Show of hands if you’d watch a reality show called “Your Money or Your Life.” I mean, who wouldn’t?! I can picture the beautiful, backstabbing cast now. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), in this edition of Plain Talk, we’ll talk about how Google protects your money and your life when you’re searching online. More importantly, we’ll discuss what type of content Google expects from you as a business with a website that impacts consumers. Welcome to the world of YMYL – Google’s guidelines for websites that can impact a person’s quality of life. Learn what it is, why it matters, and how to make sure you’re implementing it on your website.
What is YMYL?
YMYL, which stands for “Your Money or Your Life,” is a concept introduced by Google to categorize certain types of web content. YMYL refers to industries that provide information or services that can significantly impact a person’s life, happiness, health, safety, or financial stability. Google holds YMYL sites to higher standards because inaccurate or untrustworthy information in these areas can have serious consequences for users and their well-being.
What determines YMYL content? In section 2.3 of the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (more on this later), Google states:
To determine whether a topic is YMYL, assess the following types of harm that might occur:
- YMYL Health or Safety: Topics that could harm mental, physical, and emotional health or any form of safety, such as physical safety or safety online.
- YMYL Financial Security: Topics that could damage a person’s ability to support themselves and their families.
- YMYL Society: Topics that could negatively impact groups of people, issues of public interest, trust in public institutions, etc.
- YMYL Other: Topics that could hurt people or negatively impact the welfare or well-being of society.
Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
YMYL and Non-YMYL Websites
In other words, YMYL categories encompass a wide array of subjects, including legal advice, safety procedures, and news reporting. So, it’s not just about money or health; it’s about any information you put on your website that deeply impacts people’s lives. Here are some examples of industries or topics that fall under YMYL:
- Health and Wellness
- Finance and Banking
- Legal Services
- E-commerce (Most importantly, those related to health, safety, or significant financial investments)
- News and Current Events
- Real Estate
- Government and Public services
- Job Recruitment and Career Advice
- Mental Health and Therapy
- Pharmaceuticals, Healthcare, and Medical Advice
- Home Improvement and Safety
- Social Services
And (because I know you’re wondering) here are some examples of non-YMYL industries and topics:
- Travel and Tourism
- Food and Cooking
- Fashion and Beauty
- Lifestyle and Home Decor
- Sports and Fitness
- Technology and Gadgets
- Hobbies and Crafts
- Humor and Satire
- Pets and Animals
- History and Culture
- Gardening and Agriculture
- Weather and Meteorology
How Google Determines User Safety and Information Credibility
Keep in mind that Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. That means that as the largest search engine, it has a responsibility to provide users with accurate, reliable, and trustworthy information. Here’s how Google ensures user safety and credibility of information.
Algorithm Updates: Google constantly updates its search algorithms to improve the relevance and reliability of search results. Google updates—like Panda, Penguin, Medic update, and, more recently, the Helpful Content update—aim to filter out low-quality content and promote high-quality, credible information.
E-E-A-T Guidelines: By emphasizing experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) in web content, Google assures users receive reliable information in critical areas such as health, finance, and legal matters on search engine results pages (SERPs). While following E-E-A-T is essential for all content, it’s especially important for YMYL websites.
Quality Raters and Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines: Did you know Google employs humans (in addition to using bots) who also assess search results and websites based on specific guidelines? Google’s Quality Raters evaluate the relevance, expertise, and trustworthiness of web pages using guidelines published by Google. Their feedback helps the search engine refine its algorithms to provide users with better, more reliable results.
Content Policies: Google has strict policies against content that promotes hate speech, violence, or misinformation. Websites that violate these policies can be penalized or removed from search results, providing a safer online environment for users.
Partnerships and Initiatives: Google (and YouTube) collaborate with fact-checking organizations and support initiatives to combat misinformation and promote media literacy. These partnerships contribute to a more informed online community.
