a sliver of the conversation. A sliver of data, one slice of the pie, one card from the deck, one sip of the shake… you get what we’re saying.
- This data is the preliminary data coming out of the update.
Mordy looked at 5 niches: Travel, Health, Retail, Finance, and Gambling.
The first question is were some niches more impacted than others? Yes, but it depends on the metric.
Let us first explain the metrics Mordy used. He first took two points with stable fluctuations and compared the percent of sites that were consistent between both points. Then he took a point from before the update and another during the update to see how stable the rankings are. Now he has a comparison of data between a baseline and the update itself.
For example, if Mordy analyzed all of the keywords within a niche, he would want to see what percentage of URLs that ranked #1 for these keywords on data point 1 were still ranking #1 on data point #2.
So if 100% of the URLs from data point #1 were in the same position at data point #2, that means there were no fluctuations. If that number were 50%, then there were huge fluctuations. Mordy also did this test for the 2nd and 3rd positions and then for the ranges of top 5 and top 10 organic results.
In our case, for example, the baseline, i.e., the “stable days,” had 97% of the 1st results for all the keywords in the Travel niche data matching from one date to the next. Meaning not a lot of movement.
However, if we look at the points before and during the update, only 90% of the first results on the SERP were consistent across both data points for this niche. That’s a seven-point difference!
Now, for the Health and Finance niches, Mordy saw the first position showing a bit more volatility than the others.
The Gambling niche took the biggest brunt of it at the 1st position. While the Health niche went from 96% of the 1st results matching across both data points to just 85% during the update, the Gambling niche went from 95% to 79% during the update. That’s a big ol’ shift!
Let us simplify this a bit. The Gambling niche saw the most rank fluctuations. The loss in stability was the highest at every metric Mordy tracked. In short, and to a degree of speculation, this could point to a strong quality element being within the core update.
For many metrics, there was a bit of a higher loss of stability for YMYL niches. For example, in the third position, the Finance and Health niches saw stability losses of over 30%. The other niches, discounting the Gambling niche, showed stability losses around 10%. The same pattern can be seen when looking at the top 5 results and the top 10 results overall. Out of all the niches, the Gambling niche was far more volatile than others, but excluding that the Health and Finance niches had higher levels of rank fluctuations than the Travel and Retail niches.
Now if you want to see some crazy data check out the average position change. The average position change is the average number of positions a site moves when it’s on the move. How many positions does the average site fluctuate when Google decides to move it to another position?
So you would expect that during an update the average number of positions a site fluctuates will be more than before the update. But that’s not the case here, at least not to the extent you would think.
For example, before the update sites within the Travel niche tended to fluctuate up/down one position. During the update, these sites moved 1.26 positions. The Finance niche’s average position change moved up by only 0.5 positions. That’s not a lot!!!
Just to put this in perspective, during the Medic Update the average number of positions sites fluctuated during the update within the Health niche increased by two positions. On the other hand, in our recent update, we had but a 0.5 point increase for the same niche. That’s a big difference! We’re not saying that there were zero sites that had large fluctuations, rather we’re saying that a large number of sites moved but a position up or down the SERP.
This next part here is Mordy’s speculation. It does seem that Google is getting more refined with what keywords it’s demoting within your keyword set and which of your keywords are giving your pages a boost. Meaning, Google knows how to profile your site better. Thus, Google is saying, “These keywords aren’t as relevant to your site as you think they are so we’re going to drop your rankings for them. They don’t really speak to your core profile. While these other keywords are very relevant to your core profile and we will reward you by boosting your rankings.”
If Mordy is right this could mean shifting your SEO strategy a bit to focus more on your “core keywords” instead of a broader outlook where you try to rank for as many keywords as possible (which, of course, is a strategy that has been diminishing over time as it is).
Increasing Your Expertise, Authoritativeness, & Trustworthiness (E-A-T): A Conversation with Alli Berry [15:31 – 46:14]
[This is a general summary of the interview and not a word for word transcript. You can listen to the podcast for the full interview.]
