Google’s “Medic Algorithm” update: What health websites need to know

In the last few months Google has been rolling out new features to it’s search engine targeting (among other things) better searches for health information. It has nicknamed the ‘Google Medic Update’ and it poses some serious questions for health bloggers and service providers. So here are the basic things you need to know:

Why such an update?

According to Google, pages offering health information or services fall into a category called “Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) Pages”. In the words of Google ‘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’. In a nutshell getting bad advice and service from heath websites actually affects your life and Google wants to do something about it.

Who does it affect?

  • Shopping or financial transaction pages: webpages that allow users to make purchases such as paying for drugs  online.
  • Financial information pages: webpages that provide advice or information about things like health insurance.
  • Medical information pages: webpages that provide advice or information about health, drugs, specific diseases or conditions, mental health, and nutrition.
  • Legal information pages: webpages that provide legal advice or information on topics such as creating a will for a person who is mentally ill.
  • News articles or public/official information pages important for having an informed citizenry: webpages that include information about local/state/national government processes such as notices on public health activities.

Further evidence that is has had a major impact on health websites can be seen by the test run by Search Engine Roundtable which clearly shows health websites are definitely affected.


What can I do to keep my rank up?

  • You don’t need to be an expert to write about all health related topics…: Although YMYL does focus on expert knowledge, it’s quite possible to have everyday expertise in YMYL topics such as support pages where people share personal experiences in health.
  • … just specific medical information on health: Specific medical information and advice (rather than descriptions of life experiences) should come from doctors or other health professionals.
  • Maintain EAT – Google looks at High level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T). Your main content should be clear with a helpful title and it should be clear who the visitor is getting the information from. Examples of high quality pages can be seen here, here, here, and here.
  • Avoid the low quality YMYL signals such as
    • An inadequate level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
    • The quality of the main content is low.
    • There is an unsatisfying amount of main content for the purpose of the page.
    • The title of the main content is exaggerated or shocking.
    • The Ads or SC distracts from the main content.
    • There is an unsatisfying amount of website information or information about the creator of the MC for the purpose
      of the page (no good reason for anonymity).
    • A mildly negative reputation for a website or creator of the MC, based on extensive reputation research.

If you need even more information please feel free to contact us.

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