It’s a new year — time to start fresh with your marketing efforts. It feels good, doesn’t it?
Well, not everyone may appreciate a fresh start as much as I do. Still, the beginning of a new marketing year is a perfect time to take stock of your strategy. And these days, your healthcare SEO plan should be at the top of your list.
Like most areas of digital marketing, SEO sees constant change. And with frequent Google algorithm updates, using the same strategy year after year won’t move the needle.
Let’s look at some of the biggest SEO trends your healthcare organization will want to keep in mind as we dive into 2022. You can also download the SEO checklist below to save for future reference.
1. Keep a close eye on Core Web Vitals and page experience
According to a 2021 Search Engine Journal report, Google’s Core Web Vitals will be the most important SEO factor in the next two years. Core web vitals are a critical part of a user’s overall page experience.
What are Core Web Vitals?
Google’s Core Web Vitals measure:
- Page load time (How fast does the page load?)
- Interactivity (How responsive is your site when users interact with it?)
- Stability of content as it loads (Does the layout shift as the page loads?)
Google combines the Core Web Vitals metrics with other page experience metrics, like mobile-friendliness, to determine page rank.
A positive page experience means your potential patients and customers can find the information they need and access that information in a fast and intuitive way. Google describes this as “making the web more delightful for users across all browsers and surfaces.”
How do I measure Core Web Vitals?
If you’re looking for ways to improve Core Web Vitals scores, Search Engine Land has a guide for optimizing page experience.
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2. Optimize content for your reader’s search intent
One of the biggest SEO trends to consider in 2022 is search intent. Google’s focus on search intent ties into recent algorithm changes that use:
- Artificial intelligence (AI)
- Natural language processing (NLP), which looks at ways to program computers to analyze languages more accurately
With NLP and AI, Google is trying to better understand what people ask when they enter a search query. When you consider search intent with a piece of content, you’re making sure that content targets the type of information a user needs. As Ahrefs puts it, it’s the why behind a search.
Search intent matters to your strategy because Google’s algorithm rewards relevant content. Over the last couple of years, Google has been honing its algorithm to provide better results for searchers. So, the more relevant your content is to a user’s question, the more likely it is to climb in the search engine results page (SERP).
Are there different types of search intent?
There are four types of search intent. Remember these as you’re evaluating keywords to target with your content.
- Informational: The user is looking for an answer to a question, such as “What is the treatment for an ear infection?” or “What are the symptoms of COVID-19?”
- Commercial: The user is shopping around for options and trying to find information that will help them decide. For example, “best hospitals Denver” or “orthopedic surgeon reviews Seattle.”
- Transactional: The user wants to purchase something or find a service and needs information on where to get it. For example, “AdventHealth mammogram appointments” or “buy at-home COVID tests Manchester.”
- Navigational: The user wants to find a specific brand or website, such as “UCHealth patient portal” or “Baptist Health doctor directory.”
You can learn more about search intent in this guide from SEMRush.
What are healthcare marketers prioritizing in 2022? See the results from our healthcare marketing trends survey.
3. Incorporate more than just your primary keyword
Google’s focus on search intent means it’s looking at semantics (the meaning behind words). That means your content needs to incorporate more than just one primary keyword.
While your primary keyword can give you a direction for the page, it’s important to weave in semantically related keywords. These are keywords that are all related to the topic or concept of your page. They may or may not share a common word.
For example, if you’re writing a page about knee replacements, you may also want to include keywords like:
- Orthopedic surgeon
- Physical therapy
- Recovery time
- Wear and tear
- Climbing stairs
Many SEO tools provide semantic keywords. If you don’t have an SEO tool, you can use the Google related search suggestions to see what kinds of topics or questions are related to your keyword. These are located at the bottom of the search page.
The bottom line is that you should always write for your reader, not for a search engine. Keep in mind their questions and answer them clearly with your content.
4. Maintain your content’s EAT factors
Despite the page experience updates and Core Web Vitals, Google says: “A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content.”
EAT stands for experience, authority and trust. These are factors Google considers when looking at the quality of a webpage or article. The higher the EAT factors, the better the content quality. And the better the content quality, the more likely the page will rank higher in search.
EAT factors are especially important for healthcare websites because Google looks at these pages with extra scrutiny. Healthcare falls under “your money your life” (YMYL) content, which includes information that could impact the reader’s health, safety or financial wellbeing. If your healthcare content doesn’t have EAT factors, Google won’t place it high in users’ search results.
