Lily Ray on the future of E-A-T, paid ads, E-commerce spaces and SEO

Joost de Valk

Joost de Valk

Lily Ray

Lily Ray

Director of SEO and Head of Organic Search
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In this episode

Lily Ray, director of SEO and head of organic search at Amsive digital, talks about her specialty switch from the E-commerce space to EAT. She thinks that EAT is one of the biggest focus points that Google has been emphasising and she gives hands-on tips on how to improve the expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness of a website. Besides that, Lily and Joost talk about the future of E-commerce spaces, SERPs “People also ask” and Paid Ads. And as a bonus, they will tell you how they experience the closeness and benefits of the SEO community. Listen to this episode if you want to hear about EAT and Google’s next steps from these experts!

Do you want to learn more about Lily and her company? Follow Lily on Twitter or visit the Amsive Digital website.


Lily and Joost will cover the following topics during this episode, with timestamps indicating when the topic comes up:

  • 2:00 – The SEO specialty of Lily Ray
  • 4:21 – What is a good future proof SEO strategy?
  • 6:25 – How to improve your E-A-T and the role of schema in this
  • 11:13 – How to measure if E-A-T changes have an effect
  • 12:54 – The influence of Google’s intent and it’s core updates for E-A-T and site-ranking
  • 19:06 – Actionable tips on how to build trust on a certain topic
  • 20:10 – The next steps of Google on; E-A-T, E-commerce, SERPs “People also ask” and Paid Ads
  • 26:29 – Why SEO is getting more important than paid ads
  • 28:52 – The benefits of using WordPress and Yoast for E-A-T and structured data
  • 31:58 – Is it profitable to start a new e-commerce space nowadays? 
  • 36:24 – The closeness and helpfulness of the SEO community
  • 39:24 – The one thing that people should do to improve their E-A-T


Joost de Valk: Hey everyone and welcome back to another Yoast SEO podcast. I’m joined today by Lily Ray. Lily is senior director of SEO and head of organic research and that is quite the job title all combined together at Amsive Digital. I hope I said Amsive right. Welcome Lily. Thanks for joining 

Lily Ray: Thanks so much for having me. I’m happy to be here. 

Joost de Valk: What is Amsive can you tell us a bit about that to begin with. 

Lily Ray: Yes I can. So we just rebranded, I want to say three or four months ago, we were formerly path interactive for about 14 years or so. We got acquired a couple of years ago by a company called SourceLink.

So Amsive is the combination of both of our companies. I work technically at Amsive Digital, which is the digital side of the business. But we do have this larger Amsive agency now, and the word is a kind of play on Massive, Amplify, Responsive. So it’s a new word that we created just for the agency, but yeah it’s been an interesting process.

Joost de Valk: It’s good though, because it’s actually a pretty short brand, which is something that we don’t see all that much anymore in our industry. There, a lot of people come up with long names for stuff. You’ve been in the SEO industry for a while it seems, although, as we just discussed, pre-show, we’ve never actually met in person yet, which is weird.How long have you been around? 

Lily Ray: So I’ve been doing SEO, I guess this is my 10th year, so maybe 10 and a half years. ButI’m 31. So I started when I was 20 when I was in college. Pretty much my first job ever doing SEO. 

The SEO specialty of Lily Ray

Joost de Valk: Yeah. Yeah, I know the feeling. The only problem is I’m a couple of years older. What would you say is your specialty?

Lily Ray:  So if you asked me a few years ago, I was really heavily focused on retail and e-commerce sites, just because of the nature of the agency that I worked at before this one. I was running the SEO team there and we had tons of e-commerce clients. That was our specialty.

I was even getting into Amazon SEO as well. And I really love technical SEO. So for my whole career, that’s been, my happy place is doing technical SEO. Past few years though, I think a lot of people know, I talk about algorithm updates and E-A-T quite a bit. And that’s just due to the types of sites that I work on at this agency. So that’s really become my passion 

Joost de Valk: So if we dive right in straight into that topic, you have all these algorithm updates, you write about them a lot, which we’re all thankful for, because then we don’t have to. But are there any trends that you’ve seen in the last few years over, over these updates?

