Writing content in “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) niches has always been challenging, but with Google’s determination to provide high-quality search results, it seems more difficult now than ever before.
Many searchers continue to turn to Google to find information about health, finance, law, and other sensitive topics. There is clearly an opportunity (and arguably, a need) to create content of this nature.
But you can’t just slap together a blog post, put it up on your site, and expect to rank for YMYL queries. It must be high-quality content.
In the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, Google explains that high-quality content provides enough information to satisfy readers’ search intent and comes from reputable, trusted writers and domains.
For small brands and lesser-known content creators, this is far easier said than done.
Whether you’re a seasoned content creator or just getting started, you need to get more comfortable working with YMYL topics, you’ll learn the tips, tricks, and tidbits you need to successfully navigate the (at times) murky waters of YMYL content here.
1. Prioritize Searchers
Above all else, prioritize searchers in YMYL content. Keep their needs, expectations, and vulnerabilities in the front of your mind during the content creation process.
You shouldn’t create content for the sake of creating content, or because the keywords seem lucrative.
Instead, make an effort to enrich readers’ lives with essential information. After all, what you write could very well influence someone’s money, life, or wellbeing.
If you do a good job, people will find your content and read it. You have a responsibility to ensure that information is high quality, accurate, and not harmful or misleading.
With that in mind, you’ll go about content creation more deliberately and treat YMYL topics with the care they require.
2. Consider E-A-T
Of course, you can’t have YMYL content without expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T).
For YMYL content, you have to pay attention to both the domain and author’s E-A-T.
If you’re creating content for your own domain, there are several ways to boost E-A-T across your site.
While specifics will vary from site to site, you need to focus on building a reputable brand, showcasing the expertise of your writers, and positioning your domain as a trusted source of information.
This is a long process, but you can start by covering related yet less sensitive topics.
Once you gain some credibility, you can move on to YMYL subjects.
If you’re creating content for another website, you have much less control over E-A-T.
Assess the current state of that domain’s E-A-T and consider how it may impact the success of your content.
If that domain has high E-A-T, your content may benefit from it.
If it has low E-A-T, your content isn’t doomed, but it may struggle to perform how you want it to.
Don’t forget about your E-A-T as an author. As a content creator, you may have little to no E-A-T on the subjects you have to write about.
Lean on established experts in the field you’re writing about. Associate yourself with them, link to studies or reports, and reference or quote them in your writing.
You can boost your credibility while increasing the clarity and accessibility of their messaging.
Including your name, any relevant titles, and credentials, and a descriptive author bio can go a long way in improving your author E-A-T. This information is valuable for searchers and search engines alike, regardless of the domain’s E-A-T.
Continue to write more content on related YMYL topics. As readers and search engines begin to associate your name with that niche, your author E-A-T will improve.
And finally, do your best to write high-quality content. No amount of E-A-T will make up for content that doesn’t provide users with the information they’re looking for, especially in YMYL spaces.
To write high-quality content, you need to thoroughly research the subject at hand. You won’t be able to adequately cover a topic if you don’t know anything about it.
Readers will be able to tell when you don’t know what you’re talking about.
What’s more, if you include any factually incorrect information, Google has no reason to rank your page at the top of the search engine results page (SERP). They will feature accurate content from a more trustworthy or reputable source, instead.
Start with the basics and work your way up to more complex subtopics and related queries from there.
This is also an appropriate time to begin conducting keyword research to understand how people are trying to learn about your topic, and competitor analysis, so you can understand how other sites have already addressed it.
4. Don’t Copy Existing Content
You can’t just mimic what existing content is doing; you still have to contribute something new to this space and create content that’s worthy of ranking.
Since you aren’t an expert, you may have to rely on competing pages more heavily to inform your understanding of the topic. If you aren’t careful, this can make the line between research and plagiarism blurry.
To rank in YMYL spaces, your content does have to be accurate and in agreement with the pages that are already ranking when it comes to core facts. Review existing content so you know what the expert consensus is, as well as what Google believes is a good answer to that question.
But don’t stop there. Look for ways to cover that “necessary information,” but take steps to distinguish your content from those other pages.
As long as you aren’t doing anything potentially harmful to readers, differentiating your content shouldn’t be an issue.
Doing something different that no one else is doing – such as writing clearly and concisely, creating a better-organized page, or answering related queries – could be what gets your post to the top of the SERPs, regardless of your E-A-T level.
5. Include External Links
This may seem like an obvious or rudimentary best practice, but when it comes to YMYL topics, it bears repeating: always include external links in your content.
