Google’s August Broad Core Algorithm Update: What is It, and How Does It Affect Local SEO?

Earlier this month, Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed that a new Google broad core algorithm update was rolled out.

In case you missed it, here’s his announcement:

Google Medic Update

What is a Broad Core Algorithm Update?

This update is not the first referred to by Google as a “broad core algorithm update.” Google used the same phrasing when referring to updates that took place in March and April of this year (to learn more about the March and April updates, read this article). In the past, major algorithm changes have been given unique names, such as Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird. So, how does a broad core algorithm update differ from previous Google algorithm updates?

Most of the named Google updates address specific issues with the search algorithms. For example, the Penguin update focused on unnatural links, while the Panda update focused on website quality (thin content, duplicate content, etc.).

In contrast, the core algorithm changes do not address any one specific ranking factor. Rather, Google is making changes to many ranking factors of the main algorithm itself.

What is Affected by This Broad Core Algorithm Update?

Unsurprisingly, Google is not volunteering much detail about the update. Instead, they are referring back to the advice they dispensed in the Spring…specifically, that webmasters should continue focusing on “building great content”:

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.

Talk about vague! Considering the many variables that website owners and content creators face (within their industry, their targeted markets, etc.), the term “great content” holds different meanings in different situations.

In the days following the rollout of this algorithm update, it quickly became apparent that sites across many categories and geographic regions saw a lot of volatility in rankings. While the details of the update have not been revealed, time and careful observation has made it apparent that with this update, Google is examining both relevance and quality at the site level (as opposed to page level). There are many factors that contribute to a website’s quality, including:

  • Content quality
  • Overall user experience (UX)
  • Over-abundant or over-aggressive advertising
  • Technical problems

Alphabet Soup: E-A-T and YMYL

As for relevance, Google appears to be homing in on the search algorithm’s ability to evaluate E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness).  E-A-T plays an increasingly important role in Google’s Search quality guidelines.

Google makes an effort to rank authoritative sites higher than non-authoritative sites, thus reducing the risk of exposing their users (i.e. people searching for something) to questionable information, scams, and (in extreme cases) poor medical advice.

From the Search Quality Guidelines document:

High E-A-T medical advice should be written or produced by people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. High E-A-T medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis.

Closely related to E-A-T is another acronym, YMYL (Your Money or Your Life). In Google’s own words:

Some types of pages could potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users. We call such pages “Your Money or Your Life” pages, or YMYL. The following are examples of YMYL pages:

  • Shopping or financial transaction pages: webpages that allow users to make purchases, transfer money, pay bills, etc. online (such as online stores and online banking pages).
  • Financial information pages: webpages that provide advice or information about investments, taxes, retirement planning, home purchase, paying for college, buying insurance, etc.
  • Medical information pages: webpages that provide advice or information about health, drugs, specific diseases or conditions, mental health, nutrition, etc.
  • Legal information pages: webpages that provide legal advice or information on topics such as divorce, child custody, creating a will, becoming a citizen, etc.
  • News articles or public/official information pages important for having an informed citizenry: webpages that include information about local/state/national government processes, policies, people, and laws; disaster response services; government programs and social services; news about important topics such as international events, business, politics, science, and technology; etc. Please use your judgment and knowledge of your locale. Keep in mind that not all news articles are necessarily considered YMYL.
  • Other: there are many other topics that you may consider YMYL, such as child adoption, car safety information, etc. Please use your judgment.

We have very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages because low quality YMYL pages could potentially negatively impact users’ happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.

For a deep dive into Google’s Search Quality Guidelines (including a link to the 164 page downloadable PDF document), be sure to check out our “Ultimate Guide to Google’s Search Quality Guidelines.”

How are Local Websites Affected by the Core Algorithm Update?

In the past, local ranking and core search rankings have been addressed separately in algorithm updates. However, after the August broad core update, SEOs soon began reporting significant fluctuations in some local rankings in the aftermath of this core update. In particular, attorney and doctor/medical practice websites seemed to be hit hard in both local search and Google Maps results. Both attorney websites and doctor websites are prime examples of YMYL sites, so these fluctuations seem to support the already observed effects of the core update. As a result of these observations, this update has been nicknamed the “Medic” Update. (sources: seroundtable.com, searchengineland.com ).

How Can You Recover From This Update?

Previously, if a website was negatively affected by an algorithm update such as  Penguin or Panda, SEOs and webmasters had a reasonably good idea of actions to take if their websites were negatively affected by the algorithm change. Since these algorithm updates tended to address a specific issue (spammy links, thin/duplicate content, etc.), developing a strategy to improve overall quality and bounce back from the negative impact was relatively straightforward.

This update is different, however. With Google offering a too-broad statement of “build great content,” affected SEOs and site owners are left wondering what specific actions they should take to regain their rankings and traffic.

Until we can observe and analyze additional data, the best way for concerned SEOs to deal with this update is to focus on their site’s E-A-T, to continue to build trust within the industry and community, to continue to create rich, relevant content that site visitors will find truly valuable, and to take a proactive approach to steadily establish themselves as an authority in their market.

If this sounds too difficult, or if you do not know where to begin, don’t worry. PosiRank can help. Contact PosiRank today to learn more about the wide range of content creation and on-site optimization services available.

 

Featured image courtesy xanjero.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published / Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.