In EDGE of the Web Episode 324, EDGE host Erin Sparks (Site Strategics CEO) and Creative Studio Producer Jacob Mann spoke with SEO expert Marie Haynes of Marie Haynes Consulting to take a deep dive into the impact of Google’s push for EAT – expertise, authoritativeness, and trust in websites and pages. Here’s what we learned:
Marie Haynes: Her Background and Experience
If you want to understand Google’s algorithms, you need to be paying attention to Dr. Marie Haynes. She speaks at conferences like SMX and PubCon and has her own SEO agency called Marie Haynes Consulting. Like many of our guests, Marie came into the industry through a kind of back door. She was a veterinarian but suffered a back injury in 2008 kept her from working. While spending a lot of time in a horizontal position, she built a veterinarian website. This then got her to thinking about how to help people find it. She began teaching herself SEO techniques and became fascinated with the process. When she went back to work as a veterinarian, she found herself in-between appointments finding ways to get her friends’ website to rank better.
She once again found herself on bedrest when the Google Penguin update came out in 2012. Nobody understood it, but Marie had the time to figure it out. She would post her thoughts and theories about it in various SEO forums and people started asking her to do paid consultations with them. At first, she kept saying no because she was a vet, not a marketer. But people kept asking so she started saying yes. She now has a team of eight people to analyze websites for quality issues and helps clients make improvements.
Why Google Does so Many Algorithm Updates
Those who are really cynical would say Google’s goal is always to make more money for Google, so their algorithm updates must be about pushing more people to buy ads. But Marie doesn’t think that’s all there is to it. Google has a monopoly on search because it provides the most relevant results. In order to maintain that status and improve it, Google has to constantly tweak its algorithms. If they didn’t then you’d have to scroll down through page six to find the result you are looking for, and no one wants that, right? You want to trust Google’s results.
There were Penguin updates and Panda updates and then Google said it would just start calling these “core quality updates” and that they would do what they can to tell people about them. For the past couple of years, it feels like every major update has to do with Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines. Google is making changes on a daily basis, but not all of them are significant. If there was a change made of the Labor Day weekend, it was minor. But then there are major changes, such as June 3rd, 2019 and the earlier one on March 12th, 2019. And those have tended to about Google coming up with a new way to assess the trust element of EAT. For example, regarding websites with medical content, Google really wants to know if the site can be trusted by people, especially to make sure there’s no potential for harming anyone.
Medical and Health Sites Have Taken a Big Hit
Many websites with content about alternative medicine, complementary medicine, nutrition, dieting, and supplements have all seen some big changes on their Google search consoles, and the changes have been alarming drops. When you search for alternative treatments for some medical condition, the results that come up first are now going to be the industry giants such as Mayo Clinic or WebMD and not a smaller site devoted solely to that alternative treatment.
The impact of this on some businesses can be profound. Take, for example, the latest diet fad. If you have a site that’s all about that particular diet, the last thing you want to see is people putting a query into Google such as “Is the XYZ diet good?” and what comes up is a featured snippet from Healthline that says “There are no studies that prove XYZ diet works.” You can see the problem here, right? Even if there is a study or two out there but they’re not rock-solid in favor of the XYZ diet, Google’s not going to want to trust your site about the XYZ diet. But if Mayo Clinic and Healthline and WebMD all say it’s a great diet, then your site will be trusted by Google.
What Google is doing is figuring out how to make all these judgments through its algorithm. Google is going to check the medical facts presented on your website against its database of medical content it trusts. If your site’s information can’t be verified from Google’s trusted knowledge base, then you’re screwed. At least, until Google finds ways to further tweak and nuance the algorithm to better sort through your site’s information. But to think you’re going to go up against WebMD and come out on top is not realistic at this point. This is especially true if you’re trying to rank well on YMYL (your money, your life) queries – things that have a real impact on a person’s quality of life. And when it comes to people’s lives, Google is going to err on the side of safety by checking its trusted knowledge base. This obviously makes it extra hard for new products that don’t have consensus backing to get any traction online. This is the big problem that needs to be solved in all of this. And what Google needs to figure out is how to handle a site where, say, most of the information is great, but then there’s just a little bit of sketchier content. Right now it feels like they are doing the whole site on YMYL queries.
Connect with Dr. Marie Haynes
Twitter: @Marie_Haynes (https://twitter.com/Marie_Haynes)
Facebook: @MarieHaynesConsulting (https://www.facebook.com/MarieHaynesConsultingInc)
Newsletter (Search News You Can Use): https://www.mariehaynes.com/newsletter
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