In early August 2018, Google implemented major changes to their core algorithm. It had a particularly strong impact on websites in the YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) spaces. In late September 2018, and to a lesser later in the fall, more big tremors hit these same ranking factors and sectors.
ClickSteam’s two largest clients are in the vaping and cannabis sectors, so we’ve analyzed a plethora of data to understand how to improve and continue growing our clients’ Google ranking in “Your Health” niches. Here’s what we learned.
The Medic Update Used Very Different Ranking Factors Than Fall 2018 Algorithm Update
The smaller of these two clients, a cannabis sector start-up got a boost from the Medic update. The other client site, a top 3 Global site in vaping ecommerce— and a first mover in the space—was receiving 85,000 visits a month and jumped to 225,000 visits after the October update. They are now 360,000 visits from just Google organic search in January 2019.
What We Learned From The Fall Update
There is very, very little consensus on how to “dial up” optimization efforts for YMYL websites after the fall of 2018 change. In fact, the only consensus I found from speaking with dozens of top SEOs since then is that they can’t isolate factors. Where they‑ and I— agree is it heavily relies on machine learning. For SEO to succeed with the new Expertise, Trust, Authority (E.A.T) signals Google hones in on, a website needs to check as many boxes— do not go all in on one possible signal— that could be affected by a self-learning algorithm. ClickStream’s vaping client is a highly unusual case study. The site has some clear differences and so clear similarities with its competitors. Here’s the good that could only have helped.
- They have one of the most successful Google My Business profiles. Without giving away secret sauce, this is clearly a big box to check yes for you. Google does not own the 1000s of business listing websites where people try to get links and citations. So, go crazy on your local listing website citations and with review sites if you like. But, first and foremost there is one place Google has total and complete control over ratings and other information about your company: Their Google My Business product. The data they own on your listing and reviews there is totally reliable for their algorithms. For your reviews on sites like yelp.com? Not so much — 5x less.
- Our client’s biggest competitor had a problem showing the main headquarters in more than one location. In fact, over the past 3 years of working with “YMYL” sector sites, it was clear this company had a potential problem. Also, their “about us” and listing citations didn’t read as a truly transparent persona. This site got hit hard by the fall 2018 algo updates.
- As mentioned, ClickStream’s client was one of the 1st successful eTail sites for vaping. They had technical challenges as all sites with quick changing, large inventory do, but in the three years we did their SEO, there was never “aggressive” optimizing. Keyword optimization and link outreach were never rushed. Their links were “natural” to the naked eye, and if indeed Google is now using machine learning, they have a far more strict “sniff test” for judging if a site has too much influence on how they got their links.
- Our client had a very long-term track record. None of the of the sites new to their sector in the last three years got a remotely similar boost. With their successful competitors, link building was done on a bigger scale over time. Too big, in my opinion.
Content marketing for a site in the marijuana sector in 2019, for example, is now very different than for sites about Victorian literature: you will probably survive bad advice about the latter, but if you turn to CBD and terpenes to help treat cancer, bad advice could put you in a very, very bad place. Building Expertise, Authority, and Trust for websites in these your-money-or-your life sectors requires bleeding edge strategy. This is not your father’s SEO anymore.
Please come back to this page in the next two weeks for the more information on what we learned about these changes for health and finance websites, as well as the template I created for SEO audits to check E.A.T signals for YMYL websites. Please sign up for our newsletter if you’d like to be notified.