Exclusive: Fireside Chat With Lily Ray

Using the E-A-T Approach to Improve Your Page Rankings

In September 2022, Crowd Content CEO Carlos Meza held a fireside chat with Lily Ray, Senior Director of SEO and Head of Organic Research at Amsive Digital. They discussed recent Google algorithm updates and current SEO trends, specifically E-A-T, an SEO approach that focuses on communicating expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. Below is a transcript of their discussion.

Carlos Meza: Let’s start with some SEO basics. Our audience probably has varying levels of SEO experience, but I want to set the stage and hear from Lily what E-A-T is and why it’s so important.

What Is E-A-T?

expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. Google was pretty quiet about incorporating E-A-T into its algorithm. Back then, Marie Haynes was probably the only SEO professional who was paying attention to it.

What happened was that people in the SEO industry started to notice that Google was elevating authoritative content, especially on sites with medical and political content. To fight back against “fake news” and misinformation, Google released a series of algorithm updates that seemed to prioritize E-A-T and use it as a measurement of content quality. There’s almost a political layer or an information accuracy layer to it, as if E-A-T helps users trust the quality of the content on the sites they’re visiting.

E-A-T is especially important on Your Money, Your Life websites, which typically publish information that can affect a user’s health, safety or political beliefs. There’s a spectrum of how much it matters, but if you publish Your Money, Your Life content, it’s very important.

Information Quality

Carlos Meza: Okay, so you mentioned a few important terms, such as misinformation and quality of content. Would it be fair to say that E-A-T is closely related to providing truthful or really accurate information?

Lily Ray: That’s the goal. Google has said they have no way of knowing at face value if something is accurate or not, but they use the E-A-T mechanisms to understand the qualities of pages that tend to show accurate information consistently. Those types of pages and sites are going to rank better for controversial search queries.

Carlos Meza: That’s very interesting. So what types of sites should really care about E-A-T from your point of view?

The E-A-T Debate

Lily Ray: There’s been a big debate about this throughout the SEO industry. If you’ve ever read Google’s documentation, which has evolved over the years, they’ve said there’s a spectrum of how much it matters for Your Money, Your Life content. Then Google went and redefined what Your Money, Your Life means a couple months ago. Up until then, the search quality guidelines said that Your Money, Your Life content could be any of the following:

  • Health
  • Finance
  • Legal issues
  • Government sites
  • News sites
  • Shopping sites

So it was almost everything on the internet, but they changed it in a pretty big way this year. Your Money, Your Life now means a website’s potential ability to cause harm to users. So if someone is reading something that could cause them to inflict damage, hurt themselves or cause any type of harm to themselves or someone else, that’s Your Money, Your Life. It could be financial harm, misinformation that leads you to vote a certain way or something that causes more obvious physical harm. It’s subjective, but the more your content gets into that territory, the more you should concern yourself with E-A-T.

Carlos Meza: Again, that’s very interesting on the misinformation trend. In recent political races, there was a lot of misinformation and coverage around what was happening on social media. I remember a few months or years ago, there was a game that was prompting kids to do crazy stuff. That’s an extreme example, but do you have any other examples you could share with us? What would be something that isn’t too clear that could cause harm or cause Google to see it as potentially harmful?

Your Money, Your Life Content

Lily Ray: It’s interesting that you bring up that example. I don’t know if you’re referring to Tide Pods, but Tide Pods is a perfect example of why the E-A-T concept exists. In fact, Google includes Tide Pods in its search quality guidelines as an example of how “Your Money, Your Life” something is. They actually rate it as the most extreme possible instance of Your Money, Your Life content.

For anyone who’s unfamiliar with what happened, there was information circulating online that it’s fun to eat Tide Pods, a type of laundry detergent. They’re toxic, so eating them is extremely dangerous. People died from doing this. So now Google has it in the search quality guidelines that if you write this type of content, it’s a Your Money, Your Life keyword. Hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 pandemic is another good example. 

It’s not always something obvious like guns or politics, though. There’s a lot of different things that could be considered Your Money, Your Life content, so the context really matters. 

Examples of Your Money, Your Life Topics

Carlos Meza: That’s really interesting. I was just thinking about how there was a “game” that was prompting kids to complete suicide. Obviously, you’d stay away from that topic, but is there an example that comes to mind that doesn’t involve eating something harmful or committing some type of physical harm?