If you aren’t familiar with the subject you’re writing about, you probably used other sources and pieces of content to understand that subject. You have to give credit where credit is due, and you also have to support and substantiate your claims.
With YMYL topics, the need for external links goes beyond proper citation. The more you can do to come across as a trusted and authoritative expert, the more likely you are to succeed in YMYL spaces.
Including external links to relevant, trusted sources will increase the extent to which Google associates your domain with those sources, making you seem more authoritative in turn. It may not be a direct ranking factor, but the association doesn’t hurt.
It also helps you appear more trustworthy, as you’re willing to admit when you don’t know something and direct readers to a better source of information.
It’s also appropriate (and necessary, at times) to reference and link to your competitors or pages that are already ranking for your target keywords.
If you’re writing about taxes in the United States, for instance, you’re all but required to link to the Internal Revenue Service’s website. Though you’re competing with them, the IRS is the ultimate source of information on this subject.
When a domain is an undisputed authority on a subject, it will always win on reputation alone. You don’t have much to lose by linking to these competitors; in fact, you have more to gain.
Not only do you reap the SEO benefits that come from linking to reputable sources, but you can also position yourself as a viable competitor.
Perhaps your page is more comprehensive, provides a better answer to the question at hand, or is simply easier for people to navigate and use. Whatever the case may be, you’re clearly showing search engines and users how your page is different from and better than that source.
You’re doing something that marks you worthy of ranking on your own merit, even though you aren’t the ultimate authority.
6. Write What You Know
Your personal experiences and knowledge can be advantageous for writing YMYL content. After all, “write what you know” is one of the oldest tricks in the book.
Even Google acknowledges the value of this strategy in the SQEG:
“If it seems as if the person creating the content has the type and amount of life experience to make him or her an ‘expert’ on the topic, we will value this ‘everyday expertise’ and not penalize the person/webpage/website for not having ‘formal’ education or training in the field.”
This applies to YMYL topics, too.
You still have to tread carefully. You shouldn’t step outside the bounds of your expertise – such as providing stock trading tips or medical advice, despite a lack of education or experience in that area – nor should you treat it like an entry in your diary.
Find a healthy balance between your unique perspective and the coverage the topic warrants.
Use your knowledge to differentiate your content from that of your competitors and add depth to your writing, not overpower it.
7. Ask for Help
Your friends, coworkers, and acquaintances may have relevant subject-matter expertise to share with you. They may only have everyday expertise to provide, but that could be enough to provide powerful insight into what other searchers want or need to learn.
If you know someone knowledgeable about the YMYL subject you’re covering, reach out to them. Ask them for their insights, as well as advice on how to appropriately address that topic.
They may be able to tell you about what is and isn’t important to cover, dispel common misconceptions or myths about the topic, or provide any deeper information that isn’t readily available on the first page of Google.
See if this individual would be willing to work on this content with you.
Whether you sit down for a brief interview or ask them to review it for accuracy, their expertise could help distinguish your content from pages that are already ranking, add something new, and give your piece a better chance of ranking.
8. Know Your Limits
It’s important to know your limits as a content creator. If you don’t think you can effectively and accurately write about a certain subject, then you shouldn’t.
If a topic is essential to address on your domain, try to find someone else who can do it. Ideally, they’d be a subject-matter expert or have previous experience writing in that area (and their byline could bring extra E-A-T to the page where your byline wouldn’t).
Ultimately, it’s better to recognize that you can’t do a topic justice than it is to create poor content. A low-quality page won’t have a real chance of succeeding, particularly when it’s up against major competitors that are difficult to outperform.
Further, if you get something significantly wrong or provide indisputably incorrect information, your content could be harmful to readers. This could result in a penalty from Google, as well as long-term damage to your site.
9. Temper Your Expectations
It’s hard to successfully rank for YMYL queries. In their 2019 white paper about fighting disinformation, Google confirmed as much and stated that it increased its reliance on E-A-T signals to rank content in this space.
In other words, even if you create unique, useful content, you may not be able to outrank existing pages from highly reputable sources.
However, that doesn’t mean you should avoid creating YMYL content altogether. Rather than focusing on rankings, focus on creating high-quality content that is useful for searchers and relevant to your brand.
With this approach to content creation, you can help boost the authority of your domain and begin the long process of becoming a trusted source of information in your own right.
You may not be able to rank now, but with the right content and a little bit of patience, you could in the future.
10. Keep Learning
Finally, keep learning! The more familiar you become with a topic, the easier it will be to write about it appropriately.
You can’t become a subject-matter expert in every single niche, but knowledge is power.
The next time you have to write about a YMYL topic, you can do so with more confidence, grace, and ease.
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