In the recently publicized Google Search Quality Ratings Guide, the handbook used by Google's quality raters, there has been much discussion and speculation over a section Google calls "Your Money or Your Life".
Google Search Quality Ratings: Your Money or Your Life
Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) pages are specific web pages that Google wants quality raters to hold to a higher "Page Quality" (PQ) standard than other types of web pages. They are called YMYL pages because they can directly influence your money or your life, hence the name. From the guide:
There are some pages for which PQ is particularly important. We call these pages Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) pages. They are pages that can have an impact on your current or future well being (physical, financial, safety, etc.). YMYL pages should come from reputable websites and the content should be created with a high level of expertise and authority.
Contrary to popular belief, Google didn't actually add the "Your Money or Your Life" to their Google search quality ratings handbook in version 4.2, as has been reported elsewhere. It was in the previous version, 4.1, dated March 29, 2013, which has been shared among SEOs for several months, but not publicly reported on. No changes were made specifically to the YMYL section between versions 4.1 and 4.2.
But why should webmasters be concerned or even care about YMYL page quality rankings? Well Google says the ratings quality raters assign to web page don't directly influence web rankings http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2172154/How-Google-Uses-Human-Raters-in-Organic-Search.
To learn more about exactly what the quality raters do, Google released the above video last year discussing specifically what the quality raters do and don't do in the capacity of their jobs. Do keep in mind though that this video was released 18 months ago, so things could have changed from Google's perspective.
Should You Worry About YMYL?
At first glance, you might feel like this new YMYL quality rating won't affect your website, because of Google's initial description that these are sites and pages that "have an impact on your current or future well-being (physical, financial, safety, etc.)". So naturally, people think of sites such as their banks or medical sites such as WebMD.com, the types of sites that we generally associate with either having high-security or very high quality and researched information. However, this actually impacts many more webmasters who might be running tiny ecommerce sites.
Google gives examples of what they see as types of YMYL pages:
- Pages soliciting personal information, such as personal identification numbers, bank account numbers, driver's license numbers, etc., which could be used for identify theft.
- Pages used for monetary transactions, on which users might give their credit account or bank account information; for example any page that allows you to buy something.
- Pages offering medical or health information that could impact your physical well being.
- Pages offering advice on major life decisions, such as pages on parenting, purchasing a home, a vehicle, etc.
- Pages offering advice on major life issues that could impact your future happiness and finances, such as pages giving legal or financial advice.
The key part being "any page that allows you to buy something". Suddenly, YMYL affects a wide percentage of websites, and that is definitely well beyond what the first impression of a YMYL website would be. And raters are asked to determine whether a site should be considered a YMYL site as soon as they land on the page
Google also talks about how important it is that there are certain elements to a website, particularly if the landing page is considered a YMYL page. Specifically, they ask their quality raters:
- To find the homepage of the website when they are rating an internal landing page.
- If the purpose of the internal landing page is consistent with the purpose of the homepage.
- Who is responsible for the content of the website?
- Who is responsible for the content on the page.
- Is there appropriate contact information?
- What is the website's reputation?
- Is the homepage updated and/or maintained?
How to Get YMYL Pages Rated Highly
So what do webmasters need to do to ensure that if they have a site with pages that could be considered a YMYL page, so that they will be rated highly?
Again, while Google has publicly said that how quality raters rate your site won't have a direct impact on your rankings, but these types of things could be incorporated into the algorithm, if it hasn't already been done.
For best SEO practices, these are the areas the webmaster should be looking at, and making any necessary updates or changes in order to meet them.
Finding the Homepage
If someone is to land on your homepage, can they easily find your homepage in a single click? Traditionally, this is with the logo at the top of the page, but sometimes is simply a link that says home, such as with the breadcrumb setup.
What is the Purpose?
If someone lands on a randomly chosen internal webpage on your site, can someone make the assumption that the purpose of that landing page is consistent with the purpose of the homepage?
For example, if you end up on an internal landing page about NHL goalies, you would expect that the homepage would be something to do with hockey, or on the broader spectrum, sports. You wouldn't expect to end up on the homepage that would lead you to believe the entire website is about gardening.
Ensure that your message and purpose is consistent throughout the site
Who is Responsible?
Make sure that your footer has appropriate copyright information, so that greater could easily see the company behind the website. On content, you can go further and include things such as the author name from each article.
Appropriate Contact Information
Ensure the your website has a way for visitors to find out more information about how to get in touch with someone from the website, whether it's a "contact us" page, an "about us" page, or (in the case of a parent company) a link to a corporate site. But make sure that anyone who lands on your website can easily find your contact information.
Do you have a reputation, whether good, bad. or ugly? If you have a great reputation, be sure to highlight that.
If your website has good reviews, you have great star ratings on review sites, you've done things like speaking at events or been somehow recognized as an expert, make sure that visitors to your site can easily find this information. Other things to think about include positive feedback and recommendations, as well as endorsements by experts.
If you have a new site, and you haven't built up a great reputation, Google cautions the raters that smaller sites might not have a lot in the way of reputation, but you definitely want to keep your reputation as high as possible.
Homepage Updated and/or Maintained?
This is an area where some websites fall down, because even though the website is actively updated and maintained, sometimes that might not be completely obvious from the homepage.
Make sure that your website carries the current copyright date, as it is easy to forget to update that footer to the current year, especially if you don't have a template that does every page of once.
Update the homepage with relevant current content, which can be something as simple and fast as putting up Halloween content in October or Valentine's Day content at the start of February. You definitely don't want to have a link to a Fourth of July related article front and center on your homepage in November.
While you don't have to make a point of updating something every single day, just make sure it's relevant to the time of year, and you keep your dates updated.
If you have an ecommerce site, make it a priority to ensure that if a quality rater was to land on any of your internal pages, that they could answer the questions or complete the tasks discussed above. Even if you don't have an ecommerce site or a site that could be considered a YMYL site, following the advice above is also good for usability and gives your visitors a better user experience.
You always have to go on the assumption that what Google is having quality raters look at could have an impact on the algorithm, whether now or in the future. Make sure you follow best practices as set out by Google, and that you meet all the specific things that Google is explicitly having their quality raters look for when dealing with a site that should held to higher quality than other web pages.