Even though the Medic update first appeared in mid 2018, it is still affecting a huge number of websites today. This article will help you recover lost rankings as a result of the Google Medic algorithm update.
2018: The Medic Update is Rolled Out
Google keeps making algorithm changes to enhance the user experience. The priority is to provide the most relevant content out there. However, if you own a website, it can be difficult to keep up with these changes. Figuring out when the updates will be released, and whether or not they will affect your website, can be a challenge.
Before we take a deeper look at the changes, let us first delve a little bit more on the Medic Update. Its first version started on July 22nd 2018. It later continued to roll out, peaking on the 1st and 2nd of August 2018.
The next few days were in a state of turmoil, especially for the rankings game. The heavy changes made the update impossible to remain under the radar. In reality, the Medic Update was one of the biggest updates we have had for some time now. Google merely confirmed the existence of the update on August 2nd 2018 via Twitter:
This week we released a broad core algorithm update, as we do several times per year. Our guidance about such updates remains the same as in March, as we covered here: https://t.co/uPlEdSLHoX
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) August 1, 2018
Google classified Medic as an extensive core algorithm update. According to the search engine giant, this type of update happens several times every year. This time, it affected as much as +/-70% on page one visibility within a week after the update.
The Reason Behind the Medic Name
Who are affected in this huge algorithm update? A review showed that more than 42% out of over 300 websites focused on these industries:
- Healthy lifestyle
If you have read the comments and discussions on the web regarding the update, many theorised that the update wanted to give more power to those with already high rankings with high authority. IT experts and SEO specialists tend to agree with these statements.
It did appear that the larger websites with more domain authority received a huge amount of attention from Google. On the other hand, smaller sites, especially those with less authority suffered greatly. The phrase “Your Money or Your Life” was even coined.
YMYL: What Is It About?
When Google released the Medic Update, it had a huge impact on Your Money or Your Life websites (YMYL). These sites are powerful, particularly when it comes to influencing the visitors’ health and wellbeing. From physical to mental to emotional and even financial health, the websites can positively or negatively impact the users’ health and wellbeing.
YMYL websites are those that do any of the following:
- Solicits information about the user, including personal identification numbers (PINs), bank accounts, and driver’s licence that can be used for identity theft
- Performs transactions involving money, such as prompting users to leave their credit or debit card information when they make a purchase
- Offers advice on important life decisions, such as buying a house or car
- Provides medical information or health advice that impacts physical wellbeing of the readers
Many health websites found themselves losing the race despite having a specific niche and not “broad core.” So what is it exactly? Google has always been careful as to who to prioritise and even more so after the update. The broad core algorithm is perhaps its mystery brand where there was a confirmation of the update but not enough details on the specific changes.
Google later confirmed that constant updates to the algorithm were performed daily. These tweaks, however, do not go unannounced. Some sites will gain while others notice dropped rankings but it was perfectly normal, according to Google.
After all, Google’s major algorithm updates targeted something specific:
- Panda was all about content quality
- Penguin was aimed at eliminating black hat linking techniques
- Venice handled branding and authority
No business and website owner would ever be thrilled with the ranking loss due to the update. Nevertheless, Google was transparent when it comes to certain issues that websites identified as some of the factors that reduced their rankings.
If you have been hit by the update and experienced a downward trend in your positioning in the search results, it is not too late to fix the issue. The good news is that it is always possible to reverse-engineer this ranking problem.
EAT: Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness
Google has a ranking algorithm that remains a secret. However, many webmasters have found that it comes down to several hundred factors, which perhaps lie between 200 and 500. These factors include:
- Page speed
- Mobile responsiveness
- Title tags with keywords
In a broad core algorithm update, it is safe to say that Google actually tweaks how these factors are valued. For instance, page speed may have been more important than HTTPS. After the update, the other would have carried more weight than page speed.
If you apply such a concept to the other factors, you can already see why the rankings would be thrown out of whack.
If your website did suffer from the update, it does not mean that you did anything wrong. It just so happens that Google made a judgement call, choosing to put certain factors above others. Unfortunately, your competitors may already excel in those. Therefore, they now rank higher than your website.
Nevertheless, you should not worry about your website. Google always advises sticking to creating and providing great content, which will eventually improve your ranking. The Quality Rater Guidelines is Google’s gold standard that stresses on expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (EAT).
The foundation of EAT is quite simple: Google is committed to ensuring users get the most relevant and authoritative results. Therefore, everything your website or online company produces – whether it is a product, service, or a blog post – should be strictly credible.
Let us talk about Expertise first.
For Google, websites should be comprised of groups or individuals with a high level of expertise. Of course, it is not a requirement that you graduated from the top of your class at a prestigious university. As long as you have plenty of experience on the topic at hand, you qualify for this first category.
Expertise, however, is especially important if you have a website that focuses on health, medicine, or science. Google wants to make sure that your website is properly represented through your content. Everything you say should be backed by other professionals, such as scientists or doctors.
