How to Do Healthcare and Medical SEO in 2023
By: Dileep Thekkethil
November 18, 2022
Table of Contents
Healthcare and medical websites are top beneficiaries of SEO as their success mostly relies on how easily people find them online.
Be it a healthcare organization with a product-based site or a hospital or private practice, SEO campaigns have become the panacea for their inbound healthcare marketing requirements.
And this is where following the Healthcare/Medical SEO Tips becomes essential for such websites.
According to the latest stats, Google and its other search properties have devoured 90% of the total search market.
This includes paid ads and other SERP features like Knowledge Graphs and Featured Snippets.
The competition faced by industries after the evolution of the internet has not only touched the healthcare and medical niche but has also called for the digital marketing revolution.
This means that Google is omnipotent in the search landscape, so it’s the one who sets the rules!
All the rules set by Google are engraved in its Search Quality Rater Guidelines (SQRG). If you’re someone who manages healthcare and medical websites, the inferences within the 160-page SQRG document are vital for your success in the coming days.
You may have already heard about the Google Medic Algorithm Update, launched in August 2018, which took a clean sweep of the sites that didn’t comply with Google’s Quality Rater guidelines.
If you’re unaware of this update, let me give you a brief. The traffic of many healthcare and wellness websites across the world took a plunge in August after Google rolled out an incremental algorithm update.
The confirmation of the same, unlike the usual scenario, was given by Google after furious chatters took to webmaster and blackhat forums.
We did an in-depth analysis of the websites affected by the Google Medic Update a few days after the fluctuations stabilized.
The research revealed that the health and wellness websites affected by the medic update failed to follow the practices that Google had mandated in the Search Quality Rater guidelines.
Of course, you have to optimize your health or medical website before launching it but if you see a dip in traffic and conversion, consider conducting a quality check on your Healthcare/Medical SEO strategies. Here’s a list of Medical SEO Tips that can help you.
Declare the Intent of Your Healthcare/Medical Website
Is your healthcare/medical website showcasing its intent clearly within the first fold of the homepage? According to the Google Search Quality Rating guidelines, it’s imperative to reveal the purpose of websites to the target audience clearly.
Once, I came across a health-niche website that just read “Unleashing Your Inner Power.”
This is a catchy title tag, but it doesn’t give the target audience and Google any clue about what the website is offering.
Another mistake that I see on many healthcare websites is the lack of text on the homepage. These are mostly product-based websites that create images with text embedded in it.
Unfortunately, Google’s algorithm is not professional (at least, until now) in fully understanding the text within images.
So, if you’re managing image-heavy healthcare or medical websites, ensure that there is an H1 tag that briefly describes the purpose of the website.
You may find your website and its content to be the best, but you need to ensure that the target audience and Google also feel the same by making the intent clear in the first fold of the website.
Healthcare and Medical Websites Fall Under the YMYL Category
We talked earlier about how the Medic Update affected healthcare and medical websites. Our research found that Google Quality Rater guidelines have a specific clause for YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) websites.
YMYL websites are categorized as the ones that provide sensitive information to the target audience. Google is conscious while ranking these types of content because the suggestions may impact the health, happiness, and well-being of the target audience. Finance-based websites, health, and medical websites fall under this category.
Google is now more careful while ranking health and finance websites. This extra vigilance is the result of many YMYL websites publishing inaccurate content written by rookie content writers.
According to Google’s guidelines, the content published on YMYL sites has to be written by subject-matter experts.
Google’s Medic Update began to rank websites based on their EAT quality. Our analysis found that Google’s Medic Algorithm 2018 pulled down the rankings of YMYL websites with low E-A-T quality and gave a gentle push in the rankings of the ones that followed it.
You may wonder what is EAT. Google defines E-A-T as the acronym for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
Here are a few tips to ensure your healthcare/medical website follows the E-A-T quality ratings:
1. Add author bylines and contact details
The Quality Rater guidelines mandate healthcare and medical websites to display the contact information and customer support details to the users.
In addition to this, Google also wants to see the author’s bylines for healthcare and medical blog articles. This is to verify if a proven subject matter expert writes the article.
2. Remove Poor Quality Content
The survival of Google search depends on the quality of the search results that it displays. The discretion of Google while showcasing results to its users is what has scripted its success story. This is the reason why Google dislikes bad content.
The search engine giant puts the poorly written content that offers little to no information to the users on the backburners.
