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Surprising Facts About E-A-T & SEO

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Surprising Facts About E-A-T & SEO

Want to know what Google wants?

Google recommends that publishers review their quality raters guidelines.

SEO professionals have been doing that for years, looking for any clues to unlock some secrets of Google’s algorithm.

But here’s why much of what you’ve read about optimizing for E-A-T may need an update.

What Is E-A-T?

E-A-T is an acronym for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. It is a concept created by Google for third-party quality raters as a standardized method for judging search results.

Google also recommends it to publishers as a way to measure the quality of their content.

The reason Google created E-A-T is strictly for measuring the quality of content, particularly for third-party quality raters.

According to Google’s Search Quality Guidelines:

Unless your rating task indicates otherwise, your ratings should be based on the instructions and examples given in these guidelines.

Ratings should not be based on your personal opinions, preferences, religious beliefs, or political views.

Personal opinions would make the ratings submitted to Google unreliable. That’s why the concept of E-A-T was developed.

The search quality raters guidelines and the concept of E-A-T reflect the kinds of sites Google’s algorithm attempts to rank.

E-A-T As Ranking Factors – Is It Possible?

There are no actual patents or research papers that establish the existence of those three concepts (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness) as ranking factors.

What Google has admitted is that there are signals that indicate that a site is trustworthy but Google has never said what those signals are.

It must be repeated that the Quality Raters Guidelines do not provide hints for what those signals may be.

If the guidelines instruct the rater to review a page for an author, that does not mean that Google uses an “author signal” in the algorithm.

It is asking the rater to do that in order to be a better judge of website authority. That’s all.

There are concepts represented by E-A-T that can be expressed in real factors like links.

Expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness are not actual ranking factors or ranking metrics in use by Google.

How Does Google Know if Content Is Authoritative?

There are real factors like links that have traditionally been used to establish expertise and authority as well as understanding what users want to see.

If a webpage receives many links, particularly from webpages about similar topics, then the webpage receiving the links can be understood as being authoritative for that topic.

There is no actual metric called “authority” that Google uses. Authority is simply a quality of a webpage that Google can guess at based on (undisclosed) signals.

Links are pretty much the only signal that we know about that can indicate that a webpage is authoritative.

But it’s not the only one. In April 2021, Google disclosed that AI is used to identify if the content is authoritative or not.

Google Uses AI to Understand Expertise and Authority

Did you know Google relies on AI technologies to understand the content better?

Google is using AI to weed out low-quality content related to shopping and product reviews.

“…we wanted to make sure that you’re getting the most useful information for your next purchase by rewarding content that has more in-depth research and useful information.”

According to that statement, Google is using AI to understand if web content is superficial or if it has the contours and features typical of “in-depth research” and other qualities typical of sites that are useful to users.

Google Research & E-A-T

Ultimately, Google’s search results pages are about showing users what they expect to see.

Many of Google’s patents and research papers that describe link analysis, content analysis, and natural language processing all revolve around understanding what users want and understanding what webpages are about.

  • Links can communicate what page is expert.
  • AI helps Google understand what webpages are authoritative.
  • Content analyzed by AI and links communicate which webpages are trustworthy.
  • On-page signals may indicate expertise, authoritativeness, and authority… as well as their opposites.

How the E-A-T Concept Translates to Better Ranking

E-A-T is an abstract idea created to teach the quality raters how to judge a site.

The search quality guidelines do not provide clues to ranking factors.

The concepts of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness need to be defined in order to be understood.

Once E-A-T is understood, publishers will have a firm idea of how to improve and optimize content.

Expertise

Qualities of Expertise

Expertise is the quality of competence and technical skill. Expertise demonstrates a mastery of the topic, depth of knowledge, and hands-on experience.

As an example, when a webpage is about curing an ailment the topic must generally be approached from a scientific point of view in order to qualify as an expert.

An expert page teaches, reveals, and provides knowledge. An expert webpage will demonstrate qualities of depth of knowledge that can be signaled by the subtopics it raises or maybe by the citations it makes to other work.

Depth of Knowledge Is Not Comprehensiveness

Do not confuse depth of knowledge with being comprehensive. Depth of knowledge means that a topic is deeply understood.

Comprehensiveness is concerned with how broad the scope of the content is.

When evaluating a webpage for expertise, it may be helpful to ask, how does this webpage signal that it communicates a depth of knowledge?

Content is expert if a topic contains a specific kind of information for a given topic. For example, it is almost required for an article about headaches to mention aspirin.

Understand Depth of Knowledge in Order to Understand Expertise

Adding “expertise” to an article is more than the laughably simplistic practice of adding an author box with the author’s academic credentials.

Expertise in webpage content is the expression of the depth of knowledge and experience.

One can’t simply cannot add an author biography and expect it to magically become an expert article.

The first step toward adding expertise to webpages is understanding what depth of knowledge actually is.

