You may have heard about the recent Google update that occurred in early August. I've heard from lots of people that their sites were impacted.
In fact, as I've been doing niche research recently for Niche Site Project 4, I've seen several sites in the niche I had selected through SEMrush or Ahrefs that have clearly taken a hit in the past 3 weeks.
The common consensus on this most recent Google update is that sites that are better able to establish their author's expertise, authority, and trust are performing well, and other sites are losing rankings.
So, today I'd like to discuss my thoughts on this “Google Medic” update as some are calling it, how expertise plays into all of this, and whether you should pick a different niche or not.
The bottom line is this – do you REALLY need to be an “expert” in order to build a niche site? I think the answer to that question depends on what niche you've selected. I'll unpack that answer in just a bit.
And for the relevant Niche Site Project 4 news, I've decided to pick a different niche after doing a deeper dive into keywords, competitors, and overall expertise. Not really what I want to do after spending several hours of research, but I'd rather switch now before my website has been started.
The Google Core Algorithm Update – AKA Google Medic Update
As for a quick background on why I've decided to choose a different niche, I need to discuss the most recent Google core algorithm update from early August 2018.
To be honest, I noticed no impact or very little impact across my sites. In fact, NichePursuits.com traffic has been increasing ever since the update. However, for many other people in certain niches, there appears to have been a major impact.
You can read more about what Search Engine Land knows about the update here.
However, the consensus as stated in this great article is that sites in the “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) niches were more heavily impacted. The YMYL is a reference that is used by Google in their quality rater's guidelines.
In a nutshell, sites that talk about health decisions, financial decisions, or other major life decisions that probably would be best if the advice came from a doctor or other qualified expert, are the sites that lost rankings.
This comes back to the Google quality rater guidelines where they talk about Expertise, Authority, and Trust. Basically, if the authors on your site are truly doctors or other experts that have written widely across the web with official credentials, that's the kind of trust and authority that Google loves.
If you are just a “niche site creator” and writing about end of life care or major financial decisions, you likely can't establish the kind of authority and trust that Google wants without years of professional schooling and degrees.
They call it the “Medic” update because medical related websites were disproportionately impacted.
How Can You Establish Yourself as An Expert?
Now that you are armed with the knowledge that maybe you shouldn't be creating websites on subjects that are likely best answered by a Doctor, you know to avoid those niches.
But are there other niches where the “average joe” can still provide value and establish themselves as an expert? Absolutely!
Do you need a college degree in a specific field to review hiking trails, or fun toys for your dog, or the best wall decorations for your home? No! There are thousands of niches out there where you don't need to be an “certified” expert, you just need to establish yourself with great content and other practical strategies.
So, here's my newest rule of thumb since the update: If there is a college degree that is exactly related to your niche, you might want to consider avoiding that niche.
Let's run through a couple of examples:
- Are there college degrees related to physical ailments like arthritis, back pain, headaches, etc? Yes, medical doctors. You should likely avoid the medical niche.
- Are there college degrees related to backpacking? No. Maybe this niche would be okay to establish yourself in.
- Are there college degrees related to dieting? Yes. Maybe you should avoid this niche.
- Are there college degrees related to surfing? No. Maybe this niche would be okay to establish yourself in.
- Are there college degrees related to major financial decisions? Yes. Maybe you should avoid this niche.
- Are there college degrees related to crafting, baking cupcakes, survival knives, beard trimming, etc? No. Maybe these niches would be okay to establish yourself in.
Hopefully some of those examples are helpful for how I'm starting to think of things.
The way that you establish yourself as an authority is through well-researched, great content and link building. In a nutshell, it still comes does to who is referencing your website and the quality of those “citations”.
In other words, establishing yourself as an authority after the update is even more important, but it was always important to do so before. It simply means that Google is going to rank certain sites higher when they can see that clearly a doctor or certified financial planner is better suited to be answering the questions that your outsourced Filipino writer.
But for the topics where there really is no “expert” per se, you can become that expert voice and have the topical relevancy you need to rank your websites.
In other words, chose your niche wisely.
How to Establish Authority and Trust?
So, I've been reading the past couple weeks about the Google Medic update quite a bit. The consensus is that the update mostly had to do with expertise, authority, and trust of websites. I don't know all the signals that Google looks at, but a couple of ways that Google uses to understand the authority and trust of the actual authors is through About pages and Author pages.
Google wants to see that the authors of the articles are well established and preferably have history or credentials in the topics they are writing about.
So when you select your niche, I would recommend creating an in-depth about page that lists the goals, history, and other nuances about your site. If there is anything you can add that makes it more authoritative, that is helpful.
Here's an example of a great About page on VeryWellHealth.com.
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Also look at that site for the types of Author bios it does, here's one example.
Now, you might not be able to list PhDs and have doctors writing for your site. But I think you should have an author name and add details that might build trust in who is writing the articles. (You might consider using the real names of your actual authors you are hiring and listing their credentials, as opposed to your own if that is helpful).
In addition, I think the update also just comes down to authoritative links. I don't know if its about links related to the authors specifically, or just they've slightly tweaked how certain links are weighted.
So, those are the couple of things that I would recommend creating on your site to help build authority and trust.
Should I Pick a Different Niche?
When I got the idea for Niche Site Project 4, it was in mid-July…before the Google update. I was on vacation just thinking of a couple of niches and I basically settled on one without looking at a ton of other options.
However, since the update and the more and more keyword research I've done, the more concerned I became with my initial niche selection. I was seeing lots of “Doppelganger” sites that were impacted by the Google update in early August.
And even though my selected niche wasn't exactly in the medical space, some of the keywords were close enough that it made me nervous. I could see in the future at some point that WebMD or other established sites with Doctor authors could potentially be writing on the same subjects as my site.
So, even though there are still lots of niche sites ranking right now, I've decided to move in a different direction where it's less likely that this more recent Google update will impact my ability to rank as well.
As you look at the niche you've selected, do you need to pick something different? Are you going to be fighting an uphill battle against authors with advanced degrees and authoritative websites?
Even though I hated to spend hours of time on keyword research and buy a domain, etc only to have that work be fruitless, I'd rather switch my niche now before I've really started to build the actual site as opposed to 6 months down the road after potentially thousands of dollars spent on content only to realize that maybe the niche is too difficult.
I'm not sure if this blog post is helpful or makes you nervous as you research your niche…or re-think whether you've selected the right niche!
I'm going to do my best to be open and transparent about what I'm doing behind the scenes, even if it means I need to share all my mistakes.
Overall, do you REALLY need to be an expert in your niche? Well, yes, you need to establish yourself as the expert. However, for some niches that requires a Phd or other advanced certifications. In other niches, it might only require that you've put in an extra hour of research for one particular topic.
So, chose wisely. You want to find a niche where with some effort you can truly establish yourself as an authoritative voice in the space.
What are your thoughts? How do you view expertise and authority for niche sites? Are you feeling more or less confident in your decision now?