The chances of these web pages showing up on SERP are almost zero. In addition to this, Google’s machine learning-based medical algorithms deem the sites that publish vague and thin content as untrustworthy sites.
So, if your healthcare and medical website had earlier published thin or duplicate content on your website, try adding value to it or delete those completely. This can help in ranking your great content on Google.
Have you made the site navigation simple and easy for users and Google?
Healthcare and Medical websites usually have many interlinks. The product pages are linked to blog pages and vice versa. However, have you prioritized the content that appears on each page?
Does the web design of your healthcare site demarcate the main content from the supplemental content? If not, Google and the users may get confused.
Add navigation links, sidebar information, and footer information as additional content and ensure the page’s main content is highlighted.
Too Many Ads May Spoil the Rankings
Here’s one of the major Advanced Healthcare SEO Tips. Have you heard about the Google Fred Update? Launched in March 2017, the Fred update was intended to penalize websites with thin content.
In addition to this, many sites that were affected by the update also tried to over-optimize ads to increase click-through rates.
In its Quality Rater guidelines, Google has clearly stated that ads are marked with distinctive labels. When healthcare websites adhere to this, users don’t get confused between sponsored content and the main content.
It has been found that some healthcare and medical websites place text and image-based ads deceivingly within the content.
Google considers this as spam, and the chances of getting penalized are high. It should be noted that Google doesn’t encourage product-based websites to showcase adverts from ad networks.
Who Takes Ownership of the Content?
As we mentioned earlier while discussing the YMYL sites, Google looks at all healthcare and medical websites with a pinch of salt.
This ensures that their users are not misled by untrustworthy content. The search engine giant has a medical algorithm that is tuned to understand some relevant information which helps in rating the content that appears on healthcare and medical websites.
- Who wrote the content?
- Who owns the websites?
- Presence of a genuine “About Us” and “Contact Us” page
When it comes to health and medical websites, the readers may follow the tips shared above for a better life. For this reason, Google recommends subject matter experts write this content.
Even though it’s acceptable for Google to index content that has anonymous authors, the chance of them coming up on top is slender.
A much easier way to ensure the Expertise, Authority, and Trust of the blogs that go live on health and medical websites is by getting them verified by a Doctor.
Ensure that you include the details of the doctor who cross-checked the content. This will add a quality signal for Google.
The Reputation of Healthcare/Medical Sites and the Creator of the Content
The general sentiments about your healthcare website have a significant impact when Google considers it for the top position in the SERP.
Since there are many review-based websites available, it’s easier for Google to gauge the reputation of a healthcare site.
Moreover, Google Reviews and social media signals are now considered a vital signal to rank websites on top of search results.
It’s evident that Google wouldn’t take a chance by featuring a poorly reviewed healthcare and medical site on its SERP.
Google’s Medical Algorithms are discreet when it comes to promoting and demoting the rankings of websites based on reviews. There are instances when fake reviews are published to either hamper or boost the reputation of websites.
According to Google, its algorithms are trained to understand real and fake reviews. Moreover, there’s no need to break your head over a few negative reviews as it doesn’t seem Google will pull your site down for one or two bad remarks.
All this points to the importance of reputation management as one of the key Google ranking factors for healthcare and medical websites.
Ensure that the reputation of your healthcare/medical site is more on the positive side of platforms such as Yelp, BBB, Google Shopping and Amazon.
We have also noticed that healthcare and medical websites that have faced legal troubles such as being involved in medical fraud or financial wrongdoings find it hard to come back to top SERP positions.
When Google announced in 2013 that it would no longer feature the author’s name in the SERP, it was believed that the reputation of the author has no impact on search rankings.
But now, the Search Quality Rater guidelines have a section that is dedicated to the reputation of an author.
Importance of Starting a Blog?
Online healthcare companies understand the significance of SEO and spend thousands of dollars optimizing their websites.
Google is now omnipotent in the search engine sphere. Health and wellness companies know that their survival depends on how the search engine giant sees the website. However, there is something that these businesses fail to understand!
Google loves fresh content. If the site is not updated intermittently, there are chances the whole SEO effort may go in vain. However, you already know that regularly updating the service page and homepage is not practical.
Maintaining a blog section for your website can circumvent this pertinent issue. To be precise, great blog content translates into new business opportunities.
All businesses want to drive organic traffic to health and wellness websites and get quality leads from potential customers.
It may be hard to find people looking for a specific product or service offered by your company. On the flip side, it’s easier to find people who are already using or considering a product or service that is relevant to your business.
