How the Google algorithm update helps doctor-written content rank higher

If you’re not intricately involved daily with SEO, let me explain what happened in May 2020 and why it will be a huge boost for content created by physicians.

First, what is SEO? In short, it is the process of optimizing content found online in order to help it be seen by those searching for the information found in that content. It used to be that people would just stuff their poorly written, short, and low-quality blog posts with their keyword, and they would rank for that keyword. Long gone are those days, and it’s a good thing because when it comes to health care and medical content, that kind of content has no place being seen.

The Google update in May, as announced on Twitter by Google, in part, was done to lift up quality medical and health care content over all of the noise. The changes made longer content without keyword stuffing rank higher. Legitimate content that actually answers a searcher’s query and links to high-authority references and is written by experts now has a better chance of ranking well. Though some have nicknamed the update the “pandemic” or “coronavirus update,” in reality, it was a long time coming and was designed to increase something called “E-A-T” – expertise, trust, and authority. What that means is that things like quality of content became more important than the number of times a keyword was stuffed into the content. Whether that content is actually relevant and matches the searcher’s intent became more important as well. Perhaps most importantly, expertise became a very important ranking factor, so articles and content created by legitimate experts began ranking much higher than those just summarizing expert’s content but written by non-experts.

A question we get all the time is how does Google know if a piece of content is high quality and written by an expert. Nobody knows for sure, but most experts in the search engine optimization world agree that it is likely a combination of the way the content is written, the quality of links and references in the content, the depth and length of the content, number of images, graphics and videos it contains, and the density of related content on that particular domain. The best quality content also usually gains backlinks (links from other reputable websites back to that piece of content), which further reinforces that it is quality content.

Another thing this update did was to try to improve the match between the information a person is trying to find and the results. This is called “search intent,” and it matters a lot. Take, for example, a person searching “depression” versus “how to get help for depression”: The former is more likely to be looking for general information about the disorder, while the other is more likely to be looking for an actual health care professional for help. If a person searches “incontinence” versus “incontinence pad,” the former would more likely be looking for medical information versus the latter searching for a product to purchase. Google uses this updated natural language processing to not only help determine what the search intent is and provide more relevant results, but it can also accurately determine (most of the time) if the person is trying to find a service, product, or information.

So, why does this all help doctors? Because we know how to do all that Google desires! We have been trained to read and gather information from quality sources, use peer-reviewed and high-quality references, and create a product that stands up to the scrutiny of even the most detail-oriented attending in academia. Our content also is written by what Google deems (rightfully so) is an expert. First-hand expertise in health care takes priority over content created by someone without that expertise. In particular, this was meant to get accurate and relevant medical and health care information to those searching for it.

If you have a niche in the health care space and haven’t yet started building a content collection around it, now is the time. Whether it is a video series on YouTube, social media content, a podcast, a blog, or a course, expert-created content is needed now more than ever, and the public needs physician-created content to provide them the answers they are looking for rather than the less accurate content that used to rank on the first page for health care-related questions.

In Google’s fight against disinformation and misinformation in this update, physicians stand to win in the medical content battle. With a distinct opening for smaller medical blogs, YouTube channels, podcasts, and other types of content to rise to the surface, physician content stands a real chance of ranking higher than the usual high-volume, low-quality, mass-produced health care websites.

So, where can you start with creating and getting this content out there? Pick your niche. It should be something you’re not only proficient at but also interested in. It is much easier to create content in an area you are passionate about.

Next, do keyword research. That means actually looking at search phrases (often questions) that people commonly search for in your niche. For example, if you are a urologist who specializes in prostate cancer, then spend a couple of weeks gathering data on all of the possible search terms around that topic, including search volume, competition, and the number of search results it has. Use that list to begin creating content around each of those search terms as a starting point and build from there, linking new pieces to older ones and vice-versa as you create. Also, don’t forget those high-quality reference links to real medical resources in each piece. Become the needed expert on that niche in as many places as you can – don’t forget to create social media accounts for that niche to distribute your content from and collect reader information so that you can send people new articles and updates as you grow.

If we all start putting out quality medical content, soon there will be no room on page one for all of the noise that not only provides low-quality information but can actually put people’s lives and health in danger.

Andrea Paul is a physician-entrepreneur and can be found on Instagram and Facebook.

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