Voices of Search
A Searchmetrics Podcast
Episode 2, Google Core Update

Voices of Search arms SEOs with the latest news and insights they need to navigate the ever changing landscape of Search Engine Optimization and Content Marketing. From the heart of Silicon Valley, Searchmetrics’ CEO Jordan Koene delivers actionable insights into using data to navigate the topsy-turvy world now being created by Google, Apple and other search giants.

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 Episode Transcript

Ben:                 Welcome to the Voices of Search Podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and in this podcast, we’re going to discuss the hottest topics, in the ever-changing world of search engine optimization. This podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics.

Ben:                 We are an SEO, and content marketing platform, that helps enterprises scale businesses monitor their online presence, and make data-driven decisions. So, if you’re looking to understand how you can optimize your content, understand what topics you need to cover, or how to ensure that your writers produce effective posts, go to Searchmetrics.com, for a free tour of our platform. Joining us today, is Jordan Koene, who is both a world renowned SEO strategist, and the CEO of Searchmetrics, Inc. Today, we’re going to talk about Google’s latest algorithmic update. So Jordan, welcome back to the Voices of Search Podcast.

Jordan:             Yep, buckle up, this is going to be an interesting, hot topic.

Ben:                 You know, we pulled some strings, and right as we decided to launch our podcast, we talked Google into doing an algorithm change so we would have something to talk about. It’s nice of them to listen to us, right?

Jordan:             It’s perfect timing, I guess so. We didn’t have any other, more important topics to cover, so why not Google Core Update?

Ben:                 So, it’s the time where SEO’s get to prove their mettle, and show how they can deal with the changing landscape of Google, with their algorithm change, and my understanding is this algorithm change hasn’t finished, so tell me, first off, what has happened, what is the update, and how far into it are we?

Jordan:             Basically, we’re about two, to three weeks already into this change. One of the biggest things that Google has done over the past two, to three years now, is when they rollout their updates, they don’t do a kind of, an unveiling, and there’s basically one, or two days where everyone takes a pretty big hit. They’ve been more, kind of, systematic in their approach, either looking at very specific categories, or topics, in slowly rolling out the update. So, we’ve been seeing this update since the first of August.

Jordan:             It was announced on the first of August, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some things going on prior to that. Often, Google will test into an update. So, sometimes you see volatility, the few weeks prior to the update, and now we’re about three weeks into this update.

Ben:                 So, it’s not like an earthquake with aftershocks anymore. Now, it’s just a series of small, rumblings, in very specific areas, that span over a couple of weeks.

Jordan:             That’s correct, yeah. Now, of course in those span of weeks, there can be certain categories, or industries that feel the blow, more than others.

Ben:                 Right, right. So, let’s talk broadly, I’ve heard that this is a broad, core update. What does that mean, and what was actually changed?

Jordan:             So, for the industry, for the Google, kind of search industry, a broad, core update is looking at a specific set of criteria. Typically, what you’re looking at in a broad, core update, is page quality, or content quality-type metrics.

Ben:                 Jordan, I’ve heard that there’s two acronyms being thrown around about how Google has updated their algorithm. YMYL, and EAT, E-A-T. YMYL is Your Money, Your Life, and EAT is Expert, Authority, and Trust. Can you tell me what those two things mean, and how they were impacted? Let’s start with the YMYL, Your money, Your Life. What does that mean, and how has it changed?

Jordan:             So, YMYL, is directly looking at prioritizing certain content, that ultimately creates the best experience for the consumer, or the user. The simplest example here, is prioritizing say, the login page for a bank, when you do a search for the bank, and say, login. So, Bank of America login. So, Google’s gonna say, ‘Hey, you know what, we should probably put the login page as the first result, instead of the homepage’, right?

Jordan:             And so, what Google is trying to do there, is create the most fluid, the most simplistic experience for the user, to get to their happy place, right? To get to what makes them most happy, hence, Your Money, Your Life, is the acronym, YMYL. What Google is doing here, is they’re understanding what webpage content has on it, and what is the main source of content, what is the main objective of that particular page, and how do I position that, amongst all the other potential results that we could show.

Ben:                 Okay so, if I had to recap what I’m hearing, in layman’s terms. Essentially, Google is changing the prioritization of the types of pages, that they are either showing first, or they’re ranking, they’re reshuffling what is the page classification, that should show up for some experiences.

Jordan:             Correct, that is right.

Ben:                 Okay. Now, let’s talk about the second acronym, which is EAT, Expert, Authority, and Trust. What does that mean, and how is it changed in this algorithm update?

Jordan:             So, EAT is a slightly different take, as EAT is really focused on quality metrics. So, quality ratings are a lot more subjective, at least in my opinion, this can be debated. But, it’s much more subjective in the sense that, Google is trying to determine what are true, quality metrics. And so, for example, is there an expert that is denoted, in this particular piece of content, can we determine who that expert is, and be more comfortable with the ranking of that content, because we know that this expert has published this?

