Unrelated Content, Google Algorithm Updates and Playing With Fire

Having multiple types of content on your website confuses search engines and may result in a rankings loss across the entire website.

I have mentioned this several times when covering various algorithm updates on this blog, however, I never provided clarity, case studies, or confirmation from Google.

Today’s article covers all three.

What is Unrelated Content?

For the last 10+ years I have mentioned something which I call “topic authority”. There is a “category” of sorts which search engines place websites in, just like a TV show. For example, television show topics include: local news, house flipping, fishing, cooking, cartoons, etc.

Some possible website categories search engines could classify your site as include:

  • A local business
  • Software tips
  • Medical information
  • Financial advice
  • Pets
  • Coupons
  • Encyclopedia
  • A forum about hiking and camping
  • Government agency
  • Charity
  • Bank

Two Problems with Unrelated Content:

1. Search engine confusion.
According to Google, as of 2020, search engines simply are not yet advanced enough to understand what is going on when websites target different types of content. Let that sink in. There are two ways this can negatively affect you:

  1. Google could mistakenly think of you as a website about one topic and not the other. If you’re trying to sell motorcycles but have 200 pages about ice cream, Google may think you’re a site about ice cream.
  2. If Google is unhappy with some of your content you could feel the effects across the entire website when it is demoted. That’s because some content is heavily scrutinized.

2. Some content is held to higher standards.
Google’s core algorithm updates always affect websites with YMYL content. YMYL content is any content which can affect someone’s money or life, and this includes financial and medical advice. In fact, if you’re not a medical authority, Google’s goal appears to be to push your medical content as far down in the search results as possible so that nobody ever sees it.

Case Study: Recovering from a Core Algorithm Update.

Above is the Google Analytics chart for a dating website that I helped recover the traffic on (as a note here, sites can move up and down in algorithm updates even with no intervention whatsoever).

This is a dating website, which at one point, covered mental health problems.

When Google rolled out one of their major core algorithm updates, I believe they suffered a loss in visibility because they trespassed into what I call the “danger zone” (they had medical content on their site, putting them into the “danger zone”).

I call it the Danger Zone because it is an unpredictable place. Google is still working on the way they algorithmically evaluate medical content websites. Even sites that are doing everything correctly sometimes get slapped when they’re in the danger zone! It happens all the time.

Anyways, in this case, we killed all of the medical content. It was not important. Most importantly, it didn’t match user intent. NOBODY in the world was going to that website to learn about mental health – they wanted dating advice. Once we killed off the medical content and made some other fixes and the site made a really nice jump down the road. They did have to wait about 9 months to recover, but, they did.

Additionally, the medical content (mental health content) was written by a very young lady. It basically consisted of why men are stupid and how to date people with depression, etc. So, it was wrong and shouldn’t have been showing up in search engines to begin with (side note: Google has clearly stated they can not check content accuracy).

Google on Unrelated Content and “Playing With Fire”:

In December 2019, Google said:

When you start adding more and more unrelated content to your site you’re kind of making it hard for search engines to understand what your site is about.

For your core content, it is a lot harder for us to say well this is something we should show prominently and rank.

Sites are … playing with fire … it can result in Google having trouble understanding their core business which is probably something you want to avoid.

Google gives an example of going as far as blocking and noindexing some types of content if it is too different than your site’s normal content.

Don’t play with fire.

Examples of Unrelated Content:

The type of content getting most webmasters in trouble these days is when they dabble in YMYL content niches. For example, YMYL content includes medical information and financial information.

Examples include:

  • A dating website which offers information up about mental illness.
  • A recipe website which offers information about nutrition.
  • An herbal remedy website which discusses alternative cures for medical conditions.
  • A drug rehab clinic which goes too far discussing side affects of drugs and medications.
  • An attorney’s website which discusses medical conditions, prognosis and treatments.

What to do with Unrelated Content?

After getting a content audit by someone who knows what they’re doing, you’ll need to decide what to do with unrelated content which may be negatively impacting your website now (or in the future).

Options include:

  • Deleting the content
  • Moving the content to a different domain
  • Marking the content noindex

It is important to note here that not all content that is unrelated needs to go. It really just depends.

Recap!

If you believe that unrelated content on your website is dragging down your search results, be sure to get a content audit.

If you think you should be able to rank for certain terms but Google won’t let you, they either disagree with you, or, they just can’t evaluate your site good enough yet.

According to Google, having unrelated content on your website is “playing with fire”.

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