Lily Ray: Yes. Almost everything with finance is going to fall into Your Money, Your Life. Google is really strict about crypto content for sure. We get a lot of inquiries from crypto clients who can’t rank for anything, and I tell them that’s by design. Anything related to student loan forgiveness, 401(k) accounts and the best credit cards. Almost anything you can think of on the financial side is going to require the highest levels of E-A-T.

One thing I’m noticing, even with the most recent update from a few days ago, is that it doesn’t even matter how much you tell Google you’re trusted and how much you’ve edited and reviewed the work. It’s the bank or the government institution that talks about taxes or whatever the financial topic is that’s going to rank. It’s really challenging in some categories because it doesn’t matter how good your E-A-T is if the Justice Department is going to rank number one.

Use Case: Nolo and Investopedia

Carlos Meza: I was reading one of your recent tweets about Nolo and Investopedia. With the update, I think they lost some positions, and then the banks and government entities were ranking first. Is that what you’re alluding to?

Lily Ray: Yes. I want to be clear that when I make those types of speculations, I’m looking at several examples. It would take centuries to look at everything that happened, so this is based on a few different use cases that I’m finding of what changed in the search results. This is a time-consuming process, but I’ve found multiple examples with this update.

In this case, I think it might have been Nolo where people were searching for state-specific information and Google was prioritizing state and city government websites. So even if Nolo or Investopedia has the best content on the internet—and they do have amazing authors who are looking up all the right information—sometimes Google just wants to elevate the source of that information above the article with the great SEO and great E-A-T.

Sometimes Google pushes up all the authoritative sites and then kind of lets them go down. So for the holidays, you’ll see other sites rank, but these are the types of trends I’ve been paying attention to over the years. On a larger scale, you can see the authorities are starting to rank better than a lot of the publisher sites.

E-A-T and Brand-New Topics

Carlos Meza: Very interesting. I want to go back to your comment about crypto because this is an interesting topic. Of course, we have a writing platform, and clients come to us asking for writers for certain topics. They’re asking about crypto a lot, and I always kind of scratch my head. How can you find an expert on an industry that hasn’t been around for long? What would you say to somebody that said I want to create E-A-T content on something as new and complex as crypto?

Lily Ray: I wish I had a good answer. Honestly, there’ve been so many companies that I’ve had to say, “I just can’t help with this” because it’s too new of a space and it’s too hard to prove expertise. I also think there are certain things that are blacklisted on Google, like topics that they’d rather have Bank of America handle than a crypto blog. So I don’t have a lot of experience in that category. 

I think you would follow all the best practices you’d follow in any other industry, such as being evidence-based or fact-based, demonstrating your expertise, building a personal brand and not having any get-rich-quick schemes on your website. That’s all going to help you in the long run.

E-A-T and Review Sites

Carlos Meza: Okay, I have a question from the audience. What about anything related to getting a degree, such as careers and education. I think they’re alluding to what we were talking about with Your Money, Your Life. What are your thoughts on these types of topics?

Lily Ray: Honestly, I’d have to dig in a little bit more. With the recent update, one of the big winners was a site called Public School Review. They had a sister site called Private School Review, and both sites went up. I’m going to have an article coming out shortly that will show what these sites are. This is a really volatile space as well, because it’s similar to what Google is doing with product reviews on e-commerce sites.

Depending on the query itself, you might type in “associate’s degree” and Google will likely show some colleges that are specialists in that area or near you. Then it will also show some review content, like “school degree reviews.” I think the distribution of how many reviews they show compared to how many colleges they show can change over time.

It’s tricky because Google is crushing a lot of these review sites, as it is with affiliate sites. If you have a review site, I’d follow the best practices that Google lays out in its product review guidelines.

Carlos Meza: One of my questions is, from your point of view and your experience, what are some of those best practices around creating E-A-T content that we can share with our audience? I’m sure they’re eager to hear about that.

Best Practices Around Creating E-A-T Content

Lily Ray: The good news is that producing good E-A-T content usually comes from the same best practices you’ve been following for decades. If you’re using the things they taught in high school when they taught you how to write a good term paper, you’re writing good E-A-T content.

  • You shouldn’t state facts without backing up your claims with evidence, links and citations to where you got them from. 
  • You should be really careful about where you’re getting your information.
  • You should list the name of the author, the editor or the reviewer and put some biographical information about them.

