Major Google Algorithm Update
On August 1, Google rolled out a fairly big update to their search algorithm.
Before we get into the meat of the algorithm changes, here are a few terms you’ll need to know.
YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) Pages
Pages on a site that contrast benefits of a product/service/advice/etc that could have a negative impact on lifestyle or money. For instance, pages that offer information such as investments or tax information, medical information on specific diseases, symptom checkers, parenting, child support, divorce and creating wills.
This also includes pages such as sales copy on lifestyle-related products and the Informational Products that many people are using to monetize their “expertise”
Google's new name for the information a high-quality page needs:
Thin Content, Thin Content Sites
Generally speaking, rather generic content on site. Details are often lacking and word counts are typically less than 300-500 words, and often less than 20-25 total pages.
The practice of producing content for timely subject matters and going bigger. For example to out rank a piece of content like "12 Things to Plan for Retirement," you would build a longer, more in-depth page "60 Things to Retire Properly."
Search Engine Result Pages
Name Address and Phone information about a person/business
Landing pages designed to capture opt-in email addresses.
Generic Lead Sites
Sites developed by lead brokers, often designed with little or no identifiable business information
About the Update
So back to that algorithm update. On August 1st, one of the core changes to their algorithm includes a new quality score based on E.A.T. This will be a determining factor of how sites show up in SERPs. This score won’t ever be disclosed, but you’ll know you are affected by seeing fluctuations in search. The main focus of this update is to take on low quality YMYL sites, especially those offering non-traditional information such as supplements, anti-vaccinations and homeopathy, but this update will have a strong carryover to most industries.
So what are they looking for to determine this score? Content should be ample enough to satisfy the needs of a user for a page’s unique topic and purpose (broad topics require more information than narrow topics, for example).
The page and its associated content is expert, authoritative, and trustworthy for the topic they discuss
The website has a positive reputation for its page topics
The website features enough auxiliary information, for example, “About us,” “Contact,” or “Customer Service” information
The website features supplementary content (SC) that enhances the user’s enjoyment and experience of a web page
The page is designed in a functional fashion that allows users to easily locate the information they want
The website is maintained and edited regularly and frequently
In short, they are looking for both the expertise of the author and quality of writing (grammar, flow, engagement) of YMYL sites. For instance, if a doctor or lawyer is producing content, make sure their credentials are spelled out on the page.
Thin content, such as boilerplate services copy, will be losing ground in search results to custom, topical content. And conversely, skyscraper content may likely be adversely affected as well, as 4000 word pages of content typically have a poor user experience. Syndicated content will also likely suffer as this is a double whammy in conjunction with duplicate content scores.
This may also hinder sites/pages that act as generic lead sites, sales pages and squeeze pages. That isn’t to say these types of pages are now frowned upon, they are just looking to make sure that these pages/sites contain enough credible information, contact methods and functionality to earn some authority. This is combat a common tactic of not-so-reputable leadgen, reputation management and SEO firms; building out as many single page sites using multiple, keyword-rich domain names as budget allows and driving traffic via AdWords, YouTube video spam and private blog networks (PBN).
Add and revise content on your site on a regular basis. Google will be looking at changes to a sites content over time. Stale sites will definitely start to see some fluctuations in their SERPs.
Take a look at thin content pages on your site. Consider combining pages of similarly themed content to build out 800-1600 word pages. Also consider periodic content pruning: combining older, thin blog posts into larger posts and 301 redirecting the old post URLs to the new, combined post.
For blog/news posts, we now suggest 500 word minimum content instead of 300 word posts. There are exceptions of course. Producing frequent (weekly or better) content is fine in 300 word range, especially if you practice periodic content pruning of older content (as mentioned above).
When producing content from subject matter experts, make sure they have a biography on the site and include professional credentials when they make sense. For example, include credentials on the byline of an article.
Ensure there is easy-to-find Contact information on your site. Hiding behind a phone number, PO Box or contact form may see some negative results in SERps, while those who list accurate and consistent NAP Data and multiple ways to make content could see a boost in rankings.
If your site is not mobile-responsive, consider this your final warning to get this fixed. User experience and page functionality are a big component of this update. When combined with the Pagespeed update in July, it is clear that Google will be negatively impactings SERPS from slow, desktop-focussed sites.
If you are building multiple lead generation sites, make sure you are building for quality and not quantity. A common tactic of not-so-reputable leadgen and seo firms, is to build as many single page sites using multiple domain names which are keyword rich.
Scan your site for broken links to both internal and external sites. Update or remove these links as necessary.
In highly competitive niches, consider dedicating areas on your site to display accreditations and industry awards. Also highlight testimonials, especially in a B2C-based website.