Google’s quality content warning to medical, legal and financial copywriters

Google has issued a clear warning about the importance of quality content to medical, legal and financial Highwayman representing Google's 'Your Money or Your Life' quality content guidelinescopywriters via its new Search Quality Rater’s Guidelines. [Well, in actual fact, these guidelines have always existed, but until recently they hadn’t been leaked in full – thanks SEMPost!]

Of particular note for copywriters in these sectors is Google’s stipulation about ‘Your Money or Your Life’ (YMYL) pages, i.e. any pages that discuss a person’s wealth or health, such as medical directories or personal finance portals. If you’re a copywriter writing about a qualifying issue, or a brand operating in a relevant sector, you’ll want to brush up on the full impact of these new rules.

What is a Search Quality Rater?

For those who are unfamiliar with the inner workings of the mysterious search engine behemoth, Google employs a team of people whose job is to analyse and score a sample of real web pages that have been ranked by its algorithm.

According to Google’s Mimi Underwood, “ratings from evaluators do not determine individual site rankings, but are used help us understand our experiments.”

Underwood clarified that the document is regularly updated “as search, and how people use it, changes.”

As such, the guidelines issued to Google’s Search Quality Raters can be considered a reliable source of information for marketers wanting to find out how to make their content Google-friendly.

Your Money or Your Life – what you need to know

‘Your money or your life’ may be a term once coined by highwaymen, but today it’s used by Google to describe pages of content that discuss subjects that have an impact on our lives. Such pages are held to a higher-than-average standard because of their importance to the people who read them.

Google’s position is that if it discovers low quality content that can “potentially negatively impact users’ happiness, health, or wealth,” this will be penalised more harshly than a badly-written article about fashion accessories, for example.

If you’re wondering whether this applies to the type of content that you publish on your website – keep reading.

Five key areas covered by YMYL

Google has outlined five key areas which are covered by the YMYL category. Any copywriting content which falls into these five areas needs to be of the highest quality:

  1. Financial information pages – everything from taxes and investments to insurance and buying a home
  2. Shopping and financial transaction pages – This doesn’t just cover online banking and bill payment sites, it also includes any online store with an ecommerce function
  3. Medical information pages – Pages on topics such as health and nutrition as well as pages providing information on medical matters, including specific conditions and diseases
  4. Legal pages – Google has a broad definition of what constitutes legal copywriting, and it tends to categorise all types of legal information pages as falling under YMYL, including topics like immigration, divorce, child custody, and even some property construction issues
  5. ‘Other’ pages – There are a variety of other pages which don’t fall into these categories but are still classed as YMYL pages. Any page where the content could negatively impact the reader’s health, wealth and happiness, such as pages on car safety, fitness or even child adoption, are included

EAT to ensure that you’re generating quality content

Google’s YMYL rules will impact financial, medical and legal copywriters, as well as anyone else creating online content that could significantly impact somebody’s life. So, how do you ensure that you’re generating quality content that aligns with Google’s aims?

Fortunately, Google has provided a handy acronym: E-A-T, representing Expertise / Authoritativeness / Trustworthiness. Here’s how we recommend you use this as a checklist for your YMYL content:

Expertise

Why is the author an expert in the subject under discussion? Why should a reader trust your site’s advice over and above someone else’s? Are all quoted facts properly sourced and referenced?

Authoritativeness

Why should your website be trusted by Google? Is it well-established? Does it employ expert authors? (See above point!)

Trustworthiness

Does your content inspire trust and confidence in its readers? (Yes, this one’s a bit vague, but there are lots of things a manual search rater might object to, like broken links, poor formatting, or a site that looks patchy or neglected).

Conclusion – good news for medical, legal and financial websites

Although the existence of a separate set of rules for the medical, legal and financial sectors may seem intimidating, it should be considered good news because, in Underwood’s words, “the guidelines reflect what Google thinks search users want.”

Not many sectors have access to such a clear overview of what the world’s biggest search engine, and its users, are looking for. So, if you’re promoting such a website, make sure you remember to EAT your YMYL content, for your best possible positions in Google’s search results.