How Has Google’s August Broad Core Algorithm Update Affected Local Business Websites?

How Has Google’s August Broad Core Algorithm Update Affected Local Business Websites?
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TL;DR
  • On August 1st, 2018, Google released a broad core algorithm update that seems to have had an impact on both local and organic rankings.
  • One of the functions of the update has been to demote advice pages with questionable expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) in rankings.
  • YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) websites and pages seem to have been a particular focus.

You’ll no doubt have noticed, whether from reading the news or experiencing its effects yourself, that on August 1st, Google released what it’s called a ‘broad core algorithm’ update. This is the same way it referred to the updates in March and April, perhaps in an effort to move away from the irregular, major updates like Possum, Pigeon, Panda, etc. which inevitably send shockwaves throughout the SEO and content industry.

In characteristic fashion, Google has refrained from supplying any kind of context or intended function for the update, and as usual has instead referred back to advice they provided over Twitter in March, namely that site owners should continue to continue to focus on ‘building great content’.

As a content creator myself, I can tell you this advice is as vague as it comes, particularly as there’s no standard definition of ‘great content’ and what works in one industry can be entirely different to what works in another.

While we wait for every SEO in the land to feverishly check ranking changes, we can thank our lucky stars that there’s such a dedicated community of local SEO professionals out there to help fill in the gaps left by Google. Here I’ll group together some of the sterling analysis and case studies presented by these stalwarts of SEO.

N.b. At the time of writing, we’ve no widely accepted name for this update, so I’ve proffered ‘Peacock’, as it’s about website content that acts as if it has more authority on a topic than it actually does. More on this below. (Update: Since publication, the name ‘Google Medic Update’ has been widely accepted as the moniker for this update. Ah well, maybe next time?)

What are Local SEOs saying about Google’s latest algorithm update?

Although initially the community wasn’t sure whether the update had affected local pack rankings, Sterling Sky‘s Joy Hawkins soon found evidence of a big change in local pack rankings:

And that was just the start. After more digging, Joy discovered that the update had affected rankings across both local and organic:

It’s still early days with this update, and no doubt more data will come to light, but one thing anyone running multi-location websites will want to know is whether it will affect one or two of their local websites or have an impact across the board:

Later on, Marie Haynes and others discovered that the update had particularly negatively affected YMYL websites, with a particular focus on E-A-T (more on these in a bit):

Before we get into the types of sites we’re seeing negatively affected, I just want to recommend reading Marie’s excellent blog on the update, and also encourage you to get involved in the conversation on the Local Search Forum.

After all, it’s only through working together that our merry band of local SEOs can really get to the bottom of what’s changed and, crucially, start to adjust our strategies if required.

What is E-A-T in SEO?

E-A-T stands for ‘expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness’ and plays a big part in Google’s Search Quality Guidelines. I’m going to assume you don’t have the time right now to read the 164-page PDF I just linked to, so I’ll summarise this for you here.

Making expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness big factors in Page Quality is Google’s way of trying to avoid negatively impacting people’s lives. By ranking sites that offer questionable advice from non-authoritative sources lower than more authoritative ones, they reduce the risk of searchers being scammed, or in more extreme cases, suffering worse physical and mental health.

For example, as Google states in its guidelines, with regard to medical sites,

“High E-A-T medical advice should be written or produced by people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. High E-A-T medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis.”

This approach extends to news articles (something that’s particularly relevant these days), information pages, financial/legal/tax advice, home improvement sites, and even pages on hobbies such as photography or musicianship.

Qualifying a website or content creator’s expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, without performing deep research into authors’ experience or qualifications, is highly subjective, so it’s assumed that Googlers have a way of fairly quickly assessing these factors for millions of websites.

In this update, it would seem that websites with low E-A-T are being hit the hardest, so if you’re working with a local business with a tendency to overreach their expertise with their site content, you’ll want to look carefully at its site rankings and assess whether it’s time to find another way to highlight the worth of the site and business.

UPDATE: It seems that the Google Medic Update goes beyond E-A-T, as shown in this detailed research from CanIRank, who looked at data from 100+ websites to see if there were other trends at play for the sites affected.

What is a YMYL website?

Another term that’s cropping up more since Google’s August core broad algorithm update is YMYL, which stands for ‘Your Money or Your Life’.

What Google calls YMYL websites are closely tied to E-A-T, as they include pages that “could potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users.” YMYL isn’t a statement of quality; it’s more a category of page or website that has the potential to significantly affect someone’s life, for better or for worse.