Improving EAT for healthcare SEO
With Google focusing more on natural language and EAT factors, healthcare SEO should be about more than merely featuring your keyword in the title tag and meta description. Yes, these steps are still important, but Google is looking for more.
Before hitting “publish” on that new blog post or webpage, ask yourself:
- Does my audience easily understand the information I’ve provided?
- Am I answering my reader’s questions clearly and completely?
- Are my sources credible, accurate and up-to-date?
Here are some tips for improving EAT in your healthcare SEO content:
Skip the jargon
Use language and terms that an average patient would understand. For example, “hypertension” can be changed to “high blood pressure.” You can simplify “implement a plan” to “use a plan.”
The reading level you aim for will depend on your specific audience, but striving for a 7th– or 8th-grade level is a good goal. You can also use these free tools to help you write more clear, concise content.
Make your content easy to navigate
Breaking your content up with heading tags (H2 and H3) can help make a webpage easier to digest and understand. It can also boost your SEO, as these headers can help search engines crawl the page.
Remember to also create descriptive and accurate metadata for each page (title tags, descriptions, etc.).
Consider the order of your content
Will a reader be able to find what they’re looking for within a few seconds of landing on the page? Aim to answer the most critical questions at the top of your page and include supporting details lower down on the page. Satisfying users’ questions clearly can also boost your click-through rates from search engine result pages (SERPs), which may influence your rankings.
Also, consider the order of your content. Is it logically arranged to make sense to the patient (and Google)?
Check for accuracy
Trustworthy, accurate writing is more likely to keep readers interested in your website and show search engines that you provide quality content. It can also improve your reputation with potential customers. Make sure you link to credible websites and source reputable subject matter experts.
Create unique content
Stand out from your competitors by sharing a unique point of view or new research on a subject.
Focus on search intent
Don’t just add keywords to a page and hope it’s enough. Instead, always make sure you develop content that addresses the searcher’s question or problem.
5. Remember that voice search is still a popular (and growing) trend
Content that keeps NLP and EAT in mind will also lend itself well to voice search. This approach is becoming increasingly important — voice search is growing as a top choice for smartphone-based searches. And in 2021, an estimated 94 million people in the U.S. owned a smart speaker, up 24% from 2020.
Voice search-friendly content not only considers what your potential patients are asking but also how they are asking it. What questions are they saying (or typing) into their phones? The content should:
- Use long-tail, conversational keywords. For example, instead of “stomach pain aspirin,” consider focusing on the question, “Does aspirin cause stomach pain?”
- Spell out questions in your content and answer them with clear, concise answers.
- Use headings (H2s and H3s) and lists to outline questions and answers.
6. Try writing more long-form content
The thought of creating long-form content can feel overwhelming, especially when it’s one more thing on that endless to-do list. I just spent hours doing keyword research, and now you want me to write a 3,000-word article?!
Long-form content takes time and energy to write, but it pays off. Longer content means you have more opportunities to incorporate a range of keywords, creating a more robust piece of content that ultimately becomes organic search gold. Longer content is also more likely to earn shares and links, building your site’s authority and improving your overall SEO.
If you need more reasons to create long-form content, check out this great article from Moz.
Long-form content takes time, so set a realistic goal for you or your team. Maybe that means you want to create two long-form pieces this year, or perhaps it’s 10. Look at your resources and responsibilities and slowly dip your toes into long-form content.
7. Don’t forget to optimize your videos, too
Video is a valuable part of any content marketing strategy. More than three-quarters of marketers surveyed by Wyzowl in 2021 said that video directly helped increase sales.
Beyond its value as an engagement or sales tool, video can also help your healthcare SEO strategy. This year, take some time to optimize your videos on YouTube (the second most popular search engine) by incorporating keywords into the video title and description.
And don’t forget to talk with your web team about using on-page (schema) markup for your videos. This can help your videos make it to the top of the Google SERP. Plus, Google rolled out some new markup options in 2021 that can give you more opportunities to increase your video SEO visibility.
Is your healthcare SEO strategy ready for 2022? These days, it’s hard to say we can be prepared for everything. But with these trends and best practices, you can put your best SEO foot forward for the new year.
SEO writing experts who have your back. Healthcare SEO can feel overwhelming, but with a WriterGirl partnership, you’ll get a team of SEO-savvy writers who are 100% dedicated to healthcare. We’ll create search-optimized website content that helps customers, patients and clients find your business. Drop us a line to learn more.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in February 2020. It was updated on January 5, 2022.