Lily Ray: Oh, yeah, for sure. Actually, I have a few speaking engagements that are happening right now, like MozCon and everything like that. And that’s exactly what I’m talking about, like what are the larger trends that have been happening on Google in the last few years? And it’s just my opinion tonight, just based on what I’m seeing and what I work on with my clients.

But I do think that E-A-T (Expertise, Authority and Trust) is one of the biggest focus points that Google has been emphasizing over the last few years, not just in search, but in other products like Discover and YouTube and Google news and everything. And I do think if you look at the data, especially in the, “your money, your life” sector of sites. So sites that deal with finance and health and parenting and things like that, there’s very much a clear push towards E-A-T.

And on the flip side of that, there’s a big reduction in dangerous content, spammy content content that contradicts scientific consensus and things like that. So it’s been interesting. 

Joost de Valk: Yeah. So in a way that is actually a move for the better, you’d say. 

Lily Ray: Depends what your values are at. Some people think it’s Google, policing content and information.But if you read the search quality guidelines and you read what Google is going for, I think that each person would agree that it’s for the best. 

Joost de Valk: Yeah. I saw your tweet 10 hours ago, I think what Twitter says, tweeting about: “Hey, SEO’s are focusing too hard on optimizing metadata, heading tags, et cetera, instead of just making a good result page.”

What is a good future proof SEO strategy?

Which resonated quite hard with me because it’s one of the things I keep telling people just be the best result. It’s very simple while also being very hard. Is that a lesson we still need to teach people. ?

Lily Ray: I think that so much of the SEO industry is stuck in this sort of outdated way of approaching SEO.

And I get it because it used to work really well. So 10 years ago we would buy links and that would work. And then maybe eight years ago we would tweak title tags and H1 tag and that would be enough to change the rankings of the page the next week. And it’s just getting more and more complex.

And the types of strategies that I work on with my team are so beyond that now, like you have to basically just treat Google as a human and think about what’s valuable on the page or not. So many people start with what’s the H1 tag, how many H1 tags are there? What’s the title tag? What’s the meta-description? 

Those things are great, of course, but it’s really about what’s the intent of the page. Does it cover all the content comprehensively? Is it helpful for users and that’s really how we’ve been approaching our strategies and it’s very effective these days. 

Joost de Valk: Yeah. Yeah, I can totally relate. It’s what we’ve tried to tell people for a long time. I saw someone tweet the other day:  “not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.” And I think that’s very true for SEO tools. There’s just so many SEOs that open up a tool.

And then look at that report and start fixing those tiny little things and that’s just really not going to help them. Yeah. So it’s good to see that.

How to improve your E-A-T and the role of schema in this

Joost de Valk: But in this E-A-T age, what would you say that these people need to do? What would be there? What should be what they’re working on.

Lily Ray: So there’s so many different strategies and tactics to use to improve or at least improve the way that you’re conveying E-A-T. In many cases, assuming that you’re a legitimate brand, you have a good reputation and you’ve sorted those things out on the business end. It’s just a matter of making sure that information is being transmitted through your website and through your other Google properties.So Google my business 

And really what we do with our team with our clients is we’ll say what are you truly an expert in? Who do you have on your staff that we can leverage for expert insights and put their names on the site? We go through content that maybe was just written for SEO purposes 10 years ago.

And it’s not actually helpful, or maybe they wrote that content five different ways across five different posts so we can make one bigger, more comprehensive article and consolidate those. So it’s really just taking inventory of what’s been done on the site. What does the brand stand for? What is the brand and authority on and just making sure that’s all conveyed through the site.

Joost de Valk: Okay. This schema play into that or is that a result of what you’re doing or?

Lily Ray: yeah, I do think schema plays into that. I actually wrote an article a couple of years ago, maybe last year, the role that schema plays in E-A-T. And to be clear, it’s not a ranking factor. In many cases, it’s something that can get you rich results, but it’s not like a necessity.

I do think that it really helps to disambiguate entities first and foremost. So especially if you have an author that shares a name with somebody else using structured data, can confirm who that person is. I’ve seen it happen just with my own knowledge panel where I added schema and suddenly Google started making the right connections about who I was.

I do share a name with a few other Lily Rays. But yeah, I think it’s something that we absolutely work on with our team and Yoast has been very helpful because a lot of that stuff that we recommend is built into Yoast which is great.

