Google E-A-T with Rob May @robinlmay #vcbuzz

Google E-A-T with Rob May @robinlmay #vcbuzz

Google has been evolving pretty consistently over the years trying to come up with more diverse and more effective ranking signals and tell high-quality from weak content algorithmically.

One of its more recent concepts Google has been talking about in its Quality Raters’ Guidelines is E-A-T and that’s what we are talking about today!

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About Rob May @robinlmay

Rob May @robinlmay is an international #SEO consultant.

Rob has been in the digital marketing industry for over two decades.

Connect to Rob on Linkedin!

Questions we discussed

Q1 How did you become a digital marketer? Please share your career story!

I started out as a Web Developer/Marketer out of University in (May/June) of 2000. I had signed on with a start-up (actually a rebrand and restructure) designated with rebuilding their travel platform. After many early detailed discussions with the CEO, the owner/CEO had decided to move towards the ‘web’ and away from traditional old ‘travel agency structure’ with 25 reservationists/paper ads, and heavy call center approach.

Yes, we kept the call centre to handle in-bound calls/reservations – but we completely refocused the direction of the company. It was going to focus on reaching the largest potential volume of audience, and move away (gradually in year 1). I essentially was tasked w/ redesigning the entire company and moving it to a web focused effort. Redesigning the primitive website, strategy going forward. It was like the Wild West really. Google was only a few years old, websites were up and coming marketing tools, Paid search with Google Adwords were just getting off the ground. We dive in head first, investing massive amounts of money to build out the platforms, get marketing moving to digital, paid ads up and running etc, and I had to learn all that while doing all the heavy design work. I became so intrigued with learning about the early stages of what’s called SEO today, and Rand Fishkin at SEOMoz was probably my biggest resource few years into building the companies web properties. I think that was around 2004. His early blog posts, eventual “Whiteboard Friday” videos were a big jump point for me to start digging in more to SEO. I became obsessed with wanting to get the sites ranking organically and reducing the monthly spend on paid. I studied everything I could find on SEO. Attended many of the earliest conferences I could find. Even some of the later one’s. Work usually got in the way of attending more that I would have liked to go to. I built up the Web Department to have 3 other web developers and 2 graphic designers working full time by 2004, while I focused heavily on learning and applying SEO efforts to grow the business. I took over as Director of Wed/SEO in Jan 2005 for our company, head of driving web operations, SEO and sales.

From here, I met all kinds of other businesses in various areas of the country and began consulting on a few select projects. Vegas, NY, NJ, California. I was just totally enveloped in wanting to work on new projects that were SEO focused. I was consulting on projects, I was working and running the business for our companies. I had been told at the time I was like a machine ? (not sure if that’s good or bad) lol.

During this first 4-5 years operations with the company, this resulted in massive reductions to our ‘paid search spend’ (which was probably about 12-15K/month – ski vacation travel focused in 2005-2006) by 70%. By 2006-2007, we had increased business revenue to just under 3 million/year (all channels), and in 1 year had dropped PPC spend to as little as $2500/month USD in paid Ads to Google and generating the rest organically. SEO was a huge part of growing the company – the growth was amazing. I was officially made a partner in the company in May 2006 as it was a critical jump point of how were going to grow and scale the company for the next 5-6 years (market expansion, etc.). Then we planned market expansions to other ski destinations/states in the US, mainly Colorado and Utah. Opened up a Real Estate company (with 5 full time agents) and as well, in tandem to match our reservations division, opened up a Property Management company. I sold my shares and left the company in 2011, due to differences of opinion on how to run the company.

That’s how it all started.

From 2011 onward I have held various agency head positions (head of digital, Director of SEO, and consulted internationally on projects with clients in Canada, US and more. Usually always busy – but I have expanded to not only include SEO today – – but focus on all aspects of digital marketing, including Paid, Content Marketing, Conversion rate optimization and Social Media have all become major tools in my approaches to successful campaigns. It’s not just about the traffic. It’s about the experience, the education, the value of brand growth and visibility mixed with conversion for revenue generation ?

Exactly – there isn’t. I learned so much in those 11 years to the point of running a business with staff and taking that to heart. the staff and teams were family.

Q2 What is E-A-T and why should we care?