In the E-A-T space, we’ve been talking about author biographies for a few years. Something I think is interesting is that just yesterday I Googled “Diet Doctor authors.” This is a small diet website, and they have a content program with different people writing on their blog. Google had a whole search feature that highlighted all the different authors as different entities. 

People have been saying for years, “Oh, there’s no way for Google to understand who the site’s authors are.” I think they’re getting better at it, so be really clear about who your authors are and why they’re experts. Use structured data that talks about your organization and your authors and why they’re experts in their field. You can also do the following:

  • Make your pages as easy to use as possible.
  • Use tables of contents.
  • Include content summaries.
  • Use jump links.

On Healthline, which is one of the biggest winners of the last few years, you’ll notice every section of the page has a summary. We know users probably aren’t reading all of this content and are just skimming the summaries, so all of these things make the pages easier to use. That makes them great for E-A-T.

Determining Expertise

Carlos Meza: Awesome. So stating the facts, highlighting authors and just making it easy to read. In our experience, it’s difficult to get experts in certain areas. Like I was saying, crypto is a head scratcher. The other day, we got a request for someone with expertise in ancestry. So an expert in that would be someone like a DNA doctor.

Are there just some topics where it’s just hard to go out there and post on LinkedIn and say “I’m looking for an expert in X?” What are your thoughts on that? We talk about an MD in health or maybe someone with a finance or law degree, but there are a lot of gray areas where I think, “How would you even determine expertise on that topic?” I would love to hear your advice on that.

Lily Ray: Two tools come to mind. There are a lot more than this, so I’m sorry to anybody that I’m not including in this list, but SparkToro and BuzzSumo that have an author search function where you can say, “I’m looking for specialists in this area.” SparkToro, which is Rand Fishkin’s tool, will tell you the whole ecosystem of podcasts and YouTube channels and everything that’s related to the subject you’re interested in, including influencers on different social platforms.

There are many other tools focused specifically on finding expert writers in different areas, so that’s another way. You can also get creative with Google Scholar. I do think there’s going to be a big industry in the future, if there’s not already, for hiring experts to contribute to your site or review your content for accuracy. If someone hasn’t launched that site yet, they should think about doing it.

Subject Matter Experts

Carlos Meza: I mentioned this on one of our webinars, but one of the things we come across is that people come to us and say I want a doctor that writes or a lawyer that writes. Sometimes we can’t find one. Sometimes experts can’t write very well. They may also want to charge you an arm and a leg because they’re entities and their time is very, very expensive.

So what we’ve done is pair really, really good writers with subject matter experts (SMEs). The SME fact checks and sometimes bylines the articles. Is this a way that people can create authoritative content? Honestly, sometimes it’s very hard to get an MD who wants to write an article.

Lily Ray: Absolutely. I’m always recommending that. Of course, it’s the best-case scenario if you can have a doctor. With the site I mentioned before, The Diet Doctor, I think the doctor’s name is Andreas. He’s a doctor, but he’s very involved in the content strategy of the site, which is an amazing example. You can see from the rankings of that site that this strategy is working really well for them.

Obviously, you can’t get most doctors involved in this kind of thing, but if you can get them involved and have them review for accuracy, please do that. To the extent that you can ask them for a quote or contribution, that’s also very helpful.

The Importance of Information Accuracy

Lily Ray: For me, I think the most important thing is that they’re not signing their name without actually reviewing the content. I’ve seen a lot of sites try to get on the E-A-T bandwagon in the last few years, and they don’t do the work of changing the content. They just say, “This was reviewed by an expert.” Who knows if that expert was paid a certain amount of money to put their name on it? Also, Google is smarter than that.

Google has natural language processing abilities, and it’s insane what they’re capable of doing these days. If you think they’re not smart enough to figure out that you’re just putting somebody’s name on the content without actually changing it, it’s not going to work for you. Information accuracy is the most important thing with this process.

Carlos Meza: Very interesting. I kind of equate this with people who want to lose weight and try fad diets that are supposed to work in a matter of days. No, you have to put in the reps and go to the gym. You really have to do the work if you want to rank. I think that’s a great message. There’s really no way to hack your way around E-A-T. You’ve just got to put out good content and do the work. It’s not easy, but it’s a simple equation.

Lily Ray: That’s the number one question I get most. It’s always something like, “What’s the score?” It’s like page experience: “How do we just get a green checkmark?” It doesn’t work like that.

