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Is There Ranking Power In Keyword Domains?

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Is There Ranking Power In Keyword Domains?

Domain names with keywords in them are considered valuable for a variety of reasons, including a long-standing idea that they might be directly or indirectly helpful for ranking purposes.

Choosing a domain name is an important step for launching a website, so it’s important to make the right choice.

The choice of a domain name generally falls into three categories:

  1. Keyword domain.
  2. Word + keyword domain.
  3. Brand domain.

It is arguable which approach is best. What is not debatable is that it’s helpful to learn about the topic before making a decision.

Keyword Domains

A keyword domain is a domain name with keywords in it. An example can be Widgets.com.

Using a domain name with the keywords in it can provide the perception of authority.

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Some companies own generic domain names and redirect them to their websites, for whatever reason.

For example, Coffee.com redirects to Peet’s Coffee, an artisanal coffee roasting company. That makes it easy for people to navigate to Peet’s.

But, the downside of generic keyword domains is that “all of the good ones” are already registered and prohibitively expensive to pry off of a domainer.

There is also some internet history related to generic keyword domains.

There was a time when internet users typed the keywords of a product or service they wanted straight into the browser or search engine. This practice was called direct navigation.

Direct navigation resulted in significant ad revenues to those who owned those domains and “parked” them.

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Parking the domain was setting it up so that the domain names showed ads and only ads.

The lucrative business of parked domains was helped by search engines of the time that ranked those parked domain names in the search results.

So, if someone typed a one-word query like [burgers], then Google might rank Burgers.com.

Then in 2011, Google reduced the search visibility of parked domains from the search results.

So, is there ranking power to keyword domains? Not anymore, but John Mueller of Google has something to say about it, more on that below.

Word + Keyword Domain

Because many keyword domains are already registered is why a popular choice is to add a word to the keyword to form a domain name, which helps to describe what a site visitor can expect on visiting the site.

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This results in domains like Cheap[name of product/service].com, [name of product/service]Reviews.com, Fast[name of product/service], and so on.

A word plus a keyword for a domain name is not a bad way to go.

Upside Of Word + Keyword Domain

The keyword instantly brands what the site is about, and the word tells the site visitor what to expect in terms of the user intent.

Searching for a review? Try [name of product/service]Reviews.com.

Downside Of Word + Keyword Domain

The downside of this approach is that it locks the website into providing a specific niche and can limit its ability to grow.

So, if you start out as [JoesCameraReviews], it’s going to be hard to transition that site to reviewing (or selling) other products.

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There are many sites with keywords in the domain that rank very well.

Branded Domain

A branded domain is a domain name that doesn’t necessarily have keywords in it.

Amazon, Zappos, and Etsy are examples of branded domains.

What’s great about a branded domain is that the brand name doesn’t necessarily limit what the site can be about.

Many sites with branded domains have very little trouble ranking in the search results.

Google Offers Four Insights On Keyword Domains

In the course of answering a question in a recent Webmaster Hangout, Google’s John Mueller offered four insights on the ranking power of keyword domain names.

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Four insights into Keyword Domains and Ranking:

  1. Keyword domains don’t rank faster.
  2. Keyword domains don’t automatically rank better.
  3. Keyword domains lost strong ranking influence years ago.
  4. Keyword domains ranked the same as branded domains.

1. Keyword Domains Don’t Have A Time Advantage

There is a belief that keyword domains are able to rank better faster than branded domains. But according to Google’s John Mueller, this is not the case.

There is a perceived advantage with obtaining keywords in links through the anchor text. This is something that’s been discussed for years. An argument can be made for and against.

Unfortunately, John Mueller’s statement didn’t address this perceived advantage.

Here’s what John Mueller confirmed:

“…it takes time like any other new website… Obviously there are lots of websites out there that do rank for the keywords in their domain name. But they worked on this maybe for years and years…”

2. Keywords In Domains Don’t Rank Better

John Mueller was quite firm in asserting that keyword domains do not rank better than branded domains.