Ben:                 So, essentially, for things like professional services, finance, other industries that are similar, Google is reprioritizing what content is shown at the top, because it’s reassessing what they consider to be the most valuable piece of content? Give me an example of the type of industry, where the expert, authority, and trust balance has been changed. Let’s say mommy blogs for example, maybe somebody with a little less domain authority, is being reprioritized, because their opinion is worth just as much, as somebody who’s a professional blogger, or where does this actually have an impact?

Jordan:             So, some of the areas where this can have a bigger impact are categories like say, finance, travel, business, where Google is looking at the reputation, and making a decision on whether the reputation of the author, or the publisher of that particular content, has a higher, or lower standing within the rankings, and what, ultimately, does Google determine to be the higher quality piece of content.

Jordan:             That is a slightly different position, than say, Your Money, Your Life, where they’re trying to understand, what is the main source of content, and how does that main source of content represent say, supplemental pieces of content, or say, advertisers, or other parts of the content. And so, I think that, that’s a really important piece of distinguishing these two things, because oftentimes, I think people combine the two of them together, but one is really about the structure, and how that structure delivers a good experience, while the other, EAT, is about the quality, and what is the highest quality, most useful quality metrics, that Google wants to use, to determine a ranking.

Ben:                 Okay, so essentially, the EAT acronym, Expert, Authority and Trust is Google changing what content is considered to be a quality piece of content?

Jordan:             That’s exactly what it is. It is Google’s way of determining what is the highest quality, piece of content.

Ben:                 Okay, so if I had to summarize the difference between YMYL, and EAT, essentially, one is, changing the page types that are showing up first, for specific experiences, and that’s YMYL, and the EAT, Expert, Authority and Trust acronym, is changes to what is considered quality content.

Jordan:             Bingo.

Ben:                 Okay, great. I think I get it. Now, let’s talk about who has been affected by this algorithm. Who do we know that’s been helped by the change, whose been hurt? Are there specific industries, specific brands, what’s the lay of the land look like?

Jordan:             So the overwhelming majority of this shift, that we’ve noticed so far, because remember, this is still kind of rolling out. But the biggest disruption, really happened around the collective of medical websites, medical healthcare websites that provide information, say, on medical advice, right? Like, a WebMD, or even more specifically, they provide healthcare provider information, like doctor ratings, or certain ratings on particular practices, or groups.

Jordan:             So, this has been where the majority of the disruption has happened. We actually wrote an article in early August, on August seventh, highlighting some of this fluctuation in websites like, say, Mayo Clinic, and in other medical type websites, like Everyday Health, and others.

Ben:                 So, the disruption has been primarily focused in health, wellness, and then sort of rebalancing, what is considered a good health practitioner?

Jordan:             Right, and again, part of this is both the YMYL repositioning. So, Google kind of saying, ‘Actually, what’s really important when people are searching for this, is this form of content, or this kind of content’, versus, the EAT situation, which is, whether, or not, this a trustworthy or high quality piece of content.

Ben:                 Yeah, the YMYL, is deciding whether they should show the Yelp reviews for a doctor, as opposed to the doctor’s homepage, and the EAT acronym, is basically, should they show WebMD, or the Mayo Clinic.

Jordan:             Yep, yeah.

Ben:                 Got it, okay. Anybody else that’s been affected that you’ve noticed by this algorithm change?

Jordan:             The other two big categories, and this is obviously just a more of a blanket statement, is around the business, finance, as a collective group, and then there has been some repositioning around E-commerce, and the commerce players. The big guys in particular, the Amazons of the world, the eBays of the world, saw some shift here. A lot of that shift though, in particular, when it comes to the big brands, like the Amazons, and the eBays of the world, is in, what we would consider non-brand, branded search queries, and this is a very interesting topic.

Ben:                 Non-brand, branded search queries.

Jordan:             I know, it’s a tongue twister, don’t say it ten times.

Ben:                 So, branded search queries on Amazon, that do not include the Amazon brand, did I get that right?

Jordan:             You got it.

Ben:                 Okay.

Jordan:             Yep.

Ben:                 So, it would be searching for Nike’s on Amazon.

Jordan:             Exactly, you got it. So, obviously, Google’s gonna give preference to Nike, in those search results, but Amazon shows up somewhere in there, and that’s where we’ve seen a lot of the volatility, is in that particular set of keywords.

Ben:                 Okay. So for the SEO’s who are concerned with the algorithm change, what can they do to gain, or in some cases, regain market share, based on what Googles changed?

Jordan:             One of the things we’re recommending to a lot of our clients, is to start leveraging data, to understand what forms of content, or what the content experience is, had the best, or most significant gains. All of us, as SEO’s, working on a website, we can deploy different forms of content experiences, and oftentimes, reprioritizing certain content experiences, can have a really dramatic shift, especially right after one of the algorithm changes that’s focused on the page quality, and the page content itself.

Jordan:             So, that’s really where I think most folks should focus on, because the other piece, the EAT piece, it’s really hard to shift that strategy. You’re not just gonna go from one day, having no named, outsourced writers producing content for you, to the next day, having world-known, expert writers on your website. That takes a while for that strategy to shift, so what’s more in your control, is the way you publish, and the way you create the experience around your content.

