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Your Money or Your Life: Google Search Quality Ratings for Healthcare

When one thinks about the number of websites and online content available today, it is mind-boggling – akin perhaps, to thinking about where the universe begins and ends. On top of that, the competition is fiercer than ever to achieve the coveted top spot (or at least, on the first page) of Google Search results. 

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Earlier this year, Google, the arbiter of all that ranks highest – or lowest – online, released its most recent version of the “Google Search Quality Ratings Guide.” In a mere 146 pages (down from 160 pages last year), Google offers valuable insights into what they view as quality, and how they evaluate the pages that end up at the top of their search results.

One of the most interesting aspects of the ranking process is that Google employs real people to evaluate web pages according to its guidelines, and then fine tunes their search formula to match how these in the flesh humans have scored the content on a number of detailed factors. 

One of the areas called out in Google’s Search Quality Ratings Guide is entitled, “Your Money or Your Life,” or YMYL pages. These are defined as pages that are held to Google’s highest standards because the content contained therein can greatly impact a person’s life. For example, while anyone can create a webpage about specific medical conditions or health information (as well as other life-impacting topics such as financial planning or child care), Google’s guidelines help ensure that these types of pages are as high-quality as possible. 

Alternatively, the guide notes that, if low-quality pages on these topics could “potentially negatively impact users’ happiness, health or wealth,” then they do not merit high rankings from Google. In fact, web pages or sites that fit into these subject areas (the complete list includes medical information, shopping or financial transactions, financial information, legal information and an all-encompassing “other” category) will be held to a higher standard than sites such as celebrity fan pages or instructions for boiling water, for example. 

Let’s look at medical information pages, one of the five areas within the YMYL category. Specifically, Google considers these types of pages to extend well beyond standard medical conditions and pharmaceuticals to include areas such as nutrition and specific niche health sites for those suffering from certain diseases or conditions. If you own a website or have pages that fall within these areas, make sure you’re supporting content with references, expert opinions or helpful supplemental content to raise your overall Google search quality rating. 

Other criteria that Google uses to assess a website’s overall value is referred to as E-A-T: Expertise/Authoritativeness/Trustworthiness. When evaluating the overall quality of a website or web page, particularly those that fall under the YMYL category, readers are asked to rate whether or not a site is lacking in these three qualities.

A good rule of thumb for demonstrating expertise and achieving SEO in general: make sure to showcase significant expertise on your site/pages either for yourself or contributors. Make sure to highlight how you have developed your expertise, such as experience gleaned, relevant education, certifications and other achievements.

To show authoritativeness, use the top authorities available on a topic. And, while no degrees are given for trustworthiness, Google wants raters to determine if a site is something they can trust, or if they have trouble believing what the website is telling them.

Like diplomas hanging on a physician’s wall, every website should either show how their site has a high E-A-T value or what can be done to elevate it. Consider bringing contributors on-board or updating areas such as author bios and “about us” pages. 

When someone lands on your web page and notices that it has a high E-A-T value, it tells them that your content provides a strong authoritative resource for their needs. Also, they are much more likely to recommend or share the site with others because they are confident in sharing trusted, accurate information within their circles. 

In the end, the higher the quality of content you provide and post, the more likely your site will make it onto the first page of search results for relevant keywords.