April 15, 2020 (Updated June 23, 2020)

When the COVID-19 crisis began, search engine results pages showed huge, volatile swings. Now, as hospitals and other health care businesses adapt and adjust their digital marketing budgets, remember this. There is one acquisition channel that stays on even during spending cuts: organic search.

Maintaining…even improving…your organic search rankings may be more important now than ever, especially as you experience an influx of patients and testing for coronavirus. Google even started a blog series to highlight the importance of search engine optimization (SEO). If web traffic to your hospital has dropped, have faith. It will be back. But the time to work on your organic search rankings is right now

Create quality pages on your website

Your health care organization is likely providing coronavirus related services to help slow and contain the spread of COVID-19 in your community. And you probably already have content on your website dedicated to your COVID-19 services. But don’t stop there. Even though we all may feel a bit burnt out by coronavirus related content, now is the time to show patients the value of being a solid source for regular updates regarding the coronavirus. Incorporate news articles and other resources patients can benefit from.

Time and time again, Google’s advice to improve page rank is to publish great content. That hasn’t changed. And the best place to consult is inside Google’s own Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (SQEG). This 168-page guide is used by human “search quality raters,” whom Google trusts to evaluate websites and search engine results pages (SERPs). These raters then deliver ratings on “page quality” and “needs met,” which helps Google fine-tune its search algorithm.

While the SQEG doesn’t directly affect search rankings, it does offer clues to improving your content. This, in turn, can improve your page quality, which can improve your rankings. But what constitutes great content?

3 important ranking factors for Google

There are more than 200 factors that affect a page’s ranking, the most important being the quality of your content. Three important questions that the SQEG asks raters to consider when evaluating a website’s content are:

Does the page have a beneficial purpose?

Google wants its users to find relevant and helpful results from search. Its algorithm is updated and optimized regularly to send pages with beneficial purpose to the top. The best way to reach your users is not just with content, but content that matters in their lives. And as a health care organization, the content you provide is more relevant now than ever before.

No one knows how long the economic impact of COVID-19 will last, but SEO by nature is a long-term organic process.

In the short-term, we recommend posting dedicated coronavirus content. As coronavirus cases are seeing resurgence, make sure your website adheres to the most up to date social distancing and isolation practices. This can be a moving target depending on your location. Patients will need to find and access your telemedicine services information as seamlessly as possible.

To rank well, you should be writing to help people. After all, when content lines up with the searcher’s intent, it makes people happy (including you).

Does the content show Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)?

This is an important quality characteristic based on the quality of the main content, the information about the website and the website’s reputation. E-A-T is a way Google determines what others say about your site.

Anyone can call himself or herself an expert. But if someone citing your expertise links to your website, that’s even better. That’s called a backlink, and if that backlink has high E-A-T value, it may pass “link equity” to you and improve your authority rating.

Just as having backlinks makes a big difference to your expertise and authority, highlighting the credentials of your content creators affects your trustworthiness. This comes from reviews, testimonials, awards and other trust factors. Google wants to rank content it can trust, especially when it comes to your money or your life.

Is the content related to Your Money or Your Life (YMYL)?

Websites are held to a higher page quality standard when they could negatively affect a user’s happiness, health, financial stability or safety. This means Google pays closer attention to content around health, banking, local and national news, the law and even shopping.

Searches related to “coronavirus” are inherently YMYL, and should generate search results that display the highest possible levels of E-A-T. As a health care organization, you can expect significant changes to your organic results. You should also pay attention when developing content and monitoring performance, as Google heavily evaluates YMYL content searches to increase users’ trust in them.

People are more likely to come back when search results are relevant and helpful. When a hospital can grow while helping its community, everyone wins.

Why does SEO content matter?

While the COVID-19 pandemic will someday end, its effects will likely last long into the future. When you build your hospital SEO strategy around great content about your services and quality care, you have a good chance of riding out the storm.

Having your hospital website near the top of a search engine results page can do more than bring in new patients. It can connect you with people who want or need your health care services. After all, Google wants websites to have a beneficial purpose.

But it is more important than ever for top-ranking websites to be trustworthy sources of information. And as a hospital and “essential” business, all eyes are on you.

Writing good content that ranks well can be difficult, especially with Google’s complex algorithm – not to mention your competition. EAT and YMYL are just parts of the overall spectrum, but understanding their importance is vital to your overall goal of growing your hospital brand.

 

Nikia Sayre, Director of SEO Strategy, TruStar Marketing, LLC.

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