The Role of Entities in E-A-T

Carlos Meza: So we mentioned the word entity before. I want to ask you, what’s the entity’s relationship with E-A-T? I know this might be a little bit technical, but I would love to hear your thoughts on that.

Lily Ray: Great question. I spoke at several events this year specifically about that, so I think there’s absolutely a big connection between what Google is trying to do with entities in general and evaluating the E-A-T of those entities.

To take a step back, a good way to think about entities is to start thinking about Google’s Knowledge Graph. When you Google certain people, places and things, Google is going to show you that right sidebar or that top of the search results where you can see, “Oh, you searched for Brad Pitt.” We know who that is. We know he’s a person, he has all these pictures, he has all these movies and this is where he was born. Google has a database of billions of facts about people, places and things. Those are entities, and they’re known entities in Google’s system.

I don’t think that the Knowledge Graph is the only place Google has all this information. I think they have a lot more than what they show in the Knowledge Graph. In fact, they’re starting to roll out new features that demonstrate that Google understands who many different authors are even if those authors aren’t listed in Google’s Knowledge Graph.

How Google Views Entities

I think the way that entities play into E-A-T is that Google can identify a specific author or doctor. It has all these qualitative attributes about a doctor:

  • What they specialize in
  • How long they’ve been doing it
  • What kind of reviews they have from patients

When that doctor’s name is attached to a piece of content, Google sees it as a vote of confidence for the content and maybe the brand itself. The domain is also an entity. If you’re The New York Times, you get a vote of confidence across the board because you’re The New York Times and Google knows your editorial standards. I believe that Google is evaluating the E-A-T of these different entities. When you bring good E-A-T entities together, you’re going to rank better.

Carlos Meza: Thank you. That was very educational. So I have a controversial, or maybe not controversial, question, that keeps coming up in many talks. What do you think about AI-produced content—I think people have been mentioning Jasper in particular—in terms of E-A-T? Do you use these tools to write content? What do you think about all of these AI tools that are popping up?

E-A-T and AI-Produced Content

Lily Ray: It’s a huge, important conversation to have in our industry. I think the Helpful Content update, which just finished, was a great time for us to talk about what’s happening here. So many people are using these AI content tools to just throw up content websites and get a bunch of revenue, and they’re doing it in a not great way. Of course, I firmly believe the algorithms don’t always know the difference. I think there are tools that can reverse-engineer things and say, “Oh, this is obviously AI content,” but not always.

I think there are a spectrum of beliefs on this, but there’s definitely a use case for AI content if it’s very helpful or very informative. One example that comes to mind is e-commerce. AI content is probably fine for e-commerce if you’re summarizing all the product specifications or everything that people have said about the products. You don’t need an expert to write that, and it can help you diversify the page content so that it’s not all duplicate content. I think that’s fine. Would you use AI to write an article on what to do if you’re having a heart attack? No. So it depends on the context.

Carlos Meza: That’s a great point. E-commerce is a good use case. I think the media and sometimes all these people think, “I’m just going to push a button. I’m just going to get an article up. I’m going to produce 100 articles per day.” I think that’s a misconception. I think that AI is a tool that helps people write faster or maybe rephrase something if they’re not sure it’s right. You cannot come up with the substance of an article via AI.

The AI is like using Excel. It’s going to make you faster at doing numbers and spreadsheets, but you need to give it really good input. In our experience, AI is just a tool to help writers write faster or maybe help you create an outline for an article. You still need to add the substance and the facts on your own, so you’ve got to do the work as we were saying before. Thank you for sharing your view on that.

Authoritative Authors and Sites

Here’s a question on the topic of authoritative authors and sites. Wikipedia ranks as an authoritative site, and its authors are anonymous. Pages are more difficult to edit these days, and if bias is introduced into Wikipedia, clients have the challenge of raising the E-A-T of their entire industry. What is your view on working with Wikipedia editors as a strategy for E-A-T?

Lily Ray: As a strategy for improving E-A-T, Google does use Wikipedia content directly in some cases, so you have to be careful about what’s shown there. For example, with the Google feature that lets you see more about a result, you can see information about the website Google is ranking. If they have a Wikipedia page, it’s going to pull directly from Wikipedia.

In a sense, that’s an E-A-T concern. Whatever Google is showing there, whether it’s good or bad, reflects on the brand. That said, I haven’t used Wikipedia editors for anything.

