Over the past few months, tons of search engine rankings have been shifting around significantly. Older sites that have ranked for a while are losing the top spots, and a lot of newcomers are showing up higher than one would expect. All of this is related to Google’s latest “Medic” update, one of the largest core updates we’ve seen in a long time.
As the name implies, the “Medic” update mainly affected medical and health-related sites. That’s not to say that it didn’t affect other topics and industries; it did, but to a lesser degree. An update this large will touch nearly every site on the web.
Google hasn’t provided a lot of information on the update, leaving SEO professionals and site owners to draw their own conclusions using the data available to them. Despite the initial confusion, several important aspects of the update have been identified.
What did the Medic Update Cover?
As mentioned above, Google is being tight-lipped about what this update focuses on. However, through rigorous testing and analyzing, there is a general consensus in the SEO community that the update focused on a few things:
The world is constantly changing, and it’s important to have the most up-to-date information about any particular topic. Many site owners report that their older, outdated content has suffered the most. Several older articles lost their top rankings to newer articles with more recent, relevant information.
EAT – Expertise, Authority, Trust
One large lesson the world is learning is that you can’t trust everything you read on the internet. Knowing this, it’s no surprise that Google is focusing more on expertise, authority, and trust. Google wants to make sure that the content it provides to its users is informative and truthful. Articles written by experts in their field, posted on sites with lots of trust and authority signals (relevant backlinks, large social followings, etc.), are moving to the top of the search results. Misleading articles written by anonymous authors are having a harder time taking the top spots.
Search Intent and Neural Matching
While it’s unclear to what extent, there are signs that Google is leveraging Artificial Intelligence more and more in their ranking algorithms. One of their biggest pushes is to develop a system for reading and understanding the context of an article. Moving forward, this will let Google rely less on traditional ranking factors like backlinks and keywords, which are easier for SEO’s and webmasters to manipulate.
How Do I Recover From the Medic Update?
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably less concerned about why your rankings dropped and more concerned with how to get your site back on track. Luckily, the information below will help you take deliberate actions to turn your site around.
Update Old, Outdated Content
If you notice that younger, newer articles are taking over your top-ranked positions in the search results, then it makes sense to update your content with new information. That doesn’t just mean changing the publish date. It’s important to add new information to your articles, remove the information that is out of date, and let your users know that you’ve updated your old content with something new. Once you’ve done a bit of rewriting, then definitely get that recent “updated” date somewhere on the page.
Consolidate or Remove Under-Performing Pages
If you’ve been working on your site for a long time, chances are you’ve had some articles that are SEO-winners, and some that are losers. Now is the time to get into Search Console and Analytics to see which pages aren’t getting any traffic from Google. Once you’ve identified these pages, there are two options: either take that content and work it into another relevant, successful article on your site, or remove the page altogether and redirect the URL as appropriate.
Build Authority and Trust Through Authorship
You don’t need a Ph.D to be an expert in your field, but you do have to demonstrate your knowledge. You should do this on your own site, by writing well-researched and informative articles, and also on other sites. Industry forums and publications are great places to show that you know what you’re talking about. Answer some questions that newcomers have, write some guest articles for your leading industry publications, and focus on getting your name out there as an expert in the field. At the same time, make sure that your authorship byline is in place on your site, and that you’re writing under a consistent name across these outlets. Link out to your personal social profiles whenever you can, so Google knows that you’re THAT John Smith.
Simplify Your Content for AI
This one can take some practice, especially for more intellectual topics. Complex ideas tend to be communicated in complex manners. It’s important to try and communicate your ideas as simply and directly as possible. Nothing throws off AI’s understanding of an article like a complex sentence structure. Using active voice, shorter sentences, and avoiding unnecessary words can help Google understand the content and rank it appropriately. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution; you will likely need to find your own balance between writing for your readers intellect-level and keeping things simple for Google’s Neural Matching algorithm. You can practice by playing with Google’s Natural Language Processing API.
It’s never fun to see your rankings tank, especially when you’ve held on to that top spot for what seems like forever. Still, if there’s a silver lining to Google’s “Medic” update, it’s that the SEO playing field is more wide-open than it has been in years. The rankings are shifting around wildly, both up and down. If you play your cards right now, you may come out of this update with better rankings than you’ve ever seen, while your less-active competitors fall by the wayside.
And if you think all of this is just too much for you to handle, then Watermelon is always happy to lend a hand!