The search engine universe is continuously expanding its borders, and the need for websites to rank on top of the search results is at its pinnacle. Healthcare and medical websites are top beneficiaries of SEO as their success mostly relies on how easily people find them online.
Be it healthcare product-based sites or private practices and hospitals, SEO has become the panacea for inbound marketing requirements. According to the latest stats, 90% of the total search market has been devoured by Google and its other search properties. 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 is vital for your success in the coming days.
You may have already heard about the Google Medic Algorithm Update which was launched in August 2018 that 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’re seeing a dip in traffic and conversion, consider conducting a quality check on your SEO strategies. Here is a detailed search quality checklist:
Declare the Intent of Your Healthcare 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 users clearly.
Once, I came across a health-niche website that just read “Unleashing Your Inner Power.”
This is a catchy title, but it doesn’t give the users 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 on it.
Unfortunately, Google’s algorithm is not a 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 users 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 information to users that impact their health, happiness, and well-being. 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. As per Google’s guidelines, the content published on YMYL sites has to be written by people 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 bylines for blog articles. This is to verify if the article is written by a proven subject matter expert.
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 pages showing up on SERP are almost zero. In addition to this, Google’s machine learning based 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 future content on 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 main content of the page is highlighted.
Too Many Ads May Spoil the Rankings
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.
Google has clearly stated in its Quality Rater guidelines to ensure 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 an algorithm that is tuned to understand some relevant information which helps in rating the content that appears on healthcare and medical website.
- 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 this content to be written by subject matter experts.
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 it 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 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 fraud or financial wrongdoings find it hard to come back to top SERP positions.
When Google announced in 2013 that it will 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 has a section that is dedicated to the reputation of an author.