“…just because keywords are in a domain name doesn’t mean that it’ll automatically rank for those keywords.”

There is so much that goes into ranking, like content, user intent for that content as well as links. All of that likely takes significant precedence toward something like keywords in the domain.

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While John Mueller didn’t specifically say keywords in the domain name are not a ranking signal, he did affirm that there is no dramatic benefit from having the keywords in the domain name. And that’s an important insight.

3. Keyword Domains Lost Influence Years Ago

John Mueller asserted that keyword domains lost influence years ago.

Here is what John Mueller stated:

“…just because keywords are in a domain name doesn’t mean that it’ll automatically rank for those keywords. And that’s something that’s been the case for a really, really long time.”

This may be a reference to an algorithm update from 2011 (official Google announcement here).

In late 2011, Google updated its algorithm to add a classifier to remove parked domains from the search results.

A quote from Google’s algorithm update announcement:

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“This is a new algorithm for automatically detecting parked domains. Parked domains are placeholder sites with little unique content for our users and are often filled only with ads.

In most cases, we prefer not to show them.”

Nevertheless, the idea that keyword domains were better than brand domains continued in the search industry, even though Google was no longer giving a boost to parked keyword domains.

An argument can be made that there is a minimal signal. But there is nothing to lend support to that theory.

It’s been a long time since any search engine has published research that included keywords in domains as any kind of signal.

We’re living in a time when keywords in headings (H1, H2) have diminished ranking weight.

Current algorithms no longer give extra weight to title tags. This we know, and it calls into question the idea that Google continues to give a direct ranking bonus to a keyword in a domain name.

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4. Keyword Domains Ranked The Same As Branded Domains

This is another statement that contradicts the idea that keywords in a domain name have a ranking benefit.

John Mueller points out that the keywords in a domain are unrelated to their current ranking:

John Mueller’s statement on keywords in domains:

“…it’s kind of normal that they would rank for those keywords and that they happen to have them in their domain name is kind of unrelated to their current ranking.”

Mueller clearly notes that having the keywords in the domain name is unrelated to their ranking.

Research A Domain Name Before Using It

It’s always a good idea to research a domain name to see if it was previously registered and how it was used.

There are rare cases where a domain that was used to spam can become stuck in a Google algorithm loop, causing it to become banned for a month, getting released for a few days then banned all over again, preventing the site from ranking higher than the second page of the search results.

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For more information on the legacy domain penalty, read Google Algorithm Bug Puts Sites In Weird Limbo State.

SEO Advantage Of Keyword Domains

There are many advantages to having a keyword in a domain name. But an SEO advantage is not necessarily one of the advantages, as Mueller makes clear.

“…that they happen to have them in their domain name is kind of unrelated to their current ranking.”

Stand Out With Your Domain

It may be a good idea to choose a domain that stands out. This can be with a keyword or it could be with a brand name.

Former Googler Matt Cutts recommended in a webmaster help video in 2011 that choosing a domain name that stands out can be a good idea in certain situations.

Matt Cutts advised:

“For example, if you have 15 sites about Android and they all have Android, Android, Android, Android, it’s going to be a little hard to remember, to rise above the noise, to rise above the din.

Whereas, if you have something that’s a little more brandable, then people are going to remember that. They’re going to be able to come back to it. Even sites like TechCrunch, nothing in there says tech news.”

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Takeaway On Domain Names

There are pros and cons to the different kinds of domain names to use for a website.

If the business wants to leave wiggle room to grow to encompass a wider topic, then a domain name that is less committed to a topic or even a brand name is appropriate.

Of course, one can start out with a narrow-topic domain name and change it in the future. But that can result in other sites changing their mind about linking to the site and fans of the site losing interest.

So, the best advice may be for the business to consider what it wants to accomplish now, what impression it wants to make to site visitors, what story the domain name communicates to the visitor, and also how well the domain name fits into the future of the business.

