We can see a trend when looking at some of the Google algorithm updates over the past two years.
It all started with the infamous E-A-T update in August 2018. Following the revision of the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, Google introduced a change in the algorithm that clearly targeted the medical and financial sectors.
The update aimed to promote websites that showed superior expertise and trustworthiness, in line with Google’s E-A-T guidelines.
But it didn’t work perfectly as intended.
Some websites were unfairly elevated in the rankings, while others dropped despite their superior trustworthiness. So Google had to readjust.
The August 2018 update started a series of changes made to the ranking algorithm that were supposed to review the impact of E-A-T on the search results. Struggling to find the right balance and pick out the best content, Google will keep improving the algorithm, trying to eventually hit the sweet spot and promote content that shows expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
Because of these updates, many online businesses with low E-A-T already suffered irreparable damage to their rankings, and others are basically just waiting for an update that will eventually pulverize their online visibility.
Which websites are in danger?
The E-A-T guidelines primarily focus on websites with content that can be described as sensitive. Google puts websites from industries like medical, financial, or legal advice in one category that they call YMYL (your money or your life). These websites potentially influence users’ wellbeing and because of that, Google believes they should represent a high degree of expertise and authority.
To see how E-A-T influenced rankings in the YMYL category, let’s take a look at the traffic data of one website that was strongly affected by the recent algorithm updates.
The case of EverydayHealth
Everydayhealth.com is a website that experienced first-hand the roller coaster of the E-A-T-related Google updates.
Although the first iterations didn’t affect the website as much, it eventually plummeted in rankings and is struggling to get back in decent shape.
As you can see, after a couple of the initial E-A-T-related updates, everydayhealth.com was doing quite well.
It did lose some visibility in August 2018. But the Birthday Update, which reversed the effects of previous algorithm changes in many cases, allowed the website to recover and continue improving its rankings and traffic.
However, it was the March 2019 Update that would eventually bring the website down.
Everydayhealth’s search visibility was obliterated within a month after the update, and it continued dropping.
They lost most of their rankings, all within a month.
It’s insane to see how many keywords they lost after the update. Before the change in the algorithm, they were ranking top 10 for around 480K keywords, and within 4 weeks, this number was down to 68K.
Why did this happen?
As much as I’m sorry to see how harshly everydayhealth.com was treated by the Google ranking algorithm, it’s not difficult to see which criteria were in play.
These are some of the keywords that everydayhealth.com lost the most during the critical week after the March update.
If we see which websites made the top of the list that week, it all becomes clear.
EverydayHealth’s top positions were taken by the most authoritative medical websites out there, like WebMD or Mayo Clinic. These websites simply enjoy unparalleled authority and employ renowned experts as content writers. If anyone deserves to rank at the top for medical queries, it’s them.
What’s the takeaway?
With E-A-T being increasingly important for Google, particularly when it comes to websites in the YMYL category, some website models are simply no longer viable from the business perspective. While it’s tempting to jump in and snatch the top spot for a trending medical or financial keyword, the websites that will eventually outrank everyone are the ones that have earned their authority and trustworthiness over the years.
What’s the solution?
Specialize. Become THE expert in a niche. Provide your users with great, researched content and build trust long-term. That way, you will naturally earn links, traffic, and revenue.