YMYL Meaning: What Is It, and How Do We Address It?

The meaning of YMYL is quite simple: Your Money or Your Life. It refers to websites that have been built for informational purposes – specifically those that could have a real-world impact on the consumers’ finances or wellbeing.

But, as content marketers, what must we bear in mind when we encounter YMYL content? And what are the best tips to ensure your YMYL website ranks?

In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • What is YMYL content?
  • Examples of YMYL content and why it matters
  • How YMYL came about: Its inception and purpose
  • The introduction of E-E-A-T and how it boosts YMYL rankings
  • How to figure out if your content counts as YMYL

Let’s begin.

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What Is YMYL Content?

YMYL is an acronym that stands for Your Money or Your Life. According to Google’s guidelines, this covers any topic that could impact ‘the health, financial stability, or safety of people, or the welfare or well-being of society’.

Today, users consume digital information that they can get on the fly all the time. In fact, the average time spent with digital media has been predicted to reach six hours and nine minutes per day.

A quick internet search or question to Siri can be enough to make or break a decision, so it’s in a search engine’s best interest to take precautions in ensuring the information it ranks is sound – rather than spreading misinformation.

What Is an Example of YMYL Content?

Some of the more common YMYL content topics include:

  • Finance and investments
  • Health and medical
  • Legal
  • Education
  • Information about major life decisions (e.g., buying a home, starting a family)
  • Certain news articles and current events

Why YMYL Matters

For marketers, YMYL content is so important to get right, and search engines know it. With YMYL meaning a higher level of influence on a person’s actions or understanding of serious topics, quality checks and Google’s advised best practices should be upheld if you fancy your chances in ranking and being deemed trustworthy.

If left unmonitored, any traces of misinformation could harm:

  • The person directly viewing or using the content
  • Other people linked to the person who viewed the content
  • Groups of people or wider society affected by the actions of people who viewed the content

So, YMYL SEO and content have an added set of responsibilities and considerations for any marketers or business owners operating in a related YMYL field.

But how did this all come about?

The Inception of YMYL Content

The roots of YMYL stem from Google’s continued goal to deliver trustworthy and relevant content to its users.

Initially, Google’s algorithms primarily focused on keyword matching and backlink quantity to rank its pages. However, as the internet evolved and concerns about misinformation and low-quality content grew, Google began to place greater emphasis on credibility.

For Context, a Bit of History: Google’s BERT Update 2019

Back in 2019, Google rolled out the BERT update – a mouthful, but standing for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, should you be curious. This update was massive, affecting 1 in 10 searches, and was designed to help Google better understand more nuanced or complex search queries.

Unlike previous algorithms, BERT was designed to grasp the context of words within a search query by considering the surrounding words and phrases. This ‘bidirectional’ understanding allows Google to better comprehend the intent behind user queries, leading to more relevant search results.

For example, Google provides the following example:

Think of a user searching the query ‘can you get medicine for someone pharmacy’. Most humans would understand this meaning to relate to someone wanting to pick up medication on behalf of someone else. However, pre-BERT, Google would’ve placed greater emphasis on ‘medicine’ and ‘pharmacy’, ignoring the surrounding words – as a result, the top-ranking pages would likely be not what the user was after.

Following BERT, however, Google can infer a more accurate view of search intent thanks to the added context of the full query being processed.

So, What Does All of This Mean in Relation to YMYL Content?

Following the BERT update, Google continued to tinker away. In their continued goal to create a human-first search engine, they went on to introduce the concept of YMYL.

This drop landed off the back of the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (SQEGs), which provided useful insight into what Google deems ‘rankworthy’. As a result of these guidelines, Google set the bar higher for those qualified to contribute content on related YNYL topics.

They introduced the Google E-E-A-T guidelines – in other words, the more authentic you appear as regards Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, the more credible their search engine will view your content and rank you accordingly for it).

According to Google’s SQEGs:

‘Pages that share first-hand life experience on clear YMYL topics may be considered to have high E-E-A-T as long as the content is trustworthy, safe, and consistent with well-established expert consensus. In contrast, some types of YMYL information and advice must come from experts.’

How to Determine Whether Your Content Is Classed as YMYL

Deciding if your content veers into YMYL territory means looking closely at your messaging and how it could affect people. It’s not necessarily just about the topic but thinking about how your words might influence someone’s life and actions.

In Google’s guidelines, you’ll find additional guidance, but their following examples should help to clarify:

  • YMYL Health or Safety: Topics that could harm mental, physical, and emotional health, or any form of safety such as physical safety or safety online.
  • YMYL Financial Security: Topics that could damage a person’s ability to support themselves and their families.
  • YMYL Society: Topics that could negatively impact groups of people, issues of public interest, trust in public institutions, etc.
  • YMYL Other: Topics that could hurt people or negatively impact welfare or well-being of society.

Of course, for certain content, whether it’d be classed as YMYL or not could still be unclear. Further questions to help you decide:

  1. Would the typical reader be relying on expert advice in this area? Could any misinformation – no matter how small – cause some degree of harm? If yes, then the topic is likely YMYL.
  2. Would the typical reader be content to make a decision on the topic with only casual information available? If yes, the topic is likely not YMYL.

Boosting Your YMYL SEO and Content Trust Signals with Embryo

Are you a business owner or marketer that occupies the YMYL space? We’d love to hear from you.

With YMYL meaning a greater demonstration of first-hand experience and expertise, it’s critical your content gets it right. Whether you’re navigating the complexities of health, finance, safety-related topics, our dedicated team of SEO experts and contenteers will work with you to ensure you’re scoring high in E-E-A-T and giving search engines the trust signals they need to deem your material rankworthy.

Here at Embryo, our expertise and passion for delivering top-notch results are what set us apart. Get in touch today to get the conversation started.

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