Keeping up with Google’s Medic Update (August 2018)
On August 1, 2018, Google rolled out a major update. They classified it as a core broad algorithm update with no intent to target a specific vertical however, the search community saw that affected sites are in the health and medical industry thus calling it the Medic Update.
What is a “Core Broad Algorithm Update”?
Here’s what Google has to say about the broad core algorithm update:
“Each day, Google usually releases one or more changes designed to improve our results. Some are focused around specific improvements. Some are broad changes. Last week, we released a broad core algorithm update. We do these routinely several times per year….”
Yes, this is a very vague explanation but that’s how Google operates when it comes to their search algorithm. The key takeaways from this statement about broad core algorithm updates are:
- Not focused on specific improvements
- Designed to improve results
Then what exactly is the Medic Update about?
Let’s start by looking at what Google has said about this update:
Google has confirmed that an update was rolled out on August 1, 2018, referencing a statement they released on March 2018:
“As with any update, some sites may note drops or gains. There’s nothing wrong with pages that may now perform less well. Instead, it’s that changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded….”
“…There’s no “fix” for pages that may perform less well other than to remain focused on building great content. Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.”
Google’s Danny Sullivan, has also said that this update is global.
Takeaways from Google’s statements:
- This update is global
- This is a broad core algorithm update
Data from the search community and 3rd party tools
The search community has come to the consensus that the pages (or sites) mostly affected by the Medic Update are not only those in the Health and Medical field, but also those under the YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) category. Take a look at what a 3rd party SERP Tracking tool is able to extract:
Insights from Google
Google has provided us with the same old tip on how to deal with the latest algorithm update, which is to serve great content. How do we know if Google considers our content great? Let’s refer to one of Danny Sullivan’s tweets:
Google’s Search Quality Guidelines
The purpose of this guideline is to rate pages/sites is to improve the search engine results. Their goal is to: “…give results that are helpful for users in their specific language and locale.” This makes sense considering that Search Engines in general, acquire and retain users only if they satisfy the users’ queries.
In a nutshell, the said guideline talks about how Google rates a page/site according to its Page(content) Quality. Let’s now look at Google’s description of the Highest quality page.
The following excerpt was taken from Google’s Search Quality Guidelines:
“Highest quality pages are created to serve a beneficial purpose and achieve their purpose very well. The distinction between High and Highest is based on the quality and quantity of MC, as well as the level of reputation and E-A-T. What makes a page Highest quality? In addition to the attributes of a High quality page, a Highest quality page must have at least one of the following characteristics:
- Very high level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
- A very satisfying amount of high or highest quality MC (Main Content).
- Very positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the MC on the page. Very positive reputation of the creator of the MC, if different from that of the website”
Page Quality and YMYL
You might be thinking, “What does this have to do with my website?”. Well, according to Google, EVERYTHING. That is if you want to be seen on their results pages. For most business owners, they use their websites to grow their businesses and that is where YMYL comes in.
What are YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) Pages?
According to Google, these are pages that could potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users. Below are examples of pages/content considered as YMYL:
- Shopping or Financial Transaction
- Financial Information
- Medical Information
- Legal Information
- News Articles or Public/Official Information
- Others: If you think your pages/site could possibly affect your target audiences’ happiness, health, finances or safety, then it’s safe to say that your page/site is considered YMYL.
As business managers and owners, it is very important for us to know that Google has very high standards when it comes to these types of sites. See what Google says about it below:
“We have very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages because low quality YMYL pages could potentially negatively impact users’ happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.”
Source: Google Search Quality Guidelines.
The Medic Update has shaken the SERPs in a major way, with some sites lost massive traffic and others gaining. With that said, here’s our takeaway from this recent update:
- Google wants to improve their search results
- Google wants to serve ‘Great Content’
- Improvements to match user’s intent with a page’s purpose
- The searchers’ happiness, experience and safety are taken into consideration
- The Medic update hit YMYL pages hard
- It is a global, broad core algorithm update
- Very high standards when it comes to YMYL pages
With that said, let us now look at what the Medic update winners did well and what the losers need to improve on.
How to fix your website after the Medic Update
According to Google!
To cope with the recent update, we need to take Google’s advice and create Great Content. Let’s now talk about what Google considers a “Highest Quality Page”:
E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness)
Brag. Yes, you should brag about your accomplishments and identify yourself to show and establish your E-A-T on a certain topic. The following are some examples of E-A-T indicators on a website:
- About us
- Contact Information
- Awards / Recognition
- Author Information
- Press coverage / References
MC (Main Content)
Create and publish relevant content that users want to consume. For YMYL pages, there is a much higher standard. The following is an excerpt from Google we can use as a guide:
“Our standards depend on the purpose of the page and the type of content. However, for news articles and information pages on YMYL topics, there is a high standard for accuracy and well-established medical/scientific/historical consensus where such consensus exists.“
Take note that the site or page’s main content is closely tied with the publisher’s E-A-T, Google also considers the reputation of the author. With that said, here are some steps to help us in creating High Quality Content:
- Make sure that your audience want to consume your content
- Make sure that your content unique and valuable
- Ensure that a page’s purpose is clear and matches the intent of your audience
- If possible, provide multimedia
- Videos, images to add value and engage your audience
Side Note: This update is kind of tricky for some industries. The Medic Update could pose other challenges if you’re selling a product or service that conventional wisdom / mainstream consensus considers dangerous or sketchy.
Promote and build your brand and/or author’s reputation in general. This includes offline and 3rd party online platforms. Here are some steps you can take to improve your brand and website reputation:
- Reviews/Testimonials/Ratings in your website
- Reviews/Testimonials/Ratings on local profiles
- Positive Press Coverage
- Backlinks from other authoritative websites
- Positive sentiment
- Social Platform Communities
Google has been pushing brands and companies to focus on user experience and creating valuable content and with the recent update, it is apparent that they have doubled down on this move. If your brand benefited from this update then you are on the right track and you should continue with your efforts but if you didn’t, it’s time to reconsider your strategy. Think about working on your brand’s reputation as whole and align your goals with Google’s latest standards.