67 | EAT Deep-dive with Lily Ray

After being mentioned numerous times on the show, Lily Ray finally makes an appearance on the podcast and I couldn’t be more honoured. We talk through Expertise, Authority, Trust in SEO and Google’s Quality Guidelines, which goes hand in hand. 

Lily Ray is SEO director at Path Interactive in US. She has lots of clients and has been working agency side for 9 years. She leads a team of 15 people and her role isn’t just to manage the team but to manage clients and do lots of SEO research, speaking and writing on Google’s updates, of which EAT is a part of. 

Like any SEO, she is dealing with algorithm updates all the time. There was the Penguin update that destroyed her website she was working on many years ago and so she felt the wrath of Google like many do. In August 2018 there was the Medic update where she had a similar experience, as it was one of her favourite clients where she won awards for and yet she saw a big loss. 

EAT; Expertise, Authority, Trust

Starting with the basics, EAT is an acronym for the framework for human search quality evaluators that scrutinises content on the web. Focusing especially on those that are consequential in nature like medical or financial advice. Google is ramping this up as it’s a way to ensure that only the most trusted content is able to perform well. Marie Haynes constantly talks about Google’s Quality Guidelines and about just reading the document to understand EAT and what you can do to help your site rank. 

YMYL; Your Money or Your Life 

These are websites that focus on healthcare and medical-care, directly affecting people’s safety, health and livelihoods. When the algorithm update hit, most sites affected are in these sectors.

How to recover from the Medic update 

Lily says that it can take a long time and it is challenging. It’s not like a technical audit where you can see an improvement as soon as changes to the code are made. It requires a comprehensive evaluation and creation of credibility across the web. When it comes to authors on your website, who they are as people and are they providing valuable content? Are they experts? So, outsourced freelance writers are not really so if you’re using these then have a rethink of your strategy. It’s about having a holistic view of the website; on and off the site. It’s about the website experience too though and showcasing expertise across Google and not just website is a must. (More on this later on in the episode too, especially a chat about ‘patrolling’ social media accounts.)

The Myths of EAT

There is no simple way of getting out of an ‘EAT algorithm update’, sorry. You usually can’t tweak something or hack it to improve quickly. It takes time.

Some webmasters think that for example, if I name all authors I expect to see an increase in traffic, but it doesn’t work like that. It takes time to showcase trust and credibility. 

There also isn’t a simple score for EAT as a ranking factor. It’s not quantifiable.

More on Lily’s post on EAT here. 

Reputation & Ethics

Reputation of a brand, knowing who the brand is for example is super important. Think about third party signals that show trustworthiness, reviews or customer service. We don’t know if third party reviews or sentiment analysis for rankings exists for sure but in search quality guidelines, these tell people to evaluate outside of the site and that they should go and see where else the brand is listed as well as authors that write the content. If you have a problem online, this can be seen. In a previous episode, Ross Tavendale says there’s a ‘dampening effect’ on links if there are bad reviews. Listen to episode where this was mentioned. Lily says she spoke to John Mueller too who says that it’s not always good to have a link if the link itself talks about the company being a scam. The contextualisation around the link is very important basically. 

Lily’s further comments on YMYL websites reminded me of Lexi Mills who spoke about ethical search and that sometimes what you need to see is not what you want to see. Listen to the episode here. Lily continues to say that hate speech or racial intolerance usually does not get ranked on Google as they do create their own guidelines, being a private company. 

EAT & Coronavirus 

Lily notes on the show the winners of EAT during the pandemic/covid. A chat about intent and why those websites showed up in the top 3. Prioritisation also was given to the sites that would keep people safe, rather than showing ‘unsafe’ information about the coronavirus. 


Lily strongly suggests that you read the below for practical advice on EAT & SEO: 

What webmasters should know about core updates 

Find Lily Ray on Twitter @lilyraynyc | LinkedIn | Website

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Music credit: I Dunno (Grapes of Wrath Mix) by spinningmerkaba (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/jlbrock44/56346 Ft: Jlang, 4nsic, grapes.