Ben:                 Okay. Let’s talk more broadly, for a second, about just the best practices for managing through updates. Sometimes, there’s an earthquake when you’re working in search, and the ground beneath you moves. How do you prepare yourself for that, and what do you do when it happens?

Jordan:             Well, one of things that’s most important, is to read the situation, and start to understand how to communicate around the situation. So, for example, one of the things we’ve been working on with a collection of our clients is, helping them prioritize certain statements around what’s happened, to be as mindful about the communication during this time.

Jordan:             Then, the other thing is that oftentimes, it’s really important for companies to be patient, because these changes, they have volatility in both directions, and Google itself is often correcting, and Danny Sullivan himself, and in many of his updates, has mentioned the fact that, and Danny Sullivan is the liaison between Google, and the search public. He even stated, there’s always changes happening, and they can be broad, or even more specific.

Jordan:             So, sometimes, as Google starts with something broad, they might hone in and say, ‘Maybe this specific category, or in this specific set of topics, this doesn’t really make the most sense, so let’s maybe correct there’.

Ben:                 So, it’s not the end of the world if your traffic goes down on day one, there’s a chance it will organically rebound, but you need to be ready to communicate to your team that there are changes happening, that you’re evaluating what they are. Okay, You also mentioned that using data to understand what’s happening. What are the sources of data that SEO’s can look to, to understand what has changed in Google’s algorithm, and how it affects them?

Jordan:             So, one of the things we do, a lot of, is looking at the winners, and losers. So, what winning keywords do we have, and is there any trend behind those keywords? Are they categorized in a certain way, or structured in a certain way, that we need to be aware of?

Jordan:             The other thing is, looking at your competition, and understanding the market share, and how the market share might be shifting, and then diving in and more specifically, again back to my previous point, looking at what content experiences are winning, within that competitive set, because typically speaking, even when Google rolls one of these out, one of these changes out, it’s not like a website wins, and every single page wins.

Jordan:             It’s typically, certain types of content within the website win, and that’s what you wanna hone in on, and that’s what you wanna highlight to other people in your organization, because that’s when it would help them understand why Google has a particular preference, or desire to rank that content, or that subsection of the site higher.

Ben:                 So, essentially, your advice is to look broadly at your entire website, and try to understand what types of pages have been effective, positively, or negatively, to get a sense of how Google is evaluating not only your site, but also the industry as a whole, and you could also look at your competitors to validate that.

Jordan:             Exactly.

Ben:                 Okay, great. Any last words for everybody out there that’s scrambling to try to reconcile the Google updates?

Jordan:             Yeah, one piece that I think is really interesting is, how we as an SEO industry, communicate Google updates to our teams, our counterparts, our leadership. I really find it fascinating, watching, and listening to many of these conversations, and seeing SEO’s basically regurgitate what is on all of the search blogs, or what’s been commented by the Google liaisons, and I find that to be a really, big, missed opportunity.

Jordan:             Because, when you regurgitate the stuff that the SEO world talks about, nobody else understands it, and one of the big things that I’m a big advocate of is, understanding that there is a particular Google change, and then, providing a set of both internal, and external data sources that can articulate the story behind what’s happened, instead of trying to just explain these big concepts like, page quality, and content quality, and the way that Google rates these things.

Jordan:             That often becomes very distracting conversation, to your partners, and leadership in the organization. Instead, focusing on the data points, and in the storyline, like, we notice this trend in this directory, on this competitor’s website, and this trend resulted in this outcome, after Google’s change. That makes a lot more sense to people within your organization, than trying to explain to them what Google just did.

Ben:                 What YMYL is.

Jordan:             Exactly, yeah. (Laughs)

Ben:                 I think the moral of the story is, regurgitating search engine land articles to your CEO is probably not going to get you anywhere, understanding the trends in your business, are probably more important to managing upward, and to your cross-functional partners, and with that, I think that’s a good place for us to wrap up this episode of the Voices of Search Podcast.

Ben:                 Okay, that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search Podcast, thanks for listening to my conversation with Jordan Koene, the CEO of Searchmetrics, Inc. We’d love to continue the conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Jordan, you can find links to his bio in our show notes, or you can shoot him an SEO related tweet to, JTKoene, that’s J-T, K-O-E-N-E, on Twitter.

Ben:                 If you have any general marketing questions, or if you wanna talk about podcasting, you can find my contact information in our show notes, or you can send me a tweet at Ben J. Shap, that’s B-E-N, J, S-H-A-P. If you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to Searchmetrics.com, for a free tour of our platform.

Ben:                 If you like this podcast, and you want a regular stream of SEO, and content marketing insights in your feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app. Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this show, and you’re feeling generous, we would be honored for you to leave a review in the Apple iTunes store, it’s a great way for us to share our learnings about SEO, and content marketing. Okay, that’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers you’re looking for are always in the data.