On August 1st, Google announced (via its SearchLiaison twitter account) that it had released a broad core algorithm update:
This was confirmed by many of the webmasters that we follow, as well as algorithm trackers such as SemRush:
Danny Sullivan, who is Google’s public search liaison charged with helping people to better understand search, and also helping Google to hear people’s feedback, confirmed that the update was a global one:
But he refused to elaborate any further than that:
What type of sites did this update impact?
When Google says ‘global’ they don’t just mean worldwide, they also mean every type of site and every niche could possibly be impacted. However, early data about the sites that had lost rankings after the update, seemed to point to sites in the health and medical niche, as well as so-called YMYL sites.
YMYL is a website/landing page classification mentioned in Google’s ‘Search Quality Rating Guidelines’ and stands for Your Money or Your Life. These are websites or pages which “can have an impact on your current or future wellbeing (physical, financial, safety, etc.)
Some examples of YMYL pages are:
- Pages the offer advice on major life decisions, e.g. purchasing a home or vehicle, or parenting
- Pages that offer advice on major life issues that may affect your finances or feelings of happiness, e.g. financial or legal advice
- Pages that offer health or medical information that, if followed, could impact on your physical well being
- Pages that are used for monetary transactions, e.g. pages that allow you to buy something when you enter your credit or debit card details
- Pages that ask you to enter personal information that could possibly be used for identity theft, e.g. bank account details or driving licence details
Google seems to be focusing on these pages because the information contained on them could potentially have a negative effect on the health, finance or security of the person reading them. This theory is also backed up by the fact that Google recently made changes to their Google Quality Rater Guidelines for the first time in about 12 months. If you are not familiar with this document (which is 164 pages long!), it is a guide for Google’s search quality raters, who it uses to help evaluate its search results. Each rater is given a list of searches to conduct, which Google draws from all of the searches undertaken, and the rater then has to rate the quality of the pages that appear in the top results – following the Google Quality Rater Guidelines. These raters cannot alter the search results directly by marking the page as low quality; instead, the data that these reviewers generate is used by Google to improve their algorithms.
The changes that Google recently made to their quality search guidelines focused on content again, specifically EAT considerations – Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness. In this extract from the guidelines, Google can be seen to be focusing more on sensitive content:
- High E-A-T medical advice should be written or produced by people or organisations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation.
- High E-A-T medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis.
- High E-A-T information pages on scientific topics should be produced by people or organisations with appropriate scientific expertise and represent a well-established scientific consensus on issues where such consensus exists.
At first, web chatter seemed to focus on the thought that the sites that were most affected by this update were those in the medical and health sector. If we look at the figures since then, it was actually across the board. Let’s take a look at SemRush data for the day:
This seems to show that there were significant fluctuations across the majority of categories (except travel), and not just medical and health.
What can you do if you have been affected?
So, we have covered what Google has said about the latest update, and what type of sites may have been affected. But what can you do if your site is one of the ones that was negatively affected?
Well, as Google themselves say, there isn’t actually a lot you can do:
As with all of the algorithm updates that Google has done recently, the signs are that you need to keep focusing on good quality content and a good user experience. We can help with all of this, of course, so please get in touch with us today for a discussion.