Back in 2018, Google rolled out an infamous algorithm tweak in August, which later came to be known as Google Medic Update.
After the rollout of this update, many YMYL sites woke up to see a massive drop in rankings of their money keywords.
To better understand the effects of the Google Medic Update, we did an in-depth analysis of websites that were affected.
All the data put together corroborated to finding that YMYL websites that were hit by the Google Medic Update lacked E-A-T compliance.
What Are YMYL Sites?
YMYL stands for “Your Money Your Life.”
Finance, Health, and Wellness sites are some of the most common niches that come under YMYL sites.
These are sites that publish sensitive information that can directly impact a reader’s finance, happiness, success, or wellbeing.
That’s why Google wants YMYL sites to adhere to strict quality guidelines which are measured by the algorithms before ranking pages.
The algorithm checks for the quality of YMYL sites based on Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness signals.
If you want to know more about the niche sites that come under the ambit of YMYL, here are a few most popular ones for you:
Any Website with Payment Gateway: If you run a shopping website that has a payment gateway integrated, this means users are putting their credit card and debit card details, which, if it reaches the wrong hands, can cause a lot of harm to the users.
Websites that Provide Financial Advice: So here is the thing. The web is overflowing with information, and users are actively looking for advice and suggestions online. This is especially true when it comes to users looking for financial advice before taking an important decision. Suppose they land on pages that offer unverified or factually wrong information.
In that case, it can adversely affect the financial stability of the users. To keep their users safe, Google considers these sites as YMYL, which means there will be an additional layer of scrutiny before ranking such pages. Sites that offer investments, taxes, retirement planning, home purchase, paying for college, buying insurance, etc. fall under the YMYL category.
Websites that Provide Medical Information: Like financial advice, users are going to the web seeking information about health and wellness. Since the advice related to specific health conditions, symptoms, ways to diagnose, and treatment are some of the most commonly searched queries on the Web, Google wants to send these users to highly reputed websites.
One wrong move based on an incorrect medical suggestion can have an everlasting impact on the users’ life, and Google just doesn’t want that to happen. Even alternate medicine sites and nutrition websites fall under the YMYL category. They require a very high EAT score to rank on Google.
Websites that Provide Legal Assistance and Information: Any site that offers legal advice to the users, whatever may be the specialization, comes under YMYL. It has to be noted that most legal moves are taken after thorough online research. The websites they read for gathering information have more influence on the decisions users take. This makes any legal site that offers advice and information on divorce, child custody, creating a will, becoming a citizen, etc., comes under the YMYL category.
News Websites: There has been a lot of talks online and offline about fake news, and it is generally believed that News sites with authority don’t indulge in spreading misinformation. Also, note that there is news that just doesn’t affect the life of the users, or the people mentioned, such as a listicle of Top 10 Searched Google Keyword. Such articles will naturally fall outside of YMYL.
However, news such as local/state/national government processes, policies, people, and laws; disaster response services; government programs and social services; news about important topics such as international events, business, politics, science, and technology; etc. are generally considered as YMYL.
Others: In addition to these, there are a few niches that fall under YMYL, and it’s advised to use the best of your judgment to identify those. A few examples of such sites are child adoption sites, auto safety, home security, and privacy-related sites.
What is EAT in SEO?
EAT is a term that appeared first in the Quality Rater Guidelines of Google, which is a 168-page document released by Google for the reference of its human quality raters who are spread across the world.
This document is refreshed timely to make sure that new concepts are included. EAT is one such concept that made its way into the document. From a few mentions in the earlier version, EAT now enjoys a section for itself in the document. This signifies the importance Google gives for EAT.
Expertise is not something that everybody can claim. At times, it’s acquired through constant hard work and recognition.
For example, if you are running a medical website, the content that’s published must be written or reviewed by a medical expert.
On the other hand, if you are writing generic content about a specific subject, you must have enough articles published under your byline and position yourself as a subject matter expert.
Let me give you a little bit of context to help you understand this concept. There are expert SEOs out there in many agencies who are driving the business and client’s success.
However, not all of them have the authority online because they are always working in the backend, and they have not written or spoken much about their skills online.
