Not all websites require the same search engine optimization (SEO) practices to earn first-page SEO rankings on Google.
Instead, Google holds some websites to a higher standard than others. Your Money, Your Life (YMYL) websites fall under this category.
Google scrutinizes them more closely than conventional websites. You can still optimize a YMYL website for higher Google organic search rankings, but it will require a more comprehensive SEO strategy.
What Are YMYL Websites?
YMYL websites (Your Money Or Your Life) are characterized by their content.
YMYL websites feature content that, as the name suggests, can impact the money, lives, or future happiness of their visitors.
Visitors often follow the advice of website content. Because YMYL websites can affect their money and lives, Google may not rank them as high as standard sites.
Google wants to ensure that visitors see YMYL-related content from trusted and credible sources. If a YMYL website lacks the necessary trust and credibility, it may rank low for most or all of its SEO keywords.
Websites that focus on any of the following types of content are classified as YMYL sites.
- News and Current Events
- International Events
- Health, Fitness, and Nutrition
- Medical Issues or Medical Advice
- Government Programs
- Financial Stability
- Legal Issues or Legal Advice
- Group of People: race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, age
- Social Services
Keep in mind that e-commerce websites are YMYL sites. E-commerce websites focus on shopping-related and transactional content. A financial transaction can affect visitors’ money, so all e-commerce websites are YMYL sites.
The Medic Update
In 2018, Google released an algorithm update that specifically targeted YMYL websites. Known as the Medic update, this broad-core update shook up Google’s search results by repositioning thousands of YMYL websites.
A study conducted by SEO Round Table’s Barry Schwartz found that over 41 percent of websites affected by the Medic update were in the health niche, and 16 percent of websites affected by the Medic update were in the shopping niche.
Other types of websites were also affected, but the Medic update had the most significant impact on those with YMYL-related content, including health and shopping.
Before the ranking algorithm referred to as the Medic update, Google referred to YMYL websites in its Quality Rater Guidelines. As a result, Google’s Quality Raters employees who evaluate indexed websites and web pages were required to score YMYL websites differently than other sites.
It wasn’t until the Medic update in 2018, however, that Google’s algorithm began to adjust the rankings of YMYL websites.
Optimizing YMYL Websites
Google’s intentions are noble, but they don’t always make sense to site owners. Google wants to ensure that YMYL web pages provide high-quality, trustworthy content to visitors.
Site owners want the opposite, website traffic. Unfortunately, optimizing for both is nearly impossible at least not without hard work and dedication.
The lack of traffic is enough motivation to consider migrating their website to another domain for some site owners.
If you own a YMYL website that Google ranks lower than its competitors, here are some tips for optimizing your site’s SEO.
Create an Author Byline
When publishing content on a YMYL website, don’t underestimate the importance of an author byline. It’s a sign of transparency that can boost the rankings of YMYL websites.
Google wants to know who the content creator is, as well as their reputation and history.
If a piece of content can affect the money or lives of visitors, as in financial advice, you should create an author byline for it. An author’s byline shows visitors, as well as Google, who wrote the content.
With increased author transparency, Google will trust it more. As a result, the content piece and the YMYL website on which it was published may rank higher.
Optimize Your Title Tags
All YMYL pages should have title tags, but some types of content perform better than others.
News articles typically feature topical titles, but topical titles can present a problem for YMYL websites.
Remember that the goal is to provide credible content to visitors. For example, if your site has both sports news and health news, you want visitors to see the most important information on the home page.
To increase your YMYL website’s credibility, use keywords in your title tags so that visitors know what they will find on the site when performing a search query. People are more likely to trust a site with health content if its title is written accordingly.
Additionally, keep titles quick and to the point. Visitors are on your website for a reason, so make sure you know what that reason is.
For example, if people seek health information about an herb, give them an informative title tag that can help them find it quickly on your website.
Include Content Citations
You can optimize a YMYL website for higher Google search rankings by including content citations. Content citations are references to the sources used for website content.
Before you can create a high-quality piece of content, you’ll likely need to research the topic. Content citations provide insight into the sources used during this research stage.
Content citations should mention the source. If the source is another website, they should feature a link as well. You can mention the website’s name or the original publisher while also linking back to that site.
Content citations make it easier for Google to rank a YMYL website, as they indicate that the website contains some level of original content.
Furthermore, these original pieces of content will more than likely be compelling and trustworthy to visitors compared to those hosted on websites with no invented content.
This strategy will help combat any theory that you are posting fake news, which google frowns upon.
Allow User Generated Content (UGC)
Depending on the specific type of YMYL website, allowing user-generated content may help it earn higher rankings.