Why Google Prioritizes YMYL Content in Search Algorithms
YMYL content encompasses topics related to areas where accurate and trustworthy information is paramount. Here are a few reasons why Google’s guidelines give special attention to YMYL.
User Trust and Safety: Google’s primary concern is user safety. By prioritizing YMYL, Google ensures that users receive credible and reliable information when making decisions related to their health, finances, or safety. This builds trust in Google’s search results and the overall internet ecosystem.
Credibility and Expertise: YMYL topics often require expertise from professionals, such as doctors, financial advisors, or legal experts. Google’s algorithms assess the experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) of websites to ensure users are directed to content from reliable sources.
Ethical Responsibility: Google acknowledges its ethical responsibility to provide accurate information, especially when it can influence significant life decisions. Prioritizing YMYL content aligns with Google’s commitment to promoting responsible and trustworthy online content.
Regulatory Compliance: In many countries, there are regulations and standards regarding the information provided in YMYL categories. By prioritizing credible sources, Google ensures compliance with these regulations, enhancing the legal and ethical integrity of its search results.
User Experience: Providing high-quality, credible information enhances the overall user experience. When users can trust the information they find, they are more likely to continue using Google’s search services, leading to increased user satisfaction and retention.
Combatting Misinformation: By emphasizing reliable sources in YMYL content, Google actively combats misinformation. Misleading information in these critical areas can have severe consequences, so Google’s focus on accuracy helps in preventing the spread of false or harmful information.
How to Follow YMYL Guidelines on Your Website
Now for the secret sauce. Section 4.2 of Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines states, “The quality (emphasis added) of the main content is one of the most important criteria in Page Quality rating and informs the E-E-A-T of the page.” Later, it goes on to state that in order to follow their guidelines for YMYL, we must create “a satisfying amount of high-quality content.”
Okay, great. So, what does that mean, exactly? Amanda Walls, founder of Cedarwood Digital, explains it this way: “It’s about ensuring that the content you have is factually correct and that you have enough factually correct content to answer the users’ questions, purpose, and intent.”
This approach to creating content is a win-win-win for you, your audience, and Google because this is the heart of content marketing—a “type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.”
Here are some tips for website owners, designers, and content creators to not only comply with YMYL standards but also create killer content in the process.
Create High-Quality Content: Your SEO strategy (actually, your entire digital marketing strategy) should prioritize creating in-depth, accurate, and comprehensive content that is well-researched, up-to-date, and presented in a clear, understandable manner. When creating content, Walls encourages you to ask yourself:
- Is my page factually correct?
- Is it regularly refreshed/updated?
- Is it supported by trusted (external) links or reviewed by an expert?
- Does the length of the page give enough information to inform the user and answer their questions?
Focus on E-E-A-T: Establish your experience and expertise, showcase your authority in your field, and build trust with your audience. This can be achieved through answering questions, providing helpful information, author bios, professional credentials, and transparent disclosure of sources.
Match User Intent: Why is a user coming to your website? Give them what they need early on, and make it clear that the purpose of your page matches what they’re looking for. It can be as simple as including a definition at the top of the page.
Author Your Pages: If you’re in a YMYL industry, I’m afraid asking your intern or ChatGPT to bang out some blog posts just won’t do. Following the Quality Rater Guidelines means you must highlight who the content is written or reviewed by and that the person is qualified to do so.
Develop Author Bios: Include clear and detailed author bios that establish expertise and authority and include professional credentials. Link to these bios from the content.
Consult Subject Matter Experts (SMEs): Ensure content is created or reviewed by experts in the field, showcasing their qualifications and experience.
Trust signals like links to these SME author bios help Investopedia build credibility with Google and users alike.
Prove Citations From Credible Sources: Use reputable, trustworthy sources and cite them properly using external links to support the information you provide. Make sure any websites you link to have high authority and page rank.
Fact-Check Content: Verify all information to ensure accuracy and avoid spreading misinformation. If possible, add a link to your fact-checker’s author bio from the content.
Utilize Multimedia: Engaging multiple elements, such as videos and infographics, can enhance the user experience and improve content quality.