On the question of ranking, it’s clear that there is no direct keyword-based ranking benefit to a domain name, which makes selecting one a little easier.

Watch John Mueller discuss domain names at the 21:50 minute mark:

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A Guide to Star Ratings on Google and How They Work

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A Guide to Star Ratings on Google and How They Work

The elusive five-star review used to be something you could only flaunt in a rotating reviews section on your website.

But today, Google has pulled these stars out of the shadows and features them front and center across branded SERPs and beyond.

Star ratings can help businesses earn trust from potential customers, improve local search rankings, and boost conversions.

This is your guide to how they work.

Stars And SERPs: What Is The Google Star Rating?

A Google star rating is a consumer-powered grading system that lets other consumers know how good a business is based on a score of one to five stars.

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These star ratings can appear across maps and different Google search results properties like standard blue link search listings, ads, rich results like recipe cards, local pack results, third-party review sites, and on-app store results.

How Does The Google Star Rating Work?

When a person searches Google, they will see star ratings in the results. Google uses an algorithm and an average to determine how many stars are displayed on different review properties.

Google explains that the star score system operates based on an average of all review ratings for that business that have been published on Google.

It’s important to note that this average is not calculated in real-time and can take up to two weeks to update after a new review is created.

When users leave a review, they are asked to rate a business based on specific aspects of their customer experience, as well as the type of business being reviewed and the services they’ve included.

For example, “plumbers may get “Install faucet” or “Repair toilet” as services to add,” and Google also allows businesses to add custom services that aren’t listed.

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When customers are prompted to give feedback, they can give positive or critical feedback, or they can choose not to select a specific aspect to review, in which case this feedback aspect is considered unavailable.

This combination of feedback is what Google uses to determine a business’s average score by “dividing the number of positive ratings by the total number of ratings (except the ones where the aspect was not rated).”

Google star ratings do have some exceptions in how they function.

For example, the UK and EU have certain restrictions that don’t apply to other regions, following recent scrutiny by the EU Consumer Protection Cooperation and the UK Competitions and Market Authority about fake reviews being generated.

Additionally, the type of rating search property will determine the specifics of how it operates and how to gather and manage reviews there.

Keep reading to get an in-depth explanation of each type of Google star rating available on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

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How To Get Google Star Ratings On Different Search Properties

As mentioned above, there are different types of Google star ratings available across search results, including the standard blue-link listings, ads, local pack results, rich snippets, third-party reviews, and app store results.

Here’s what the different types of star-rating results look like in Google and how they work on each listing type.

Standard “Blue Link” Listings And Google Stars

In 2021, Google started testing star ratings in organic search and has since kept this SERP feature intact.

Websites can stand out from their competitors by getting stars to show up around their organic search results listing pages.

Screenshot from SERPs, Google, February 2024Text result showing google star ratings in the SERPs

How To Get Google Stars On Organic SERPs

If you want stars to show up on your organic search results, add schema markup to your website.

Learn how to do that in the video below:

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As the video points out, you need actual reviews to get your structured data markup to show.

Then, you can work with your development team to input the code on your site that indicates your average rating, highest, lowest, and total rating count.

structured markup example for google star ratings and reviewsScreenshot JSON-LD script on Google Developers, August 2021structured markup example for google star ratings and reviews

Once you add the rich snippet to your site, there is no clear timeline for when they will start appearing in the SERPs – that’s up to Google.

In fact, Google specifically mentions that reviews in properties like search can take longer to appear, and often, this delay is caused by business profiles being merged.

When you’re done, you can check your work with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

Adding schema is strongly encouraged. But even without it, if you own a retail store with ratings, Google may still show your star ratings in the search engine results.

They do this to ensure searchers are getting access to a variety of results. Google says:

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“content on your website that’s been crawled and is related to retail may also be shown in product listings and annotations for free across Google.”

If you want star ratings to show up on Shopping Ads, you’ll have to pay for that.

