When people use Google to inquire about sensitive topics related to their life and livelihood, they want to know that what they find is credible. Google refers to pages that “could potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users” as Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) pages. This phrase isn’t a threat like in a hold’em-up robbery scene, but instead exactly what it says – pages of content that can affect “your money” or “your life.”
We will review some of the stricter guidelines for these pages and how you can ensure the Google algorithm and quality raters will view your content positively.
When did Google Introduce YMYL Guidelines?
Google first used the YMYL acronym in its June 2013 version of search quality evaluator guidelines. “YMYL pages should come from reputable websites, and the content should be created with a high level of expertise and authority,” per Section 7.2 of the 2013 Google search quality evaluator guidelines. The YMYL guideline category was officially implemented in 2014, along with their E-A-T quality guidelines.
There is a wide variety of topics and pages online that influence users in any number of ways. Topics and pages likely to significantly impact a user’s life are considered “high quality” by Google’s quality raters. High levels of expertise and authority are expected from this content as these YMYL topics can cause harm to
- The individual who views the content
- Other people affected by the individual who views the content
- Groups of people affected by the actions of those who viewed the content
In the July 2022 update of the quality guidelines, Google clarified which topics fall under the YMYL umbrella.
Examples of YMYL Categories
Google’s algorithm considers many types of content as YMYL. And it’s not confined to one industry or genre. While there is no comprehensive index of what is or is omitted, the types of content that are generally considered YMYL is
- Advice about an activity
- A personal opinion
- News about current events
- Sharing on social media
- Online commerce and product reviews
Utilizing Google’s E-E-AT guidelines for quality content is recommended if your content touches on any of these topics. Your content is reviewed for three categories – Clear YMYL topic, May be a YMYL topic, and Not or Unlikely a YMYL topic.
The big question that raters consider for informative content is whether this content can cause significant harm from inaccurate information. When hurricanes come through Florida and the state issues evacuation orders, this information falls into the clear YMYL topic category. Suppose you’re planning a day trip to Universal Studios and want to know how hot the day will be. In that case, the information you get might be considered a YMYL topic. You can ask for this information from a friend or family member and receive similar answers. It won’t necessarily impact your life in the long run aside from, maybe, a nasty sunburn. Pages about the creator of Mickey Mouse (Walt Disney) or lists of Oscar award winners are not considered YMYL topics.
Advice About an Activity
Pages that provide advice about activities is a bit trickier to categorize as a YMYL topic. The main question here is whether significant harm can result from poor advice. If you’re unsure if you’re having an allergic reaction to a bee sting, for example, locating the nearest emergency room or urgent care can mean life or death. Emergency medical advice is clearly a YMYL topic concerning life or death. Water filters are commonplace in many homes, and when you should replace these is a question that can be discussed with your friends and family. Delaying replacing your filter won’t necessarily cause significant harm. Still, it could cause your water to taste funny if you put it off for too long. The frequency that you wash your car is unlikely to be a YMYL topic but a personal preference.
A Personal Opinion
Our society is full of different opinions that sometimes get heated. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, sure. Still, the impact these opinions have on other people and society is a sensitive category that Google looks at carefully. Blogs and forums that discuss why a religion, race, or nation is superior or inferior to others are flagged negatively by Google raters for the radical potentiality of inciting harm or violence. A post about the personal benefits of jogging over swimming may or may not be a YMYL topic. The merits of steak, pork, portabella mushrooms, or tofu on a grill is not a YMYL topic but a preference that varies from person to person.
News About Current Events
This is where journalistic integrity is a major factor that Google pays specific attention to E-E-A-T factors. The big question they ask about content for this category is the content’s potential for societal impact. Will your content influence trust in public institutions that benefit society? If a protest is happening outside the city council, people want to know that it’s safe to be in the area at that time. Say there was a car accident on I-4, a delay in updating news about the cleanup of the accident won’t necessarily affect the safety of drivers on the same highway. Let’s say the Solar Bears won their hockey game! Sports news is unlikely to cause harm to anyone’s livelihood outside of joy or disappointment from hardcore fans.