Joost de Valk: Yeah. If some of the things that Jono and I geek about as well, it’s the stuff that I love to improve on and look at.

And at the same time, I got very annoyed when Google got stuff wrong. Or you, you alluded to it already, but it does get stuff awfully wrong sometimes and that’s where I get annoyed. And as someone who’s used himself a bit more as fixing the system rather than individual sites. It’s like, what can I do to fix the system a bit more, but it is hard to prevent that sort of stuff.

And in many ways you said disambiguate, so it’s not a ranking factor. And I totally agree with you on that, but at the same time you do want to really make clear which other pages on the web are about you, for instance if you’re an author. 

Is that something that people, that you think, should work on a bit more?

Lily Ray: Yeah, I do. I think that’s one of the strongest, most effective tactics that you can use to improve E-A-T. And I’ve even been working with some pretty major publishers who, of course, already have authored by lines. They know they have short bios for their authors, but there’s still so much more that you can do to connect the dots. So was that author listed on Google scholar? Did that author write for a variety of different publications? And like giving a home, whether it be on your site, on their personal site, but having one centralized place where you can include all of that relevant information is really helpful to Google.

And I didn’t even know this until recently, but Jason Barnard taught me this. If you look at the knowledge panel, There’s a little globe icon that shows the URL that Jason Barnard calls it like the home of where Google gets all of its information about a given entity. So make sure that you’re basically showing up, like you have a home listed and that Google’s picking the right one and include all the relevant information on that page.

Joost de Valk: Yeah. Jason taught me that too, as I think he’s teaching a whole lot of people. If you haven’t heard of Jason Barnard, we have a great podcast recording with him. So go back into our archives and listen to that. 

How to measure if E-A-T changes have an effect

Joost de Valk: So you’re doing this kind of work for your clients. What is the outcome of that work? How do you measure the performance of what you do? 

Lily Ray: Yeah, it’s a really interesting approach to SEO. It’s definitely different from the work that I used to do. Like I said before, I used to work on e-commerce websites, it’s pretty straightforward with e-commerce sites.

It’s to get rid of technical issues, make sure you have the right category pages, make sure crawling and indexing is working as intended. All this stuff is pretty routine, you approach all the sites in the same way. With this E-A-T focused approach for a lot of the clients that we’re working on, it’s different every time and it’s a really long game. So I gave a couple examples last week I presented in Napa and there’s a couple of sites that we’ve worked on where. My favorite example is a site that was really destroyed by the medic update in August of 2018. It’s a health website. They spent a year replanning an E-A-T focused website, getting rid of a lot of thin content, dangerous content and content that wasn’t helping users at all.

Started working with experts, listed their names on the page, really just improved the website architecture and speed and technical issues and all that stuff. And after a year of planning, they relaunched this new site and it was like instantly a huge recovery. I don’t even remember a 300% increase in traffic or something over the course of a couple of weeks.

So it’s hard work and it takes a really long time and generally speaking we don’t see the results of our efforts play out until another core update rolls out. Which, we have to tell our clients from the get-go, if they’ve been impacted. And just, two weeks ago we had a core update and we’re certainly seeing great improvements for one of our sites. We have been working on a much longer game than what a lot of SEO’s are used to. 

The influence of Google’s intent and it’s core updates for E-A-T and site-ranking

Joost de Valk: And why would that be? Is that because with that core update, they’re rolling new trust data into their algorithm, or what is it that changes in such a core update? 

Lily Ray: It’s a variety of things. There’s definitely examples where you don’t do anything and you’re impacted positively or negatively.

And a lot of people use that as, “see you can’t do anything about core updates”, but I don’t think that’s true. Like the sites that we’ve seen improvements for are most of the time sites that we’ve done a ton of hard work for. And if you talk to other people that deal with these types of projects like Glenn Gabe for example, it’s like you have to do so many different things to get back in Google’s good graces. And Google said it takes us months to process these changes. And I think during core updates is when those kind of site-wide evaluations come into play. And if you’re in line with what Google has been saying that it’s focusing on, then you should probably be well positioned as the next core update rolls out.

Joost de Valk: Okay. But does that mean that someone is manually reviewing and that data’s feeding back? Or is it not that simple? 

