Last Updated on August 22, 2018
This is our Deep Dive Into Local from August 20, 2018. In our Deep Dive series, we take a closer look at one thing in local that caught our attention and deserves a longer discussion.
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Mike: Hi, welcome to Deep Dive in Local. Mike Blumenthal here, joined by two Canucks, Marie Haynes and Joy Hawkins. Most of you know Joy. Some of you might know Marie. She’s obviously very well known in the SEO world but maybe you can introduce yourself, Marie, so the people in Local can become more familiar with you.
Marie: Sure. First of all, thanks for having me on. Mike, this is great. My name is Marie Haynes and I’m in Canada, as well as Joy. So we’re in the Ottawa area. And I have a small group of us that we mostly do site quality assessments. So we look at websites that we’re seeing drops in traffic. And when I first started, I was mostly penalty-based, and then we look at all sorts of algorithmic things. And so, if you wanted to condense it into brief, what we do is look at what Google is doing with their algorithms, try to figure out how can we make websites that Google actually likes better. And so we help websites to do better after seeing some sort of a traffic drop.
Mike: So Joy, for people who are not familiar with you, I’m not sure which hole they’ve been in, but why don’t you introduce yourself?
Joy: Sure. I’m Joy Hawkins. I’m also Canadian like Marie but I’m from the Toronto area. Me and Mike go way back, so I know him from mainly the Google My Business forum where we’re both top contributors, and I’m also a faculty member over at Local U. So, anyone that follows Local U probably heard me speak at one of their events.
Mike: So, Marie, maybe you could summarize what you saw with the August update and what you think it was or what it was about, or what it wasn’t about.
Marie: Sure. So I think this was…I mean, it’s no secret that it’s a massive update. I’ve been following algorithm updates since probably 2011. And I mean, the first Penguin had a very, very large impact, very similar to what I feel we’re seeing today. But in terms of impact, I think this is the biggest update since then. Now, I’ve seen lots of sites that were not affected, but the sites that were affected were affected in a huge way. So we have some clients that thankfully saw massive gains, but we have other clients that saw some drops as well. And so, in terms of the impact of this update, it’s huge. And I’m sure…
Mike: Can I interrupt here for one second? Joy, could you just comment on the impact on the local pack ranking or just to add nuance to what Marie was saying?
Joy: Yes,. We’re seeing more differences organically, but there are a few markets where the local results completely changed. Like, you’re talking like completely new three packs, the businesses that were there before are not there now, but it seems to be isolated, So as far as I can tell, the local update has nothing to do with the organic update. Like, they don’t seem to be based on the same things, and the local update was likely a smaller scale in comparison to the organic update.
Mike: All right, thank you, Marie. Sorry for interrupting. I just wanted to be make sure that listeners understood this is primarily around organic quality of websites.
Marie: Yes,, and that’s what I’m thinking. I mean, Joy and I have talked about the connection here between local and organic. And like you hinted at, sometimes when the organic algo changes, I mean, if my organic rankings go up, that’s probably going to impact my local rankings but not always. But I do think that there’s something different going on here. And we had sort of wondered if perhaps the local change was on the 31st. Are you still thinking that, Joy?
Joy: Yes,, pretty consistent.
Marie: Yes,, I feel like Google did a bunch of different things at this time, and that often happens. So I think there was some type of local change that happened on the 31st, and then there was a very broad organic change that happened on the 1st. I don’t know, do you want me to go into what I think was affected at this time?
Mike: Yes,, sure. Go ahead.
Marie: Okay. All right. So if you saw my writings on this update, I wrote an article talking about how something called YMYL sites were heavily affected. So we’ll talk a little bit about what that means, and before I do that I want to preface this with saying that it looks like other sites, not just YMYL sites were affected. So if you are outside of this area, you can still be affected by this update.
Mike: Right. So, two comments, one, YMYL is your money, your life sites. Could you just define what Google means when they say that? The other is, if you’re looking for understanding of broader sites impacted, Rank Ranger did a nice August core, Google core update where they looked at it across multiple industries. It’s pretty broad. So, anyways, would you define YMYL?