So, what this means is there might be better SEOs than this author out there, but since they don’t write their SEO experience in the form of blogs like what I do, they are not considered authority sources.
Since Google is looking at the future as a knowledge hub containing a cluster of knowledge graphs about anything and everything you find online, mentions of your name are critical.
If you are just starting out, make sure to link your social profiles within the author bio and whatever you think will help users and search engines establish your authority in the niche or topic.
Trustworthiness is a quality that a website and an author earns over time. The basic factors that can contribute to higher trustworthiness are more positive reviews, mentions across the web, and higher engagement.
Additionally, the overall sentiment online about an author or a brand can also impact trustworthiness.
So here is a quick example. If more site is quoting content that you have written, it is a signal of trust. Suppose other trustworthy sites are talking about it or linking to the resources within. In that case, it can be a good trust signal for Google.
If you look at the other two factors, authority and expertise, both are under your control, but when it comes to the trustworthiness factors, it’s more of an external factor that is determined using the signals that are provided by external sources.
On the technical front, having a Secured site can help increase the trustworthiness of a website. As you can find it for yourself, most of the sites that are ranking on Google have HTTPS enabled.
History of YMYL, E-A-T and Quality Rater Guidelines
It was the 164-page Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines that first introduced the term E-A-T (Expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness).
The document primarily focuses on helping quality raters identify quality pages on the web. And the inputs of these quality raters are later used when tweaking the algorithm.
What does this mean?
The Quality Raters Guidelines cannot be called the book of all ranking factors, but it is definitely giving enough inputs for webmasters to know what Google cares about when ranking websites.
Before the formal introduction of this document, there was much discussion on SEO forums about Google’s highly sophisticated metrics for ranking websites.
Many even claimed cracking Google’s Ranking metrics.
Putting an end to the clamor, Google first introduced its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines to the public in November 2015.
This convinced SEOs across the world that the search engine giant had bigger plans for the future.
Earlier, there were reports that Google has hired human evaluators to enhance Google search quality.
It’s now believed that this core team worked on the draft that was later released as Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
How to make a YMYL Site Google E.A.T Compliant?
Google defines EAT as the acronym for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
Our analysis found that Google’s Medic Algorithm 2018 pulled down websites with low EAT quality and gave a gentle push in the rankings of the ones that followed it.
Websites that were hit by the Google Medic update are the ones that offered no assistance, gave incomplete or uncertain information, or these sites provided misleading information that can harm the readers.
This doesn’t mean all the sites hit by the Google Medic Update lack quality content.
For example, the update has affected pages with high-quality content, and the ones that provide valuable information to the users.
The content rankings fell because it appeared on sites with low authority and trust. Adding to this, if it’s a medical or finance site, the content has to be written by someone with expertise in the field.
If you think that your website was hit by the Google Algorithm update in spite of publishing high-quality content, here is a list of EAT quality signals.
By ensuring your website has these quality-signals, you can recover from the current Google Algorithm update and safeguard your site from future algorithm updates.
How to Improve EAT Quality of a Page in SEO?
These signals can help your YMYL site improve the EAT quality signals:
Add Authors Bio
Google Quality Guidelines clearly indicate that it has to know who is providing the information to the users.
As the YMYL sites, including healthcare and wellness websites, contain very sensitive content, Google expects these topics to be drafted by trustworthy and proven authors.
Google’s guidelines also mandate websites to provide the contact information and customer support details if the users land on a product or service page.
Ensure that all blog posts have an author byline to show the trustworthiness of the content to the users.
The engagement of users with the content gives quality signals to Google on how well an author has provided the information.
Edit or Delete Low-Quality Content
According to the Google search quality guidelines, the EAT score of the website is evaluated after calculating the total EAT score of individual posts/pages of a website.
So, you have to be careful about each and every post that goes live.
That is why we recommend removing poor quality content from your website.
This may reduce your traffic a bit, in the long run, but you will benefit as it will improve the EAT score of your website.
This is also one of the proven tactics to recover from a Google Algorithm Update.
