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Healthcare companies’ SEO rankings have been affected badly by Google’s Medic update of August 2018. Here are some tips on how to recover from it. If you’re looking to get your content verified or fact-checked, consult a PhD-qualified Kolabtree expert for help.
In the race to bag the top positions on Search Engine Page Results (SERPs), businesses are churning out more content than ever before. High-quality content is sought after by businesses of all sizes and is helping startups get on a level playing field with their competitors. Deciding what content can be considered high quality is no longer subjective though — Google is the major decision maker here. Its algorithms decide the order of website rankings for particular keywords, which impact businesses’ visibility and traffic. Google continuously updates its algorithms, and any update is likely to impact the rankings of its search results.
What is the Medic update all about?
In August 2018 Google released an update to its core algorithm that impacted the rankings of web pages. In a Twitter thread announcing the update, Google said that their changes were aimed at benefitting pages that were previously under-rewarded, suggesting that the only way pages could perform better was to remain focussed on building great content.
There’s no “fix” for pages that may perform less well other than to remain focused on building great content. Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) March 12, 2018
Johannes Beus investigated the impact of this update further, and found that the sector that was affected the most was the healthcare sector. It appeared that Google’s update had affected websites that covered sensitive topics, such as ecommerce/shopping sites, financial advice pages and health information sites — pages that are known as “Your Money, Your Life” pages.
How does it affect healthcare companies?
After Barry Schwartz wrote that out of the 300 websites impacted by the update, over 41% were health, fitness, and medical pages, the nickname “Medic update” was born. Websites of hospitals, nursing homes, pharma companies, informational medical webpages, and websites selling health/medical products saw an increase or decrease in their rankings after the update. Companies that had a low E-A-T score saw a drop in their rankings, whereas webpages publishing verified and reviewed content saw an increase.
What is E-A-T and why is it important?
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness, the three considerations that Google takes into mind while deciding the most relevant and reliable content that should be served to the author. Content should be written and produced by an Expert in a subject area, an authority in a field, and should have a high level of trust (determined by reviewers, the quality of comments, etc.).
That the E of E-A-T is vital for medical websites is a no-brainer. From debates about the benefits of turmeric to symptoms of a heart attack, articles that have any kind of medical implications should be written by a qualified and experienced professional. The content should also be produced by professsionals who are able to demonstrate that their written matter has been reviewed by an expert and/or approved by an authority, like a government organization or a certified association. Finally, the algorithm will also rank your website on the basis of how trustworthy it is, based on your security certificates, reviews and testimonials.
It isn’t necessary to rewrite all your content – all you need is for your existing content to be reviewed by an expert.
In a blog post, ExposureNinja states that the ranking of official medical bodies rose to the top following the update, such as that of the Mayo Clinic or Medline Plus. This is unsurprising, given that the information on both websites demonstrate high E-A-T.
The screenshot below shows how articles on Healthline.com are medically reviewed by experts with PhDs or MDs. The reviewer names are linked to their profiles which further details their experience and qualifications and also links to their LinkedIn profiles. Google is able to gather all this information and give the page a high E-A-T score.
How can healthcare companies recover from the Medic update?
Here are 3 steps health content publishers and companies can take to improve their rankings after the Medic update.
1. Know Google’s Quality Rater guidelines
Google employs a team of quality evaluators, who take into account various factors to objectively decide the quality score of a particular page. In its 264-page Quality Rater guidelines, Google explains in detail how page quality is determined. In August 2018, Google made some modifications to these guidelines, specifically to the YMYL pages, while mentioning that:
“We have very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages because low quality YMYL pages could potentially negatively impact users’ happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.”
If your website was hit by the Medic update, here are a few measures you can take based on Google’s guidelines:
- Make sure that the purpose of your website matches the intent of the user
- Ensure that your website is beneficial and does not try to manipulate or deceive the user
- Remove excessive ads and improve your site speed
- Revisit your link profile, remove links to low authority pages and include high-quality outbound links
2. E-A-T well
Here’s what the Quality Rater guidelines say about E-A-T:
“High E-A-T medical advice should be written or produced by people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. High E-A-T medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis.”
Highly-ranked medical information websites typically work with qualified writers, editors and reviewers to ensure that they publish accurate content. If you have been publishing content that is not reviewed or written by an expert, now’s the time to start doing that. Here are a few steps you can take to improve your E-A-T:
- Find a qualified expert to develop well-researched, reliable and accurate content for your website
- If the content is written by a non-expert, make sure that it is reviewed by a qualified professional – this is critical for Google to be able to treat it as a reliable piece of content
- If you don’t have in-house experts, you can hire PhD-qualified scientists and writers on Kolabtree, who can help you review content and verify its accuracy
- Don’t forget to add the credentials of the author to build credibility, and also link to a more detailed profile with credentials and publications listed
- Cite reliable sources and links in your articles
- Include a reviews widget on your website
3. Publish only verified information, or nothing at all
In the content race, quality wins over quantity. If you haven’t got enough resource, publish fewer pieces of content but make sure that all of them are verified by experts and do not run the risk of being misleading or inaccurate. Don’t fill in your content calendar with several unverified articles. Fake news spreads quickly, and you don’t want to be the source! If you’d like to get on Google’s good side, it’s okay to say little, but make sure that what you say is correct. Google also values relevance, so having multiple irrelevant pages or articles on your website will provide little benefit.
A study published in 2016 found that the first 200 hits on search engines for “idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis” led to websites with not just inaccurate information but also dangerous treatment methods. In another study carried out in the University of Kansas in April 2018, it was found that youths hardly ever check or verify information that is online, sometimes becoming dangerously misled. Susan Harvey, who carried out the study, stated that her students turned to Google for the answers to health related questions and “Most of them didn’t scroll through the webpages at all, they just clicked on the first link.”
And that’s precisely the reason behind the Medic update — to make reliable information more accessible. For many websites, SEO rankings impact business directly. The competition is fierce. Google makes it clear that they reward great content, and that’s the only way companies can get their rankings up.
The Medic update has affected companies big and small. If your webpage has been affected, follow the steps above. Have a lot of content that you need to get verified or reviewed? Post your job for free on Kolabtree and hire qualified subject area experts who can develop and review specialized content.