A marketing executive breaks down the rules of managing a successful medical site.
You have a great website, and it performed well on Google for a long time. Then something happened. Within the last year or 2, traffic dropped a little, or a lot. Some pages dropped in ranking for important keywords.
What happened? You aren’t the only doctor asking that question.Google uses a complex algorithm to determine the best results for any given query. That algorithm changed constantly, with thousands of minor updates, and several major ones, every year. When the algorithm changes, a top site can suddenly drop off the first page of Google while a previously low-ranking one shoots to the number one spot.
A significant core algorithm update in mid-2018 has such an impact on health and wellness websites that it became known as the medic update. It did not target the health sector according to comments by John Mueller Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, in an August 2018 Webmaster Hangout. Yet, the medic update and many since have disproportionately impacted doctors and other medical websites, particularly those in the alternative medicine niche.
If not deliberately targeted, why is the health industry hit so hard? No one actually knows for certain. Google offers some insight, but details of these and other algorithm changes are shrouded in secrecy, because they don’t want to help low-quality websites game the system. However, the Search Evaluator Guidelines (used by Google’s quality assurance employees to assess search results) provide considerable insight, as do analytics of affected websites. We will breakdown what is known, and how you can respond if your website is among those hit.Medical websites are part of a special classification, known as YMYL (Your Money, Your Life). The Search Evaluator Guidelines define YMYL as any webpage with the potential to impact the people’s safety, financial stability, health, or happiness. The guidelines further state that such websites are held to higher Page Quality ranking standards.
The next question, of course, is how Google determines Page Quality. One of the primary factors, as described in the Search Evaluator Guidelines, is E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness). All indicators point to E-A-T as the leading cause of declining medical website search rankings.
Mueller elaborated a bit on the struggle of medical websites in some very telling comments during a February 2019 Hangout, saying that talk among SEO experts about expertise and authority makes sense. He also stated that it was previously difficult for Google to determine the quality of medically oriented websites, but they have gotten much better at it within the past year.In theory, Google’s focus on high quality in medical information is a noble pursuit, as something most doctors would wholly support. The problem is that “quality” is subjective, and Google might not be as good at detecting it as they think they are. After all, you are a doctor. You have board certification as evidence of your expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. That may be enough to satisfy your patients, but it’s not enough for Google.
Let’s take a closer look at what considers evidence of E-A-T:
Google holds medical sector a higher standard than most sectors. Best practices in SEO and local search marketing are as important as ever, but they are no longer enough for doctors. You also need to convince Google of your — and your website’s – expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. The key to accomplishing that lies in reputation management and content management.
Naren Arulrajah, President and CEO of Ekwa Marketing, has been a leader in medical marketing for over a decade. Ekwa provides comprehensive marketing solutions for busy doctors, with a team of more than 180 full time professionals, providing web design, hosting, content creation, social media, reputation management, SEO, and more. If you’re looking for ways to boost your marketing results, call 855-598-3320 for a free strategy session with Naren.