How Google’s Medic update affects health care SEO—and what you can do

A recent algorithm has hurt the rankings of many medical and pharmaceutical organizations—perhaps yours—and you might not even have realized it. Here’s how you can recover.

Changing algorithms can wreak havoc for your SEO results. Case in point: Google’s “Medic update.”

Of the 300 websites affected by the update in recent months, more than 41 percent were health, fitness and medical pages, writes Barry Schwartz. Websites of hospitals, nursing homes and pharma companies, along with informational medical webpages and websites selling health/medical products, saw an impact in their rankings after the update.

Organizations with a low E-A-T score saw a drop in their rankings, whereas webpages publishing verified and reviewed content saw an increase.

Wait—what’s an E-A-T score?

E-A-T stands for expertise, authority and trustworthiness , the three considerations that Google takes into mind in identifying relevant and reliable content. Content should be written and produced by an expert in a subject area, should be reviewed by an authority in a field, and should have a high level of trust (determined by reviewers, the quality of comments, etc.).

Here are three steps that health content publishers and organizations can take to improve their rankings in light of the Medic update:

1. Know Google’s guidelines.

Google’s evaluators examine various factors to calculate the quality score of a particular page. If your website was dinged 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. Apply the E-A-T criteria.

Google’s Quality Rater guidelines say: “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.”

Here are a few steps you can take to improve your E-A-T:

  • Find a qualified expert to develop well-researched, reliable, 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 crucial for Google to regard it as reliable.
  • If you don’t have in-house experts, you can hire doctorate-level scientists and writers to verify your content’s accuracy.
  • Add the author’s credentials to build credibility; 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.

In the content competition, quality wins over quantity. If you don’t have enough resources, publish fewer pieces of content—but make sure all are verified by experts. Don’t risk being misleading or inaccurate.

For example, a study published in 2016 found that the first 200 search engine hits for “idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis” led to websites with not just inaccurate information but also dangerous treatment methods. In a University of Kansas study from April 2018, researchers found that youths hardly ever check or verify information they find online, sometimes becoming dangerously misled.

That’s the reason behind the Medic update—to make reliable information more accessible. For many websites, SEO rankings affect business directly. The competition is fierce. Google makes it clear that it rewards great content, and that’s the only way organizations can drive their rankings up.

This article originally appeared on the Kolabtree website.

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