Just a few days ago we published a summary of the guidelines that Google submits to its quality raters for the evaluation of SERP quality and results, also dealing quickly with the issue of EAT values. We now specifically focus on this aspect, by analyzing a reliable method, but still little used, to enhance the perceived EAT of our contents: the structured data.

Considerations on Google and EAT

The EAT paradigm has become one of the hot topics in the SEO community in recent years, as well as a source of many myths and misconceptions, as also reminds us an excellent article by Lily Ray.

One of the main questions (and mysteries) that revolve around these concepts is whether – and to what extent – it can represent a direct ranking factor in Google’s algorithms. However, the search engine and its public voices, such as Gary Illyes, have repeatedly reiterated that EAT is not a ranking factor, but rather a framework that includes the many signals that Google uses to evaluate and classify quality contents.

Google’s clarifications

John Mueller recently spoke on this issue during one of the last hangouts on Youtube: as seroundtable reports, the Google Webmaster Trends Analyst has specified that the search engine algorithm does not explicitly use structured data to strengthen the EAT of the site pages, but has not excluded that this result can be achieved indirectly, so to speak.

Specifically, Mueller answered a question asked by a user asking suggestions on how to ensure that readers and Google both understood the validity of the authors of the health pages of his site. In its answer, the Googler clarifies that such a question cannot be resolved by simply “putting an element like specific structured data or meta tags” on a page and saying “well, my page is correct or my information are correct”, but it requires a longer and wider work over time to make users understand first and foremost that the content is reliable or produced by experts.

In fact, Mueller (as he often does) invites to consider first of all the users and what they really see on the page, putting in the background the optimization work purely conceived for the search engine. On the other hand, the strategy suggested by Lily Ray serves to achieve broader goals of enhancing the perceived quality of the site.

Not a ranking factor, but a quality one

It is therefore important to understand the true weight of the EAT: Google does not use specific metrics or scores to calculate these characteristics, but its algorithms seek and identify signals on pages that may correspond to the E-A-T perceived by humans.

And so, to improve the EAT of the site we cannot refer to precise and measurable technical interventions, but we must rather try to conceptually align our content with the different signals used by automated systems of Google that classify pages.

How to optimize contents so to enhance the perceived EAT

These statements, however, leave the field open to interpretations and doubts, and then leads the SEO to question himself on how to do, in practical terms, to improve the EAT of his contents perceived by both the search engine and readers.

According to Lily Ray, there is a reliable and undervalued method that “we can use to improve not only the EAT, but also the global organic performances: to exploit the schema.org structured data at their maximum capacity”.

Structured data to improve the EAT of the pages

The proper use of structured data can also help improve the EAT for a number of reasons, says the SEO expert: first of all, they help to establish and consolidate the relationship between entities, especially between the various places and sites where they are mentioned online.

It is Google to explain that providing these markups means helping the search engine, which can base its analysis on “explicit clues on the meaning of a page” that allow them to better understand its content and, more generally, to gather information about the web and the world.

In this way, in fact, we facilitate Google’s ability to evaluate the EAT of a given page, website or entity, because the structured data and the relationship they create can:

  • Reduce ambiguity between entities.
  • Create new connections that otherwise Google would not have made in its Knowledge Graph.
  • Provide more information about an entity that Google would not have obtained without.

Bill Slawski’s thoughts

The article also reports some considerations by Bill Slawski on the subject, according to which “structured data adds a level of precision that a search engine needs and that otherwise it might not understand,as it does not have the common sense of a human being“.

Without the certainty of which entities are included on a page, it can be a real challenge for search engines to accurately evaluate the experience, authoritativeness and reliability of such elements. Furthermore, structured data also helps to clarify the ambiguities of entities with the same name, which is undoubtedly important when it comes to assessing EAT.

It is always the well-known Google patent expert to provide some practical example: “When you have a person who is the subject of a page, and shares the name with someone, you can use a Sameas property and point to a page about him in a knowledge base like Wikipedia”.

In this way, we can “make it clear that when you refer to Michael Jackson you mean the king of pop, not the former US Director of National Security,” obviously very different people. Also, “companies or brands sometimes have names they might share with others”, as in the case of the Boston music group “who shares the name with a city”.

The value of structured data for the search engine

It is then obvious that structured data are essentially used to feed Google crucial information about the topics of our site, as well as about the people who contribute to the project.

It is a crucial first step for the search engine to be able to accurately assess the reliability and credibility of our site and the creators of its content.

Implementing structured data for the EAT

There are several methods to implement structured data on the site: in addition to JSON-LD (which is preferred by Google), there are Microdata, Rdfa and, recently, also the dynamic addition through Javascript and Google Tag Manager.

For websites hosted on WordPress, then, the popular plug-in Yoast integrates many Schema features and continues to extend its support.

