Your Money or Your Life: for some years now this expression, often presented with the acronym YMYL, is at the center of Google’s attention and, as a result, worries all those who work in the field of SEO. In short, it defines and categorizes a specific typology of sites and, more precisely, of content, those that deal with sensitive issues that can affect the future of readers, where there is no space (or, at least, there should be) for unreliable and poorly useful information.

What YMYL means

Finance, health, safety, but also happiness, legal information, nutrition and so on: the types of YMYL content are multiple, because this definition includes all the arguments that can have an impact of any entity on the life and happiness of people.

It is directly Google to define the concept of YMYL and clarify which are the topics that make the pages in this list: the indications are contained in the Quality Rater Guidelines, the guidelines that “help to ensure that the Search returns relevant results from the most reliable sources available”, regularly updated to always provide accurate and accurate reference.

Google calls YMYL pages or topics that could potentially have an impact on a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability or safety, because they deal with topics and information that can have a concrete effect on quality, on the health and financial well-being of readers.

What are YMYL content

As a matter of fact, the definition of YMYL does not apply only to the site in its entirety, but also to its specific sections or individual pages that actually deal with the issues that Google considers more sensitive because they relate to the major decisions or important aspects of people’s lives: issues ranging from the economy to health, from medical care to sport and nutrition, until the choice of university or school, job search and more.

There is also a list of Your Money or Your Life topics and explanatory examples of YMYL pages, also present in the Quality raters guidelines:

  • News and events: news sites, with press articles or public information about services and politics, laws, disaster response, social services, science, technology, international events and much more. Not all articles are necessarily considered YMYL, and for example sports news, news coverage or gossip are not YMYL topics (and in this regard we can verify the E-A-T meter of Lily Ray that we commented in the article on clichés about E-A-T).
  • Health and safety: these are the central pages for the YMYL concept. These are websites that publish articles with advice or information on medical issues, disorders, symptoms, specific diseases, nutrition, medicines, hospitals, emergencies and pandemics (such as COVID-19).
  • Civil interest for informed citizens: institutional or dedicated websites for citizens, with information on voting system, tasks of institutions, emergencies, taxes, social services, resolution of administrative issues, but legal information such as notarial services, divorce pages or creation of a will, child adoption rules etc., also fall into this category.
  • Finance: involves websites that publish financial or consulting information, with pages with advice on investments, shares, mutual funds, taxes and taxes, pension planning, loans to companies or individuals, banking or insurance, mortgages. In addition, the sites on which financial transactions take place are also YMYL, and therefore e-commerce, websites of credit institutions and banks, sites for the payment of invoices or for the transfer of money and, in general, all pages where the user can buy or transfer money to another subject.
  • Shopping: topics, information or services related to the search for or purchase of goods and services, in particular web pages that allow people to shop online.
  • People groups: information or statements about groups of persons, including, inter alia, those grouped on the basis of age, caste, disability, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, immigration status, nationality, race, religion, sex/gender, sexual orientation, veteran status, victims of a major violent event and their relatives, or any other characteristic that is associated with systematic discrimination or marginalization.
  • Other: there are many other topics related to big decisions or important aspects of people’s lives that can therefore be considered YMYL, such as fitness and nutrition, housing information, car safety information and so on.

EAT and beneficial purpose of users to rank YMYL pages

Google imposes very high page quality assessment standards for YMYL pages, because “low quality YMYL pages could potentially have a negative impact on a person’s happiness, health, financial stability or safety” and therefore the search engine tries to prevent the possibility that they may appear in SERP in visibility positions.

On the contrary, the YMYL pages that deserve to have greater visibility are those that meet the criteria of E-A-T (which, as we know, are the characteristics of competence, authority and reliability of the site and who produces the content) and that have a beneficial purpose, or a useful purpose for the user.

Google asks its quality raters to recognize what is the purpose of a page, the reason or the reasons for which it was created: “Every page on the Internet is created for a purpose, or for several purposes”, the guidelines say, and “most of the pages are created to be useful to people, so they have a beneficial purpose”, which is precisely the beneficial purpose. Sometimes, however, pages are created just to make money, with little or no effort to help people, while others “are even created to harm users“, and should therefore not be rewarded by ranking.

Among the elements that help identify the beneficial purpose are, among others, the sharing of information on a topic, personal or social information, images, videos or other forms of media, the expression of an opinion or point of view, entertainment, the sale of products or services, the ability for users to post questions that other users can answer or share files or download software.

In summary, the quality raters must help the Google algorithm to understand the quality of a page, especially in the YMYL field, expressing a quality score (Page Quality) that clarifies what is the purpose of that web page, whether or not it complies with the user’s search query and whether it was created to help users. It follows that pages and sites created to harm and deceive users or subtract their money must get the lowest PQ level possible.

SEO YMYL, how to improve pages with sensitive content

As expected, there is no official Google checklist to make an SEO optimization compared to YMYL content, but the analytical reading of the official documents allows to highlight some aspects towards which to orient the work to improve the pages of our sites, a bit like it happens also for the advices to strengthen the E-A-T perceived by the search engine.

Basically, everything focuses on the beneficial purpose, and therefore on the advantages and benefits that a content can give to the user, and on the ways we have to make it clear – the reader himself and Google – that this page meets the original purpose and intent.

In concrete terms, we can reach the goal by writing effective content, reporting only information from verified and reliable sources; addressing the issues in a complete and objective way, possibly giving space to other positions on the subject; collaborating with capable and recognized authors, to whom to entrust the drafting of the YMYL content; taking care of the structure of the contents, which must be clear and correct, and taking action to update, expand or correct the older pages.

From the AAA paradigm to the E-A-T

The attention that Google devotes to the delicacy of YMYL content also makes us understand the evolution of the Web in recent years: in fact, it has always been said that the Internet is the realm of the AAA paradigm, or “Anyone can say Anything about Any topic“.

This is still true today – by extremizing and simplifying, we can say that to position a content does not matter who writes but how one writes it and how it makes authoritative the content also with links or other strategies – but Google wants to overcome this mode, at least for the most sensitive matters.

We can indeed say that E-A-T is somewhat the opposite of AAA, because it is based on the concept that some topics, those that fall into the Your Money or Your Life category, should only be treated by those who are a professional in the field, inviting sites to entrust the creation of such content to people who have experience and expertise in the field, or who have studied and have built a verifiable reputation to express their opinion and provide effective assistance to users.

The road to completing the transition is still long and there are various ways to fool search engines (which always remain machines), and that’s why Google refers to the quality raters and their human ability to evaluate content creators, pages and sites, as confirmed by the progressive updates of the guidelines.