Sharing on Social Media
Similar to personal opinions, posts made through social media accounts are carefully monitored for their impact on individuals and society if widely shared. I’m sure we all remember the tide pod challenge. Challenge posts that involve non-consumable products are flagged heavily as YMYL topics since they have historically been responsible for deaths. Other challenge posts, like First We Feast’s hot sauce challenges, fall into the may or not be category. While spicy foods might cause extreme discomfort and indigestion, your life will not likely be at risk. Sharing music videos or fun TikTok videos typically does not count as a YMYL topic.
Online Commerce and Product Reviews
E-commerce and product reviews fall into the YMYL category depending on the product. Medical products and prescription drugs have higher scrutiny than vehicles or clothing. Prescriptions must go through a licensed pharmacy, for example, as dosage requires specific medical examination and determination for each individual. You can discuss the benefits of compression socks with your physicians, friends, or family members. A mechanical pencil is a personal preference, and reviews by others have little to no harmful impact on your or others’ lives from purchasing this product.
Does Your Non-YMYL Content Affect Your YMYL Content?
Whether the content on your site covers sensitive topics, trivial topics, or everything in between, the moment you post YMYL content, Google considers all of your other content. Having a variety of information is not necessarily a bad thing. Still, it does pose a challenge for Google to figure out how to refer to your website on its SERP. We recommend separating these areas on your site into their own subfolder or subdomain to define your topics for search engines and site visitors clearly.
Having low-quality content gives Google the impression that your site isn’t trustworthy. Low-quality content can include
- A lack of E-A-T standards
- Dramatic titles or headings
- Distracting or numerous ads
- Lack of contact information
- Contradictory conclusions to expert consensus
- Offensive or hateful language on your page or in your comments section
Reviewing and revising your older content to meet E-E-A-T standards will put your YMYL content and site as a whole in a better position. The question is, where do you start?
Refresh your older content
You can always review and improve your site to meet Google’s qualification ratings in several ways. Refreshing your content helps boost your SEO and helps Google understand your site better. Information and data are always changing. Stay on top of updates in your industry and include these updates in older content, so your readers have the most current information available.
Remove low-quality content
Sometimes, removing lower-quality or controversial content entirely is the best thing you can do for your site. In other cases, adding authoritative references, contracting experts to guest write, or updating author bios with their certifications will freshen the page and add credibility.
Keep an eye on public comments
Reviews impact your SEO and Google’s quality ratings of your brand, product, and services. Carefully monitor comments on your YMYL pages and provide additional information to positive and negative reviews to build trust in your viewers and Google. You can edit your content based on feedback from comments to enhance your viewpoints and grow your authority on the topic.
Take another look at your sources
The sources you use for information are key to your page’s authority and trustworthiness. Vetting your sources, whether from another website or someone you’ve interviewed, be sure to include their qualifications to speak on the subject. Accurately cite your sources, so your site viewers have the opportunity to trust you through fact-checking. This includes being as thoroughly descriptive as possible with your information. YMYL content will fail in quality ratings when misinformation or misdirection is present in your content which risks your credibility and ranking potential. Address and clarify possible misconceptions proactively, cite statistics, and mention counterarguments to show your expertise.
Meeting guidelines with an expert eye
When it comes to YMYL categories, Google goes to great lengths to try and only rank the most authoritative and helpful content. While you most likely understand the landscape where you want to rank, getting there under Google’s strict YMYL and E-E-A-T guidelines takes a team effort. As pioneers of the Google landscape since 2005, My Website Spot knows how to navigate these guidelines and improve your SEO rankings.
We are always willing to provide FREE advice. If you have any questions, need assistance with how to get started on a new website project, or just want to give us feedback on this article, We’d love to hear from you! Drop us a line, and we’ll get in touch!