Marie: Sure. So most of these terms that I’m gonna talk about are outlined in Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines, and these are guidelines that you can search for search quality guidelines or Quality Raters Guidelines and anybody can read them. And so, YMYL is talked about extensively in these guidelines. It stands for, like you said, your money or your life. So some sites are very obviously YMYL. If you are a financial site, a legal site, a medical site, then you automatically qualify as a site that is going to have the high impact on people’s lives. So if I’m looking for information on a health diagnosis that I’ve had, it’s very important for me to get information from a trustworthy source, an authoritative source. And there are other categories that fit into YMYL as well. So according to the Quality Raters Guidelines any site that sells products that has a shopping cart that takes financial transactions, those are YMYL as well.
And then they also list other examples that might not fit into the same hole, such as a site on adoptions. Not necessarily legal or medical but still very, very important for people’s lives. So most of the sites that we do reviews on, I would consider them YMYL. And there’s no way to…it’s not like Google has a little, you know, button that you can click to say, like, “Are you considering me YMYL?” But essentially, I mean if you’re offering information that has a really big impact on people’s lives, then you probably are YMYL. And the reason why that’s significant…
Mike: Can I just interrupt one… So could we just step back one, just a little bit high level, and could you describe how the rating guidelines, the website rating guidelines that Google gives to people, for people to check sites, how that relates to the algorithm?
Marie: Yes,, that’s a good point because a lot of people get confused by this. So these guidelines, they’re about 160 pages and they tell us a bunch of things about what Google considers to be high quality. But the guidelines are meant to be a training for these quality raters, and we don’t know how many quality raters there are. I’ve heard some people say there’s over 10,000 around the world. I’ve heard others say there’s over 100,000 quality raters. And what happens is, these quality raters, they’re contracted by external companies, not by Google. But an external company will give them tasks. And so, if you’re a quality rater, the task may be do a search for diabetes information and tell us the sites that are ranking number one. Do you feel like they’re high quality? Do you feel like they’re trustworthy? Do you feel like they’re giving information that is potentially damaging to people? And the quality raters answer these basically yes or no questions, and feedback to the Google engineers.
Now, what Google has said is that the engineers take this information and it helps them to figure out if their algorithms are working well. So when they do a big update like this, they’ll go to the quality raters and say, “Now do a search for this term, and do you feel like this is high quality?” And if the answer is yes, where maybe before it was no, then the engineers know, okay, this change seems to have helped make better quality search results.
Mike: So it’s basically a way currently to assess the quality of an algorithmic update.
Mike: Do you know if it’s used to train AI at all in that regard?
Marie: So I thought it was, and I can’t remember whether this is something that was a thought of mine or whether I’ve actually heard a Google employee say this. I really think it makes sense that they’ve got this information from tens if not hundreds of thousands of people that they could use that as a machine learning set. So they could say that in this instance, you know, we’ve decided that this is an indicator of quality, and now let’s apply that to every site on the web or let’s see maybe the algorithm can learn that some little connection of this, this, and this is indicative of high quality.
But there was just a recent article on The SEM Post, by Jennifer Slegg, where she picked up a quote from one of the Google employees saying that this information was probably not used as a machine learning set. So, again, what we do know is that the engineers use it to determine how well they’re doing at preventing quality to people. But we don’t know whether it’s machine learning.
Mike: Right. So it’s an after the fact assessment but it reflects Google…what Google thinks is important in terms of quality. I went back on Reddit the other day, and it was like reviews, reviews, reviews. You know, obviously, I’ve focused on that word but everywhere in there was, do they have reviews at Better Business Bureau? Do they have, you know, first party, third party reviews? It was like reviews were a measure of trust and authority frequently throughout the document, which I thought was fascinating.
Marie: Yes,. And one of the things that is the most important in this document is what they call EAT, which stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trust. And if you think about it, if I’m looking for information on, let’s say, doing my taxes, do I want to read an article that is written by somebody who’s done really good research or an article that is written by somebody who’s been doing taxes for 20 years and has seen every tax-related problem in the book? Of course, I want to get information from that latter person. And that’s part of what I think Google is doing with EAT, is they’re trying to surface the sites that are truly written by experts, that truly are trustworthy and sites that are recognized as authorities. And that’s, you know, that’s where things can get challenging. You know, how does Google determine that? I did want to go back and make just one more point about the quality raters because this is something that people get really confused about.
If a quality rater looks at your website and determines that it’s low quality, that has actually no impact directly on your website. So the quality raters are not the web spam team. They’re not gonna put a penalty on your site. But indirectly with the future algorithm update, that could be worked into the algorithm so that you don’t rank as well. So that’s an important thing to note as well.
