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There’s no shortcut to authority: Why you need to take E-A-T seriously

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Recently, I was talking to a client about a new project when he raised an interesting question. He was curious to know how I measured E-A-T, or “expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness,” in relation to SEO.

If you’re unfamiliar with E-A-T, it’s a term taken from Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines, a set of instructions that Google’s army of many thousands of human reviewers (known internally as “raters” or “Search Quality Evaluators”) use to assess the quality of web content manually.

Although it is sometimes difficult to understand Google’s internal processes, from what I’ve heard from reliable sources at Google, E-A-T is applied specifically to YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) websites, that is, to sites that offer medical or financial advice.

As you might expect, Google would rather not serve up misleading or unreliable advice that could affect your financial or physical well-being, so paying particular attention to the information touted on these types of websites is very important.

Now, my client’s website was not in a financial or medical niche, so technically these guidelines do not affect him directly. After all, Google – so they say – are not applying E-A-T across the board. But I didn’t tell the client not to worry about E-A-T.

Far from it.

In my opinion, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness are things that every business should be looking to build both online and offline. What business wouldn’t want to be recognized and trusted within (and beyond) their industry?

I asked my co-author on The Art of SEO, Eric Enge, to weigh in on this issue of E-A-T and whether it’s applied to YMYL only or more globally across the Web. He responded “Google is very technical and precise in how they use various terms. Within Google, as I understand it, E-A-T refers to something that they apply specifically to YMYL sites. But that doesn’t mean that the general ideas that we all associate with E-A-T aren’t likewise applied to other sites.”

In this excellent article, Chris Silver Smith argues that Google partly uses a numerical score to calculate E-A-T. When I emailed him, he replied that “If Quality (the combined E-A-T) is partly a numerical score as I’ve long theorized, then that factor is weighted much heavier for YMYL pages/sites than for things like entertainment pages, or articles about non-YMYL topics, etc. But, E-A-T still applies to things like e-commerce pages, even when those are not as high-priority as YMYL.”

So, if you believe me and these two highly regarded SEO practitioners, following E-A-T guidelines is good for SEO no matter your niche. In my view, even if E-A-T only applied to certain industries, the techniques used to build authority should be a part of every SEO strategy.

The problem is, E-A-T is notoriously difficult to measure.

How does Google measure authority?

If you talk to different people in the SEO industry, they will have different theories about the signals that Google uses to assess the authority of your site and assign rankings. We know that backlinks from authoritative sites are one way. CTR (Click Through Rate) is theorized as another, although Gary Illyes of Google contradicted that recently in his Reddit AMA. We also know that content quality is important. Online reviews may also have some impact.

Exactly how Google uses all these factors to make a decision is somewhat of a mystery, even to Google engineers. That’s because machine learning algorithms are opaque as to which signals they use. No one can see inside the black box – even the programmers who originally coded the AI.

In the aforementioned article, Chris Silver Smith argues that, rather than weighing one particular signal above all others, Google’s approach to assessing authority is more “holistic.” Google’s algorithms almost certainly use a wide range of signals and metrics to evaluate where a page might rank, meaning simply focusing on one signal while ignoring others is not a shortcut to results. Backlinks are crucial; but acquiring high-quality links to a site with shoddy coding, poor online reviews and spammy content won’t work.

Instead of looking for a “silver bullet” to achieve rankings and traffic, it’s important to pay careful attention to how you present your brand online. Overall, from the way your site is coded right up to your branding and PR strategies.

Holistic SEO

I’ll admit, saying that Google’s approach to rankings is “holistic” may sound a little vague and unsatisfying. It begs the question: what do you focus on if you want to optimize your site?

Thankfully, it’s not that difficult.

For the most part, building authority in your niche is common sense. If you’ve been working hard on gaining backlinks from quality sites, creating remarkable content, and ensuring your site is free from errors and thin content, then you’re well on your way.

But what can you do beyond the basics to ensure that Google sees you as a trusted site in your niche?

The answer is simple, but not easy. That is, do whatever it takes to ensure you have a solid reputation both online and offline.

On your site, be completely transparent about who you are. Create detailed “about” pages that put a human face to your company and tell your story (see mine as an example of such). Provide an excellent customer experience and respond to negative reviews online. Be open and honest about your processes and provide expert advice to your clients whenever you get the chance.

