How Do Google’s Algorithm Updates Impact Your Healthcare Website?

Practis Blog

Usually we’d let you know all of the new rollouts that Google has made over the past month and how they’d impact you, but this month there’s one that should be a main focus: the March 2019 (Florida 2) Core Update

While it’s not wildly necessary to understand each and every algorithm update from Google (they make a ton!), the core ones that may have an impact on your website’s performance should be of importance, especially to anyone handling your marketing. So, just how does this algorithm update impact your healthcare website?

What Is An Algorithm Update?

First things first; it’s important to understand exactly what an algorithm update from Google is in order to fully grasp its impact. Simply put, Google uses algorithms to analyze and retrieve data from websites and develop rankings based on their strength and relevance for any given search. Think of it as a mathematical equation by which Google determines placement for a website on the search engine results page (SERP). Back in the day, Google would make a few of these here and there, and they would be blatantly obvious most of the time. However, as the internet grows, and more and more sites are built, Google has to adjust these algorithms over and over. At this point we are seeing hundreds if not thousands of algorithm updates each and every year, and while some are very minor and have little impact, some are major and can be a savior or disaster for your online presence. 

If you’re curious as to what types of things the algorithms focus on, Moz has compiled a complete history of these updates here

How Do I Know When An Update Happens?

Unfortunately, Google’s algorithm updates don’t necessarily make the national news when they roll out, so there’s a chance you’ve never even heard about one if you’re not in the marketing field. Even if you are in the marketing field, you probably have only heard of about .01% of the updates. 

For most marketers, the best thing to do is be a bit reactive, which is a stark difference from what anyone would typically recommend with regards to your online presence. However, in looking at reporting and analytics, one can quickly determine if there’s an issue, especially if you have multiple similar sites on which you’re working. Once you’ve determined that there seems to be a consistent trend in your data, it’s off to the wonderful world of the internet to find out if there have been any formal announcements about an update. We place emphasis on the formal here because it’s crucial to understand your sources and make sure they’re credible. If someone says Google updated something, but no official notice has been given by Google, there’s a high chance that this person is wrong.

The other option is to consistently follow thought leaders and inside players from Google. But, that’s as far as we’ll go with that. If you’re a business owner, leave that up to the experts. We’ll probably hear rumblings of the update long before it happens, and know it’s confirmed within seconds of its announcement. So, the easiest thing to do for you is to give us a call!

What Was The March 2019 Update?

Now comes the real question as to what this most recent update did, especially for those in healthcare. 

First, let’s take you back to the good old days of August 2018, which seems so long ago. At that point in time, Google released a core update that had a large impact on medical sites, and thus dubbed it a “Medic” algorithm update. Naturally, the first questions are “what did it do?” and “how do I fix it?” As mentioned above, this is where the game of analysis comes into play. Just like the masses, we sat eagerly awaiting remarks from Google and watching our sites’ data. To our surprise, our sites saw a drastic increase in impressions and began to rank for search terms that weren’t expected. In our eyes, this was a fantastic win. After a few weeks of waiting, research showed that there were a lot of sites hit for certain elements, while others were not. So, once again, no definitive answer. 

Fast forward to March 2019 when rumblings of a new update started making their way through marketers’ offices. After going through the same process of waiting and researching, we began to see that some of those sites that saw a drastic increase in impressions were now seeing a drastic decrease in the same areas. Although we never like to see a drop, the silver lining was that we weren’t in a negative place for most accounts. However, other sites that didn’t benefit from the Medic update also saw a decrease in impressions, while others saw an increase. Confusing, right?

What We Determined About The Update For Healthcare

As you can see, you need to have a diligent marketer on your side for this stuff, otherwise you will probably never fine a solid answer. Forums and marketing sites are very helpful, but without focused research on analytics, you’ll never know how you were impacted. The biggest thing we can say is: no two sites are impacted the same way. 

After doing some research, we found that a lot of the sites that were impacted had issues with credible content, whether that be something duplicated from another source or a block of content that contained no solid backing from healthcare sources. For example, a page on website A about Knee Surgery that just talked about how wonderful the doctor was may have seen an issue with impressions or sessions dropping. However, the same page on website B that contained a lot of research and answered questions on symptoms and treatment gained traction and was ranking better. If you’re using a site with old, outdated content, now’s the time to go back to the drawing board and come up with a nice content flow with uniquely created material. And don’t sleep on blogging! This can be an easy way to index new, fresh content quickly. 

Again, none of this is confirmed by Google, but the proof is in the research for marketers. The ultimate goal with algorithm updates is to understand that you need insurance on your website in addition to consistent SEO work. After all, it’s not like you pay for car insurance to get in an accident every day, but when you do it certainly comes in handy! 

Find a Professional To Help You!

The other big takeaway here is that you need to hire a professional. Even if you stay abreast of all of the latest trends and updates, something is bound to fall through the cracks if you manage it alone. Don’t let something as seemingly simple as an unconfirmed algorithm update send shockwaves through your site. Instead, focus on what makes your healthcare practice tick (i.e, the amazing work you do for your patients) and let someone like Practis take over the online side