Google’s Recent Algorithm Update

Carlos Meza: Why do you think there was a core update right after the Helpful Content update?

Lily Ray: The data I’ve been analyzing since the core update concluded looks like what I expected to see from the Helpful Content update. There’s a lot of low-quality content that’s doing exactly what the Helpful Content update says not to do. That content is being hit by this core algorithm update. Whether or not the Helpful Content update classifier is being used in the core update, the principles of the Helpful Content update are being looked at, so you can treat them as the same thing.

Carlos Meza: What has been the impact of the recent algorithm update?

Impact of the Core Update

Lily Ray: This is a tricky one. If you asked me two years ago, my answer would have been that Google is trying to elevate content with great E-A-T and minimize fake news and misinformation. There used to be a lot of sketchy sites that would say to use apple cider vinegar for rosacea. That content was going away, so it was more clear what was happening.

Lately, it hasn’t been that clear. The recent core update is confusing because there are a lot of good E-A-T sites that saw declines. For example, Investopedia saw a decline after seeing increases after almost every previous update. CNN saw a massive decline. Really big news sites, especially UK news sites, are seeing enormous declines. They’re the biggest declines we’ve seen in the past several years.

Changes by Content Category

It’s important to look at each category. Dictionary sites and stock photo sites saw big changes from this update. When that happens, you can usually dig in and see that Google has decided there’s a new type of search result that should be showing for this query. For example, if you typed in “Justin Bieber” a month ago, maybe it was all celebrity gossip and now maybe it’s mostly stock photography. That’s just an example of when Google decides the intent is different for keywords.

If you work at a stock photo website, you might think, “Yay! We did something right.” Not really. Google just decided that your content is the better result. In 6 months, they might decide it’s the worst result. So people can get really carried away thinking they did something right or wrong. No. Google is just doing a better job serving the user’s intent based on their search terms.

Avoiding the “Algorithm Game”

Carlos Meza: How can someone try not to play the algorithm game, or at least try to minimize the ups and downs associated with algorithm updates?

Lily Ray: Be everywhere so that if Google decides the intent has changed, you’re there. If they decide it’s now video content, you have a video strategy. If they decide it’s images, you’ve got great image optimization. I saw an interesting example this week with a client of ours that was ranking on page one for the keyword “weight gain.” It was something like, “Does eating cheese make you gain weight?” They’re not ranking on page one anymore, and when you look at it, you think maybe it wasn’t the best match for the user’s intent. Google asks, is there a page that’s a better match for the keyword “weight gain”?

There are many different subtopics, so you should have content for all of them. If Google decides that the user’s intent has changed, you’ll have other answers.

How to Be Everywhere Online

Carlos Meza: You mentioned video, but can you give more examples of what it means to be “everywhere”?

Lily Ray: Here’s an example. We have a client that runs a skincare e-commerce site with products and categories. They’ve checked the boxes in terms of selling products, as they’re in the e-commerce space. But they also have buying guides and product reviews, so now they’re in the product review space, which is a different intent. They also have an ingredient dictionary. That means every ingredient found in their skincare products has its own page defining what the ingredient is. So now they’re getting into a bit of WebMD territory.

If someone types in a search related to vitamin C skin care, the company has a chance to rank every time, whether Google thinks the user is looking to learn more about vitamin C skin care products or searching for vitamin C ingredient information. So it’s having all the different types of content. You should be on YouTube, Google Discover and all the places you can be.

Going Deep and Wide with Content

Carlos Meza: Would it be fair to say the recommendation is to go both deep and wide?

Lily Ray: Yes. People aren’t always looking at the search results. You should look at what types of results are ranking and make sure you have the media required to be in all those places, including video and images.

Carlos Meza: A lot of SEOs panic when they hear about a new algorithm update. What would you advise them to do?

Lily Ray: Hopefully, you have a good set of keywords you’re tracking, including daily rankings. Tools that don’t track daily rankings are behind the times at this point. You have to be able to look at where things were before the update and then what happened after. It’s important to identify patterns. I have my team track all kinds of queries. You can see which pages saw the biggest declines and which keywords saw the biggest declines.

Carlos Meza: You mentioned we should be using tools to track rankings on a daily basis. Do you have any favourite tools?