  • E-A-T is part of Google’s ongoing attempts to stop people gaming the system, by forcing them to create useful quality content. Websites, companies, and content creators are all under the lens.
  • E-A-T – What does this mean – exactly – “pages that impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users”
  • First appeared in industry blogs – high level – around 2013 (Google first mentioned YMYL pages in the Search QRG)
  • E-A-T places strong emphasis on three things: Expertise Authoritativeness Trustworthiness
  • What is E-A-T? This came from Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines in/and around mid -2018.
  • It’s a highly focused concept discussed in great detail across many points in the quality Raters Guidelines
  • Large detailed document (200 pages deep) that speaks to all kinds of things that these ‘raters’ look for when manually revising websites to ‘scale and score’. (link to the Sept 2019 version here:  (Sept 5, 2019 edition)
    • The QRGs are outlined in an extensive document and are designed to guide the work of quality raters: real people who manually review websites.
    • The guidelines break pages down into “Lowest, Low, Medium, High, and Highest quality.” It’s implied that Google wants pages most resembling the high-quality ones to rank.
    • Raters are asked to consider, in this order:
      • The purpose of the page.
      • The content’s E-A-T score.
      • The main content quality and amount.
      • Information about the creator of the main content.
      • Reputation of the creator of the main content.
  • Looks to target –  low-quality spam content ranking highly. Reward people for high value/well researched content. Win – win!
  • It’s an ongoing process of refinement to ensure that the right pages rank.
  • E-A-T-related tweaks to Google’s algorithm are advised by human reviewers, who sift through hundreds of websites and evaluate them according to Google’s QRGs. The quality raters cannot directly influence how individual sites rank, but their findings are cross-referenced with SERPs to make sure the high-quality stuff is ranking.

Acronyms that might come up!

  • E-A-T: Expertise-Authority-Trust
  • QRG: Quality Rater Guidelines
  • YMYL: Your Money or Your Life
  • Trust signals
  • MC: Main content
  • SERP / SERPs: Search Engine Results Page
  • Think of E-A-T as PAGE QUALITY – and everything that can go into that for a website. (was recently retitled in the May 2019 edition to Page Quality).
  • Every business owner should care about E-A-T, especially if they are in a vertical that can be highly scrutinized by Google (YMYL)

Google Ben Gomes – Google VP of Search – QUOTE “ -> “You can view the rater guidelines as where we want the search algorithm to go. They don’t tell you how the algorithm is ranking results, but they fundamentally show what the algorithm should do.”

Q3 How can one work on improving their E-A-T? Does it work the same in all niches?

Each site is different. Different reasons, different market, approach etc, but E-A-T can impact any site/niche. It isn’t specific to any one industry from my experience to date. Some sites as noted below (YMYL) are targeted and more heavily scrutinized.

The quality and amount of main content, website information, and website reputation all inform the E-A-T of a website.

  • People should asses their site as a start. Take a hard look at the site (objective), the content, structure, UI/UX, everything involved, etc. Asses to see if the sites direction is clear.
    • Often hard when it’s done by an internal member of a team, because presenting the results to upper levels can be difficult and sometimes daunting! YMYL sites (and pages) are under high scrutiny as well by Google (Your Money, Your Life).
  • Sites that are highly scrutinized content TOPICS today include: (recently changed from
    • ·​​ ​​​​​​​​​​​​Sites​ ​giving​ ​medical​ ​advice. (health and safety)
      ·​​ ​​​​​​​​​​​​Sites​ ​giving​ ​legal​ ​advice (citizenship, legal issues, social services, public institutions, gov agencies, etc)
      ·​​ ​​​​​​​​​​​​Sites​ ​giving​ ​financial​ ​advice (tax, financial, banking, investments, retirement planning, loans, insurance, etc)
      ·​​ ​​​​​​​​​​​​Sites​ ​that​ ​allow​ ​purchase​ ​of​ ​products​ ​or​ ​services (shopping online, purchase of goods, etc)
    • Children safety, adoption
    • Site with articles, public/official information pages –
    • News, events (about important topics, international events, business, technology, politics, etc)
    • Civic GOV and Law
    • Groups of people (race, origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, etc)
    • Other: like fitness, nutrition,

Site Self -assessment as I mentioned is critical and important – these are great points to jump off for your teams to isolate and find options for discovering the impact of declines in search performance.

  • Jennifer Slegg has an amazing E-A-T document she updates every time there is a QRG update (comparing different results) – posted with Search Engine Journal – the last comparative update was the May 15, 2019 WRG update (with the previous version)

Why E-A-T Matters

  • Google is relying on users to help make the internet a better place
  • If you wouldn’t trust a website, search engines probably won’t either
  • E-A-T can help all digital efforts, not just SEO

5 Quick Tips to IMPROVE

  • Improve your online reputation and reviews on 3rd party websites
  • Don’t overwhelm your users with ads or try to deceive them
  • Disclose who your brand is, who your authors are, and why they should be trusted
  • Cite credible sources and receive (organic!) links from credible sources
  • Make sure YMYL content is supported by scientific evidence

Some questions you might consider asking yourself might include (to assess E-A-T) for a website: might be:

·         Would you trust the information presented in this article?

·         Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?

·         Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?

·         Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?

·         Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in the search results?

·         How much quality control is done on content?