In addition, UGC content offers a way for visitors to share their perceptions of YMYL websites. If visitors find a YMYL website’s content useful, they may share this positive perception in a UGC content piece.
Customer reviews are a common form of UGC content for e-commerce websites. If you manage an e-commerce website, you may allow customers to leave reviews on their purchased products.
For other types of YMYL websites, you can allow visitors to leave messages or comments on content pieces. Regardless, allowing UGC will encourage visitors and Google to trust a YMYL website.
Attract Relevant Backlinks
Backlinks are a ranking factor for all websites. With that said, they are vital for YMYL websites. You’ll need to attract relevant backlinks to earn high SEO rankings for a YMYL website.
Relevant backlinks show Google that a YMYL website is trusted by other sites while subsequently encouraging higher rankings.
Relevant backlinks are one-way links that originate from a similar website. Therefore, they are more valuable than irrelevant backlinks, which originate from entirely different websites.
When optimizing a YMYL website, you should strive to attract relevant backlinks from sites that focus on the same type of content.
Build Brand Authority
Building brand authority can drive higher Google search rankings for a YMYL website. Of course, all websites have a unique brand.
It’s the collection of images, slogans, and values that distinguish a website from other sites. The authority of a YMYL website’s brand, though, will affect its ability to rank on Google.
Brand authority is the level of recognition and credibility a website’s brand has. By building brand authority, more users will recognize and trust the YMYL website’s brand. Google will follow suit, and it may rank the YMYL website higher as a result.
To build brand authority, use offsite promotion.
Offsite promotion consists of marketing tactics that occur off the YMYL website itself. Social media marketing is an effective form of offsite promotion. You can promote a YMYL website’s brand on Facebook and other social media platforms.
Along with social media marketing, you can guest blog to build brand authority. Guest blogging is an offsite marketing tactic that consists of publishing blog posts on other blogs.
Ranking a YMYL website isn’t always easy. However, since the Medic update, Google now holds them to a higher standard than conventional sites.
Fortunately, SEO is possible with YMYL websites. You can optimize a YMYL website for higher Google search rankings by including an author byline, creating content citations, allowing UGC, attracting relevant backlinks, and building brand authority.
Maintain a High E-A-T Level
E-A-T is an acronym for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Google uses this acronym to measure the quality of content on your website. Therefore, when optimizing YMYL websites, you should aim for a high E-A-T score.
YMYL websites can be broken down into three subcategories: High, Moderate; And Low. Google considers everyday expertise to be the lowest form of E-A-T and website trustworthiness on its list.
Everyday expertise refers to industry knowledge that can be gained by anyone with a basic understanding of the field.
To achieve a high E-A-T score, ensure that an expert author writes each piece of content.
Search engine algorithms treat content based on its E-A-T levels. Search engines typically use these factors to determine whether or not a website is trustworthy.
They expect YMYL websites, which hold an important place in users’ lives, to have high E-A-T levels.
If your website creates YMYL content, you want to maintain a high E-A-T level. By doing so, you’ll earn higher Google search rankings and more user trust.
Create High-Quality Content
Google wants to see high-quality content when ranking YMYL websites. You need to create original content that provides value to users. Users don’t like spammy content.
When writing YMYL content, be sure to include keywords. Keywords help users find what they’re looking for. For example, if you write about a specific topic, make sure to include related keywords.
Write articles that answer questions: Questions are popular among users because they provide answers to their problems.
Include links within your content. Links allow readers to navigate to another page if they wish.
Use good grammar and spelling. Good grammar and spelling show that you know how to communicate effectively.
Include multimedia content. Images, videos, infographics, and other forms of multimedia content add visual appeal to a website.
Increase Site Engagement
On conventional websites, you can optimize for better engagement.
Typically, the higher the site’s engagement level, the better its SEO will be. Unfortunately, this isn’t always true with YMYL websites.
While these sites benefit from increasing engagement levels to a certain extent, they risk decreasing their purchases due to increased competition through search engines.
If you want to increase engagement levels on your YMYL website, use calendar-based call-to-action prompts. Call-to-action prompts are messages that ask customers to take a specific action.
Calendar-based call-to-action prompts entice customers to take any action at a predetermined date and time.
This tactic works well for YMYL websites. By integrating calendar-based call-to-action prompts, you can increase your website’s engagement levels while not decreasing sales.
When ranking YMYL content, Google considers the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) of a given page.
In the SQEG (Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines), Google has pointed out everal common YMYL topics, including News and current events; Civics, government, and law; Finance; Shopping; Health and safety; And groups of people.
Any page that offers users advice, helps them make a decision, encourages them to take a particular action, or could otherwise impact their lives, can be considered a YMYL page.