Ranking Tools

Lily Ray: My personal favourite is Stat, a tool owned by Moz. The best thing to do is take many keywords, put them into Stat and check daily to see what happens with each keyword. It’s easy to export data and analyze data at scale. Rank Ranger is a similar tool owned by Similarweb. Of course, everyone uses SEMrush and Ahrefs, and those tools are great as well.

Getting on Google Discover

Carlos Meza: What tactics and tips do you really recommend for getting on Google Discover?

Lily Ray: Discovery refers to the ads; Discover refers to Google Discover, which is Google’s version of a social platform. It shows you articles and resources that are curated to your specific interests. It’s one of the most underutilized features of Google in the SEO space. We have clients that get way more traffic from Google Discover than Google Search, but it’s a specific type of site, so I’ve been doing some data analysis recently about what works.

Generally speaking, it’s catered toward people’s interests. So if someone is obsessed with a band, they’ll see content about that band. If they’re obsessed with NASCAR, they’ll see a lot of content about NASCAR. Anything that’s nostalgic to people. Google just announced in a new feature in Discover where if they know your fashion sense based on how you’ve searched for fashion in the past, you’re going to get more Google Discover content that shows how people are wearing your style.

If you ask someone from Google, they’ll say there’s no way to optimize all that. But the reality is, the more niche something is, the more catered it is to someone’s specific interests. Titles also matter a lot. If it sounds like clickbait, it works in Discover as much as Google says it’s important not to use clickbait. A client of mine refers to it as “fandom stuff.” Sports, celebrities or anything that elicits an emotional response from people.

The Helpful Content Update

Carlos Meza: Let’s talk about the Helpful Content update. How can somebody recover if they were hit by it?

Lily Ray: I’ll be honest. We had a client that got hit this week that I wasn’t expecting. They’ve been doing a lot of things right, so it happens to the best of us. Google’s guidelines are a great place to start, as well as content published by Google about the Helpful Content update, the core algorithm update and the product review update. If you take all the different questions that Google says to think about and put them all in one spreadsheet, you can objectively look at your content and make sure it’s answering all those questions.

It’s also important to understand changes in intent and think about where you can compete and where you can’t. If you know that Google decided all the keywords you’re trying to rank for are best served by dictionary sites, but you’re not a dictionary company, you might want to try something different. You’re not going to launch a dictionary, so you need to be honest about what’s ranking and stay true to what your site is an expert in. Hopefully, Google will get better at understanding real expert content.

Carlos Meza: From talking to our clients and following some of the influencers out there, it seems like when the Helpful Update was first rolled out, the impact was really mild. Some people said they weren’t impacted, but I thought, “No, let’s not declare victory just yet.” Do you think the dust has settled, or should we still be in that attentive mode? When can we say, “Okay, I think we’re past this”?

Helpful Content Update vs. September Core Update

Lily Ray: I don’t think the dust has settled. I think we should treat the September core update as the Helpful Content update because it was catastrophic. Some data provider sites have said in the past few days that they don’t think the September core update was that big. They need to look again.

I’m seeing a pattern where some of these sites are doing exactly what the Helpful Content update says you shouldn’t be doing. One example is publishing content on several topics using AI, using cheap writers or saying what everyone else is saying. There are a lot of ads on the pages, and the content isn’t that helpful. Sites doing that at scale and then layering product reviews on top of it are being penalized. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Helpful Content update or the September core update because the general approach Google is using indicates that you need to focus much more on unique, expert content.

Revising vs. Replacing Content

Carlos Meza: If you have a site with some content that isn’t great, are you better off trying to upgrade the content or just getting rid of the content altogether?

Lily Ray: You can create your own system for analyzing where you should get rid of that content. You can review many data points, such as the following:

  • Has the content received traffic in the past year or two?
  • How many keywords does the content rank for?
  • How many links does the article have?

Put that all into a spreadsheet and come up with your own criteria for what you should keep and what you should replace. I usually like to get rid of content instead of keeping it if it’s not doing anything. The only risk is if you have links to it or you think it enhances your overall E-A-T. Don’t get rid of topics that are necessary to prove to Google that you’re an expert on something. If it’s not doing anything, get rid of it.

Carlos Meza: What I’m hearing is that you should have your own criteria, but if it’s dead weight, you should get rid of it. Is that fair?

Lily Ray: Yes. I’m hearing more people complain about how their content isn’t getting indexed than ever before. Google will like your site better if you provide better content.

What’s Ahead?