Link building is still a cornerstone of SEO; but gone are the days when you can simply spam people with generic emails offering content for guest posts. Instead, aim high and focus on quality over quantity. For example, I recently published an article in Harvard Business Review. Since this is a prestigious outlet that is very discerning about who it publishes, the link is incredibly powerful in the eyes of Google.

Building authority online takes time, but the payoff is huge. Start with the obvious questions. Is there an expert at your company who might be willing to do a TEDx talk? What’s the most respected publication in your industry, and how can you get published there? What about industry groups? What kind of connections do you have in the media that might be able to help you? Do you do any noteworthy charity/nonprofit work that has a powerful message that might be of interest to journalists?

If you’re not sure where to start, hire a PR agency or better yet, buy a book on PR and teach yourself.

Trust metrics

Fine, you might say. All this is good stuff, but (getting back to my client’s question) how do I measure the impact of this kind of work?

For one thing, a successful PR/link building campaign that lands you links from high authority sites will definitely begin to impact your traffic and rankings.

If you’re looking for more quantifiable metrics, then consider investing in tools like Majestic and LinkResearchTools. I find that Majestic’s “Trust Flow” and LinkResearchTools’ “LRT Trust” metrics still give the best indication of how trusted a particular page is.

Both these scores are based on your link profile. Although this is just one aspect of all the elements Google takes into account, it’s still the best indication that we in the SEO community have available to us on how much trust you are endowed with. In Majestic, I recommend aiming for a Trust Flow score of 50 or above (the highest score is 100) and an LRT Trust score of 5 or above (the highest score is 10). Make sure that you are looking at these metrics at the page level, not just the domain level.

As both of these scores are relatively high-level, it’s not possible to measure the incremental changes in E-A-T my client was interested in, as in every link he acquired and every piece of content he updated. Still, tracking your trust scores over time will give you a sense of whether your site is increasing or decreasing in trust. Some of the tools even provide a history of trust scores; Majestic, for example, goes back 18 months with their Trust Flow History Tool.

In addition, it is worthwhile to conduct regular surveys of your customers and reviewing brand sentiment metrics to get a sense of how people view your brand. If you see a lot of negative sentiment, you’ll want to take action to remedy it quickly.

As with most things SEO-related, it won’t be a single link or a piece of viral content that suddenly launches you into the pole position. It takes a sincere and sustained effort over months, even years, to get to the top.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Stephan Spencer is the creator of the 3-day immersive SEO seminar Traffic Control; an author of the O’Reilly books The Art of SEO, Google Power Search, and Social eCommerce; founder of the SEO agency Netconcepts (acquired in 2010); inventor of the SEO proxy technology GravityStream; and the host of two podcast shows Get Yourself Optimized and Marketing Speak.



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Digital agency survey results, Bing Webmaster Tools, Google Search Console

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Interview with Lior Davidovitch, the founder of PUBLC

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30-second summary:

  • The worldwide web is a clear reflection of all the shifts 2020 has brought and as businesses and marketers crunch majority of their budgets and pivot strategies.
  • In light of the current scenario businesses, digital marketers, and content creators continue to face some key problems around digital ad revenue, ad blocking, and more.
  • We caught up with Lior Davidovitch, the founder of PUBLC, an innovative search engine that reinvents user experience and technology.
  • PUBLC is a new search engine built by everyone, for everyone, that aspires to create an equally distributed web economy using blockchain token economics.
  • Read on to discover insights on how PUBLC serves a more equally distributed web economy using blockchain and token economics, generating a new and native revenue stream for online publishers.

The worldwide web is a clear reflection of all the shifts 2020 has brought and as businesses and marketers crunch majority of their budgets and pivot strategies, these remain some key problems of today’s digital space:

  • Digital ad revenue has taken a hit due to ad blockers.
  • Online publishers struggle to find a native revenue model as an alternative to ad-based models, which only grows bigger now with the COVID-19 impact on the advertising industry. Digital ad revenue is declining, as use of adblockers is increasing
  • Google and Facebook duopoly dominate over 60% of global ad revenue.

