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How to Increase your Credibility & Authority Online - Why E-A-T is Critical for SEO Success

An Interview with Nichola Stott

In this edition of Ecoffee with Experts, Matt Fraser spoke with Nichola Stott, Founder and Managing Director of Erudite. Nichola explains the finest methods and approaches for establishing EAT as well as the procedure for conducting an audit. In addition to this, they discuss some essential onsite and off-site signals. Watch now to dominate the SERPs.

If two people launch the same business with the same idea from position zero, the only factor of success it is going to come down to is who’s got the biggest PR budget.

Nichola Stott
Founder and Managing Director of Erudite
Hello everyone. Welcome to this episode of Ecoffee with Experts. I am your host, Matt Fraser, and on today's show, we're going to discuss how to increase your credibility and authority online and why EAT is critical for SEO success with none other than Nichola Stott. Nichola is the Founder and Managing Director of Erudite, a fully remote Digital Marketing agency covering all of the UK and specializing in international SEO. She founded Erudite over a decade ago following a position as head of UK search partners at Yahoo, where she first found her love for all things search. Her professional recognition includes being named in the BIMA hot 100 Digital people winning Best Use of search at both the UK search awards and WireHive awards. And co-authoring two books, E-Consultancy and SEO Best Practice Guide, and Hit Me- How to get your small business to punch its weight online. Nichola, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for being here.

Thank you for having me, Matt.

So, regarding EAT, what do you think are the best ways and strategies to establish? Our audience is mostly agency owners, so they know what I'm talking about with EAT. But in case someone's tuning in and doesn't, we're talking about establishing your expertise, authority, and trustworthiness for SEO.

It’s a fascinating area for me because this area, in particular, is where you need to hone your skills around marketing. It’s the classic part where the technical skills and everything we know about joins those links with traditional marketing and how to tell that PR side of the story if you like. So at the top level, if we take expertise out of it for a second, being good at something is perhaps slightly different, you’ve got to have something to be good at in the first instance. But eviving, demonstrating your authority, or authoritativeness and trustworthiness, is through several different signals. That could be through a link graph if you like a social graph, this concept of connectivity between other authoritative sources. So who am I linking to, and where am I receiving links from? It’s just classic PageRank evolving from there. We’ve also got these other trust symbols or symptoms, like, reviews and social proof.

So is it important for business owners or entrepreneurs to publish content under their name to establish those EAT signals, maybe the brand, or both? If I am a Mister Plumber, I don't know about a plumber, but I'm just thinking off the top of my head. I'm always thinking in terms of local business, so forgive me for that. A home renovation company guy wants to establish his authority as the best home renovation company in the city, region, or country. Would it be beneficial for EAT signals for him to publish content on the blog with him as the author and have that content syndicated around the internet and doing press releases? Is that part of the strategy, or am I missing the mark?

So not necessarily the syndication part, but your money in the personality. So using small businesses as an example, you’re buying the person solving the problem. It’s going to be about availability. If I’ve got an emergency, we’ll use plumbing since you’ve mentioned it. My primary criteria might be available in an emergency. If you’ve more time, I will look at things like reliability, trustworthiness, and reviews in the UK if there’s another motive in my decision. We’ve got a couple of websites like Trusted Trader or Check-a-Trade. And these are independent trade bodies, and organizations will verify and vet professionals. They’ll do credit and background checks, collect independent reviews and compile them. So if I were a plumber, I’d ensure that I was collecting reviews from my customers, priced competitively and fairly compared to everybody else in my particular area, and tell these stories online.

So, in other words, to build trustworthiness, and this could apply to a plumber or getting reviews. And I'm assuming that a part of it would be sharing that content on social media to signal that this is a real person and not some made-up persona that someone's trying to pull over me.

