What is YMYL? What should you do if you were affected by the Google Medic update?

Google made core update on on August 1st and 50% of all website affected were in the medical space. SEO Pros are calling this update the Google Medic update—and Google confirmed it. But Google hasn’t been super helpful on what to do if you saw traffic decreases because of this update. So what should you do if you were affected by the Google Medic Update?

Google has been making moves since this time last year to force the internet to get better, bumping a lot of low-quality sites from search rankings with a series of core updates focused on website and web page quality. Google isn’t being very helpful about how to improve for this particular update because they’re focused on the elemental parts of your website—the why, how, and whats of your site.

Google’s (not so) Secret Tell-All Guide

I find myself talking more and more about Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines, which is a 160+-page document Goog gives to folks who manually rate search engine results. The idea is they use this feedback to teach the AI behind Google’s search algorithm.

Basically, it’s the Google secret tell-all about what they want their algorithm to put as a high ranking result.

It’s not exactly light reading though. SEO is kind of like broccoli. You know you need it but don’t really want to eat it unless it’s covered with cheddar ?

Over the next few posts, I’m going to be addressing different parts of the Quality Rater Guidelines vis-à-vis Google’s series of quality-focused updates over the last year, including:

  • YMYL – The key to high ranking websites
  • E-A-T – The three traits of high-quality websites Google looks for
  • Supplemental Content – What kind of content to add—and avoid—on your site
  • Reputation – What to pay attention to off your website for better rankings
  • Know Simple and Know Queries – Google’s moves that cause traffic drops
  • Content Dating – Wait, what day was that published?

Let’s get started! We’ve got a lot to cover & actionable steps you can take to improve.

(psst… maybe you should also share this to your friends so they can get in on this!)

YMYL – Who do these updates affect?

YMYL is Google’s answer to *Thirty, Flirty, and Thriving**. It stands for “Your Money, Your Life.”

Does your business have to do with your clients’ happiness, health, or wealth? If so, Google is holding you to the highest accountability for quality. The bar is set higher for these kinds of sites.

(That’s why you see spammier looking sites when you search song lyrics but high quality, authority sites when you search for random medical ailments you imagine you have. ?)

Google refers sites that affect visitors’ money or lives as YMYL sites. There are a few obvious categories, like shopping sites or legal and medical websites. These sites were disproportionally affected by the Google Medic update, indicating that YMYL is becoming more and more targeted by Google for higher quality standards.

But there’s an “Other” category a lot of businesses fall into. (Guessing that’s you. That’s where I fall too.)

This is the main reason why I focus my work with clients not just on what keywords they need to use but how their business affects their clients’ lives and transforms lives. Because Google cares about how you treat your readers and your business model (and, frankly, it’s good business practice to not be a manipulative a**hole. Just sayin’).

Do you meet needs?

If you’re writing articles like “Best Flea & Tick Meds for Puppies,” your audience is depending on your expertise. Maybe you’re a vet or just trying to make an affiliate income. Regardless of your goal for your site, Google wants to you be an expert that searchers can rely on for accurate information.

You don’t have to have fancy college degrees or certifications to necessarily be an expert in Google’s eyes, the big takeaway is that your audience is ready to put their health, happiness, and money into your hands. That means you’re a YMYL site!

I appreciated that Google prioritizes content that was authoritative and reliable about pet medications when I recently looked for the right flea, tick & heartworm protection for my new puppy.

Regardless of what you want your readers to do, they’re coming to your website with a certain intention in mind. And that intention doesn’t give two hoots about yours. Readers want you to help them solve their problems, not help you grow your business & your bank account!

It’s your site’s job to help visitors take care of their problem with your knowledge and expertise and guide their attentions towards solutions.

Sure, that might mean to get the full help they need they’ll need to contact you and hire you. Maybe buy the products you review too. But your website needs to get them on the right path for your content to rank well in Google.

Take away: If you’re dealing with your clients’ happiness, health, or wealth, you need to pay attention to website quality.

Actionable Step: Identify Your Audience’s Goals

Understanding your audience is the first step to successfully ranking well in search engines. Without knowing why your target market is turning to Google, you’ll never really be able to capture their attention (and their wallets).

Answer this: What pressing issue or problem is driving your audience to Google? What does your audience want to do about it? What is your audience’s goal?

For example, I turned to search to find the right med combo that protects lil’ Luna against the wide variety of creatures we have in our warmer climate. I found a really helpful article from a vet with details about the most common meds that’s a great example of a high-quality website. The design isn’t fancy—but the content is super. And it ranks for a boatload of valuable keywords.

It’s a great example of that when you understand what your audience’s goal is, your website and business will be in a better place because of it.

Thinking about your audience’s problems and what they need can help you identify content to create as a jumping point for keyword research. If you’re not a keyword research kind of person, it’ll still help you create content that resonates better with your audience and gets them buying and calling!

Self-indulgent aside here! If you haven’t seen 13 Going on 30, definitely a great movie for when you’re doing laundry or painting your nails. A movie focused on authenticity, honesty, and positive female role models. Ah, 2004… “We need to remember what used to be good. If we don’t, we won’t recognize it even if it hits us between the eyes.” Google is, in a way, trying to get back to the days of early internet when people were authentic, honest, helpful, and it was a fantastic community (Dial-up! Forums with weird internet jargon! Lycos CyberSurfari that started my love for SEO!).

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