Posted on 30 Aug 2018 | Filed under
By Steve Skerry
Google’s most recent algorithm update was rolled out almost a month ago and four weeks later sites which were impacted are still showing signs of being affected.
The search engine giant released what the SEO industry is calling the Google Medic Update on August 1 and Google confirmed on the same day on Twitter that it was a ‘broad core algorithm update’.
Reports over the last four weeks have indicated that this particular update (which some SEOs are hailing as 'massive') has focused on YMYL sites – which stands for Your Money Your Life. In section 7.3, Part Two of Google’s ‘Search Quality Ratings Guidelines’ a document used by the company’s human Search Quality Raters describes YMYL sites as ‘pages that can have an impact on your current or future wellbeing (physical, financial, safety etc).’This is just one of many updates which Google performs ‘routinely several times per year’ as the company has stated.
Google added that some sites may experience a drop or gain in rankings and that does not mean there is anything ’wrong with pages that may now perform less well.’ The search engine said it just meant that its systems were ‘benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded’.
Google insisted there was ‘no fix’ for sites or pages which had been impacted by the Google Medic Update other than to ‘remain focused on building great content’ and that ‘over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages’.
Google Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, confirmed that the latest update was ‘global’ and completed on August 8 but that ‘we always have changes that happen, both broad and more specific’. He refused to say when questioned what percentage of queries were impacted
Several analytics and data companies confirmed that mostly ‘health and finance pages have been affected by this update’ as well as apparently a few gaming and entertainment niche sites too. SEM site Search Engine Table reported that more than 40% of the sites affected were ‘health related’ with e-commerce 16%, Business 10%, Finance 7%, Technology 5%, Entertainment 3%, Travel 3%, Directory 2%, Insurance 1%, Coupon 1% and Adult 1% in a review of 300 sites.
SEO practitioners largely agree that this update is about ‘trust’ which is why the health and finance industries have been targeted. Some have expressed their frustration at the Google Medic Update as they have seen their clients' sites, which seemingly produce excellent content and have a solid backlink profile, ‘hit’ without any explanation.
This is not surprising as Google could not possibly look into every site which has dropped in rank but this latest algorithm change is clearly leaving some SEOs frustrated as it is obviously unhelpful to businesses who rely on large amounts of Organic Traffic to sell their products or services. It could in turn be potentially forcing them down the Google Ads route.
Gary Illyes, webmaster trends analyst at Google, demonstrated the depth of response in a tweet on August 18: “People! Without example query, location, & in most cases an explanation of why specific result sets suck, your reports are virtually useless. If you want the search team to look into something ranking related, you MUST provide more info than just saying “yeah the results suck’”.
The overall advice as to how to 'fix' the issue if your site has been affected by the Google Medic Update is to make the site’s content and user experience the best it can possibly be and as user-friendly as possible. At SCS, we would suggest a ‘refresh’ of content – and imagery – particularly if the site is old and has not been changed in a while.
It is also worth checking all Onsite SEO – including metadata and on-page keyword representation - as even the smallest changes could make a big impact on the rankings. These tweaks could take affect within a few days as we are seeing Google crawl sites much more frequently than ever before or, at the very least, when the next update is released.