Google Medic Update: your comprehensive guide to avoid the penalty

By Steven, on November 8, 2023, updated on November 1, 2023 - 5 min read

The SEO world faced a major shake-up on August 1, 2018, when Google rolled out a significant algorithm update known as the “Google Medic Update“.

This update mainly targeted healthcare and medical content quality. Surprisingly, it affected far more websites than anyone could have imagined. Whether in the medical field or not, numerous sites saw their ranking plummet.

You’re probably here because this update hit you either directly or indirectly. We all know climbing back from a Google penalty isn’t a walk in the park…

Are you worried that your website’s ranking could be or might have been affected by the “Medic Update”? Are you seeking ways to prevent penalties or recover from one? You’ve come to the right place!

In this guide, Debugbar will explain what this penalty is all about, how to avoid it, and most importantly, how to bounce back if your website is impacted. Let’s dive into the details together and make sure you reclaim your rightful position in the search engine results.

What is medic update?

Introduced by Google on August 1, 2018, Medic Update was aimed at refining its organic search algorithm.

At first glance, this might seem unsurprising. After all, it’s customary for the search engine titan to regularly innovate so as to stay competitive.

Well, even though updates are indeed normal, they can potentially have heavy consequences on a website.

And that’s exactly what happened. Since August 1, 2018, many websites saw their traffic plummet.

Naturally, the SEO community launched an investigation to identify the tweaks made to the algorithm and the criteria influencing the ranking. They soon noticed that some types of websites were more affected than others…


Who was affected by this update?

After carrying out their research, some SEOs found out that the August 2018 update had mainly affected health-related web pages. Hence, they (especially Barry Schwartz) decided to dub it “Medic” Update.

However, while mainly health-related webpages (sites offering medical advice, medication, hospitals) were impacted, they weren’t the only ones.

In general, it was observed that the update also significantly affected YMYL (Your Money Your Life) related websites.

YMYL websites deal with money, health, or well-being. Thus, the following themes were particularly affected:

  • E-commerce,
  • Finance,
  • Legal info,
  • Health,
  • Etc.

Still, be cautious. Even if your website doesn’t fall into these categories, it doesn’t mean you’re safe. Google stressed that though Medic Update particularly hit medical and YMYL sites, it was a broad core algorithm update.

This means it applies to all websites, regardless of their field.

Why did Google roll out this update?

Google aims to ensure that we, as users, have access to accurate, unbiased, and up-to-date information. More specifically, Google wants to prioritize sites offering reliable, high-quality content.

In a nutshell, the goals of this update include:

  • Enhancing result quality: As the world’s most-utilized search engine, Google has a reputation to uphold. It must ensure it provides its users with the most accurate and relevant information to maintain its user base.
  • Increasing relevance: Google highly values content that precisely matches users’ queries. This update served to emphasize this relevance.
  • Strengthening control over sensitive information: Misleading or false information can have severe consequences, especially in YMYL fields. By toughening control over this information, Google ensures the reliability and accuracy of available information for these sensitive queries. In other words, they’re doing their best to protect their users.

To sum it up, all these changes aim at a common objective: to provide users with the safest and most satisfying experience on the web.

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By now, you should have understood that this algorithm change is quite profound. Thus, making sure you comply with the rules becomes crucial to avoid penalties and rankings fall down. But how do you do that? Let’s find out.

How can you avoid the medic update penalty?

Worried about getting caught off guard? It’s high time you ensure your website complies with the new guidelines.

Don’t fret though! Even if it might take some time, it’s relatively straightforward. You just have to:

  • Produce quality content: Google prefers quality over quantity. Ensure each piece of content on your site is well-written, informative, and accurate. Ask yourself if what you are publishing is truly useful to the user. If not, you’ll need to rework your content.
  • Work on authority and expertise: Present yourself as an authority in your field. Highlight your achievements, publish detailed case studies, and share your knowledge. In short, show Google that it can trust you and that you deserve to be on the first page.
  • Regularly update your site: A site not updated regularly might be considered irrelevant by Google. Therefore, try to publish new content regularly; ideally, once a week.
  • Opt for the best user experience (UX): Clean design, easy and intuitive navigation, as well as quick loading speed are crucial to keeping your visitors (and Google) happy. A slower-loading or challenging-to-navigate website will turn users away, causing Google to deem your site unfit for users’ needs and drop it in the search engine results.
  • Create a solid backlink strategy: Backlinks are links from external sites pointing towards your domain. High-quality domain backlinks can work wonders for your SEO. Beware of suspicious links though, as they might get you penalized.
  • Read the quality raters’ guide: Quality raters are people hired by Google to evaluate how well search results content matches the submitted queries. They use a guide featuring major elements to consider when evaluating web pages.

If you follow these guidelines, you’re well on your way to dodging the penalty.

Is it too late? Even after our advice you got hit by the update? Don’t panic, all’s not lost.

What to do if your site has been hit by the Medic Update penalty?

Has your site been hit by the Medic Update? Don’t fret, it’s not too late for you to correct the course!

By acting in a methodical manner and adhering to Google’s expectations you can regain the traffic you’ve lost (although it might take some time).

To recover from the penalty, you must:

  • Conduct an SEO audit: This SEO audit will allow you to analyze your site in depth, identifying problem areas and domains where it needs improvements.
  • Review your content: Revisit each page of your site and ask yourself the following questions:
    • Is it easy to understand?
    • Is it accurate and informative?
    • Is it pleasant to read?

If the answer is no, then it’s high time to roll up your sleeves and improve it.

  • Improve your authority: Work on your site’s credibility. The idea here is to show Google that you are serious and that it can trust you. In simple terms, your site needs to look clean (almost as if it had replaced its t-shirt, shorts, sneakers with a suit and loafers).
    To “dress up” your site and make it attractive to Google, you could, for instance:
    • Add author biographies,
    • Share detailed case studies,
    • Obtain more quality backlinks.
  • Provide evidence:If your site belongs to a YMYL niche, make sure that your claims are backed up by empirical evidence. This could be statistics, studies, or even customer testimonials.
  • Optimize the UX: Ensure that your site is fast, mobile-friendly, and easy to navigate. Good UX can improve your SEO and reverse the effects of the penalty.

By following these tips, you can repair your site in case of a penalty. But remember, it takes time to see improvements. So be patient and keep working in the right direction.

Google Medic update: key points to remember

Having explored Google’s Medic Update in depth, here’s what you need to remember:

  • Major update: Medic Update is a major update to Google’s algorithm (broad core algorithm update) launched on August 1, 2018.
  • Target: It primarily targeted sites that fall under the YMYL category, with a notable impact on the web page traffic and rankings linked to medical and health domains.
  • Objective: The main aim of this update is to improve the quality of search results by promoting high-quality content.
  • How to avoid the penalty: To prevent being penalized or boost your ranking, you should focus on producing quality content, bolstering your legitimacy and expertise, regularly updating your site, optimizing user experience, and having a strong backlink strategy.
  • Solution for those penalized: If you’ve already been hit by this penalty, it’s not too late. Conduct a comprehensive SEO audit, review your content, enhance your authority, provide evidence, and optimize the UX.

That’s all you need to understand Google’s Medic Update. Now you have the tools for ensuring long-term success for your site.