Google’s 2018 Core Algorithm “Medic Update” Update
And What It Means To You And Me
More than a month after Google’s algorithm update on the first of August 2018, we thought we’d take a closer look at the so-called “Medic Update” and find out how it’s affecting users across the industry – as well as examining the official news from the corporate giants themselves.
Now that the update in question has been operational for a few weeks we are able to fully register its impact across various sectors of the industry. Now, instead of speculating, we are able to examine the results for ourselves and find out local SEO was adversely affected – and hopefully find you some pointers as to what you can do about it.
Google are using various words to describe their new update to make us feel a lot more comfortable… words like “Global Core Update” but the reality doesn’t seem to be transpiring quite as they described. It has earned its nickname as the Medic Update because it seems to focus rather heavily on websites within the medical profession, or websites where you are encouraged to spend money to better your life in some way – although it has impacted other sites as well. While Google won’t admit that these websites were ‘targets’ in any way, they do say that the more useful the site, the less likely it is to go down in rankings. It seems that the whole move has been a huge push towards providing better content.
What Google will admit to…
Although they won’t confess if the medical industry was an intended target of the recent update, they are producing an official line. The “broad Core Algorithm” phrase has been rolled out again and again – but they do advise that they perform these updates when needed and, judging from our past experience, that is something that we won’t argue with.
Naturally Google took to Twitter to announce it’s updates as it has in the past and once again we found them repeating past information. We need to keep building better, more engaging, more entertaining, more user-friendly websites in order to keep up in the algorithm charts. When it comes to content, if it isn’t on point you can’t expect to sit at the top of the rankings. You need to keep it up to keep your number up.
Danny Sullivan, slightly cheeky Google Search Liaison officer, added his own affirmation to the argument:
He then went on to further baffle us by his short answer to questions about how much of an impact this has had on across the industry:
With very little other information given out, both Danny and Google went on to publish the update without much else to say about it. A few weeks on, perhaps we can finally get the answers we have been looking for…
Who did update impact?
Google might have implied over and over again that this update was ‘global’ but our data says differently. We scoured the internet to find out what SEO advertisers are saying, what big data management firms are saying and what survey results say; and we found this to be a little lacking in truth. In fact, the majority of affected sites lie in the Your Money, Your Life (YMYL) categories. The medical industry has also been targeted, with some of the financial aspects of the update affecting users on a broader scale.
What’s Googles answer to it? You guessed it, simply re-read the statements in the previous section and you will be as up-to-date as we are.
For those of us not in the know (and don’t worry, that’s almost everyone) YMYL is the newest buzzword floating around the online markets that is used to describe and site that encourages you to buy a product to better your life. Defining features of these sites are thus:
Any page that is vulnerable to bank number/credit card number theft.
Which means any site that processes transactions in any currency.
Any page which stores personal data regarding your health or well being.
‘Guidance’ pages that give advise on major life decisions (this means Estate Agents, Car Sales, anything that demands the user invest in something grandiose).
Pages that offer legal advice, perhaps as a result of the growing number of accident claims companies that promise more than they can reward.
We consulted and consolidated data from a variety of different sources to arrive at some of the conclusions listed in this article. Primarily we relied on our own vigilant survey sources, but we also consulted with RankRanger, Sistrix and more than a few articles protesting the new changes.
Sistrix happily sent us over copies of some of the first results they collated. They accompanied the graphs below with a few pointers for us, indicating that the vast majority of changes are in the YMYL sector of sites and that the changes are lowering peoples rankings by a small percentage. However, it is not so black and white as first thought, and cuts have also been made in educational, automotive and e-commerce sites have also been affected.
Below we have a few sites that gained in rankings after the update, along with a few that experienced loss:
While this list shows us exactly who came out on top thanks to this update:
We also have two graphs from two separate sites, one in the health industry, the other not. When placed side by side and compared we can note exactly where the losses were suffered – and it isn’t surprising information.