Mordy: You’re in for a treat as another In Search SEO Podcast interview session is here! Joining us today is the one, the only Alli Berry who is currently the SEO & Content lead for The Ascent – which is part of the Motley Fool family. Welcome!
Allie: Hi! Thanks for having me.
M: So basically you can help me with my SEO and credit card debt?
A: Yeah, I can actually.
M: That’s good to know! By the way, I love the name Motley Fool! If you know where that name came from that would be awesome.
A: Yeah, I actually do know. This company is 25 years old. It comes from a Shakespearean play (As You Like It) and the motley fool was the one person in a kingdom who was allowed to tell the king what he needed to hear without consequence. So they took that idea of advising people for investing with their finances and giving the information they need to hear.
M: Can you tell us a bit about what The Ascent is and what you do to help it thrive?
A: The Ascent is a sub-brand, an affiliate business, to the Motley Fool. Our normal model is subscription content for investing topics. The Ascent is like the precursor to the Motley Fool in that we’re helping people get out of debt and get into a better financial situation so they are able to have some money to invest. All of our content is free and helps users get to the financial products that make the most sense to their situation. We then have affiliate relationships with a lot of the financial products which is how we make our money.
M: Neat! Let’s start off a bit general, how do you go about creating expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T)? What are some “musts?”
A: It’s funny. I feel EAT is kind of squishy as when you create expertise you’re creating authoritativeness and trust at the same time. They’re all related. What matters in all three is having experts creating your content or at least involved in your content process. People who know what they’re talking about will create better content than your SEO content marketing team who is trying to learn finance.
For authoritativeness, what matters is showing your expertise. Having really good bio pages for all of your content creators. Having a really strong About page that says who you are, what you are about, and why people should trust you. You can also add if your company won awards, or if your employees won awards, or customer testimonials.
From a trustworthy perspective, making sure your site is secure is a no-brainer. Having really good quality links is a huge trust component if other sources are linking to you as an expert. And having error-free content goes a long way.
M: Wow, thank you. I think that’s the first time I had someone break down each component of E-A-T.
A: Thank you. Yeah, I do think that none of this is new. I just think it’s a new way of framing a lot of things that are in the algorithm.
M: We talk about creating expertise, authoritativeness, and trust, but how do you make sure a site’s audience, as well as Google, notice the efforts you’ve undertaken?
A: I don’t think your strategy has to be different with people than with search engines, but I do think it’s more about how you display your information and that Google wants websites to be more overt on how they’re going about this. Something we implemented at the beginning of Ascent was to have a callout for key pages that explains why you should trust this author. It’s a bio that gives credibility to that person. Having that kind of information and having it more accessible to the reader by putting it in the content as opposed to the bottom is an easy way to gain trust.
The testimonial piece can be great if you put it on relevant pages as opposed to putting it on a static page. I used to work in an agency and I had a car dealership client who took the reviews of all the individual salespeople and put it on their bio pages. I thought it was super cool because not only does it show trust but it incentivizes the salespeople to get reviews and use their bio page in their marketing.
M: Would you go so far to have a different bio for different pages? Meaning, have the same author but with different bios for different expertise on different pages?
A: I think it depends. In our Why You Can Trust Me the bio is targeted to that particular page and there’s something to be said to call out that this person is the right person to write this page.
M: What works when trying to build an author up in order to create/demonstrate expertise? What are some indirect aspects (i.e., those that go beyond actually having a credible author and bio listed on the page) of creating author expertise that one should consider?
A: Up until now all I’ve been talking about was building their bios on your site but I think the best thing to do is to get them into other publications. It does depend on the content you’re creating. For us, we’ve been trying to get our authors into news sources by building up relationships with journalists to not only get those media placements but also those links. It’s a huge deal as it builds our authoritativeness from the outside. Obviously, it’s helpful if you have PR, people who are dedicated to that effort, but anyone can help and become a source for journalists. I think we’re going to see more merging of PR and SEO practices with E-A-T.
M: Very interesting. Let’s say you have an author who writes for more than one site and writes for more than one topic within the same niche. To what extent can Google synthesize all of these different bios into one author profile? Do they know this author from one site or can they glue it all together from multiple sites?
A: That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer. But you know, at the end of the day, what we’re doing is establishing trust with the user. I do think that Google can track a person across the internet. I definitely think they’re weaving a thread. I know that was their idea when they created Google+ to build up each person. Obviously, that didn’t work the way they wanted it to.
M: Yeah, you can see that on the Knowledge Panel where Google will show the user others related to their search based on what the person has done in the past and is doing now. It goes to say that they’re able to do this more with high profile authors than your average web author but the entity indexing speaks to the fact that maybe they can do it.
A: I absolutely think they could do it. The question is if it’s worth their time to figure it out.
M: Does E-A-T manifest itself differently for a health site than for a finance site? What about for a local business, particularly one that is part of an industry plagued by online spam (say, plumbers)?
A: I think yes, however, no. I say yes because if you’re looking for medical information it’s important that it’s coming from an authority. So depending on the query the expertise factor matters a whole lot. So, yes, I think it does matter based on what somebody is looking for and I understand why they targeted finance and health first. I think it will be shortsighted to say that they’re not going to follow suit with other topics as well.
M: I would imagine that local would be a great place for them to start with this. You have so many spammy plumbers or locksmiths that it would be nice to have some sort of authoritativeness. I know they’re trying through their Local Service Ads, but it would be nice to do something a bit more organically.
A: Totally agree.
M: One of the problems I see, at least within the finance and medical industries is that the UI often comes off as “spammy” – actually “overly commerce-like” might be a better way to put it. Do you think UI impacts E-A-T from Google’s perspective, if yes, how, if not, why not?
A: Yeah, this is a hard thing, especially in the affiliate space, because there are a lot of partners who have a lot of requirements about what our pages need to look like and what information needs to be there. It’s kind of inevitable that you end with what a lot of these sites look like.
And Google absolutely cares about UI. They keep saying that clickthrough rate doesn’t matter in the algorithm of ranking, but it’s most definitely at least an indirect factor when people either click and stay to their information or bounce and leave.
M: I mean it has to be. They have the data. Why are they not showing us the best possible results by using this data?
A: Exactly. I think this comes down to language and nuance and they’re trying to say it matters, but it’s not a core factor in the algorithm. I think you should be concerned about your clickthrough rate and retaining people on your page. So yes, UI matters, from that perspective, because at the end of the day you should be concerned if the user got the information they were looking for and if your stuff is organized in a way that makes it easy for them.
M: Let me ask you the flip side of this question. You have this problem of all of these affiliates and requirements and you feel stuck. What can you do on your page to combat that? How can you use content as your friend to build up authority by building content in an ancillary sort of way?
A: Obviously, we have these long pages with best of lists, which are valuable and convert well while giving people the information they need. I’m not saying we have spammy pages because I truly believe we don’t. What we do have are articles and those are the ones that are targeting long-tail keywords of more specific financial situations. All of our writers are contributing their thoughts on how to do your personal finance. We syndicate that content to partners as well like USA Today and AOL to try and get the most traffic because anyone could be a potential customer for us. Everyone needs credit cards. Everyone needs a bank account. And all of those pages link to our hubs and have a pitch at the end. I think it’s about creating a good funnel for your user but we don’t put offers on our pages directly aside from a sidebar.
M: Where does E-A-T fit into the larger SEO landscape? In terms of priorities, where would you place it say next to technical SEO and so forth?
A: I would say that if search engines can’t crawl, index, and access your information then it doesn’t matter how good your E-A-T score is. If your technical SEO sucks, if your site is slow, you’re not going to rank well. I think you should start with the basics before you even start with E-A-T. Once your site is in position and you have a faster site than your competitors, there are no glaring errors, your redirects are in order, etc. then you can double down on your E-A-T.
I don’t think it’s just about E-A-T. I believe it’s about having a pretty solid content strategy and having expertise within your content strategy is the key to it all.