Per the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, characteristics of a high-quality page include High E-A-T;
Enough information about the website or the author responsible for the website to satisfy readers, including customer service contact info for sites that manage financial transactions; And a positive reputation for the website, the person responsible for the website, or the author of the main content.
Similarly, the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines details some of the characteristics of a low-quality page: Fails to serve its intended purpose (or lacks one altogether) or provide value to readers; Attempts to harm users, including pages that attempt to scam, deceive, or misinform users; Promotes hate or violence; Or was written by a content creator or hosted on a website with a poor reputation.
The length of time that a YMYL page ranks for varies depending on whether or not there is new, relevant content. If the average user doesn’t find something new within approximately three months, Google will remove the page’s rankings until another change occurs to increase its lifetime total.
Content relevance also plays a role in how long YMYL pages rank for. The more relevant the content, the longer it’ll remain in the SERPs. So, for example, if someone searches for “Understanding Money, and it’s true value” the first result should be an article that explains what MONEY means and why it matters.
The Medic update, better known as the Quality Update, was the first Google algorithm change that directly targeted YMYL sites.
Although it didn’t significantly impact rankings, this update prompted many webmasters to review their websites’ E-A-T levels.
Since then, other updates such as the April 2018 Core Quality Update have further emphasized the importance of YMYL content.
Google uses a combination of its own data and external sources to determine whether or not you have sufficient expertise for your website’s main subjects.
It’s the EAT score.
For example, if you are creating an article about newsworthy topics, you can use the Google News algorithm to determine whether or not you are an industry authority. You can also seek out third-party review sites such as Trustpilot and collect testimonials from satisfied clients.
Google has divided trustworthy websites into three subcategories for the EAT score: Highly E-A-T, Moderately E-A-T; And Low E-A-T.
The highest rating is highly E-A-T. Your website provides enough information about yourself and your business to satisfy readers. In addition, you must demonstrate that you’re knowledgeable about your subject matter.
Moderately E-A-T is next. You’ve provided enough information about yourself and your business to satisfy readers. However, you haven’t demonstrated that you’re an expert in your field.
Finally, the lowest rating is Low E-A-T, which applies to websites that don’t meet any of the following criteria: Have enough information about the website or the person responsible for the website to satisfy readers, including customer service information for sites that facilitate financial transactions; And a positive reputation for the website, the person responsible for the website, or the author of the main content.
In the SQEG, Google claims to take publisher and author authority into account when determining trustworthiness. According to the SQEG, the author might gain authority over time through consistently producing high-quality websites on a particular topic.
The E-A-T score of a given website is determined by its authors and their authority in their respective fields. Thus, the more expert content a website produces and publishes, the more authoritative it appears.
So, where expertise is posessing certain knowledge or skills, authoritativeness is achieved when others (inside and outside of your industry) recognize that expertise.
Authoritativeness is a measure of a website’s trustworthiness and expertise. In other words, it directly correlates to a website’s E-A-T level.
According to the SQEG, several factors influence websites’ levels of authority. These include the authors’ reputation and expertise and the website’s reputation, transparency of information, and ability to interact with users. Reputation is critical here; if you’ve been publishing articles online for years and working in your industry for even longer, Google will recognize your authority on a subject.
For most websites, there isn’t a single rule that determines what makes an E-A-T score. Instead, Google has created a series of questions that it uses to measure trustworthiness.
If you’re unsure whether or not your E-A-T is up to par, you can ask yourself the following questions: Are my employees known for their expertise in their fields? Do they provide insight into new developments in their fields?
Non-YMYL content refers to any content that doesn’t fall under the category of YMYL; including blogs, forums, social media posts, etc. Non-YMYL content is often used as filler content on websites. It helps keep visitors engaged while they wait for the next piece of relevant content to load.
Low-quality content is anything that falls short of the standards set forth by Google. Examples of low-quality content include Unoriginal content, spam, duplicate content, link farms, outdated content, poorly written content.
Core algorithm updates are changes made to the way Google ranks websites. These updates affect how Google interprets specific signals. As a result, some sites may experience a decrease in organic traffic. However, other sites may see an increase in traffic. In general, core algorithm updates have a positive effect on user experience and conversion rates.
Lori Ballen is a real estate agent in Las Vegas. She’s a digital marketing specialist, speaker, and marketing coach and loves to share her “Ballen Method” to generate website traffic and leads online. Lori’s specialties are SEO content writing (ranking on the search engines), social media strategies, and affiliate marketing. Need a website? Contact Lori’s brothers Jeff and Paul Helvin at Ballen Brands.