Mike: Right. So it’s sort of a secondary assessment, but it points out how important expertise, authority, and trust is, in terms of authority and trust frequently around reviews. Expertise, they noted in local sites that if the site is about the business, their de facto and expertise…there is expertise there. They are an expert about their own business. I was wondering, Joy, if you’ve looked at those and if you thought that these lawyers that sort of spew, you know, 1,000 pages of legal content about who knows what, whether that is viewed as expert or not? You know, these local sites with 1,000 pages of every legal topic under the sun.
Joy: Yes,, this update definitely affected attorneys a lot. Every single one that I’ve looked at so far had quite a bit of movement. Fortunately, our clients have mostly been all positive, but I know…talked to a few agencies where they said, like, they saw organic declines for lots of legal sites. And I do agree that, like, I think the concept of just spewing out, like, all kinds of content all the time just for this, I don’t know, concept that it’s a good idea and will help your ranking is a really outdated tactic. That just doesn’t work anymore. So I think having, like, less content that’s really well updated and very authoritative is a much better strategy. I think these types of algorithm updates are kind of leaning towards that as well.
Mike: So, back to Marie. So what kinds of categories, what kind of organic changes are you seeing, what niches outside of health that you’ve seen this in?
Marie: Yes,. So let’s talk first a little bit about health. The vast majority of the sites that have come to us for needing help with this algorithm update are sites that are in some type of health related niche. So what I wrote about in my article on the August 1st update was I did a little research on keto sites, so talking about the ketogenic diet. And the site that used to rank number one for keto is now, you know, several pages down and saw this massive, massive drop. And what we’re seeing is that there’s a trend…there’s definitely some things we can connect with the reviews that we’ve done so far. And that is that a lot of these sites, they existed to sell some type of a product. That was their primary thing.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with selling a product, but people can see past. So when you went to the site in the past, it was all, you know, buy this product, buy these supplements that maybe are not scientifically recognized to work. And I feel like Google, there was a level of trust that they were able to determine that said, “Ah, the sites that truly provide good information without trying to trick people, without trying to funnel them into buying a product,” those are the sites that are ranking much, much better.
So health sites. The other health aspect that we saw was medical devices, so things like glucose testing devices, CPAP machines, you know, things like that. We saw a large number of…
Mike: Question. CPAP, would it be on the search for snoring that the CPAP machine would drop? Or on the search for CPAP machine which CPAP dropped?
Marie: Yes,. What we tended to see was it was a drop across the board. So I really feel like Google’s given some type of a quality score, or whether it’s an EAT score, to websites as a whole. And, you know, some sites could still maintain some long-tail rankings. But if you were affected by this update, it was like you just suddenly plummeted. And so I almost feel like there’s a switch that’s either off or on or maybe in some degree in terms of EAT. And so, whether the ranking changed for just snoring or for…you know, it was all of the rankings that tended to get hit if you were hit. So it’s almost like there’s this layer in rankings of, you know, we have all these 200 or whatever ranking factors that are there, and now EAT is either something to give you a bit of a boost on top of those or it’s almost like an anchor that could pull you down. Similar to how Penguin and Panda used to work, right, that if your site was deemed to be untrustworthy, then it would be that you just couldn’t get rankings for any of your terms. So I feel like that’s kind of what’s happening.
Mike: So where do we go here? So you saw this in eCommerce. Where else did you see it?
Marie: Yes,. Okay, so we also, though, are seeing all sorts of other sites that are hard to connect into the whole health related niche, a lot of technical sites, so sites talking about maybe mobile apps or cell phones, cell phone reviews, things like that. A lot of them, I feel like a lot of affiliate sites were hit. And again, it’s not that Google says, “Oh, you’re affiliate, you must be low quality.” What they’re doing is, in my opinion, is assessing who actually provides the high quality. So I really think if I had to sum up what is this update about, it was Google getting better at closing some tricks and loopholes that used to convince people that you’re the authority. So we’re seeing things like… I do think there’s maybe a bit of a link component that, you know, if you were able to find some links in the past that were perhaps deemed authoritative and now Google is figuring out that, “Oh, you know, those links were just made for SEO reasons.”