These include the following (per Google):

  • Shopping or financial transaction pages
  • Financial information pages
  • Medical information pages
  • Legal information pages
  • Legal information pages
  • News articles or public/official information pages important for having an informed citizenry
  • Other (based on evaluator judgment)

I’d encourage you to take a look at page 9 of the Google Search Quality Guidelines for more details on these.

Conclusion

This latest algorithm update, if what we’re seeing from the community is to be believed, may well have been focused on demoting YMYL pages with low E-A-T.

Whilst this will definitely impact websites like forums with low-quality advice, it should be noted that local businesses are just as at risk (as shown by Joy and Marie above) from providing advice that doesn’t come from a place of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

We’d love to hear what you think

Have you seen your clients’ or business’ website rankings suffer in the latest update? Which pages in particular have been affected? As I mentioned above, the more we as a community share our findings, the sooner we can make adjustments that will restore or improve rankings and traffic, so let me know what you’ve found in the comments below!

We’re also planning an upcoming webinar with local search experts Joy Hawkins, Marie Haynes, and Andrew Shotland, to perform a full postmortem into what Google’s latest changes have meant for local businesses. You can catch it here! 

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24 thoughts on “How Has Google’s August Broad Core Algorithm Update Affected Local Business Websites?”

  1. Thanks Jamie..

    I am a seo expert and noticed that my legal projects ranking little bit dropped after this broad core algorithm rather I always follow the google webmaster guide line.. what exactly google want no body know..

  2. I am a blogger and digital marketing expert and i know what google want, i always follow the google guideline
    In-spite of this, my local ranking has dropped little bit, but i will recover it soon..

  3. Remember why Google is where it is now?

    That is because they have an improved algorithm that calculates search results.

    Google will never use Facebook data. We talk about social shares when we talk about Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Tumblr. Unless Google buys Tumblr and starts integrating that data,

    Now obviously, it is still an algorithm. It can make mistakes and it can be gamed once you know what it is and which parts to input, bits to avoid and accept. Google will not be having any interdependence on social platforms like Twitter, or Tumblr, they are not going to run.

    Links are going to change. So the way you would in 2018, it might take even longer. But with the introduction of AI and how Google wants to evolve in the future. Essentially, their goal is to have the algorithm only. Eventually not having to employ thousands of staff that need to keep an eye on the algorithm and hand out manual penalties. If they can automate that, then they are gonna save millions and millions. As a result, they are gonna increase profitability.

    1. Hi Tom, some good insight on the parallel data streams of Google and social. “And never the twain shall meet.” It will be interesting to see how it plays out, as I wonder whether at some point these platforms will ultimately converge. I hope they don’t because can you imagine the amount of power someone would have if they had access to both social and Google data?!

      Yes, as the algorithm gets wiser, links may devalue as this signal would be seen as less sophisticated. SEO (or is it AEO now?) will certainly be changing a lot in the next few years, and I’m both a little apprehensive but also pretty excited to see.

      Jamie

  4. After google august broad core algorithm update, I specially found and examined that now google targeting Search queries on behalf of categories wise. Recently, AUG update known as MEDIC update, which destroy the search market of medical sites on the basis local business website. So now question is which is Next category of Google.

  5. What we found is interesting as we work with several addiction treatment centers and health care providers so they all have a lot of medical content. A few new prospects have approached us saying they were hit with the “medic” update and when we check their rankings, sure enough, huge losses. When we compare the data to our clients who have been investing into quality website content, video, digital assets, etc. we see huge spikes at the same time these other websites lost rankings.

    One client has increased by 75%! So, it appears the strategy we already have in place is working! Quality content and lots of it. If you want to rank, that’s what you have to keep working towards. Having THE best content on the subject being searched.

  6. Hello,

    My blog is in android programming niche.
    Traditionally I am a developer and I am new to SEO field,

    Does programming niche satisfies EAT standards?
    By the way, my rankings are dropping and till now it has dropped by 40% overall.

    I am giving content on android programming on which I am expert, so I can say that my content has quite well quality. I am sure beginners are receiving much help from my blog posts.

    Currently, I am just giving content and backlinks. Should I keep doing these two things or should I think about other techniques?

    What do you suggest according to my niche?

  7. If my page rank drops tremendously for this update then what should i do to bring back my page rank in organic and local as well.

    1. Hi Soumik, that’s a very big question and Google’s answer would be to ‘create great content’.

      My advice would be to look into the pages that are suffering in the rankings and work out if there’s anything specific to those pages that might be bringing the overall site ranking down. This update has obviously affected sites beyond those described above, as Google’s updates are never quite as targeted as they might say, so there’s a huge number of factors that could be affecting your site, unfortunately. Test out new approaches to content and see what works!