M: After the Medic Update, a lot of the SEO world were thinking what Google can do algorithmically to what it has in the Quality Raters Guidelines. Part of what happened was Google denying it and John Mueller saying there is no 1:1 match between the algorithm and the Quality Rater Guidelines but no one said there ever was a match. Do you think that some of the general thrust of what’s behind the Quality Rater Guidelines and what Google could do algorithmically line up together?
A: To be honest, I think they’re rebranding what’s already in their algorithm. I’m actually shocked that it’s gotten the amount of attention that it has because if you really step back and think about it you know what the algorithm is built on. It’s built on links. They are a signal of trust. Even if they’re saying there are other ways to build trust besides links you know they’re mainly looking at links.
It just feels very nuanced and I’m not convinced they’ve really changed anything that much. I think they’re asking people to be more overt about things that they’re already doing. Of course, a page written by an expert is going to be higher quality content than a page that was spun up by some SEO or content marketer who doesn’t actually understand the topic beyond the research they did of competitors before they wrote the page.
M: Before we end, I want to ask what have we not covered? When creating E-A-T what are some cliches or fallacies to avoid harping on?
A: If you read all the blog articles out there about how to improve your E-A-T in five easy steps, yeah, you can create these bios and your About Page and all that, but I feel like that’s table stakes stuff. If you don’t have a good content strategy then that’s where you really should be focused on and all of this is going to follow suit. A good idea to end on is to figure out a way to leverage the people in your organization who have knowledge that could really help your content strategy. They may not be a good writer but you can still leverage their knowledge and work with them to make sure their expertise is in your content. I feel like that is the key to success everywhere. And that involves actually de-siloing yourself and going out and talking to the people at your organization.
M: What about co-authorship? Is that a thing? Should that be a thing?
A: Absolutely. I’ve done that in the past with previous content strategies where we had some really smart people who just couldn’t write and honestly didn’t like it. Sometimes I would go write things and use the other person’s name because they have more authority than I do on the topic. I mean who wants to hear me talk about getting your CFT when in reality I’ve never taken the exam. It’s about finding that balance and recognizing when your name should not be anywhere. At the end of the day think of who the user wants to hear from and go with that.
Optimize or Disavow It
M: If you could do one but not the other, would you create an About page or list customer reviews and testimonials on your site?
A: I think I would go with the customer reviews. I think the third party information matters more to a user.
M: That makes sense. I mean no one really cares that you’re wearing this nifty t-shirt and sunglasses and you look cool compared to a customer saying, “This product actually works and is really good. You should buy it.”
Thank you very much. I do really appreciate you coming on!
A: Thanks, it was very fun.
SEO NEWS [49:11 – 53:17]
Google Adds Auto-Suggest to Q&A on Desktop: The auto-suggest within Google’s Q&A feature now suggests reviews and only reviews. It used to be you would get a suggested answer that came from the answers already within the Q&A feature which was generally content generated by the business owners. It does show, though, that Google knows what content is in the reviews!
Local Pack Carousels Being Tested Again: Google is again testing a carousel within the Local Pack. Instead of listings being one on top of the other you have a scrollable carousel! What’s interesting is that Mike Blumenthal pointed out that these scroll packs were not at the top of the SERP, rather you have to swipe down. Mordy did have a chance to talk to Mike (stay tuned to hear him soon on the podcast!) and he said he thinks this may be Google’s way of avoiding some critique about it favoring its own local results.
Fun SEO Send-Off [53:17 – 58:40]
Which Avenger is Google?
In Sapir’s opinion, Google will be either Tony Stark or Thor. The reason for Tony Stark is that all of Google’s updates reminds her of Tony’s innovational skills. The reason for Thor is because…. he is the hottest Avenger.
Mordy thought that with this latest update Google is the Hulk because there was a ton of calm before this update and then BAM! Ripped purple shorts, bulging green muscles, and sites sent spinning!
Thank you for joining us!
Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode of The In Search SEO Podcast.