If you are in the healthcare industry and you have had to deal with adding content to your website, most probably you have heard of SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
SEO is a series of “hacks” used when writing content for websites, that helps your site to be found and ranked by search engines like Google. The better SEO techniques applied to your content, the higher you will rank in Google.
For example, if you are a gastroenterologist, and someone types “gastroenterologist” in their search, your website will be one of the firsts to pop-up if you got a high ranking through the SEO in your site. As you can imagine, SEO is vital if you want people to find your website.
How Google decides what goes on the first page of a patient’s search
For a long time, Google had an algorithm that would decide how high to rank a website based on keywords, metadata, and links (all SEO hacks), among other factors that were purely technical and had little to do with the authorship of the content or the value that this would bring to an audience.
That is one of the main reasons why physicians and nurses have been confronted by patients demanding to receive treatment according to false information that they found online and refusing to take their medication or vaccinate their children claiming some sort of conspiracy theory against pharmaceutical companies.
These patients trusted that Google was bringing to them the most relevant and important information at the top of their search when the reality is that a robot, which knows nothing about medicine, decided this by pulling keywords and links from everywhere.
Google Medic Cleans Up The Mess
The ever-changing and mysterious Google algorithm is updated periodically without previous notice. Once SEO experts notice that their sites ranked low due to to the changes, they implement and create new hacks to get their site up quickly. This can still be possible in some categories, but not anymore with the so-called YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) websites.
YMYL websites are those that provide information or service on areas that can profoundly affect someone’s life, such as health, wellness, parenting, finance, law or government. Among these are the ones that confused the patients and caused frustration in healthcare providers by giving personal advice on health topics.
In August 2018, the “Google Medic” update happened, and YMYL websites were greatly affected. A big proportion of health-related sites dropped their Google ranking significantly, an example of them being livestrong.com. Why did this happen? What is it in the Google Medic update that made these sites rank low?
EAT or Die
After a period of speculation, Google finally revealed what happened during the Medic update and why these sites suddenly tripped down the search engine ladder.
The reason is simple, and I have been a direct witness of the impact, with new clients coming to me because they didn’t have the medical expertise and quality in their content necessary to survive the new update. There’s no such thing as a quick fix SEO hack to rank well anymore. Now the algorithm is ruled by EAT (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness).
Google has explicitly announced that what matters now for SEO is, simply put, great content, and rumor has it that they are using human experts to evaluate the quality of the websites. Now when a patient types a medical question, he/she will be more likely sent to a page written by a healthcare professional and that makes reference to scholarly journals and well-established medical organizations over health sites with dubious and unfounded health advice.
The algorithm gets smarter with time, and this is finally favoring trusted and well-researched medical information, hopefully improving patient-doctor relationship by increasing trust and facilitating patient education.
If you would like to know if your website will be favored by the Medic algorithm in 2019, and what you need to do to rank higher, there’s a free Quality Rater’s Guideline released by Google that you can download from my website here.