Lily Ray: I think it’s the search quality evaluators reviewing it. So it’s thousands of people reviewing it and making sure that the content is meeting their needs. Just yesterday I published this article about what happened with this update.

One thing I thought was really interesting was that. It was late last year. And you’ll see this a lot where it’s like, Google makes a change to its documentation. So late last year they said we’re changing some language in the search quality guidelines about dictionary definitions. And we’re saying if the word is ambiguous or the person doesn’t understand it, they should suggest that a dictionary or an encyclopedia shows up first to help define the word. And lo and behold, one of the biggest changes that happened with this update was a huge increase in dictionary sites. So maybe there was something that happened late last year, early this year, where a lot of evaluators determined, we don’t know what this word means.

It would be helpful to show dictionary sites. And that was probably the most salient thing that took place with this past update. So it’s interesting to see how those things are connected, but it does take time for Google to process the feedback that they’re getting from search evaluators. 

Joost de Valk: Yeah. Actually for someone whose English is not their native language, me, that’s actually a great improvement because a lot of times I will be looking just for that and it saves me a lot of typing. But with a change like that, you could suddenly also find yourself being pushed down because a dictionary comes on top of you at the same time.

I guess that’s also not a huge problem. If you’re a number two behind the dictionary for a lot of those terms.

Lily Ray:  That’s a really important point. One that I tried to make clear in the article, because the first instinct everybody has when they see somebody, a loser is what did they do wrong?

I like that site, they have great content and you have to look at what actually took place. So in some cases that site moved down one or two positions on average across the board for all of their high ranking keywords. And that’s actually pretty big, that’s going to cause a big decline in traffic and visibility, but they didn’t necessarily do anything wrong.

Maybe Google just decided a dictionary should outrank them. So it’s really important to remember that it could just be like Google shifting the intent of what gets to rank, but you didn’t necessarily, you’re not a loser. You just moved down in that process. 

Joost de Valk: Yeah, and it might not even save you all that much actual converting traffic. Because if they were looking for what the word means, then your site might not be the best result anyway.

Lily Ray: That’s really important to keep in mind as well. I think the gut instinct for a lot of people when they are affected by core updates is to say like it’s crashing and burning. I’m losing everything.

It’s no, you’re losing traffic and rankings to your blog articles that probably weren’t converting very well in the first place. Take a look at your actual conversion data and see if that was impacted. Because traffic isn’t everything. 

Joost de Valk: Yeah. That’s something that we’ve definitely learned the hard way at Yoast as well, or we know you go up and down a bit and then you see these rankings and then you figure out later on: “Hey, this is all traffic to pages that we don’t really care all that much about.” But if we go back to the performance. How do you measure? Is there any tools or stuff that you use to measure the performance of your clients other than pure analytics? 

Lily Ray: Yeah, it depends on the client. Some clients track phone calls, form admissions, whatever the case may be.

But what I like to do since I’m on this E-A-T kick. It’s like overlaying different elements of the page with performance. So I also wrote an article for Search Engine Journal last year about visualizing author performance. So for example, if you have a bunch of authors that are writing on medical topics and maybe your site makes money through ad revenue and then traffic, then it’s really important. Who’s writing what, like who’s performing the best, who’s generating the most page views and traffic and everything. 

So what I’d like to do is take author names and then cross-reference that with. Website traffic or goal completions or whatever KPI they’re focused on. You can also use whatever crawler of your choice and extract things like the date of publication and the hierarchy of the site, so tags and categories. And you can start to get an understanding of let’s say, you’re looking at breadcrumbs for example. You can say:  “Wow, the content when we write about exercise is really outperforming content when we write about recipes”. So maybe we’re perceived as more of a fitness site than a cooking site and just drilling into what your site’s perceived authority and expertise is, is something that I think can help inform what type of content you create going forward.

Actionable tips on how to build trust on a certain topic

Joost de Valk: Is it just that or is it also the other way around? What can we do to become more of an expert in Google’s eyes on that topic? 

