Over the past year, you’ll have seen YMYL and E-A-T referenced a lot in SEO discussions. These come from Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines (PDF), which are used by a human team of assessors who manually rate the quality of Google’s search results.
While these guidelines aren’t designed for SEO purposes, they do give us additional insight into what Google is looking for from pages and content - and recent changes to Google’s core algorithm suggest YMYL and E-A-T play a key role in search rankings.
What are YMYL pages?
YMYL stands for “your money or your life” and this is how Google’s refers to web pages and content that could have a negative impact on the quality of people’s lives and/or their finances. Or, as Google describes them in its Search Quality Rating Guidelines, “pages or topics [that] could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety”.
Google offers the following examples of YMYL pages:
- News and current events: News about important topics such as international events, business, politics, science, technology, etc.
- Civics, government, and law: Information important to maintaining an informed citizenry, such as information about voting, government agencies, public institutions, social services, and legal issues.
- Finance: Financial advice or information regarding investments, taxes, retirement planning, loans, banking, or insurance, particularly webpages that allow people to make purchases or transfer money online.
- Shopping: Information about or services related to research or purchase of goods/services, particularly webpages that allow people to make purchases online.
- Health and safety: Advice or information about medical issues, drugs, hospitals, emergency preparedness, etc.
- Groups of people: Information about or claims related to groups of people, including but not limited to those grouped on the basis of race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity.
- Other: There are many other topics related to big decisions or important aspects of people’s lives which thus may be considered YMYL, such as fitness and nutrition, housing information, choosing a college, finding a job, etc.
Why are YMYL pages important?
Google wants to deliver the best content for every query and it also wants users to know they can trust its results. As a search engine, this is naturally in Google’s best interests but the emergence of fake news in recent years and revelations that Google’s SERPs were being manipulated by rightwing publishers forced the tech giant to take a more aggressive stance against unreliable content.
A year later, Google updated its Search Quality Rating Guidelines which heavily feature E-A-T and YMYL as a means of determining the reliability of content. For marketers, the most important aspect is that YMYL pages have been hit particularly hard in recent Google core algorithm updates, which tells us how significant this is.
What do marketers need to do about YMYL pages?
This brings us back to E-A-T, which stands for “expertise, authority and trustworthiness” and you can find out more about this in our no-nonsense guide to E-A-T. Essentially, Google places greater emphasis on the expertise of the people publishing your content, the authority of your website and the trustworthiness of your content.
“We have very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages because low quality YMYL pages could potentially negatively impact a person’s happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.”
E-A-T is important for all types of content and recent updates suggest this is a big factor for all searches now. However, Google is especially demanding for E-A-T when it determines that your content could impact the quality of people’s lives in any way.
Here’s how to optimise for YMYL:
- Determine whether your website, pages and content is considered YMYL.
- Make sure your content is published by people with genuine expertise in the topic being covered.
- Build online profiles of demonstrable expertise for your content creators: author bios, relevant content published under their name on trusted external sites, links to their social profiles, citations in relevant external content, speaking at industry conferences, etc.
- Don’t offer advice you’re not in a position to provide, especially on YMYL topics like health, finance, wellbeing, law, etc.
- Make sure your content is factually accurate.
- Network with trusted sites in your industry for content opportunities.
- Use plenty of data to back up your claims and make sure you get your figures from trusted sources.
- If you're creating affiliate content, make sure it genuinely helps people make informed purchase decisions - don’t just point them to a bunch of affiliate links.
- Moderate any user-generated content to make sure it doesn't threaten your E-A-T prospects.
Above all, make sure you’re qualified to offer the advice given in your content and don’t engage in deceptive tactics. The biggest victims in recent core algorithm updates have been YMYL websites offering advice on topics like health, finance and other serious topics without any demonstrable proof of their expertise.
Google needs to see this expertise in formats it can recognise (links, citations, etc.) so build your online profile around this and go back to your existing content to optimise with E-A-T and YMYL in mind.