By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
Did you know that Google demands exceptionally high standards from healthcare websites? Due to the potential consequences of misinformation, the search engine expects sites in the medical and health fields to produce content that demonstrates especially high levels of “expertise, authority, and trustworthiness” (E-A-T).
If you’re a doctor, hospital, or medical organization, you understand and value expertise, a positive reputation, and hard-earned credentials. Still — you might not know how to translate these shared values to the online world.
This post shares the four most essential quality guidelines Google expects from websites in the health and medical industries. These characteristics relate specifically to Google E-A-T and healthcare content.
Google’s Stringent Search Quality Guidelines
Google has always said websites should be useful to both people and search engines. But it wasn’t until the release of its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (SQEG) when we got an inside look into what this means.
The SQEG is a giant document that third-party evaluators use to test the quality of search results manually. In the document, we learn that health sites fall into a select category called Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) topics.
What is a YMYL web page?
According to Google, it’s a web page on any topic that could “potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability or safety.” Put another way, while some level of E-A-T is required for all websites, it is especially vital for YMYL categories.
Health sites are defined by Google as pages that offer “advice or information about medical issues, drugs, hospitals, emergency preparedness, or how dangerous an activity is, etc.”
It continues, “We have very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages because low-quality YMYL pages could potentially negatively impact a person’s happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.”
In the document, Google states that an evaluator’s rating doesn’t affect how a webpage or website appears in Google search. Instead, the “ratings measure how well search engine algorithms perform for a broad range of searches.”
So, while these manual ratings don’t directly affect rankings, many algorithm updates are based on these standards. When the Medic algorithm update hit in 2018, many health sites felt the pain of not adhering to Google E-A-T and other healthcare content guidelines.
Today, you don’t have to wait for an algorithm update to produce quality content. You can grow your organization now with the guidelines for healthcare content.
What are the guidelines?
Healthcare websites must have the following four characteristics to satisfy Google’s YMYL requirements:
- High level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
- Satisfying Amount of High-Quality Main Content
- Satisfying Website Information
- Positive Website Reputation
E-A-T and Healthcare Content: What You Need to Know
As outlined in the SQEG, the amount of E-A-T is “very important” for rating a page’s quality.
One of the first industries Google uses as an example of high E-A-T pages is the medical industry. According to the guidelines,
- “High E-A-T medical advice should be written or produced by people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation.
- High E-A-T medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis.”
What does this mean for your site?
Using today’s healthcare content marketing strategies, you can create a website with quality content designed to engage patients and rank for your target search terms.
Here are some of the ways you can incorporate E-A-T into your content strategy:
- Make sure expert credentials are readily available to patients or website visitors. There must be evidence on the site that the author has expertise in the topic.
- Create accurate, quality content.
- Regularly update content for accuracy.
- Consider links to other authoritative sites.
- Avoid linking to low-quality sites.
High-Quality Main Content
Another indicator of a high-quality site is the amount of what Google refers to as “satisfying, high-quality main content.” Main Content (MC) is content on the page that “helps the page achieve its purpose.”
To satisfy Google E-A-T for healthcare content, consider the purpose of each page before content creation. This step is part of a proper content strategy and requires a strong team of marketing strategists and content creators.
How do you know how much healthcare content you need on a site? While we don’t have an exact answer, we have recommendations based on technical SEO best practices. Google says high-quality information must be “factually accurate, clearly written, and comprehensive for health websites.”
Satisfying Website Information
High-quality pages should also have clear information about the website so that users feel comfortable trusting the site. Since health websites require a high degree of trust, it should be clear who is responsible for the site’s content. Without trust factors, your website can quickly drop in rankings on Google.
A Positive Online Reputation
According to Google, “When a high level of authoritativeness or expertise is needed, the reputation of a website should be judged on what expert opinions have to say.”
Recommendations in the form of links or citations from expert sources, such as professional societies or leading healthcare websites, are strong evidence of a positive reputation.
Your online reputation matters and is part of the quality rating standards for health websites. Google tells evaluators to look for different sources online to gauge a site’s reputation. These include reviews, news articles, and credible information online.
The opposite is true with a negative online reputation. If you have negative sentiment around your brand or business, Google will consider it a low-quality site. Even worse, if your URL has many inbound links from low-quality sites from “bad neighborhoods” (e.g., porn or gambling), your website’s reputation will almost certainly suffer.
Search engine optimization is more than on-page factors and technical SEO. It’s about providing people with quality healthcare content they can trust. Without meeting these guidelines above, your website could receive a low-quality score that could ultimately hurt your rankings.
If you are looking for help with SEO, we invite you to contact us for an exploratory discussion.