Lily Ray: Yeah. What I like to do and another place that’s really interesting to look at Discover as well, Google discover. Sometimes you’ll notice:  “Wow, we really perform really well in Google discover on a certain topic. So maybe we should double down on that topic”

As far as building authority. It’s hard to do. I think authoritativeness is largely evaluated by the link profile. So if you don’t necessarily have strong links in a certain area, or from certain types of sites, it can be really difficult. But it’s what I would recommend doing. If you want to build up authority is work with established experts in that area and see if you can invite them to contribute or interview them, have them share your article, link to your article and start that way just to build trust. 

Joost de Valk: Yeah. So you have to join the already existing network and work yourself in from within instead of going at it the other way around.

Lily Ray: Yeah, I think so. 

The next steps of Google on; E-A-T, E-commerce, SERPs “People also ask” and Paid Ads

Joost de Valk: Okay, cool. So seeing everything that’s happened over in the E-A-T over the last couple of years, what do you expect the next steps to be from Google?

Lily Ray:  It’s hard to say. I don’t think that this trend is going anywhere. I think that they’re becoming more and more strict as far as who gets to rank on certain topics. I do think there’s something interesting going on with e-commerce and the product review update. This past core update of the last couple of weeks does seem to be tied into the product review update, which happened last month.

And then at Google I/O, they announced this new shopping graph. That seems to be the most heavily impacted area by these last couple of big updates. So I’m seeing a lot of affiliate sites, product reviews sites, especially in the technology and consumer electronics space. There seems to be a lot of very big movement there.

And then my team almost every week: “is this a new feature where there’s like all these product comparisons happening on Google?”. So it’s hard to say what’s happening there, but I don’t know that it necessarily bodes commerce websites and Google’s up to something pretty big. 

Joost de Valk: Is it e-commerce websites or is it the affiliates in between that are going to suffer? If I had to place my bet, it would be on affiliates becoming a very hard sport very quickly. 

Lily Ray: Yeah. They’re pulling in a lot of the affiliate data into the search results themselves. You’re totally right, but I do think there’s some sites that have actually seen huge growth in the last few weeks and their affiliate sites.

There’s a way to do it well, but Google definitely seems to be cracking down on thin or unhelpful affiliate content. 

Joost de Valk: Yeah. Yeah. It’s funny because they’ve been throwing warnings in all of their tools now for quite a while about people not adding product identifiers and stuff like that into their schema.

And of course, lo and behold, when everyone adds a GTIN or other manufacturer numbers to their products, it becomes very simple for them to build a comparison engine. 

Lily Ray: Of course, that’s what they wanted of course.

Joost de Valk: That it cracks me up because. On the one hand, I want to see Google as so smart. And at the same time, they often do these things where I’m like, you’re just stupid, but you’re just forcing yourself in now.

Lily Ray: Yeah. It’s kinda weird. It’s like this, on one hand, there’s this giant initiative towards E-A-T. And from my perspective, I think it’s the biggest change to Google in the last few years. But then there’s this other side of Google where it’s like, they’re constantly testing things.

Where from my perspective, it feels like it’s not quite ready. Like yesterday. I shared a screenshot of a new type of featured snippet that they’re testing that says: “also covered on this page”. And they’re using some type of AI or something to create these jump links. 

It’s not content that’s pulled from the page. It’s Google generating language based on what it thinks it sees on the page. And more often than not, it’s not phrased correctly. And it’s the same with people also ask: “that’s not good grammar” and it’s so in your face. Like “People also ask” is on every result now. It’s this push towards E-A-T, but then also just like blatantly add bad grammar all over the search results.

Joost de Valk: When “the people also ask” becomes very large in some results. I sometimes have like you click on one, you go back and suddenly you have 20 “people also ask” results.

Lily Ray: Oh yeah, it’s very aggressive, very aggressive. They must be seeing a lot of people staying on the search results, that feature, because there’s just such a huge increase in the last few years.

Joost de Valk: Yeah, would itactually drive more ad revenue? I don’t know. I’ve never really understood why they made it that big. I understand the feature, but the size of it is incredible. 

Lily Ray: Yeah. I think ads are becoming so hard to identify, that any increased time that people spend in the search results page. There’s an increased likelihood they’ll click on an ad. Myself yesterday, I clicked on an ad and it was a horrible experience. And I was: “Wow, if this is working on me, who likes very deliberately not to click on ads for my entire life, it’s working on a lot of people. For sure.

