What Healthcare Can Learn from Google's Most Impactful Algorithm Updates

Google Search Updates

With each update comes a new opportunity to succeed. Here’s what medical marketers need to know about boosting their Google Search rankings.

From the introduction of Panda to the most recent speed update, Google Search is continuously refining its ranking algorithms. Some of these changes have had a huge impact on how marketers use SEO and keywords, while others have slipped by without much notice.

Most Search updates offer healthcare providers the opportunity to improve their rankings, but the constant modifications can also be hard to follow. Below you’ll find four of the most significant updates to Google’s algorithms, and how medical marketers can optimize their websites for the best results.

1. Panda

In many ways, the Panda algorithm is the update that started it all. Introduced in 2011, its goal was to improve results by deprioritizing low-quality content. Panda downranks sites that use duplicate copy, keyword stuffing, spam, or irrelevant content.

The best practices that Panda set in place still hold today. Avoid duplicate and thin content by doing regular site audits. Instead of stuffing keywords in titles and meta descriptions, medical marketers can improve their rankings by creating rich, helpful content that establishes their site as an authority on a particular condition or treatment. You can also utilize user-generated content like reviews, testimonials, and comments to boost SEO.  

2. Hummingbird and RankBrain

When Hummingbird was introduced in 2013, its objective was to better process long, conversational search terms and match them to users’ intent. Then RankBrain appeared in 2015 as a machine learning addition to Hummingbird. It applies historical data on user behavior to answer unique or unfamiliar queries.

Hummingbird and RankBrain have driven the SEO shift from short, one- or two-word phrases to more detailed keywords. Long tail keywords are specific searches like “pediatric eye doctor near Milwaukee” that indicate a user is further along in the conversion process than someone simply searching for “eye doctor.” To capitalize on long tail keywords, it’s important to use natural language throughout your site. Medical marketers can also ensure their site is both relevant and comprehensive by conducting a competitive analysis. The TF-IDF tool in WebSite Auditor can help you find relevant terms and concepts that top-performing competitors are using.

3. Pigeon and Possum

Introduced in 2014, Pigeon works to improve the quality of local search results by boosting the rankings of local directory sites. Two years later, the Possum Update was launched with the goal of returning more varied Search results depending on the location of the searcher. As a result, the algorithm has created a closer link between Google Web search and Google Maps.

With the help of Pigeon and Possum, the closer a patient is to your practice (no matter its size), the more likely your site is to show up in their Search results. To take advantage of this feature, make sure to create a page on Google My Business and keep your name, address, and phone number up-to-date. Medical marketers can check their geo-specific ranking by setting up a custom location with Rank Tracker.

4. Mobile Friendly Update

This update launched in 2015 to boost the rankings of mobile-optimized sites on mobile search. In March of 2018, Google introduced mobile-first indexing, which uses the mobile version of a website for indexing and ranking to help improve the experience of mobile users. Google has also begun to show the mobile version of pages in Search results.

As more and more patients search for healthcare information on their phones and tablets, it’s essential to optimize your site for mobile traffic. Medical marketers can improve their mobile Search rankings by investing in responsive site design, which enables a page to adjust to fit the size of the user’s screen. To check if your site is optimized for mobile, you can do a Google mobile-friendly test. Use the information you gather to create a visually-rich website that doesn’t compromise the user experience.

If keeping up with the latest Search updates has become a challenge, partnering with an experienced medical marketing agency can help optimize your digital advertising strategy. Find out how you can improve your Search rankings and drive patient conversions today.

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