Paid Ads And Google Stars

When Google Stars appear in paid search ads, they’re known as seller ratings, “an automated extension type that showcases advertisers with high ratings.”

These can appear in text ads, shopping ads, and free listings. Both the star rating and the total number of votes or reviews are displayed.

In addition to Google star ratings, shopping ads may include additional production information such as shipping details, color, material, and more, as shown below.

Google shopping ads showing star ratingsScreenshot from SERPs ads, Google, February 2024Google shopping ads showing star ratings

Paid text ads were previously labeled as “ads” and recently have been upgraded to a “sponsored” label, as shown below.

paid ad showing google star ratingsScreenshot from SERPs ads, Google, February 2024paid ad showing google star ratings

How To Get Google Stars On Paid Ads

To participate in free listings, sellers have to do three things:

  • Follow all the required policies around personally identifiable information, spam, malware, legal requirements, return policies, and more.
  • Submit a feed through the Google Merchant Center or have structured data markup on their website (as described in the previous section).
  • Add their shipping settings.

Again, some ecommerce sellers who do not have schema markup may still have their content show up in the SERPs.

For text ads and shopping ads to show star ratings, sellers are typically required to have at least 100 reviews in the last 12 months.

Paid advertisers must also meet a minimum number of stars for seller ratings to appear on their text ads. This helps higher-quality advertisers stand out from the competition.

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For example, text ads have to have a minimum rating of 3.5 for the Google star ratings to show.

Google treats reviews on a per-country basis, so the minimum review threshold of 100 also applies only to 1 region at a time.

For star ratings to appear on a Canadian ecommerce company’s ads, for example, they would have to have obtained a minimum of 100 reviews from within Canada in the last year.

Google considers reviews from its own Google Customer Reviews and also from approved third-party partner review sites from its list of 29 supported review partners, which makes it easier for sellers to meet the minimum review threshold each year.

Google also requests:

  • The domain that has ratings must be the same as the one that’s visible in the ad.
  • Google or its partners must conduct a research evaluation of your site.
  • The reviews included must be about the product or service being sold.

Local Pack Results And Google Stars

Local businesses have a handful of options for their business to appear on Google via Places, local map results, and a Google Business Profile page – all of which can show star ratings.

Consumers even have the option to sort local pack results by their rating, as shown in the image example below.

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Google star ratings on search resultsScreenshot from SERPs local pack, Google, February 2024Google star ratings on search results

How To Get Google Stars On Local Search Results

To appear in local search results, a Google Business Profile is required.

Customers may leave reviews directly on local business properties without being asked, but Google also encourages business owners to solicit reviews from their customers and shares best practices, including:

  • Asking your customers to leave you a review and make it easy for them to do so by providing a link to your review pages.
  • Making review prompts desktop and mobile-friendly.
  • Replying to customer reviews (ensure you’re a verified provider on Google first).
  • Be sure you do not offer incentives for reviews.

Customers can also leave star ratings on other local review sites, as Google can pull from both to display on local business search properties. It can take up to two weeks to get new local reviews to show in your overall score.

Once customers are actively leaving reviews, Google Business Profile owners have a number of options to help them manage these:

options to manage review on google business profileScreenshot from Google Business Profile Help, Google, February 2024options to manage review on google business profile

Rich Results, Like Recipes, And Google Stars

Everybody’s gotta eat, and we celebrate food in many ways — one of which is recipe blogs.

While restaurants rely more on local reviews, organic search results, and even paid ads, food bloggers seek to have their recipes rated.

Similar to other types of reviews, recipe cards in search results show the average review rating and the total number of reviews.

recipe search results on desktopScreenshot from search for [best vegan winter recipes], Google, February 2024recipe search results on desktop

The outcome has become a point of contention among the food blogging community, since only three recipes per search can be seen on Google desktop results (like shown in the image above), and four on a mobile browser.

These coveted spots will attract clicks, leaving anyone who hasn’t mastered online customer reviews in the dust. That means that the quality of the recipe isn’t necessarily driving these results.