That’s the Key and the hard thing to do. From a math point of view, we could look at link quality. If we were trying to figure out an algorithm, you and I were looking at the ingredients of what data would prove Joe Bloggs is a better plumber than Matt Fraser and Nichola Stott. So we’d be looking at numbers and all sorts of things that gets harder for an algorithm to work out. And what becomes much more sophisticated is this concept of personal authority and personal trust. And we can get additional dimension, which is harder to be gained through things like social media or having a YouTube channel or a Tik Tok account. So when I’ve told the bathroom because I’m a plumber, and I’ve done a repair, and I’ve done all of this job, and I’ve done, put some beautiful tiles in and some Victorian chrome taps, I’m going to Tik Tok that. And I’m going to say, look at this amazing handiwork just did a five-hour job, dadadada. There you go. I did this by using this technique, and that’s why I’m going to. It’s no extra dimension, harder to gain, and it’s more generic and harder to ignore.

And people still try to do it, but it's hard. Because someone goes on Facebook, and they're trying to add friends as a fake person. Who the hell is this man? I'm not going to add you because I don't even know you. We didn't go to school together, we didn't work together. We didn't do anything together. So I get what you're saying. It's like gaming the system by trying to be a fake persona. It's not the best thing to do as a strategy and is something to avoid.

It’s a waste of time and energy. Just be what you’re good at and demonstrate what you’re good at and why. And if you get into the habit of doing it, the rest will naturally fall into place.

They'll see that this is a real person talking on video. I'm glad you brought up the video, it is a huge trend that will grow and grow and grow. You're proving you're a real person. So why should anyone care about this, though? It may sound like a very simplistic question, but why should people care? Why is it important for them to care about this?

Do you mean the consumer or the business owner?

The business owner, not the consumer, the business owner, the marketer, if you will.

Setting aside the benefits of improved rankings because if you don’t have these symptoms, you’ll have quality raters looking at a sign, no reviews that look grab, those are all faked. Algorithmically that will then be machine-learned to perform rhythmically, so your site will be throttled or inhibited. Aside from that, you’re not going to convert well. It would have spammed my way to the top of the ranking even if I did. However, if I’m ranking for an obscure term, and I get a landing because I’ve paid 20 cents a word for a piece of content that is vaguely average, when my potential customer lands on the page, they’re just going to go no.

Is EAT becoming a signal? Does Google use EAT as a signal for ranking, or is it a supplemental deal in your experience? If that make sense? I hope it does make perfect sense.

It does make perfect sense. I would say everything Google has done since Dewey in March 2008. Every update has been about some form of quality, whether Panda, which is all about duplicate content and having the most original content or Penguin. So having quality links, as opposed to crappy links, every update, tuning whatever direction has been about trying to work out that.

Who came up with the acronym? You'll have to forgive my ignorance, even though I've been doing this, as I told you off before the show, for a long time. It’s hard to keep track of everything. Did Google release the EAT acronym? Where did the word and the clients come from?

I’m not sure. It might come from the quality raters’ guidelines. When we first saw what might be considered EAT, we were calling it medic, weren’t we?

I believe so.

That’s what the industry was like, oh, look we’re seeing the first signs of behavior. And I think we were calling it the medic update because it was hitting sites that made claims, and we’re pushing out content with no credibility or professional qualifications. Detox: how to detox your body by drinking this. Who are you, and how do we know you are qualified to write this?

And that is so important. I don't want to read a bullcrap article written by someone pretending to be something giving me medical advice about something they have no bloody business doing. You hit home there because I am sort of vulnerable. I'm 46 years old, and two months ago, I was diagnosed with ADD. And if I'm reading bullcrap content put out by someone, I only go to certain websites because I know they're an authority on the subject. So I'm not going to read some scammy or what appears to be some article a Moran wrote trying to get some clicks, sell some product, or whatever the case may be. So it is important.

We know you, and I know it because we’ve been here and seen all sides of this. But how many times have you said via friends and family you thought you might have been capable of discerning certain things, but they’ll come to you and say, I read this on Facebook the other day, did you know, and you’re like, no, you as well. People like me put stuff on Facebook, people in our industry. And they pay nothing to somebody in a country far away to make that up. It’s such a lawless place.