      Jamie

  8. Consistently, Google is making search better and better! As an SEO Consultant I feel relaxed & happy thinking, the only thing we have to do is to follow the best practices!

    There will be less competition for Good, Better & Great business in terms of Online Visibility!

    The more updates from Google will come, the better it will be for Businesses those are opting for better practices!

    Kudos to Google!

  9. My site has medical content, but I interview medical professionals for my posts. How does Google know I’m not a doctor? According to what you’re saying, had my posts all concluded with, “By Jane Doe, MD,” the algo update wouldn’t have tanked me? It can’t be that simple. Just because the author isn’t a doctor doesn’t mean it’s low EAT. Does Google expect DOCTORS to write big blogs? Many doctors can’t write, and of those who can, they don’t have the time. So just what does Google expect?

    1. Hi Kristtine,

      That’s a really good question, and I’m afraid right now I don’t have an answer for you. I would argue that if your site regularly shares expert advice for doctors, then Google would perceive the site to be dispensing E-A-T. These factors apply to the website or page itself, rather than the author. You might find more help here: https://www.seoinc.com/seo-blog/what-is-e-a-t/

      Thanks

      Jamie

      1. Thanks Jamie. The doctors who are quoted in my posts are experts in their field. They are fully identified. Many have impressive credentials, not just “Dr. John Smith who has a private practice in Anytown, USA.” Yet my understanding is that the expert HIMSELF has to be the writer, that Google penalizes the messenger. Plus, two cardiologists can say the opposite things about the same topic. Who’s right? Google really messed up.

        I’m also an expert in a branch of health (though not a doctor) and have written extensively within my scope of expertise. As for my own expertise in my field, apparently Google missed that. If I’m an expert in “XYZ” and I give great advice in “XYZ,” what must I say in my posts so that Google knows I’m an expert?

      2. Hi Kristtine,

        As Google looks at the content of a website as a whole and all of the authors contributing when it looks at E-A-T, it sounds like you should be well-covered by your and your contributors’ expertise. As far as I know, there’s nothing in particular you can add to posts to increase E-A-T. As for the varying points of view on the same topic, as long as the advice comes from a place of experience (again, it’s probably best to read the Google guidelines linked to in this post), both points of view should be considered ‘expert’.

        Thanks

        Jamie

    1. Hi Thomes, some of the key players in local SEO have surmised that it’s primarily focused on medical sites, but we’ve seen rankings changes in many other industries, too. I’d say it’s still too early to say exactly what’s been affected.

      Thanks

      Jamie

  10. I have seen this kind of update first time, particularly for medical/health industry. My all website ranking gain, even the branded keywords are not ranking. It is really hard survive like this.

    Some high authority websites, e.g. prevention.com, patient.info see a massive drop in its ranking after update rolling out which follows most of the google guidelines.

    1. Hi Philip, thanks for sharing your experience above. Here’s hoping the update favours those sites with the more authoritative content. As far as I’m aware there isn’t yet a way to specifically look at how well Google considers your websites in terms of E-A-T, but for an early indicator I’d say take a look at their rankings over the last few days. If you’re seeing increases then it’s more than likely they ‘rank’ well for E-A-T!

      Jamie

      1. Good comments and yet another example of Google fumbling in the dark. IMO.

        It would be interesting to see how this would target educational verticals on SERPs.

        I would have thought that this would/should be a priority for Google (ABC).

        Personally speaking I think that writing fresh and up-to-date content whilst linking out (follow) to major authoritative sites to back up your content is the answer.

        Sod this “loosing link juice” gabble. Just supply quality content and be proud of what you publish.

        Local SEO hinges a great deal on social media. Some of our competitors don’t even bother having a website and glean a huge amount of business from the dreaded Facebook” alone.

        Horses for courses.

  11. That’s the best news I’ve heard. I have several websites for my law firm with hundreds of pages of useful and detailed information. I wrote all of the content on the websites and it takes a lot of my time to do that.

    It’s been difficult to rank against other law firm websites with nonsense information. It’s extremely difficult to get good inbound links and I have found the competition has a lot of inbound links which are usually considered of little or no value yet they seem to work.

    Two of my websites are for motorcycle accidents but for different geographic areas. A third website is for all types of accidents. None of the websites have duplicate content. The two motorcycle websites have very different information and consequently have many links to each other.

    1. Same, so I have a carpet cleaning site with real formula secrets that no one talks about for getting stains out. So that means I should delete them and just copy and paste from from what every other site says so I fit in with the norm?

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