Google gives users the option to click “Show more” to see two additional rows of results:

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expanded desktop recipe search resultsScreenshot from SERPs, Google, February 2024expanded desktop recipe search results

Searchers can continue to click the “Show more” button to see additional recipe results.

Anyone using Google Home can search for a recipe and get results through their phone:

Google assistant recipesScreenshot from Elfsight, February 2024Google assistant recipes

Similarly, recipe search results can be sent from the device to the Google Home assistant. Both methods will enable easy and interactive step-by-step recipe instructions using commands like “start recipe,” “next step,” or even “how much olive oil?”

How To Get Google Stars On Recipe Results

Similar to the steps to have stars appear on organic blue-link listings, food bloggers and recipe websites need to add schema to their websites in order for star ratings to show.

However, it’s not as straightforward as listing the average and the total number of ratings. Developers should follow Google’s instructions for recipe markup.

There is both required and recommended markup:

Required Markup For Recipes

  • Name of the recipe.
  • Image of the recipe in a BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP, or SVG format.

Recommended Markup For Recipes

  • Aggregate rating.
  • Author.
  • Cook time, preparation time, and total duration.
  • Date published.
  • Description.
  • Keywords.
  • Nutrition information.
  • Prep time.
  • Recipe category by meal type, like “dinner.”
  • Region associated with the recipe.
  • Ingredients.
  • Instructions.
  • Yield or total serving.
  • Total time.
  • Video (and other related markup, if there is a video in the recipe).

To have recipes included in Google Assistant Guided Recipes, the following markup must be included:

  • recipeIngredient
  • recipeInstructions
  • To have the video property, add the contentUrl.

For example, here’s what the structured markup would look like for the recipeIngredient property:

example of structured markup for recipe steps in Google AssistantScreenshot from Google Developer, February 2024example of structured markup for recipe steps in Google Assistant

Third-Party Review Sites And Google Stars

Many software companies rely on third-party review sites to help inform their customer’s purchasing decisions.

Third-party review sites include any website a brand doesn’t own where a customer can submit a review, such as Yelp, G2, and many more.

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Many of these sites, like Featured Customers shown below, can display star ratings within Google search results.

Example of star ratings showing in SERPs from third-party review sitesScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024Example of star ratings showing in SERPs from third-party review sites

Rich snippets from third-party reviews, such as stars, summary info, or ratings, can also appear on a Google Business Profile or map view from approved sites.

For local businesses, Google star ratings appear in different locations than the third-party reviews on a desktop:

third party reviews and google stars on desktop resultsScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024third party reviews and google stars on desktop results

On mobile, ratings are displayed on a company’s Google Business Profile. Users need to click on Reviews or scroll down to see the third-party reviews:

third party reviews in local mobile resultsScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024third party reviews in local mobile results

On a map, the results from third parties may be more prominent, like the Tripadvisor review that shows up for a map search of The Hilton in Vancouver (although it does not display a star rating even though Tripadvisor does provide star ratings):

third party reviews in map resultsScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024third party reviews in map results

How To Get Google Stars On Third-Party Review Sites

The best way to get a review on a third-party review site depends on which site is best for the brand or the business.

For example, if you have active customers on Yelp or Tripadvisor, you may choose to engage with customers there.

third-party reviews in search resultsScreenshot from SERPs listing of a review site, Google, February 2024third-party reviews in search results

Similarly, if a software review site like Trustpilot shows up for your branded search, you could do an email campaign with your customer list asking them to leave you a review there.

Here are a few of the third-party review websites that Google recognizes:

  • Trustpilot.
  • Reevoo.
  • Bizrate – through Shopzilla.

When it comes to third-party reviews, Google reminds businesses that there is no way to opt out of third-party reviews, and they need to take up any issues with third-party site owners.

App Store Results And Google Stars

When businesses have an application as their core product, they typically rely on App Store and Google Play Store downloads.