Joost de Valk: Yeah. That’s weird. To be honest, I run with an ad blocker all the time, so I don’t even see that. If people like us can start clicking on ads because we don’t recognize them then something is pretty broken. I’d say, close to illegal as well. 

Lily Ray: It’s by design for sure. It is maybe illegal.I think that’s what we’re all trying to figure out here in the U S if it’s illegal or not, but they’re getting away with it. And it’s a little scary. I actually have a lot of data. I can’t remember if this was published or not, but I did do a survey at one point where it’s been sitting in my power BI and I’ve been analyzing it, but I don’t know if I ever published it.

But it was about whether or not people can distinguish ads from organic results. And of course it was like, 60%-65% of respondents could not tell the difference. 

Joost de Valk: No. We should rerun that research and maybe collaborate on it. I think we could reach a lot of people and see: “Hey, can we prove that?”  The European union would be more, much more likely to actually do something about that than I think the current US with its current climate And in that regard also, there is a lot that’s changing in these things. So we had a discussion about your own personal knowledge panel. And I look at that as a European and I go:  “They can’t do that. That’s your name that they add. They should allow you to have some control over what that looks like.” And what shows up when people search for you. 

Why SEO is getting more important than paid ads

Joost de Valk: And yeah I’m just very curious what will happen in that space. I think that’ll be, there will be a few lawsuits. And then in the near future on that topic related the whole ads. Ads are basically going down a bit because in terms of tracking, it’s becoming harder and harder, Apple’s cracking down on a lot of tracking and remarketing and all these things. Do you think that will change SEO?

Lily Ray: If the last year is any indication and granted coronavirus changed a lot of things, maybe temporarily but there’s never been as much demand for SEO as there is now, which is pretty vindicating. Because people have been saying for years that it’s going away, it’s harder to do blah, blah, blah. It is definitely harder to do.

But I think that, it’s hard to say what’s happening on the ads side will affect this, but I think people are becoming aware of the fact that SEO is a more reliable, consistent source of traffic and visibility. And even though it takes time. That’s time that you have to invest in, if you’re a serious brand, there is no alternative.

I’m happy to see that the demand for it is growing. I’m not exactly sure what will happen with ads, but I do think that I personally think that there’s always going to be a major need for SEO, because it’s just from my perspective how the internet works. That’s what people really want.

Joost de Valk: Yeah, exactly. It’s what the whole. Organic acquisition is what people on both sides of the fence really want. At the same time I wonder how a server’s going to survive if they deliver that service. And at the same time, make their money on ads that nobody actually wants.

So that’s yeah. An interesting future probably for maybe even what’s that new, a search engine on Neeva or whatever, where I can pay a monthly fee and don’t have ads. In many ways that does sound like a very good solution

Lily Ray: Yeah, it does actually sound very appealing. 

Joost de Valk: Yeah. If I could do that for my search engine on my social network, I’d be a very happy man in many ways.

Lily Ray: Yeah, interesting concept. 

The benefits of using WordPress and Yoast for E-A-T and structured data

Joost de Valk: You already mentioned, Hey, Yoast, SEO has been helpful in that. Is WordPress a platform that you use a lot for these sites?  

Lily Ray: Yeah absolutely. Our agency Amsive,, if we have a web development and crE-A-Tive team. So we do a lot of website launches. I think monthly, I always pick WordPress when it’s up to us, we do a lot of migrations into WordPress.

Yeah, that’s certainly like probably the majority of our clients are on WordPress these days. And to your point, it’s really cool what Yoast has done with structured data and most recently, like just adding those additional fields that we can include some more information about our authors.

That’s really cool. I do think it’s underutilized. I think a lot of people don’t necessarily realize that you don’t have to do any coding to add that author information, for example, and into WordPress and have it be marked up with structured data. But certainly that’s been a very helpful and seamless way for us to improve or implement a lot of the E-A-T tactics that we’re recommending.

Joost de Valk: That’s awesome to hear you say that. And it also makes me go “huh”, because we probably should tell that story a bit better. Yeah, this is the new feature we added, I think two releases ago. On your user profile you can add those fields about yourself, which knowledge, which languages, which titles you have, which awards you’ve won, stuff like that.