So it's really important because it's bringing credibility to the internet. It's making the internet a better place.

I guess it’s rewarding. And there is always going to be some lawless.

There is a dark web and some of the internet is not good.

It’s rewarding authenticity.

So here's this woman, it just says EAT can apply to a personal person, it can also apply to a product, correct?

Yes, as far as that product would be on a landing page.

So, like, for instance, let's stick with health products, like some supplements, are there ways that you can build EAT, expertise, authority, and trust around it? What are some of the ways you would go about doing that? For instance, if I could, let's say it's a glutathione supplement. I'm not sure if you know about glutathione, but it helps your body, or we could pick a different topic you have worked on previously instead of putting you on the spot. But I'm just thinking of any supplement from Omega three oil. Omega three oil is a general supplement that's very good for your brain, and so on. So if someone was to say, hey, I want to get this product out to the market, but I don't have any EAT or experience, what would you suggest to them right off the bat? What should they do to have a blueprint?

So that becomes the subject to local laws and advertising standards within individual markets, and it’s very different to the US and Canada as to the UK. But generally, it’s around making unwarranted claims about the product.

You have to be careful about it.

You’ve got to be very careful about that. And to make claims about something, it has to be verifiable, medically backed, and several studies. I don’t know if there’s a magic number, but I know a considerable amount of studies have to be conducted to back up the claims. They have to be peer-reviewed, verified, and published. So if it was a supplement that was medically proven to have said effect, then as the producer, you must invest in research that will extrapolate why it does what it does if you’re producing a point of difference and you’re the supplier.

As you said, it's marketing, and those are more than marketing. They are useful things that you do.

It’s ground up. It’s everything.

I'm sure the product inventor, publishing some articles about it wouldn't hurt or press releases. Because if it's groundbreaking, you'll do some peer review and press release talking about the product.

So if you do have a product it’s reviewed, safe, verified, closed, a proven product, and its medical claims have been backed up by independent research that is all done, then yeah, it’s pure marketing. It’s about those classic things like press releases and creating a story. Getting the product reviewed.

Testimonials and third-party endorsements from doctors. Having third-party endorsements from other doctors and professionals and peer-reviewed case studies, all of those things have value in establishing that.

Yeah. I don’t know where the law stands. There might be property laws around compensation in those sorts of situations.

So yeah, we're not giving legal advice. What is your process for auditing a client site when looking at their expertise, authority, and trustworthiness?

We shared this on Search Engine Land about a week ago. If you search, Search Engine Land, each order Nichola Stott or something like that, you’ll find it. We have a systematic approach that covers around seven different areas. And there are several aspects within each of those areas. So it’d be things like trust marks and credibility statements. So in the UK, we have the British Kitemark. So if you’re producing electrical goods, you would have that particular stamp. You could have things like by Royal appointment. So on rare occasions, your products might be approved for use in the royal household. And then you get the Queen stamp on the bottom of your site. It might be the BSI-British Standards International, a body that looks if your organization meets certain standards. So, ISO 9001 is all kinds of different types of management structures and that sort of thing. So you could have different types of trust and credibility marks. So that would be one we’d look at. So we’d be looking at structured data and how the site is marked up. So it’s like a second depth of understanding algorithmically. You can use several primary sources to submit your site, as a piece of structured data or as an entity to trigger entity recognition. It can help you get traction early on if you’re a startup. So I’ll be looking at things like Wiki data, for example, and you can edit, unlike Wikipedia.

Okay, interesting. Very interesting. I've read your article, by the way. And it's one of the reasons why I wanted to talk to you today about it. How did this process evolve, and how long did it like? It's a pretty extensive process you have come up with. I don't think you thought about this in a day. It's a very sophisticated article and process. How long did it take you to come up with it? I know you've been searching for a long time.

