In August 2018, Google released an algorithm change called “The Medic Update.” This update was intended to pay closer scrutiny to websites in medical industries, including healthcare practices, in an attempt to give less visibility to websites that may contain medical misinformation. In an attempt to evaluate the veracity of the information on medical websites, Google looks for evidence of the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness of the organization behind a website. How can healthcare practices optimize their websites for authority and expertise?
Google does this in a very specific way, meaning that a medical practice can be penalized for being “authoritative” just because it does not meet the criteria that the search engine is looking for. To ensure that your medical practice does not fall foul of this, here is how to show expertise, authority, and trustworthiness on your practice’s website.
Make sure all your content is up to date with the latest scientific findings
One of the key things that Google looks at when evaluating your practice’s website for authority, expertise, and trust is the content on the website itself.
Google’s semantic language processing is advanced enough to more or less understand the claims that are being made on a page. The search engine also tags certain pages, such as those from academic journals, government websites, and other high authority scientific publications, as providing the “truth” on their respective topics.
Therefore, if the content on your website does not align with what the latest medical best practice is, your website could be seen as an untrustworthy source, and you could lose search engine visibility as a result.
One source of vulnerability to this lies in the older blog posts on a practice’s website. If advancements in science render an old post out of date, this post needs to either be updated, removed, or consolidated into a newer piece that reflects these changes.
If your article is about a complex medical matter, the article should be in-depth enough to do justice to this topic and should cite authoritative sources wherever possible.
While your content’s tone can be conversational, you simply need to ensure that all claims are in line with the latest science.
Make the credentials of the people in your practice clear on your website
When evaluating the expertise of the people behind your practice’s website, Google is looking for evidence of the qualifications and experience of your practitioners.
This needs to be made as clear as possible. The most effective way of doing this is by building out a comprehensive “Meet the Team” page that contains profiles of everyone working in your practice along with their academic and professional qualifications and relevant experience.
If you are a member of any professional bodies or other organizations that require expertise as a barrier to entry, you should try and get a profile on their sites, along with a link back to your practice’s website.
A Linkedin page that corresponds to your “Meet the Team” page, and that is linked to your website can also help to verify your expertise in the eyes of Google.
Finally, any page on your website that makes medical or scientific claims should contain an author bio of someone who is qualified to write about that subject. A lot of practices overlook this as unnecessary, but since Google ranks content on a page by page basis, it is very important to have the provenance of each page made clear.
Get your practice featured on online medical journals and publications
Google does not only look at your own website when evaluating your practice’s expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Rather, it looks at your digital footprint as a whole.
Having your practice and practitioners featured on the highest authority websites in your profession will, therefore, improve the perceived authoritativeness of your practice’s website.
Some of the easier ways of making this happen include joining the professional bodies in your industry that allow you to create a profile on their website. If any of your practitioners have contributed to academic papers, then it may well be worth contacting the publishers and see if you can get a mention on their websites in virtue of their contributions.
If you are in a particularly competitive field or location, then PR type of activities can be a great way of getting these mentions.
Contributions to popular medical blogs and magazines (Healthline, for example) will help improve the authoritativeness of your practice’s website so long as these websites take scientific rigor seriously.
Many of these publications are hungry for expert contributors, so contacting their editors about ways that you can offer insight into the topics they cover can result in you getting mentioned on their site.
Make sure that you have “social signals” of being a brick and mortar business
One of the consequences of Google’s “medic update” is that the search engine ranks actual medical practices over health blogs. This makes sense since health blogs can be written by anyone, and Google actively does not want to rank medical content that is not written by an expert in their field.
Google looks for certain signals when assessing whether a website represents an actual medical practice rather than being a standalone website. These signals include:
- Having a Google My Business page with your practice’s name address and phone number.
- Having reviews from patients
- Having social media pages with engagement from your patients
- Having a “Contact Us” page that corresponds to your Google My Business page
- Having a “Complaints Procedure” page
- Being listed in local and industry-relevant directories.
The more of these that your practice’s site has, the more likely that Google will see it as a real medical practice rather than a potentially untrustworthy health website.