If you offer health products, such as supplements, they should have a positive reputation. It is therefore essential to publish reviews on your websites.
The next factor, Authoritativeness, complements your expertise. The authors and creators of the website should have a high level of authority, which significantly improves when reputable external sources link to your website. Google also placed huge importance on author bios who contribute to content creation.
Your next step should be to create a “Who We Are” or “About Us” page (if you still do not have one). All articles and blog posts should also have the name of the author or a link to their website.
Another method to improve your authoritativeness is to have your authors publish on other credible websites. It also helps to request testimonials or reviews from your clients that you should add to your website.
Finally, your pages should be full of content. Google finds websites untrustworthy if there is not enough content on them.
For the last EAT factor, we have Trustworthiness. Google values websites that are trustworthy, which means it is more important than ever to provide helpful and high-quality content. With the update on the search engine’s algorithm, the priority is to give users the best of the best. If Google feels like your page is not trustworthy, your rankings will quickly drop.
When you created the website, your main purpose should be to be a helpful source to the users, whether through your content, products, or services. It should be pretty clear for them the moment they land on your homepage. They do not need to click on any other element on your site to know who you are, what you do, and what you can provide to them.
Preparing Your SEO Tactics for 2020
It is time to bolster your SEO tactics for the remainder of 2020. Do you think you are ready? Here are the things that you need to know to help improve your rankings and maintain them:
1. The Medic Update Impacts ALL Sites
If you are not in the health or wellbeing industry, it does not mean you are safe from Medic’s effects. Finance sites also suffered from the update, along with all other industries. Google may have denied that the update targeted medical, fitness, and health sites, although they did take the biggest hit.
Even websites from other industries, including entertainment, travel, and e-commerce were affected. These YMYL websites need to pay attention to EAT, which comes into play in any industry.
So what can you do about it? Here’s what you need to focus on to fix your EAT:
- Reinforce the About page of your company, along with the individual bio pages of the authors. Ensure to add their expertise and credentials.
- Add reviews and testimonials from clients for your services or products. You can also utilise user reviews across the web for your business, such as Yelp and the like.
- Build up the authority of your company by improving its facts on other platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Wikipedia.
- Every page should have contact information or at least have an incredibly robust Contact Page. It should have your contact number, physical address, and email.
- Get favourable coverage from the press through credible outlets. You can also get authors by-lined in high-authority publications.
No matter what industry you are, it does not guarantee that you are safe from decreased rankings. Follow the solutions above and proceed to provide great content.
2. Provide Great, Reliable Content
Independent research showed that there is a moderate correlation between the length of the content and its search results page position after the Medic update. It is simple: when you have longer content on your pages, your website will rank better than your competitors with the same yet shorter content.
The main content should meet the EAT requirements and should be enough. Supplementary content and ads or monetisation pages should get their rightful attention but not more than the main content.
The site’s main content should show expertise, from an authority or linked to an authoritative site or group, and trustworthy. It should allow your website to achieve its purpose with satisfactory content for the visitors.
For instance, if you have a finance website, you do not just provide financial advice in 500 words. To be on the safe side, provide at least 1,000 words of content to your readers. But how do you create such content? The following will answer this question:
- Find out what the visitors of your website often search for.
- Make sure you meet the needs and expectations of your audience. If possible, exceed them.
- It all starts with a keyword search where you select the best keywords and provide the answers on the content.
Important: When users click on your site after seeing it from the search results, your content should match their query.
- Understand the intention of your audience when they search for a particular keyword.
Know the stage where the searches take place, whether as a consumer, a potential buyer, or someone trying to get involved in your industry.
- Use credible sources and link to them, such as Google scholar, studies, and .gov websites.
A common mistake of content creators is using too much jargon that a novice will not understand. Showing your expertise is not a means to show off, but to educate and share your knowledge with other users.
The key is to find the balance between being all-inclusive while still keeping everything simple. Format your text into something easily digestible and use visual aids whenever you can.
Being an expert is just the beginning. You also have to show your authority as a source of information. For instance, if you have a website for budding cooks, the number of comments you get can help show how many people trust the recipes and techniques you provide.
Strive to be linked at and mentioned by other websites as well. It shows Google and users that you are one of the top sites for a certain topic. Additionally, if your content is widely shared across the web, it is also an indicator that people value your expertise. Thus, it signals your growing authority.
3. Tell Google Who You Are
Many websites that were once at the first few pages of the SERPs landed several pages away from the top search results. Even those that built a good reputation for years saw themselves moving to page 10+ in the SERPs.
One of the biggest aspects that website owners did not foresee in the update was having a credible About page. Most sites have short About pages, not backing up the authors’ expert areas. Some only had a few lines, along with their hobbies and what they do during their free time.
Conversely, websites with an About page and an author bio in every post benefited from the update. If you have suffered from the update just like many other sites, it is time for you to revamp your About page. Update it with your credentials, awards, and other details that show you are an authority (or an expert at least) in your industry or chosen niche.
