Google Medic Update – website ranking recovery advice from Daniel Coulton-Shaw

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Wow! As I promised. It’s here.

Just as I predicted back in 2016, since the 1st August 2018, recent research & ranking results show that medical clinic or hospital reputation has now become a major Google ranking factor, causing regular patient lead traffic to the websites of dentists, doctors, clinics, specialised hospitals and healthcare websites in general to freefall or skyrocket – all around the world.

What happened?

In July 2018, Google released an updated document on an algorithm change that they had been talking about since March 2018, which gave us insights in the changes about to come when the Google Medic update was released and confirmed on 1st August.

This was an update that affected both local and broad searches, for example, searching for “dental clinics in Zagreb” (a local patient search example) and “top 10 fertility clinics in Europe” (a broad search from an international patient) since that date showed with dramatically different results.

And then a majority of clinic & hospital websites that I know of reported a dramatic drop in traffic – usually between 30-70%.

For small medical practices, private clinics, polyclinics & hospitals that rely solely on organic website bookings, this was a serious blow to their bookings and overall revenue in September 2018.

Barry Schwartz, a major authority in the search industry called it the “medic update” as he also saw that it affected millions of health-related websites around the world.

What the F*** is it?

In summary, the latest major Google ranking update seems to check for reputation signals to find out what patients & medical experts really think about a clinic or hospital website. (QRG section 2.6.1)

Does this now remind you of the GCR 4 pillars rating concept I shared with you all 3 years ago?

Now give me the good news!

On a positive note, many of these doctors and their medical practice websites are reporting a lower bounce rate (people coming to the website and then leaving the site within seconds) and more time spent on individual pages of the website by visitors since the Google Medic update on the 1st of August.

On 27th September 2018 Google confirmed that they released another smaller update that either caused some of those medical centre websites to drop further or recover slightly.

So if you’re a doctor, clinic owner, marketing team or agency responsible for the website of a doctors practice, dentists office, medical clinic or hospital, look for recent traffic growth or drops since that date as well.

Rank again after the Google Medic Update:

The first things to recognise here before I move into my suggestions to recover from the Medic update is that:

1. Don’t assume that there was something “wrong” with your clinic website that may now perform less well.

2. Focus on EAT learning algorithms (expertise, authority and trustworthiness factors) as these are most likely affecting your clinic or hospital website ranking in the updated Google Index. (QRG sections 4.1 & 6)

(If you have the time, read the full document here on those  Google Quality Guidelines  – it’s 164 pages, the most important parts I’ve given you chapter headings to in this article)

3. Don’t spend more money on google ads. Clinic websites with a paid adwords campaign linking to them, dropped by an average of 28% in August compared to July. They were not excluded from the update in any way.

My checklist of advice for the Google ranking MEDIC update.

Advice no 1. Don’t dramatically change anything.

If you’ve got your basic SEO factors right (great content that people like, content that is regularly updated and linked to by authoritative, but not spammy sites) often the best thing to do with Google algorithm updates is to wait for ranking corrections (which in my experience, unfortunately take up to months sometimes).

So don’t worry about design or code for now – work on these other advice factors first.

Advice no. 2 Take time to learn from medical-focused websites that took your place.

What are they doing that could possibly make them rank higher? Can you implement any of the same ideas?

Advice no. 3 Check security & safety.

All medical website domains obviously should be “https(look for the padlock showing by the domain name at the top when you visit your website). This is the bare minimum.

However, I’ve seen that Google has taken good notice of the recent GDPR European Directive, and changes to HIPAA compliance in the USA. Therefore do this now if you haven’t already:

Immediate action point: In the footer of your site, create a clear, unique link to your GDPR / HIPAA page, proving to the algorithm that you care about personal privacy and online safety of your patients.

Advice no. 4. Increase Your Visible Expertise.

Expertise ranking is showing to mainly come from links & mentions on authoritative sites. (big hospitals, accreditation organisations, science organisations, Wikipedia and university sites). You should be motivating all the doctors you work with to have them mentioned on university websites and scientific publications directly to your clinic or hospital website.

As Google states in its guidelines, with regard to medical sites:

“High E-A-T medical advice should be written or produced by people or organisations 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.”

This may or may not be related to the update, but pages with a word count of 1000-2500 words seemed to hold ground much better than those of 750 pages or less.

(Image Source:

Action point: So increase your word content if your leading pages are weak, and follow my recommendations for including expertise, authority & trust in the content.

Advice no. 5. Demonstrate Your Authority.

Each page of your website should have “appropriate references cited” (QRG section 10.1)

Sources cited or not: Average percentage growth (Semrush)

Action point: I would consider adding a short bio of the author of the content to the bottom of the page. Write down the official title of the person writing the content, their education and any other places on the web where they have published expert content.

If not created by an authority figure, then be sure to link to an official biographical account of the data or doctor source in your material to prove that the content on your site is backed up by hard evidence from experts.

Bibliography inclusion: average percentage growth (Semrush)

Advice no. 6 Build More Trust.

A low rating will be given if the website has a mildly negative reputation. (QRG Section 6.5)

So consider low ratings on review sites (GCR, Google, Facebook, Yelp, other medical & business sites to be evidence for a negative reputation – QRG section 2.6.4)

Also, it has been seen that if a clinic is not accredited, this will further affect the ranking of the clinic website within Google.

All local accreditations (for example your clinic license number) and international accreditations such as GCR, JCI, TEMOS, CANADA etc should be specified not only with an image, but also with text.

If there is an active community (user-generated content) built around the hospital or clinic, for example, active website comments or a patient discussion forum this can certainly improve the overall engagement and trust ranking as well.

So if you don’t have this content – start implementing a strategy to have your patients build it for you.

Advice no. 7. Use & refresh your digital assets.

Medical practice websites with lots of digital assets seem to have taken the place of those that don’t have.

By digital assets I mean original video content created by the clinic and real photos of the clinic & doctors (not stock photos – as Google knows that they appear elsewhere on other clinic websites) and helpful content like original downloadable pdfs.

Advice no. 8: Check & build your links to your active social & external profiles.

Of course, a Google business profile is a must, and as I’ve mentioned before, a free Google website about your clinic can help as well. Think about linking to your google reviews, twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube accounts. However be warned, all of these external profiles must show that they have been regularly updated or interacted with by other users as well.

Google Medic Update Conclusion:

I follow all trends of medical clinics around the world constantly to ensure they continue with success long-term.

Let me know how I can help you more in the comments below,

To the continued success in your personal and professional life.



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