How Does YMYL Content Affect Website Rankings?

February 15, 2023
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According to its Public Liaison for Search, one of Google's aims is "to connect [users] with useful information as quickly as possible." The company constantly modifies its algorithm to include metrics that would help them bring the most relevant results to users. One such metric measures the relevance of YMYL or "Your Money or Your Life" content. Businesses with YMYL content must ensure that they always meet Google's standards for relevance to users.

What Is YMYL Content?

Your Money or Your Life content refers to information crucial to a reader's health, happiness, financial stability, or safety. If YMYL content has misrepresentations or inaccuracies, it could have potentially disastrous implications on the reader. Google provides specific definitions on YMYL pages and how their quality affects the website's search rankings. Here are some examples.

  1. Public Health or Safety: Websites that provide medical advice or information on diseases, pharmacology, drugs, emergency protocols, and hospitals are YMYL pages. Sites that contain statistics and information on COVID-19 and other community-based diseases are also YMYL.
  2. Civics and Current Events: A website that publishes updates on political, economic, scientific, and technological developments—like news sites—are also YMYL. Similarly, websites containing information on voting, social services, legal issues, and government agencies must follow Google's guidelines on YMYL content.
  3. Finance and Shopping: Investment advice, retirement planning, credit cards, 401(k) planning, insurance, and other aspects of financial literacy also fall in this category. Websites of banks or ones that enable purchases or money transfers are included, as are websites that provide information on goods or services.
  4. Demographics: Websites with statistics or information on large groups of people based on ethnicity, gender, disability, nationality, sexual orientation, veteran status, and other socially relevant traits must also follow Google's guidelines on YMYL content.

There are more types of niche websites that the search engine considers as YMYL, like nutrition, fitness, or ones that help you choose a college, find a job or a home, or plan a vacation, among others.

What Are Google's Criteria for YMYL Content?

In 2015, Google released Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines to assist third-party evaluators in determining whether YMYL pages have high-quality content. One of Google's standards is E-A-T, or Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. We have written an article on why E-A-T matters in online content, and Google maintains that E-A-T directly affects on-page quality. Page Quality or PQ directly relates to expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Higher PQ ratings mean the page is beneficial to users.

How Does Google Determine Page Quality through E-A-T?

There are three crucial factors for ranking YMYL content. First, the page should conform to the user's search query. Google must also decide whether the website is inherently harmful or helpful. Websites created to deceive, harm, or extract money from users get a low PQ. Finally, Google has specific criteria that it uses to decide if a page is helpful. When a page shares must-know information, expresses a point of view or allows dialogue through comments sections, Google tends to give it a higher PQ.

Something else that could raise PQ includes creating a knowledge base, FAQ, or Q&A section. Providing a rating mechanism for answers also signals to Google that you are serious about helping users. Allowing user-generated content and providing an internal search tool can also raise your website's score. Finally, publishing well-composed, original articles on your blog will give your PQ a boost.

How Does Google Classify User Queries for YMYL Topics?

Since user intent is a factor in Google's PQ ratings, website owners must understand the different types of queries users typically input. Here are the four types of queries people use when researching YMYL topics:

  1. Do: This type of query helps users perform specific actions like file a form or access a service.
  2. Know: This query is for people researching a particular topic. An example of this is a "What is" keyword, which is what people use to help them define an unfamiliar term.
  3. Website: People who use this query are trying to locate specific websites.
  4. Visit-in-Person: This query is for people who want to go to a store location.

Knowing these queries will help you provide the best local solution to users. The number of locals who value your content and turn to your website as an essential resource affects your YMYL content ranking, so it helps to pay attention to these queries. Finally, Google also has the Needs Met Rating Guideline to determine page quality. Websites that serve the Needs Met guidelines will rank better for YMYL content. There are five ratings you could get:

  • FM or Fully Meets: Websites that get these are ones whose visitors are satisfied with the content and don't feel the need to find another source or website.
  • HM or Highly Meets: You get this rating when users find the information on your site helpful but still need to visit another source.
  • MM or Moderately Meets: Websites with this rating help some mobile users, but most would want to view other sources as well.
  • SM or Slightly Meets: A website with this rating is helpful to mobile users to some extent. It could contain some helpful information, but it does not meet many E-A-T standards.
  • FM or Fails to Meet: Websites with this ranking mean the content meets none of Google's standards. Visitors would benefit from going to another source to find what they want.

Note that Google often cannot distinguish between the work of experts and non-experts. Another set of factors besides E-A-T is Authority, Relevance, and Trust (A-R-T), also known as the pillars of good SEO.


YMYL, E-A-T, and A-R-T all boil down to one thing: quality. You need to convince Google that your website is a reliable source for your audience, and that involves hitting as many signals as possible when publishing content. Working with SEO experts will ensure that your website delivers what Google wants.

Team up with Ranked and establish your brand with expert, authoritative, and trustworthy content for your target audience. We provide data-driven, managed SEO services for both enterprises and agencies; contact the team to learn more or activate your account today!