We caught up with Lior Davidovitch, the founder of PUBLC, a search engine that aims to reward the entire web ecosystem by creating an innovative, more equally distributed web economy using blockchain and token economics, generating a new and native revenue stream for online publishers.

Q1. Can you tell us about your background and journey towards becoming the founder of PUBLC?

I was always one of those kids that constantly thought of different business ideas and tried to invent things. The original idea for PUBLC started over 15 years ago when I was frustrated with the existing search engines. I always thought that people know best and there should be a way to add the human element to search for a better-organized web. Back then I had mocked up a few presentations and a family friend even connected me to a VC, but I was so young and had no idea what I was doing. Later in university, I wasn’t keen on academia and dropped out to start my journey as a start-up entrepreneur. In the beginning, I was just playing around with different ideas, and eventually, I saw that I’m always going back to the same original idea of creating a new search engine. I started completely from scratch, learning everything in the process, making mistakes, learning again, and building PUBLC layer by layer.

Q2. What was the biggest challenge you faced while setting up PUBLC? How did you solve it?

Just saying that you want to create a new search engine is a huge challenge by itself, doing it the way PUBLC does, creating a new search engine that completely reinvents the user experience and technology with a token-based business model is an even bigger challenge! If you add new and complicated technologies like blockchain and AI to the mix, the challenge becomes even bigger. Plus, the fact that you’re doing it as a small self-funded startup makes it almost impossible! But eventually, we did it step by step, layer by layer and built this platform that’s backed with AI and a blockchain financial infrastructure.

Q3. Can you give us a brief insight into PUBLC and your token economy?

PUBLC is a new type of search engine built by everyone, for everyone, that aspires to create an equally distributed web economy using blockchain token economics. You can think of PUBLC as a mix between Google and Wikipedia, where we combine human intelligence with artificial intelligence (AI) enabling users to categorize the content and “teach” PUBLC how to better organize the web, creating a new search experience, while also rewarding the users for participating in the process.

With regards to the token economics, on the one hand, our token, PUBLX, is granted by PUBLC as a reward to its community that contributes to PUBLC. On the other hand, the tokens are used as the only form of payment for PUBLC’s business services used by advertisers on the platform. This balance between supply and demand is what establishes the token value.

Token earners, be it publishers, brands, influencers, or content categorizers, can either use their token rewards to pay for any of our business services or exchange them on cryptocurrency exchanges, where the tokens can be bought by advertisers. So, we encourage everyone to checkout PUBLC and discover how they could earn PUBLX tokens.

Q5. How can businesses use PUBLC? Any tips on how they can get started with PUBLC?

PUBLC was built with all the different actors of the web ecosystem in mind, as we believe PUBLC is a platform that is meant to serve everyone and reward them for the value they create. Businesses as online publishers, brands, and celebrities benefit from PUBLC as it gives them exposure to new audiences, drives traffic to their websites, and earns them revenue for every time a user clicks on their content and views it. Businesses can get started on PUBLC by submitting their website, categorizing their content, and curating their pages. Our job is to support all those people and help them better achieve their goals, so feel free to reach out to us, we would love to hear from you!

Q6. Would video content be sourced from platforms like YouTube?

Yes! PUBLC curates and displays video content that users upload on YouTube and other such sites. You’ll be surprised to know that we even reward sites like YouTube as they also provide value to the ecosystem for hosting all that content.

Q7. What are your future plans for PUBLC? Will you venture into the digital advertising aspect as well? If yes, we’re assuming it will be in-ecosystem currency of PUBLX tokens?

Besides inventing a new user experience and technology we also had to invent a new revenue model connected to our token economy – and that’s crucial to the success of the platform – having those PUBLX tokens that are given to everyone for their contribution have real-life value. In order to do that we built a new set of business services such as, promoted content, brand awareness, ecommerce, and more, which offer advertisers a new way to enhance their brand awareness or conversions in a native and organic way within the platform without compromising PUBLC’s user experience for the users. 

