In case you don’t have enough SEO-related acronyms to keep track of, here’s one more: YMYL.
That stands for “Your Money or Your Life.”
In this article, I’ll go over what you need to know about YMYLpages and how to rank for them.
What We’ll Cover:
- What’s considered YMYL
- How the Google Medic update affected sites labeled YMYL
- How Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines come into play
- YMYL and E-A-T:
- Other considerations
- A YMYL website checklist
What Are YMYL Pages?
In spite of the “M” in the acronym, YMYL sites are about more than just money.
According to Google, any page including content that can affect someone’s health, happiness, safety, or financial stability is a YMYL page.
If you’ve got a website that offers stock tips, the pages that include those tips are YMYL pages.
If you run a mommy blog that dispenses parenting advice, it’s filled with YMYL pages.
If you’ve got a website that diagnoses ailments based on symptoms, that’s a YMYL page.
Here’s information pulled directly from Google:
- Shopping or financial transaction pages: webpages that allow users to make purchases, transfer money, pay bills, etc. online (such as online stores and online banking pages).
- Financial information pages: webpages that provide advice or information about investments, taxes, retirement planning, home purchase, paying for college, buying insurance, etc.
- Medical information pages: webpages that provide advice or information about health, drugs, specific diseases or conditions, mental health, nutrition, etc.
- Legal information pages: webpages that provide legal advice or information on topics such as divorce, child custody, creating a will, becoming a citizen, etc.
- News articles or public/official information pages important for having an informed citizenry: webpages that include information about 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. Please use your judgment and knowledge of your locale. Keep in mind that not all news articles are necessarily considered YMYL.
- Other: there are many other topics that you may consider YMYL, such as child adoption, car safety information, etc. Please use your judgment.
The Google Medic Update and Beyond
Due to one of Google’s latest update – dubbed the “medic” update – YMYL pages have found themselves in the spotlight.
Though Google claims the update was “broad core,” a few industries took the brunt of the rankings fallout.
Health and wellness industries seemed to suffer the most, followed by – you guessed it – YMYL sites.
To be clear, there’s no confirmation from Google.
But when you break it down, it appears that most industries hit the hardest can be considered YMYL: health, e-commerce, finance, and business.
It’s left many marketers speculating that Google’s cracking down on site’s overall trustworthiness and authority.
To further its initiative, Google’s June 30 Broad Core update also seemed to heavily affect those sites considered YMYL.
So, how do you get a YMYL site up to speed?
Pay Attention to Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines
Google reserves very high-quality rating standards for YMYL pages because bad info could hurt people financially, physically, or emotionally.
Remember, the Big G judges the quality of a web page with the assistance of human search quality raters.
Who are these search quality raters and what do they do?
Briefly, they’re more than 10,000 people around the globe who evaluate search results. The idea is to ensure that Google search engine users find the info they’re looking for online.
Those raters are given actual searches to perform. Then, they report back on the quality of the results they get.
Specifically, they rate the quality of the top pages in the result set. The higher the quality, the more likely it is that the Google search results returned the kinds of pages that people would expect to see.
When those quality raters stumble across a YMYL page, they’ll rate it. When they do so, they’ll evaluate it against a stricter set of standards than they’d use for other pages because of the potential impact.
So if you’ve got a page that falls under this category want, you’ll need to do more than optimize it for the Google search algorithm. You’ll need to make sure that Google’s quality raters really like the content as well.
YMYL and E-A-T
As I stated above, quality raters apply harsher rules for YMYL pages than other pages. One of those rules is E-A-T.
Actually, E-A-T is three rules. Here they are:
- Expertise – is the author of the piece an expert on the subject?
- Authority – is the author a well-recognized authority on the subject?
- Trustworthiness – is the content accurate?
If you’re trying to optimize an authority site and you don’t pay attention to all three of those rules, Google quality raters might give your page a “low quality” rating.
