We all trusted our parents as kids.
I still do—most of the time, at least!
The thing with trusting what our parents tell us is that we are born needing a beacon of wisdom in our life.
We need solid reference points that we can trust without researching all the existing sources first.
Likewise, we all want to be able to trust what we read on the web—especially when it’s a life or money matter, and when the site claims to be there to help us.
After all, the web exists as an infinite source of information.
But can we trust that website information like we do our parents?
The Google Medic update aims to make the web that trustworthy beacon of information, by making website owners responsible for the content they put up for everybody to read and use.
The Google Medic Update: It’s All About E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trust)
Google rolled out a massive core update over the first week of August 2018.
It was coined the “Medic update” by Barry Schwartz, owner of Search Engine Roundtable and well-known authority in the field of SEO. He called it this because out of the 300 sites he analyzed, 41.5% of the affected sites belonged to the health niche.
The term found favor across the entire SEO community and was adopted unanimously.
As well as health-related sites, the other big percentage affected by this update was sites in the e-commerce niche.
Schwartz reported that he’d never seen such a significant concentration of the impact of a single core update in a single niche, since this kind of update generally impacts every website.
So let’s see: What do these niches have in common?
- They’re both heavily information-based niches
- The information is critical for the end user searching for it
- The information can hugely impact the wellbeing and financial situation of the end user
In fact, the update mostly affected YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) sites—sites that can have a big impact on the safety, health or financial situation of a person.
That means the financial niche isn’t safe either.
The Medic update actually turned out to have global reach—but these niches were the ones that were hit the hardest.
Well-known SEO expert Marie Haynes reports that she saw losses across websites in the health niche, particularly those that didn’t have enough authority credentials to meet the new requirements in Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
These requirements put a heavy focus on E-A-T: the Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trust of a website.
Essentially, the core of the Medic update is this:
Google wants to know that you have the credibility to speak about and advise on critical matters. You need to be able to prove your expertise, authority and trust, especially if your website is focused on health, finance or selling products or services to users.
4 Cases of the Google Medic Update
The effects of the update across four different websites have been interesting.
1. Motherhood Blog
Spiritually, Mama Luana, my motherhood blog, was the least affected despite its topic of motherhood and parenting. This was surprising, because the site closely relates to health on several aspects.
The rankings for this blog have maintained a certain stability and are, in fact, somewhat on the rise.
2. Freelance Writing Blog
On the contrary—and strangely— my writing blog The Pen Thinker was the most affected, with main keywords for posts dropping vertiginously and ending up in the page 100+ area of the SERPs.
Wait a minute—isn’t the Medic update all about expertise, authority and trust?
How is that possible if I’m an actual freelance writer (which is this blog’s main topic, along with other writing-related stuff), and I’ve been building a reputation for years?
As Marie Haynes suggested in her report, it’s possible that the cause may be found in the lack of a credible About page.
In fact, my About page on this blog is pretty much just a short draft, since my main aim was always to “inherit” the reputation of this blog from my main business website.
Conversely, while there isn’t much of an About page on my motherhood blog, you can definitely find more about my credibility as a mother in the published pages, bio under each post, sidebar bio and the overall post content.
Not so much on The Pen Thinker—I’ve been neglecting to attach authority elements to my posts and I was too focused on posting new content.
(But at least now I know what to fix. Lesson learned!)
3. Health and Fitness Blog
I also got in touch with a few website owners about how they’ve been affected by the update.
Like me, some gained from the update while others saw huge losses.
David de Ponte Lira, founder of Spanish health and fitness blog FullMusculo, lost half of his organic traffic with the Medic update on August 1st.
This is a screenshot of the traffic drop David sent me:
But David and his team are welcoming this hit as an opportunity to publish better content.
They plan to enlist the help of certified coaches, nutritionists and fitness experts in order to serve users with more authoritative information and earn those lost rankings back.
4. Damage Restoration Services
Conversely, Joe Goldstein from SEO company Contractor Calls saw one of his clients in the damage restoration industry grow organically by 24% since the update rolled out.