If you’re managing a YMYL website, ensure that the content is curated by experts in your niche.
Since personal experiences are considered legit as per the search quality guidelines, try updating the existing content with personal experiences.
Build your Personal Branding
There are certain quality signals that you have to implement on your website to improve the EAT score and gain audience trust.
SEO experts recommend enhancing the “About Us” page by mentioning all the publications you’re featured on.
Apart from that, add a schema markup code to give additional information to Google about your content.
Also, try to keep a page listing out the testimonials and customer reviews to boost trustworthiness among the visiting audience.
Focus on Quality of Backlink
If “content is king” then “back-link is queen” when it comes to SEO.
A few years ago, the sites with more backlinks ranked higher than sites with fewer links.
With the Penguin update by Google, there is a paradigm shift in the way Google looks at links.
According to the Google guidelines, websites with high-quality links have a better EAT score.
Getting links from a low authority and an irrelevant site adds no value and can adversely affect the EAT score.
If your website is in the healthcare niche, work towards getting backlinks from the relevant websites in the healthcare industry with high trustworthiness and authority. Building backlinks from related niche sites can improve the EAT score.
Secure your site with HTTPS
Google also considers ‘security’ as a major E-A-T factor.
Apart from the quality content, backlinks, and author’s reputation, website security is also one of the important factors used for evaluating the E-A-T score of a site.
So, if your website is finding it hard to get back on track after being hit by an Algorithm update, ensure you have an SSL certificate.
You may have come across HTTP sites in Google Chrome browser with a “Not secure” tag.
This is a strong indicator of how Google is pushing website owners to enable HTTPS.
Social Media Activities
Most website owners may not know that the official social media profiles can improve EAT score.
Being active on social media and sharing content with the target audience and other influencers will help maintain an active website.
It helps you to connect with a more significant audience and garner a positive reputation for your site.
Though this might not aid you directly in E-A-T, it will help you outperform competitors and gain more E-A-T signals.
Does Google Have an E.A.T Algorithm Score?
There’s no core algorithm based on your EAT or YMYL scores.
They are, in fact, one of the many tiny algorithms that help Google determine the quality of a website.
Is Google E.A.T a Ranking Factor?
There has been a lot of confusion regarding Google EAT and whether it’s a ranking factor.
So here are few facts to clear the air surrounding this common myth.
- Mary Haynes, in one of her tweets, said that EAT is not a direct ranking factor but a part of thousands of tiny algorithms that signals Google about the quality of a web page.
- There’s nothing as YMYL score or EAT algorithm score, Gary Illyes confirmed. EAT only works as an indirect ranking factor.
- Focusing on EAT is not an alternative to doing SEO audits or improving technical SEO on a website. The EAT factor will only improve if other issues on the site are taken care of, such as a slow loading site, broken links, site not optimized for mobile, etc.
- Finally, addressing EAT changes takes time since improving the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness of a site is a gradual process.
Although Google E.A.T is not a core ranking algorithm, Google continues to use them as a benchmark for the quality of a website.
In the coming days, Google will continue to push down thin and factually irrelevant content and highlight those written by subject-matter experts.
Therefore, you should focus on improving the quality of content on your site, building authority in your niche, and develop trustworthiness through the best SEO practices.
Search Engine Optimization is a highly unpredictable arena.
Since Google sets the rules (at least, for the time being), websites have to follow it, whether they agree or not.
There are times when a website hits rock bottom one day and recovers with a bang after a few months.
Such instances are not rare after Google rolls out an algorithm update.
Google’s August Broad Core Algorithm update 2018 is one such update that shook the internet.
Later, it was found that this update targeted the Health and Wellness industry.
Hence, it was unofficially named as the Google Medic update by SEO experts.
Nevertheless, we witnessed another update after Google’s 20th anniversary which is named the Google Birthday Update on 27th November.
It’s touted as the reversal of a few factors of the Google Medic Update, as websites that were hit by the Medic Update started performing well.
Some websites are yet to recover from the Medic Update of August 2018.
These sites and others can improve the E-A-T score by following the tips mentioned in this blog and ensure that the future Google Algorithm updates work in your favor.