It’s a very simple interface, to be honest. I know because I coded it myself. If it looks fancy, I didn’t code it. But one of the recurring themes that I see is that we make this sort of stuff easy, but if people are on a large CMS, it’s often very expensive to make changes like this. Do you see people moving on or migrating to WordPress because of this?

Lily Ray: I think people move to WordPress for a variety of reasons, for sure. I don’t know if raising the flag about E-A-T is making anybody do any type of big website migration. We do have to get creative. If a website’s not using WordPress, not using Yoast, our team is probably hand coding JSON-files for clients or implementing micro data or whatever.

But certainly it’s a big sigh of relief for our team whenever a site is on WordPress, because it makes it a lot easier to implement the things that we’re recommending. 

Joost de Valk: If only WordPress knew what it should market a bit better as well, because this is exactly what I’ve been telling people for a long time.

Yeah. Even big publishers, like the amount of money you’re going to spend to recreate what you would have gotten for free if you moved to WordPress, is insane.

Lily Ray: Yeah absolutely. 

Is it profitable to start a new e-commerce space nowadays?

Joost de Valk: You’ve come out of the e-commerce space, is that space, with all these changes that are happening, now really something that you think people should go into or not if they and the, not the affiliate part of it, but just if you want to sell stuff online, is that still worth it? Is it still worth going online now? 

Lily Ray:  Ooh, that’s a tough question. It’s so difficult these days, even if you are a big brand where that’s your store, that’s your domain, that’s your online store. If you sell on Amazon why would the consumer buy from your store and not Amazon? That’s not to say you shouldn’t have the store. I still have e-commerce clients and it’s like, how can we sell on Amazon? But also get people to buy on our site. And do you have same day shipping because they do and you guys don’t. So should you start any commerce store from scratch? I don’t know that it’s going to be the big money-making idea that people had several years ago and they’re able to see the same results these days.

It’s just really tricky with sites like Amazon and Etsy and eBay. How do you compete? And then whatever Google’s up to with its product graph, it’s a lot of big players in this space that you’re competing with. 

Joost de Valk: Yeah. At the same time, and this is me hope for hoping for Google to be a force for good for once, that product graph could actually be like a sort of Amazon-like layer over a lot of small websites. 

Lily Ray:  Yeah. At the end of the day, they still have to buy it from somewhere. I was just talking to Cindy Krum about this last week. She has a lot of really amazing and interesting theories about what Google’s up to here, but she calls it the presentation layer on Google where you get the information that you need.

And then of course you have to go to a site to actually buy it, which could be helpful for these e-commerce companies. But I think her theory was that this might be something that Google ultimately charges for. The merchant center fee became free to everyone last year during COVID.

And maybe that was just like a PR thing to get more people using feeds and everything. But it was interesting to hear Cindy speculate that this might become like a paid service for companies in the future. 

Joost de Valk: It’s fine how you’re just making the bridges for me to my next guest as well.

Lily Ray: Is she coming? She is the best. We were having this lunch and I’m like, we’re the only people that would talk about this kind of stuff. 

Joost de Valk: There are more people that talk about this stuff. To be honest, I’ve heard Cindy talk about this for quite a while. She was certainly ahead of the curve on that.

Yeah it’s great to see it now actually come into fruition. It is interesting, if you think about that, they made a whole big fuzz about making it free, which also implies we could charge for this again at some point. 

Lily Ray: Yeah. There was a lot of stuff that Google did last year during COVID. I actually have on one of my slides a benevolent Google during COVID. I think it was John Mueller dressed as Santa Claus. It’s like. Who knows if this stuff will stick around or if that was just a nice thing they did during COVID. 

Joost de Valk: Yeah. Yeah. It’s funny. I always explain it to my colleagues. When we talk about Google, you can’t treat it as one company. There’s just so many people that would in Google that want different things. And there’s a very large group of people within Google that really liked the open web and wanted to thrive. And at the same time, there’s also these other people that just keep sticking hats on everything.

Lily Ray: Yeah, exactly. You’re right. It’s not one entity. And then of course we have personal relationships with some of them. They have this certain vision and that’s maybe contrary to what’s happening on other aspects of Google or other products from Google. And so it’s, you can’t group it all into one.