However, for the purpose of improving the EAT the method of implementation of structured data is less important than the types of schema marked on the website.

The priority is to provide search engines with as much information as possible about the credibility, reputation and reliability of the authors and experts who contribute to the content published on the site and who are part of our project. But EAT also covers the brand’s reputation and the experience that users have on the site and when they use our products or services.

A process of right integration

The correct use of the Schema markup – for example with nesting, as Ray suggests – allows you to easily view the resulting schema and analyze it in the Google test tool, but also to understand (and make understand) the main entities of the page and their mutual relations.

Nesting also eliminates the frequent problem of having multiple redundant or conflicting schema types on the same page, which may depend on the simultaneous presence of multiple plug-ins performing the operation.

On a product page, for example, it is important to clearly describe and differentiate the relationships between the organization that publishes the website and the organization that produces the product: by correctly entering the data into a nested structure we can clearly describe the difference in their roles, rather than simply pointing out that they are both “on the page”.

Which markups to use so to increase the site’s EAT

There are various types and properties of patterns that are crucial to place on the site “so to send the right signals to search engines on your organizations’ EAT”, says Lily Ray, who then lists 5 examples of some of the priority cases in which using Schema helps to strengthen the EAT.

  1. Person

The first mention of EAT in the Google Quality Assessment Guidelines is the request to quality raters to consider “the experience” and “the authoritativeness of the creator of the main content“.

This information can be communicated to search engines through the use of the Person markup (designed for living, dead, immortal or fictional individuals), which includes dozens of options for properties to be listed, useful to provide more context about the person.

Many of these strongly support the EAT, as in particular (but not only):

  • affiliation
  • alumniOf
  • award
  • brand
  • hasCredential
  • hasOccupation
  • honorificPrefix
  • honorificSuffix
  • jobTitle
  • sameAs

The invite is to consider including the person scheme with the properties mentioned above at least once when the founder, content creators and/or experienced contributors are listed on the site, recalling that this information must also be displayed on the page, a prerequisite for compliance and to avoid manual action for structured data spam.

How to identify a person for Google

A page of the author’s biography is a good way to present this type of schema, which can also serve to disambiguate that person’s name from other identical names in Google’s Knowledge Graph. In this case, you should link to the graph url using the sameAs property.

This effort can give Google the minimum of confidence it needs to be sure to show the right knowledge panel for a specific individual in case of queries linked to him.

For some time now, Google has deprecated the sameAs markup for social profiles, but you can still use it for other purposes, with links to:

  • The URL of the knowledge graph of the individual.
  • His Wikipedia page, a Freebase or Crunchbase profile.
  • Other reliable sources where the individual is mentioned online.

Also, it is worth remembering that there are multiple search engines that use Schema besides Google, so listing social profiles using sameAs is probably still a good approach.

  1. Organization

The organization scheme is undoubtedly one of the best to support EAT efforts and offers a variety of properties that can provide an additional context on our company or brand, such as:

  • address
  • duns
  • founder
  • foundingDate
  • hasCredential
  • knowsAbout
  • memberOf
  • parentOrganization

Many companies implement the organization scheme without exploiting these fields or the many other properties available. On the practical front, it would be useful to incorporate all this information in the most relevant page of our organization (generally an “About us” or “Contacts” page), marking it accordingly.

  1. Author

Author is a Schema property that can be used for any type of Creativework or Review classification, such as Article or Newsarticle.

This property must be used as a markup for the author’s signature on a content. The types provided for author are Person or Organization, so if our site publishes contents on the behalf of the company it is important to indicate the author as an organization and not as a person.

  1. reviewedBy

The reviewedby property is a great opportunity to show a good level of EAT of a site: if we use expert reviewers on our contents (such as medical or legal advisors), it might be useful to enter their name on the page to give a signal of accuracy, using the property to indicate the name of the person or organisation.

This is an excellent approach to use when regular site authors might lack EAT or a strong online presence, while the reviewers are real experts with a known online presence, and can help for example sites or pages dealing with YMYL topics, where the weight of expertise is stronger according to Google.

  1. Citations

Using the citations property we can list other publications, articles or creative works mentioned within the contents or links on the page. It is a good system to show search engines that we refer to authoritative and reliable sources to support our work, which is a great strategy for the EAT.

Moreover, listing quotes in the Schema markup can help you place your brand in relation to others we are associating with, and thus potentially provide Google with qualitative information about our reliability.

Structured data to improve the EAT, conclusions

The Schema.org library is constantly being updated and expanded, so it is always useful to check what’s new. And even if they are not a direct ranking factor (as publicly stated several times), Google constantly recommends using as much structured data as possible to help its search engine make sense of our site.

It can be assumed that, by better understanding the contents and entities included in the site thanks to the structured data, Google will be able to optimize and improve the work to evaluate the overall quality of the site and its parameters of EAT.

 

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