Your health and wellness blogs should be aimed at converting these people into your potential customers.
I hope, by now, you have heard a lot about why healthcare and wellness websites should consider blogging as a key marketing strategy.
Now, let’s delve deeper into the benefits of starting a health and wellness blog with respect to SEO, Building a Brand, Media, Sales, and Traffic.
The position of your business website on the Google search engine results page (SERP) has a direct connection with the quality of the blog content.
Business owners cannot sit back and hope that a few well-optimized service pages can outrank their competitors. It’s the blog section within the site that drives traffic for the targeted keywords and passes the authority to the service pages.
Also, it’s not possible to use the target keyword many times within the product or service pages as it may look spammy.
External links and domains pointing to your business website are vital factors that decide the SERP position of a website.
Other websites hesitate to link to your service and product pages as they seem more sales-oriented. However, when it comes to blogs, other sites are more likely to link back.
The reason is that blog pages are not explicit sales pages but pages with lots of valuable information.
Breaking news about the health and wellness industry, product launches, and other important events are subjects that qualify for a good blog post. Publishing relevant content on the blog can help build search exposure as quickly as possible.
Blogging Helps Medical, Health, and Wellness Websites Build Authority
There is one word that decides the success of any health/wellness website – expertise. Until and unless a niche has zero competition, there is a constant need to emerge as an authority in the field.
As we discussed before, service and product pages are often overlooked as sales pages. From a customer’s point of view, what they want to know is whether the products and services that you offer can give them the best solution.
The blog section of your website is one place where you can regularly update your analysis, the latest trends in the health and wellness industry, and comments on it. These in-depth blog articles can help in transforming your brand into one of the best health and wellness blogs.
It’s one way of letting your target audience know that you’re a step ahead of the competition. This adds value to your business and more reasons for your potential customers to associate with your brand.
In addition to this, it’s essential to build a lasting relationship with the customers. It’s difficult to evaluate the trust of loyal customers constantly; this is especially valid for websites in the health and wellness niche.
Your competitors have a hawkeye on your prospects, and they devise strategies to lure them. Starting a health and wellness blog makes it easier for businesses to engage with their target audience frequently.
This strategy can help in building brand loyalty so that your prospects and customers don’t get carried away by the marketing tactics of your competitors.
Retaining customers is the most challenging part of digital marketing. Updating existing customers with new products and offers through blogs can prompt customers for repeated sales. It will also act as one of the techniques to improve the conversion rate.
Starting a health and wellness blog helps to build media relations
If your focus is to bring authority through blogs, then it will inadvertently help you develop good media relations.
News houses are on a constant search for health and wellness industry experts as they need authoritative opinions, especially when it comes to the particular niche, before going to the press.
Establishing your healthcare brand through blogs will naturally attract the attention of reporters who may get a quote from your business heads or even do an interview with them.
Your blogs and their acceptability among the target audience can ensure that it gets picked up by the journos. This is one reason why expert business bloggers suggest more informative and research-oriented blogs rather than sales-oriented ones.
The crux here is to put yourself in the shoes of a reporter. Your health and wellness blogs have to be newsworthy, and for this, you have to keep abreast of the happenings that affect the health and wellness sector.
Try to publish blogs that have a signature of your business. You can do it by bringing your perspective to a developing story idea.
Even though the blog section should not be considered as a platform for explicit sales pitches, well-thought-out content can highlight your service better than a conventional sales pitch.
How to start a health and wellness blog?
By nature, blogs are supposed to be informal and conversational. The informal nature of blogs helps businesses build a natural connection with the target audience.
If you look at the other pages of your business website, they are formal and serious in the narrative. However, when it comes to blogs, they are more personal and are usually written by writers who can be approached.
In a way, starting a blog gives a personal face to your business and makes it more approachable.
Google rolled out an incremental algorithm update in August 2018 that affected the search positions of websites in the health and wellness industry. The update, dubbed Google Medic Update, took its toll on YMYL (Your Money Your Life) websites.
It was later identified that the update affected sites that had less Expertise, Authority, and Trust (E.A.T). Since blogs that appear on health and wellness websites give suggestions and tips to the users, Google wants to ascertain that it’s written by experts.
A well-written blog by an expert can reinforce confidence in users who may be considering buying your products or services.
Giving your health and wellness blogs a personal face is highly recommended as future Google updates can impact impersonal blogs.