Joost de Valk: No, it’s funny. I sit in meetings slightly too often where I have to introduce one Googler to the other. Yeah it happens.

The closeness and helpfulness of the SEO community

To focus on the industry a bit. Why is the industry important to you? Are these industry friends and these types of chats where you get a lot of your information?

Lily Ray: Yes, I would say a very big yes. Last week was our first in-person conference the “digital marketers organization conference” and “NAPA” first in-person conference in a year and a half, which was.. 

Joost de Valk:  I was so jealous. 

Lily Ray: I was just thinking today, it’s so special to be able to just have lunch with Cindy Krum and talk about this stuff, like that’s, it’s such a unique aspect of our job.

I talked to our paid search team a lot. They’re obviously all friends with each other internally at the company, but they don’t have a lot of friends outside of the company. And it’s so different from SEO. It’s such a culture of collaboration and friendship and people want to meet people and network and exchange ideas.

And that’s one of the things I love most about it. I was definitely going to conferences for many years before I started to speak at them. And it was just like going to a rock concert. This is so awesome, I’m having my mind blown. I’m learning so much. I can’t wait to bring this home to my clients. And so I love that. Very passionate about it

Joost de Valk: And did that change when you became a speaker? 

Lily Ray: It’s been surreal. At one point I don’t even remember what happened, but I guess I pitched for a conference and I got accepted and I was like: “Wow, people want to hear what I have to say? That’s crazy.”

Little by little, it became, wow, people really want to hear what I have to say. And it’s such a weird transition. And now I’m having lunch with Cindy Krum. I was. 24 year old kid watching her at Moz con like, wow, maybe one day I’ll meet her. So it’s been an interesting shift.

And I definitely try to encourage people to just don’t be scared to share what you’re learning and what you’re seeing, because this is open to anybody that’s doing cool stuff, share it because nobody’s necessarily better than anybody else. We’re all just working with the same set of tools and coming up with our own ideas.


Joost de Valk: Yeah. Yeah, that’s absolutely true. I’ve been in this industry slightly longer than You, but not that much, like 14, 15 years now. And yeah, I can’t wait to get back to in-person conferences too. And to hug my friends because it’s been too long, but it is very welcoming in a way. And honestly, when I saw those pictures from you and others on Facebook last week, I was like, Hey all of my American friends are there. Why am I not there? 

Lily Ray: It wasn’t everyone. There were a lot of comments: “I miss you guys”. It’s sad, cause I was like, I miss them too. I hope people can all be reunited in some form. So yeah, it’s on the horizon. Yeah, 

Joost de Valk: It’s looking good. We are all going in the right direction.

The one thing that people should do to improve their E-A-T

So if I can put you on the spot and give you one thing that people should do. Let’s say they have a personal website and they want to improve their own E-A-T, is there one thing that you could give them that they can do like today or tomorrow that would help. 

Lily Ray: I think it really just comes down to creating the content that demonstrates your actual expertise.

Not necessarily starting with the keyword that has the most search volume and trying to make sure all your H1 or H2  match that keyword. Let’s take a step back and think about why are you creating this website? What are your actual credentials? Are you putting content out there that’s different or unique? Or show your experience in a certain area. 

I work with an instructor at a university here, and I’m always telling him you put that stuff that you’re doing on your website. If you’re doing those things, I think, and you do that consistently over time. That’ll pay off and traffic and visibility and perceived authoritativeness by Google. So it’s really just becoming laser focused on demonstrating actual specific expertise as much as possible. 

Joost de Valk: Cool. That’s actually very actionable advice. So I like that. I want to thank you because this has been a very good conversation.

I think there’s a lot of nuggets here for people to dive in and start acting on. And I hope you’ll be back at some point later in a year or so. And we can discuss all the next updates as Google is done. 

Lily Ray: That’d be great. Maybe in person 

Joost de Valk: That would be even better. I would love to welcome you here in Wijchen and then I’ll invite Jonno to the table and neither of us will get a word in…

Lily Ray:  Have a heated debate. Awesome. Thanks for having me. 

Joost de Valk:  And that was it everyone. Thanks for listening to the Yoast SEO podcast. If you’re not subscribed, make sure to subscribe on your favorite channel.

Thank you.

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