We also received a lovely set of easy to read visual information from the techs over at SEO development firm RankRanger. As is reinforced by the image below; the company stated that the home goods, finance and health industries all suffered huge drops in rankings after the update. These drops are rare to see and could be an indication of worse things to come.
Below, you will see the data for listing rank across the health and fitness market alongside the same data from a family/lifestyle market.
As you can see by the sharp drop in rank these sectors have both been adversely affected. This represents a similar story across many other niches as you will be able to define by using the image below. This chart shows the top three results when a search term is entered into Google and how they have changed since the update. Again we see this ripple throughout lifestyle, home goods and health sites.
For these charts, the base readings were taken four weeks previous to the update.
SemRush give some great statistical, real-time information on what is happening online and, on the day in question, they report that all industries were at 9.4/10 – meaning that nobody knew what was happening until it happened. Then, once it did and the dust settled. They reported significant impact in travel and estate industry, as well as those mentioned above. However, they also report that this did affect all aspects of the industry in some way, so perhaps Google’s ‘global’ statement wasn’t so far from the truth, after all.
Below we have listed the figures SemRush recorded on the first of August when the update rolled out.
The arts and entertainment industries = 9.4
The vehicle industry = 9.4
The leisure industry = 9.4
The Health Sector = 9.4
The home/garden industry = 9.4
The beauty/fitness industry = 9.4
The literature sector = 9.3
Business and industry = 9.3
The technology and computer industry = 9.3
The finance sector = 9.4 Finance.
The Science sector = 9.4
People and social sector – 9.4
The pet industry – 9.4
The Real Estate Industry = 9.1
The Reference sector = 9.4
The Law sector = 9.4
The Job and Education industry = 9.4
The Sports Industry = 9.4
The Shopping industry = 9.4
The gaming industry =9.4 Food & Drink.
The food and drink sector = 9.4.
The Internet and telecommunications sector = 9.4
The News Industry = 9.4
The online community sector = 9.4
The Travel sector = 8.7
After this story first broke Moz got involved to send over yet more data, and here it is:
Which they accompanied with a statement:
“At first glance, the “Health” category does appear to be the most impacted. Keywords in that category had a daily average temperature of 124°F. Note, though, that all categories showed temperatures over 100°F on August 1st – this isn’t a situation where one category was blasted and the rest were left untouched. It’s also important to note that this pattern shifted during the other three days of heavy flux, with other categories showing higher average temperatures. The multi-day update impacted a wide range of verticals.” (Dr. Pete Meyers)
Search Engine Round Table also conducted some research and have displayed it in the handy pie chart below. As you can see, the YMYL and health industries have suffered the most post-update.
How do you fix the changes?
Well, in spite of Google insisting that there is nothing to be done but to add more relevant and interesting content, we went out and found out what everyone else is saying because, inevitably, more than a few folks out there are already working on a solution.
Bright Local started the ball rolling with this comment: “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 from providing advice that doesn’t come from a place of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.”
Others agreed with comments such as: “The core algorithm update that rolled out on August 1, 2018 was massive and many sites across the web were impacted. Although there were a lot of health sites impacted, many others in non-YMYL categories were affected as well. If you have been negatively impacted by the 8/1 update, then it’s important to objectively analyze your site to find ways to improve. And remember, there’s never one smoking gun. There’s usually a battery of them. So go find them now.” Wrote Glenn Gabe. Another user, Marie Haynes, added her thoughts; “The August 1, 2018 Google update was a massive one. I believe that it was primarily about Google’s ability to determine E-A-T for a website. I also think that the T in E-A-T became even more important as Google is working harder to determine which websites are the most trustworthy to show searchers.”
To round up our thoughts then; it seems that Google’s August update impacted a huge variety of Webmasters and small site owners in an adverse way. If this means you then the recommended advice is to keep posting better content, make it more up-to-date and as enriching as you can and to keep working at it. Unfortunately, if you have been in the health and fitness, Real Estate, Homewares or anywhere else in the YMYL sector then you need to start implementing improvements straight away.
However, it is only a matter of time before the rules will change again and we will be left scrambling to keep up… such is the nature of the giant that is Google.