What you can look for on your site  – E-A-T Wise – and how to address these points =

    • “Every page on the Internet is created for a purpose… websites that are created with intent to harm users, deceive users, or make money with no attempt to help users, should receive the lowest quality rating”
    • “consider the expertise of the creator of the main content.”
    • “For all pages that have a beneficial purpose, the amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness is very important. Please consider the expertise of the creator of the main content.”
    • “The reputation and E-A-T of the creators of the main content is extremely important when a website has different authors or content creators on different pages. Research the reputation and E-A-T of both the website and the creators of the main content.”
    • “Google expects Ads to be visible. However, pages with Ads or features that distract from or interrupt the use of the main content should be given a low-quality rating.”
    • “Use reputation research to find out what real users, as well as experts, think about a website. Look for reviews, references, recommendations by experts, news articles, and other credible information”
    • “When there is disagreement between what the website says about itself and what reputable independent sources say about the website, Google will trust the independent sources.”
    • “Every page belongs to a website, and it should be clear who (what individual, company, business, foundation, etc.) is responsible for the website.”
    • Be aware. “google will consider a comment or forum discussion to be “spammed” if there are posts with unrelated comments that are not intended to help other users, but rather to advertise a product or create a link to a website.”


Connection Tip – Backlinks + Pagerank

How does Google fight Disinformation?

  • Search quality evaluators measure & assess website quality in live user tests
  • Feedback is benchmarked and used to inform algorithms
  • Algorithms identify signals that correlate with E-A-T (PageRank & links)

Google goes on to state that high E-A-T content exists in all industries and verticals and that the content should be factual, produced by experts and expert bodies and updated with accurate information regularly.

Google writes:

“We have very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages because low-quality YMYL pages could potentially negatively impact users’ happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.”

Google Search Quality Guidelines

While there are currently no hard metrics or ways to quantify E-A-T, the idea is still directional and in the case of three examples above, we can determine methods to improve a site’s overall E-A-T.  In understanding what expertise, authority and trustworthiness mean, content strategists can better devise a plan for content that meets those tenets.

Q4 When it comes to E-A-T, what do we know for sure and what are some educated theories? Are their any tests and case studies that prove those theories?

  • The QRG is the best guideline for assessing a website – with regards to E-A-T and it’s potential impact.
  • Everything noted above is taken from understanding the QRG documents.

Glenn Gabe has some great User Studies (attacks Core algo updates, but E-A-T is considered a part of that now) which, when reading, are quite interesting, and can teach a lot on how to approach analyzing the impact it brings.

A great resource of his is noted here.

Q5 What are your favorite digital marketing tools?

Because I work on so many aspects of SEO today with my staff and teams, the toolbox just keeps getting bigger and bigger. as I stated, some tools are free – but the majority of the paid platforms are one’s we use daily for all aspects of SEO, analysis,

  • My favorite tools include a HUGE array, and I use almost every single one of these weekly (no particular order) including some FREE tools too. Can never have too many tools!
  • Screaming Frog (technical SEO, site analysis and auditing)
  • SEMRush (technical SEO, auditing, site analysis, competitive research, KW research + more)
  • HubSpot (inbound marketing)
  • Moz (SEO)
  • Google Analytics (data collection)
  • Ahrefs (link analysis)
  • BuzzSumo (content marketing/SEO + social media impact analysis – topical interest/industry listening/performance)
  • Majestic (link analysis)
  • CrazyEgg (user interaction analysis/ CRO)
  • KW Finder (KW research)
  • GTMetrix – (mobile and desktop site render testing)
  • Pingdom (mobile + desktop site render testing)
  • Google Search Console (technical site analysis, discovery)
  • Ubersuggest (KW research)
  • Site Bulb (technical SEO, auditing, site analysis)
  • Pagespeed Insights (mobile/desktop analysis, user interaction analysis, render testing + more)
  • Jaxxy (KW research)
  • SERP scraper (Scrape search engines, listing pages)
  • Browserstack (UI testing, mobile + desktop)
  • Structured Data Testing Tool (technical SEO implementation – schema)
  • Answer the Public (content marketing research/topical research)
  • Animalz Revive (identify outdated content)
  • Google Mobile Friendly Test (mobile render testing/debugging)
  • Seed Keywords (KW research)
  • Keywords Everywhere (KW research)
  • Browseo (search engine testing)
  • Keyworddit (Reddit KW Research)
  • Keys4Up (untapped lateral KW research/ideas)
  • Panguin (Google Penalty verification mapping via Google Analytics GA – impact updates via Google updates)
  • Dareboost – (technical SEO analysis)
  • Mergewords (KW research, variation merge fast and easy)

Oh they help make this way more efficient. I remember when these tools didn’t exist or were in the infancy… 😐 – Today, tools are more awesome than ever.

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