Right from the SERPs, searchers can see an app’s star ratings, as well as the total votes and other important information, like whether the app is free or not.

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App store reviews in search resultsScreenshot from SERP play store results, Google, February 2024App store reviews in search results

How To Get Google Stars On App Store Results

Businesses can list their iOS apps in the App Store or on the Google Play store, prompt customers to leave reviews there, and also respond to them.

Does The Google Star Rating Influence SEO Rankings?

John Mueller confirmed that Google does not factor star ratings or customer reviews into web search rankings. However, Google is clear that star ratings influence local search results and rankings:

“Google review count and review score factor into local search ranking. More reviews and positive ratings can improve your business’ local ranking.”

Even though they are not a ranking factor for non-local organic search, star ratings can serve as an important conversion element, helping you display social proof, build credibility, and increase your click-through rate from search engines (which may indirectly impact your search rankings).

For local businesses, both Google stars and third-party ratings appear in desktop and mobile searches, as seen above.

These ratings not only help local businesses rank above their competitors for key phrases, but they will also help convince more customers to click, which is every company’s search game.

How Do I Improve My Star Rating?

Businesses that want to improve their Google star rating should start by claiming their Google Business Profile and making sure all the information is complete and up to date.

If a company has already taken these steps and wants to offset a poor rating, they are going to need more reviews to offset the average.

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Companies can get more Google reviews by making it easy for customers to leave one. The first step for a company is to get the link to leave a review inside their Google Business Profile:

Ask customers for reviews linkScreenshot from Wordstream, February 2024Ask customers for reviews link

From there, companies can send this link out to customers directly (there are four options displayed right from the link as seen above), include it on social media, and even dedicate sections of their website to gathering more reviews and/or displaying reviews from other users.

It isn’t clear whether or not responding to reviews will help improve a local business’s ranking; however, it’s still a good idea for companies to respond to reviews on their Google Business Profile in order to improve their ratings overall.

That’s because responding to reviews can entice other customers to leave a review since they know they will get a response and because the owner is actually seeing the feedback.

For service businesses, Google provides the option for customers to rate aspects of the experience.

This is helpful since giving reviewers this option allows anyone who had a negative experience to rate just one aspect negatively rather than giving a one-star review overall.

Does Having A Star Rating On Google Matter? Yes! So Shoot For The Stars

Stars indicate quality to consumers, so they almost always improve click-through rates wherever they are present.

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Consumers tend to trust and buy from brands with higher star ratings in local listings, paid ads, or even app downloads.

Many, many, many studies have demonstrated this phenomenon time and again. So, don’t hold back when it comes to reviews.

Do an audit of where your brand shows up in SERPs and get stars next to as many placements as possible.

The most important part of star ratings across Google, however, will always be the service and experiences companies provide that fuel good reviews from happy customers.

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Top Priorities, Challenges, And Opportunities

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Top Priorities, Challenges, And Opportunities

The world of search has seen massive change recently. Whether you’re still in the planning stages for this year or underway with your 2024 strategy, you need to know the new SEO trends to stay ahead of seismic search industry shifts.

It’s time to chart a course for SEO success in this changing landscape.

Watch this on-demand webinar as we explore exclusive survey data from today’s top SEO professionals and digital marketers to inform your strategy this year. You’ll also learn how to navigate SEO in the era of AI, and how to gain an advantage with these new tools.

You’ll hear:

  • The top SEO priorities and challenges for 2024.
  • The role of AI in SEO – how to get ahead of the anticipated disruption of SGE and AI overall, plus SGE-specific SEO priorities.
  • Winning SEO resourcing strategies and reporting insights to fuel success.

With Shannon Vize and Ryan Maloney, we’ll take a deep dive into the top trends, priorities, and challenges shaping the future of SEO.

Discover timely insights and unlock new SEO growth potential in 2024.

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View the slides below or check out the full webinar for all the details.

Join Us For Our Next Webinar!

