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If your website contains YMYL – “your money or your life”- and non-YMYL content, Google algorithms may struggle to rank the website. To avoid risking a bad SEO ranking, Google’s John Mueller suggests that you divide YMYL & Non-YMYL content into separate sites.

Since Google’s quality standards for YMYL content are much higher than those of more trivial or lower impact topics, relying on Google’s algorithms to identify the status of a website with both YMYL and non YMYL content leaves the website at risk of being penalised.

What is YMYL content?

Google expects a level of authority and trustworthiness behind content with the potential to have a negative impact on its readers.

So when it comes to assessing the quality of content on a website, Google has made a distinction between what it refers to as YMYL – “your money or your life”
– websites compared to others.

Simply put, Google defines YMYL sites or pages as those that have the potential to impact a person’s health, happiness, financial status or safety. This could be a site giving medical or financial advice or expressing political views. It also covers sites where financial transactions are made – such as ecommerce sites – and those that report news or current events – particularly when those news topics could affect wellbeing, such as business, politics, disasters, etc.

Google want to ensure that any online content of this nature has more stringent quality checks, since misinformation about some of these topics could have a harmful influence.

“Search results should help people. Search results should provide authoritative and trustworthy information, not lead people astray with misleading content.”

What are Google’s guidelines for YMYL content?

Google’s Search Quality Guidelines give publishers a level of insight into how Google rates quality. Although the guidelines don’t touch on the inner-workings of Google’s algorithms themselves, they inform Google’s human Search Quality Raters, who are responsible for quality checking the work of algorithms.

Google rates page quality according to 5 main factors:

  1. Purpose of the Page
  2. Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (EAT)
  3. Main content quality and amount
  4. Information about the website and who is responsible for the main content
  5. Reputation of the website and the person responsible for the main content.

But Google set the bar far higher for YMYL websites than others:

“Because different types of websites and webpages can have very different purposes, our expectations and standards for different types of pages are also different.”

For YMYL content, Google expects a level of trust in the publisher. Clear information needs to be available on the website about the ownership of the website and the creator of the main content. This could include a writer bio for articles, but also involves having an About Us or FAQ page on the website so that users can inform themselves as to the nature and reputation of the website.

In the case of ecommerce websites where financial transactions are made on the site, Google expects an adequate amount of customer service information to protect customers’ interests.

As for the quality of the main content itself, it is examined for length, detail and accuracy. YMYL content should demonstrate skill, time and effort in its creation, and should therefore be original, accurate and clearly communicated. For topics on, for example, scientific subjects, the content should reflect the viewpoint of general expert consensus – in order to discourage the spread of false information.

All of these factors feed into Googles assessment of the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness
(E-A-T) of the website.

Why should you separate YMYL and non YMYL content?

In his response to a recent question around websites that contain both YMYL and non-YMYL content, John Mueller - Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google - spoke about
Google’s difficulty in interpreting these types of website.
He acknowledged that this blurring between the two different content types could cause confusion for Google’s algorithms, leading to uncertain results.

In his view, the algorithms would struggle to judge different elements of your website separately, and instead would assess your website as a whole. They may or may not determine that your website to be YMYL, and their decision – which could change with each update of algorithms – will determine your ranking.

If the algorithm judges your website to be YMYL, any non-YMYL content that does not meet the E-A-T standards expected of an YMYL site could drag down the reputation of your website as a whole.

A safer approach would be to separate out your content to make the delineation clear. This could be done using subdomains or subdirectories, or by creating a whole new site for your non YMYL content.

Keeping it simple

Even with the YMYL/non-YMYL content aside, having a mix of vastly different or contrasting subject matters on a single website is always going to be a challenge for Google algorithms to index and rank.

For best SEO results, focussing each website on a clear, defined purpose will give Google a simpler path to accurately ranking your website. And this is likely to result in better rankings for your content.