Google August Update: What Has Happened And What Does It Mean?

Last week Google released a broad core algorithm. Google carries out several broad core algorithm updates a year. Whilst Google updates their algorithm daily, these updates have little effect on search results. Broad core algorithm updates have a much bigger impact.

Danny Sullivan has confirmed that the update has been rolled out fully.

So who has been affected by this update?

Barry Schwarts at Search Engine Roundtable reviewed over 300 sites that have been affected by the update and found that 42% of sites were in the health sector. Other areas hit were e-commerce (16%), business (11%), Finance (7%) and Technology (6%). Barry also mentions that many websites under the e-commerce bracket sold health products so the percentage of health sites may be higher.

So what was this update actually about?

There are two main points of argument. The first is that this update was about health sites. With the data shown above, this seems pretty clear. However, it might be something much deeper than this.

Marie Haynes’ observations suggest that this update affected YMYL (your money or your life) websites which makes sense as a lot of health sites are YMYL sites.

Your Money Or Your Life (YMYL)

But let’s back up here. What actually is a YMYL site? Well, Google claims, pretty reasonably, that

“Some types of pages could potentially impact the future happiness, health or wealth of users. We call such pages “your money or your life” pages or YMYL.”

You can kind of see Google’s logic here.

Theoretically, you could create a page focused on the keyword “is smoking bad” on a site with high domain authority which tells users that smoking is perfectly safe and you should smoke more.

Bare with us here.

You could then optimise that page correctly and create a ton of relevant, whitehat links. This would be a very competitive search term so the likelihood is you won’t rank for it, but let’s entertain this example for a minute. Let’s say you got the number 1 position. People searching for “is smoking bad” may think, based on finding your page through Google results, that smoking is not bad.

This is an exaggerated example but you get the idea. Google has to do something to combat misinformation on pages that could impact your happiness, health or wealth.

So how does Google determine which sites are appropriate for YMYL searches?

Enter E-A-T.

E-A-T – yet another SEO acronym

E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.

Google has to work out a way to decide who is actually an expert in their field, and not just a website with high domain authority (DA). DA has always been a good indicator of expertise and trustworthiness as DA is based on links amongst other factors. People are more likely to link to trustworthy experts.

However, DA can be manipulated. Hence the need for E-A-T.

How to fix any drop in rankings? (including implementing E-A-T)

Well, Google’s public liaison office gave the following:

“Want to do better with a broad change? Have great content. Yeah, the same boring answe. But if you want a better idea of what we consider great content, read our raters guidelines. That’s like almost 200 pages of things to consider[.]”

What a lot of people don’t realise is that Google offers some idea of what quality content looks like in their Quality Rater Guidelines. You can read them all here.

This is the usual answer from Google which, if you are building a long-term brand is the best way to go. Content kicks ass. But certain niches need a bit more than good content. Links and technical SEO are still important.

Get your site up to speed with E-A-T

Follow these points to get your website inline with E-A-T:

  1. Expertise: find ways to show your own expertise on the subject.
  2. Authority: show off certifications on your about page and consider using author bios on posts highlighting the author’s knowledge of a subject.
  3. Trustworthiness: put simply, don’t scam people or look like you are scamming people. Don’t ask for information without a reason, limit your download formats and avoid designs similar to phishing sites.

Glen Gabe probably has the best opinion on implementing E-A-T. He says you should incorporate E-A-T with your current SEO strategy. Don’t simply ditch you link building efforts because Google has moved the goal posts again. Rather, carry out some E-A-T work alongside technical, content and link building work.

Further Reading:

You Are What You E-A-T: Trustworthiness According to Google – Spinweb

Analysis and Findings From August 1, 2018, Google Algorithm Update – A Massive Core Ranking Update – G-Squared Interactive

Google Medic Update: Google’s Core Search Update Had Big Impact On Health/Medical Sites – Search Engine Roundtable

Google’s August core search algorithm update is now fully rolled out – Search Engine Land

Black Hat World Form – Discussion surrounding the update