The March 12th Algorithm Update
On March 12th of 2019, Google released a broad core algorithm update that caused a lot of SEOs, site owners, and webmasters to take note. We saw a larger than normal amount of rank and traffic fluctuation in the days following the release of the update. This type of fluctuation is expected; we often see this happen after any major algorithm update by Google.
Restating much of the same advice the company gave after the Medic update the previous year (or, as Google has named it, the August 2018 Core Update), Google said there is no “fix” for pages that may perform less well after the update:
As with any update, some sites may note drops or gains. There’s nothing wrong with pages that may now perform less well. Instead, it’s that changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded.
There’s no “fix” for pages that may perform less well other than to remain focused on building great content. Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.
While fluctuation after an algo change is somewhat normal and expected, a bigger issue hit Google two weeks later that was not.
Google’s De-Indexing Bug
On April 4th, site owners and SEOs began to notice claims of website pages falling out of Google’s index. It seems that Google started to de-list many URLs from its search index, causing a loss of traffic and keyword rank related to those pages. Google claimed the issue was resolved a couple of different times before it actually was, and the issue seemed to spread to Google Search Console Reporting and Google News.
Note: Google claims the issue with Google News was not related, but it’s worth knowing that Google was seeing a lot of problems arise in April.
Search Console is still recovering from the indexing issue we reported on last week. As a result, index coverage and enhancement reports were not updated recently & URL Inspector might not reflect live status, at the moment.
— Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) April 15, 2019
What This Means for Your Site
As stated before, we always expect to see a lot of fluctuation in keywords and site traffic when a new algorithm hits. Google shuffles things around and puts emphasis on some indicators while it de-emphasizes others. Sites ahead of yours will drop, which can cause your pages to rise, or your page will see others surpass it. It’s important to wait a bit for the waters to settle to determine what, if anything, needs to be done. With the added issues in Google’s index on top of a major algorithm update, I’d encourage site owners to be extra patient.
Put simply, everyone should monitor website traffic and keyword ranking reports and be aware of changes that are happening, but at the same time don’t panic. Huge drops and big increases may be a reflection of the issues under the hood at Google, and they might not be permanent indicators of your website’s performance.
We will have a better indication of what is happening the next couple of weeks and will be in a better place to formulate a plan, if a plan is needed.
The Importance of Equity, Authority, and Trustworthiness on ‘Your Money or Your Life’ Pages
Early indicators point to the likelihood that the March 12th algorithm update is putting more emphasis on E-A-T, especially on pages that Google calls YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) pages. You have probably already heard your Internet Marketing Consultant use these terms this year, since it’s been a bigger and bigger deal since the August 1st Medic update. Let’s look a little into what each of these phrases means in terms of your website and your business.
E-A-T as a Ranking Factor
Google has a team of human evaluators for websites. They use Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines when making decisions about a website they visit. The acronym E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. It is a metric that Google’s Search Quality Rating Program members use to rank the pages they are evaluating. Since no one quite knows what is behind the Google algorithm, except for the developers of the code themselves, we use the quality raters’ published guidelines as a way to bridge the knowledge gap.
In the image below, MC stands for ‘main content’ and PQ stands for ‘page quality’. This was taken directly from Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines document:
This section of the guidelines emphasizes the need for high-quality pages on a website that enhance a visitor’s experience by educating, helping, and informing on a specific topic. It also indicates that raters should be looking for indications that the author of the content is an authority on the subject and a reliable source for the information being presented on the page.
This is why Page 1 Solutions believes in strong content on a website and actively advocates for ongoing efforts to enhance the content on our clients’ sites. Businesses that want to implement a strong set of signals related to E-A-T as outlined by Google's quality raters guidelines should focus on highlighting their credentials in their field of expertise and link out to organizations and affiliations they are a part of. Put association references on the bio page or the home page. Link directly to a profile page or an article in which the business or individual is mentioned. Work on the online reputation of your business by implementing strong reviews and active social media interactions.
The Better Business Bureau is a resource that is directly mentioned in Google's Quality Raters Guidelines, and many industry experts have recommended becoming an accredited business with the BBB. It is definitely a trust factor for website visitors, so, if nothing else, a BBB affiliation might give site visitors peace of mind and might help your site stand out over an equally qualified competitor who is not accredited.
Your Money or Your Life Pages
What is considered a YMYL page? According to the Google Quality Raters Guidelines, it is:
Of the five types of YMYL pages, two impact the majority of Page 1 clients. Those are Medical Information or Advice Pages and Legal Information Pages. Because these pages are called out directly in the guidelines as an area to focus on when making quality decisions, our SEO team and IMC team work hard to make the best recommendations regarding YMYL pages. You will hear us make a lot of recommendations for improving these types of pages, and this is why we are so adamant about asking for updates. It can make or break a site in terms or ranking better than the sites that are ranking alongside you.
Do you have questions about the latest algorithm update or how Google’s de-indexing bug may have affected your website? Or, do you just want to know a little more about improving your E-A-T score on your YMYL pages? Please send over any questions you may have via our contact form, or visit our Facebook page and post a question there! I would love to continue this conversation with you and provide any helpful feedback that I may have.