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Google Medic’s impact on medical and healthcare website SEO

Does your business operate within the healthcare sector? If your Google ranking is suddenly plummeting or you have noticed a drop in the volume of traffic to your website, you may be suffering at the hands of Google Medic.

Google’s broad core algorithm revamp, the Medic Update, is hurting organic search results for many medical and healthcare websites – but it may be possible to stop the bleeding.

About one out of every 20 enquiries on Google is for health-related information, but that’s of little consequence if your website is no longer showing anywhere near the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) on relevant keyword searches.

It’s still early days in terms of assessing the fallout caused by Medic, but some websites within the medical and lifestyle industries have been hit extremely hard. For example, LiveStrong.com has experienced a 60% loss in traffic.

Those at risk of a major slide in Google rankings – and having visitor numbers of their websites decline drastically – include:

  • Doctor's surgeries, GP practices or medical centres
  • Dentists and dental clinics
  • Medical specialists such as dermatologists, gynaecologists, pathologists, psychiatrists and surgeons
  • Physiotherapy clinics and other allied health practitioners such as dieticians, podiatrists and psychologists
  • Chiropractors and other complementary or alternative medicine practitioners such as acupuncturists, homeopaths, naturopaths and osteopaths

A check-up on website traffic volumes originating from organic search is recommended for doctors surgeries, dental clinics, physio centres and all other medical or healthcare businesses in the wake of Google's Medic Update, to determine whether urgent SEO work is necessary to make content more credible.

The pain point for the medical and healthcare industry stems from Google’s shift to reward high-quality content that meets Expertise, Authoritative and Trust (EAT) guidelines. Basically, Google wants its users to find content created by experts in their field, ie an authority on the topic, so they can trust what they read.

An informative article filled with helpful advice and attributed to such an expert will perform much stronger in search rankings than general copy on a faceless website where it’s less clear what expertise exists or who has authored the content. Likewise, subjective claims not backed up by reputable links and first/second person narrative is likely to hurt SEO.

Of course, as with all Google algorithm changes, this means not everyone is a loser; websites that already meet the new criteria will in fact have gained from the Medic update and some will absolutely be able to make up lost ground quickly if they respond appropriately.

Essentially, as a result of the update, Google now seems to favour health-based websites that:

  1. Have articles that identify an accredited author (eg a doctor or recognised professional within a relevant field), with author pages that detail the writer’s background and credentials, as well as links to trusted sources that help enhance credibility.
  2. Include a date on any time-sensitive or topical articles.
  3. Provide useful content that your users need and want.
  4. Have an “About us” page clearly explaining the organisation, credentials and policies covering advertising within content included on the site.
  5. List any awards, accolades or industry recognition received – either by the organisation or article authors.

Anything that can help build credibility, which also includes positive client testimonials, is the way to go.

Are you losing business because of Medic?

The first step for anyone within the medical or healthcare space is to work out whether your website has been penalised. Have your Google rankings dropped? Have you lost traffic? If you have no idea, it’s wise to call in SEO experts and request a professional audit ASAP.

Next, it’s vital to have a plan of attack to counter any negative SEO impact resulting from Google Medic. This involves making sure you are delivering what Medic wants.

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