10 Successful Ways To Improve Your SERP Rankings [With Ahrefs]

Reserve your spot and discover 10 quick and easy SEO wins to boost your site’s rankings.

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E-E-A-T’s Google Ranking Influence Decoded

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E-E-A-T's Google Ranking Influence Decoded

The idea that something is not a ranking factor that nevertheless plays a role in ranking websites seems to be logically irreconcilable. Despite seeming like a paradox that cancels itself out, SearchLiaison recently tweeted some comments that go a long way to understanding how to think about E-E-A-T and apply it to SEO.

What A Googler Said About E-E-A-T

Marie Haynes published a video excerpt on YouTube from an event at which a Googler spoke, essentially doubling down on the importance of E-A-T.

This is what he said:

“You know this hasn’t always been there in Google and it’s something that we developed about ten to twelve or thirteen years ago. And it really is there to make sure that along the lines of what we talked about earlier is that it really is there to ensure that the content that people consume is going to be… it’s not going to be harmful and it’s going to be useful to the user. These are principles that we live by every single day.

And E-A-T, that template of how we rate an individual site based off of Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness, we do it to every single query and every single result. So it’s actually very pervasive throughout everything that we do .

I will say that the YMYL queries, the Your Money or Your Life Queries, such as you know when I’m looking for a mortgage or when I’m looking for the local ER,  those we have a particular eye on and we pay a bit more attention to those queries because clearly they’re some of the most important decisions that people can make.

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So I would say that E-A-T has a bit more of an impact there but again, I will say that E-A-T applies to everything, every single query that we actually look at.”

How can something be a part of every single search query and not be a ranking factor, right?

Background, Experience & Expertise In Google Circa 2012

Something to consider is that in 2012 Google’s senior engineer at the time, Matt Cutts, said that experience and expertise brings a measure of quality to content and makes it worthy of ranking.

Matt Cutts’ remarks on experience and expertise were made in an interview with Eric Enge.

Discussing whether the website of a hypothetical person named “Jane” deserves to rank with articles that are original variations of what’s already in the SERPs.

Matt Cutts observed:

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“While they’re not duplicates they bring nothing new to the table.

Google would seek to detect that there is no real differentiation between these results and show only one of them so we could offer users different types of sites in the other search results.

They need to ask themselves what really is their value add? …they need to figure out what… makes them special.

…if Jane is just churning out 500 words about a topic where she doesn’t have any background, experience or expertise, a searcher might not be as interested in her opinion.”

Matt then cites the example of Pulitzer Prize-Winning movie reviewer Roger Ebert as a person with the background, experience and expertise that makes his opinion valuable to readers and the content worthy of ranking.

Matt didn’t say that a webpage author’s background, experience and expertise were ranking factors. But he did say that these are the kinds of things that can differentiate one webpage from another and align it to what Google wants to rank.

He specifically said that Google’s algorithm detects if there is something different about it that makes it stand out. That was in 2012 but not much has changed because Google’s John Mueller says the same thing.

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For example, in 2020 John Mueller said that differentiation and being compelling is important for getting Google to notice and rank a webpage.

“So with that in mind, if you’re focused on kind of this small amount of content that is the same as everyone else then I would try to find ways to significantly differentiate yourselves to really make it clear that what you have on your website is significantly different than all of those other millions of ringtone websites that have kind of the same content.

…And that’s the same recommendation I would have for any kind of website that offers essentially the same thing as lots of other web sites do.

You really need to make sure that what you’re providing is unique and compelling and high quality so that our systems and users in general will say, I want to go to this particular website because they offer me something that is unique on the web and I don’t just want to go to any random other website.”

In 2021, in regard to getting Google to index a webpage, Mueller also said:

“Is it something the web has been waiting for? Or is it just another red widget?”

This thing about being compelling and different than other sites, it’s something that’s been a part of Google’s algorithm awhile, just like the Googler in the video said, just like Matt Cutts said and exactly like what Mueller has said as well.