Showing Google that you know what you are doing and saying will help convince the search engine to rank your site in the first few pages. Make sure to do the following as well:
- Write your Mission and Vision statements.
- Provide your list of experience in the industry and prior to that if applicable.
- Give proof that you are a trustworthy expert with your education and work background.
You can accomplish all these things with a comprehensive About page.
Another thing is the Q&A page. Call it “Frequently Asked Questions,” “FAQs,” or anything you like – what matters is your site has it. This specific page answers different queries that your existing and potential customers may have. FAQs help save time for your readers, as well as your client support team.
4. Know About Linking and Other Content Strategies
EAT is about giving users helpful content from reliable sources. Therefore, it is not recommended to link to affiliate marketing products and lead generation sites. Also, steer clear of sponsored reviews, which are often deceiving to the users.
Speaking of links, another technique is to use internal links between posts, which also helps improve your website’s credibility. Google has always used links to find out whether or not your content is relevant to everything else on the website. In this case, you show their correlation when there are internal links from your own site.
Usually, the homepage has the highest link value because of the great number of backlinks. The newest blog posts get more link value if you link to them from your homepage and not the category page. It helps Google locate these posts easily.
Of course, spelling and grammar should be prioritised. You cannot claim to be an expert when there are several typos and grammar mistakes. If you speak English as a second language, you can have a native speaker to proofread your work before publishing.
5. Be the Source
There is no better way to show your EAT than becoming other people’s sources for their content. You can achieve it when you have useful content that others can utilise for their own blog posts and podcasts. When sites link to your page, it immediately increases your authoritativeness.
How do you entice other people to choose your content? We go back to being an expert. Showcase your expertise by providing great content. You can also hire an expert on the topic while making sure your topics and content remain credible.
Here’s a friendly reminder: Never try tricking Google into believing you have the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. Earn these qualities and you will see the benefits sooner than you think.
6. Get Rid of the Bloat (AKA Zombie Pages)
When you have hundreds or even thousands of Zombie pages, which is typical for a lot of websites, these pages can hurt your SEO performance.
These lifeless pages add no value to your site and do not help visitors either. You may have even forgotten about their existence. Most websites have these dead pages to help them rank certain keywords, which used to work a long time ago. Today, however, they will only affect your ranking negatively.
To check your indexed pages, use Google Search Console (Web Tools – Search Console – Google Index – Index Status). Technical glitches can happen, causing the bloat. Other reasons why you may have zombie pages are:
- Your site has some pages with low-quality and unoriginal content.
- You have old content, such as blog posts and case studies that did not get a lot of attention.
- Google accidentally indexed search pages.
Here’s the good news: you can identify these zombie pages and get rid of them:
- Identify what these pages are through metrics like total visits or page views, unique page views, bounce rate, and exit rate.
- Follow the trail by looking at the pages with low numbers. They are the ones dragging your website down, causing you to lose visitors.
- Delete the HTML files of these pages and remove them from your sitemap listing.
- Make sure to remove the links to them too, or change them to more suitable URLs.
The rest is up to you. Some pages may require a complete redo while others may still be utilised. For instance, some chunks of the content may be useful for your new blog posts. Another method is to bring new life to the dead page by adding quality content. This time, ensure it meets good SEO standards.
7. Use the Digital Hitmen Extract and Stack Method
Mastering the creation and distribution of content to improve your brand’s visibility on social media and the entire web is not an easy process. It can take years to accomplish your goals.
However, you do not have to spend a lot of time to create tons of content for your social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. The technique is to take your long-form piece, which can either be a document or a video.
Then, you will repurpose it into several other micro-content pieces. Micro-content can be anything from memes to quotes to IG or Facebook stories, which you will redistribute across all these channels.
Other Things to Consider
Aside from all the factors mentioned, you may see a decline in your site’s rankings if the following are not optimised:
- Privacy Policies: This page is not only useful for SEO but it is also required by law. You should have a clear privacy statement if you collect personal data from your visitors, including their first and last names and email address.
- Design: The design of your site makes or breaks the experience of the users. Several domains whose rankings plummeted had good content but their site design was awful. A big issue with Google is ad placement where the main content becomes impossible to read.
- Low-quality pages: How do you determine how Google sees a particular page, especially whether it is low or high-quality? Several things constitute the word “quality” for websites, including unique content, lots of external credible sources linked on the page, and successfully answering the query of the searcher. Aside from content matters, the page should also load quickly on any connection and readable on any device.
- Bad Titles: Over-the-top titles are a no-no. Titles should be under 60 characters long for them to display properly in the SERPs. They should not be in all caps and with just the right amount of keywords. Also, every page on the site should have different titles.
Even after recovering from the Medic update and you have regained your rankings, you should still keep working in the same direction. As your website becomes bigger, so do the necessary changes you have to make. Site maintenance is a lot of hard work but it will pay off in the long run.
If you need help recovering your Google rankings after the Medic update (or any other update), we recommend reaching out to us for advice. We’re always happy to help.