The Google Medic update is great news for the medical industry!

I was at a meetup last week which had been organised by DigitalHealthX and there were some great presentations and discussions on scaling products in healthcare. Naturally the subject of the recent Google Medic update came up and people were freaking out. It’s not surprising given the amount of negative attention that it has garnered — this is a bad thing that has happened and detrimentally affected the rankings of many peoples websites. My view on the matter is slightly different…

What is the Google Medic Update?

Okay let’s back up a bit and talk about what the update is. Google confirmed the release of a “broad core algorithm update” to it’s ranking engine on August 2nd which filtered out to users over the following week. Such updates are normal practice for the search giant, they do it at least a couple of times per year.

However it didn’t take long for observers to notice that the update appeared to be negatively affecting health and wellbeing sites in particular. Search Engine Roundtable reported that ~42 % of sites that were impacted were medical or health related websites.

41.5 % of sites affected by the Google Medic update were health related.
August 1st Google Medic update by industry, courtesy of SEORoundtable

There is a general feeling that the update targeted YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) sites which contain high value content that has the potential to drastically alter the course of your life. Either way the impact on the health industry is significant and obvious. Despite this Google have, predictably, refused to confirm or deny any of these facts but… yawn… who cares? The term for this update has been coined by the masses and really, the numbers speak for themselves!

So isn’t this bad?

As I mentioned, there seems to be a general feeling of doom within the industry, both when speaking with people and researching opinions online. Personally I feel like the update is a great thing and not just because fluidic’s own website has seen a boost in ranking for medical marketing since the update (although it is nice to have the quality of our work validated). Ultimately if your own medical website has been hit badly the number one reason is that the quality of the content is not up to scratch.

Whilst it’s impossible to know what all of Google’s numerous ranking factors are, nor determine the weight they place on them all, it is obvious that if you’re operating in the medical or healthcare industry and have an online digital presence your standards should be absolutely top shelf. You have a moral obligation to be fanatical about accuracy and delivering a great experience to your website visitors.

How to improve your medical website?

Seriously, don’t try and game this, just start working on improving your website across the board. This includes:

  • Make general on-page SEO improvements
  • Optimise the delivery of images and other site assets
  • Continually rewrite and refine your copy to increase relevance
  • Adhere to local regulations on medical advertising
  • Don’t make unfounded claims or stuff keywords
  • Reference reputable sources that relate to your product or service
  • Work within your industry niche to earn incoming backlinks from quality sites

The list goes on and this article is not intended to be an exhaustive treatise on SEO, but rather make you think holistically about the pathway to redemption. This is the positive impact the update will have because it causes a rethink and refinement of refinement of your digital footprint. Sure it takes time to adjust your gait but the result is not only more trust from Google, but increased trust from your visitors and potential clients or customers.

Three Cheers for Google!

So yes, the Google Medic update is seen by many as bad, but was a really good thing to happen. Overall it’s going to raise the bar for everybody — and it’s about time! Either your site was already great and will get the recognition that it rightly deserves, or it wasn’t and you’ve been negatively impacted. In the latter situation you can work to improve it and either way we end up with better quality experiences and a more healthy internet.

So, when considering the bigger picture, the latest update really is a great move forwards for the medical industry and as marketers we embrace the change. Sure it means that workload (and by default client costs) are set to increase when designing medical websites, but the end product is one that is better for all stakeholders.

The Caveat

Of course there is one limitation in all of this and it rests with relying on Google solely as the origin for all traffic, leads and passive online interactions. Sure it’s an important source of visitors, but if you are affected by updates like this, the quality of your website aside, you need to ensure that it’s not to the detriment of your business.

Diversification is key and discovering other platforms on which to promote your business is paramount to it’s long term ability to weather these sort of storms. A great choice for medical technology and digital health companies is DigitalHealthX who organised the aforementioned meetup. This is a network that aims to connect key stakeholders, drive product growth and expand business exposure to increase adoption, investment and growth.

Niche industry focused verticals such as DigitalHealthX provide a great adjunct to your generalised public facing side, which can deliver more relevant connections.

Whether you’re in healthcare and medical or not it doesn’t matter, the key to flourishing is simply good marketing — always think outside of the box and test new methods of being discovered online. Delivering noteworthy value in the space where your ideal customers hang out is an obvious way to be noticed, just make sure your place looks great when they come to visit!

Julian Hooper

Julian Hooper

I help medical and healthcare businesses understand how medical marketing can attract, build trust and inspire engagement with their brand.

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