And then same with certain types of content. We’re seeing things, sites… This is really prevalent on lawyer sites, where there would be big chunks of text that have keywords in them that, you know, it’s paragraph after paragraph of texts that nobody is ever going to read. And that type of thing, in the past, those keywords on the page would actually be good for search engines. You know, they’d be able to say, “Oh, well, this page talks about personal injury related stuff many, many times, so they must be good at that.” And somehow Google’s gotten better at figuring out it’s not just the words on the page, it’s not just the semantic relationships between the words, we actually can figure out, like, is this a good lawyer to send people to.
Now, some people would argue, I’m sure there are…I’m sure you’ve seen this too, Joy, that there are legal sites that are ranking that look kind of sketchy. But that’s Google’s goal. And I feel like we’re just in the early stages. You know, we’re gonna see much more of this and they’ll get better at refining and making the truly trustworthy sites rank better.
Mike: So over to you, Joy. So do you see this quality issue as having impacted local rank or just organic rank? And if it is just organic rank, what kind of sites are you seeing it in?
Joy: in every single client that we have, which is a variety of verticals. Like, I have one in lawn care, so they had some nice local increases as a result of this. Every attorney I’ve looked at so far has seen movement, mostly increases in organic, I felt, with attorneys. But there was one market with attorneys that I looked at where, like, the organic went up, local went way down. So the big takeaway across everything I’ve looked at so far is that there’s no correlation between the organic and the local movement that I can tie in yet. So I’m trying to look for one. But I had a private investigator, for example. We were looking at one of their competitors. Stayed the same organically but increased locally, and they are one that we’ve reported fake reviews on now three different times to Google. So I think it’s kind of ironic that this is supposed to be about quality, and obviously they don’t know how to apply quality to Google Reviews yet. Maybe one day they will.
Mike: I know. As you and I have noticed with review quality, their algorithms are woefully inadequate.
Marie: So I almost wonder… I’m sorry to interrupt but that made me think of something, Joy, that like what Mike talked about how all throughout the Quality Raters Guidelines there’s information on reviews, They instruct the quality raters to look and see, does this website have more reviews than everybody else? Does it have high quality reviews? I wonder if those people that have been able to figure out how to spam reviews are actually getting some kind of a boost? I mean, I’m not saying all reviews but maybe they’ve made more emphasis on the quality of your reviews across the web.
Mike: One note on that is that nowhere in the reviews comments in the grading guidelines did they talk about Google Reviews.
Mike: Everywhere they talked about third party reviews, they said reviews like Yelp and Better Business Bureau. They didn’t say Google Reviews. And they gave search examples, minus the site brand name, minus the site plus reviews, which is typically not Google Reviews. So where most of the spamming we see is on Google Reviews. Quality issues seem to relate around trusted sites like Better Business Bureau, where Google has a high degree of confidence in the site, and I think it’s different in different industries. Like, in medical, it’s probably Healthgrades, etc. So it appeared, when I read those, I was struck by the absence of the reference to any Google review comments in the guidelines.
Marie: I almost wonder if that’s because the Google reviews don’t show up organically. All right, so the instructions that they give the quality raters are to do, like you said, site:example.com reviews. And so when we do this, when we do our site quality reviews, we’ll look at the site plus also a few competitors, and we’ll see, “Oh, you know, when we do your site, you’ve got like a tiny handful of trust pilot reviews and maybe two reviews on Facebook and one Yelp review.” And then we look at a competitor and we say, “Oh, on Trustpilot they have 400 reviews, and they have way more volume.” And what I believe Google is trying to do here is say more people are talking about this particular business, so it must be more authoritative.
I think it’s way more…it’s not as black and white as that, but that’s the type of thing they’re trying to figure out, is if you’re a brand new business and you’re good at SEO and you’re trying to rank number one using just SEO tactics, you know, in the past that type of thing might have actually worked. But now Google is trying to say, like, who’s actually been in business forever and who’s known as the authority. And I mean, that’s got to be a hard thing to figure out algorithmically, but I believe that that’s what they’re trying to do.
