There is no time like the present to take stock of your website strategy. And these days, your healthcare SEO plan should be at the top of your list.
Like most areas of digital marketing, how people search for your site constantly changes. And with frequent Google algorithm updates, using the same SEO 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. You can also download our 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. And core web vitals are critical to 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 and accessibility, to determine how they rank your page in search.
A positive page experience means your potential patients and customers can find the information they need and access it quickly and intuitively. Google describes this as “making the web more delightful for users across all browsers and surfaces.”
How do I measure Core Web Vitals?
Google has a Core Web Vitals tool that explains how they measure your page vitals. You also can access Core Web Vitals metrics through the Core Web Vitals report in Google Search Console.
If you’re looking for ways to improve your content’s Core Web Vitals scores, Search Engine Journal has a guide for optimizing page experience.
2. Optimize content for your reader’s search intent
One of the biggest SEO trends to consider in 2023 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 AI and NLP, Google is trying to better understand what people really want to find 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 wants to find. As software company 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 few years, Google has honed 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 wants answers to a question, such as “What is the treatment for an ear infection?”or “What are the symptoms of COVID-19?”
- Commercial: The user wants to find information to help them make a decision. 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 in Manchester.”
- Navigational: The user wants 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.
How do I identify my primary keyword?
Your page should have one main target keyword with 3 – 5 related keywords to support the page’s content. Use a keyword search tool such as Wordstream (free) to identify keywords with high search volume. High-volume keywords will have greater competition, but low-volume keywords (<100 searches per month) will mean fewer users are looking for the term.
You can also use depersonalized search to look up each keyword on Google (and avoid seeing search results tailored to you). Look at the top-three results and consider the following:
- Does the search engine results page (SERP) target the audience you’re looking for?
- Do the top SERPs have good traffic? Tools like Semrush or Moz Pro can help.
- Are the top pages from competitor websites that will be hard to beat?
Find a different primary keyword if you answered no to any of these questions.
What are some healthcare content trends for 2023? 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 keywords relate 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. But if you don’t have an SEO tool, you can use Google’s Related Searches suggestions to see the topics or questions related to your keyword. You’ll find Google’s Related Search information at the bottom of the search page.
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. Google considers these factors 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 healthcare pages with extra scrutiny. Healthcare falls under “your money your life” (YMYL) content—information that could impact the reader’s health, safety or financial well-being. If your healthcare content doesn’t have experience, authority and trust, 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 strategies 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 the experience, authority and trust in your healthcare content:
Skip the jargon
Use language and terms that an average patient would understand. For example, change “hypertension” to “high blood pressure.” And 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 reading level is a good goal. You can also use these free tools to help you write more clear, concise content.
Make content clear for search engines and readers
Your page title should let search engines (and your readers) know the main topic of your page. A good formula is:
[unique page topic] | [organization name]
Example: Rare Heart Conditions | Acme Health
Aim for a short page title— 65 characters. Longer titles risk getting cut off by search engines. If your business is local or the page’s content targets a specific area, include that location in the page title (e.g., Rare Heart Conditions | OH, IN, KY | Acme Health).
Your page description, or meta description, will entice your readers to click on your page. But note: search engines do not read meta descriptions, but they do track clicks and bounce rates. Aim for a description that includes only one sentence at around 155 characters using your high-value keywords.
Search engines find high-value keywords naturally woven into your page titles, headings (H1s, H2s) and copy. These markers make it clear to search engines what the page is about and where to file it when users search.
Consider the order (and readability) of your content
For both SEO and reader purposes, your page should address user needs. Will a reader be able to find what they’re looking for within a few seconds of landing on the page? Does it answer questions better than SERP and brand competitors? 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 SERPs, which may influence your rankings. If readers leave your page quickly (bounce) because they don’t find the content they thought they would, search engines will push your page lower in the rankings.
Also, logically arrange your content to make sense to the patient, Note, however, search engines rarely crawl through H3 and H4 headings. But you’ll use these headings to make long content easier for your audience to skim.
Don’t forget about readability. Use tools like Hemingway Editor and Grammarly to make sure your content hits the right reading level. If it’s too high, your page might have a high bounce rate that will negatively affect your site’s SEO authority.
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. Search engines will put high-quality content at the top of their SERPs, so check what your brand and SERP competitors have on their pages. Include the key discussion points from the top SERP results and additional points those pages don’t cover. To get more granular, leverage Google Trends (free) to narrow down the terms readers in your service area use.
Focus on search intent
Don’t just add keywords to a page and hope it’s enough. Instead, always develop content that addresses the searcher’s question or problem. Each page should, ideally, have one audience and one intent.
5. Remember voice search is a growing trend
Content that keeps NLP and EAT in mind will also lend itself well to voice search which is growing as a top choice for smartphone-based searches. 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 ask but also how they ask it. What questions are they saying (or typing) into their phones? The content should:
- Use long-tail (3-5 word, specific phrases), conversational keywords. For example, instead of “stomach pain aspirin,” consider focusing on the question, “Does aspirin cause stomach pain?”
- Use the actual questions within your content and answer them clearly and concisely.
- Use headings (H2s and H3s) and lists to outline questions and answers.
6. Writing 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 researching keywords, 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 gives you more opportunities to incorporate a range of keywords. With a longer article you can create 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 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. So, take some time to optimize your videos on YouTube (the second most popular search engine) by incorporating keywords into the video title and description.
You can use the YouTube search as inspiration or try tools like TubeBuddy to give you YouTube keyword suggestions. Google Trends can also provide you with insight into YouTube searches.
And don’t forget to talk with your web team about using on-page (schema) markup for your videos. This data embedded in the code of your video can help your videos make it to the top of the Google SERP. Plus, Google rolled out some new markup options in recent years that can give you more opportunities to increase your video SEO visibility.
8. Track your results
Don’t waste all your SEO work—track KPIs with Google Analytics 4 and Google Search Console. Learn what content your audience engages with, optimize current pages and use these insights to improve how you develop future pages.
Is your healthcare SEO strategy ready for 2023? 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.
Looking for help communicating with your audience?
Healthcare SEO can feel overwhelming, but with a WriterGirl partnership, you’ll get a team of SEO-savvy writers 100% dedicated to healthcare. We’ll create search-optimized 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 and again on March 28, 2023.