Nobody’s ever asked me this question before, and the answer is quite interesting.

Wow, I'd love to hear.

So you already mentioned I was at Yahoo for a spell, from 2005 to 2009. Yahoo was always small in the UK, it wasn’t what it was in North America. I don’t know the market share in Canada, but for the UK, it was the best at 12%. But even at 12%, it was cool to be there in those days and see that much data. One of my roles was to manually review websites to see if they were of the right quality to join the Yahoo partner network. So we had a process, a checklist of things we would do to vet the site. Some of the 87-point checklists we now have today at Erudite started back in 2005 before Google quality raters were even a thing. So we are looking at the website and thinking, is this a legit business? Who the hell runs this show? Can I find them on Companies House? Can I do a credit check on them? If I do a domain-restricted search, will I find adult content on it? Is there any reference to weapons? We would be drilling in and pulling it apart, asking, is it legit? Has it been hacked? Is it a proper business? Where are the company Directors that own this thing? Who are these people? What Directorships do they hold? So we’d be going right in under there. That’s the germ of the seed if you like.

That is something I think is so important. I see so many businesses that don't do this. And something you brought up, having a direct staff directory because people want to know who's behind the damn organization. I see this over and over again because I am on the web a bit regarding your bio and seeing the company's organizational structure, linking to your LinkedIn, Twitter, and maybe your Facebook profile or, if you want, through your Twitter, at the very least. And I see a lot of organizations don't do that. And you must go on LinkedIn to find the person behind this company. So I'm saying do you think that it's important that people should do it? Is it a part of the onsite signals?

It is a part of the onsite signals for many reasons. First, it’s that legitimacy, authenticity, trust, and the legality of it all as an organization. You want to see these people as legitimate company directors, operators, or independent business owners. So that’s part of it, first off. Secondly, if you want to own the SERP for your brand, you want as much real estate as possible. So if you search for Nichola Stott, you’re going to get. I haven’t looked at it for a while, but you should get Erudite, LinkedIn profile, one of these things, and they’re all joined together. And every single one of them interlinks and references the other. So it’s that social graph concept that connects to that entity that is understood. Doing that, having that, joining that data up not only explains to Google that Matt Fraser is an entity and this entity Matt Fraser is this same Matt Fraser throughout because it always talks about SEO and Digital Marketing. It allows us to own and connect more of that SERP real estate. So someone Google’s name or business name, we’re going to be all over that. So many benefits you’ve got to do.

Yeah. On a side note, there's Matt Fraser, who's a psychic, and there's Matt Fraser, who's an NHL hockey player.

He is a crossfit Guy, Matt Fraser.

That's such a darn common name. I have registered the domain name Matt S. Fraser.com to try and combat that. Not that I'm doing a very good job, but that could be a strategy, couldn't it? If there are popular people with the same name as you, throw your middle initial in there to differentiate and brand yourself that way.

Yeah. I’m lucky my name is spelled slightly unusual, with Nichola spelled with an H, which is not that common. But if I hadn’t named that quite a lot of other people had, I’d try and find a little point of difference to help. So I would use my middle initial. Matt, the plumber, we get a lot of that. So you can add your specialty in.

Or if you wanted to specialize in a discipline, like, Nichola Stott.SEO or International SEO or something like that. Well, there are some tips for people if they're trying to build their persona and brand, and they're competing with famous people that they would never be able to outrank; you can throw that in there. So what about off-site reputation signals? We've discussed some onsite things, and we probably didn't discuss them all. That could be like a five-hour episode. I would love to have you on the show and talk about them. But are there any off-site signals you've recognized at a high level you could share that we haven’t touched on yet?

Oh, of course. We’ve talked about links, it will always be about link citations. When people are talking about you, if we’re writing on the web, referencing your brand, or you are the officers of your company or the products you make, that’s the game. So that’s what we want. Branded search is a citation, product plus brand, anything like that. So the more we can make our product or brand name synonymous with a product, that is gold. Absolutely. And, of course, there are social signals, genuine social signals attached to that. So they’re not ranking signals, per se, but the validity of a trusted profile.