Are they talking about signals?

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E-EA-T Algorithm Signals

We know there’s something in the algorithm that relates to someone’s expertise and background that Google’s looking for. The table is set and we can dig into the next step of what it all means.

A while back back I remember reading something that Marie Haynes said about E-A-T, she called it a framework. And I thought, now that’s an interesting thing she just did, she’s conceptualizing E-A-T.

When SEOs discussed E-A-T it was always in the context of what to do in order to demonstrate E-A-T. So they looked at the Quality Raters Guide for guidance, which kind of makes sense since it’s a guide, right?

But what I’m proposing is that the answer isn’t really in the guidelines or anything that the quality raters are looking for.

The best way to explain it is to ask you to think about the biggest part of Google’s algorithm, relevance.

What’s relevance? Is it something you have to do? It used to be about keywords and that’s easy for SEOs to understand. But it’s not about keywords anymore because Google’s algorithm has natural language understanding (NLU). NLU is what enables machines to understand language in the way that it’s actually spoken (natural language).

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So, relevance is just something that’s related or connected to something else. So, if I ask, how do I satiate my thirst? The answer can be water, because water quenches the thirst.

How is a site relevant to the search query: “how do I satiate my thirst?”

An SEO would answer the problem of relevance by saying that the webpage has to have the keywords that match the search query, which would be the words “satiate” and “thirst.”

The next step the SEO would take is to extract the related entities for “satiate” and “thirst” because every SEO “knows” they need to do entity research to understand how to make a webpage that answers the search query, “How do I satiate my thirst?”

Hypothetical Related entities:

  • Thirst: Water, dehydration, drink,
  • Satiate: Food, satisfaction, quench, fulfillment, appease

Now that the SEO has their entities and their keywords they put it all together and write a 600 word essay that uses all their keywords and entities so that their webpage is relevant for the search query, “How do I satiate my thirst?”

I think we can stop now and see how silly that is, right? If someone asked you, “How do I satiate my thirst?” You’d answer, “With water” or “a cold refreshing beer” because that’s what it means to be relevant.

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Relevance is just a concept. It doesn’t have anything to do with entities or keywords in today’s search algorithms because the machine is understanding search queries as natural language, even more so with AI search engines.

Similarly, E-E-A-T is also just a concept. It doesn’t have anything to do with author bios, LinkedIn profiles, it doesn’t have anything at all to do with making your content say that you handled the product that’s being reviewed.

Here’s what SearchLiaison recently said about an E-E-A-T, SEO and Ranking:

“….just making a claim and talking about a ‘rigorous testing process’ and following an ‘E-E-A-T checklist’ doesn’t guarantee a top ranking or somehow automatically cause a page to do better.”

Here’s the part where SearchLiaison ties a bow around the gift of E-E-A-T knowledge:

“We talk about E-E-A-T because it’s a concept that aligns with how we try to rank good content.”

E-E-A-T Can’t Be Itemized On A Checklist

Remember how we established that relevance is a concept and not a bunch of keywords and entities? Relevance is just answering the question.

E-E-A-T is the same thing. It’s not something that you do. It’s closer to something that you are.

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SearchLiaison elaborated:

“…our automated systems don’t look at a page and see a claim like “I tested this!” and think it’s better just because of that. Rather, the things we talk about with E-E-A-T are related to what people find useful in content. Doing things generally for people is what our automated systems seek to reward, using different signals.”

A Better Understanding Of E-E-A-T

I think it’s clear now how E-E-A-T isn’t something that’s added to a webpage or is something that is demonstrated on the webpage. It’s a concept, just like relevance.

A good way to think o fit is if someone asks you a question about your family and you answer it. Most people are pretty expert and experienced enough to answer that question. That’s what E-E-A-T is and how it should be treated when publishing content, regardless if it’s YMYL content or a product review, the expertise is just like answering a question about your family, it’s just a concept.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Roman Samborskyi

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