Longtime SEO professionals will agree that there’s a basic formula for improving search visibility. First, websites need good technical and on-page SEO to build a strong foundation for other optimizations. Next, content needs to be updated regularly and developed to high standards. Lastly, links need to be built out to other relevant sites to improve link equity. So long as these things are done consistently, a site will eventually rank for the keywords it’s targeting, hopefully increasing visits, engagement, and conversions.
However, as effective as this formula has been, it’s become far less effective in so-called YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) industries. SEO agencies and professionals that optimize YMYL websites have go beyond the basics and execute strategies that build their client’s brand image and credibility as well.
What are YMYL Industries?
YMYL industries are those that have something to do with a person’s well-being. Examples of YMYL niches include health, personal finance, and other areas where inaccurate information can lead to serious or even fatal consequences.
Search results related to YMYL areas are likely to be manually rated by Google’s quality raters. These people look through Google’s search results, sometimes inspecting tens of thousands of results a day, to ensure that potentially dangerous misinformation is kept to a minimum.
How Do Google Quality Raters Assess YMYL Search Results?
According to Google quality rater guidelines, only websites with a high E-A-T ( Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness) rating should be allowed at the top of SERPs (search engine results pages) related to YMYL niches.
It’s not just Google’s human quality raters that enforce E-A-T on YMYL SERPs. Google’s core algorithms have also consistently evolved to become better at understanding which sites have legitimate E-A-T.
How Do You Improve a Site’s E-A-T?
Better SEO agencies don’t just apply the standard ranking formula for YMYL websites but they figure out ways to increase their E-A-T as well. Here, we’ll explain our process for optimizing E-A-T for helping clients in YMYL niches secure higher spots on Google’s SERPs.
Anyone can declare themself an expert. Of course, Google also knows this, which is why it uses a variety of ranking signals to better separate the real experts from the fake ones. Some important expertise signals include the following:
- Author Bio. Google’s bots look at author bios at the end of articles to help establish the credibility of a writer. The more frequently a writer discusses a certain subject matter, the more likely that Google will consider them an expert.
- Author Profiles. Author bios can always be faked, which means that they are not enough to determine expertise. Author bios are also cross-referenced with pages elsewhere on the internet to determine if an author has the skills and experience needed to discuss the topic. For instance, a person claiming to be a doctor on their bio may have their education and work credentials pulled from the websites of the medical school they attended and the hospitals they’re employed in.
- Social Media Accounts and Profiles. Similarly, Google’s bots and quality checkers may look at an author’s social media accounts and profiles to gain a better idea of an author’s expertise. Information on professional social media sites such as LinkedIn seems to be an important factor in determining an author’s qualifications.
- Content Quality. The information shared by an author is also checked by Google’s bots and quality checkers to see if it has the hallmarks of expert-level content. Mentions of relevant entities, use of specific terms, and other relevant signals are looked into to determine an author’s relative level of expertise.
As far as Google is concerned, it’s not enough to be an expert in a field. Google also considers an author’s authority in a subject when weighing whether or not a piece of content they created deserves to be on the top of Google’s SERPs. An author is considered to have authority when other people in their field give them their vote of confidence.
So how does Google determine authority? Its core algorithm and quality raters can determine it in the following ways:
- Backlinks. Google has always used backlinks to determine authority, even before the days of E-A-T. It’s not surprising that they would use them yet again to determine authority for YMYL sites. As always, the more relevant backlinks going to the site, the better.
- Mentions. Linkless mentions of the site and author from other online sources can also serve to bolster authority. This is especially true if the mentions are on .gov and .edu websites as well as from trusted media sites.
Trustworthiness is usually determined by how well the content is developed and supported, the quality of the author’s previous articles, and the reputation of the site where the content is published.
In other words, the content, the author, and the website all need to be worthy of trust before Google considers bumping them up the SERPs. Here are some of the signals used by Google to determine trustworthiness:
- The Author Needs to Be a Real Person. To be trustworthy, an article cannot just be authored by a generic “admin” or written under a pseudonym. Interestingly, many Filipino link builders often use sock puppet identities for guest posts. While this works for getting links, the trustworthiness of the content can be compromised because the fake author would have a limited number of articles to their name. If a human quality rater gets around to checking the article, they may even figure out that a fake profile is being used.
- The Publishing Website Needs to Be Associated With a Physical Location. For a website, proper addresses and contact details ultimately translate to accountability, which is a foundation of trust. Related to this, the site’s Google Business(formerly Google My Business) profile should be updated, with meticulous attention being paid to the business name, address, and phone number (NAP). Updating the site’s Google Business profile thoroughly should also have benefits for local SEO, which you can read about here: SEO for the Google Maps Pack.
- The Site Should Use HTTPS Instead of HTTP. HTTPS sites use the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security) security protocols to protect online communications. Sites that use HTTPS are far less likely to be hacked compared to unsecured HTTP sites, which would make them more trustworthy.
- Product Descriptions Should be Detailed and Accurate. Again, trust is about openness and setting expectations. This is especially true for ecommerce sites. If the site sells replica items or items with no proven benefits, proper disclaimers should be included. Every important detail should be available, including return and refund policies, courier services to be used, and other things that could impact the customer experience.
If your client belongs to a YMYL niche, pushing their site up Google’s SERPs won’t be easy. However, that is the whole point. Online misinformation has the potential to seriously harm people and even entire communities, which is why Google takes extra steps to ensure that only good content makes it to the top of YMYL results pages.
With this in mind, SEOs optimizing for sites in these niches should be patient when developing E-A-T alongside the site’s technical SEO, content, and backlink profile. If the business is new, developing E-A-T is probably going to be a long-term project, given that Google really raises the bar when it comes to newer YMYL sites.
However, once a site’s E-A-T is established, an organization in a YMYL niche is likely to see many long-term benefits to its brand as well as its ability to convert both online and offline prospects into customers. Thus, we wholeheartedly recommend that legitimate YMYL businesses should do what it takes to develop E-A-T.
If you’re interested in having the Philippines’ most respected SEO agency work on your site’s E-A-T, we’d be happy to set up a meeting.