The Medic algorithm update, and how to fix

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Google Medic update help and recovery

We have already helped two websites recover from the core Google ‘Medic’ update in the space of a few weeks that lost significant traffic and conversions. Now because of our SEO consultants help they are already starting to see a recovery and will come back stronger than ever before. Here is an overview of what happened and what we did.

What’s happened during the Medic Update

We’re confident that you’ve been affected by Google’s Medic algorithm change, a broad, core algorithm update that was rolled out on 1 August.

What is the core Google Medic update and what has it changed?

The update is called the “Medic Update” because Barry Schwartz, a prolific writer and influencer in the search industry, called it that. It doesn’t mean this update only affected medical sites, but there do seem to have been a large number of YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) sites that were impacted, hence the unofficial naming of the update. Google describes YMYL sites/pages as pages that could potentially impact the “future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users”. Some sites saw large visibility drops and others saw large gains. Industry analysis suggests that we’re seeing the effect of Google finding new ways to evaluate YMYL sites in terms of safety and trust.

Indeed, Google has recently updated content within its Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG). Google contracts with over 10,000 search quality raters worldwide to evaluate its search results. Raters are given actual searches to conduct, drawn from real searches that happen on Google. They then rate the quality of pages that appear in the top results — hence the “quality rater” name. According to Jennifer Slegg, an industry commentator that has done some very detailed analysis of QRG changes, some notable changes include:

  • The most noticeable for content creators is that Google wants their raters to not only look at the reputation of the website itself, but also the content creators themselves. This is one area that many sites fall down on. They might have an ‘About Us’ page, but the bios of their authors are sorely lacking. It also means that those accepting contributions from those not working for the site in question need to keep an eye on the reputation of their contributors as well. If content is created by someone with a great reputation, it makes sense for Google to rank that content higher than from someone with a bad reputation since it is generally a better user experience for the searcher. But it means many will also need to brush up on their bios, too. It is also worth noting that this doesn’t apply just to written content, but other types of content as well, such as videos and social media. Google’s focus with this addition is on wanting to ensure content that is created by creators with great reputations is ranking well, especially in a world of fake news and conspiracy theories. Great for those creators with great reputations, but does mean some work for those without a great reputation or a limited one.
  • Another big change that Google wants raters to focus on is what it calls “beneficial purpose” of content. “So many sites create content solely for Google, without the user in mind. They just want their content with ‘keyword keyword keyword’ to rank well, and hope the person converts when they get there, whether by clicking an ad or affiliate link, or perhaps going deeper into the site. But Google wants their raters to think about whether a piece of content has a beneficial purpose or not, and this is something that any site owner, content creator or SEO should think about when writing new content or auditing current content on a site.

The idea of the “purpose” of a page ties in with the intent a searcher has for a query. Industry thought is that the Medic update improved that “match” between intent and results. It is possible that this has increased the variety of “types” of content returned in the results pages as a result – so for instance, for legal-related queries where Google has identified that intent trends over time have shifted to purely informational, rather than transaction-based, more Ombudsman/Wiki etc. content may now be being returned. you need to understand this, to understand whether more fundamental shifts in marketing strategy are going to be required.

By upweighting the importance of E-A-T, Google sites with comparatively lower E-A-T appear to have been demoted in the Medic update.

What can you do if you were hit by this Medic update ?

If you were hit by this update it is highly likely you will know already. Changes and drops in traffic volumes happened dramatically and quickly over the period of a week starting on July the 31th 2018.While some people did gain many saw large drops in organic web traffic of between 25- 50%. Not all these sites deserved it but will now need to refocus to how they portray themselves as industry experts. Google has done this for a reason, and that reason is to send its users to the best and most trusted sites. So, lets work on being the best and get your traffic back.

In somewhat typical Google fashion, there is “no specific fix” – and certainly no guarantee of a quick rush back to favour. Google says:

comments from Google regards the medic update that happened in July 2018

 

 

 

So there’s no silver bullet. The key here is therefore to validate the hypothesis that the changes placed greater emphasis on factors within Google’s algorithm that are common to competing pages (of sites that haven’t been hit) but less prevalent on your pages. There are many examples of how E-A-T can be improved, all of which need to be explored. We can do this for you – and provide you with a resulting list of clear actions. The structure of this work is outlined below in point 4. We can then discuss the level of help you want from us in executing the action list

Reccomended work to help recover from the Google Medic update

To validate the hypothesis that the Medic Update changes placed greater emphasis on factors within Google’s algorithm that are common to competing pages (of sites that haven’t been hit) but less prevalent on your wensitepages, we need to conduct a holistic analysis of key impacted pages in comparison with pages competing in relevant Google search results to identify points of difference.

  • We will use existing Google Analytics and Google Search Console data to focus on 10 pages that have been most heavily impacted by the Google update (i.e. loss of 200+ sessions comparing equivalent before & after periods in Google Analytics data)
  • Data from 3rd party tools that track Google results will be used to identify sites and pages that benefited from the update at you sites expense (this could include data from tools used by your team if applicable)
  • For each page assessed (both you site and competing) we will complete a matrix of relevant factors, based on known information relating to Google’s algorithms and ranking factors as well as Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines. This will focus both on content quality factors but will also include relevant technical elements. The completed matrix will then show factors and patterns common to competing pages but less prevalent on any websites pages
  • We will then provide clear, prioritized recommendations and actions for improvement of the impacted pages – e.g. content/features to add, remove or improve

Conclusions

While there is no guaranteed timeline to recovery, we’re confident we can arm you with the right action list to ensure the site returns to growth. However dont forget to test test and test any  changes you decide to make to ensure they have a positive impact. There are a whole range of new to market testing tools that are specific to SEO. Search ‘SEO tesing’  or give me a call to point you in the right direction.  I have worked with a number of these offerings over the years as well as the teams and companies that have created them.

Finally, one last tip, if you are reading this have a brand new site or are just about to launch one, make sure you apply all the recent requiements for the new algorithm and learnings from the Google rater guidlines from the outset. This will gove you a flying start and help you to compete with longer standing sites that are slower to move with the required changes to rank well.

If you think you have lost traffic due to the recent core Medic algo update or any of the others get in contact for a free 1 hour consultation. We will help you sites recover quickly and safles as possible.