Starting a Health Blog helps in driving targeted traffic to health and wellness websites
Business blogging is embarked upon with a mission – drive targeted traffic to the website. This means that the content that goes into the blog must be highly relevant to the niche of your business.
There are many reasons why a user may land on your website, each of your blog posts must be written based on the user journey stage.
A user journey stage is how the users are going to interact with your website after landing on it. There are five user journey stages that you must consider before writing a blog post for a website.
The blogs that are consumed by users in the awareness stage are less about promotion and more about introducing the brand. It will offer more insights to the users by educating them using facts and figures.
This will help in bringing brand awareness to your health and wellness website.
The users in the familiarity stage have already come across the services but have many unanswered questions. These are the kind of people who may or may not qualify as prospects, but they cannot be overlooked.
Provide useful information with a light promotion of products/services; they may return after a while based on the information you provide.
These are people who have seen multiple products and services offered by different websites and are considering buying the best. These kinds of users like to consume blogs that give in-depth information about a particular product or service.
Once a user buys one of your products or services, there is a possibility that he/she might have a few doubts regarding the same or may require help in using it.
These users need more “how-to” articles, and by offering them the best content, you can continue to drive brand advocacy.
What to Blog About?
You may think that adding a blog section to your health and wellness website may not drive the attention of the target audience.
But according to the stats, people choose healthcare services only after skimming through ten websites at least. If your blog is able to highlight the expertise of your business in a subtle tone, it will guide your audience to one of your products or services.
However, the health and wellness blog topic you write about must have a wide appeal among the targets, or the whole effort will go in vain.
To come up with topics that interest your target audience, you should research niche-relevant questions and topics they frequently discuss on the web or in forums.
Some of the most successful blog posts from health and wellness sites are the ones that give health and fitness advice and information to the users in the form of case studies and pillar content. You must also remember that the blogs should be written for the target audience and not the search engines.
You already know that not all blogs get the traction that the writer intends. The reason for fewer readers is due to the lack of audience research.
You have to select a blog topic that your target audience likes to read. Even the most promising content cannot get you traffic if the readers don’t care about the topic discussed. In addition to this, writing topics that your targets like to read will naturally generate links to your site.
Links are an essential part of SEO success. Moreover, high-quality and unique blogs are factors that can build authority links from high DA sites.
Since most health and wellness websites fail to get links to their service pages, blogs have transformed into a key resource for natural link building.
How Writing for Your Target Audience can Impress Search Engines?
The Google Quality Rater guidelines ask health and wellness sites to publish content written by industry experts.
This is to ensure that the content doesn’t give false promises and suggestions that may harm the users. This was the crux of the Google Medic Update launched in August 2018, also called the Your Money Your Life (YMYL) update.
In addition to this, you also have to consider all the On-page SEO factors to ensure that the health website ranks high on Google.
Can Mobile Usability Issues Cause Huge Ranking Drop for Health/Medical Site?
Speaking of mobile usability, here’s one question that people ask.
Do mobile usability issues cause a drop In rankings?
In fact, in a recent Reddit discussion addressing the ranking dip of a medical website, Muller stated that mobile usability issues have nothing to do with the drop in rankings.
He opines that such ranking fluctuations can be a result of serious content issues, especially if it happens after an algorithm update, and suggests focusing on Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines.
Besides, meeting the E-A-T standards is paramount to getting a ranking boost, particularly for YMYL sites like medicine, healthcare, insurance and more.
So, you need to make sure that your site adheres to Google’s guidelines. Pay close attention to constraints that are specific to your niche, if any.
Let me give you a general tip here. In SEO, things aren’t always what they look like from the outside. If you simply choose to rely on shallow impressions, you may not see results, no matter the kind of effort you put in. Instead, you have to dig deeper to find the root cause and fix it.
Coming back to the point, mobile usability problems don’t trigger a fall in search rankings.
Rankings go far more than that.
If you’ve optimized your website properly but still see a drop in rankings, it’s time to look beyond your site.
Look at your competitors.
After all, Google is not weighing only your site in order to rank it.
It evaluates tons of sites across the web and ranks them based on several factors.
Even better, the primary goal of Google is to fetch the best answers for user queries and not just rank sites.
So, if you are ranking lower, it also means that sites out there are performing better than yours.
That said, to rank higher for a user query relevant to your industry, you need to perform better than your competitors.
That’s why, apart from optimizing your site, you also have to analyze your competitors’ sites if you see a drop in rankings.
