At this point, you must have already tried to fix the technical SEO issues and load times on your site.
However, to be clear, high-quality health content is NOT:
- Content that has medical reviewers or obvious writer credentials.
- Content that has PubMed references. Many sites that cited numerous references have gotten penalized in the Medic update.
- Signals that demonstrate the site’s trustworthiness
These things are essential and may be necessary, but they are not sufficient. If there is any evidence on the Internet that your company may not be trustworthy, you should address it.
According to Google’s Quality Rater Guideline, Quality health content should communicate the scientific and medical consensus where it exists.
In Part 1 of this Google Medic Update series, I explained the medical consensus according to well-known medical societies.
These consensuses tend to be established based on either unequivocal research evidence from large-scale, well-conducted clinical studies.
Without this level of evidence, the text should clarify that the evidence is still limited and may not be conclusive. You may say that the remedy or treatment should be considered experimental, although low-risk. In addition, the text should emphasize that readers should involve their doctors in their health decisions.
Exceptions to the “medical consensus” rule:
- Conventional medical experts (MDs, NDs, Physiotherapists, DOs, nurses, RD, etc) get to share their opinions in their areas of expertise, even though their views may contradict the medical consensus. These medical experts should have their practice websites, online reviews, academic appointments, or peer-reviewed publications. They should be writing from their expertise or clinical experience but make it clear that the readers need to seek their own medical advice.
- If you are not an MD (e.g. ND, DC, RN, NP, or a health coach), you may have less credibility in Google’s eyes unless you have a history of communicating objectively and in a science-based manner. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to get a medical doctor to review your content and clearly display their credentials as part of your team.
- Clinical anecdotes, case studies, and personal stories, as long as they communicate that the stories may not apply to everyone. If you are a clinician, it is okay to say “My patients often see results with this treatment.”
- A balanced presentation of both the current medical consensus in the main content, along with the viewpoint to the contrary, with an appropriate appraisal of supporting evidence
What caused sites to get penalized in the Medic update?
In my observation, sites that regularly contradict the medical consensus without demonstrating such expertise tend to get penalized with the Medic update. In such cases, scientific references or adding medical reviewers have not restored ranking.
Content that would get penalized in this update include:
- Content that advises people to stop seeing their doctors or get off their medications
- anti-vaccine content
- Content meant to replace medical advice, including by recommending a natural treatment
- Controversial health advice, such as suggesting a high saturated fat diet, unless the writer has the relevant health credentials and clinical expertise
These are considered harmful content, even though they may have citations or medical reviewers.
Is it possible to avoid or recover from the censorship?
Fixing the materials to fit the scientific and medical integrity framework may help restore some of the ranking. However, it’s unclear whether there is a permanent domain-level penalty for sites that have been punished.
In addition, large sites such as Healthline and Verywell Health seem to have disproportionately higher domain medical authority than smaller blogs without the same domain authority.
Therefore, it will most likely be difficult to fully recover all the traffic to the pre-Medic update levels. However, there are still opportunities to monetize search traffic in ways that are not 100% traffic-dependent (more on this shortly).
However, there are a few timeless facts that are in our favor.
Timeless fact #1: more and more people are struggling with chronic health issues that conventional medicine handles poorly. There are still no shortage of people looking for helpful in-depth health information. People are still in serious need of your products and services to solve their health problems.
Timeless fact #2: Google is and will always be working towards serving high-value content that answers the searcher’s intent.
For example, when searchers type in a broad term, such as “elderberry,” the first page of search results will include:
- Articles about the benefits and side effects of elderberry
- Stores that sell elderberry products
- Studies about elderberries
- The USDA Plant Guide for elderberry
What each user clicks will help Google refine the next sets of related search results. It will also help them determine whether to rank each piece of content. Therefore, search results are customized for each user.
Through Chrome user data (not Google Analytics), Google looks at how much time readers spend on your content before moving on to the next search result. They also look at other engagement signals such as whether readers click the links to and from your sites, or whether people are bookmarking your content on the Chrome browser.
Over time, Google has become more sophisticated at telling whether people are finding the content they’re looking for. Most of these innovations come from PhD-level machine learning, natural language processing, and computation engineers, which make up about 30% of nearly 100,000 Google employees.
In other words, there is no way to get around the fact that good SEO means being of service to your readers. You can’t outsmart 30,000 PhDs and the user data that only Google has at determining whether your content is helping searchers.
Content Marketing 2.0: New opportunities to recover ROI from your content
Having spent the past 7 years as a content writer and editor with subject matter expertise, I know that the typical SEO writing process works like this:
- Using keyword research based on monthly search volume
- Assign the keyword(s) to a writer
- The writer submits the article, which gets edited and published
Whereas, solopreneur bloggers and practitioners may publish about topics that interest them or are trendy for the sake of “getting something out there.”
Previously, the content created in these manners could rank if you had the domain authority. However, very few sites pay attention to whether the content is actually generating revenue (beyond paid ads and Amazon affiliates).
The bad news: potential problems with the old approach:
1. The content may not be useful to the readers. For example, it could be too technical, too basic, or fail to give the answers they need. As I explained earlier, Google can tell if the search results are not giving values to their users.
2. The content could be sharing advice that contradicts the medical consensus without the right qualifications, which has led to penalties.
3. Post-medic update, most of the high-volume keywords are dominated by sites with high domain medical authority.
4. Typically, the content has driven search traffic without regard to sales and conversion for the site’s own product and services. Therefore, the other SEO parameters, like search volume received more attention than whether the content helped readers move towards a purchase.
The good news: opportunities to rank and be of service
- The Internet is littered with keyword-stuffed unhelpful content, including even sites with the highest domain authorities. And there are still many opportunities for winning by giving better value than this kind of existing content.
- Once you understand the medical content framework and how to play by the rules of Medic SEO, you can still rank for longer keyword phrases that are more specific to your products and services.
- By giving great value and demonstrating your expertise at the level that your readers are looking for, you can make sales of your products and services with your content.
The better news is that you can use the revenue to pay for traffic once you can generate content that directly and consistently leads to sales. As a result, you won’t be 100% dependent on Google traffic, and its ups and downs.
How do you create content that gives value, generates sales, and gets the science right?
When I started out as a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner and holistic nutritionist, I knew I wanted to empower millennial women with hormone balance. Somehow, when I said I was a “Hormone Detective”, I attracted menopausal women (Baby Boomers and Gen X).
I couldn’t be more excited to talk about the DUTCH and organic acids tests. But the majority of millennial women didn’t even realize they had a problem.
It’s a classic example of poor customer-content fit.
And I’ve seen this happening over and over again with the most brilliant practitioners and product vendors. You already have so much to worry about filling up our practices, documentation, client management, and numerous other things you have to do to run your business. It’s simply difficult to learn to put yourself in your prospect’s shoes and fully understand their customer journeys.
The key to creating high-value content is to do thorough customer research for each article you write and communicate your unique superpower to fix the problem.
With my Medical Content ROI framework, I’ve helped my clients:
- Ensure that their content communicates their unique value
- Understand their customers and how they speak about their problems for each topic they write about
- Publish content that’s matching where their best customers are most likely to be at in their purchasing thought process
- Identifying profitable keyword opportunities for which the big sites are not doing a good job at
- Communicate the medical consensus and studies around the topic, along with your unique perspective on it
- Promoting the content where your ideal customers are
- Optimizing your content for revenue and return on investment