Implement FAQs: Your target audience has questions—be the one to answer them before your competitors do! Showcase your expertise and implement FAQs either site-wide or, ideally, on pages.
Include User Reviews/Testimonials: User-generated content (UGC) can enhance the credibility of your website; just make sure to review it carefully for accuracy.
Perform Regular Content Updates: It’s not always necessary to create new content. Keep content up-to-date, particularly in fast-changing fields like health and finance.
Be Transparent: Be transparent about your company and its purpose. Your About page is a great place to do this. How else would they be able to find out about your brand and why they should do business with you?
Provide Contact Information: Give your audience the ability to contact you easily through a variety of options: email, phone, online chat, etc.
Employ a User-Friendly Design: YMYL guidelines indirectly emphasize user experience. Make certain your website is user-friendly, easy to navigate, loads fast, includes clear calls-to-action, and is mobile-responsive for a positive UX.
Secure Your Website: Use HTTPS to secure the website, providing a safe browsing experience for users.
Test Functionality: Testing the functionality of your website is very important from a trust perspective. Does the shopping cart function? Does a video play? Does the website work how it should and give a level of interactivity?
Check Your Online Reputation: What are others saying about your company? Does it have a positive reputation? Google and its quality raters are looking at this as well. An easy way to find out is to perform a Google search like so: [band name] -site:yourwebsite.com. This removes any results that are from your own website and allows you to see other places where your brand is mentioned.
Check Your External Reviews: Follow the same steps above, but enter the following into the search bar: [brand name] reviews -site:yourwebsite.com. This will return results on sites like Yelp, Trustpilot, and other places where people may have reviewed your products or services.
Amp Up Your Digital PR With Link Building: Your digital PR efforts play a big role in building your external credibility, especially because it’s coming from websites that aren’t your own. You can say you’re the best company in the world, but Google is looking for signals that others think so, too. Walls offers three ways to go about link building for YMYL websites:
- Thought leadership: Push topical content generated by your in-house SME out to media outlets.
- Newsjacking: Tie your content or message to a current news event or pop culture phenomenon.
- Reverse digital PR: Create content and data hubs that journalists need to write stories and have them come to you.
Avoid Sensationalism: Refrain from using sensational or exaggerated language, especially in health and financial content.
Disclose Relationships: If content involves sponsored or affiliate links, clearly disclose these relationships to the audience.
Avoid Conflicts of Interest: Minimize conflicts of interest and provide objective information to users.
Review On-page Marketing: If advertising is present, confirm it is ethical and does not compromise the integrity of the content.
Ensure Legal Compliance: Comply with all applicable laws and regulations, especially in fields like finance and healthcare.
Engage an SEO Expert: When in doubt, consult with an SEO professional (like yours truly) to review your YMYL pages and provide recommendations.
How YMYL Guidelines Affect Your SEO Strategy
YMYL guidelines necessitate a holistic approach to SEO, emphasizing not only keyword research and optimization and backlinks but also the quality, accuracy, and trustworthiness of the content. Websites that produce high-quality YMYL content are more likely to rank higher in search results, increasing their visibility to users seeking reliable information. It takes a combination of all four areas of SEO—on-site, off-site, technical, and UX/content—to be successful. By adhering to these guidelines, YMYL websites can enhance their credibility, provide a better user experience, and improve their search engine rankings in YMYL niches. This helps foster user trust and confidence in the information searchers find, ultimately enhancing the overall quality of their online experience.
However, YMYL isn’t just about SEO or fabulous content. At its core is the need to create a positive user experience on your website that’s rooted in trust and reliability. This is why you must take proactive steps in prioritizing the credibility of your content.
If you’re looking for expert-led SEO, content, web design, and PR/social services or just want to talk about the complexities of YMYL guidelines, send us a message or give us a call at (502) 499-4209. Our team can help you create a digital presence that not only meets YMYL standards but also provides your users with the trustworthy information they seek.