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.

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.

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!

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

  1. 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. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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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