SEO is always a moving target to some extent. Google is constantly working to make its search engine more effective and helpful for users, which means that marketers need to do some recalculations every time the company updates its powerful algorithms. The November 2021 Google Core Update is now fully rolled out as of December 2021—but what does it mean for healthcare organizations and their SEO strategies?
What Does an Algorithm Update Do?
Most marketers don’t have to know all that much about technology to implement successful growth strategies. There are lots of great user-friendly tools to help with the technology side of digital marketing for healthcare organizations. Still, it helps to have some basic knowledge of how search engines work when you’re planning a marketing strategy, especially the overwhelmingly popular Google search engine.
Search engines run on algorithms, which in this context are designed to help users find what they’re looking for when they make an online search. If you’re trying to find a doctor near you, for instance, you might add the closest city to your query or allow the search engine to use your location data as an assist in providing you with relevant sites. The sites that come up first are those that most closely match your search, based on the algorithm’s “preferences.”
These algorithms have gotten much more sophisticated over time as they’ve been updated. An update changes priorities and parameters for search queries to reflect user intent. For example, in the early years of SEO, exact keywords could be used over and over again to help ensure that the page would come up in the top search results. Today, that kind of trick won’t work—the algorithm recognizes keyword density and will dismiss the page as being less helpful to the searcher if it’s stuffed with the same phrases over and over.
Updates continue to improve the experience for the searcher, allowing them to find sites that will offer helpful information and a good browsing experience. As humans, we are constantly making snap judgments about the websites we visit, and Google aims to understand these decisions to reduce search results that frustrate the user or don’t help them with their original query. This means that marketers have to consider factors like site speed and mobile-friendliness in their SEO strategies.
Types of Updates
Core updates occur on a regular basis. Additionally, Google releases other updates as needed, such as product review updates, spam updates to filter out spam, and specific updates like the page experience update, the Medic Update, and the BERT Update.
It’s important to realize that these updates are routine, even if they seem major to marketers who are laser-focused on search rankings. When there is a need or deficiency discovered within Google’s search engine, they release updates to improve the system.
About the November Google Core Update
Google announced the latest core algorithm update rollout on November 17 of this year, a rollout that ended on November 30th. Every time a new update rolls out, marketers watch their search engine rankings carefully for either a boost or a drop.
As with many updates, the company did not give specific guidance on how to improve content based on the latest changes. Instead, they emphasized creating quality content as the best way to improve rankings. While that might be frustrating for some site owners, it’s pretty standard practice for Google.
A Relatively Minor Update?
A core Google algorithm update is always news among marketers. But as updates go, the November 2021 core update was relatively minor overall, according to those who monitored the aftermath. Losses seemed to be moderate overall and volatility was relatively brief, despite the fact that the update was released during the largest shopping period of the year.
However, people have noted that Google seems to be indexing less content overall, which is a concern for those who continue to publish and may have an outsize impact on smaller sites. Overall, though, the internet has been quiet on the most recent update, indicating that few marketers noticed a significant difference before and after the update.
These observations have caused some speculation about future updates. Does this core update indicate that Google is looking ahead to larger infrastructure changes? Possibly. However, we’re unlikely to know more until the next update is announced.
Part of staying ahead of the curve in marketing requires anticipating future trends as much as possible, which can be very tricky. Analysts and individuals do their best to make informed projections, but relying too much on what might happen can be a big gamble.
The Impact on Healthcare Organizations
Because the update finished rolling out with little fanfare and no specific guidance, it’s difficult to say if there will be much long-term impact on healthcare marketing. However, there was an immediate impact felt in the industry after the update was released: volatility within the healthcare niche was 41% higher than it was after the July update. Anecdotal evidence indicates that as usual, there were winners and losers as the update rolled out.
Healthcare will always be a competitive space in search queries. People are looking for accurate, trustworthy medical information to help them make their decisions. They also want the best of the best when it comes to choosing a doctor. Marketers must ensure that authority and trust remain high across their content in order to do well in search rankings and to attract new business.
Was Your Site Hit?
Each update will affect every organization differently. It’s always a good idea to check your site’s rankings after a core update. While it’s out of your control, a shift in the rankings can indicate how you’re doing in terms of content and page attributes according to the new algorithm changes.
If your site dropped in the search rankings, don’t panic. There is always some volatility after an update. However, it’s a good time to take a hard look at what you’re doing and assess where you might need to improve.
Depending on the update, there may be some specific changes you need to make in order to recover from the hit. In the case of the November 2021 update, it isn’t clear as to what should be changed if you dropped in the rankings and there might not be anything wrong with your pages!
Of course, you might have noticed the opposite trend: many sites gained a boost after November 16, 2021. If that’s the case, then you don’t have much to worry about for the time being—your site is performing well under the new algorithm changes. With that said, it’s still helpful to ask yourself why. What are you doing well and can you do even more?
What Updates Mean for Healthcare Marketers
SEO has always been a long game. Unlike advertising with Google Ads, which can bring in new business fast (at a cost), organic search engine rankings are inexpensive and can have long-term benefits. With that said, marketers have to pay attention to trends and changes that occur with each Google core update.
The best way to weather each new update is to ensure that the content you’re creating is helpful to your ideal audience. Gimmicks won’t work. Providing value to the searcher, especially for healthcare marketing, is crucial for long-term success.
Essentially, you need to aim for expertise, authority, and trust in your healthcare SEO strategy now and in the future. These are the cornerstones of Google’s ranking system and they benefit healthcare organizations by forcing them to create helpful content that educates and builds trust among those searching for services.
In addition to improving your search rankings, focusing on these qualities will help make your content more “evergreen” and relevant. You will also likely get more leads from this type of content, as Google will show your pages more frequently and searchers will gain confidence in your organization.
With that said, it’s always key to understand what’s going on in the world of SEO as trends change and algorithms update. The November 2021 update wasn’t earth-shattering for the healthcare field, but marketers still need to stay on top of Google’s latest priorities.
Learn More About Healthcare SEO
Surgeon’s Advisor is constantly working to keep up with algorithm changes, best practices, and other factors affecting SEO success. While basic SEO principles apply to marketing in every industry, the healthcare sector has unique considerations, ethics, and competition to consider.
We pride ourselves on helping each client find success in their market with our many years of experience in the field. Reach out to us today to learn more about our SEO services and how to market your practice effectively!