Search Advocate John Mueller stresses that Google is most concerned with expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) when ranking content that deals with health & finance.
This topic is discussed at length during the Google Search Central SEO hangout recorded on March 26.
Ritu Nagarkoti, who does SEO for a medical ecommerce site, asks Mueller for advice on tactics that can be used to increase traffic and visibility.
Mueller says a medical ecommerce store likely falls into the category of a YMYL (your money your life) site, which Google holds to a higher standard than other types of sites.
Following SEO best practices is always a good idea. However, when it comes to ranking YMYL sites, it’s less about the individual tactics and more about making sure the content comes from an expert authority that users can trust.
Google’s John Mueller on Ranking YMYL Sites
On using SEO tactics to rank YMYL sites, Mueller says:
“I think that’s always hard. I don’t think there’s like one magic trick that gets you traffic from search automatically. I think following the best practices in general for making a good website is always a good idea. Making sure that you can get the word out is important. But especially for medical topics, anything that’s a little more critical, I would also keep in mind everything around the EAT. So the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
Kind of make sure that that the site that you’re providing represents like a really high standard. And that the content is of really high quality and that it’s put together by people who understand what they’re doing. That it’s not something like a run out of a garage kind of site. And that’s something that I think, especially for the medical area, is super critical.”
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Mueller references a blog post from Google published in 2019 which goes into more detail with questions site owners can ask themselves about the quality of their website.
“We have a blog post that goes into some of that specific for the core algorithm update that we did I think last year at some point, where it goes through a bunch of questions that you can ask yourself and it also links to the raters guidelines that talk a little bit about these kind of sites.
So we call them YMYL, your money your life sites. And I would see a medical ecommerce site kind of falling into that category as well. And there are various things that you can think about there and I don’t think there’s like one simple trick to make it look official. You really need to make sure that you actually do have that official touch.”
When pressed for more specific advice about SEO tactics, Mueller again emphasizes that it’s not that simple.
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Google’s algorithms are picky when it comes to YMYL sites, and Mueller views that as a good thing.
What site owners can do is look at Google’s quality rater guidelines and think about how their site might be perceived on a manual review by one of Google’s human quality raters.
“I don’t think there is one simple approach to that. And I think especially when it comes to medical content, I think that’s super important that our algorithms are very picky there with regards to what we show. So I would look at the quality rater guidelines and really think about how your site might be perceived by the quality raters.
The quality raters don’t make the algorithms, but they do give us a lot of insight into what we might do in our algorithms. So I would strongly recommend going through that. And I think it’s especially, when it comes to these kind of sites, it’s less about the tactics and really more about making sure that it really is a legitimate business and that it’s backed up by appropriate trustworthy sources.
So not just high quality content, and doing all of this syndication, all of these things. But really making sure that it’s written by doctor, it’s created by medical professionals who are legitimate in their field.”
An SEO named Marc Opitz adds to this discussion saying he’s had similar challenges writing about medical topics without being a doctor.
He notes that YMYL sites have been hit hard lately and asks Mueller for any tips that can be provided.
Mueller again suggests reviewing the quality rater guidelines.
“The core updates are not specific to medical sites, but a lot of the questions and input around them generally applies to that as well.
My recommendation would really be to go and look at the quality rater guidelines and really go through that and think about it more with the perspective of if a quality rater were looking at your site, or at the general area where your site is active in, like some of your competitors as well, how they might respond to review requests there.
And the quality raters are not one-to-one mapping to our algorithms, but rather they give us some input. Oftentimes going with that mindset and trying to be objective when looking at your website that gives you some ideas of what you might be able to do differently.”
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At this point in the discussion Mueller begins suggesting a few specific enhancements that can be made to improve a site’s E-A-T.
If the content is being written by an authority on the topic, Mueller recommends doing more to highlight who is writing it.
Another way this can be handled is to at least get the content reviewed by a legitimate expert and highlight that somewhere on the page.
“And sometimes those are small things like just highlighting better who is creating the content, where it’s coming from, who has reviewed the content. Sometimes it’s bigger things where you kind of realize well, actually if I’m writing about medical topics maybe I should make sure that I have a doctor or some medical professional actually review the content. Kind of changing the perspective there a little bit.
But all of these things are, I think, trickier because it’s not a pure kind of like yes or no kind of situation. You kind of have to look at your site and think about what variations might there be that I could do. Or where might I be running into issues unexpectedly.”
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Mueller concludes his thoughts with a non-specific shout out to SEOs in the field who focus on the E-A-T topic.
There have been several case studies by these individuals, which Mueller says are insightful.
“There are also a handful of really smart SEOs that have focused on the whole EAT topic and they write about this regularly. They present at conferences about this. I would definitely also look into that. Some of the case studies I have shown I thought they were really insightful.”
Hear the full discussion around E-A-T and YMYL sites in the video below: