30 second summary:
- Your Money or Life (YMYL) guide has been updated to provide more clarity on what Google is looking for within its quality rating guidelines
- Focusing on the reputation, both of the person creating the main content and of the website hosting the main content, is key
- YMYL trust isn’t just built on-site, off-site digital PR and link acquisition can also play a key role in building trust.
- Google also helped clarify which websites / content might fall into the YMYL categories and how they are defined
- EAT continues to play an important role across the board, along with matching user intent and purpose and creating exceptional and reliable content for users
In late July, Google updated its Page Quality Assessment Guidelines. He does this from time to time to reinforce the key principles he looks for when evaluating the quality of a page. While Google has long held the concept of competence, authority and trust at the heart of these guidelines, one of the major changes or updates has been related to the definition of ‘Your Money or Your Life’ websites. There was also a greater understanding of how these pages are rated, which is ideal for anyone working in these industries and looking to better understand how Google rates their websites.
The concept that Google has very high page quality rating guidelines for “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) websites is not new, but the definition of what falls into this category has changed. Previously, the definition concerned “pages (which) could potentially have an impact on the future happiness, health, financial stability or safety of users”. This has been updated to cover “pages (which) have a high risk of harm because content on these topics could have a significant impact on the health, financial stability or safety of individuals, or the well-being or well-being of society” . This is a much broader scope of websites with a potentially much more significant impact.
As such, for many SEOs this means reviewing guidelines to ensure our websites are ready for potentially better scrutiny.
So what are the new guidelines and what do they mean?
The new guidelines for YMYL go far beyond simply updating the definition above. They actually go into detail on how a particular topic could and might not fall under the YMYL categorization, Google even put it in a handy table for us so we can clearly understand:
Source: Guidelines for the Google search quality assessor
Furthermore, it is not only the YMYL categories that have seen the updates, but many elements that go into the evaluation of the YMYL pages. Along with improvements to EAT’s key definitions and what Google is looking for, we can also see key updates to sections that focus on “low-quality pages” or what we should be trying to avoid. As marketers, we’ve never had so much information available to us about what Google is looking for in a quality website. This means that Google is likely to be taking its Page Quality Assessment Guidelines very seriously, and as SEOs we should be too.
Content is as important as ever
Content will already be at the forefront of many SEO minds, as Google’s “Useful Content” update has already started rolling out. Additionally, updates to the YMYL guide have shown that your on-site content contributes key to how pages are rated for competence, quality, and authority.
Google points out in section 4.2 that “the quality of the MC is one of the most important criteria in evaluating the quality of the page”. So we know that the main website content is something that Google is looking into with close scrutiny, especially if your website falls into that YMYL category. Having a reasonable amount of good quality core content plays a key role in this, but so does the functionality and features of the page. Don’t just make sure your content is great, make sure all website features like calculators, checkout and interactivity are also built to a high standard.
Content that falls under the YMYL sectors is, of course, held to a higher standard here. Google provides the example that “high EAT medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed and updated, on a regular basis.”
If you’re in a YMYL category, regularly updating, reviewing, and editing your content to make sure it’s up to date will play a role here.
Improvement of key EAT signals
For most businesses, updating your “About Us” page might seem like the least important task, but when you’re trying to tell users who you are, show your experience, and give users that sense of trust and security, this can actually being one of the most important elements of your website. In section 2.5.3 of the guidelines, Google points out that this can be an area of your website that evaluators go to to find information about who owns the site, which can be a key element in establishing a good reputation.
Your reviews also fall into this category and it’s not just reviews on your website, but reviews from external sources as well. In fact, the word “reviews” is mentioned 66 times in the guidelines alone. While reviews on your website are important and definitely worth promoting, one piece of advice I gleaned from the guidelines (section 2.6.4) is to do a quick reputation search. You can then evaluate if there are any other external website reviews or reputation cues that you need to be aware of. You can do this by using a negative search on the site, such as the Google you would use [google -site:google.com] which would search for the term “Google” on all sites except google.com. Doing this for your business can help identify how others might view your reputation.
Two of the five most important factors in evaluating page quality relate to reputation and information; ie, information about who is responsible for that person’s main content and reputation and the website itself .. We knew from the doctor’s update that author and author profiles have grown in importance and as the guidelines now focus on the reputation of both websites and authors, this has become an even more important aspect of showing your expertise and authority.
In sections 2.6 and 2.6.1 of the updated guidelines, Google talks about the reputation research of both the user and the website that provided the main content. It also talks about the type of reputation information available and how applicable it is in certain industries, such as how product reviews would be applicable in the financial sector. It is clear that creating solid reputation information relevant to your brand / industry would add value here.
Finally, for websites that are smaller or perhaps don’t have a huge amount of visible reputation information, Google states that “this is not indicative of a good or bad reputation … for these small businesses and organizations, the lack reputation should not be considered an indication of poor page quality. “
Trust is built on-site and off-site
Trust and authority are two of the key elements that contribute to evaluating the quality of a page and are fundamental for a great YMYL. However, this doesn’t just boil down to site content and updates, it also affects what’s available off-site. Digital PR has seen unprecedented growth in recent years as a great way to boost a website’s reputation and to build high-quality, authoritative backlinks to a website.
Whether it’s looking for reputation information or key signals about your brand, one of the biggest places people search is on websites that aren’t yours. This is where digital PR can have the greatest impact on improving your reputation, expertise, and overall authority. Digital PR can help build your website and author reputation by sharing thought leadership or data experience. This is a great way to build these core YMYL factors while gaining great reach for your brand.
Keep the user in mind
Whether you’re looking to come up with a digital PR strategy, improve your content on-site, or make changes to your website structure, with the new guideline updates and changes to the YMYL, it’s clear that Google wants see and understand the reputation of your website and its content creators.
Keeping these elements in mind and the user will help you create a great user experience that naturally demonstrates competence, authority, trust, and whatever other cues Google is looking for. As Google continues to improve and update its guidelines, this will become more important than ever.
Amanda Walls is the founder and director of Cedarwood Digital, an award-winning digital marketing agency specializing in SEO, PPC and Digital PR.
With 12 years of digital marketing experience behind her, Amanda founded the company six years ago, which was recently named the UK Ecommerce Agency of the Year in 2021.
An expert in all things digital, Amanda has worked as a trainer for Google’s Digital Garage in the Northwest and has taught digital marketing courses to thousands of marketers across the region.
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