Mike: Well, in the knowledge panel they’ve been doing that for years, In the knowledge panel ranking, we know they’re not ranking a website, they’re ranking an entity. And in that ranking comes into play all sorts of non-organic signals, mentions in important news media, first party reviews, third party reviews, Google reviews, everybody’s reviews. You know, we see that in the knowledge panel and have been seeing it. So when you say SEO and you mean organic SEO, you know, Joy and I look at SEO and see these as an integral part of how the algorithm functions, right. It’s just now with things… I remember reading some tweet the other day about how Google is stealing traffic by putting these knowledge panels in on organic searches. It’s like, in my neck of the woods, they’ve been stealing traffic forever. I wouldn’t even call it stealing traffic. As Carrie pointed out in her blog, it’s who cares where you get a call from. The question is, when do they start charging you for that call? That’s really gonna be the break point. And some industries, like hotels, they’ve been charging for that call forever since 2010. In others, they’re just beginning, and in others, they may never charge. We don’t know. So for us, SEO includes those sort of repetition things as an integral part of the knowledge panel algorithm. But this is mostly about organic. So let’s turn to local results and just see, you know…one, you said you had some calls from multi-location businesses. So in direct correlation release the timing of this update. So do you think that they were hit by this algorithm? And if so, why?
Marie: Yes,, it’s really tough because… I’m gonna make up a completely fictitious example here because I don’t want to give away…
Mike: Come on, we’re amongst friends. You’re amongst friends. Gossip is standard in Local.
Marie: Let’s say you’re a chain that do oil changes. And so, in any city there’s gonna be people that locally are there that are known as, you know, maybe in Ottawa there’s like a particular brand that is known locally but isn’t known nationally. I’m totally making this up, but let’s say that Jiffy Lube, you know, was in every single city, and that’s the type of site that I felt saw drops. The thing is, I couldn’t make it consistent. You know, I had these two examples, whereas in organic I have hundreds of examples of medical sites and others hit. So, I don’t know. I honestly don’t know, and that’s where I’m interested in hearing what Joy has to say on this. You know, if you can have anything to add. The local component is really tough. Like, I’ve seen the same as Joy where I’ve had…I have one client that dropped organically and went up locally, like, dramatically. And then I’ve seen the opposite too. So I feel like it’s two completely separate things here. I don’t know. I don’t have much to add in terms of this whole multinational thing, and I wish I could crack it because I have people, you know, just asking for the answers here. That said, we’re in the midst of doing some reviews for some of these sites now. So ask me again maybe in a week or two and I might have some more data to share with you.
Mike: And maybe a business name. So how about you, Joy, have you seen anything, particularly in multi-location? I know you said earlier you had seen stuff in lawyers and…
Joy: Yes,. So, nothing yet that I can say like a specific trend, because so far everything I’ve looked at is telling me different things. So there hasn’t been any consistent patterns that I can see yet. The main thing I noticed with local is that, you know, when you see a huge change in the three packets, because the zoom level on the map changed. So in some cases, the zoom level went up, sometimes it went down. We had a client that was just outside of a large study that actually used to rank for the large city, which is pretty uncommon, and they lost that when the March update happened. And then they got it back with this update. So we’re seeing a lot of that, where, you know, the map levels will change, but I just am trying to figure out like what’s making those map level changes. And that is a hard thing to answer without looking at, like, dozens of examples. I’ve only looked through probably about a dozen so far. But that’s probably gonna be in the next, like, month of my life, looking through more. So I’m hoping to have some pattern kind of throughout. We’re seeing more video carousels as well. That’s something common that we’ve seen across the board for multiple industries. Those are replacing organic results in some cases or pushing down the three pack on other cases, which is really strange.
Mike: They’re not from YouTube, are they?
Mike: Go figure.
Joy: They’re like spammy videos too, stupid keyword-stuffed videos. I’m seeing it for tons of clients across tons of different industries, but like they just don’t make sense. I’m like, “How are these useful?” They’re just terrible.
Marie: Now, are you two noticing that there’s a big change in which SERPs actually show local packs? Because I’m finding that some of our clients, you know, they used to be in the local pack and now all there is is just a knowledge graph or a knowledge panel. And so, if you’re not number one, you know, you’ve lost your local rankings. Is that something you’re seeing too?
Joy: Yup, a lot.
Mike: I saw a search the other day… Go ahead, Joy. I’m sorry.
Joy: I was gonna say, I’ve seen that consistently with few other updates as well, so it’s not specific to this one. But most of the bigger updates that have happened this year, we see SERP feature changes always. Like, that’s a pretty constant thing.
Mike: Well, what you’re saying, Marie, is you saw a drop from a three-pack to a knowledge panel,
Marie: That’s right.