What Is Expertise?

Expertise has been studied in a number of disciplines. Some researchers state that “expertise results from practice and experience, built on a foundation of talent, or innate ability.”

The educational field has a system for measuring student’s depth of knowledge called Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. In it there are four levels of depth of knowledge.

The beginner level starts with the ability to remember facts. The fourth level consists of the ability to bring together facts and ideas from different areas and stitch them together into a coherent thesis.

A scientific research organization called Global Cognition states that there are two kinds of expertise. One kind of expertise (Routine Expertise) is the ability to solve problems using similar routines and solutions over and over.

The second kind of expertise is called Adaptive Expertise. Adaptive Expertise is characterized by the ability to formulate solutions for problems that are changing or not previously seen before.

In both cases the results are:

“…the thinking and qualities that lead to consistently superior performance.”

Expertise is generally defined as the result of:

  • Practice.
  • Feedback.
  • Analysis.

What Does It Mean to Have Content With Expertise?

Given what is known about expertise and depth of knowledge, it can be said that expert content contains evidence that the author physically handled the object of the article, has actual experience in the topic, provides analysis, measurements, and comparisons.

Example of Expertise in Content

I wrote an article about structured data. None of the top-ranked articles on the topic mentioned that structured data is a markup language (like HTML is).

Google’s machine learning (and whatever else they use to understand a topic) probably knew that and may have responded favorably to that expert observation.

It’s not that my observation was good because it was different than the top-ranked pages. It’s that my observation demonstrated a deep understanding of what Schema.org structured data is.

Authoritativeness

Being authoritative is not the same thing as being comprehensive. This is a common mistake that publishers make when attempting to create authoritative content.

The Difference Between Authoritativeness and Comprehensive

  • Authoritativeness has to do with being reliable, trustworthy, and accurate.
  • Comprehensiveness has to do with the quality of having a wide scope.

Accuracy (authoritativeness) and a wide scope (comprehensiveness) are not the same things.

Elements of Authoritative Content

So when reviewing content for authoritativeness, go back to the definition of authoritativeness and review the content for qualities such as accuracy, soundness of ideas, and validity.

Can You Optimize for Authoritativeness?

What is authority? Metrics for authority can be the links that point to your site. That’s pretty much what is known and confirmed for authority.

But authority and authoritativeness are just concepts and are not actual ranking factors or metrics that Google uses. There is no “authority” metric at Google unless you call PageRank an authority metric.

So if you talk about “optimizing for authority,” in a way you’re really talking about how to optimize for PageRank, which is kind of silly. One does not optimize for PageRank. PageRank is something that is accumulated by a webpage.

Related: The Three Pillars of SEO: Authority, Relevance, and Trust

Trustworthiness

People will link to your page, talk about your site on social media, and cite a wide range of pages from your site if your webpages satisfy users on a consistent basis.

That kind of user satisfaction on a wide scale can cause individuals to regard your site as a trustworthy source of information, services, or products.

It is generally understood that Google does not use social signals for ranking purposes. If Google uses them for anything it’s not something that is known.

But social signals can be the smoke that tells you there’s a fire raging that indicates you are doing something right.

Optimizing for Trustworthiness

Googlers have made references to the trustworthiness of a website. Research papers and patents have made references to trustworthiness.

Interesting research into trustworthiness relates to link analysis (Read: Link Distance Ranking Algorithms for more information).

Another line of research is Knowledge-based Trust. But Bill Slawski, an expert on Google patents, said it’s unlikely that Google uses it.

A specific trustworthiness metric where a site accumulates “trust points” to indicate trustworthiness isn’t something that Google has researched.

Link distance ranking is the closest thing that Google might be using that approximates trust, but there is no actual trust score. Link distance ranking can identify spammy sites as well as quality sites.

Aside from being careful about where you get links (which you should be doing anyway!), there’s no way to “optimize” for trustworthiness.

You just have to be a reliable and trustworthy source of information. If people notice then Google might also notice, perhaps by the way other sites link to your webpages.

E-A-T Is Not an Algorithm

In October 2019 at Pubcon Gary Illyes confirmed that E-A-T was not an algorithm.

Gary Illyes was asked about E-A-T point-blank and everything he said matches up with what Googlers have been saying about the QRG and E-A-T.

Optimizing for E-A-T

You can build expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness using all of the above approaches that focus on excellence.

Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness in content are more than just descriptions and perceptions of your site. They are qualities that your content can contain.

So it makes sense to think hard about what those words expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness mean and apply your insights to every webpage that you publish.


Featured image: Paulo Bobita/SearchEngineJournal

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.

“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”

The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”

“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”

Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.

The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.

Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.

The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.

Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”

The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.

Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.

Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”

States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.

The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.

Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.

Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.

“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”

The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.

Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.

