SEO Guide: The Google Medic Update

Google medic update featured image
Medic was one of the most important algorithm updates, but it is also frequently misunderstood. Image credit: ProfileTree

Google constantly changes the way it indexes and ranks content. The trouble is, they rarely, if ever, explain these changes. The Google Medic Update is probably one of the most famous examples of this.

In fact, when the Medic update rolled out, Google told us almost nothing. Here’s what they announced:

Google medic update tweet
The Tweet announcing the Medic update was incredibly vague. Image credit: Twitter

As an SEO, this isn’t particularly helpful.

Additionally, this announcement makes Medic sound a lot less important than it really was. The reality is that sites saw huge fluctuations in their rankings immediately after the update emerged.

In fact, according to some sources, first page rankings in the US varied by as much as 70% in the week after the update.

Ultimately, this means websites losing money because their traffic has dipped, and others seeing big gains.

When Was Google Medic Introduced?

The Google Medic Update was rolled out in August 2018. The update was announced just one week after Google updated its 200 page Quality Rater Guidelines. This is a document which helps Google employees to decide which pages should rank the best.

In other words, this is the framework Google uses to determine how good your content is.

As with any Google algorithm update, the official advice after Medic was to focus on creating great content for your users. The changes to the Quality Rater Guidelines added even more credence to this advice.

Why Was Google Medic Introduced?

The reality is that some SEO are always going to find shortcuts. Usually, this means figuring out ways to get your site ranking, without making the effort to create value for users. Google’s ongoing battle is to make this impossible.

Like any other algorithm update, this was the ultimate goal of Medic.

This is part of an ongoing drive to help users find the content which best meets their needs.

What Does the Medic Update Affect?

However, the Google Medic update didn’t impact all sites equally. In fact, the was dubbed Medic, because it disproportionately affected health, lifestyle, fitness and medical content. The business, technology and legal sectors also saw big impacts.

Google never said they were explicitly targeting these sectors, but the data is clear that this is where the biggest impact was seen.

So what do these industries have in common?

Content in these industries can have a huge effect on the reader’s life. These are sensitive niches, where your advice can greatly impact users’ health, business, money or relationships.

Your Money Your Life (YMYL) Content

YMYL content is anything which can have a major impact on users’ lives. Google holds this content to a higher standard, especially after the Medic update. This makes a certain amount of sense.

Think about non-YMYL content, for example in the travel niche. If you give someone bad advice about where they should go for dinner on their holidays, they might be annoyed, but other than that, there won’t be any serious consequences.

By contrast, Google has to have confidence that YMYL content contains good advice. This takes into account ranking signals like:

  • Whether the content was written by an actual expert,
  • If the content is sufficiently details,
  • If the content is up to date,
  • Whether the content offers actionable and valuable advice.

We’ll return to this later to look at how you can ensure the credibility of your YMYL content.

YMYL infographic
YMYL content can have serious impacts on users' lives. Image credit: SearchEngineJournal

Education, Authority, Trustworthiness (EAT)

YMYL content also requires higher standards of expertise, authority and trustworthiness. This framework is referred to as E-A-T. The more you can signal these factors to Google, the better your content will rank.

Here’s what each means in practical terms:

  • Expertise – This relates to who you are, and what positions you as an expert in your field,
  • Authority – What evidence can you show that other people in your field regard you as an expert?
  • Trustworthiness – How can you show that your content is well researched, accurate and trustworthy?

There are a number of strategies for each of these. With that in mind, let’s look at the core things you should do when trying to rank your content post-Medic.

EAT content infographic
Your content should display expertise, authority and trustworthiness. Image credit: ForwardPush

How to Rank Under the Google Medic Update

When it comes to trying to maximise your SEO efforts, it’s worth remembering that chasing the algorithm is never a good idea. Truthfully, this is a wild goose chase. In the worst case scenario, it might even lead you to using black-hat SEO strategies.

As such, it’s not possible to give a checklist which will guarantee success under any given algorithm update.

Rather, here are the core things you should keep in mind to ensure your content has the best possible chances of ranking after the Google Medic update.

Understanding Search Intent

Search intent is what a user wants to achieve when they carry out a search. Over the years, Google has gotten considerably better at figuring this out, based on the search term itself, and how users interact with particular results.

This is the first step to creating content to target any keyword.

Luckily, there are only four kinds of search intent that you need to worry about:

  • Transactional – Where users want to make a specific purchase,
  • Navigational – Where users want to find a certain website,
  • Commercial Research – Where users want more information on a particular product, but aren’t ready to make a purchase yet,
  • Informational – Where users are looking for the answer to a question, or the solution to a problem.

This informs what kind of content you should create. Most of the time, search intent should be basically self-evident. However, sometimes there can be a grey area. For example, some users might want different things, but enter the same search term.

In this case, you can simply review the results for this search term, to see what kind of content is performing the best.

Content Volume

Generally speaking, there is a correlation between the length of a piece of content and how it performs on Google. This elicits a lot of confusion, so it’s important to be clear about what exactly it means.

It’s not exactly true that, all else being equal, longer content will rank the best.

What’s closer to the truth is that your content should be long enough to thoroughly answer the user’s query. Typically, this will be longer, but that’s not the same as saying that longer content is always best.

When planning your content, check how long the top performing pages for your target keywords are. If you think you have more to say, then great.

Google medic wordcount stats
It's important that your content is long enough to provide value for users. Image credit: ReliableSoft

Boost Your EAT Content

Finally, there are some steps you can take to sure up your EAT credentials. Remember, you’re trying to convince google that your content has expertise, authority and trustworthiness.

For example, you can flesh out your about page and author bios, to start building a personal brand, and establish yourself as an authoritative voice.

You can also seek out reviews, citations and backlinks in order to help signal that you’re considered an authority by other voices in your niche.

However, as noted before, simply chasing the algorithm is unlikely to pay dividends. Instead, if you want to rethink your SEO strategy, the best option is always to speak to an expert, to help figure out the specific steps which will benefit your business.

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