Mike: So, typically, the way I model the algorithm is the way Google has always described it, which is proximity, relevance, and authority. And they normalize these values into a list and there appear to be…like, it may be listed in maps but it may not make it from maps into organic because it doesn’t have a high enough…it may not be proximal enough or it might not be authoritative enough, prominent enough, So if they rejigger these things so that they normalize them into a single ranking, normalize the three different values into a single ranking algorithm, and if they change one of them, then what happens is the two or three in the pack don’t have enough to meet the barrier to move from maps into organic, They don’t have a high enough combined value under the new sort of tweaked algo. So it’s like three knobs, right, and they crank the proximity knob up one. Then relevance, they need more relevance to overcome their proximity differential.
Now, since Pigeon, obviously, proximity has played a much bigger role than prominence or relevance. But, you know, it doesn’t take a big change if there’s…they may also change the scale upon which they measure things, So if they stretch the scale out a little bit, all of a sudden something that’s higher on the scale that used to be closer to number two is further away. And again, this delta may mean that the number two doesn’t have enough of whatever those three values are to make it in. What’s beautiful in local, to me, is the complexity of that by being so simple, That simply stretching this out to a different scale could totally screw up results and how would we know that the scale is what used to be 0 to 100 now would have been a 150, 150 is now 100? So, you’re essentially stretching it out within the same metrics, creating greater distance between the listings.
Marie: That makes sense. And I think for this one example that I’m thinking of, I mean, they were…they’re not…the proximity is not their thing. They’re way outside of the city. And so, it makes sense if Google, you know, just tweaked the dial, maybe they don’t qualify to be in the maps pack. But I’m wondering if some of these multinational sites that we’ve been looking at, perhaps what happened is they lost the local pack, you know. And then I think, over the years, Google has been training people to basically click on those, the maps listings, you know. And so, if the maps listings used to be there and now it’s gone, and you know, the only option is either an organic listing or the knowledge graph, then maybe that knowledge graph is getting, you know, all of those clicks.
So maybe some of what we’re seeing is not necessarily… I mean, I know Joy is definitely seeing ranking differences. But some of these sites maybe seeing traffic differences just because there used to be a local pack and now there’s not. I don’t know. What do you think about that?
Mike: Well, first thing, I consider the knowledge…a singular knowledge panel is a local pack to me. It’s what we used to call one box.
Mike: So it just means that there’s one that’s far enough ahead of the others that the others aren’t in the same league and they don’t meet that benchmark. What I’ve seen in situations like that when I’ve tested it, we’re seeing one box and then if we got enough other signals for number two, we can move them back into the pack and correct the pack. And that was by having a strong presence on these sites like Yelp, right, where all we had to do was get more reviews on Yelp and that would give them enough to make up the differential, they can move out, So I’d love to see offline, I promise not to blab their name, offline, just some of these one packs you’re now seeing. I wouldn’t mind looking at them to see what they look like.
Marie: Sure, Yes,. I’ll send you. I have one good example. I’m sure you’ll come across some others.
Mike: So while EAT, the expertise, authority, and trust, isn’t ranking, say, you know, per se, it strikes me, perhaps in closing here, that it becomes the critical measure by which Google going forward, is gonna sort of evaluate the world. That if sites are not expert in what they’re talking about, if they’re not authoritative and trustworthy, as demonstrated by other sites on the internet, this goes back to my argument about Google as a whole page reflecting all that Google knows about you across the internet, then in a sense it is algorithmic, even though it isn’t, that it’s the core sort of fundamental value that if a site doesn’t have they’re gonna have to worry about ranking.
Marie: So back in February of this year, Gary Illyes from Google was at PubCon Austin, and I asked him how does Google determine EAT? I wasn’t expecting to get an answer, but he said, “It’s primarily based on off-site links and mentions.” So with this update, I see a lot of chatter of people, myself included, talking about improving your onsite EAT, And there’s things you can do to…I like saying, you know, your about page should brag about all of your, if it’s appropriate, your schooling, your awards you’ve won, you know, all of these things. But I think that really what matters is what people are saying about you off of your site.
And it’s interesting that Gary said it’s not just links. It’s links and mentions. And one of the things he said was that Google knows which parts of the web to trust. So, you know, I know most of the people watching this probably could find a way to get a mention in Forbes. You know, we all get those emails from people saying for however many hundreds of dollars, you know, we’ll write about you.