“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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5 Tips to Boost Your Holiday Search Strategy

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Student writing on computer

With the global economic downturn, inflation, ongoing supply chain challenges, and uncertainty due to the Ukraine war, this year’s holiday shopping season promises to be very challenging. Will people be in the mood to spend despite the gloom? Or will they rein in their enthusiasm and save for the year ahead?

With these issues in mind, here are five considerations to support your search engine optimization strategy this holiday shopping season:

1. Start early.

Rising prices are likely to mean shoppers will start researching their holiday spending earlier than ever to nab the best bargains. Therefore, retailers must roll out their holiday product and category pages — and launch any promotions — sooner to ensure their pages get crawled and indexed by search engines in good time.

Some e-commerce stores manage to get their pages ranking early by updating and reusing the same section of the website for holiday content and promotions, rotating between content for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine gifts, Fourth of July sales, etc. This approach can help you retain the momentum, links and authority you build up with Google and get your holiday pages visible and ranking quickly.

2. Make research an even bigger priority.

With all the uncertainty this year, it’s vital to use SEO research to identify the trending seasonal keywords and search phrases in your retail vertical — and then optimize content accordingly.

With tools such as Google Trends you can extract helpful insights based on the types of searches people are making. For example, with many fashion retailers now charging for product returns, will prioritizing keywords such as “free returns” get more search traction? And with money being tighter, will consumers stick with brands they trust rather than anything new — meaning brand searches might be higher?

3. Make greater use of Google Shopping.

To get the most out of their holiday spending, consumers are more likely to turn to online marketplaces such as Google Shopping as they make it easier to compare products, features and prices, as well as to identify the best deals both online and in nearby stores.

Therefore, take a combined approach which includes listing in Google Shopping and at the same time optimizing product detail pages on your e-commerce site to ensure they’re unique and provide more value than competitors’ pages. Be precise with product names on Google Shopping (e.g., do the names contain the words people are searching for?); ensure you provide all the must-have information Google requires; and set a price that’s not too far from the competition. 

4. Give other search sources the attention they deserve.

Earlier this year Google itself acknowledged that consumers — especially younger consumers — are starting to use TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites for search. In fact, research suggests 11 percent of product searches now start on TikTok and 15 percent on Instagram. Younger consumers in particular are more engaged by visual content, which may explain why they’re embracing visually focused social sites for search. So, as part of your search strategy, create and share content on popular social media sites that your target customers visit.

Similarly, with people starting their shopping searches on marketplaces such as Amazon.com, optimizing any listings you have on the site should be part of your strategy. And thankfully, the better optimized your product detail pages are for Amazon (with unique, useful content), the better they will rank on Google as well!

5. Hold paid budget for late opportunities.

The greater uncertainty and volatility this holiday season mean you must keep a close eye on shopper behavior and be ready to embrace opportunities that emerge later on. Getting high organic rankings for late promotions is always more challenging, so hold some paid search budget back to help drive traffic to those pages — via Google Ads, for example. Important keywords to include in late season search ad campaigns include “delivery before Christmas” and “same-day-delivery.” For locally targeted search ads, consider “pick up any time before Christmas.”

The prospect of a tough, unpredictable holiday shopping season means search teams must roll out seasonal SEO plans early, closely track shoppers’ behavior, and be ready to adapt as things change.

Marcus Pentzek is chief SEO consultant at Searchmetrics, the global provider of search data, software and consulting solutions.

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Google Home App Gets an Overhaul, Rolling Out Soon

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Google Home app

Google refreshes its Home app with a slew of new features after launching a new Nest gear. This makes it faster and easier to pair smart devices with Matter, adds customization and personalization options, an enhanced Nest camera experience, and better intercommunication between devices.

This revamped Home app utilizes Google’s Matter smart home standard – launching later this year – especially the Fast Pair functionality. On an Android phone, it will instantly recognize a Matter device and allow you to easily set it up, bypassing the current procedure that is often slow and difficult. Google is also updating its Nest speakers, displays, and routers – to control Matter devices better.

Google Home App New Features

  • Spaces: This feature allows you to control multiple devices in different rooms. Google has listed a few things by room: kitchen, bedroom, living room, etc., although it’s pretty limited right now. Spaces let you organize devices how you see fit. For instance, you can set up a baby monitor in one room and set a different room’s camera to focus on an area the baby often plays. With Spaces, you can categorize these two devices into one Space category called ‘Baby.’

Google Home app Spaces

  • Favorites: This one is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to make certain gears as a favorite that you frequently use. Doing so will bring those devices into the limelight within the Google Home app for easier access. 

Google Home app

  • Media: Google adds a new media widget at the bottom of your Home feed. This will automatically determine what media is playing in your home and provide you with the appropriate controls as and when needed. There will be song controls if you listen to music on your speakers. There will be television remote controls if you’re watching TV. 

Google probably won’t roll out this Home app makeover anytime soon. But you can try it for yourself in the coming week by enrolling in the public preview, available in select areas.

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