The key was in authoritative, trustworthy content in the disaster recovery field, including how-to repair guides:
“These informational guides saw the strongest organic growth by a substantial margin. One guide that has keyword traffic strongly correlated with summer months actually saw some of the strongest growth, with organic gains of 48% MoM. Several other guides saw gains in the 30-45% range.”
— Joe Goldstein
Joe kindly shared two screenshots of his client’s growth since the Medic update rolled out:
Traffic has been on the rise for Joe’s client since August 1st.
While there was no spike in the number of incoming users, this was a considerable improvement with respect to the results achieved in July.
Also, incoming traffic seems to have improved on all channels, including organic search (24.18%) and direct traffic (29.79%).
That suggests that users are eager to come back to the website for its content and that they (and Google) deem it trustworthy.
4 Ways to Counter the Effects of the Medic Update
Because the Medic update is all about trust (E-A-T) factors, the core of a “counterattack” is in trying to regain any trust your site may have lost.
1. Showcase All Authority Credentials on Your Website
Marie Haynes suggests that you make sure your About page is updated with all your credentials, awards won and any other signals that you’re an authority (or at the very least, an expert) in your niche or industry, and that you know what you’re doing.
If you don’t have an About page on your website, update your Mission, Vision, Experience, History or similar page with as much “proof” as possible that you have the expertise to do what you do.
Also, for content teams, it’s essential that each author has their own bio. It should include their expertise in the niche, and other credentials if they have any (e.g. speaker at an industry conference).
E-A-T, in fact, is all about giving users truly helpful content that comes from trustworthy sources—not affiliate marketing, lead generation and sponsored reviews.
You might even want to read about how Felix Tarcomnicu improved organic traffic by 210% by incorporating much of the E-A-T vision (even though the Medic update hadn’t even rolled out yet when he wrote it!).
2. Give Users Complete Information About Services and Products
That means you should mention and discuss negative aspects as well as the positive.
Even though it’s the job of a marketing copywriter sometimes to make the most boring products appear interesting, it’s essential to combine that persuasive power with a bit of honesty (and humility). Let users know that the product they’re reading about on your e-commerce page isn’t a perfect fit for every need, and why.
Humility in business attracts users more than hype.
Also, be thorough when you share knowledge about health issues or services that aim to help users fulfill a need. People need complete information to make a well-pondered decision, and you can get in serious trouble if you share false or deceptive information for the sake of landing an extra sale.
Deception is always risky, and not only in the eyes of Google—international and national laws in defense of the consumer do exist, and everyone running a website should be aware of them.
If you haven’t already, check out the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) website to learn more about these laws.
3. Disclose Any Partnerships, Affiliations, Sponsorships and Leads That Might Affect Trust
Following on from the previous point, it’s clear that together with complete and honest information, you should also disclose any commercial or ideological relationships you have that might influence users’ choices and ideas.
This is something consumer-protection organizations have been enforcing for years, especially the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), even on small websites and blogs.
Now, Google is catching up with the Medic update, trying to enforce the same kind of honesty on the websites it lists in its index.
It’s a good idea to have a page on your site where you showcase all your relationships and explain why you decided to join forces with or sponsor them.
Also, if you write affiliate marketing posts and lead generation content, make sure to disclose that intent in the article—possibly at the top of it.
4. Review Your Site Mission and Keep Track of User Intent
Are you trying to inform or to sell?
The more you have a clear picture of what your site intends to offer to users, the better and higher quality content and products or services you can put out.
Keep track of user intent through searches that arrive to your site, too. Are they mainly “buy” queries or are they looking for information?
If your entire strategy and content plan need a review, this is a good time to do it.
Final Thoughts on the Google Medic Update
The Medic update had big consequences for websites in the health, e-commerce and financial niches, but other websites were not less affected.
Rankings dropped for websites across all niches, and the update has pushed everybody to look into their E-A-T assets and vision once more.
For the good, we all hope!
Because let’s look at the bright side of all this:
It’s your opportunity to make your website and its content a real gem, more helpful and authoritative than before.