Our business services work differently than the way it’s done on traditional search engines, and it rethinks this traditional advertising model of just promoting ads over search queries. The usual method is good but it could be different. We put more focus on content and the user experience because when you get ads, whether it’s on Google, Facebook, or any other platform – as a user that harms your experience. We aim to deliver our business services in a very native and organic way that doesn’t harm the user experience. For example, PUBLC offers promoted content that is real, in the form of videos, articles, and other multimedia. These could be campaigns that not only provide advertisers with the worth of their money but also engage and add value for the users. Furthermore, we incorporate PUBLC’s community in the approval of ads, having them take part in flagging spam and fraud, and helping shape PUBLC revenue model.

Q8. Do you use citations? How does the web validate your resources?

We’re focused more on the human element of search. People add domains and content URLs which are then approved by our community, and only then are indexed and crawled, making our sources more credible. There are many parameters that our algorithm evaluates in order to rank content, to give you a better idea I’ll share the three main key elements:

  1. Relevancy: How the content is relevant to the search query or the topic that is searched
  2. Popularity: How many PUBLC users saw and clicked on the content
  3. Content age: How old is it, when was it published

Users are the first gatekeepers of which content gets indexed on the PUBLC search engine. 

Q9. How does PUBLC’s search engine combine human intelligence and AI? Is it curated by people? How do you counter aspects of “subjectivity” and “bias”?

As I’ve mentioned before, I strongly believe that people know best. They would know best about what topic(s) the is content related to or which search queries best describe the content. This is unlike how typical search engines work by mainly analyzing the text of the content. Having users add and categorize content on PUBLC works on a micro-scale for that specific content. However, when you add machine learning and AI to that you can adapt on a much larger scale, learn better about content categorization and indexing in a more precise, user-friendly, and genuine manner. Our search engine intends to broaden users’ horizons by reaching new content that they didn’t even know existed.

Yes, giving too much power to people could bring bias. But I’d like to refer to PUBLC on the lines of Wikipedia where you have a large group of people editing a specific piece of content that could be very controversial, and they still find a way to do it. On PUBLC we have an entire system of a reputation for users and publishers so they’re always building their own reputation simultaneously. 

For example, a user could build their reputation on the PUBLC platform for any niche, let’s assume, blockchain. Now if this user claims something about blockchain, the system considers their subject matter expertise and deems their claim right for crawling, categorizing, and indexing. 

We have everything validated by the users of the community. I think users very quickly know spam when they see it, so they wouldn’t approve spam-like content with the risk of lowering their reputation. We built this set of rules to incentivize people to do good and if they don’t play by the rules, they’re just going to lose.

Q10. Could you give us a small brief on how you’re dealing with privacy? Is there anything else that you’d like people to know about in terms of data privacy?

Privacy is one of PUBLC’s core, crucial elements. In fact, that’s the big problem with the web that we also saw fit to address. Platforms like Facebook and the others make their business out of the users’ data, and in a way compromises their privacy. That’s why there’s a huge loss of trust for users. One of our ambitions and aims is to use blockchain to enable users to have the best, most personal user experience while having 100% privacy. We are now building this element, and plan to have all of our users’ personal data stored on the blockchain and accessed only by them ensuring them with complete control over their data that’s also kept anonymous.

Users would have their own PUBLC IDs but there would be no way that I, the platform, or any of us could access that information. If a user personally chooses to share their information with advertisers and publishers to help them understand the user profile or engagement with their content – that too would be completely anonymized. 

Since it’s still the users’ data giving value to a business they would also be rewarded for it. This way we help users earn some of the revenue made through that data. But again, it would be completely anonymized data ensuring that businesses can’t trace a user to their real-life entity. That’s one of the great potentials that blockchain gives is the bandwidth to build platforms that are more focused on the privacy elements.

Q11. What are your predictions for search and SEO in 2020?

As I’m sure you can already guess, I believe search and SEO will be more focused on the human element, and that we will continue to see improvements in understanding the user’s intent. I think we will also see SEO become more accessible to the creators, and more straightforward, without harming the creativity and user experience of the content. Doing so by making tools to create the best optimization and content categorization. One of the biggest problems I see today is that creative content creators are forced to focus their efforts on SEO rather than on creating better content. I hope that with PUBLC, creators could focus on creating creative content while having the tools to actively influence their content’s SEO, without having the two contradict one another. For me, the prediction would be – better user experience, better content, and hopefully a better web.



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Quora keyword targets, Angular SEO & old stock SEO

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