Carlos Meza: What vertical are you most excited to work with right now in terms of SEO?

Lily Ray: I wish I had government clients because it can be really difficult to compete on Your Money, Your Life topics. Believe it or not, insurance is a fun category. You can get really creative with it. Lately I’ve been getting a lot of big news publisher websites, health and medical sites, and sometimes finance sites that are affected by these algorithm updates. It’s a huge effort to figure out what’s happening and give clients a roadmap to get back on track, but that’s what I like to do the most regardless of content category. You get to see the results of your work.

Carlos Meza: What advice would you give SEOs about future-proofing their content strategies?

Lily Ray: Don’t buy links. Don’t break any of Google’s rules. There are a lot of niche site groups online, some with great content and some with not-so-great content. My clients can’t take the type of risk where they’re using AI to create a bunch of content and putting ads on the pages. At first they rank really well, and then they get a manual action or they get completely removed from Google two weeks later. If you’re focusing on E-A-T and content quality, you’re future-proofing your site. Don’t publish articles on topics you don’t have expertise in.

Carlos Meza: I agree with you about the link buying. Just don’t break the rules. There’s no hacking your way around the rules or hacking your way into high-quality content. As humans, we want a quick fix, but you have to put in the work and be serious. I think Google is making it tougher and tougher, which is why we’re all about high-quality content and advise clients on creating that content.

I think people still need some education on this. They think they’re going to slap 100 articles on a website and start ranking. It usually only works for a short amount of time. Any other advice related to the topics we’ve been discussing?

Stay Focused

Lily Ray: With the updates that just happened, stay focused on the bigger picture. It’s really easy to look at these updates in isolation and say, “We lost this much traffic.” Then if you zoom out, you’ve actually gained traffic for the last five years and it’s a slight correction. Google doesn’t owe you anything. They make tweaks, and sometimes you get caught up in that. 

If you’re seeing SEO as a growing channel over the years, keep doing what you’ve been doing. Stay focused on the bigger picture and don’t get disheartened if you get negatively impacted by one of the updates. Look at what’s doing a little better than you and maybe adjust your strategy accordingly.

Carlos Meza: It’s a long game. I’ve always shared that view with you. In the long run, if you’re doing the right things, it should pay off.

What would you advise if a client is on a shoestring budget and needs to create extra content? 

Lily Ray: I often talk about the tattoo artist I worked with in New York in 2016. I spent time with him and helped him figure out the two or three most important questions that he should answer on his website. I asked him all the relevant things he knows about those topics and wrote down what he told me. It was expert advice; we didn’t have to look anywhere else for the information. It’s now 2022, and he’s still ranking in featured snippets for that content. His expertise gave me the answers to those important questions, and it cost almost nothing.Carlos Meza: SEO is a long game, but it’s also the gift that keeps on giving. If you get a page to rank, it might stay there for a while, bringing in traffic and leads.


Lily Ray

Senior Director, SEO & Head of Organic Research @Amsive Digital

Lily Ray is the Sr. Director of SEO & Head of Organic Research at Amsive Digital (formerly Path Interactive), where she provides strategic leadership for the agency’s SEO client programs, while conducting extensive research on the latest SEO developments. Born into a family of software engineers, web developers and technical writers, Lily brings a strong technical background, performance-driven habits and forward-thinking creativity to all programs she oversees. Lily began her SEO career in 2010 in a fast-paced start-up environment and moved quickly into the agency world, where she helped grow and establish an award-winning SEO department that delivered high-impact work for a fast-growing list of notable clients, including Fortune 500 companies. Lily has worked across a variety of verticals with a focus on retail, e-commerce, b2b and CPG sites. She loves diving into algorithm updates, assessing quality issues and solving technical SEO mysteries.

Carlos Meza

Carlos Meza

President & CEO @Crowd Content

Carlos is an experienced technology executive with a background in engineering and corporate finance. Over the last 5 years, Carlos has been leading high-growth technology companies, currently as the CEO of Crowd Content (a high-growth freelance content writing platform) and previously as CEO of Kivuto Solutions (SaaS Edtech company). Before becoming a tech executive, Carlos spent 13 years working with multinational banks such as Citibank and HSBC in their mid-market divisions, helping entrepreneurs and management teams with everything from traditional debt solutions to more complex matters such as M&A and private equity. Carlos holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from the Universidad Industrial de Santander and an MBA from the University of Calgary.