In fact, the EAT acronym appears 186 times in the Quality Rater Guidelines. So you know that Google takes it seriously when evaluating content on YMYL sites.
If your site does receive a low rating, it will likely disappear from the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs).
You won’t lose rank overnight, though. Google uses feedback from quality raters to adjust its search algorithm. They don’t immediately influence the results.
The first thing you need to do is establish yourself as an expert in your field.
Fortunately, one of the best ways to do that is by doing what you’re already doing: publishing content.
Position yourself as a subject matter expert (SME) by cranking out content that, in and of itself, shows that you’re knowledgeable in your space.
People who browse through your blog should say, “Wow! This author is an expert!” as they read your titles and scan your posts. Some of those people will be Google quality rater guidelines.
Also, brag about yourself on your home page.
Do that by following these three steps:
- Be clear about who you are
- Be clear about your experience
- Be clear about what you do
Feel free to embellish on any of those points as much as you like. This is where you should toot your own horn.
Do you have certifications? Share them with everybody. Use logos of standards organizations if possible.
Do you have an advanced degree? Be sure to mention that as well.
In fact, if you’ve got a Ph.D. next to your name, use it. In that case, you’re not just “Joe Smith,” you’re “Joe Smith, Ph.D.”
That will position you as an expert in your field.
Also, add a photo and biography. You’ll come across as genuine (and trustworthy) when you put a picture of yourself next to all your content.
Finally, keep in mind that there’s a difference between a formal expert and an everyday expert.
A formal expert is someone with extensive education and experience in a specific field. Examples include physicians, accountants, and attorneys.
An everyday expert, on the other hand, is someone who may be self-taught. Examples include chefs, interior decorators, and photographers.
Of course, people who share tips about interior decorating aren’t likely to affect your health or finances (unless they have very expensive taste in design). So people in the everyday expert category don’t necessarily publish content on YMYL websites.
Believe it or not, you can be an expert and not an authority.
Someone might know everything there is to know about SEO, for example. But maybe that person has no blog, has never spoken at a conference, and is never hired for his or her expertise.
That’s somebody who’s an expert but not an authority.
Experts have the brains. Authorities have the influence.
So once you’ve established yourself as an expert (see above), you need to establish yourself as an authority. That might take a little extra work.
For starters, put social proof on your homepage. Include quotations (preferably with photos) of people who praise the work you’ve done for them.
Next, mention some speaking gigs you’ve done at industry-relevant conferences.
If you don’t have any speaking gigs in your background, then it’s time to line up a few. Start by browsing around for upcoming conferences. Find relevant sites and look for an “Interested in Speaking?” link. Follow that link to learn about the opportunity to land a speaking engagement.
Remember: you shouldn’t expect to get paid for your initial speaking gigs. That (hopefully) will happen later.
If you ever advance in your speaking career to the point where you’re a keynote speaker, then you’ve basically won the lottery. Make sure you identify yourself as a “keynote speaker” on your blog.
You also need to establish yourself and your website as a trustworthy source of information.
You’ll generate trust by paying attention to three key areas as you produce content:
Start with the obvious: don’t put factual errors in your content!
When you put incorrect info in your articles, people will get turned off by your work immediately. Some of those people could be Google quality raters.
Next, allow people to review your work and your content. There’s nothing that says, “I know I’m right” more than someone who’s willing to allow others to judge the accuracy of his or her statements.
Also, source your info. Yes, even if you’re an expert it’s a great idea to let people validate the claims you’re making by checking your sources.
Don’t forget to include case studies if they’re relevant. In those case studies, explain how the advice you gave to other people made their lives better.
Remember, though: you can’t use fake names in case studies. Use the real names of persons or businesses you’ve helped so people can check for themselves.
Here’s another important piece of advice: make sure that your website is secure. If you’re not already using the HTTPS (instead of the HTTP) protocol, reach out to your development team to get that ball rolling today.
While you’re talking to your development team, tell them to review security protocols around your web server. You can be certain that you’ll lose quite a bit of trust if there’s a data breach on your site that gets reported on the evening news.
