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The Power of Data-Driven Questions and E-A-T Scores in 2019

Be prepared for Google’s next 2019 algorithm update by asking the right data-driven questions and improving your site’s E-A-T score, with GPO.

2018 was a big year in search. We saw the introduction of Google’s zero-result search and mobile-first indexing. Meta descriptions got longer and then shorter. Videos got carousels. And the August Medic Core update wreaked havoc on “Your Money Your Life” (YMYL) industry rankings.

Who can say what 2019 will bring? What we do know is that hundreds of algorithm updates happened last year, and hundreds more will almost certainly be made in 2019. Be prepared for whatever happens next by asking the right data-driven questions and improving your site’s E-A-T score.

Ask The Right Questions

Big data is a powerful thing. Approximately 2.5 million exabytes of data are produced every day. To put that in perspective, that’s two hundred and fifty thousand Libraries of Congress being written into existence every 24 hours.

Perfect utilization of this data could mean unlocking the secrets of everything from your website’s SERP ranking to why an egg became the most liked photo on Instagram. With the right algorithm and engineer at the helm, anything is possible. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to get caught under a deluge of data, spending resources finding numbers instead of solutions.

As Moz’s Dr. Pete Meyers said in a recent podcast, “Focus more on the science part and a little less on the data part some days.”

All of this data, grand as it may be, means nothing without the right lens through which to view it. Instead of trying to pull actionable insights from an overwhelming mass of data, start by asking simple questions. Then look for the data that will help answer these questions. Trust us: it may seem simple, but it takes practice.

For instance, imagine your website has recently experienced a huge surge in traffic (Congrats!), and you’re looking to attribute it. Use the following questions as a jumping off point and then go wild:

  • Is there anything obvious that may have spurred the increased traffic? A new product launch or press hit? (If so, that’s great! But don’t stop there.)
  • What’s the source? Are you experiencing a major change in direct traffic, referrals, etc.?
  • Which pages are experiencing increased traffic? What’s making these pages so successful?
  • And most importantly, is the success replicable?

There’s a big difference between using data to confirm a product landing page has been experiencing a large uptick in referrals and realizing that that success came from a series of press hits in large and reputable publications which linked to said page. Both are facts, but only one is useful.

Improve E-A-T Scores

E-A-T scores have always been important but never more so than after last year’s Medic Core update. Your website and author E-A-T scores will help determine how pages rank in search results.

So what is an E-A-T score? Hint: it’s not how tasty your web surfing snack is or anything else to do with food. “E-A-T” stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness

Expertise means having an established presence in your field and developing a reputation as a reliable source. For instance, Vogue’s articles on New York Fashion Week will rank higher than the Instagram of a first-time attendee. But expertise doesn’t just belong to major players in their given industries. As Meyers notes, clearly themed niches can do the trick, too.

“Some of the sites we saw that improved had a very clear topical focus. They are very clearly themed within their niche. One author talked to me and she noticed that she is not only well-themed in her industry, but she tackles things in terms of sub-themes. She’ll publish an article about a sub-theme, then publish two or three more articles within that same sub-theme over the next few weeks. She noticed that the third or fourth article would rank much quicker than the original content. We’ve seen many sites follow that pattern.”

Authority encompasses more than just your brand (and its authors’) reputation. It means having a steadily increasing presence in your field with credentials to back it up. This can be done with:

  • High-quality referrals to your site
  • Google verified reviews
  • Content authored by high-authority, relevant sources

Keep in mind that authority isn’t reserved solely for big brands or famous personalities, and that topic matters. For instance, an “About Us” page for a small restaurant would probably have higher authority than a famous athlete’s cookie recipe on their blog. The restaurant is an authority on itself (and a reliable first-person source), while the athlete may or may not know much about baking.

Trustworthiness, as its name implies, means proving that users can trust your site. That can be done a few different ways. At a minimum, get an SSL certificate if you do not already have one. Google is already marking all HTTP pages “Not secure,” so any page without a certificate and redirect to an HTTPS version could be detrimental to your E-A-T score. Additional, seals from the Better Business Bureau and other relevant organizations could help your search visibility.

Search Engine Journal uses the following webpage as an example of low trustworthiness.

spammy website example low trust
To the eye, this page is clearly sketchy. But how does Google know? There are many clear indicators that this site is unreliable.

  • This page uses Nike’s logo but does not belong to Nike
  • There is no listed company name or physical address
  • Further down, the page contains fraudulent Better Business Bureau and Google Checkout logos.

High expertise, authority, and trustworthiness prove to Google that you a source worth sharing with searchers. It’s unlikely the Medic Core update will be the last to prioritize E-A-T scores, so it’s best to start improving them now. Unsure where to start? Contact GPO. We can help make sure 2019 is your best year yet.

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