Recovering from an algorithmic penalty is never straightforward.
Google changes its search algorithm almost as often as cups of tea are made at UWP HQ (and we do love our tea!).
In August 2018, Google rolled out a broad core algorithm update. This one goes by many names: the Google Medic Update, the YMYL Update, the E-A-T Update, to name a few.
(Call it what you like but, for consistency’s sake, we’re going to stick with the “E-A-T Update” for this blog post.)
This algorithm change had a massive impact across the web – including for one of our own clients.
We’ve worked with this client since 2015 – starting without a single monthly page view to report, to hitting 80,000+ on average. Between January and August 2018, a typical day would see more than 1,000 unique visitors land on their website. It would be fair to label this company another UWP SEO success story.
But then the E-A-T update came in and ruffled things up a bit…
Wait – what does E-A-T stand for and who does it affect?
E-A-T stands for:
And what does that mean for SEOs and our clients?
Google has been using human “raters” for over a decade to assess the accuracy of their algorithm.
These guys use the insightful, but fairly hefty, Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, within which Google hammers home the importance of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) to a site’s ranking.
Key take-home? Google wants to deliver search results full of pages created by trusted experts with plenty of recognised authority in their field.
So, remember one of those popular names for this algorithm update was YMYL Update? Yep, another acronym… YMYL stands for ‘Your Money or Your Life’ websites, which Google neatly defines as “web pages that could potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users.”
Google doesn’t want to send searchers to sites that could damage their health, lose them money, hurt their families or even risk their physical safety. The E-A-T algorithm is all about weeding out low-quality YMYL sites in favour of those containing safe and helpful information.
This algorithm change is often referred to as the “Medic Update” because it largely targets companies within the medical sector – but that’s not the only sorts of websites it hit. Our client provides a safeguarding service and so their work can have huge implications on an individual’s employment and on the safety of vulnerable groups, so they’re a likely YMYL candidate too.
Why did our client suffer an E-A-T algorithmic penalty?
Google Analytics doesn’t lie – and it doesn’t take an SEO wizard to draw a link between news of an algo update and the organic traffic graph below:
(Three years of steady traffic increase dropping off dramatically in August 2018)
Our SEO analysts sprang into action, using Google’s Search Quality Evaluation Guidelines to direct our assessment.
Three areas stood out to us as needing remedial work:
1. The client was not showing off its expertise to the best of their ability. This was most obvious on the About Us page. This page wasn’t being leveraged to highlight the business’ professional credentials, years of experience or any other clear indicators of authority.
2. Clear trust signals weren’t visible – or worse – missing entirely. The client has a great rating on Trustpilot… but you wouldn’t have known it on visiting the site.
3. Clarity was lacking across some of the service pages. If users couldn’t quickly understand our client’s service offering, they were hardly likely to view them as trustworthy experts.
How we recovered from the E-A-T penalty
Step one – and a quick win – was to make sure all reviews on the site (and on social) were as up-to-date as possible.
We also wanted to shout about their Trustpilot success and so implemented the Trustpilot widget across all key pages.
Next, we beefed up the About Us page to reflect our client’s prominent standing within their industry. We also added information about key staff members and connected their LinkedIn profiles to the page, which helped to add transparency and further authority.
Then we worked with the client to make the FAQ page more useful, with detailed discussions around the most relevant and common questions. Once we were happy with these pages, we tweaked the site navigation to ensure smooth UX and increase their visibility.
In addition, as regular blogging both on- and off-site contributes to authoritativeness, we added in-depth author bios that clearly signposted our client’s credentials in the field.
It goes without saying that a full technical audit was carried out to ensure that we were ticking every possible E-A-T box in Google’s eyes. A missing security certificate or a new batch of 404s hardly fill users with confidence, right?
And boy, did our work have an impact:
(Organic traffic 2018 – rising and then falling in August, then rising again)
(Visibility score dropping in August and September, then rising in October)
SEO performance was better than ever. In October 2018, just two months after the penalty, the client had a record number of organic visitors to the site – with the best part of 1500 unique hits a day.
Recovering from an algorithmic penalty: A summary
No two sites are the same – and sadly there is no one-size-fits-all method for recovering from an algorithmic penalty. Each situation requires individual assessment, and a tailored solution.
However, with an E-A-T penalty, there are steps that can help – as demonstrated above.
When it comes to additional updates, our ears are firmly on the ground. Any info from Google’s end on E-A-T and we’ll be quick to act to further algo-proof our client.
If you want to take steps to protect your site from future SEO issues – or need support recovering from an algorithmic penalty yourself – get in touch to discuss how we can help you.