Other Points to Keep in Mind
Next, let’s go over some miscellaneous rules that will help your website establish authority.
- Keep information updated. If you’ve got a blog post about top keyword research tools from four years ago, you’ll want to update it. That’s because the best research tools have evolved quite a bit over the past four years. You’ll more likely maintain a good rank for that page if you refresh it every six months or so.
- Build a quality site. Nothing says “I’m really someone you shouldn’t take seriously” more than a poorly designed website or one that’s riddled with bugs and 404 errors. Also, make sure that your site looks great on a mobile platform.
- Produce quality content. If you’re cranking out 300- or 400-word articles that just provide a cursory explanation of the subject, you shouldn’t expect Quality Raters to view you as an expert in your domain. Google is looking for in-depth content that highlights your experience.
- Establish the purpose of the page. It’s usually best to cover a single, overarching theme per article. There are exceptions to that rule, of course (for example, listicles). As a rule of thumb, though, you’ll confuse people if you try to hit them with too many subjects at once. Demonstrate your expertise with single-subject articles.
- Provide detailed, thorough content. Here’s another rule of thumb: long-form content will more likely establish you as an expert in your field than a brief, 500-word piece. Research your subject thoroughly and share what you’ve learned from your studies. That’s how you’ll convince readers that you know your stuff, and will improve your SEO.
- Link to other expert pages. When you link to peer-reviewed articles or news articles written by other experts, you’re making it clear that you’ve done your homework. Google quality raters will take note.
- Provide actionable advice. Don’t just show off your knowledge, use your knowledge. Specifically, tell people how to apply the information you’re sharing to make their lives better.
- Include author bios. At the end of your content, add a biography with proof of your expertise in the subject. Be sure to include a professional portrait as well.
- Make your address and phone number visible at all times. Don’t make readers hunt for your contact info; keep it up front and easy to find on your website.
- Address negative reviews. If you’re getting bad press online, reach out to the people who left the bad reviews and make things right. Good reviews will help with SEO.
- Get some social proof. Make sure you put endorsements from satisfied customers and fellow experts on your website. That’s going to make it clear to your readers (and the Quality Raters) that you’re someone people can trust.
- Source your info. Even if you’re an expert, it’s a great idea to source your content so that people can see that it’s in line with what other experts are saying about the same subject.
- Avoid clickbait headlines. Make sure that your article content delivers on the promise in the headline. Otherwise, Quality Raters will give you a bad review.
- Avoid distracting ads. A site doesn’t come across as very trustworthy when it’s got pop-up ads all over the place. Limit visitor interruptions and annoying advertisements as much as possible.
YMYL Website Checklist
Let’s wind this one down with a website checklist that you can use right now:
- How often is the site maintained/updated? Do you have out-of-date articles that likely won’t rank anymore? If so, go back and update them. Also, regularly browse your site on different platforms (desktops, laptops, tablets, phablets, and smartphones) just to make sure it always looks great.
- Is there accurate, easy-to-find contact information? If somebody who has questions wants to get in touch with you, is it easy for that person to find your contact info? If not, build a “Contact” page and include a link to it in your header and footer.
- Can anything be perceived as deceptive? Do you have anything on your site that tries to pull the wool over someone’s eyes? Have you optimized a page for a keyword that really isn’t relevant? Are you stuffing keywords? Make sure you keep it honest with your visitors. They’ll thank you by coming back to your site again and again.
- Who is responsible for the content and structure of the site? Have you established points of contact for your website from a technical and content marketing perspective?
- Is the content reputable and authoritative? Put yourself in the shoes of a typical visitor to your website and read your articles. Do they come across as well-written? Will people think that you’re knowledgeable? Why should readers trust you?
When it comes to YMYL pages, you are what you E-A-T.
As we can see, these pages will be under increased scrutiny moving forward. If you own a site that offers this kind of content, make sure you follow the rules above to ensure top SEO rankings.