On 1st of August 2018, Google released another algorithm change that adjusts how the search results display in the SERP. We have a little information so far, but it seems like it will be a bigger update that influences the position of many websites, but mainly affects those bearing the label YMYL (Your Money Your Life).
YMYL websites distribute content and information that can have an impact – positive or negative – on your health, security, cause some kind of damage or can have some kind of effect on your life. We have summarized some basic information about this update and also the results from our first testing.
How can you identify YMYL sites?
- provide financial and business transactions
- provide information about health (medicine, pharmacy, psychology)
- provide information about finance (investing, taxes, accounting)
- provide legal information
These type of websites can be potentially harmful or dangerous due to the lack or not sufficient amount of E.A.T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) – e.g. tutorials, counselling, instructional articles.
Is the Google Algorithm Just an Artificial Intelligence? Certainly Not!
Questions are being asked in many online discussions and on social media concerning SEO about Google and their way of implementing this new algorithm change. The official statement from Google encourages webmasters to abide by the Google’s Search Quality Guidelines. Given this update, it is more than likely that the information about Google from 2015, contracting over 10,000 search quality raters worldwide to evaluate its search results, were true. Based on their evaluations, Google managed to teach its algorithm to assess the quality of websites.
The Most Important Changes of The New Algorithm Update
Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
Google evaluates the quality of the content based on these 3 factors.
You can see a lot of people saying that “Content is king”. Well, given this new update, the quality of the content might not be enough. The author of the content and his reputation might be another ranking factor. The expertise of the article is also increased by the author’s qualification in the specific field. Blog posts about health should be published by doctors or health professionals, and scientific articles by experts. These experts should be cited as the source of information. As we said, this is especially crucial for YMYL websites.
The website should provide information about the author, his full name and degree. Google searches the Internet for the author, whether he has a website, links to his social media accounts or publications, and evaluates his authority.
If you want Google to label the content on your website as of high quality, it must meet certain credibility criteria. These include easily accessible and transparent contact information or good user reviews.
The Concept of Beneficial Purpose
Changes concern the Beneficial Purpose of websites. The main purpose of a website is to be helpful and provide useful information for its visitors. Sites that do not meet this requirement or do not offer real value for users will receive lower ratings resulting in lower positions in Google’s SERP. PR websites, which publish articles only for the purpose of creating backlinks without providing any or little value for its readers, will be hit heavily by this new update.
Results From Our First Tests
We revised 15 of our most visited websites in order to have some kind of overview about the factors and changes. The algorithm change is still a fresh one. Some of our sites have been hit by the change quite heavily, others less, and there are also websites where we couldn’t find any visible changes yet.
Which Websites Have Been Affected by The Change?
Most noticeable changes were discovered on websites (domains) about healthcare (medicines) and product pages where a drug or its active ingredient is mentioned. We also saw changes on pages concerning health, important organs and types of medicines.
Minor changes can be detected on pages about medical interventions. However, these pages contain mentions of doctors or there are sources linking to websites with doctors. There are also some changes on pages selling medical devices, child seats, or websites about cars.
This new update had no effect on pages related to selling clothes or traveling. Small changes occurred on pages related to topics around E.A.T or YMYL, which have not ranked in the first positions, or have a strong own brand (not a brand of a well-known medicine).
We found some anomalies and interesting facts during the audit. These can serve as a point of reference in the future, providing us with a clearer picture of what needs further attention and improvement. Unfortunately, we don’t have sufficient amount of data yet to state that the changes were caused by the new update. Moreover, the mentioned anomalies can be fixed by Google later, meaning they could no longer apply.
- There are significantly more PDF pages about the mentioned topics in SERP containing more professional and trustworthy content. In our case, these were old and outdated pages that can hardly offer any valuable information for the visitors.
- Those healthcare websites improved their positions where doctors are mentioned or there are links to another site that mentions doctors and experts.
- An extensive page providing an in-depth content about a specific medical topic has been replaced by a page offering less content but more professional terms, reviews, or discussions
- The landing pages of more general and frequently searched keywords belonging to the mentioned topic are being affected more than usual. Based on this we can assume that these changes are not final, it will take the update some time to roll out.
Where to Put Your Money in The Future?
The Google algorithm will constantly improve, becoming more capable of learning. That’s why creating high-quality and unique content will be more important than ever before. Currently we can see that Google, in most cases, better responds to specific content concerning more specialized articles. Healthcare websites containing quality content, professional terms with mentions of doctors, or having links pointing to their profile page, have improved their rankings. To put it simply, when the content requires expertise, it is crucial that some parts of it are created or at least reviewed by a professional.
The professional content should be also supported by authoritative and trustworthy sources. This can be achieved by mentioning a study or linking to trustworthy sources (e.g. citing credible studies in healthcare).
Based on our audit we can assume that websites (domains) supported by elements of authority (contact, reviews, About Us page, etc.) have improved their positions in the rankings. It is also questionable how technical problems (e.g. 404 errors) influence the website’s authority. Based on Google’s Search Quality Guidelines these also have an impact on the authority of the domain.
Moreover, it is crucial working on and strengthening your own brand. If the website has a strong brand, it becomes more independent and should be less likely to be subject to algorithm changes in the future.