Marie: Still It happens, And so, Google knows which parts of Forbes are very easy to buy your way into and which parts are staffed journalists that have uncovered some news. And so, what Google is looking for is legitimate mentions, that people were saying this company did this awesome thing, you know? And so, one of the things in the Quality Raters Guidelines says that if you’re your money or your life and you have almost no external reputation, then you shouldn’t be ranking, which is kind of scary, So that’s what I think we need to focus on. I mean, it’s not just reviews, it’s also your reputation. We’ve seen sites drop where, you know, they’ve had every other review is people complaining about a service or that they got scammed or something. That type of site is dropping.
And so, really, I think a lot of efforts that are put into link-building in traditional ways should be spent more on traditional PR, meaning, you know…which is hard for the SEO to do because it’s a whole company thing. It’s not, you know, “Hey, let’s just write a press release and get some good news.” It’s let’s change our business to the point where people just can’t help but talk about us, you know, hopefully in a good way. And so what… I mean, I know this seems kind of vague but just improving your recognition, your business recognition is really key to EAT, is becoming the business that when people say, “Oh, when I search for such and such, I recognize this as a brand that I can trust.” That’s the key, in my opinion.
Mike: Right. Well, mentions have been a key part of local algorithm. In fact, if you remember back when there was this kerfuffle about somebody typed in the N word and Washington, and up would come the White House. Well, it’s because the past president and the White House were referenced with those words. So these were mentions that were driving map results. So this idea of mentions has been part of the map algorithm for years. And you can see them in some other very bizarre examples that are served at the edge. So mentions are not new to people in local. But what’s new here, and this relates back to the quality guidelines, is you talk about Forbes, where they know who is a real author and who isn’t. The Quality Rater Guidelines now talk about not just authority of the site but authority of the author as well.
Mike: So it appears that this sort of idea of author authority is somehow coming back into play?
Marie: Yes,, and I wonder how closely tied that is to when we all instituted author markup on our sites, you know? I really feel like that was Google’s way to get a learning set for machine learning so they could figure out authority of authors. And one of the things that we’re seeing, so the site that I’m reviewing right now, you know, you look at their authors and their LinkedIn bio and it says, you know, they went to some business school or something but they have no external affiliation with their topic. This is an insurance related site. And then we look at all of the sites that are ranking really well for their terms, and all of the authors, they have an author bio that says, you know, “She’s been writing about insurance for 15 years. She’s written for ‘The New York Times.’ She’s written for, you know…” and they link to all of these places where this one particular author, when you Google her name, you see that like all she does is write about insurance.
And so, even though she’s not, you know… I mean, ideally, you’d want somebody who has 20 years of experience in the insurance industry writing these things. But I believe that Google is even looking at like, “All of their authors are recognized as authorities in this field.” And so, one of the things we’ve been recommending to some of our clients that have the budget for it, is to actually get your authors published in other places. And again, not the easy guest postable, spammable sites, but… You know, for example, in SEO, if I write an article and I get it published on Moz or SEMrush, or, you know, one of the authoritative sites, then that speaks to my expertise in that area, right, because those sites are not gonna publish something that is complete junk. And so, well…
Mike: Usually. We can argue that, yes. Generally… I’ll agree with you in theory.
Marie: So if we see consistently that your authors are being recognized as the best in the business, that’s the type of thing that speaks to EAT.
Mike: Got it. And your closing thoughts on this, Joy, in terms of EAT, Local and the search update?
Joy: Yes,. I’m enjoying the complexity of this one. I’m hoping to have more, like, specific examples and like trends and stuff in about like another three or four weeks. I think it’s just one of those things that everyone that I’ve talked to so far that’s seeing updates is kind of going, “Well, we see updates but we’re not really sure what caused it,” other than the organic piece that Marie mentioned, which I see across the board. But for the Local side, I think we’re kind of still trying to figure out exactly what happened. And I’m hoping to have more answers in a few more weeks because we have a lot of reviews lined up to review sites that have experienced either drops or increases that have reached out to us. So it should be interesting.
Mike: Great. All right, well, with that, I think we’ll call it a wrap. I just wanted to thank both of you for joining us today, and I guess we’ll have to come back to you in a couple of weeks and see what’s what.
Marie: That’s not a bad idea to revisit this, I mean, it’s only been three weeks, and then hopefully we’ll have a bunch of data.
Joy: I know, not a lot of time.
Marie: Yes,. So maybe a month or so from now we could do another little chat and see what we could find.
Mike: It sounds like fun to me. All right, take care, folks. Bye-bye.
Marie: Thanks so much.
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