That way, you can identify areas where they perform better than you and why Google ranks them higher than your site.
It may be anything, from content quality to backlinks.
That brings us to the next question.
Does search console fix validations mean nothing?
Let me explain.
The validate fix can speed up crawling or redrawing your pages.
But that doesn’t mean Google will rank your page at its top out of nowhere.
That information tells you what is happening with your site and how it is performing at a given point in time.
After weighing similar resources across the web against its ranking factors, Google will reward you with higher rankings if your content is worth it.
So, while ensuring that your site is viewable on mobile devices to qualify for mobile-first indexing, also see to that it aligns with the above constraints.
This way, you can increase the probability of your site outperforming the other players in your niche for mobile searches.
Healthcare website sees 87% organic traffic boost after being hit by the Google Medic Update: Thanks to Stans Fully Managed SEO
This is one of the most exciting cases that we have recently encountered as we helped catapult a 10k increase in the daily organic traffic to our client’s delight.
This healthcare client had three years of online presence when they signed up with us in July 2018. They were consistently getting daily traffic of 1k visitors but wanted to take their business to the next level by increasing organic traffic.
We didn’t waste much time brainstorming about the results since the goal was crystal clear. However, the search metrics of this client showed a year-on-year fluctuation in the traffic. Little did we know that Google was planning something big for healthcare websites!
As always, we started the project with a complete site audit covering both technical and non-technical SEO aspects.
Other than a few rank drop events after major Google algorithm updates, the site had all the signals to get a better search ranking.
Grabbing the Low Hanging Fruits First
Even though the site content was almost two years old, there were only very few blogs published on the site. With a few blog posts, the website was ranking for 353 keywords in the Google search.
However, a majority of them were on pages two and three of Google search. Nevertheless, we knew those keywords were opportunities waiting to be unlocked. We also noticed that there were only a few quality back-links pointing to the site.
We shortlisted the top 4 competitor websites based on the inputs given by the client and did a thorough industry-specific search analysis.
It became evident that publishing high-quality blog posts can improve the search ranking and above all, get targeted traffic. During the next session with the client, they were convinced that we were on the right track.
The website gets Hit by Google Medic Update
August 2018 was a dark month for many Health and Wellness websites as Google rolled out the infamous Medic Update.
Major healthcare websites were hit, and unfortunately, our client also felt the heat from the same. Traffic touched an all-time low, which happened when we were geared up to the writing-table.
We were confident about our services, so we stuck to the plan and requested the client to wait and watch for a month or two because Google has a history of reversing a few algorithm parameters when they come up with another update. We also analyzed the Google Quality Rater Guidelines to ensure that the healthcare website follows all the ranking metrics that Google preempts websites to have.
- 10 High-Quality blog posts written by native writers.
- Five New Pillar Content.
- 40 DA 30+ Backlinks.
- 10 Extreme-quality back-links.
- On-Page Fixes.
Here is how our SEO campaign looked like
Step 1: Our SEO specialists in India used best-in-class industry tools to do the keyword research.
Step 2: They supplied the keywords to our US-native writers specialized in the health and wellness niche to generate the content.
Step 3: Since highly-experienced native content writers wrote all the pillar content, there were minimum edits required from the client.
Step 4: Quality guest posts were ready within a week, thanks to our army of native content writers.
Step 5: Our blogger outreach experts who were already connected with industry-specific influencers got the guest blogs published on traffic generating websites within a week.
Step 6: The SEO report was sent to the client precisely 30 days after the commencement of the SEO campaign.
Did We Just Set Google on Fire?
In a span of 30 days, we completed the SEO campaign and kept our fingers crossed. It was the same old feeling of deja vu when Google announced the Birthday Update as we had forecasted, and then, boom! Our healthcare client ranked at the top of the Google search for every single keyword we focused on.
Above all, two-pillar topics that we published started ranking in Google’s #0 position (Direct Answer Box). Furthermore, the site started ranking in the #1 position of Google for close to 50 LSI keywords.
In total, from the mere 353 keywords that were ranking, the site took a giant leap and ranked for 31.3k keywords. A triumphant moment for all, the clients and our team.
Results: Traffic increased by 87% increase in organic traffic from Google soon after the September 27 Google Birthday Update
Healthcare Industry SEO Tips-Wrap Up
The information in this blog should be more than enough for you to know how SEO would work for a healthcare website. When you make a proper strategy and work meticulously, ranking your page will get easier.