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What the 2018 Google “medic” update means for your SEO

Posted by Richard Stephens on 10/8/18 11:20 AM
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Google’s latest algorithm update rolled out on 1st August 2018 and many businesses are concerned how this may affect their search engine rankings.

The details from Google were rather scant. The search giant called the update “a broad algorithm update” and referenced an older tweet, which said: “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....”

Subsequent tweets from Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan revealed this was a “global” update, which means it impacts all Google search results across all regions and languages. However, Google would not tell us what percentage of search queries were impacted by the update.

How has your site’s SEO been affected?

There are many different ways in which such an algorithm update can affect your site’s search engine rankings and resulting traffic. For example, you may have noticed a drop in traffic, changes in your keyword ranking or a change in the overall framework for how your content gets ranked in the search results.

You can find out what keyword rankings have been lost for your site, and the content associated with them. Sistrix and SearchMetrics both provide tools for this, which can help you analyse your site objectively and identify areas of improvement.

However, the update appears to have had the greatest impact on websites in the medical and health sectors and, as a result, was soon nicknamed “medic”. For example, Moz posted its data after the update rolled out and reported more activity for websites in the health industry than other sectors.

But the update didn’t only have an impact on medical sites. Your Money Your Life (YMYL) types of sites, some gaming and entertainment niches and other finance pages were also affected.

YMYL pages focus on money and life events. The definition is quite broad, including pages that solicit personal information, pages used for monetary transactions, offering medical or health information, and advice on major life decisions and issues.

What can you do about it?

Google said you can’t ‘fix’ your site to compensate for any changes resulting from the update. Instead, you should offer a better user experience, better content and an overall more useful site.

Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines provide further details on what Google considers to be high quality content and identifies the most important page quality rating factors.

For example, a page’s purpose must be clear and ethical. Those pages that are created with no attempt to help users or that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users will receive the lowest rating from Google.

Your site’s Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness, or E-A-T, are also important according to Google. Each element represents an important quality characteristic and you should keep these in mind when creating content.

For example, high E-A-T medical advice should be written or produced by people or organisations with the appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. It should also be produced in a professional style and edited, reviewed and updated on a regular basis.

However, Google concedes that it’s possible to demonstrate everyday expertise in YMYL topics. For example, there are forums and support pages for people with specific diseases where sharing personal experience is a form of everyday expertise.

You should also make it clear who is responsible for your content. For example, every article should have an author listed, which links back to author bio that states their authority in their chosen area.

A positive reputation will also help your site’s E-A-T, so you may want to showcase plenty of user or customers testimonials and reviews.

In conclusion

Unfortunately, there is no simple solution if your site has been adversely affected by the “medic” update. Recovery is difficult but by focussing on and improving the E-A-T for your website, you should be able to counter some of the effects.

An objective SEO audit will help identify areas of improvement and effectively analyse your website. If you’d like to find out more about your website and its SEO performance, click here to apply for a free SEO site audit.

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