Can We Get a Medic Here?

Google’s 8/1 Core Algorithm Update – AKA “Medic Update”

The dog days of summer are upon us, and if you’ve noticed major fluctuations in traffic and rankings in the beginning of August, don’t worry: you weren’t alone. Traffic volatility has been, well, just that, these past few weeks. According to the Moz’s very own MozCast system (which gauges turbulence in Google’s rankings), temperatures skyrocketed the first day of the month.

And here’s why: On August 1, Google’s Danny Sullivan announced via his @SearchLiason Twitter account that Google had released a “broad core algorithm update,” which is being described by many in the industry as the biggest and most drastic one to date.

What do we mean by “core” algorithm update?
Unlike Panda, Penguin, Possum and other adorable animal-named algorithm updates that focus on particular areas of SEO, a broad core algorithm update means that Google is considering multiple factors –potentially encompassing content relevancy, content quality, technical aspects, UX and more.

A broad core algorithm update shouldn’t come as a surprise after Google’s March 9 “core” algorithm, which caused volatility in rankings and traffic across several different verticals. Google’s one constant mission has remained the same from the very beginning: to serve the most relevant and highest quality results.

The March 9 algorithm update was closely related to user intent and relevancy. So, on a positive note, these broad algorithm updates may benefit sites that were previously under-rewarded. It appears that quality — along with expertise and authoritativeness — was fundamental to this latest one. Here’s why.

What’s up with the nickname, “Medic Update”?
This most recent algorithm update was dubbed by SEO advocate Barry Schwartz as the “Medic Update,” since it significantly affected Your Money, Your Life (YMYL) and healthcare industry sites.

According to Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG), YMYL pages serve content that can “impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users,” so Google holds these types of pages to a higher standard. Some examples of these include:

  • Transactional pages, such as online shopping or online banking
  • Financial information
  • Medical information
  • Legal information and legal advice
  • News Articles* or Public information offering advice on major life decisions

Since YMYL pages are held more accountable, it should also come as no surprise that Google core algorithm updates focuses on E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness and trust).
Taking a look at the well-known health and nutrition informational site, we see that their organic traffic started to declined following August 1 update:

And looking at some of the articles found on, several bylines state “Livestrong Contributor,” which do not offer any information about the identity, profession and most importantly, the credibility of the author.

Google clearly states in its QRG that information of this nature should be “written or product by people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation.”

Has anyone else been affected by the update?
It’s important to note that this latest algorithm update also had an impact on sites outside of YMYL, and seems to have had an effect on both organic and local listings.
SEO consultant Marie Haynes‘ also included the following insight in her analysis: “Many large chains with multiple locations across the country appear to have dropped in rankings in favor of smaller, locally based businesses.”

So, how do we defend our clients’ websites from any negative impact?
In a response on Twitter, Google’s Danny Sullivan urged webmasters and marketers to “have great content,” and to use Google’s QRG for further understanding of what great content looks like.

The QRG offers myriad examples of the difference between low and high-quality pages and content. We recommend focusing on providing recommendations and implementing crucial changes designed for the long-term, since core algorithm updates will continue to roll out in the future.

Additional, top-level recommendations would include:

  • Monitor all of client sites for any dips or spikes in traffic, especially for YMYL sites
  • Ensure consistency for all online local listings and optimize Google My Business profiles
  • Build positive brand reputation and encourage customer reviews

And of course: continue producing outstanding and REBEL-utionary content that is authoritative and duly sourced.

*Not all news articles are considered YMYL.

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