So links are interesting that some people, and when I say some people, some marketers and agency owners I've talked to, don't think, well, I don't know. I'm just trying to think how to word my question safely here for a minute. I still think links are important. There is a divide between whether you get natural links or you get links through reach Link outreach. Whether you don't pay for the link because Google doesn't like you to pay for links, you can pay for the publisher to review your content. So your editorial content on their site is a way around paying for the link. We're splitting hairs, but building that authority if you don't have enough links and can't get that quote-unquote from other places. So all things being equal, whoever has the most links, authoritative, relevant, and quality links, is that still a deciding factor in rankings?

If two people launched the same business with the same idea from position zero, it’s going to come down to who’s got the biggest PR budget. So if we’re going to identical sites, both from WordPress, everything else is a level playing field, the person that’s going to win will be the one with the biggest PR budget and not the link budget. Because if we say, okay, you’ve got $250,000 Matt that you can spend on PR and Nichola, you’ve got to do $250,000 you can spend it on links. If I go out, it will take me a while to spend that. So it will take the whole year to get through, but that’s a lot of work, and I’m just renting that crap. I’m renting it because it’s going to go away, it’s going to fade over time, it’s not going to last, and it’s a risk. It’s a house of cards. But spending $250,000 on three, four, or five good PR campaigns will blow you into the stratosphere.

That was a golden nugget right there. Wow. So whoever has the biggest budget PR is going to win. There are so many aspects, and I want to refer people to Search Engine Land, you can Google Nichola Stott's EAT audit, and we'll make sure to put it in the show notes. Is there one big takeaway you want people to get from this episode? Maybe we haven't covered it, if we've covered it all, that's fine. So I want to give you an opportunity if maybe there's something that comes to your mind.

Okay, EAT is difficult. I’ve shared our entire audit Checklist. I wouldn’t say that somebody would have to feel they’d go through and have to pass every test. So with something like EAT, it’s not a technical audit where it’s brought you a big list of things, and all of these things are broken, and you should try and fix them at some point. There might be things it doesn’t make sense for you to do as a business. And it’s not that you have to do every single thing. It can be difficult, and sometimes what you pay an expert to support is to help you find. I’ve got a 100 gap, which ten do I pick out and work on first? And do I sack some of them off because they’re never going to ROI for me? And then I look at something else. So don’t feel pressured if you look at this list and go, Oh, my God, we’re failing everything. Don’t feel like it’s a pressure, pick things that will drive that difference. And the way to work that out, I’ll try and distill 20 years of SEO knowledge into just a simple sentence. Just put yourself into the mindset of a consumer. Would my mom buy this? Think of somebody that isn’t a web expert but the public on the street. Is my partner going to fall for this? Is my dentist going to buy them? Every normal person, take them through the journey in your mind. Would they come and buy from your site?

Yeah, or even ask your mother. Mom, would you buy this if I wasn’t your kid?

Does this look right to you?

There are many things we could discuss. I know there are platforms out there. I can't remember their call, but where can you get people to test your site? Maybe we'll save that for a future episode if you'd come back. So it's been an absolute pleasure having you here, and if you can come back, it would be awesome. So how can our listeners connect with you online if they want to?

Twitter is always the best way to get ahold of me. @Nichola Stott

Nichola Stott on Twitter.

Yeah, just give me a holler. And I’m happy to chat with anyone about anything.

Are you on LinkedIn, in case people are on that platform?

I am certainly on LinkedIn. I get a lot of all sorts going on, so things can get very deleted. But Twitter is the most visible way to see somebody and the conversation.

Well, I'm following you on there already. So it's been a pleasure having you here. I'll make sure to put those in the show notes. And thank you so much for coming on the show today. It's been an absolute pleasure.

Oh, thank you for having me.

Have a great day.

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